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Allison Saltzman Creates an Exceptional Design for Nothing to See Here

Kevin Wilson is one of my favorite Ecco authors. I’d read his books even if I didn’t have to; his stories of unconventional family life are immersive and poignant, but also slightly cock-eyed and very funny. And they are always thought-provoking for their wider implications.

In his latest novel, Nothing to See Here, two old friends (boarding school roommates) reconnect when one is between jobs and the other needs a nanny for her new stepchildren. The catch is that if these kids get too agitated—whether from excitement or unhappiness—they burst into flames. They themselves are not harmed, but they do risk burning everything and everyone around them. That’s the literal danger, but there’s also a figurative one as well: their father has been nominated to be Secretary of State, and offspring who spontaneously combust would ruin his chances, if not his entire career. So the nanny’s job is to keep the kids calm and seemingly normal. What could possibly go wrong?

Allison Saltzman Creates an Exceptional Design for Nothing to See Here

Stephen Brayda on Designing Lost in the Spanish Quarter for HarperVia

The cover art for Lost in the Spanish Quarter needed to somehow embody an entire literary event: it is the very first title published by HarperVia- the newest HarperCollins imprint focused on publishing amazing fiction in translation, and author Heddi Goodrich translated the novel herself from Italian to English. I geared up for action.

Goodrich’s writing is a full sensory ride. A visual cue that stood out to me as I read is the way she writes of Naples as a character: a living, breathing contributor to her story. Crumbling buildings and crowded streets showed up in very rough sketches early on, along with different lettering experiments to help drive home the experience of intimacy.

Stephen Brayda on Designing Lost in the Spanish Quarter for HarperVia

Tree Abraham on Designing From the Shadows

I designed the cover of Juan José Millás’ From the Shadows knowing little of what the novel contained. I believe the manuscript was still being translated from Spanish and the publisher, Bellevue Literary Press, provided a short extract and invited my interpretation. It worked to my advantage that the text was as much a mystery to me as the protagonist was to the world he inhabited. 

Tree Abraham on Designing From the Shadows

Emily Mahon Creates a Strong Cover for Juli Zeh's Empty Hearts

I always enjoy working on covers for the German author, Juli Zeh. Her writing is unusual, contemplative, and smart. Since the first book I worked on for her, In Free Fall, I've developed an overall look that continues to work. All three of these novels are loosely related visually, but what makes them cohesive is the cut-paper approach, bold colors and lines, and big type. For In Free Fall and Decompression, I came up with concepts that needed to be shot and I cut the type into paper, and had them photographed with dimension.

Emily Mahon Creates a Strong Cover for Juli Zeh's Empty Hearts

Emily Osborne on Designing The Swallows

The cover design for Lisa Kutz’s The Swallows, was one of those special experiences where my first round ended up including the final cover, every last detail was on that initial comp. When does that happen? Almost never, for me at least!

I dove into the manuscript not knowing what to expect - Lisa’s book was a very surprising read! A new writing teacher arrives at a small boarding school, and gives the students an unusual writing exercise. The results reveal some troubling things, and hint at a dark underbelly to the charming school and town. Without giving much away, there is a bird theme to this darkness, and a lot of tension between the genders. The swallow bird seemed an obvious place to start. But I knew this had to be a bit more than a pretty bird cover, especially since it is really not about birds.

Emily Osborne on Designing The Swallows

Pete Adlington on Creating the Paperback Cover for The Wall

The Wall is set in the near future, where rising sea levels have wiped out huge swathes of the world and to protect itself from both water and ‘the others’ who try to gain entry via the sea, Britain has erected a 30ft concrete wall around itself which is guarded by conscripted young members of the populace. You do your 2 years on The Wall, pray that no ‘others’ come and then you go about your life as normal. If The Others come and manage to get over on your watch, you’re put out to sea in their place. The novel follows Kavanagh, a young man who is just starting his time on The Wall.

Pete Adlington on Creating the Paperback Cover for The Wall

Jason Anscomb on Reviving a Golden Age Crime Series

Debra Riley at Moonstone Press approached me about designing the covers for a set of five Golden Age crime novels. Moonstone Press reprints detective fiction originally published between WWI and the early 1960s, and introduces them to a wider audience.

