Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scribbled: Cover Story

If you've been following this blog, you would also know that I've been working on a romance novella called Cover (Story) Girl. One of the things that I enjoyed most about this whole process is watching the cover come together, something which my friend and former boss, Mike Calvan, volunteered to do. I readily jumped at the offer, because I know how skilled he is at illustrating and designing. Even if he's done countless of billboards, print ads, TV storyboards, and brochures, he has yet to design a book cover, which made both of us very excited about this project.

(Note before you proceed: Not every illustrator/designer will work this way. Mike and I are good friends so he's very generous with his talent. We've also worked together for many years and have built an efficient system between us. If it's your first time working with a designer, it's always good to have a general idea of how s/he works -- portfolio, timetable, expectations, etc -- before entering into a contract.)

I knew Mike wasn't going to read a romance book so instead I gave him a detailed brief, similar to what we expect from our advertising clients. It outlined the novella's characters, the setting, the synopsis, and all the important events. It also explained to him what I basically wanted: a cover that had tropical elements, a light K-pop feel, and a large title font. Simple, no? How he would interpret this is up to him -- that's what he does best after all! But to show him my perspective of things, I added links to Korean/Japanese videos and movie posters for inspiration. (You know, just to be clear that I meant something closer to this than this.) Artists and designers usually appreciate initial direction so that they know where to take the project. Make a wish list or even a list of things to avoid -- and don't change your mind halfway! Trust me, it will help both of you stay on track.

After about ten days, Mike showed me two different cover ideas. The sketches (or thumbs or croquis) were accompanied by pegs so that I could imagine the final product better. He also recommended some illustration styles that he could do (not shown here).

I think I was swayed by the Niji no Megami poster. It's one of my favorite movies.

After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go with the sketch on the left. I love the way that it establishes that the novella is about an island romance. It also manages to include the calamansi muffin (an important element in the story) in a smart yet subtle way. Though I liked how eye-catching the other cover was, I thought that might be more appropriate for a younger-themed work. The left one definitely answered what I requested.

Next, Mike worked on the background, which he applied it to different layouts. I had to pick one again and this is what won:

I like the white and flirty font, but something bolder would be more readable.

By then, Mike had already moved on to the main image. Because we had clear direction since the beginning, we didn't need to go back and forth on the details. Now it was just a matter of putting everything together and tweaking things here and there. I placed my trust in his skills because I know he wouldn't steer me in the wrong direction.

At this point, we even discussed what they should be wearing. These were Mike's first sketches; the final illustration looks different.

Gio and Min Hee, sitting on a muffin island...

Initial pass at the front and back cover layout. The clouds have parted!

Making a book cover takes a lot of hard work. But collaborating with Mike was such a painless and enjoyable experience. I really appreciate how much time and effort he devoted to Cover (Story) Girl, as though it were his baby, too. He kept me updated and showed me his works in progress. He even applied the final illustration to wallpapers, bookmarks, postcards, and other things we could think of. In the end, I have a lovely cover that captures the spirit of the story I had written. What more can an author want?

So if I haven't said it enough: Maraming salamat, Boss.


Unknown said...

I really really love you cover! And so glad it worked out the way you wanted to :)

And it's nice how you've detailed the process. It's really helpful.

dementedchris said...

Glad this was able to help! :D And cover credits really go to Mike; his efforts were amazing. I didn't even need to remind him because he just kept everything coming.

Chachic said...

I know I've already told you this but I think the cover is so pretty, perfect for the novella. :)

dementedchris said...

Mike deserves so much credit for it :D It makes me think of sunny days and beaches!

cpsanti said...

oh man! you were part of the romance class, congratulations! i am soooo envious! can't wait to read your book! ;-)

love the cover art, very pro!

Anonymous said...

Ang galing, I really loved your cover as well. When I looked closely, I loved it even more! I didn't notice the calamansi muffin right away but when I did, I thought it was genius. I'm glad you went this direction. :D I thought it was one of the loveliest covers of chick lit I've seen around here. And I wouldn't have guessed that Mike didn't read the story ah! That means he really captured all that was essential in the novella. :D

dementedchris said...

Did you join the romance class too? When are you publishing your Chronicles? ;-)

I knew it was going to be difficult to get Mike to read a 40k-word book in a few weeks, let alone a romance one! Hahaha. We really made sure we were on the same page. But he's an amazing artist, so I had no doubt he could create a romantic chick-lit-type illustration!

Anonymous said...

I love illustrated book covers and really like how your cover turned out. It's very warm and inviting :)

dementedchris said...

@books over flowers
Thank you! I'm glad that it gives you that kind of feeling :D