Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Cover: Designs to Die For

I am excited to show this to you guys because this is the first book cover I ever worked on for a publisher! Last year my agent asked me if I would be interested in working on a series of "cozy mystery novels."

Yeah, I didn't know what that was either. According to Wikipedia, cozy mysteries "are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed...and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The amateur detective is usually a gregarious, well-liked individual who is able to get the community members to talk freely about each other. Cozy mystery series frequently have a prominent thematic element introduced by the detective's job or hobby."

In this series, "Mysteries Unraveled," the main character is a crochet designer in addition to being an amateur detective.

Cover illustrations for cozy mysteries generally don't feature characters or people - mostly scenes of small towns or still lifes. They are also generally realistic, bright and colorful, with a small "sinister element" that suggests mystery or trouble. The client asked for these things to be included in the cover:
  • A dressmaker’s form, with a crocheted jacket on it
  • A work table
  • A basket of colorful balls of yarn
  • A big window with sheer, sunlit curtains
  • Four crochet hooks, in pairs, of two different lengths
  • A second crocheted item, perhaps the beginning of a scarf, with two of the crochet hooks “engaged” 
  • Sketchpad
Here are the roughs I sent to the client:

The client liked the arrangement of rough #3 but the jacket of #2. So I combined the two and added some rough color:

The client gave it the thumbs-up, but asked me to stab a stiletto knife into the sketchpad, since the scene was missing a sinister element.

Here's the final version:

Here's the completed cover, designed by Brad Snow: 

I've designed several more covers for this series, which I will post later. If you're interested in ordering the Mysteries Unraveled books, you can find them at Annie's Fiction. (I do not receive any royalties from sales of the books.)


  1. Very awesome! Dig the process shots.

  2. I always enjoy the dialogue and interactions/expectations with the publisher(s) and/or client(s) you have and post about. They are very enlightening!

    So I am curious...did you actually read the book? And did the book really give direction to how you organized the specific elements requested of you to include?
    (It seems their expectations were quite specific and did not give a lot of leeway. )

    1. Thanks Mike!

      Actually the book had not even been written while I was working on this. I did have a synopsis to work from, but mostly I was guided by the client's directions. I could tell that their #1 priority was for this cover to scream CROCHET, secondly to have a bright and warm feel, and thirdly that element of mystery. So arranging all the elements was a bit of a puzzle! Like you said, not a lot of leeway.

  3. What a fun cover! haha… "It needs a knife!" My mom's favorite genre is "cozy mystery". I wouldn't be surprised to see her reading this one… Most often, though, she likes ones with cat people. ^^

  4. Awesome cover. Love the simplicity and color of it.

  5. Congrats on the project, Kelley! I really enjoy how you share the entire process. I think you really created a nice mood in this scene. What a beautiful day for crochet.... and murder!


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