Friday, July 22, 2016

The Making of a Book Cover: 3 Stories

This Mitten blog post about book covers was our most popular post to-date, meaning that more people read that post than any other in our nearly two year history. Go Kirbi Fagan! Kirbi's post was so popular partly due to her awesome tribe of supporters and her stunning artwork, but it was also a post that spoke to both writers and illustrators. So, in that vein, let's take another look at book covers with some take-aways for both the writers and illustrators in SCBWI. Here are the cover stories for three of our Michigan Chapter members (starting with my own!):

It wasn’t until my own debut YA novel entered the publishing process that I truly saw the making of a cover. I was fortunate to be involved in many of the decisions, including choosing from four initial cover concepts, all very different.

Here’s what my cover designer, Amanda Schwarz, shared about her initial process with THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO:

"When designing a book cover I search for a way to visually represent the emotion of the novel while not outright telling the audience what it’s about. After reading the book I realized that the heart of the story is the lead character coming to terms with where her life has taken her and accepting change. In particular the Annie Dillard quote at the end of the novel struck me, “Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But mountains are home.”  

To me, this sums up the feelings of the book. Cara, by the end, comes to realize that no matter where she is in her life, the mountains, along with Uncle Max, will always be a part of her. They are inside of her and a life that she can return to one day. So while not referencing climbing directly, I felt having mountains represented in the covers somewhere is very important as Cara comes to hold on to the important aspects of her previous life, but also learns to let go of others as she grows in the story. It captures the tone but there is also the mystery of what exactly the mountains represent to the story.

While working on the preliminary designs I also decided to use handwritten or script text for the covers. Since we spend the entirety of the book seeing the events from Cara’s perspective, anything that isn’t handwritten felt too impersonal for a very personal story. I choose fonts that have similar characteristics but also contrast to emphasize the emotions of the title especially “Holding On and Letting Go.” 

Heather Smith Meloche's YA novel, RIPPLE, hits bookshelves in September. Heather says, "The cover design was a hard part of this debut publishing process because, when my editor asked me for suggestions to pass on to the designers, I didn’t really have a sense of what I thought should be on the cover. With the title being RIPPLE, I felt like water had to be there somewhere. And I knew there were scenes in a cemetery that were pivotal in the story, so I suggested to the art department that they think “in the graveyard.” But primarily, I knew what I didn’t want more than what I did."

Penguin’s designers came out, first, with a design that I personally loved, since it reminded me of my grandmother’s art, which hangs all over my house. But we weren’t sure if it would hook readers enough. When they came back with a second design that elaborated on the first, I seriously got chills the moment I saw it because I just knew -- THAT was the cover Ripple was supposed to have. It’s dark. It’s edgy. It captures the mood and tone of the book. And I truly couldn’t be happier with the work the design team did.

Cover designer Tony Sahara said this about RIPPLE's cover:

“Here in Penguin Young Readers Design Group, sometimes there are multiple designers working on the same project to create a variation of book cover ideas. Ripple is one of those books. During the initial design stages, my colleagues and I were pretty much working with Tessa in mind, and that was a fun part of our job. We started off with more abstract and type-driven designs in various styles. Some of us physically painted graphic elements, including the book title type, and incorporated them into the layout digitally. I then decided to also create a layout with more human elements. Something that would engage the reader on a very personal level. This became the base of the final cover."

"In terms of the cover concept, I was focusing on the fragile, emotional state of the characters, but visually I tried to maintain the creativity and the spontaneity of the whole cover development process. In the end, my goal is that the author's and reader’s initial reaction to the cover would validate the contents of the story. So, I hope this cover accomplishes that goal when people pick up the book at the book stores.”

Social media has opened up new avenues for publishers to tailor their cover designs, such as Swoon Reads/Macmillan. They ask readers to vote for their favorite of several cover options. Katie Van Ark's debut YA novel, THE BOY NEXT DOOR, was published by Swoon Reads, and you can see the Pick-the-Cover voting process here, including the original four, very different designs.

Katie says, "Having a cover contest was really exciting for me as an author. I was also glad that Macmillan responded to my suggestions on the final cover. (We fixed the characters' hair styles!)" 

To learn more about the crowd-sourced model at Swoon Reads, their cover creations, or vote on upcoming covers, go to their website/blog.

Thanks to Katie and Heather for sharing their book cover process with me!

Want to read more about cover creation? Follow these links:

By the Cover: an ongoing feature at Book Riot.

Cover Evolution: an in-depth look at the process from Chad W. Beckerman, designer and creative director at Abrams. And here's a fun post for picture book author/illustrators: VEGETABLES IN UNDERWEAR! 

Publishers Weekly has a new column devoted to book covers.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Writing non-fiction, MFA Week, the Sophomore Experience: Your Second Book and More, another Indie Bookstore Interview, and a new Writer Spotlight - it could be you!

Who's going to the big SCBWI conference in Los Angeles next week? Not me. :( We'd love to share your experience on the Mitten blog. View our submission guidelines for guest posts here.

Have a great weekend!
Kristin Lenz

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent posting, featuring some gorgeous covers! Thanks!