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.
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).
The following cover design was for the historical fiction, NORAH, by Cynthia Neale when it was published by Lucky Press, LLC in 2011. It has since be released in a new edition, as Lucky Press closed in 2012. Please look for NORAH on Amazon or at a bookstore near you.
Here's the process...
1. "Norah" by Cynthia Neale 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!
ï»¿Here is an early idea for the cover.
ï»¿ 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.
ï»¿ 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.
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!
10. Still to be done before printing: adding a hyphen in "19th Century"... But this is a small thing.