Preparing a book jacket

Every now and then I hear a horror story about an author whose jacket cover doesn’t remotely resemble his/her book. (I can’t remember who the author was anymore, but I recall hearing about one where the book jacket showed a white woman and the main protagonist was black.)

I thought I’d take you through the highly collaborative steps that were involved in the development of my book jacket with Penguin Canada.

My daughter, Jade, is a very talented graphic designer, among other things. She offered to do a placeholder for a website while Penguin developed the actual jacket. I mentioned it to my commissioning editor, Adrienne Kerr, and she said to tell Jade to go ahead and do a mockup. If Penguin liked it, they would try to work with it.

Jade came up with this (she also had a version without a figure in it):

Jade said that because the book has a sense of humour about it, she thought she’d try a font that had a sense of humour too. (By the way, it wasn’t 2011 that I was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger, but 2010, and I’m pretty sure Jade changed that but have no idea what I did with the revised versioin.)

I loved the evocative feel of the image she’d selected and the idea of a mysterious figure crossing the street. I also loved the fact the font was yellow and the way it popped off the page.

Since the image was one that Jade pulled off the Internet, attribution wasn’t possible which meant we had to find a different image but the design certainly set the tone for what I was looking for.

I sent it off to Adrienne who passed it along to the art department.

Penguin’s in-house artist then got to work. She prepared 60 roughs which  Adrienne then whittled down to three. One was of some Cuban men playing chess beneath a picture of Fidel Castro, which didn’t work for me with the first novel, although it might be an interesting choice for the second, The King’s Indian, which is named for a chess move.

Another was of storm clouds rolling over buildings, which I thought was a bit too generic: the buildings could have been in any European country.

But the third was intriguing. It was a sepia tone  version of the photograph of the mysterious woman/child crossing the street and evoked the same response in me as Jade’s mockup.

I thought the sepia tone made the photograph look almost too historical, kind of like a Guy Vanderhaeghe novel. I suggested that we try it in black and white instead, and keeping Jade’s mockup in mind, I asked if we could perhaps try a yellow font with it.

Adrienne then sent me three roughs using that photograph in black and white and three different fonts. The first font was yellow, as I had requested, but  the colour faded away to almost nothing. The second was black rimmed with gold just as you see it on this blog, and the third was red.

I indicated my preference for the black first, the yellow second.

Penguin’s artist got back to the drawing board. Working with Adrienne closely, she used the simpler cleaner font, and roughed up the photograph a little, making it a little edgier.

There are still steps left in finalizing the cover. Once we get some author blurbs about the book, those will go somewhere on the front, and there may be mention of the book being shortlisted for CWA Debut Dagger Award shortlist. The famous Penguin logo will appear in the corner, I’m guessing.

But for purposes of Penguin’s catalogue, which is being prepared now, this is the version we’ll use and I love it. Thanks to Adrienne and the Penguin art department for doing such a great job. And of course to Jade!

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