Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The story of a book and its cover

When I saw the cover for Girl, Stolen, I fell in love.  The designer, Rich Deas, told me he made more than 30 comps before the final cover was chosen.  
Rich told me that, while he is often provided with a synopsis and notes, he prefers to read the material.  He said, “I don’t really feel comfortable designing any cover without reading the text. As an art director, it’s especially difficult to direct another designer’s work without fully knowing the material. So I try my best to read as many manuscripts as possible.”
As he is reading the manuscripts, he scribbles notes, flags pages, and draws sketches.  He said, “ It’s more a free stream of thought which I come back to later and edit down.”

Some of the other covers he came up with:  

I like this one a lot.
No fingerprints - but more drama?

Feels too much like Saw
Nice mix of blindness/crime

An all black over is eye-catching, but hard for Marketing to love

Another from Rich's photo shoot

What about stock photography?
As a reader and author who also loves book covers, I’ve noticed that stock photography is more and more common.  Rich told me that approach has its own pros and cons.  “It can be a great resource, giving designers access to millions of great images that we would not be able to obtain from an affordable photoshoot or illustration. But creatively, it can be limiting when a designer depends too much on stock photography for a “quick fix” or presentable option. The best covers are usually based on strong concepts and original ideas, not just a pretty picture.”
Rather than relying on a single stock photo, Rich says designers are now using and manipulating a combination of photos to create a unique image that is a good fit for the book.  
The real girl behind the scenes
So where did the image for Girl, Stolen come from?  It’s actually of Rich’s neighbor, a teenage girl.  He says, “When possible, I like to create images with my own photos and illustrations. It feels more natural than looking through a million images trying to find something that almost suits what I am looking for.”
“I took probably a couple hundred photos before we decided on this version. In Photoshop, I added the distressed texture and title lettering, and tweaked the color. The fingernail polish was a last minute addition - and then it was later scuffed up.”

As for my cover, he told me, “The cover image for Girl Stolen is a direct response to reading the manuscript. The book is incredibly intense!

The perspective of a blind girl caught in a desperate situation is a brilliant way to pull the reader in. I wanted the cover to be a bit unnerving. I would not have come up with this image or concept without reading the story first.”
The next step for Rich is to comp up at least three different concepts.  These are shown to the publisher and editor.  If everyone agrees on one or two, these designs are then shown to the head of sales and marketing and the president of the division.  


  1. What a cool story . . . . and an amazing cover!

  2. They chose the best one, definitely. It's so arresting.

  3. Wow, what a great story, April. And so many wonderful images to choose from. Like Karin, I love your final cover. It's very eye-catching.

  4. Wow! Amazing cover. And the book has received some really nice reviews, too!

  5. So interesting to hear the thinking behind the cover-- I love it!

  6. Wow, April, fantastic to have the inside scoop. It is an A+ cover, though I liked many of the others too. What a gem he is to insist on reading the book in order to come up with the right cover. I'm not sure that's standard procedure!!

  7. Fabulous cover! I have to say, the black-background eye chart really grabs me too.

  8. I love that cover. My designer went through quite a few, too. And now I'm wishing I had seen the others. Makes for a great blog post!

  9. Very intersting post. I know exactly what you mean about being limited by stock photos as I have spent time there trying to "help" my cover art department. They passed on my suggestions.

  10. What a GREAT designer!! The cover is amazing.

  11. I've already got my fingers crossed that Rich designs my next cover. Even adults judge a book by its cover, and teens really do.

  12. I'm sorry to see so much stock photographer used on covers. It's too easy to repeat the same image. Love what he did for your cover!