November 11, 2011

Creation of a Book Cover: String Bridge by Jessica Bell

Note: Read this blog post and learn how you can win a free signed print!

Today I'd like to share with you the process used to create the cover of String Bridge a novel by Jessica Bell, published by Lucky Press.* But first, here is a synopsis of the book:
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage––and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.
The topics in this book include: music, performance, marriage, male-female roles within modern Greek society (the setting is Greece; the author is an Australian living in Athens, Greece), rock 'n roll, motherhood, corporate life and work, putting one's dreams aside for one's family, mother-daughter relationships, friendship and loss. Jessica Bell is a poet and musician. A collection of her poetry was released earlier this year under the title Twisted Velvet Chains. 

Simultaneously with the release of String Bridge (in ebook and paperback form) is the release of a soundtrack for the novel entitled "Melody Hill: On the Other Side." The songs are written and performed by the author. Soundmag wrote:
A piece totally dreamy, literally and figuratively, with incredible melodies and a voice kataplitiki over an acoustic guitar to inspire. Emotional flare-ups by Jessica Bell, excellent intonation and expression, and an avant garde philosophy. …a wonderful musical journey.
The first time I visited Jessica Bell's website, about a year ago, she had a mock-up of her novel's cover there, it featured a photograph of a guitar resting in a corner. In fact, the original title of her manuscript as communicated to me in September of 2010 was "Dead in the Corner of My Bedroom." Since this seemed a more likely title for a mystery novel, which String Bridge is not, discussions ensued about a new title and String Bridge was the winner. (The main character was originally named Jane and her husband was named Max. Jane and Max were changed to Melody and Alex.)

Originally, I envisioned a simple ink drawing of a guitar, very linear and spontaneous, with a line that would run from the cursive letters of the title to the guitar in the corner. Yet when I drew this it seemed a little stark considering the vivid prose and pulsating emotional life of the main character, Melody.

I then started drawing the guitar with black and blue ink. Here is the first result:

For some reason I can't remember now, I first envisioned the cover in pastels and presented this to the author. I followed it up with two more versions, essentially the same but with different cursive writing on "String Bridge."

Jessica liked the cover but asked if it would remain "sketchy." That got me to thinkin'…

But first, an explanation of process: In a book as multilayered as Jessica's, I suspected it would take some time to get the cover right. I wasn't worried because I knew as we worked through the process the right cover would emerge, like a sweet surprise, from all the back and forth and musings and questions. Here was my answer, on March 15, 2011, to her question:

"yes, the idea was that it [the guitar] would be sketchy. The whole thing is sort of Picasso-y. But, if you think it looks weird…then let's just stare at it for a week or so and see what else my brain comes up with. It's a process…  …The only other way I could see this would be with bold shapes of color for the guitar to match the background shapes. Sort of like Matisse's cut-out figures. I'll muse on it a bit…"

Jessica had no idea that Mark and I have several cut-outs by Matisse (prints!) over our couch. So, it was surprising when she sent me a link to an image by Matisse adding "How gorgeous is this piece!!!" I told her a print of it was in our home. I then tweaked the guitar sketch further:

I liked the roughness of combining a drawing with tools in Photoshop. Some of the look of the guitar above is derived at by layering multiple drawings on top of each other, treating each layer slightly differently, then combining all layers.

Then Jessica, being a very creative person herself across multiple disciplines, asked "What do you think of adding some loose pieces of paper scattered on the floor with scribbles of lyrics on them?"

I liked the idea, asked for some scribbly notes scanned and emailed to me and soon received several pieces by email including the following:

Now, as we were each, in Athens, Ohio, USA and Athens, Greece, musing on the pastel cover, Jessica sent me the following note on March 16th, always respectful of my creative process but nudging me to "get" her character of Melody a bit more accurately: "…[could you try] to alter the colour a bit. I really don't think a pastel blue fits Melody's character. Could you make the blue a little bit darker and more muddy? Do you know what I mean?"

Yes, I did! The more I was learning about the book, about Melody and about Jessica Bell, the more I saw that the pastel color was not going to fly.

