I had seen the hardcover for this title and thought it was amazing (by Paul Buckley). When Roseanne Serra sent me the paperback, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. After getting direction from Roseanne it became clear the paperback was meant to convey a much different tone. At first the direction was to go in the style of Bell Canto and not to have the cover look "grim."
The novel traces events during the overthrow of a president in an unnamed country and centers around three men: the president's chef, barber and portraitist. More difficult than you might imagine since an unnamed country/president means quite a lot of difficulty sourcing images with no sense of place or physical description. I did pick up on a few clues. First off the author is from South Africa and one flower described in the book is the jacaranda. Jacaranda is native to tropical climates, but also is found in Africa. I used this purple flower as line art in many of the comps.
From the first round, icons referencing the 3 men:
A more sweeping, beautiful design (taking a chance here showing a person):
As we went on the direction changed after review in-house. I was told to think "pretty" possibly all-type:
Then I attempted a watercolor treatment (small inset crown and overlaying jacaranda line art):
A more "big book" look with bold type and a reference to place:
Nothing was getting approved and after 6 or so rounds we finally hired the brilliant Tamara Staples. I had a great experience working with her on this shoot. I used my first comp for direction on objects to photograph and we discussed textures, backgrounds, etc. We also added in a lush looking flower (no jacaranda to be found anywhere so a replacement was necessary) and the resulting photograph was perfect. The mood of the image captured the writing beautifully. An earlier type treatment that was liked in-house and the final design (unfortunately the seal had to be added later!):