Monday, February 16, 2015

Misty Trees and Other Decisions

When I recently self-published my haiku books, I had to make many decisions that weren’t word-related. Like the cover designs for the books. I worked with Cathy Davis who I already knew to be an outstanding designer because she designed the covers and interiors for some of my clients’ books.

First, Cathy and I, plus my VAA Janica Smith , spent half an hour on the phone talking about the general plans for the book. Because this was not just one book, but a series of seven, Cathy suggested that they all have commonality of design and color, yet could stand alone as individuals. Yes, that’s it, I said.

Then Cathy emailed me a bunch of very detailed questions about my vision for the books, what I wanted readers to feel or know by reading them, what colors or images came to my mind when I thought about my books, and other great questions that made me think.

I answered her questions as best I could. I said that haiku can be deceptively simple, deceptively plain, understated, sometimes tender, sometimes stark. It whispers straight to your heart, but does not scream in your face. I wanted the covers to express this “haiku feel.”

Somehow she was able to translate this mushy “haiku feel” into concrete images. (Don’t ask me how, because I’m not a cover designer.) She sent me several ideas with slightly different layouts, colors, images, fonts. We went back and forth a few times, trying a photograph (a gnarled tree or a grove of trees seen through mist?) or a color (dark green or soft turquoise?), or a font (block print or slender italic?), or layouts (centered or flush right?). I gave her my opinions, and she gave me hers. If her opinion differed from mine, she also gave me her reasoning. Since my focus was on the words and their meanings, and hers was on the images and their effects, this didn’t always match perfectly, but often did.

It wasn’t long before she sent me a cover design that made me go, “OMG, that’s It!

And it was. 

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. It is said that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I don't think the readers abide by this much. The cover designs are lovely and I must say the last book sounds really appealing.

  2. Finding the right cover artist is as important as finding the right editor. Looks like you have a winner!

  3. Yep, a good cover sells books ... I'm using Fabio on my next one.

  4. Cool cover. I've been almost always pleased by the covers my publisher picks.

  5. A good cover catches the eye and tells a story that makes one eager to know more.

  6. Terrific post, and thanks so much for highlighting the importance of the collaborative effort between author and artist. That is close to how I have worked with the artist who does my covers, and we have created a similar look for the books in the Seasons Mystery Series. For the ebooks, we've incorporated some of the look of the hardcover designs that the publisher did, and I like the overall visual continuity.

    Good luck with your books.

    1. I also meant to compliment you on that awesome banner. Did your cover artist do that, too?

    2. Yes, she did. Thanks for the nice words, Maryann. I'm pretty happy with the way the books came out.

  7. Love the continuity of the covers that's balanced perfectly with their individuality. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and your covers say so much more than any combination of words that would fit in the same space. Kudos to your designer. Great post, Kim!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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