August 1, 2011

Birth of a Book Cover: Norah

There was some interest in a previous blog I wrote on creating the book cover for Melissa Kline's young adult sci-fi novel, My Beginning. So, I decided to repost this article, which originally appeared on Lucky Press's blog.

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I love creating illustrations for book covers, but there are some interesting common moments that happen in nearly every case. First, I have a vague idea of what the cover might look like. This idea germinates with the input of the publisher and author (In this case, Lucky Press is the publisher, so I wore two hats, publisher and designer. Cynthia Neale's input regarding historical costume and Norah's personality was vital.)

Second, I am sure that implementing that vision will be too difficult for me to accomplish. Three, I figure out (well, okay, I wake up one morning and have a good guess) how I might be able to create the cover. Four, I begin the process and worry again that it's not what I want it to be. Five, everything clicks and I finish it (which usually coincides with arrival of deadline).

1. You can read a synopsis of Norah at this link, but basically it is about an Irish immigrant, Norah McCabe, whose family lives in Five Points in New York City in the second half of the 1800s. Norah is in her early twenties, strong-minded and creative. She owns her own used-clothing shop, and takes cast-offs from wealthy women and resells them. She also dreams of being a journalist -- there is no stopping Norah from reaching her dreams.

We wanted a cover that would capture Norah's strength, her love of fine clothes, and the "feeling" of that period in NYC's history. I asked the author, Cynthia Neale, to send me any documentation she might have on dresses Norah might have worn (though Norah is a fictional character, accurate historical details were most important to the author as she wrote her book). Cynthia sent me a book of historical costumes, noting the images correlating to Norah's generation; I also found some costume images, from museums, online (see photo at left).

2. In the meantime, I also looked at photographs available from stock photo agencies. There was one photo that I liked very much, but the woman's face was not right for Norah. I also looked at images of women in period costumes, but they all looked very posed. Here are some images we came across (available from Superstock Images):

3. I did come up with an idea using one of the images from Superstock, but, again, the author did not feel the image was quite right and, after all, she knows her character best!

Here is an early idea for the cover.

 4. Also, I needed to familiarize myself with Five Points; so I visited websites and came across these photos.

5. I played around with using an image of a woman plus an image of Five Points…

Above is a rough "sketch," but I wanted to see how the cover might look with a city view behind it.

 6. We also looked at a lot of covers on Amazon, noting what appealed to us. I was surprised to find how many bookcovers do not show the woman's face!

7. Eventually, though, we decided to see what an original drawing might look like. I decided to use Cynthia's costume images as the basis for an illustration. The dress I referred to was yellow, and had roses on it, but no shamrocks. I decided to change the design of the pattern on the dress and add shamrocks. I also altered the details of the dress slightly. I drew the dress in pencil, then did the lines in ink with a Micro Pen, .005 and .01 thickness nib. I then added watercolors to the drawing, which was done on smooth Bristol paper. (Yes, I am a cover designer as well as the founder and publisher of Lucky Press. This allows me to be involved in the production process of a title in a wonderful way, and I love this opportunity to design a cover. If a cover is not quite right for my skills, then I engage the services of another designer. We all have different strengths and areas of focus.)

This shows the drawing as it originally was created. Although I didn't think we'd use Norah's face, I wanted to draw it. The author noticed the chin "wasn't quite right" (and I agreed). I altered the chin/jawline slightly. Also, as you see below, I cropped the illustration and flipped it.

8. I didn't want the cover to appear "pastel" though, because the book is gritty, dark in some places, and while there are some romance, love, and light moments, it really is a struggle for Norah to find her way and she is surrounded by people with ulterior motives. I didn't want the book cover to indicate a light romance. I wanted it to be strong. So, the illustration was imported into Photoshop and treated with art filters.

Here is the drawing, scanned and imported into Photoshop, and treated with filters.

9. When I was satisfied with the look of the drawing, I then turned toward the title, subtitle, and author's name. There was some tweaking of the fonts and voila! a book cover for Norah!

Norah is available from online booksellers and through your local chain or independent bookstore. If you love Ireland and/or stories of strong women characters, you will love Cynthia Neale's Norah.

10. Still to be done before printing: adding a hyphen in "19th Century"... But this is a small thing. Next, we will work on the back cover and spine, as well as adding in a snippet of this wonderful review from Feathered Quill:

"This is not a tame, peaceful read. Although there are certainly beautiful scenes of corseted females in their finery traversing the streets of New York City, those same streets are also filled with vicious, violent people desperately trying to feed their families. Norah's life is upsetting in many ways and the twists and turns that happen to her do, indeed, include angry people who are truly out for themselves. However, this story is filled with so much intrigue, mystery, and beauty, that you'll cling to every word while watching Norah grow into a strong, courageous, and brilliant woman, who ends up truly proud of her Irish blood."

Visit the author's website:
Here is Norah on Amazon. (available in hardcover and paperback).
View the book trailer, below.

Drawings for "Norah." ©2010 Janice Phelps Williams. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Jessica Bell said...

I loved this post! It's so fascinating seeing the process one goes through to reach the final product! :o)

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