With a title like A Picture Perfect Christmas, I’ve been feeling the pressure to deliver an equally perfect cover. And after an emotional roller-coaster design process, I’m excited to finally share with you the finished product.

According to sage wisdom, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…except the truth is that while you’re scanning bookshelves on a store or scrolling through search results online, an attractive cover catches your attention first. It’s like the dangling bait on a hook that causes the fish to come a little closer to investigate. First the cover, then the blurb on the back of the book or the sales page…and finally a look inside to see if the writing lives up to the hype.

All to say that designing an eye-catching cover is vitally important to the overall marketing success of a book. But, that cover should also reflect enough of the story inside that readers don’t feel like they’ve been given the bait and switch.

So, when I started brainstorming this particular cover, I drew on elements from the story. What story? Here’s the blurb to give you an idea:

From disowned to daughter to “I do”?

Freelance photographers Liz Foster and Ryan Callahan are finally making plans for their future. And what better time to get married than during the festive holiday season that brought them together?

If only Liz’s parents weren’t standing in the way of a picture-perfect wedding.

Spurred on by the ghosts of Christmases past, Dan Foster has already written Liz out of his will, so even attending the wedding—let alone walking his daughter down the aisle—is out of the question. However, this is the season for miracles and Ryan will do anything to make his bride smile.

What will it take to bring this family back together in time for the wedding?

If you like Christmas weddings, family reunions, and happily-ever-afters, then you’ll love this next chapter in The Wardrobe series. Pick up A Picture Perfect Christmas and start celebrating the season today.

What did I have to work with? The Christmas season with holiday decorations. A wedding. The warmth of a family gathering (or at least the hope of one). And not seen in that blurb are several scenes at Liz’s apartment that include debating and then decorating a tree to stand near her fireplace with framed photographs displayed across the mantel.

Could I convey all that with a single image? While my other novel covers have included people on the front, I wanted something simpler and evocative for this particular book. Thus began the search for the perfect picture.

Hours later, I finally found an image that contained a fireplace, a picture frame, and a decorated tree with enough open space for the title so it wouldn’t feel too cluttered. But once my brain started thinking in terms of also placing the title on the cover, I collected a few additional images with both a Christmas feel and open space. Armed with a handful of watermarked sample images to try, I was ready for the next step.

A year ago, one of the members of my local writers group taught several workshops about using Photo Shop Elements to design custom book covers. To my credit, I had previously used that software and followed her detailed instructions before. So while it had been awhile and the skills might be rusty, I was confident in a professional outcome.

What I hadn’t counted on was the discovery that recent software updates on my laptop had consumed the memory to the point I could hardly open the program. Never mind the fact I had to wait forever for the next command to take effect…I couldn’t even save the cover template without getting an error message about a lack of RAM.

Cue the tears and hair pulling. I had a self-imposed deadline to meet and didn’t have the time to wrestle with the software or the finances to upgrade my equipment…or even the budget to hire a professional designer since I had already hired an editor to polish up the inside. But without a cover, I couldn’t put the book up for pre-order or start creating any marketing graphics either. And this Christmas-themed book couldn’t wait another year to get published…

What to do? Wait. I didn’t need the full front-and-back cover layout to put a Kindle version up for sale. Just a rectangle. Hmm. With a burst of God-inspired creativity, I jumped over to the free Canva program with their preset dimensions and minutes later actually had a decent-looking front cover. (I already highly recommend them for creating social media graphics and banners, but this relatively new service makes Canva even better!)

I’d started with the fireplace and tree image and once I’d added the text, it looked pretty and clean…and cool. A bit wintry with the grayish white background. The original design in my head didn’t look quite as wonderful anymore. Then, just for kicks, I copied the design so I could keep the same font and text elements and switched out the background for one with ornaments along the bottom. Wow. I felt the warmth of a family celebration and the lettering popped off the page. Hmm. Once again, I copied the design and tried a third image with gold ornament balls to invoke more of a glamorous wedding feel. Except in order to make that one fit, I had to adjust the title spacing more to the side instead of centered and then I didn’t really like it as much as the other designs.

But who’s to say that my opinion was right? I posted the three possible designs on Facebook and asked for reader feedback. Some loved the gorgeous tree. Others agreed the gold ornaments were the most “wedding-ish” of the bunch. But the majority agreed the colors of the second option were the most eye-catching. And on a page of competing books, I wanted readers to actually see mine amidst the others.

Armed with information to support my initial gut reaction, I officially bought the rights for the winning background image and finalized the design. And now, without further delay, the cover for A Picture Perfect Christmas (available for pre-order now and releasing November 12th.)

What do you think? Would this cover make you want to learn more about the story?

NOTE: The Wardrobe complete series includes: Dance Over Me (Book 1 – available now); Focus On Love (Book 2 – available now); Sing a New Song (Book 3 – coming May 2019); A Picture Perfect Christmas (Book 4 – coming November 2018); and Home For Christmas (Book 5 – November 2019)

Cover Reveal: A Picture Perfect Christmas

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