Jessica also provided some color samples by emailing me the following and suggested "Cordoba Blue." (At this point you might wonder what I am even doing as a cover designer, but I liked collaborating with the author who, after all, knows her book and characters much better than I. This is something that I can do as a small publisher. There are many things I cannot do, but this I can do. I love it!)

The official color of Cordoba Blue is
color web: 71adcb
CMYK: 55/19/12/0
Pantone: 7458C
RGB: 113/172/203

I then sent this bolder version of the cover to Jessica and she "LOVE!"ed it. She also "LUUUURRRRRVE IT!!!!" (which might be an Australian thing, I'm not sure, but her enthusiasm was inspiring!)

On March 16, I wondered and sent this note to Jessica: "I am not sure about it…just went and took a nap and looked at it again… I love the body. I like your color of blue. I could take or leave the pages on the floor. I am not sure about the 'neck'….I think we are closer but not there yet!"  Jessica told me again that she was "in love with it." I agreed to stare at it more, but was preoccupied as our dog, Farley, had had major surgery on her back leg in February, required six weeks in a crate, and was still hobbling on three legs... and I was a bit stressed out. Here I am giving her some "mom love."

Jessica, Dawn (her publicist), and S. (her significant other) all loved the cover and Jessica loved the colors and guitar. I said I wanted to "fuss some more." I added black to the strings, black dots to the bridge and red to the keys and bridge. I also added a heart and added a section of darker blue at the top right of the background. The title was reduced in size slightly.

Jessica loved it and asked me to add "Tessa's" name to the bottom of the "I love Mommy" drawing so that it didn't look like the main character, Melody, had written it. I was happy to do that change. Also, I needed to change "Mommy" to "Mummy."

I made those changes and off went galleys to various parts of the world (Australia and England and India and Canada, oh my!) with the cover image above on the front.

Time went by…
Farley's leg healed…
Jessica worked on the CD…
Reviews came in!

I added Magdalena Ball's review on the front cover as well as a note about the CD, completed the rest of the cover and off to print! Here is the final version of the cover. Here is a snippet from Ms. Ball's review: "Jessica Bell's String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic. "


Today, November 11, 2011, is Amazon Chart Rush day for String Bridge. Click on the Amazon link to purchase. If you do purchase a printed copy of the book, I will send you a free gift. A beautiful print out of the guitar image above on Epson Presentation Matte Paper, 44 lb, 8.5 x  11, signed and dated. 

Note: This offer is limited to purchases made by U.S. residents on on November 11, 2011 ONLY and is limited to the first 15 folks to email the proper Amazon receipt.

What you need to do to get your free gift...

Purchase a copy of String Bridge using the link below:

Email to me ( a copy of your receipt dated Nov. 11, 2011 with Amazon showing the purchase. Be sure that on the Amazon receipt or within the body of the email, I am informed as to your mailing address. I will mail you the signed print of the guitar within 1 month; please allow time for mail delivery.

* I am the founder and publisher of Lucky Press, a traditional publishing company. Jessica submitted her query and manuscript to Lucky Press and I was the one who made the decision to publish it. I also design covers for other publishers and self-publishing authors as well as illustrate children's books. My graphic design website is:

Learn more:
Link to String Bridge on Amazon.
Link to String Bridge on Barnes and Noble.
Buy from an independent bookstore using the following link to String BridgeShop Indie Bookstores

I have made the guitar image available on various items like T-shirts, Kindle/Nook/iPad/laptop covers, and more at

Jessica Bell's blog:
Jessica Bell's website:
Book Trailer on
Jessica's CD is available online in more than 150 on line distribution points worldwide (iTunes,, Amazon, Bleep, Juno, HMV, etc). See all points where you can buy here


Glynis said...

What a great post! I never realised how much went into Jessica's cover. Your talents combined are incredible.

I love the book and music and wish you all good luck with the sales.

maine character said...

Cool to see the whole process from conception to completion.

For "lurve," you gotta see "Annie Hall," and all the best to Farley!

janice said...

Glynis: Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting as well. And for the good wishes!

Maine Character: It's been a while since I saw "Annie Hall".. thank you! Thanks for stopping by and Farley gives your comment a two paws up.

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