Reference Pictures for Cover Art

I’ve learned that while you’re promoting a new book, you pretty much become your cover. It’s your calling card. The funny thing is people very often ask me if I posed for the cover of Butterfly Swords. (No, I didn’t) I’m tickled pink by even the thought that I could be a cover model.

As authors, we don’t get much control over our cover art, yet the cover can make or break the book. I do, however, get to send reference pictures to give the art department perhaps a little inspiration as they design the cover. None of the pictures I use for inspiration look exactly like my characters or setting. I use them for a certain feel. Somewhere in between, an image emerges.

I suppose the art department does much the same thing. This morning I sent along pics for The Dragon and the Pearl and I’m totally jittery nervous about what they’ll come up with.

I always felt this picture by DeviantArtist feimo captured the attitude of Li Tao, though he’s much younger and prettier than the cold-blooded warlord. I wish the print were for sale.

The power play between the jiedushi, the military governors, are central to the book. I sent a couple of pictures to highlight the look and feel of the warlords.

An artist’s rendition of Cao Cao from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Ah, Tony…from the movie poster of Red Cliff. I still need to see the uncut version…

We talk about setting as character in writing, but more needs to be said about clothing as character. Suyin’s wardrobe is practically a secondary character in The Dragon and the Pearl. The Tang Dynasty is all about the fashion: gorgeous clothing, creative hair styles, accessories, accessories, accessories. In the context of those times, Ling Suyin would have been considered a super-model.

I’m now a junkie of the Chinese Clothing online store. I’m actually thinking of buying this blue dress to celebrate the manuscript being accepted and, you know, just wearing it around the house.

And speaking of setting as character, the famous Bamboo Sea is where it all takes place. I dream of going there one day. It’s too bad hubby doesn’t like to travel or eat exotic foods. He does like pandas, I believe.

So can you see a killer cover out of all that?

Cover Art

The going statement is that writers have absolutely no say over what goes on their covers, but my publisher did ask me to send some images that I thought might be useful for the covers, though they already had many images in mind. I wish I was more artistic! I sent a couple of images that have inspired me in terms of the period and clothing but now I’m wondering if I should have sent more in the way of setting and location? Then again, I was a afraid of sending too much since they have an art department that thinks about these things and I’m so not a graphic artsy person that I didn’t want to mess with it.

Of course there’s the swordwoman in red that I use as my avatar. I’ve always loved that since my heroine starts and ends the book wearing a red wedding dress. It’s also very flowing and dramatic.


There are a couple of other artists I found on deviantart whose style I quite like.

schumy330’s work captures the ethereal quality of Tang dynasty costumes. Her portraits are so fresh and innocent.

Feimo is a bit edgier and more seductive

I’m quite excited to find out what the covers will look like. It has me quite giddy. That also means that soon, hopefully soon, I will have definitive news of a release date. 🙂