Divergent Paths Cover Process

Divergent Paths by Holly Barbo has been out since late August. However, I just realized that I never discussed the cover process we went through (you can catch a glimpse of the cover process we went through for her first book, The Founders).

I think creating a cover for any sequel can be tricky. You want to create a cover that can stand alone, but at the same time you want to make it similar enough in some way to the first book so that they look like they’re together as a set. Because Divergent Paths has a different cast of characters from its predecessor and because it has its own unique storyline, it was a far more difficult sequel cover to tackle. How could we set it apart from The Founders and yet make it similar enough to show that despite the different characters and story, the books were together? Because despite their differences, the books do build upon the world that Holly built and its those layers that really help make her world rich and believable.

And so, as all my covers start, Holly and I brainstormed ideas. Her first book cover depicted an asteroid crashing onto a planet which was part of the main storyline in The Founders. Taking her future books into account, we decided that making sure the night time sky was prevalent in her covers would help tie the books together (lots of stars, lots of planet-like moons). I took those ideas and did a few mock-ups of our various ideas.

Divergent Paths Mockups

Mockups I did for Divergent Paths. Click to enlarge!

Remember: These are mockups and my mockups tend to be super messy and super scribbly. But it always gives us a sense of atmosphere, some color choices, and placement. It’s always fun and interesting to work with Holly in regards to covers. She’s an artist and she knows what she wants and I tend to study book covers so I usually know what kind of look will help or detract a book’s appeal. (Keyword: Usually.) There are two major ways you can go with a cover: Scene from a book or atmosphere. I prefer atmosphere/tone whereas Holly tends to lean more toward scenes. It took a while, but we finally decided to go with something like mockup covers 1 and 6.

Divergent Paths Cover 01

First set of covers for Divergent Paths. Click to enlarge!

When I get to this stage, I make the covers in their actual sizes and start putting things down. The covers here look more finished, but they’re not completely finished. I might put in anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of time (sometimes more) getting lighting, placement, and defined colors down. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do in terms of colors. Should I choose colors that were similar to the ones we used for The Founders to help tie the books together? So that’s what I did. And the covers are all fine and catches one’s eye, but none of them felt right. We knew we were going in the wrong direction, but weren’t sure of how to fix it.

Holly came back to me within a day or two and told me she found something on Pinterest that sparked an idea. She thought, why not combine those elements with a cover that incorporates both concepts from mockup covers 2 and 3? She sent me a sketch of an idea and I colored it in to help put in lighting and colors. When the coloring for our new mockup was finished, we knew that it was the look we needed to achieve.

Divergent Paths Mockup Cover 2

The new mockup cover! Click to enlarge.

Working with a fellow artist is always a pleasure. I have a hard time sketching and drawing wildlife and thankfully Holly is talented in those aspects. She sent me a nice sketch of the Lyrix, a mythical creature of her world, and the Danzis, the mythical plant of her world, and I took the time to digitally paint them. I wanted to stay as true to the mockup as possible. But when I put in the aurora borealis, I thought that though it was a nice effect, it made the cover feel too cluttered. We both agreed that it had to go and when the dust settled, we finally had a cover.

Divergent Paths Cover 02

The final cover! Click to enlarge!

This cover took us longer to create than did Founders. I want to think that the first book only took about a week or two, but this one because it was a sequel and because we wanted to make them look similar took us double that time. When creating the cover to a sequel, it should be said that one should keep the same typography within the same areas to help show that the books are supposed to be together. I had doubts at first, but when I put the two proofs side by side, that’s when you can really tell that they belong in a series. Happy cover making!

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