Hey guys! Today I have something a little different for you. The author of The Art Of Holding On And Letting Go, Kristin Bartley Lenz is here today to talk about how book covers are designed and created! I’m sure you guys will love learning about how your favourite covers have come about just as much as I enjoyed it. So here’s Kristin!
As a reader who is also a writer, I tend to be as interested in the summary, blurbs, and reviews as much as a book’s cover. But I’ve watched my daughter scan the shelves of bookstores and libraries choosing and rejecting books by their covers alone. Social media has opened up new avenues for publishers to tailor their cover designs, such as Swoon Reads/Macmilllan, which asks readers to vote for their favorite of several cover directions for their debuts. https://www.swoonreads.com/blog/category/cover-creation/
It wasn’t until my own novel entered the publishing process that I truly saw the behind-the-scenes making of a book cover. I was fortunate to be involved in many of the cover decisions, including choosing from four initial cover concepts, all very different.
Here’s what my cover designer, Amanda Schwarz, shared about her initial process with my book:
“When designing a book cover I search for a way to visually represent the emotion of the novel while not outright telling the audience what it’s about. After reading the book I realized that the heart of the story is the lead character coming to terms with where her life has taken her and accepting change. In particular the Annie Dillard quote at the end of the novel struck me, “Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But mountains are home.” To me, this sums up the feelings of the book. Cara, by the end, comes to realize that no matter where she is in her life, the mountains, along with Uncle Max, will always be a part of her. They are inside of her and a life that she can return to one day.
So while not referencing climbing directly, I felt having mountains represented in the covers somewhere is very important as Cara comes to hold on to the important aspects of her previous life, but also learns to let go of others as she grows in the story. It captures the tone but there is also the mystery of what exactly the mountains represent to the story.
While working on the preliminary designs I also decided to use handwritten or script text for the covers. Since we spend the entirety of the book seeing the events from Cara’s perspective, anything that isn’t handwritten felt too impersonal for a very personal story. I chose fonts that have similar characteristics but also contrast to emphasize the emotions of the title especially “Holding On and Letting Go.”
More layers were added after the initial direction was determined – the images of the mountains, trees, the cityscape, and starry night sky. Later, there were more choices with colors and fonts, and the back cover design as well. Mysterious notes play a role in Cara’s story, so the back cover blurbs are featured on a sheet of wrinkled paper to correspond with this aspect of the plot. If you look closely, you’ll also see the mountains on the back cover carrying over from the front.
I was delighted by other little details right through to the finished design. There’s a small image of a carabiner on the book’s spine, and the inside of the front cover is green to match the trees on the front.
Now that my eyes have been opened to the possibilities, I look at book covers with a new appreciation and notice details I previously overlooked. Even more fun, my publisher is tweaking the cover of The Art of Holding On and Letting Go for a second printing, and this time we get to include a shiny gold sticker thanks to the Junior Library Guild!
Want to learn more about the art of book covers? By the Cover is an ongoing feature at Book Riot, and Publishers Weekly has a new column devoted to book covers.