Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cover Me: How Book Covers are Made

I got UK cover art and I can't wait to share, but before I do, I realized I never did a Shifter cover post. So...

Every author will have their own experience, as this varies, not only between houses but between authors. Since I'm a graphic designer by trade, the cover was very important to me and I wanted to be involved in the process. I made sure to tell my agent and my editor, and my editor was gracious enough to include me from the get go.

An illustrator was chosen and sketches were made. We made comments, suggested changes, and more sketches were made. When we got one we liked, the artist created on the final art, complete with title text.

Alas, sales nixed it. (I'm sure not what I'm allowed to say on this since we didn't use it, so forgive me for being vague here).

We went back and tried a new approach. This time, the artist just did pencil sketches. I wish I could show you the sketches, but alas, that whole legality thing.

Sales nixed it again.

What I can show you, is the path of the final cover.

Someone on the Balzer & Bray staff (I don't know who, but I'm still grateful for them) did a clip art mock up and sent it to my editor. My editor sent it to me and my agent and asked, "What do you think?"

Well, I went nuts. I just LOVED the idea and the look. (You'll notice I'm sure, the original title is still used at this point, as we hadn't changed it yet) We made sure sales loved it to before we went any further. Luckily, they did. My editor changed illustrators and we started over, giving them this new concept to play with. He sent us this sketch:

We loved it, we're totally thrilled, made a few suggestions again (some involving the hands, and the I wanted a more Byzantine look to the buildings), and sent it off. During this time, the title change was finally approved, so the color version reflected that.

You could have heard my excited squeal a mile away. I could NOT stop giggling over this cover. I think it totally rocks. You'll notice the "the" is missing from this version, which was added to the title after. We made a few minor tweaks (like adding some purple to the swirly stuff) and the final cover is...(I'd do a drum roll but you've all seen it)

And that's how I got a cover.

I'm incredibly lucky to have been included in the process, as a lot of authors have no say and don't even see their cover until it's done. That's actually how it went with the UK cover. Nothing wrong with that, especially since those Brits like their covers differently than us Yankees do, so my design experience wouldn't have been much help. (And I did get to done small thing, which I spill on that post). This just goes to show that even the same author and the same book can have different experiences depending on the house.

And both of mine were fabulous experiences.


  1. I adore your cover, I think the combination of the magical hands and electric blue do me in!

  2. Great covers.

    So am I right in assuming that even though you, the writer, your editor and your agent may like a cover, the sales people are the ones who get the final say? If they say, "Um, no. Rubbish. Start over," you lot toss everything into the bin and re-create something else?

  3. Thanks!

    You are right, Glen. They need to be able to sell it to bookstores and libraries, and if they don't think a cover (or a title) will do that, they start over. My title was changed because a few of the major bookstores didn't like it. My editor guest posted on my agent's blog, so here's the link if you want the full story:

    Once Shifter 2 is out the door, I hope to get some short interviews with some of those folks and get a better understanding of the "behind the scenes" process.

  4. Very interesting, especially as you're a fellow graphic designer. Personally, if I'm lucky to get published, I'll be all to happy to sit back and let others do the designing.

  5. I love that cover- I remember first seeing it on Pubrants when it first came out! (I have to say, I really really liked The Pain Merchants too, but Shifter is perfect for a fantasy.)