Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Cover Design - I Always Cry at Weddings

A while back WhiteFire acquired a spunky, urbane contemporary called I Always Cry at Weddings. Set in Manhattan and featuring a modern woman who makes the crazy decision to follow her heart instead of what society says she ought to pursue, this is a novel unlike any we've published before, more geared to cross over to mainstream readers than our other titles.

I'd been stewing over the cover ever since we signed the contract, wondering what direction we'd go for it. When the author got her questionnaire back to me and pointed me toward popular trends in mainstream contemporaries, I knew we'd be treading new--fun!--ground.

See, almost all my other fiction covers had called for a model photo. This one didn't. For this one, we deliberately wanted to avoid an actual photograph of a person. Something that featured either an object or an illustrations...or maybe a combination thereof. We wanted something more like The Help.

Or Me Before You.

Or Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.
Feeling the joy of flowing creativity, I started brainstorming. We toyed with the idea of an NYC stoop, which is important to the story...but that just didn't mesh with these ideas. So instead I thought, "Let's focus on the wedding part."

My first thought was cake toppers...
I liked the irony of this one, which tied in with the fact that the heroine, Ava, breaks off an engagement. Of course, I didn't want a line of grooms. And I thought it would be fun to put the bride in a red dress (which features later in the book) rather than a bridal gown. So I came up with this.
Of course, they needed to be on a cake.
And in casting around for a background, I decided an illustrated NYC skyline would be fun.
Putting it all together, I came up with this as our Option #1
A solid enough first try...but not quite it. I kept working, going at it from a different angle. This time, I starting thinking Statue of Liberty. Does anything scream NYC more than the Statue of Liberty? I found an actual photo, isolated, of Lady Lib.
I plopped her down in front of the same illustrated skyline.
You'll notice she's not holding a torch. That's because I had an idea. Again, I wanted to draw on that rather crucial red dress. So what if, I thought, Lady Liberty was holding it up? In the book, the dress becomes a symbol of Ava chasing a dream through all its convoluted paths. The dress, in some ways, represents her liberty from expectations. I thought it was fitting. So I created an illustrated dress, a hanger, and had it flapping from the statue.
I thought this was great fun, so I slapped a title on there, and the author's name. I chose the font Broadway for "I Always," "at" and "Sara Goff," and used You're Invited for "Cry" and "Weddings."
We very, very nearly went with this one. But early feedback got us some interesting perceptions. Like the one who said, "It's too patriotic, having the Statue of Liberty." And then the other who said, "It's too un-patriotic, having the Statue of Liberty holding a dress."

At the very least, it got a reaction, LOL. So we still very nearly went that way. But I thought, "Okay, let me try one more thing." I went back to searching for illustrations and fond one of a bride on I hit on this one.
I liked the silhouette, though the colors were all wrong, and I knew all the swirlies and flowers would interfere with my simplistic design. But thanks to the wonders of Adobe Illustrator, I could open the file in there and select just the elements I wanted--the dress, the torso, the hair, and the veil. Copying those back into Photoshop, I then adjusted the color of the dress, again, to be a brilliant splash of red. Not a wedding dress any more, but I kept the veil because,'s part of the story, LOL.
In this, I also changed the font of "cry" and "weddings" to Corinthia. And Sara and I both agreed that this was great. "But," she said, "I'm concerned that it comes off at first glance as too sweet."

I saw what she meant...and I thought it was the bouquet doing it. So I took it out of her hands...and then had to put those hands somewhere. "Attitude," I thought. "Ava needs to have some attitude." So I erased her current arms and drew her some new ones. And this was it!
See how that subtle change in stance changes everything??!! We both loved it! (As a note, I did have to fool with the title a bit more. With the bouquet deleted, "weddings" wasn't centered anymore, so I nudged it over...and then figured I'd add one more cute touch and looped the D through the Y.)

And voila! Something totally new for me, but the reaction has been fabulous. Everyone loves the feel, the look, the colors, and the pop of red. And I know the book's going to be a hit too. Written with a very modern voice, about a very modern woman, this is a story that tackles the realities of life for most women today...and then puts a unique spin on it all. Like so:

Ava Larson is going to bring all the other brides to tears. 
Engaged to a wealthy NYC socialite's son, Ava is ready to set the city abuzz with her glamorous wedding. At least until she realizes her relationship isn't what it should be. Then, in a move as daring as a red satin dress, she does the unthinkable--she calls it all off and makes a promise to God that from now on, she'll save sex for marriage.

She's convinced the future is hers for the taking, especially when an undercover cop promises a new romance...and an unexpected friendship with the homeless guy under her stoop brightens her days.

But when her carefully balanced life teeters out of control, weddings aren't the only thing to make her cry. Ava has to figure out what life she really wants to live...and what in the world love really means

So what did you think? Do you like where we settled?


  1. I love the final cover and the book description sounds really interesting! Checking it out on Amazon now! :)

  2. Love it! especially the looped letters. :)

    1. And they were an afterthought! LOL. Glad I added it. =)

  3. That was fun! I like the final product. I checked Amazon. Will there be a digital version? I find that I don't pick up solid books now but love the full library I have on my IPad. I can go from one book end to the second book beginning with no problem. Thanks Sara for writing and Whitefire for publishing.

    1. Yep! Digitals will be up for pre-order 3 months before release, so June 15ish. =)

  4. Fascinating to see your process! And the book sounds interesting, too. :)

    1. It's one of the few books I read all in one sitting in recent years!

  5. This is gorgeous! I love how you pulled everything together. I'm interested in cover design, and I'm wondering if you have any tips you could share with me? Thanks! :)

    1. I'd love to chat design! Why don't you email me at roseannamwhite at gmail dot com -- I'm happy to share what I've learned or answer any questions. =)

    2. I'm not normally allowed to e-mail people I don't know, but I'll check with my parents. :) Could you look at the cover for my book and critique it for me? Here's the link if you're interested: Paralyzed Dreams.

  6. Roseanna, this cover screams : Read Me! It's so fresh and vibrant. I love it.

  7. Roseanna, this cover screams : Read Me! It's so fresh and vibrant. I love it.

  8. Over-wrought and over-thought typography is the main offender but using stock imagery can also destroy a book’s visual credibility. Be careful with fonts and stock images.