Happy Wednesday everyone! I had so many wonderful responses from last week’s post! Thank you for all the kind words via email and twitter. Now for part 2:
COVER. After blogging about how I created the interior of When Blue Met Egg, I thought I would post about the cover, endpapers, and jacket design, since I didn’t really get into that part of the process at all.
Sketching the cover is quite possibly the most stressful part of making a picture book, at least for me anyway. There is this incredible pressure (mostly that I place on myself) to come up with something amazing and eye-catching. Some picture books will use an image that already exists in the book, which my editor and I briefly talked about doing. Originally this was the spread we thought we might use:
However, there are a lot of details to worry about when choosing the right image for the cover of a picture book. Obviously, the cover is very important. It grabs readers. It shouts “Hey look at me, take me home!” It is the identity of a book before readers have a chance to explore the pages.
There were a few concerns about the image above. This spread is very clearly a winter scene. My editor felt that because the book ends at the beginning of spring, having a winter cover would pigeon-hole the book a bit. Although there is snow on the final cover we went with, it is not as apparent as in the image above. The other concern with using this spread was that Blue’s eyes are closed. I’m pretty sure bedtime books are the only ones that have main characters with their eyes closed on the cover, and even then it’s rare. I didn’t want readers to pick up Blue in a bookstore and say “Great, a going to bed book!”
So thus begins the long process of cover sketching. And let me tell you mine was a marathon. Overall I think I did around 40 different cover sketches. And guess which one ended up on the cover? Yup, that’s right, number 40. Sometimes it takes 39 crappy drawings to get to one that’s really good. Here are some of my abandoned cover sketches and the reasons why they were scrapped:
My editor and I loved the idea of using one of the bridges in Central Park. We did a bunch of versions playing around with this bridge. This particular sketch shows winter on the front and spring on the back. Although this composition looks great as a spread, that isn’t how a reader would have seen it. Fold this image in half and that’s the cover. No longer a lovely bridge scene, but a weird half-bridge with a tiny bird trotting across it. Next…
Same idea of using spring vs. winter on either side of the jacket, but this one focused on incorporating Blue’s nest. As I mentioned above the nest scene was a favorite from the start so most of the first cover sketches played around with different variations of a nest concept:
At this point we had solidified the concept and illustration for the back cover of the book. But the cover still wasn’t there yet. Honestly, it felt like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Each one was just not right. So the drawing continued…
One of the really difficult things about using a bird for the main character in a picture book is proportion. Especially when the setting is New York City. When working on the interior artwork, I was constantly juggling Blue’s size with the massive buildings of New York. Which is why we came to the realization that in all the previous layouts for the cover, Blue was getting lost. So we decided to make her a bit larger, but in order to do that I would need to zoom in on her. Which raised another question. How do I do a close-up of such a small character while still incorporating a very large setting? This was my first attempt at solving the problem:
But there was nothing about this that told readers it was set in New York. This could be any other city for all they knew, based on the cover alone. Normally, this wouldn’t matter, but New York City is the third character in When Blue Met Egg. I couldn’t just ignore the city altogether on the cover.
And then finally I drew it, after drawing a lot of crappy drawings (most of which are not shown due to the terribleness of them). I knew it was the cover the minute I finished it:
Now, I would like to mention that I adore the lovely people at Dial that I worked with on Blue. So much so that we are currently working together on another book. But I’m sure you are thinking they are super picky at this point. I mean 40 or so drawings, really? Yes, really. But that is what makes them great at their job. They have to be picky. There is a lot of crap out there. They have to be able to get the best possible work out of their authors and illustrators or else what’s the point? At the end of the day they will present the cover to the marketing team, publisher, and general public. They will be the champions for your work. Yeah, your name is on it, but so is theirs.
Each time my editor came back to me and asked me for more sketches, she sounded so apologetic about it. But I knew I hadn’t drawn the cover yet. I hadn’t given her my best work yet. I tried to look at it as if I was getting all the bad drawings out of the way, so I could create something truly extraordinary. I will be the first to admit, taking that mindset was not always easy. There were moments when I wanted to shout “Just pick one already!!!” But eventually it worked.
Below are the color mock-ups of the cover before I glued everything down:
And the finished product:
JACKET DESIGN. This is one of my favorite parts, even though I have nothing to do with it, other than sending in the cover artwork. FYI, in case you didn’t know, you don’t write your own jacket copy. Your editor does that for you. Which is very lovely of them because it is one less thing you have to worry about.
I was so excited the first time I saw the jacket for Blue. It finally hit me that Blue was going to be a real book! When working on the finishes, it doesn’t seem real yet, especially since all the artwork is on illustration board, without text. You can’t flip though anything or turn the page yet. The color proofs for the jacket were the first pages of Blue I was able to hold in my hand. I could not be happier with the design and layout of this entire book, all thanks to the lovely people at Dial:
The book designer, Mina, added Blue holding up the barcode on the back. It’s my favorite part.
ENDPAPERS. Throughout the entire cover sketching process I was also working on the design for the endpapers. Endpapers are on the interior of the book, immediately after you open it, on either end, glued to the boards that make up the structure of the book. They can be blank, solid colors, or illustrated. Illustrated endpapers are one of the details in picture books that I love the most. I think of them as the cherry on top. Originally we were going to have a map of central park printed on the endpapers, showing all the places Blue visits in the park:
But then we realized that it would be even better if we took it one step further, showing all the places in New York that Blue and Egg visit:
And that, lovely readers, is the (sometimes exhausting and stressful) process of making a cover, from start to finish.