The book title may have required blood, sweat, and tears, but the book cover happened with ease. I am thrilled to present the cover of Kissed by a Fox: And Other Stories of Friendship in Nature:
At the start of the process the publisher asked me to offer a few thoughts about how I hoped the cover might look and feel. But then my job was to wait, hoping against hope that the result would be one I would be proud to hold in my hands. When at last the email arrived with a pdf attachment, I held my breath and clicked on the message.
And then I burst into tears. For after all those years of working on the book manuscript, all those years of writing and pondering and staring at a text file, now at last I could see the book’s face. And I loved it instantly. The face was far richer and more beautiful than I had ever imagined. Is this how parents feel when they meet their child for the first time?
The cover designer is Ann Weinstock of New York, whose work has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Association of American University Presses, and the New York Book Show.
Ann did the extraordinary: she captured the feel of the book perfectly. If you want to know what it’s like to be up close and personal with a fox, just look at this cover. And she balanced a striking photo with every other element in the design, blending all into a seamless and graceful whole.
How did Ann accomplish the miracle of a perfect cover? When I asked, here is what she said about her process:
I begin each project by reading the manuscript carefully, taking notes on tone, place, time line, characters, and important objects. I sketch as I read, exploring collage, type design, silhouetting, etc.
After finishing the book I search for images based on my notes and the publisher’s budget. Each stock agency has different strengths; some excel at historical photographs, others show a single object photographed hundreds of ways. Once I’ve gathered images I print everything and see what feels right for the book.
Then I’ll choose fonts, considering whether type should be masculine/feminine, historical/modern, smooth/degraded, formal/handwritten. When I’m comfortable with art and font choices I’ll begin laying out ideas on the computer. I work on several designs at one time and try to keep the process loose, thinking about both formal and conceptual issues—visual hierarchy, emotional tone, color, balance, book themes, etc.
Over time some layouts emerge as more exciting or successful than others. I tighten those further and send the publisher a few covers to consider. They make a choice and we refine details together. This might involve changing fonts or color, rearranging elements, or considering new art.
She works magic!
Of course, she had some magical ingredients to work with. The photographer who captured that striking portrait of a red fox is Don Johnston of Ontario, whose nature photography is beyond exquisite. You can find more photos of this same fox on the “Mammals” gallery on his website, especially this page of foxes. Lose yourself for a few minutes in the slide show on his home page, and see if the rest of your day doesn’t go better.
Ann was kind enough to contact Don to see if there was a story behind the fox, and here is what he said:
I do remember that fox. We occasionally have them visit our property looking for handouts. Hard to resist those cute faces, especially for pictures. It became quite tame and visited us regularly, sometimes bringing prey to show us. It would regularly come up on our deck to let us know it was here.
He visited in spring last year. My guess is that there was a den in the vicinity. It was hilarious to watch him once drop a mouthful of voles (five at once!) in order to grab some handouts from us.
I’m in awe of Don’s ability to capture such expressive portraits of such quick-darting animals. This particular photo shows all the intensity and intelligence behind those rich brown eyes. And I’m in awe of Ann’s ability to find the cropped image in the original large photo.
Thank you, Don, for an exquisite photo, and thank you, Ann, for a stunningly beautiful book cover. I will be so thrilled, come September, to hold the book in my hands!
To contact the artists:
Ann Weinstock, Designer
annweinstock (at) icloud (dot) com
Don Johnston, Photographer
info (at) donjohnstonphotos (dot) com