I may seem inordinately jazzed about my covers for The Man Who Did Too Much. What pleases me is subtle, and has two elements: One, I feel these really are my first professional level covers, and Two, they're very much mine.
(I feel the same way about Wife of Freedom, but that style only suits a certain kind of my work, less retro and more old-fashioned.)
For the first time, I'm thinking about redoing the cover for Have Gun, Will Play. Conceptually, it will be similar to what I've got -- featuring a gun and a doll. But from the design itself, I may only keep the Mick and Casey silhouettes. I may use the stylized butte in the background as inspiration.
Here's the problem with the current cover: I love it. I think it's a fine cover template for the series... if I were an art director and had the budget to do photo shoots and do exactly what I wanted with that top picture frame. But as it is, as long as my design depends on photographs, I'm stuck with what I can photograph myself, or what I can find on stock sites, and frankly, that doesn't work out for a western. The costume, the right gear, the right pose, the right kind of horse.... Photoshop can only do so much.
I swear half of what blocked me on Old Paint; Dead or Alive is the thought of coming up with a decent cover for it.
But here's the thing about the Mick and Casey series: It's a pop western. Not historical, not literary. Both the mystery element and the western element comes from the more mature end of each genre's classic period: 50s and 60s. A little lighter, a little sillier, a little more hip and self-conscious, but not satirical.
So I think that stylized retro-modern look could be really suitable. Furthermore, it would tie the branding of both my mystery series together.
And I want those covers to really be MINE. The look is my brand.
Now... the question then comes as to whether I should redo the short stuff, and for the moment, I think not. I'm okay with a somewhat homemade look. It distinguishes them from the novels, making it easier for the audience to see what they're getting.
In the vein, my miscellaneous books can have different looks: a friend is doing the cover for my high fantasy novel. I don't have much else in the vein, but if I write something, and if she has time, I'll ask her to do a cover for it. Anna the Great? I'm leaving it as is for now. If I decide to do more stories in the series, I may revamp it too.
And that illustrates why I am concentrating on writing just now, and not marketing or even keeping my website up to date: when you have a wide range of stories, it takes a while to build a foundation for each flavor of the brand. At first, it just looks like a hodge podge.
But that hodge podge allows for a lot of learning experiences. You get to practice on lots of different cover types. You get to find your strengths. Branding is not just something you do. It's something you develop over time.
See you in the funny papers.