The Making of a Book Cover

Guest Blogger: Monica Lee

In celebration of the release of Erin MacPherson’s The Christian Mama’s Guide to Having a Baby, we’re doing something totally different! Monica Lee is the illustrator who created the images for the cover and the interior of the book, and I  thought it would be fun to hear about the process. Here’s Monica…

As a professional illustrator, I’ve created images for about 11 book covers so far. Book covers are my favorite type of assignment and when I get that call from a publisher I do a happy dance! I enjoy the process of creating art for a book cover because…wait for it…I totally judge a book by its cover! I know, I know. What can I say? I’m a visual person and it’s my livelihood.

Once I finish my happy dance, the art director and I get down to business. For those of you who don’t know this, most authors don’t have much say in their covers. Don’t hate me—but it works best this way. The art directors are great to work with, understand an artist’s value and time constraints, and give very concise revisions. It’s good to let professionals do their jobs, right?
Occasionally I’ve read entire manuscripts before beginning, but generally I don’t have the opportunity—bummer. What I do get is a good synopsis and often an in-depth character description (for fiction).
I usually send over quite a few roughs. People like choices and the more good choices you give them, the easier the rest of the process will be. So the sketch phase takes me the longest. Another reason I send quite a few sketches over is because descriptive words like “hip” or “current” mean something different to people. I think I did six or seven sketches for The Christian Mama’s Guide to Having a Baby. I decided to give each girl her own name because it helped me communicate better with the publisher via email… i.e. “We like Vanessa and Sophie the best…” Much easier than just marking them 1, 2, 3!

If I am really sold on a “pose” or one cover look, I will repeat it in the selection process with a few variances to try to really sell that look to the client (secret Monica trick!) This entire process can take about two months more or less—hopefully not “less” because we don’t want to be rushed. We all want the book to be lovely and sell well!

This book cover, along with the 20 interior illustrations, was a nice fit for me. I have a house full of boys and am such a girly girl. The editors at Guideposts were a dream work with because they got so excited when they saw the sketches that I had drawn. Hey, I work in a bit of a vacuum over here and a bit of love now and then works wonders!

I currently license my art, designing art for fabrics, tabletop and giftware, but book cover work will always have a soft spot in my heart. Please visit my blog at,

Visit Erin MacPherson on the web at
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  • Keli Gwyn

    >You did an awesome job on Erin's cover, Monica. I love it!

  • Ann Nichols

    >What a great posting! My daughter was just asked to design a book cover so I will pass this on over to her! Perfect timing!
    Erin did a lovely job on this one!

  • Ann Nichols

    >Excuse me… I mean Monica!! :) I'm sure Erin did a great job on writing the book!

  • Tara Lindsay Hall

    >Rachelle this sparks me to ask. Have you ever had an author, or heard of anyone, that even got a say in the cover design of their book? I know that Lisa McMann took the cover photo for her book Gone. What if the author has extensive graphic design and photography experience (like yours truly)? Is there any room in publishing contracts to build in at least an author veto or final approval for a design?


  • Tana Adams

    >Fascinating process! I love Erin's cover. The pickle on top of the ice cream? Brilliant.

  • Aimee L Salter

    >It's so great that you posted about this. Erin was nice enough to guest blog for me and the comments she got were almost all about how great her cover was!

    I liked one particular commentor who called it "Awesomesauce". I may or may not have co-opted the term…

  • Judy Croome

    >How interesting to get insight into another side of the publishing process. A finished book is no doubt a melting pot of numerous talents. That ice-cream on the book-cover looks yum!
    Judy (South Africa)

  • Carol J. Garvin

    >The cover is delicious, and so appropriate. It's neat to have the artist's story about its creation. I saw a two-minute video on the Orbit website a year ago on the making of a cover. It was fascinating to watch, but there was nothing about the thought process that went into it. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Ted Cross

    >Each time I blog about covers I get a majority of commenters who agree that they do judge a book by its cover. I certainly do. While I understand that for most authors it is best to just let the publishers deal with the cover art, I do think there are some authors who are exceptions and have a truly great idea of what their covers should be. I wish publishers would be more open to those types and allow them more input.

  • Rosemary Gemmell

    >Great to hear the illustrator's part in bringing the finished book to the reader. Brilliant cover, Monica! A good cover on a book always draws me in.

  • Charmaine Clancy

    >It's amazing how they get the final product to really pop.

  • Manon Eileen

    >I love that you shared all the images, from the rough drafts to the final product. Great job, love the bright colors!

    Thank you for sharing your insights!

  • Erin MacPherson

    >This is so cool… and I agree with EVERYONE's opinion that Monica did a fabulous, fabulous job. Thanks for the great post, Monica.

  • Wendy Paine Miller

    >I’m a visual person, too and I loved the cover! Great job, Monica. You have a gift with drawing I only pretend to have.

    Erin’s book is fantastic. It reminded me of how much I loved being pregnant. Now I’m just having book babies, so The Christian Mama’s Guide made me a wee nostalgic (in a good way).

    Cool to see the results of teamwork poured into a project.
    ~ Wendy

  • Joy Nicholas

    >Really interesting to read about the process! And I love the cover! Very cool!

