Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Novel Cover Up: Kate Gaughran on Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

A Novel Cover Up

A Novel Cover Up is a semi-regular feature that looks at how covers are made. Thanks to Quercus, I have been fortunate enough to interview freelance designer Kate Gaughran about how she designed the cover for Asking For It by Louise O'Neill. Other than the cover, all images in this post are copyrighted to Kate Gaughran and used with permission. They can be clicked to be enlarged.

Asking For It by Louise O'NeillCan you tell us about the cover for Asking For It? What do you hope it tells readers about the story?

In the story 18-year old Emma, the protagonist, is taken advantage of at a party, and becomes the subject of victim blaming. She is treated badly by everyone and becomes caught in a media storm after images of the incident are widely shared on social media. With the cover I was trying to capture how she has been stripped bare physically and emotionally, and is treated almost like a rag doll. I wanted to create a cover that suggested a cold, clinical, and de-humanising situation, something that tries to reflect both how Emma feels and is treated in the story.

The cover for Asking For It ties in quite well with Louise O’Neill’s debut novel, Only Ever Yours, with both featuring a doll. Was the tie in intentional, a way to “brand” O’Neill’s books?

Absolutely – I think there was an opportunity to build on the success of Only Ever Yours and to continue establishing Louise as a great author. Only Ever Yours is such a strong cover, we wanted to do something just as striking and for Louise’s readers to recognize Asking For It as her next novel.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?

Louise’s editor had a few ideas that she wanted me to try, and for it to somehow tie in with Only Ever Yours. The idea of a doll’s body was suggested, so that was my starting point. I tried a number of approaches using different dolls in various poses, different crops, colours, and type-styles, before eventually landing on this one. I chose the blue as I wanted to use a strong colour that wasn’t girly, and felt that the blue had the right mood to it. I wanted it stand out, be something people would want to pick up.

What were you given to base your ideas on? Did you have a manuscript, or were you given an outline?

Both, I was given part of the manuscript and an outline. I always try and get my hands on the manuscript before designing a cover. It really helps for me if I can read some of the story to understand what it's really about and get a feel for the writer's style and voice. There might be one tiny detail that you come across that gives you the inspiration for a potentially great cover.

What went into creating the Asking For It cover? Can you tell us about the process? Who else was involved?

The editor’s brief was very clear, and Louise’s writing is so powerful, that the ideas for this one came quickly. I played around with different styles of typography in Photoshop. Sometimes you might use bits of your own photography or sketches, but for this one Photoshop was what I needed to create the look I wanted. I then sent a few ideas over to the editor, which she shared in-house to gather some feedback. They chose their favourite one and then it was a matter of trying out different type styles. I initially went for graffiti-style type, but it wasn’t quite working.

Asking For It Early Draft

We ended up going for a more simple look, which tied in more with Only Ever Yours and cemented the cold and de-humanising feel we were aiming for.

What do you like most about this cover?

I like the boldness of colour, the cold typography and the simplicity of the doll. I think it communicates a strong idea about the book without giving away too much. I also like the crop of the doll, which adds a little bit of intrigue.

Were there any other early ideas for the cover? Why didn’t they make it?

Yes – I had another idea with a close up of a doll’s lips, another of a doll’s torso and another different silhouetted idea.

Asking For It Early Draft Asking For It Early Draft Asking For It Early Draft

Asking For It Early Draft Asking For It Early Draft Asking For It Early Draft

They're all part of the process of coming up with that final idea. You try different things, get feedback from people and it leads you towards coming up with the cover that sums up the story best. In this case it worked really well, leading to a cover that I think has a striking boldness and simplicity.

Thank you, Kate, for such a great interview! Kate Gaughran has been working as a graphic designer for over 12 years. She was an album cover designer at EMI Records before moving into the world of book design at HarperCollins, William Collins and Fourth Estate. For the last two and a half years Kate has been freelance, designing book jackets for lots of different publishers. You can see more of Kate's work on

I do love the cover we have for Asking For It, but isn't the draft with the doll's lips really striking?! Reminds me slightly of the adult cover for Only Ever Yours, with the glossy lips - though it does put me in mind of more of a steamy novel. The doll's torso drafts are also pretty woah, I think. The silhouettes give the sense of not being seen, but also wanting to hide that Emma feels in the books. But I really think the actual cover is the best fit! What do you think? Which draft/cover do you like most?

Be sure to check out Kate’s website and Asking For It, which was published today - you can read my review here.

Enjoyed this post? Then check out the previous A Novel Cover Up posts.


  1. I love seeing all the concept art for it! :D SO COOL. (I love interviews with designers and artists. xD) Ohhh, but I do like the original cover the best. *nods* My next pick would by the lips, like you said, but I feel it's kind of weird how there's no definition to the face?! Just the lips?! SO YEAH. I definitely pick the final product. x)

    1. Yeah, I love hearing about the behind the scenes stuff, and love getting a glimpse at early drafts! Yup, I love the original cover, it's so eye catching!