Evolution of a Book Cover

Ron Miller once told me that a book cover is like a movie poster. It has to grab the reader’s attention and convey the feel of the book. I’ve become a bit of a “cover junkie” over the years. I angst a lot over cover art. So for Peter’s upcoming book, In Our House, it was important that the cover had to be perfect. Peter came into this with some pretty firm ideas of what he wanted. He had spent a lot of time patrolling the internet looking for image ideas, and sent me links to about two dozen or so sample concepts.


We knew that we obviously needed a house on the cover, and it had to be a creepy house. But before we could have the house we had to find an illustrator to do the work. I have a few “go to” artists that I work with, but I already had them working on other covers. And publication deadlines being what they are, I needed a third artist. Thankfully, a friend put me in touch with a local artist named Jaime Leigh Marsh, who works in traditional mediums. A lot of artists today work in digital format almost exclusively. And while I enjoy digital illustrations in many cases, for this particular cover we wanted something that felt more organic.


First thing that had to be decided, even before Jaime began sketching, was what medium we wanted. (pencil, watercolor, oils, etc) and a color pallet (warm or cool, color schemes, etc). You will end up with a different feel depending on which you chose, even if structurally the final image is the same.


Once we settled on medium and pallet, Jaime went to work doing some preliminary sketches to define the general layout of the cover. We needed to make sure that live elements (parts of the illustration that should not be obstructed) would not be too close to the edge and that we had enough space to add the title and author name without interfering with the flow of the illustration.



We settled on the first sketch for placement. Once placement was decided, we had to determine what live elements would be included in the final image. We toyed with the idea of adding monster silhouettes in the windows and such, but decided against it. While it probably would have looked great full size, the smaller live elements would have appeared blurred and blotchy in thumbnail images or black and white reproductions. When designing a book cover, it is important to keep in mind how the cover will first be seen by a potential customer. Most first contact with a book is a small image on a retail site or in an ad.



Once the live elements were settled on, Jaime went back and did a more refined sketch to show where the live elements would be. We discussed a few structural changes to the house itself. And finalized the structure.


Next up was seeing how the colors would work together in the image. Once again Jaime prepared several different versions with different color themes. After some discussion back and forth regarding text contrast, we settled on the final colors.



After that, Jaime did the final ink work for the house.



The final structural art.

Then after some final tweeks, the finished art is completed!



I’ll be working on getting Peter’s new book page up and running this weekend, including adding the final cover art with the title and lettering included. When everything is ready, you’ll be able to check it out at www.bardsandsages.com/inourhouse.


And in the meantime, if you are looking for a cover artist, Jaime is available for commissions.