Sunday, February 19, 2023

Bringing It All Together by Sarah E. Burr

I hope you all enjoyed reading our serial novella, Broken Hearted Killers. This was the first time I’d ever participated in such an endeavor, and it was a thrill to write alongside so many distinguished authors. Seeing how our characters evolved in the hands of others was a treat, leaving me in suspense as the story went on. Once we had finished writing Broken Hearted Killers, I took on the additional challenge of creating a cover image that tied everything together.

Luckily, this wasn’t my first time with cover creation. I design and create the covers for my Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, so I was excited to take on a project with a much different tone. Where my paranormal cozy mystery series is whimsical and light-hearted, the mystery central to Broken Hearted Killers weaves a more twisting, ominous picture. Helen Hornsby may be an amateur sleuth, but this story leans toward the more traditional mystery than the cozy atmosphere I’m used to writing and designing covers for. So, when it came time to tie everything together and showcase it in an image, I really had to think. What were the significant elements at play? What themes or objects were referred to by the sixteen authors who participated in the project?

As I was brainstorming, the first item that came to mind was the toy train found at the crime scene. I knew right away the cover needed to feature the toy train in some way, but how? A cover displaying the toy train next to a dead body felt too gruesome; Broken Hearted Killers had many light-hearted moments, and I didn’t want those erased or ignored.

Enter the red envelope, another element frequently referred to throughout Helen’s investigation. The image of the red envelope and the train blended together fairly quickly, and I knew I had my central point of focus. When designing a cover, there’s always a risk of things being “busy.” Sometimes busy works, but in this case, I decided that less would be more. With just the envelope and train featured front-and-center, it would straddle the line between traditional crime and cozy. Add in the broken-heart sticker as a little *wink wink* (this is a Valentine’s Day treat for our readers, after all), and I had my foreground all set.

Now, it may sound silly, but the most time-consuming part of this cover project was choosing the title font. It often is when I’m designing graphics. Why? The right font can make a cover; the wrong font can completely confuse your reader. For example, choosing a font more aligned with a fantasy tone could attract an unsuspecting reader. I’ve read reader reviews along the lines of, “I thought this book looked like a sci-fi novel, but it ended up being about a small-town romance. Disappointed.” Despite the saying, many people do judge books by their covers and nothing else, so it’s important to have your cover authentically convey what your book is about.

So, with all that in mind, I had to consider what—or whom—Broken Hearted Killers was really about. Naturally, my musings turned to Helen, a retired schoolteacher. The teachers I had when I was growing up always had the most beautiful handwriting when they wrote our assignments on a chalkboard (yes, I am old enough to have lived through chalkboards being used in school). I recalled their elegant letters and knew Helen would have the same enviable handwriting. Since Helen was our fearless protagonist and this was her story, I searched high and low for a font symbolic of her stylish script. It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually, I found a font that looked like Helen had scribbled down the title herself.

Bringing all the elements of Broken Hearted Killers together was such a fun way for me to culminate my time working with Writers Who Kill on this novella. A lovely bow on a truly memorable experience!



  1. Sarah -- it was fun to read about your thinking process in designing the fantastic cover. Well done and thanks,

    ~ Jim

  2. It was such an honor to work on this project! To take the work of so many amazing writers and bring it to life with a visual -- what a fun challenge!

  3. Good morning, Sarah - It took our village to come up with Broken Hearted Killers. Your graphics beautifully captured the essence of our story!

  4. Wonderful cover! I liked hearing about how you managed to come up with something that was so appropriate and lovely.

  5. Beautiful cover! Impressed with your talent!

  6. It was a terrific cover, Sarah. Well done.