Lightning Rider – a cover story

Hi all,

I’m very excited to have a new cover to share with y’all. And I thought it might be interesting to share just how this cover came to be.

The book is Lightning Rider, a bit of a “different” romance in that it features two heroines and two heroes — and no, it’s not a menage-a-quatre. *g* It’s a contemporary paranormal romance with a sci-fi twist.

Here’s the high concept:

Andie Brennan dies in a lightning strike and is miraculously healed and brought back to life. But now she’s sharing her body with an alien—the same alien who rode the lightning bolt that killed her.

So the gist is that Andie, the heroine, has a Lightning Rider Elemental named Karylon trapped inside her. And the two heroes of the piece are Jake, who’ll do anything to protect Andie from her manipulative ex, and Novik, a Lightning Rider who’ll do anything to help Karylon break free from Andie and return to the Elemental plane. Plus, the omniscient Keeper of Portents is about to use Novik to further its grand design. How much is Novik prepared to risk to be with Karylon again? And more importantly for Andie and Jake, who is he prepared to sacrifice?

See? Not exactly a normal romance.

First up, I decided to change the title from the original “When Lightning Strikes” to “Lightning Rider“. I did this because with an eBook cover, you have very little time to impress readers, and very little space in which to do it. By that, I mean that generally eBook buyers are perusing thumbnails. So aside from pictures and fonts that are going to be clearly shown on even the tiniest version of your cover, you also have to have an eye-catching cover that conveys what kind of story it is straight up.

I figured if I used “When Lightning Strikes” readers might expect a straight contemporary romance–it didn’t really speak to the paranormal aspect of the story. And “When Lightning Strikes, a paranormal romance with a sci-fi twist” didn’t really do it for me as a title, even if there had been enough space to stick all that on a cover and still have it be readable in thumbnail form. I went with “Lightning Rider” because I felt it had more chance to immediately convey to the reader that this is a story with a paranormal or sci-fi aspect.

BTW, I subscribe to Joel Friedlander‘s insistence that eBook covers need to be treated differently to print covers. For me, it’s clear, clean and simple concepts, with clear easy-to-read fonts that stand out in a thumbnail all the way, baby. So if my independently published book covers look a little simplistic to you, it’s because I want them that way. (And as Joel complimented my cover designer for the covers of The Crystal Warrior and Freaks of Greenfield High when I submitted them for his October eBook cover design awards, I think I’m on the right track.)

For Lightning Rider, Rob (my husband) and I wanted to include a slickrock landscape element: Rob, because he thought the slickrock landscapes were visually stunning, and me, because the slickrock setting is an integral part of the Lightning Rider story for 3 reasons:

  1. Lightning Rider was inspired by an article I spotted about slickrock bike tours in Moab. The article mentioned that Utah has the second-highest incidence of lighting strikes in America. That kicked the warped authorly part of my brain into gear, and I came up with the idea of aliens who ride lightning and use the bodies of humans who’re killed in a lightning strike.
  2. The story starts off on a slickrock bike tour in Moab.
  3. The story’s climax takes place on a 4WD trail in Moab called Hell’s Revenge.

We also toyed with including a mountain bike in the photo, provided the cover model had her helmet off, and was looking directly at the camera. And we were both agreed that “lightning” had to be a part of the cover.

Now came the difficult part: finding the right cover model to represent Andie, the human heroine of Lightning Rider.

After scouring royalty-free stock photo sites (like, every spare moment for an entire week until my eyes felt like they were bleeding!) to find just the right model, and hoping she’d be as perfect as the model I found to use on the cover of Freaks of Greenfield High, I lucked out big-time. And, BTW, I’m using “lucked out” in the Kiwi sense of having No. Damn. Luck. At. All.

I was very specific in the kind of “look” I wanted–a little to0 specific, as it turned out. Both Rob and I agreed that we wanted a strong stance and a serious expression for our heroine, and she had to be in casual clothes–or at least, exercise clothes. Plus, I envisioned Andie with curly auburn hair and green eyes. We had major headaches with this too-specific brief. It’s about as difficult as finding decent stock photos of good-looking guys with long blond hair! *cough* From The Ashes *cough*

This time it wasn’t me who found the perfect photo, it was my long-suffering husband. And after checking out his “Andie” I had to agree. He’d found two strong photos, both with the same model.

The first had the model on a mountain bike, sans helmet, looking back over her shoulder directly at the camera. And I thought, “Whoa, awesome! That could be straight out of the book! ” The second photo had her standing, staring straight into the camera.

In the end, after much debate we both chose the second photo. It was a much stronger photo, and we felt it had more visual impact than the one with her on the bike–the whole keep it clean and simple and go for visual impact thing again.

“But hang on,” I hear you splutter. “This cover model sure doesn’t have curly auburn hair!”

Excellent point. I was happy to compromise on the “curly” hair, because in the story, I mention that Andie’s ex-boyfriend didn’t like her curls, and used to insist that she straightened her hair–it speaks to the power he had over her that she would adhere to his wishes about how she looked and dressed, BTW. And yes, he is a thoroughly unlikable guy. As for the hair color? Well, Rob didn’t want to muck with it to that degree as he’s not a professional cover artist and he worried it would look too fake.

So here’s one of the really cool bits about being an indie-author: I went back to the manuscript and rewrote Andie as a brunette. Sometimes an author’s gotta do what she gotta do, especially when she’s one of those nit-picky people who hates it when cover models don’t match up with the author’s character descriptions.

Right. So we had our stunning slickrock landscape scene, we had our “Andie”, and we had a really awesome shot of a lightning strike that made me want to “squeeeee!”.

Next, Rob mocked up a cover to see whether the three specific photos he wanted to use would “work” together before he purchased a license to use them–no point in spending money to purchase them if the photos didn’t work together.

We both really liked the look of the cover mock-up, so I approved the design, and Rob purchased the licenses for the three royalty-free stock photos we’d chosen.

Now it was up to Rob to do his PhotoShop magic.

He had to cut “Andie’ from her background so she didn’t look like a bad cut ‘n paste job when overlaid over the background, warm up her skin tone, and play with the lighting so it looked more like an outdoor shot. He also had to shorten her reeeeally long, French manicured nails, which just didn’t work with the whole chick-on-a-slickrock-bike-tour look we were going for! The devil is in the details….

Once he’d found the perfect title font from the thousands he’d purchased, he played with positioning of all the cover elements, color shading, tones, layering, and perspective. Next, he mucked with subtle font enhancements for the title. And finally, he scanned hundreds of different fonts to find one for my author name.  Ironically, he ended up using the same font we’d used for my name on my Crystal Warrior series covers.

Total time spent? Around four solid hours–not counting the hours spent squinting at thumbnails on stock photo sites and choosing the final photos.

And the final result?

I love this cover! It looks great in black and white, too.

And, as an added bonus, Rob and I are still speaking to each other ;-)

 

**Lightning Rider is out now**

To find out more, please visit my Books page.

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4 Responses to “Lightning Rider – a cover story”

  1. Very striking cover, Maree and Rob.

  2. Dannie Hill says:

    Love the cover and the storyline. Just bought the book. Can’t wait to read it,