I have had the joy of designing the covers for Karen Rose’s fantastic novels for the last couple of years. Her writing is a phenomenal mix of crime, thriller and romance, and is a real stand-out in her genre. Since first being published by Headline over fifteen novels ago her cover design, originally created by the fantastic Henry Steadman, has always been striking and my job has been to make sure that each cover is as powerful as the one before.
Last year I was tasked with the exciting, and slightly daunting, prospect of repackaging the paperback edition of Karen’s most recent title, CLOSER THAN YOU THINK. This was an incredible opportunity to keep the look fresh for her current readers as well as broadening her appeal to new readers, too. This was an exercise that was guided by informative consumer insight research that delved into what it was that the audience wanted, as well as what was proving successful for her contemporaries.
As seems to be the current trend with other top authors in the crime and thriller genre, after a range of ideas and many discussions with editorial, sales et al., we ended up going for a cleaner approach that focused on Karen’s engaging characters. Eye contact was crucial as it allowed us to communicate directly with the audience, and somehow managed to balance being tense and appealing at the same time, much like Karen’s unique writing. The cover shot was photographed by Larry Rostant, whose polished, dramatic photography was exactly the look we wanted.
Below is the new cover for CLOSER THAN YOU THINK, and the new novel, ALONE IN THE DARK, which is out in November later this year.
The success of this new design was such that it was decided to rejuvenate Karen’s existing backlist to follow this new style. The first steps in making this happen involved editorial providing a breakdown of the fifteen titles in this backlist; a spreadsheet that included not only title, shoutline etc., but also the key characters in each individual book, their descriptions (hair colour, eye colour, height), locations etc. This is particularly helpful given the focus on character portraits.
Again, I called upon the help of Larry Rostant to work with me on this so that each cover felt as unique as the frontlist. We hired a selection of models that matched the character descriptions and shot covers for around five to eight titles in one day (quite a day!). Before the shoot, the concept for each cover had been mapped out so we knew exactly what and who we were shooting, so we could be confident with the results we would get.
Alongside this, the remainder of the covers have been created using high-end sourced imagery, all of which had that slick, stylish feeling of photography we were after.
For the backlist, the list has been broken down into series that separate the titles into the cities in which they’re set. The challenge was to give each series an individual look whilst still in keeping with the overall style, and we used colour to achieve this. With the first in this look we used a pantone orange for ‘Karen’ in the author’s name to give a real punch; which was then continued. You will notice that, whilst slightly different, each series has it’s own colour for the author name; for example blue for the Chicago series and green for the Philadelphia/Atlanta series. This is also seen on the spine with the colour and number of each book positioned at the top of the spine.
This has been a great project to work on as it’s rare that you get the chance to see a design work across quite so many books, and I hope you will agree that the backlist titles look just as strong as the frontlist (or at least I hope they do!). The first nine of the backlist titles (pictured below) are out between now and August. Keep your eyes peeled for the final six backlist titles to come later in the year!