How a Book Cover Gets Made

From now until April 17, Hyperion is challenging you to design a brand-new cover for 
Spell Bound, the third book in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins. Stumped on how to begin? Stuck in the middle of the process? Learn from Tanya Ross-Hughes, who designed Hyperion’s cover for Spell Bound!

Below, Tanya walks us through each step of her process, from brainstorming through final execution.

It can be a challenge to design books in a series because they all need to have the same “look” and yet still be able to look great on their own. For this third book, I knew I needed to keep the elements that have made the previous books stand out—the model, a reflective pool, and a touch of whimsy. Hex Hall is such an awesome series to be working on!

After reading the manuscript, I first sketch cover ideas on paper. When I feel there’s a solid concept, I do some Internet searching for stock imagery.

Working in Photoshop, I collage the stock images to create the setting. Here, I used the model’s head from a previous photoshoot and collaged it with an image from a clothing catalog.

I want to intrigue the reader, having them ask questions such as: Why is Sophie in her school uniform again? Why does she look disheveled? Whose sword is that? What’s up with that cat anyway?

In keeping with the theme of the previous books, our heroine is outside, but in the image on the left, I’m trying a new approach with a nighttime scene.

These covers are now ready for our cover meeting. Personally, the nighttime scene was my fave, but in the end the daytime cover won out. Now we will have a photoshoot and create the final art.


Here is the working cover after the photoshoot with our model. Hours were spent piecing the background together, but I’m almost there!

After showing the cover above at our weekly cover meeting, I listened to suggestions and comments, then revised elements, like toning down the water, taking out the cement block, and moving the cat. The final cover is now complete!

6 thoughts on “How a Book Cover Gets Made

  1. Seriously, I’ve read the books and I still have absolutely NO clue on the point of the cat being there. Is it supposed to be a shifter? Or a demon of some sort in cat form? I’m stumped.

  2. all witches have cats
    she is a witch
    there for she is a witch with a cat

    Socratic logic my dear Watson.

    never read the book looks great though will read this summer just for fun.

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