Book cover for The Sum of Love

The “Sum of Love” Cover Design

I thought some people would be interested in seeing the evolution of our ideas for the cover of our recently released novel, Olivia Lark’s The Sum of Love.

This is a sampling only — I developed many more variations of each of these, with different stock photography, different titles, and different typography.

By way of background, I’ve been a graphic designer forever, but only a fiction book cover designer for a couple of years. So maybe you can see in this sequence some development on my part as I figure out what makes a book cover “book-coverish,” as opposed to other editorial or advertising patterns like annual reports, brochures, posters, etc. I find it a fascinating puzzle. Perhaps in a later post I’ll outline some of my conclusions, although I suspect there are few hard-and-fast rules, even within a subgenre.

Speaking of subgenres, one challenge with this particular title is that it’s lesbian – romance – time travel. Not a lot of examples out there for a mood board, and what there are span quite a range of approaches. We chose to take that as an opportunity, and tried to carve out a space of our own that as nearly as possible conveyed:

  • Female-female romance
  • A bit of scifi flair
  • Historical typography for the lightweight steampunk flavor of the story elements that take place in the past.


This was before we had a final title. Felt too soft, not scifi enough, and static composition. Stock photo leaned a little bit too much toward implying a higher heat, which is a problem when readers come just looking for titillation and leave disappointing reviews, and the longer-haired woman in front, supposedly from 1890, has makeup that is a little too modern.


Here began the split modern/historical concept to reflect the time travel plot. To fit the vertical design the women had to be almost full-figure, and we couldn’t find stock with the right feel. These were pretty close, but ultimately I felt the flipped color treatments were too fussy and overdramatic without conveying a clear message. Note, I also tried dropping the author name to the bottom.


This was a very fast mockup, goofing around with typography and introducing the facing profile silhouettes that we ended up with. Side note: There’s not much I hate more with typography than browsing through script fonts. There never seems to be one that’s just right, and more than once I’ve considered just styling my own with the brush pen. It’s tough, because scripts are a very reliable marker for f/f and m/f romances.


Getting closer to the final version here. Moved the past and future scenery into the silhouetted profiles, and continued to struggle with typography. I had fun learning new techniques in Photoshop, both for the skyline knockout and for the “scatter” at the bottom. However, the scatter seemed to signify some kind of “matrixy” digital theme, which is not part of the story.

5 – Final

When I found Barthez (the title font) I just knew it was right. It was tricky getting the clock gears at the bottom to blend correctly, so they didn’t get lost or overpower. I shaded back the profiles ever so slightly to give the title primacy, and just hoped that the tension of their face-to-face gaze would distract from the somewhat useless white space in the middle. 

Here’s the full wrap for the paperback:

It’s hard to measure our success rate — I don’t think we’re in the black yet on advertising, but it is getting a lot of KU reads and about 15 percent of those go on and pick up the two earlier Olivia Lark titles, which are pure historical f/f romance (no scifi).

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