The One That Got Away

I was cleaning out my office today and I found a printout of a cover that I must have brought to a meeting some time ago. It was not the version of the cover that we finally went with and as I looked at the comp in my hand, I wondered why.

There are a lot of people that weigh in on book jackets. Compromises are made and you never know if the one that got away would have done as well for the book or better. Anyway, finding this early comp caused me to open up some old files and re-trace my steps. It was interesting to me and might be to you as well if you have ever wondered how the process of designing a book jacket goes

DISCLAIMER: This is either a brave or foolish thing that I do in showing you my own design rejects, but I think it might be for the greater good, so don’t judge me too harshly.

This goes back a couple years. The book was called Monstrous Beauty. (It’s a sensationally gripping story by Elizabeth Fama, well worth reading, by the way.) To simplify it’s wonderfully intricate plot, it’s a romance about a man and a mermaid in two different time periods and a line of women who bear a fatal curse. This was signed up toward the end of the vampire wave and the beginning of the mermaid wave, as it were, so I looked to see what was already out there from other publishers and how they were selling. Here is a small sampling of what I found:

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After looking over these comp titles with the editor and publisher, we discussed how we would differentiate our mermaid from the vast sea of others, and I got working.

Out of the myriad attempts, I showed my publisher and the editor these:


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comments: not commercial enough, do we want to show so much bum?

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comments: too freaky, just don’t dig it

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comments: too scary, should be more sexy

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comments: looks goth, tired of goth

It was at this point that a new voice entered our editorial team who wisely stated the obvious. “If the book has a mermaid, I want to see some fins and tail.”

So I bought these photo stock images

tropical fish       image 14

and built a mermaid.

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I like this cover. It was used for the hard cover version of the book.

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I also like the new version that my colleague, Rich D, designed for the paperback. It’s got great energy and movement.


The point of all this, I suppose, is that you have to design a lot of rejects to find a prince, or kiss a lot of covers to find a frog, or something.


Actually, I just thought you might find it interesting. Let me know if that’s true.


-Anne D

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