  • Rachelle

    >Tara Lindsay Hall and Ted Cross: Most publishers are very good about consulting with the author on the cover. They get extensive ideas from the author prior to ever putting the designer to work. Most do not give the author veto power, but they do take the author's input. Whether or not they'll actually agree to some kind of author control over cover in the contract is another story. With new authors they won't, with established authors they usually will.

    As far as authors with special artistic, graphic design, or photography skills – many publishers will take this into consideration. No promises, but some will use the author's artwork if they truly feel it fits the book.

    It's sometimes a problem when someone is an amateur artist or designer but they think their work is good enough. It may not be, and it can be hard on the author's ego.

  • Christine

    >This is great! I wondered how the process worked. Thanks for sharing. The cover is great!

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Since you design fabric, let me make a suggestion for you to make to fabric makers.

    Writers need writer fabric. We like to make totes that threaten to put someone in our next book, etc.

  • Marla Taviano

    >You did a FABULOUS job, Monica!! I love Erin AND her book, and the cover is GREAT!!

    Erin and I have been talking about marketing our books together (mine is called Expecting: Praying for Your Child's Development–Body and Soul). My cover is a photograph, but there are 40 illustrations inside (drawings of a baby in the womb each week of pregnancy), and they're wonderful. Someone else did them! I can't draw a lick, and I'm so thankful for those who can.

  • Amy

    >What an interesting post! I'm very into book cover art, although mostly science fiction and fantasy. But I love Monica's style, and I love that she gave each of her creations different names — makes it such a personal process.

  • Monica Lee

    >Omigosh, Could a girl be any happier this morning? A hot cuppa joe and a bunch of compliments! Erin's book is charming and well written and I think she has a long career in writing. An interesting side note…as she writes MORE books will a publisher help create a "brand" look for her by keeping the same artist for the next covers? It would certainly lead to more happy dances from me?!

  • Marion

    >What a fun blog, Monica. Can I buy your fabric?!

  • Timothy Fish

    >Good job. The cover seems very appropriate for the book.

  • Laura

    Super cute cover! Thanks for sharing the process. We actually recently interviewed one of the cover designers at Cedar Fort on our blog and she also gave some fun insights into how she designs covers. I love seeing behind the scenes and watching something go from an idea to final product. Keep up the awesome work.

    Laura J.

  • Casey

    >And what a GREAT cover!

    That was a fascinating post! I really didn't know what went into making a cover (I know I just loooove the ones we have here in the CBA. :). So thank you for giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse! It was great. :)

  • CraftyMama

    >I always wondered how covers were designed! This one looks great!

  • Tamika:

    >Aw, pickles and ice cream bring back pleasant memories! Love this cover art Monica!

    Since I have zero artistic ability I'm happy to hand my book over to the professionals. Thank God for giving us all our own unique gift!

    Thanks for taking us behind the scenes- great stuff.

  • Dara

    >I LOVE that cover–it's so me right now (I eat two scoops of chocolate ice cream nearly every night due to the pregnancy cravings).

    I need to find this book…even though I'm nearing the end of my second trimester, this looks like a fun read!

  • Loree Huebner

    >Awesome artwork, Monica. Nice job. Really stands out. Interesting process. Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth

    >Love to see your creative process. Thanks for sharing it. : ) Beth

  • KO: The Insect Collector

    >Erin rocks, and that cover is just adorable!!! Thanks for sharing the process, Monica- very cool.

  • Kathryn Packer Roberts

    >I love these covers. Very cute.

    That only thing that worries me in this process is that the cover artist may not ever read the book. She said SOMETIMES she does. But you also said that authors get to put some input into the idea at first? The thing that I'm concerned about are those book covers that end up not making sense according to the story. For example that book, LIAR by Justine Larbalestier that originally had a white girl on the cover when in fact the MC was black.

    Do Publishers pay attention to details like that or are they more concerned in having a cover that attracts attention?

  • Monica Lee

    >Hi Kathryn…I could not agree more. I want to read the books! I have had publishers that just won't give them up…are too busy whatever. Sometimes the manuscript is not done. It's weird. I am so bothered when I read a book that does not match the cover.

  • John Stipa

    >Great article Monica, great insight. What advice can you give to authors that self publish?

  • Rebekah

    >I recently wrote a book, and had no say at all over the cover. This was strange for me. I wanted to have some input, but since I had no choice, I released this process and hoped that the intent of the book would be clear to the graphic designer….and it was! I love the cover. My co-editor and I got a glimpse of the book cover a month before its was released to the public…and to public opinion. I love it! I could never have come up with the vibe that our graphic designer captured, and from the cover it appears that he took the time to read the book. The book is called Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World, and I think it is very ironic that a man and not a mom came up with the perfect cover fit for our book. But, Rachelle, I'd love your opinion. If you'd like to take a peak at the cover and give an initial reaction….please do.

  • Rebekah

    >Oh I must add, that we were asked what we thought of the cover, and I think that if Melanie and I had hated it, I'm sure the publisher would have discussed it. But, we both love it! AND, my skills do not lie in the visual arts. I know what I like, but I don't know how to get it out on "paper."

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