December 15, 2017

Making the Cover: "Wakefield" 2.0 by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner

Hello lovelies!

I'm treating you to something different today. Not quite your classic cover reveal, but the illustrated story of how a concept is made into a cover. Cool, uh? 😃

Before we start, a short recap is due. In 2013, I received a review copy of Wakefield from the very hands of authors Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner. To cut a long story short, since then we have developed a great author/blogger relationship. I reviewed the three collaborative books they have put forth so far (after Wakefield, the sequels Tunnelville and Perfection), beta-read for both of them, and cheerleaded like a champion at every step of their writing journey. The books Erin and Troy co-authored are the first half of the Mad World double trilogy, originally published by a small press. After Book 3 came out - that is, in June 2013 - the two of them have been working at refining their craft, while also tending to their individual projects. Now, since the rights for the first three installments were reverted to them, Erin and Troy have decided to go indie, and are ready to kick off Wakefield, Tunnelville and Perfection again, before they start publishing the second half of the series. This involves a whole rebrand, of course, starting with the covers. Troy is the one in charge of them, and today on the blog he kindly shares his creative process in a Wakefield making-the-cover post. (Note: Wakefield 2.0 is scheduled for Dec. 22nd, as an ebook for now, with a paperback edition coming soon - so keep your eyes peeled!). Here goes...(...P.S.: watch the very end of the post for Wakefield new blurb, along with a preorder link!).


I'm by no means an artist and have no such delusions, but I occasionally sketch my characters. It helps to cement their look in my mind and flesh them out. For example, in the YA horror/comedy I'm currently querying, I realized my protag's arm looked bare so I gave him a wristwatch which ended up becoming a plot point. I never would have thought that up without literally visualizing him. Here's a sketch I did several years back of the core cast of Wakefield (Teddy, Max, Astrid, Simon, and Laura), which I gave to Erin and she nicely framed and stuck in her house.


When it came time to self-publish, it meant we had complete control of the cover. And I spent an extremely long time searching for models on all the royalty free sites that indie and small publishers use until it dawned on me I can just draw what I want. This is the first black and white pencil sketch I made. The book follows Max arriving in an institution for troubled teens (and then things get WEIRD), I wanted the cover to convey that juxtaposition of realistic and fantastic. So here's Max in a plain shirt and sweatpants against a psychiatric hallway, but he's surrounded by the fox and six-fingered being from his dreams. And BTW, I haven't forgotten the other half of Team Orphan - Astrid will be the focus on book 2's cover.


I used good ole colored pencils for a color guide before the image was digitized. I'm fairly happy with how this stage came out, although the smoking jacket ended up a little screwy. With this being an illustrated cover, I went with darker/muted colors to keep it from feeling too junior.

Did I mention I'm no artist? Digitizing a pencil sketch is way beyond me, so I used the services of an artist on to turn my physical sketch into a vector image. At this time, it was clear I needed to simplify the color scheme, so I replaced Max's blue shirt with a green one matching his eyes. Notice the fox feels super flat and has a lazy eye.

Then it was tweaking/perfectionist time. I cleaned up Max's nose and straightened the lines in the hallway, specifically matching the lights with the brick wall. Then it was time to work on the fox. I adjusted his eye, the smoking jacket, his coloring, and brought his tail over Max's foot to fight that flat feeling.

Then came the least exciting part, but the most necessary: font. I developed a motif to distinguish between narrators in the book's interior and utilized two of those fonts for the cover. I felt this creeping comic book/pulpy feel and really leaned into it. Every step of the way, I also had to keep in mind how each piece will fit with the following five covers that I need to design. Eventually, when all 6 books are complete, I think it'll make a really cool panorama-like picture.

Preorder it here
Max and Astrid meet at Wakefield, an institution for troubled teens. After some predictable struggles, the two become BFFs, get some therapy, and lean on each other while battling their inner demons. Then they get discharged, go back to their quiet suburban lives, and live happily ever after.

Oh, wait. No. This is not that story.

This is a story about what happens when your life gets weird...and then weirder. Because at Wakefield, Max and Astrid cross paths with Teddy, an enigmatic young man who claims he can see people's voices and move objects without touching them. The weirdest thing? He might actually be telling the truth. And Max and Astrid might be on the verge of uncovering a vast conspiracy and a world of magic that's always been lurking just below the surface of their reality.


  1. This was such a cool post! I'm always intrigued in the process that leads to book covers and I've spoken to an indie author that does this and I must say it seems to be a very satisfying procedure altogether since you have no limits to getting what you actually want for your cover. Most indie authors end up resorting to free vectors, stock images, and fonts found online and if it were up to me, I'd totally resort to this than trying to actually draw the stuff because, well, my drawings are pathetic at best :D

    1. I hear you - I can't draw for the life of me LOL. I have to say that some indie books (such as B.C. Johnson's "Deadgirl: Goneward" and GL Tomas' "The Mark of Noba") have wonderful covers, but the authors have hired an artist (or even a photographer) for them, which is expensive at best. Troy did a great job with this one, and he "only" had to hire a digital artist to turn his drawing into a vector, which is amazing!

  2. Very cool! Thanks for taking us through your process Troy.

    For What It's Worth

    1. It was indeed his idea to do this post, and I immediately embraced it because it was so fresh and different!


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