Debra and I decided to re-work some concepts she had previously commissioned. This decision was partly due to time and budget constraints, but also because the illustrations were a good starting point for the series development.

Jason Anscomb on Reviving a Golden Age Crime Series

David Litman Designs an Epic Cover for Ask Again, Yes

A lot of designers talk about the trouble of working on a cover for a book that they really like. For me, it’s usually that I’m trying too hard to represent all the complexities of the novel rather than focusing on a simple idea and executing it in an attractive way. This book had me going down a lot of wrong paths in trying to do it justice.

The story is an epic about two families who move to a town outside New York City. Without giving anything away, there is a tragedy and the characters spend the rest of the novel and many years reconciling this event. Thematically there’s a lot to unpack - issues of mental illness, the American suburban ideal, family, love, secrets, forgiveness… A lot.

David Litman Designs an Epic Cover for Ask Again, Yes

Jo Thomson, Bringing to Light the Cover for The Vanishing Hours

I came to work on this brief after a we’d had a few rounds of visuals from a freelancer that weren’t quite working for the cover meeting. They were great designs, in keeping with the cover style that had been established with his two earlier novels, but the meeting felt we needed to step away from this look for the third novel. I had voiced some ideas in the meeting and so, with the deadline looming, my Art Director asked me to try some new options. Naturally, my ideas evaporated as soon as I sat down to work on the cover and I mentally kicked myself for having been so chatty in the meeting. I talked the brief through with Alice (the editor working on the novel and all round lovely human) and this helped give me a bit more of a steer, although I was still a bit stumped. An accident involving a scalpel and the tip of my finger resulted in some much needed reading time in the glamorous location of Ealing Hospital A+E waiting room! I whizzed through the novel in the couple hours that I was waiting there and returned to the art dept inspired with some ideas and a comedy bandage.

Jo Thomson, Bringing to Light the Cover for The Vanishing Hours

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Dr. Aysha Akhtar made her first foray into non-academic writing with Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy, and Our Shared Destinies (Pegasus Books, May 2019). Throughout her book, Dr. Akhtar weaves stories of interactions between humans and animals with science, human experience, and social history to draw assertions about the connection between humans and animals: how we interact, develop empathy from, and benefit from relationships with animals. 

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Grace Han on Designing Brandon Taylor's Real Life

I’m always excited to read the work of Riverhead’s debut authors, and this was no exception. Brandon Taylor’s voice is smart and electric and I am truly enamored by his ability to navigate us through a range of emotions in such an elegant, profound way.

Real Life is about Wallace, an introverted grad student who is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. After the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend, he is forced to face his private wounds. For Wallace, real life unravels in a place where he is studying the complexities of biological life. What is striking to me is that there are raw and violent emotions being brought to the surface in this seemingly controlled, academic, backdrop.

Grace Han on Designing Brandon Taylor's Real Life

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Designer Cherie Chapman has a knack for turning the intrigue of a novel’s plot into a series of captivating images for its cover. Chapman’s passion and talent for creating book covers continues to earn her high-profile projects, including a recent redesign of the Simon Brett murder mysteries. Canongate’s new imprint, Black Thorn, commissioned Chapman to rework 14 of Brett’s titles. Editors at Black Thorn thought the series needed a more illustrative approach, and they sought Chapman’s particular gift for creating fiction book covers with zing. Chapman’s guiding principle for the Simon Brett series? Fun. Imagine it: a project infused with joy for both designer and potential readers alike. Here’s how Chapman made magic for these quirky, cozy murder mysteries.

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

Bianca Marais’s writing is emotionally rich and deeply felt; I absolutely loved both reading and designing for her novels. If You Want to Make God Laugh is set in post-Apartheid South Africa and tells the story of three very different women who are brought together unexpectedly and, through their journey together, challenge the conventional norms of both family and identity.

