How a Novel Gets Its Cover

A cover is incredibly important to a book’s success, so you want to get it right. I was lucky in that I loved my cover for my first book, Darling Rose Gold, from the get-go. I’m not typically a huge fan of pink but it felt so right and distinctive for this particular story.

I mentioned in a previous post that my US publishing team, Berkley, asked for a collection of books covers I like before they designed the cover of DRG. Below is the inspiration I sent them, as well as my rationale for the picks.

Covers Relevant to DRG

The cover of Genuine Fraud immediately makes me think of [redacted to avoid spoilers!]. I don’t think the type is right, but the image is striking. The Werewolf of Paris has a nightmare-inducing cover; given the importance of teeth to my novel, it strikes me as fitting.

More Creepy Covers

The Doll Maker cover is fantastic. The Night Ocean cover is both alarming and mesmerizing—it immediately pulls me in. This Lord of the Flies cover is a little hard to read but catches my eye.

Single Striking Images

I love the shattered lollipop in Baby Teeth (not pictured). Though it’s not suspense, I like the cover and color of The Idiot. Could be great if we have a single creepy image that resonates (teeth, ipecac bottle, baby bottles, smashed plant, doctors’ tools, etc.) Villain is not quite as simple as the first two, but I love the idea of a bunch of smaller objects, like doctors’ tools, forming one big object. Could be really cool if the small objects seem innocuous, but then form one alarming big object.

Unexpected Colors

When I think of suspense novels, I think of black covers. Not universally true by any means, but dark colors tend to go with dark subjects. Something all white, like An Unkindness of Magicians, or a pink/rose gold color, like Sweetbitter, could stand out—especially when paired with a startling image. I don’t think the Sweetbitter type works for DRG, but I do love the single striking image of the broken wine glass.


I think the cover of Cannibals in Love is brilliant. I know it’s not suspense, but there’s something both endearing and creepy about it at the same time—and the title and cover are doing equal heavy lifting. The Psychopath Test is nonfiction, but the dual nature of the cover could work in playing Patty against Rose Gold visually. I see this book as both women’s story (not just RG’s), so I’d love for the title and cover to reflect that. And finally, White Tears doesn’t use any of the fun imagery I’ve included in my other examples, but I think this type treatment is claustrophobic and nerve-racking in its own way.

I was happily surprised when the Berkley team asked for my input and had a ton of fun sourcing the inspiration above. That said, out of the 21 publishers who have published/will publish Rose Gold, the US team is the only one who asked for inspiration—so don’t panic if yours doesn’t! The other big teams (UK, Canada) simply sent their covers once they were ready and asked for my feedback at that point. Most of the foreign language publishers have sent final covers as an FYI, meaning I don’t give feedback on those.

After I sent the inspiration covers, Berkley’s designers went off and worked their magic. They came up with a bunch of different ideas and executions that had to be presented to and approved by a larger publishing team. In this case, I’m told the wider team gravitated toward one design, so that was the only one my editor shared with me.

The image on the left is the original. I requested that the pins on the butterfly’s wings stand out more and that we play with different handwriting fonts for “darling” and “a novel”. From there the team returned the second image, which I adored and was happy to keep as is. You can see the pen ink drips on the E in “Rose” were also added at this stage. When the sales team weighed in, they asked to change the red pins to blue and to add the crack at the top to make the cover look more ominous, which is how we arrived at the third image. In my experience the sales team has a good deal of influence on both title and cover.

As I mentioned in my post about titles, the work of packaging a book is more art than science. No one knows which covers—or books!—will sell or flop. My advice for new authors going through the cover design process is to make your opinion heard but also trust your agent and publishing team. Have I loved every single element of all of my covers? No, but you have to pick your battles. As long as the feedback you offer is polite and professional, I can’t imagine anyone would fault you for speaking up. One thing I recommend doing is waiting an hour (more, if you can spare it) before giving said feedback. Sometimes my knee-jerk reactions are not representative of how I actually feel. Often I come up with more constructive solutions the longer I’ve sat with a cover.

You can find the global collection of covers for Rose Gold here.