New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
Shelley Shepard Gray

Another Guest Post by Mary!

Posted Feb 4 2014, 11:02 am in , , ,

One of my very favorite things to do is visit the Harper Collins offices in New York City. Not only is it thrilling to see all the books everywhere, I get the opportunity to meet all the many people who work so hard to make my books the best that they can be. They are all so talented and smart. And, I have to admit, so very patient with their Amish author from Ohio!


The last time I visited, I was so honored to get to chat with Mary McAdam Keane, the art and cover designer for many of my books.

Last year she answered a series of questions about Ray of Light. This year, she was so kind to take a few moments to tell me all about making the Return to Sugarcreek covers.


So here is what she has to say about designing the cover of HOPEFUL. Please join me in making Mary feel welcome! She’s such a nice lady!





The process for designing the covers of the Return to Sugarcreek Series has been different than the previous few series. The team wanted the heroines to be the focus of the covers; lovely, romantic, pretty, young women that readers would be attracted to and enticed to pull off the shelf to buy and read.


My first step was to ask Shelley for physical descriptions of the main characters. For Miriam, the description was 26 years old, brown hair, blue eyes, wears dresses and has a bit of weight to her. She was a baker in an Amish Restaurant

Rejected Cover #1!

Rejected Cover #1!


Next, we hired photo illustrator Ricky Mujica ( He searched for models who matched your description, chose one, photographed her in Amish clothing and created the backgrounds. Much photoshop work goes into these images. They start as photographs, but in the end they are illustrations, which have a softer, more romantic quality than straight up photography.


Rejected Cover #2

Rejected Cover #2

As you can see from the rejected covers, my first thought was to place her in a kitchen or dining room carrying a bowl of eggs, or having a mixing bowl in her hands. I loved the soft, homey feel to these covers, but when I showed them to the editor and publishers, everyone’s first reaction was the same: it looks like a cookbook, not a romance, and she looks like any baker in a white cap, not specifically an Amish baker. So it was back to the drawing board (figuratively).



We placed her outside with her bowl of eggs. I was imagining she was returning from collecting them in the henhouse. As always, there was a bit of back and forth about color, fonts and feel before the layout was finally agreed upon by the editor, publishers, sales team and the author.  


Rejected Cover #3!

Rejected Cover #3!


Each series begins with a concept meeting. The editor talks to the art team about what she is hoping for in the look of the series, usually pulling some covers from other books to show, saying things like, “I like the feel of these two covers but we want to see brighter colors”, or “I like the type treatment in this one.”  The entire team is always looking at other book covers to see what the competition is doing, what the trends are, and the sales statistics, to judge what has been successful in attracting readers. Each series gets its own look and feel. The most important visual for a book to be recognized as an Amish Romance is an Amish buggy or an Amish girl in her signature cap. 


Your readers are just getting started on The Return to Sugarcreek series with Hopeful, but you have finished writing the series and I am finishing up work on the last cover (Joyful), which readers won’t get a crack at for months. You and I are already beginning to turn our attention to your next series. I am looking forward to your new idea of a four part series, with the final book being a Christmas story attached to that series. I have already briefly discussed a look for the series with Chelsey Emmelhainz, the editor. We always have to be looking ahead!

hopeful's beautiful cover!

hopeful’s beautiful cover!



4 responses to “Another Guest Post by Mary!”

  1. Sharon Holweger says:

    it’s always so interesting to me to see what goes into writing and proofreading and designing covers and all the things we take for granted when we buy a book … thanks for sharing.

  2. Tee says:

    How neat to read! Thank you for sharing the “rejects” with us. I particularly like reject number two!

  3. Lynne says:

    Very interesting, Mary. I really do like the final cover of Hopeful and look forward to seeing the next two!
    Lynne S.

  4. Osgood says:

    I really don’t be aware of the way I ended up below, nevertheless i thought this particular create used to be superior. I not really know which you happen to be nevertheless undoubtedly you will definitely some sort of renowned blog writer if you are not witout a doubt. Best wishes!

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