The Creative Evolution of a Book Cover: Killing Me Softly by Guy Hale

By   Hannah Bickerton 3 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

We all know that, as clichéd as it sounds, people really do judge a book by its cover, so it’s a vital part of the creative publishing process to get right. A good cover needs to intrigue and reflect a distillation of the content in visual form, ideally triggering an emotional response whilst at the same time giving a perceptible nod towards genre, tone and style of the book. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a thumbnail-sized online image and tells you why you need a talented professional designer – and not your mum’s cousin who designs a bit – to help make your book stand out in a crowded bookshop or on screen.

For authors self-publishing, directing the creative process can be one of the most exciting elements in the whole journey towards publication. Record label owner Guy Hale came to whitefox last November with the manuscript for Killing Me Softly, his darkly comic novel, the first in a trilogy which will be accompanied by a record that features the songs his protagonist creates in the book. Guy also came to us with what he thought was a book cover design ready to go. However, with whitefox’s advice, he ended up taking a different route, and here we talk about the process and how it evolved.

The original artwork

Keen to use an existing piece of artwork by an album designer for the record Guy was producing alongside his book, the cover art direction was already underway. However, whitefox advised against using the illustration as it stood because we thought it lacked the clarity and instant signifiers needed for his genre of fiction and wasn’t telling enough of a story.

The first mock-up

Guy’s team produced a mock-up of the cover illustration that gave more of an idea of how the book would look. Whilst happy with the design, Guy remained open minded to exploring different approaches with one of whitefox’s chosen professional cover designers.

A different direction

whitefox paired Guy with the incredibly talented designer Peter Adlington, who has created covers for many bestsellers such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Matt Haig. Peter developed a number of options including the variations on the original artwork but was also encouraged to pursue his own creative approaches, and have the freedom to present his own unique interpretation. In the end, Guy decided that Peter’s designs were stronger candidates for the initial cover and helped to create a vision for a future series style that set the tone for the whole trilogy.

The final version

With a direction chosen and a little extra finessing, the final Killing Me Softly cover design is a far cry from where it all began, but what a striking and impactful result. Guy was so happy with the artwork that he expanded the scope of his contract to enable its development for merchandise that could be sold at gigs and via his online shop. It was quite a design journey, but by respecting the author’s original vision, understanding the needs of the market and giving freedom within the brief for the designer, we think Guy has ended up with a truly eye-catching series look that perfectly captures his writing.

The record cover tie-in

But that’s not all. Not only have we created a cracking book cover, but Guy loved it so much that it has been adapted for the accompanying record cover too – switching up the layout, sizing and colours. This is vital for branding, visually linking the products so that both are instantaneously recognisable by their iconic design. Stay tuned for more about the next two books in the series, and maybe even some exclusive merchandise.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.