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Michelle Harrison Michelle Harrison

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Behind the Scenes – Cover Process

Posted on June 20, 2019, tagged as A Pinch of Magic, Behind the Scenes, Cover Design

One of my favourite things about my job is seeing the finished cover art for my stories. I’ve been fortunate to have had some wonderful illustrators for my books, including Christopher Gibbs, Zdenko Basic, and most recently, Melissa Castrillon. Melissa has very kindly agreed to let me post some never-seen-before early sketches and a colour rough for A Pinch of Magic to show you the process a book cover goes through before it reaches the version you find on the shelves.

Stage one is a rough sketch which is delivered to the publisher after the design department briefs the chosen artist. This is a chance for everyone to see how the artist has responded to the description of the book, and to see how it looks laid out. In the past, I’ve only ever seen one rough sketch. Having worked on the other side of publishing and attending cover meetings I know from experience that publishers can be rather selective about what they show to authors, but this is quite normal! However, in this instance I was delighted to see not one, but FOUR possible cover designs (below).

From this, my editor informed me that Simon & Schuster favoured the bottom left design of the angular mermaid mirror. I really liked all four designs, but the one that both my agent and I felt was strongest was the top right, showing the tower and swirling mist. We went back to my editor, asking if the cover could take this direction, and I suggested that perhaps the mermaid could appear on the back with the blurb inside. I didn’t for a moment expect this to happen as, quite often, the author has very different ideas about what they want on the cover to what an experienced sales team knows will sell. But they agreed!

The next image I was shown was this beautiful colour rough from Melissa, which I was thrilled to bits with. You can see here that the layout is virtually on par with the final version, but that the colour ways have changed a little. From here, Melissa would have delivered final colour artwork which was then subjected to some experimentation with colours by the very clever Jenny Richards in Design. Following this, the cream background was selected, and all those fine details are honed carefully in Melissa’s style to produce the final cover. Voila!

Many thanks to Melissa and the Design team at S&S for allowing me to share these images (all of which are the copyright of Melissa Castrillon).

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