Client: Lily Smoke
Genre: Superhero Romance
My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am the Cover Villain. I’m here to talk about the concepts behind the cover. Today we’re going to be talking about the superhero romance, Electric Dreams, Book one in the Hearts and Heroes series by Lily Smoke. While it’s classified as a “superhero romance,” the story doesn’t revolve around capes and cowls. In Smoke’s book, the romance is front and center. It just so happens, some characters have abilities beyond the average person.
I like to start a project by imagining the tone of the cover. For romance, this can be playful, heartwarming, steamy, seductive, and so forth. The tone comes from a handful of elements, such as the character’s personality, the setting, and how their romance unfolds throughout the novel. It’s also directly linked to the emotional journey the author has created for the reader. After having a conversation with Lily, we settled on seductive with a hint of control. Simple descriptors like this are helpful when narrowing down the thousands of concepts. It also helps serve as a guiding force when looking at possible stock photography.
Starting the research for this book cover, I wanted to focus on the couple. He’s a well-to-do man with the ability to generate electricity. She’s a fashion designer. Put them together, and literal sparks fly. This required finding an image of a couple already in an embrace that walked the line between mystery and sexual tension. I could have found two separate characters, but I wanted the chemistry to be sizzle-worthy, and this is always easier when models are paired together in a photoshoot.
This couple is unique in how they’re interacting, and it creates a narrative on its own. His expression has a carnal aspect to it. We could interpret that he’s clutching her as part of a seduction or control. This creates a mystery for the reader to discover. But the female model isn’t interacting with him at all. She’s engaging the reader in an almost voyeuristic manner. Have we caught them in the act? Or is she inviting us to learn more? I always prefer models that have strong expressions as it catches the reader’s attention and brings them one step closer to the purchase.
I didn’t want to bog down the cover with too much visual information and distract from the models. Taking place at a club, I relied on a more abstract approach. I flooded the brick wall and a doorway with light one might find at any nightclub. The stanchions and VIP ropes provide our contextual clues. This also anchors the signage on the cover to prevent the idea that it floated above their heads because the book needed a title.
Lily had a specific font in mind for her name to reinforce her branding. But the signage at the top required a bit of customization. I wanted the typography to connect with the background and mirror the idea of a classic neon sign. Each letter had to be individually placed on the bar powering the sign and the word Dreams tucked behind the man’s head. While I normally frown on using more than two fonts for a cover, this required three to get the desired effect. Considering her main character, I felt breaking the rules was in character.
Having designed covers for superhero novels and superhero romance, I wanted to make sure we had a slight nod to the genre. Knowing it wasn’t central to the romance aspect of the book, I didn’t want it to steal the spotlight from the models’s expressions. To help create a sense of hierarchy, I put the special effects to the right of her head. Doing this allows the reader’s eyes to flow from the title to his face, then hers, and ultimately question what’s going on with his hand. This mirrors the order of importance within the book.
The original models didn’t complement the color palette. I wanted to limit the range of color in the cover so that they were more muted. Doing this required recoloring the dress, their hair, and using the light from the club to create a color wash on the models. The electrical effect around the man’s hand had to be muddied to help balance the composition and keep their expression as the visual hook. The cover required extensive color grading. And finally, to get a more gritty feeling for the entire cover, I increased the grain.
And that is the concept behind Electric Dreams. Romance can have subtle or overt cues regarding the subgenre. This requires understanding the intent of the author and how it plays out within the novel. Creating a visual balance can help mirror the storyline and give the reader hints about what adventure they’re about to consume. This ensures the readers’s expectations will be satisfied and result in five star reviews.