GIGI PANDIAN: Have you ever judged a book by its cover? I’m guilty. I love it when a book I adore has an equally compelling book cover. (Yes, I’m a book hoarder—but that’s a story for another day…)
But what exactly goes into creating a book cover? My latest mystery, The Masquerading Magician, comes out today, so I thought I’d share a behind-the-scenes look at how I ended up with these book covers for my Accidental Alchemist series about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick. The books have covers that are not only beautiful but perfectly capture the spirit of the books. It didn’t happen by accident. Here’s the story of how these covers came to be.
My publisher, Midnight Ink, asks me for cover design ideas before their Launch Meeting, a meeting that takes place close to a year before a book comes out, that’s attended by editorial, sales, publicity, and design staff. At the meeting, the publishing team discusses a title, tag lines, and cover design ideas that resonate with the group. The Accidental Alchemist was my original title, but The Masquerading Magician took a team brainstorm.
After that, a smaller group is involved in a Cover Design Meeting, where a more detailed cover concept is created. Depending on whether it’s a photographic or illustrated concept, the team will then contract a photographer or an illustrator. A lot of thought goes into it! I’m a graphic designer, but I don’t normally design book covers, so I was surprised by how much of a team effort the cover creation process was.
With a vision in place, the team hired a brilliant illustrator who captured the essence of my books: whimsical, mysterious, and not too dark or gritty. A happy story, for sure—but here’s where my particular story gets especially interesting: I turned out I knew the illustrator.
When Midnight Ink hired illustrator Hugh D’Andrade, they had no idea he’d been one of my lecturers when I was going to art school. Once he was hired to illustrate my covers, Hugh and I reconnected. We learned we both have similar day jobs at nonprofit organizations in San Francisco, and spend our free time on similar creative pursuits: while I write mysteries, he illustrates posters and book covers with his unique, mysterious style.
Here’s a peek at Hugh’s design process. (All the images below are courtesy of Hugh D’Andrade.)
These initial sketches were cool, but a bit too edgy for a not-quite-cozy paranormal mystery series. After feedback, Hugh made sure Dorian the gargoyle had a friendlier appearance. (Yup, that’s a whisk in the gargoyle’s hand. Dorian is a French chef.)
For the new book in the series, The Masquerading Magician, we’d already established the feel of the book covers, so the initial sketches could be rougher, since the “feel” of the series had already been established, so these sketches were primarily exploring the elements to be included in the cover.
Voila! A mysterious cover that highlights the classic magic show act that’s central to the plot of the new book.
Do you have a favorite book cover? Or perhaps a confession about a book you bought solely for its cover?
About The Masquerading Magician
Deciphering an ancient alchemy book is more difficult than Zoe Faust bargained for. She’d much rather be gardening and exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon—but time is running out for living gargoyle Dorian Robert-Houdin. If Zoe isn’t able to unlock the alchemy book’s secrets soon, the French gargoyle will remain awake but trapped in stone forever.
When Zoe gives herself a rare night out to attend a classic magic show that reminds her of her youth, she realizes the stage magicians are much more than they seem. A murder at the theater leads back to a string of unsolved robberies and murders in Portland’s past, and a mystery far more personal than Zoe and Dorian ever imagined.
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand) and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries (The Accidental Alchemist and The Masquerading Magician). Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, the follow-up won the Left Coast Crime Rose Award, and her locked-room mystery short fiction has been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. Connect with Gigi on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for her email newsletter.