This cover is a bit of a publishing unicorn, as it was an outtake of one of the comps presented for Bianca’s first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. The editor sent Bianca two cover concepts for Hum, and she loved both so much that when it was time to jacket her next novel, it was suggested we try and rework the unused one. This almost never happens!

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

University Press Cover Round-Up

Since July is a quiet pub month, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate an oft-overlooked area of UP Design: Series Designs. Series designs are a challenge to design; they require forethought to fit a wide variety of titles and the designer has to consider a package that can be replicated indefinitely without duplicating previous colors/symbols or breaking the pattern in a way that divorces the design from the rest of the series. Take a look at six examples of designers who really hit the mark on this challenge to produce beautifully memorable series designs.

University Press Cover Round-Up

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Henrietta Lovell is best known as the Rare Tea Lady. She is on a mission to revolutionise the way we drink tea by replacing industrially produced teabags with an appreciation for the best quality leaves. Her quest sees her travel to the Shire Highlands of Malawi, across the foothills of the Himalayas, and to hidden gardens in the Wuyi Shan in China to source the world’s most extraordinary tea. Infused takes us on a remarkable journey, introducing us to the people who grow and craft the precious leaves as well as the celebrated chefs who serve them. And always guiding us is Lovell herself, who tells the story of how her love affair with tea has shaped her life through times of both great joy and adversity. The result is a delicious infusion of travel writing, memoir, recipes and glorious photography, all written with Lovell’s unique charm and wit.

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews freelance book cover designer Amanda Weiss. Weiss has been recognized frequently by the Association of University Presses for her work, including selections for the 2019 AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show: Beyoncé in Formation, and Woke Gaming. Dunn and Weiss discuss typography, photography, and use of color.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

The cover for The Travelers by Regina Porter came about when I was trying to do something completely different and, once I stopped trying so hard, it finally started to come together. Basically every cover designer will tell you the road to a cover is almost never the same, which makes it interesting but also stressful of course.

This novel is a family saga of two families, one white and one black, interconnected over many years and places. It’s a story made of many different stories, none necessarily more important than the other. This meant there was no shortage of symbols to represent each part, but which ones could represent the wide scope of the entire book was the challenge. Initially in conceptualizing with editorial, we wanted something bold, modern, but with a touch of a southern classic feel. Even though it takes place all over, a large selection of the stories take place in the south, in particular one scene that shapes the events of much going forward. This particular scene takes place on a tragic night when a young black couple is pulled over by the cops in Georgia in 1966. Along that stretch of road are weeping willow trees, we felt that given the strong family narrative it would make sense to use willows as a sort of family tree.

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

I’ve worked with the talented creative team over at Tor on countless covers, and I’m always thrilled when they approach me with a new project. Magic for Liars came across my desk at a particularly busy time for me, but the book concept was really interesting, and I was excited to take the project on.

This fantastic debut novel from Sarah Gailey follows our lead, Ivy Gamble. When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages where Ivy’s estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic - Ivy ( a reluctant detective ) is pulled into a world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister―without losing herself.

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

The cover design for The Paper Wasp came together very organically. I was hired as a freelancer by Grove Atlantic’s Art Director Gretchen Mergenthaler. The cover memo had some specific direction, but Gretchen always encourages original ideas and experimentation and it sounded like a great project. I was excited to work on it.

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things tells the story of Jessa-Lynn Morton, who takes over her father’s taxidermy business shortly after his suicide. Still grieving, she struggles to keep both the business and her family from falling apart. While Jessa buries herself in work and alcohol, her mother begins making lewd window displays with animals from the taxidermy shop. Jessa's first love—also her brother Milo’s wife—ran out on the family years before, leaving Milo with their young daughter and her troubled son from a previous relationship. Struggling to cope with her absence, Jessa and Milo remain locked in a pattern of resentment and grief.

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person

Ulli Lust, a 2013 Los Angeles Times book prize winner for her graphic novel Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, is revisiting her past with her newest book How I Tried to Be a Good Person. The graphic novel is a memoir, like Lust's first book, and according to Fantagraphics is “a story of sexual obsession, gender conflict, and self-liberation.” 

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person