Cover Design Process
Updated: Mar 16
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I will admit that I am a sucker for a gorgeous book cover. A well-crafted cover gives me the mood of the book and entices me to read it before I even turn to page one. Working on Gold Spun with the CamCat team, I got a look behind the curtain (or should I say behind the dustjacket?). Maryann Appel, the Artistic Coordinator at CamCat Books, walked me through the process from concept to finished cover in five steps.
I receive a cover brief from production that outlines the book and includes the book description, the target audience, the category / genre, the tone of the cover, emotion of the book’s message, important story elements, elements to avoid, comparable titles and any preferences the author might have.
Here are some excerpts I pulled from the brief:
Tone of Cover:
This is very much a feminist retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that reclaims the nameless “weaver’s daughter” and gives her a complex, interesting story in a rich fairy tale world. Nor is a clever con artist and treats becoming a princess as the “biggest con of all”--she’s struggling to hold on who she is and who she ought to become, a free spirit or a queen?
From the author: “Stylistically, I love the concept of playing off the theme of old fairy tales by incorporating the ‘feel’ of some older fairytale books. I don’t think it needs to look exactly like an old book of fairytales, but more ‘inspired by’.”
She also says: “Because the title ‘Gold Spun’ feels like it has movement to me, and because most of the action takes place in a palace, I like the idea of lots of filigree-like details, fleur-de-lis accents, that sort of thing. I like the feel that the book is turning into gold, or the gold is starting to take over the cover and/or font.”
Elements to Avoid:
From the author: “Anything that gives away the ending... (Sorry readers, can’t add any more details here without including spoilers)
Emotion of the Book’s Message:
From the author: “I'd love readers to feel the dark romance, mystery, that combination that I feel when I step into a fairytale--that there is something inherently familiar with stories told by generations, but also something new/dangerous/unknown. Maybe even a bit wistful that they don't get to live in this world of fancy dresses, dangerous magic and handsome princes.”
I read the first few chapters of the book—this is important in capturing voice, tone and style.
I then research imagery. Most of my book covers are designed using stock photography and illustration. I create composite images, which are made up of two or more photographs / illustrations and are combined to create one image. Textures and effects are overlaid to create a unique image and then color is adjusted and blended for warmth or coolness. Color is an important design element considering that color meanings and psychology reveal many symbolic elements or feelings of a story.
I chose pastel colors for Gold Spun—gold, yellows, pinks, creamy tans and whites, and light gray—because of the obvious element (spinning straw into gold) but also because it is a sweet love story with difficult choices and hints of danger.
Various shades of yellow can take on many meanings: an interesting mix of bubbly and threatening, the color yellow sparks a broad spectrum of emotions. While it can be playful and radiant, yellow can also be unforgiving and foreboding.
Pink is the color of frivolity that lives between red and white. Pink takes all the passion and energy of red and tempers it with the purity of white leaving us with the color of tenderness and affection.
I then research fonts that reflect the book’s style and genre. For Gold Spun, a whimsical, decorative font with movement and flow was chosen. The use of deep purple shading and noise in the font creates a tension between the title and the softness of the cover composite image. Purple and yellow are hues opposite each other on the color wheel—complementary colors—which further intensifies that tension.
Fonts and graphic filigree or borders are then layered in the mechanical. I try to integrate type with image so that both elements feel unified. Font color, textures and effects give depth and pizazz to the title, author name and tagline.
And voila! Now we have the stunning cover art for Gold Spun! I hope you enjoyed a look at what went into creating the Gold Spun cover. Comment if you want to see more blogs about the process of publishing a book. And don’t forget that I’m still offering Gold Spun swag on my site here. Special thanks to Maryann for this lovely cover and explaining the process!