Cover of my new novel, Cousin Anne, due out in January, 2016

Cover of my new novel, Cousin Anne, due out this month

I’m thrilled with the cover for my second novel—Cousin Anne—which is a prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The cover, shown at left, was designed by a team at CreateSpace. I love its colors, its ornamental border, the faded roses in the background, and the stylish typography. I love the way the image spreads across the entire cover from front to back. True, I searched for and selected the image of the stone cherub myself, but the CreateSpace design team pulled it all together.

I mention this only because finding the “right” cover image was, for me, the most challenging aspect of the cover design process. My first thought had been to select a portrait painted by a Regency-era artist. (I’m speaking here of the long Regency, which ran from about 1785 to 1837, when England’s King William IV died.) Such Regency artists included Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Lawrence’s portrait of the beautiful Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, painted in 1819 or 1822, appears on the cover of Elizabeth Aston’s novel The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy.1 This particular portrait, shown at right below, can be viewed at the delightful Wallace Collection in London—one of my favorite places to visit in all the world.

Maguerite,_Countess_of_Blessington by Lawrence c. 1822 (Source: Wikimedia Commons PD-1923)

Marguerite, Countess of Blessington by Lawrence, c. 1822 (Source: Wikimedia Commons PD-1923)

Two other Aston novels also feature Lawrence paintings, one a portrait of Harriott West2 and the other of Harriet Anne, Countess of Belfast.3 The cover of my own much-thumbed and post-it-note-stickered copy of Pride and Prejudice4 features Lawrence’s Double Portrait of the Fullerton Sisters. The sisters’ portraits might possibly be the best ever images representing Jane and Elizabeth Bennet.

“Oh,” I thought, “I’d like to put a copy of a Regency lady’s portrait on my book cover” … until I discovered it wasn’t practical from a cost perspective. Many 18th-century portraits are found in art galleries or private collections that require permission to use them for commercial purposes. Specifically, commercial use usually carries licensing and royalties fees that apply to printed books, e-books and audiobooks.

The problem is that even though an 18th-century portrait is 200 years old, which would seem to put it beyond the reach of copyright law, it is likely owned by a person or organization, which means copyright laws apply to its use. (You may have noticed that my blogs show only images I took myself or that were found on royalty-free websites like the Wellcome Library or Wikimedia Commons. I am careful about using copyrighted material, which is why I sought permission before using the cover image of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a previous blog.)

In my ongoing search for a cover image, I next considered a print that evoked the spirit or fashion of the Regency era. Pamela Aidan’s novel An Assembly Such as This,for instance, features the Henry Gillard Glindoni artwork titled Fan Flirtation, which can be found at Here, too, there are licensing issues.

Fan Flirtation by Henry Gillard Glindoni (Source:

Fan Flirtation by Henry Gillard Glindoni (Source:

After spending several weeks investigating these approaches (which included emailing two art galleries to inquire about licensing rights and fees), I decided to go with CreateSpace, which uses two royalty-free stock photo websites. I began searching these collections for 18th-century portraits and photos of Regency-era estates, houses, clothing, teacups … Regency anything! Here’s what I discovered after viewing thousands of photos: there are few photos of true 18th-century and Regency materials. In some cases, models were dressed in clothing resembling Regency gowns or coats, but the clothing was usually early, not late, 18th-century. Furthermore, some models looked decidedly vampirish, which might suit a Jane Austen-based vampire novel but wouldn’t work for Cousin Anne. In photos of estates and classical buildings it was easy to find a modern intrusion: a blue plastic construction tarp, telephone or other wiring, or cars and trucks. Thick, rusty keys in some stock photos certainly looked old and conjured images of dark hallways and secret hideaways, but I wonder whether Regency-era keys would be rusty at the time of their use.

Meissen_porcelain_teacup_circa_1730 (Source: Wikimedia commons license 3.0)

Meissen porcelain teacup, c. 1730 (Source: Wikimedia Commons license 3.0)

I found several photos of lovely antique teacups, like this striking Meissen porcelain teacup from about 1730, which set me off on a Google search of 18th-century teacup images. I needed to learn what type of teacup and saucer was common in the early part of the 18th century versus those used in the Regency era. In the end, I decided a teacup wasn’t the image I was looking for. Sigh.

If I possessed an ounce of artistic ability, I could have drawn my own cover image. Sadly, I’m all fumble-fingered when it comes to drawing.

Knowing the cover should have some tie to the story, I was thrilled to think of cherubs while I was brushing my teeth one morning. Fortunately, I found several good stock photos to choose from, and I think the one I chose is just right. The challenge for the Indie book publisher is to find a striking image at a reasonable price.


  1. Aston, Elizabeth. The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy. New York: Touchstone, 2005.
  2. Aston, Elizabeth. The True Darcy Spirit: A Novel. New York: Touchstone, 2006.
  3. Aston, Elizabeth. The Second Mrs. Darcy: A Novel. New York: Touchstone, 2007.
  4. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: Penguin Classics, 1813/1996.
  5. Aidan, Pamela. An Assembly Such as This. New York: Touchstone, 2003.