A Novel Cover Up is a semi-regular feature that looks at how covers are made. Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children's Books, I have been fortunate enough to interview their Senior Designer, Paul Coomey about how he designed the cover for The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis, as part of The Dark Inside Blog Tour. Other than the cover, all images in this post are copyrighted to Paul Coomey and used with permission, and can be clicked to enlarge.
Can you tell us about the cover for The Dark Inside? What do you hope it tells readers about the story?
The Dark Inside is one of the best books I read in 2013. I’m fortunate enough to work on a fiction list that is packed with excellent reads, but working on this book has been a particular treat. It’s my kind of book, the kind of story I would have devoured as a fourteen-year-old, a solid, dangerous kind of tale that puts you firmly in harm’s way. It’s not without hope, of course, and it might just have a happy ending.
With many cover designs, a single image will present itself at the first reading of the manuscript. For example, with Find Me by Romily Bernard, I was taken with the idea that the main protagonist, Wick, was locking everything, all of the woes of her family and Tessa’s case, inside herself, and this became the image of a profile in silhouette containing the broken glass and other elements. This was not the case when reading The Dark Inside. There are many iconic moments and strong images throughout the text, but there isn’t a single image that I would say defines the story.
How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
The idea of the nest, or knot, or tangle of brambles comes from a sort-of seminal event in the book that Webster recounts to James. Without giving too much away, this event makes a significant impression on Webster. So, in the hope of making a similar impression on a potential reader and in the absence of the single iconic image, I began with brambles.
On the first afternoon, I put together what was to become the final cover, with little adjustments. Here are the covers from the first day:
The brambles come from some photographs I took earlier in the year, in Ballycotton. It was a typically inclement West Cork day, squally, dirty, grey, and damp in changing measures. I’d already read the first draft of the story, and James’ journey was at the back of my mind. On our walk out to the lighthouse I saw this hardy clutch of brambles growing on the top of a cliff, stripped of their leaves and berries by the sea wind. Before we abandoned our walk and hid from the weather in a pub, I took some shots of the briars with the idea that they might come in handy.
The clot of briars that forms the central image is made up of different sections of the photographs below. I used a Pentax Kx with a 50mm prime lens. The colours were leached out using a Threshold filter in Photoshop, and then the images were converted to bitmaps in Photoshop before being taken into InDesign. The font is Lectra Thin by GertWiescher.
I suppose if you want an explanation of the image, the brambles represent the conflicting strands and agonists within the narrative, and the thorny, briary branches juxtaposed with their delicate arrangement should provide a whack of intrigue, but this comes as a result of playing with the brambles - it was never a goal of the design process.
What were you given to base your ideas on? Did you have a manuscript, or were you given an outline?
I had a manuscript. My general process for designing a cover is: Read manuscript, discuss with editor, present ideas to editor, listen to editor’s ideas, design cover.
I find that between the editor and the designer there will be a glut of ideas. In developing the best of these, the best cover will present itself. It is a process - the best covers very often don’t exist until weeks into development. So, even though what we now have as the final cover was essentially created on day one, we have a duty to the book to explore as many fitting directions as possible.
What went into creating The Dark Inside cover? Can you tell us about the process?
The four covers above were presented at a Jacket Meeting in summer 2013 and were well received. We sent the fourth cover (with the black and white brambles on a red ground) to the author, Rupert Wallis, and his agent, Madeline Milbourn, for their input. They were less enthused. Like I was saying above, we would be doing the novel a disservice if we did not explore as many avenues as possible, so we began again. Jane Griffiths, Rupert’s editor, and Elv Moody, our Editorial Director, and I sat together and discussed alternative routes. Some of the directions discussed included looking to the fairground to provide a sense of place, the idea of a door as a frame for here and other, developing the brambles in a more figurative way. Here are some examples of what came of this discussion:
In the process of deciding how we should present a book, we take our collected subjective opinions and look for consensus. We sometimes consider external responses and in this case because we did a run of book proofs for this title, we had the opportunity to experiment with a mono cover and gauge peoples' responses. For the proof, we chose a variation on the initial rough. Here is the book proof cover:
This was well received by reviewers. It was shown at the Bookseller Design Conference critique in July, and Stephanie Seegmuller from Pushkin Press described it as something she would 'definitely pick up'. I would love to see this as a finished cover, but in the real world, a white book in the children's section of a bookshop will not stay pristine for very long. At the suggestion of our Sales Director, Laura Hough, we looked at working with the cluster of briars on a more practical darker background, and these are some of the results:
This approach was well received by booksellers. Eventually, we stripped the colour right back to something like an inverted version of the proof, and added an engaging strapline that was inspired by something Kat McKenna, our Senior Marketing Executive, was using for her press release about the book.
Because we’re publishing different editions of the hardback, one for all retailers and one for Independent bookshops, it means we’re using the design in two different ways. Both editions have parts of the brambles picked out in silver foil, but the limited independents edition uses a printed paper case, whilst the trade edition has a super matt laminated jacket and a secret underneath. Here's how they look:
What do you like most about this cover?
I like that it solves the problem of representing a complex narrative with an ostensibly simple image. I also like that most people who have seen it have responded positively to it. This means that potential readers might respond in the same way, and pick it up for themselves or as a gift for someone. It's such a good story, I hope as many people as possible get to experience it.
Thank you, Paul, for such a detailed and lenghty post! Look at all those early images! So much work going in to create just one cover. Incredible. And how awesome is the final cover? I love it, so eye catching and really intriguing!
Be sure to check out Paul’s website and The Dark Inside, which was released yesterday!
Enjoyed this post? Then check out the previous A Novel Cover Up posts.