What do you see in book covers? Promise of the world between them, of what a reader can expect as to theme, mood and style? Or a wall graffitii’d with a title and author name? To me a cover is like a front door. It can either be an invitation to enter, or a barrier that practically dares me to open it.

With the rise of covers shown in online vendor sites such as Amazon, we’ve noticed larger type and more contrasty colors against nondescript backgrounds. Or with simpler, cliched images (e.g., romance and Westerns). The thinking is to simplify since readers can’t discern detail let alone realistic people and places, in an image the size of a thumbnail or tarot card depending on the device displaying it. And with the barest suggestion of the characters, setting and action inside. Unless you’re familiar with the author’s work, buying such a book is a guessing game.

I don’t want to have to guess! I want to get an idea of what I’m buying. In the case of my own books, The Pepper Kane Mysteries—four to date, one one the way—I’ve been blessed with a publisher who asks if I have a cover concept. I not only have a concept, I have 200+ professionally shot photos from which to choose (thank you Jenny J Jaks Grimm), and a wonderful designer (Cheryl F. Taylor) to add filters, backgrounds and effects that suggest what’s inside the book. Perfectly. A Western show diva and her horse silhouetted against a mysterious background with symbolic details, e.g., a sky with full moon and owl (“Ghost Ranch”). Western colors such as coral, Sienna and aqua add to the ambience.

Many compliments have come our way for those covers—particularly the one for the latest, “Night Rides” (Pepper #4) with its mountain horizon, night sky and lightning bolt. But all capture well what I intended with the novels, which is a gripping, and sometimes beautiful and lighthearted, mystery set in today’s sophisticated American West, with shades of cozies and serious women’s fiction. Can we touch on tough issues like loyalty, child trafficking, and faith/race/gender prejudice? OK, but with a hopeful outcome.

Oh, yes. I worry the horse and the cowgirl hat will turn off some readers who think my books are Westerns, or horsey, or I-don’t-know-what. That with my books’ unique covers in related styles, which indicate a series, they might look a little different from “Big 5” or establishment covers. But I kind of love them for those same reasons! They ARE different, they do offer a unique entertainment and voice.

Besides. I get to immortalize not only a way of life I’ve enjoyed—horses, nature, life sleuthing and relationship building–but I also get to see my entire creative vision displayed. That’s big. And YOU get what you see. My doors don’t lie!