Wood explains that the book's editor acts as a go-between for the author and their ideas for the book cover and the designer who will obviously be coming to the process with their own ideas. Add in the publisher's experience of what sells, and various book publicity and book marketing concepts, and it can be a complicated process.
For another book that Wood worked on, Made For Love, it was a very quick process. She knew she wanted an air-brushed beachy feel for this Miami-set book. She found reference photos of air-brushed t-shirts online, and tracked down the artist who had created them. She told him what she was looking for and he created a T-shirt to her specifications. He sent her a photo of the design, and even sent her the shirt:
Which lead to the following book cover:
(via Sara Wood)
In other cases, it can be a longer process. One designer received an inspiration image from a Blockbuster author. She used this photograph in several computerized graphic design images. Based on editorial feedback, she added borders, changed colors, rotated the image. No, no, no. She finally decided to go back to basics and using the photograph as inspiration painted the subject. The consensus was that she was getting closer. She then painted several subjects, cut them out, arranged the cut outs on paper and made a copy of that image, to give a textured effect. After a few more go rounds on color, typeset and type size, she had the book cover.
As an author, bring as many visuals and mood ideas (dark and mysterious, lights and sunny) to the designer as possible, but be open to their creative vision as well.
We hope this peak behind the scenes gives you some insight!