Aug 5 2016 8:30am

What Goes Into Making a Book Cover?: 6 Questions with Sourcebooks’ Art Director

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Have you ever wondered what went into making a cover? What about how to take fantasy into reality? Dawn Adams, Sourcebooks' Art Director is here to address it all—and she's brought the cover for Amanda Bouchet's Breath of Fire along with her! 

But first, learn more about the next book in Amanda Bouchet's The Kingmaker Chronicles! 


 “Cat” Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat’s tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what’s a girl to do when she knows it’s her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.


Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all.

H&H: How is designing a fantasy romance cover different from any other romance?

Dawn Adams: Designing a fantasy romance over a traditional romance is different in that fantasy is all about the world the characters live in. Fantasy readers really fall in love with the world that is created by the author, where traditional romance readers fall in love with the characters. So when you design a fantasy-romance you need to create and show the amazing world that these fantastic characters live. You need to walk a fine line, and really make sure that each reader has the visual that they want. So in this case, we have Cat our heroine and she is awesome, she commands your attention. She is beautiful and strong. We put her in the world that will really speak to readers and let them know where these people are from. 

H&H: What goes into picking out the costumes for the cover?

DA: In this case all the costumes were custom made. We had a lot of input from the author and how she describes the characters in the book. So in the first book, Cat didn’t really know all that was in store for her life, she knew she had powers but she was trying to hide from them in a way. So her costuming was based more on who she was at the beginning, someone trying to be normal and fit in. She wore what everyone else wore.

As we progressed into book 2, Cat is starting to realize she has a fight on her hands and that she would be going into battle, so to speak. We needed to represent that change and that growth in her and the story, so with the help of the author’s descriptions and lots of movie visual references, we created the leather body armor that you see Cat in on the cover of Breath of Fire. She is coming into her own, she embracing her destiny and fighting for who she is. The covers for this whole series are being done by NY artist Gene Mollica who is one of the top cover illustrators and he works with costumer, Deborah Gerard, who created all the costumes for the series from scratch. They are an amazing team and both artist and costumer really help me to visualize what will work and how all the pieces will work on the cover. 

H&H: How much time—from concept to final product—does it take to design a cover?

DA: Hmmmm…. That is a good question. When working on a series like this that has so many unique features and walks the line between fantasy and romance, there is a lot that goes into this series. We started talking, brainstorming and gathering materials in September of last year. It took us about 2-3 weeks to cast Cat and it takes about 4 weeks for the costumes to be created. Then you have the shoot, you have to review the shoot and pick THE ONE perfect image from about 600 shots. Once you have the perfect shot, it takes Gene about 4-6 weeks to create the cover, building the world and just working the magic that he does. Then we got into branding, and that probably took another 3-4 weeks and many, many rounds of options and set ups, trying to get the perfect package. So in total, we worked on Book 1, A Promise of Fire for about 5 months. For book 2, Breath of Fire, I would say we spent about 4 months in total.

At least we already had Jordan and knew she was Cat, but we had to cast Griffin, and make the full leather armor, get the models into the studio and get the cover shoot done. We had our final image picked of Griffin when we saw some of the shots of Cat from the same shoot (they were just test shots for what we had planned on book 3) and they were just soooo good, we couldn’t pass them up and we completely shifted direction for the cover on book 2. These are labor intensive, and the artist Gene Mollica really went above and beyond and created an amazing cover. Him and his team are top notch. 

H&H: How many people are involved in a cover design?

DA: You know the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, well the cover is our child. There are so many involved in creating these covers. There is me, the art director who works as a liaison, translator between the editors and artists. Creating the visual ques and references for the artist. You have Gene who is the lead artist on this, you have his team, the costumer, hair and makeup, assistants in the studio. Gene is also a photographer and shoots all his own covers so in this case we didn’t have separate photographer like I do on most of my projects. But then in house here at Sourcebooks, there are in-house production designers who helped on branding options, and of course you have the whole team here at Sourcebooks who weighs in, and approves cover direction, poses from the shoot, and even our publisher Dominique Raccah, who is an avid fantasy reader, was very involved in the creation of the cover and the overall look and feel of the series. We truly do design by committee to make sure that we are creating and publishing the best cover for the book, one that creates the best look and overall package for the series, and that we give our sales team the best cover to sell from. Truly everyone from editorial, design, to sales, marketing an PR have a hand (or voice) in the design of a cover. 

H&H: What did you learn about designing the cover for book 1 that you carried over to book 2?

DA: The biggest thing we learned is that Cat, and the model who portrays her, Jordan Michelle, are almost one in the same. They are both so strong and confident. We had plans to feature Griffin, the hero on book 2, but when we saw some shots of Jordan in the leather body armor we couldn’t imagine putting anyone else on the cover. At that point, there had been reviews for book 1 coming in and the readers and fans were really reacting to her, to Cat. They were falling love with her and we felt that really tipped this to be Cat’s story. Yes, there is a romance and Griffin in a big part of this story, but the visual strength of Cat and the covers that Gene creates with the worlds built around her were just too good to pass up. And secondly, we learned that no matter how well you think your plan is for 3 covers, there are always variables that change and sometimes things just never go to plan, but you roll with it. In this case I think we came out on top, with an amazingly beautiful and strong cover that pulls the readers in. 

H&H: So... will we ever see Griffin on a cover?

DA: Honestly, I don’t know… we are getting ready to start the work on book 3, and we may try and give Griffin some cover time, but we may just focus on the culmination of Cat’s journey and show her as she has always meant to be. I guess you will just have to wait and see how the cover of book 3 comes together!


Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, available January 3, 2017:

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Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Eye-popping cover! Love that ice blue.

I've always been fascinated by how the art department finds the right cover for each book. Neat insight, thanks!
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