Book cover rejects

So, sometimes the fun in designing something like a book cover is getting to see different options. How does one get to the final piece, that one great image that will call out to readers from the shelves? It’s a process, one that can be so much fun for designers who are intent on capturing the spirit of the writer, the message of the piece and the eye of the reader.

When our friend and client, Amy, told me she’d written a book entitled Entangled, and she wanted me to design the cover, I was elated. Book covers are one of my very favorite things to design. Probably because I grew up with my nose in a book so I know how important they can be.

She had some great ideas for her cover. She was thinking something with a vine would help tell her story. She even sent me a couple of stock images that she had in mind, so I got to see a visual interpretation of what she was thinking. That definitely helps to ensure that writer and artist are on the same page. So, I took a look at the stock image comps to see how they would translate to book cover. There were a couple of issues. Stock image 1, a branch, had all the makings of a dramatic and strong cover. But the crop wasn’t quite right. It was something I could have forced to work, if I had to, but I just felt like the cover needed to be better than that. Image 2 was an interesting look, very old-timey and classic, but Amy didn’t like that the branches weren’t in the chair. I thought she might’ve had something there, but I agreed with her, the branch didn’t entangle with the chair and didn’t quite send the right message.

So Jeff and I loaded up his D200 D300 and headed out for a custom photo shoot. I told him about the images Amy had sent me, and I told him a few ideas of my own. And it just so happened my grandmother’s property would likely be the perfect setting for this shoot. So, we set up shop and started shooting. Here’s a few of the images we came up with and why:

First, I thought about what the chair indicated in the original stock image Amy had sent. The book is a woman’s guide to dealing with an emotional affair and how to save a marriage. In this case, a chair represents stability, direction. It’s a clear place where one is “supposed” to sit. So a chair with vines would represent, perhaps, a person who is presented with a slightly unclear direction. The chair no longer feels comfortable or welcome. Here’s how we interpreted that:


And then I thought about how to put this in context of a relationship. In a stable union, perhaps two chairs next to each other would give each person in the couple a clear place. Side by side. But perhaps one of the seats has become entangled with vines. Now one person is still perfectly comfortable in the relationship, but the other person is no longer sure of a direction. So, we added another chair and kept shooting:

But in any relationship, what one person does certainly affects the other. So while one person is dealing with the discomfort, is the other person really sitting idly by, oblivious? No, chances are, it is affecting that person, too. Here’s an interpretation:



Ok, so now that the chair photos were taken, it was time to focus on what was my personal favorite: the vines. I liked that the vines could be simple, dramatic, and strong. A book cover doesn’t need to be complicated to convey a clear message. So, some closeups of vines were definitely in the cards. Amy mentioned she liked the color green so I wanted to make sure we got lots of images with green as a theme. And we grabbed one very dramatic silhouette that was mostly black.

Another idea I had was taking those vines and mixing them with a cloud background. Someone in the throes of any sort of new relationship certainly has his or her head in the clouds. But the vine shows that although the clouds provide the perfect picture of fantasy, the vines are entangling and sharp.

Now that we had our photos taken, it was time to see what they would look like as actual book covers for Entagled. Come back tomorrow to see what worked and what didn’t.

6 Responses to “ Book cover rejects ”

  1. Amy says:

    Melissa, I had no idea these were taken at Mia’s. It means so much more.

  2. Justin says:

    I think you’re going through the right motions, but a question I keep coming back to is why the book title would be Entangled, which to me evokes a novel, as opposed to something positive and promising solutions, like Untangled. This is nonfiction, self-help? I don’t have much experience here, but is something like Untangled too cliche? I think you’re presented with some difficulty in designing a cover that both illustrates the book’s core mission and marries the title. I’d love to hear Amy’s take.

  3. Amy says:

    For me, this book was a lot about my story, not just a self-help. So the story in a nutshell is that I was Entangled. I think it has more of a hook to say that someone is Entangled. If I say Untangled, then where is there interest in reading about that?
    Just my two cents.

    • Justin says:

      Cool, Amy. Will the book have a sub-title? Like “Entangled: A Woman’s Guide to Saving a Marriage” or simply “Entangled?” Along with the cover artwork, the wording will help prospective readers see that you’re both telling an interesting story as well as offering advice. Melissa’s an awesome designer of course so your presentation is in good hands!

  4. Melissa says:

    Justin, check out today’s post for the final version of the cover. Thanks for the conversation and the compliment – and of course, make sure you visit Entangled’s web site ( Her book is currently #5 on Amazon’s new releases in love and marriage!

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