cover design

Behind the Book Scenes: The Making of the Cover Options for ROGUE PRINCESS

Hi Swoon Reads team! My name is Mallory Grigg. I'm an Art Director on the team here at Macmillan and we're doing something a little out of the ordinary for this title: an illustrated cover! We're excited to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes process that goes into making an illustrated book jacket. Check it out below:

Stage 1: Research & Synopses

Holly West and I first sat down to discuss the cover for Rogue Princess this past November and our immediate reaction is that it's perfectly suited to an illustrated cover. The story lives in this niche of fairy-tale-sci-fi-romance-action-thriller that begs for original artwork. Need a refresher? Here's the synopsis:

Princess Tianna knows that it’s her duty to choose the right husband and gain powerful alliances for her failing planet. Yet, she has always dreamed of marrying for love, and feels like there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship and runs away, only to discover that her get-away ship is already inhabited.

All Sinter wanted was to “borrow” a few parts to fix his ship so he could find the hidden treasure his mother told him about. Okay so maybe liberating the parts from a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a run-away princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and would-be thief uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever in this gender-swapped sci-fi YA retelling of Cinderella.

Cool, right? So we started the search for an illustrator that could give us a fresh take on this unique, fantastical story.

Stage 2: Hiring the Artist

I presented a list of eight illustrators (and examples of their work) that I thought would provide an interesting portrayal of the story. Holly, the publisher, Jean, and my creative director, Rich, narrowed down the list, and I started reaching out to the artists to see if they were available. Audrey Lynn Estok is the artist that we were fortunate to sign. Here's a sampling of her work:

0-Audrey Estok

Stage 3: Sketches

We sent Audrey the manuscript and she put together five solid sketches based on scenes that happened in the story, and gave us an idea of the color palette she was exploring for each.






Of the sketches Audrey sent we thought the relationship and romance of Sketch 2 conveyed an important part of the story—though we wanted to shift a few of the items around to help the title, author, and people sit in the space comfortably.

We also thought showing the character in the foreground of Ssketch 5 blended with the background of Sketch 4 gave us a beautiful sense of the fierce independence of our protagonist and the atmospheric world this novel creates.

Stage 4: Revised Sketches

Audrey's revised sketches hit our notes beautifully and we started loosely exploring how the title, author, and a potential tagline would work with the art.



Before sending Audrey to final art, we had one more request: We wanted to offer up a third cover option for the voters of Swoon Reads. We had romance, we had this badass character set in a magical world, and we wanted one more option that would illustrate the action and adventure that is such a huge part of the plot. So we asked her to use the characters that were on her original Sketch 3 and to place them in front of the castle on the palace grounds. She blew us away and went straight to color on all three.

Stage 5: Early Artwork/Vote

Audrey did a phenomenal job delivering such tight artwork so early in the process. The color palettes are playful, the texture is rich, and the people are dynamic. It's unusual to have an artist finish this many pieces for one title and we appreciate that she put so much time and effort to helping us get this cover ready for the vote!

RP cover voting header

After the vote

After the vote we'll work with Audrey to finesse the front cover and extend the image around the spine to the back cover (or as we say in the biz, we want to "wrap" the artwork around the jacket).

You can find Audrey online here!

Any questions? Sound off in the comments below!

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