Celadon: What is your process of designing a book cover, from conception to print?
Anne Twomey: I start with reading the manuscript. After the acquisition, I’m told about the book by the editor. I have to listen to a lot of input, but the first voice I listen to is that of the author. If you have a really descriptive author, they’re basically spelling the cover out for you.
Then I start sketching, doing mood boards, writing in margins, doing photo research, setting up type blocks … just putting up a lot of different elements and massaging out some covers. Sometimes, something comes up, and it’s like, “Oh, I think that one might be it.” Other times, I need input from my colleagues.
Celadon: Tell us about the steps you took to design the cover for Saint X.
Anne: Saint X was the ideal situation. I didn’t have a lot on my plate because we were pretty new. The book came in, it was a clean manuscript, everybody was excited about it. I started reading it, and it was very descriptive. It starts in a Caribbean island, and it turns up years later in New York City. So there’s a juxtaposition of the Caribbean and a snowy, dreary, dark New York City.
And, of course, the title — Saint X — delivered the letter X, which right from the start, I saw going across the page. I probably set it at about 500 point in about 20 different fonts, then I started playing with the half diagonals, the different quadrants, and different imagery.
Then I went into a direction that had a lot of color. I had just seen a show at the Cooper Hewitt about color, so I put in some ombres of color. I had a wall of a dozen covers I was really happy with. Deb Futter, Celadon’s co-publisher and the book’s editor, would come by, and one day she really started leaning toward the bright color. We went to a sales conference, brought a bright color, and people responded to that. The feedback of others was helping me because I was just so excited; I was loving it all.
Celadon: How many versions of the cover did you create for Saint X?
Anne: I’m going to guess about 30. Some of them were just different iterations of something similar. Maybe a dark city scene was swapped out for an overhead of traffic. There was traffic going through the cover. Sometimes there was snow. There were different overlays, scenes, the different X’s, the colors.
Celadon: What did the author, Alexis Schaitkin, think when she first saw the cover?
Anne: Oh, I think she loved it when she first saw it. We started engaging in conversation about the back cover, which is the nod to New York City. By going with the palm tree, we kept it Caribbean [on the front]. But I promised Alexis we could put New York City on the back, so I found this great picture of an overhead of a cab going over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Celadon: Who do you interact with the most during the process of designing a cover?
Anne: I probably interact with the editor the most. Like I said, I listen to the voice of the author, so I try to be authentic to that and my own instincts. But I would say the editor and then, at a later point, sales and marketing will come in. How they’re going to position it helps me understand what kind of cover it needs.