Behind the Scenes Don't Date the Haunted

Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Book Cover

Believe it or not, there’s a story behind even the cover of this anticipated book.

I’m a visual person. I learn visually and write scenes better when I can visualize them in my head. Sometimes it helps that I’m a little bit of an artist. Nothing professional, but I’ve taken several art classes including graphite, pastels, watercolors, acrylics, clay sculpting, calligraphy, and photography.

Believe it or not, being a bit of an artist has its drawbacks. #1 drawback: I’m super picky about my book covers. I usually create a mock version of a book cover before I finish writing a novel. Then I often change it between edits and drafts.

“Don’t Date the Haunted” went through a group of book covers. My first thoughts were to gear it around a Romantic Horror category. Using the classic Paint tool, Gimp 2.0, and free fonts online, I made a black cover with a solitary object in the middle: a pansy flower… because my main character’s name is Pansy. Then I made it glow blue-green because of how the secondary main character sees her.
Oh, also, for the first FOUR YEARS of working on “Don’t Date the Haunted,” it was titled “Haunted Romance.” It was a terribly vague filler title that stuck simply because I couldn’t think of anything better until I worked with Shaela.

You’ll see the main thing that changed was the fonts and the style of blue-green glow.

Then, I showed this to Shaela Kay (a book cover designer of who’s awesome and also in my writing group)
She suggested that I change the focus to a woman’s mouth. I wasn’t a big fan of the idea, but I worked on it.

Wanting to keep the pansy flower and add the concept of humor, I came up with this mock cover. I wanted to portray Pansy as an African-Asian (a combination of some of the most beautiful people in my opinion), though edited the picture to give her a hint of a smile. Actually, I edited three separate pictures to make this one. The hand is from a different model, and the flower was originally a fruit.
This was still a mock cover. I knew I couldn’t use this exact picture because I didn’t own the rights to any of the three pictures I edited. Or the fonts.

“One to Watch,” by Kate Stayman-London

So, I contacted my friend, Shaela, again. This time as a professional. Within a week of deciding that I wanted to take the self-publishing route, I emailed her from her website (again, that’s and asked for a quote for the trilogy. She has won awards for regency romance book covers, but had never done a “dark romantic comedy” before. She asked me what style I wanted, which lead me to research a bunch of covers for romantic comedies, dark romances, and dark comedies.
This was the research that helped me discover the need to retitle the book and change the tone of the cover. I specifically analyzed the covers for “The Damned,” by Renee Ahdieh, “Catherine House,” by Elisabeth Thomas, and “One to Watch,” by Kate Stayman-London.

As much as I liked the dark romantic concept of a simple object in a black background, I liked the comical feel of the cartoon girl with an object behind her back. With this in mind, I found a clip-art silhouette and used Paint to alter it to my liking. A lot. The only part about the girl that remained the same was her left arm, face, legs and shoes. The problem with this picture was the size of the objects behind their backs. I wanted a larger focus on Pansy’s knife. Shaela commissioned a friend to make a new version of this, but I wasn’t terribly excited about it…

So, using the classic Paint tool, I made this:

I magnified my altered picture by 500% and fixed the pixellation by redrawing her outline.

Shaela then turned it into this beauty:

I seriously could not stop smiling when I first saw her rendition. I loved it.
It needed a couple minor tweaks to better represent the land of Romance, but I LOVE it. I can’t wait to see what Blue Water Books comes up with for Books 2 and 3.

3 replies on “Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Book Cover”

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