Book Cover Design Process

Case Study: 'Bloody Orkney'

1. Initial design discussions

Does the author have any clear design preferences/themes and or fonts in mind?

Ken Lussey's third novel featuring Bob Sutherland and Monique Dubois is a fast-paced thriller set largely in Orkney during World War Two. We knew the bar had been set pretty high with the design of his first two books in the series, 'Eyes Turned Skywards' and 'The Danger of Life'. Working with some standard elements, namely the black spine and the use of a single colour for the titles and author name, we identified fonts and a layout that would compliment the themes in 'Bloody Orkney'. We wanted the book cover to have real impact and for it to stand out on the shelves.

Ken also had pretty firm ideas about using imagery that linked the book to Orkney, the main setting for the action.

Cover of Bloody Orkney

2. First draft/moodboard imagery

Cover Development

Carolyn worked to incorporate a small Spitfire silhouette onto a photographic image of the Ring of Brodgar, as a focal point for the front cover. Ken agreed to a red filter being applied over the whole image: a very literal nod to the 'Bloody' nature of the novel.

Cover Development

The placement of both front and rear cover strap lines, where the title and author’s name should feature and the size of these took time and patience to perfect. The balance of the relative text elements, the option for drop shadow and emboldening or lightening of the text led to a lengthy dialogue between the designer and the author. The aim is always that the book cover should stand out, that it should captivate and draw the reader’s eye to the strap line, that it encourages the reader to check out the back cover blurb and be drawn to choose it over other books on the shelf.

Cover of Bloody Orkney

The back cover was much harder to pin down. First drafts saw the use of an image featuring St Magnus Cathedral tower, other Orcadian landscape elements and even an image of a choppy sea. Ensuring that the blurb was visible but that the image suited the story was paramount for both the designer and the author.

3. Final design approval and confirmation

At the point of submission for a hard copy proof from the printer, there was a very last minute decision to use an abstract portion of the sky from the front cover image as the basis for the rear cover. This led to both the designer and the author being much happier with the final version of the span, as it improved readability of the back cover blurb. If not for a last minute throwaway comment, 'Bloody Orkney' would have looked somewhat different to the final published version.

Cover of Bloody Orkney