By Jenny Kimura, Collaborative Designer 

Every creative out there knows that the best form of a piece of work is one that has gone through multiple iterations. Whether you’re writing or designing, the best way to start a creative project is to try many different ideas to see what works the best for your vision. After all, there is never just one answer to a creative problem!

When I’m designing book covers, I always try a minimum of three to four ideas, but I often end up with twice that, as my original ideas lead to new ideas, or an idea that didn’t work at first is repurposed in a new vision. But since there can be only one final cover, the other options are usually confined to the depths of my archives, never to see the light of day. Not today!

In this article, I’ll be sharing those almost-could-have-been covers from two books that I designed for Indigo clients over the last year.  

First up is Jack Hassard’s The Trump Files, a comprehensive history and analysis of the Trump administration. For a nonfiction book, I knew right away that I wanted to include some photographic options, as is in line with the political nonfiction genre, but that I also would want to try some graphic, bold approaches that would feel different and fresh. I pulled together concepts using a variety of Shutterstock images and my own vector-drawing abilities.  

I ended up with ten covers to send to Jack with a variety of type, colors, and imagery that encompassed a wide range of ideas. At this point in the process, when I send my concepts over to my clients, I always include the note that we can mix and match any of the ideas present, meaning that if a client likes, for example, Option D here, but prefers the title type from Option J, that gives both the client and me a place to start narrowing down options and also a way to voice what is working and not working, since we often don’t know what we like (or don’t like) until we see it.

Fortunately, there were many options in this first round that both Jack and I really liked, but felt that they weren’t quite right for various reasons. I, for example, personally loved Option C—I loved the play on royalty themes from the playing card, the irreverence and humor, the simplicity. It was the first idea that popped into my head and I knew I had to see it drafted out. I had a feeling it might be a tad too complicated of a connection, but I loved making the card, and thought there might be a way to keep tweaking it, so I kept it.  But I also understand why Jack ultimately preferred options A, B, and D—clean and bold, with big type.

After we narrowed down to those three options, Jack asked to see those with some modifications, plus one color variation on B. When we looked at them all together, the clear winner was B. There was something about that fiery orange-red and big, off-kilter title that just made it pop and stand out from the crowd—and we knew it was the winner.

Once we’d decided, I purchased the final high-resolution images needed for the cover from Shutterstock and created the final image, dust jacket layout, and paperback cover layout.

And that’s how a book cover is made! The cover is just as bright in person as it is here on the screen, and pops on any shelf. The Trump Files is out now! You can order a copy here.

The second cover process that I’d like to share was for Carly Sasha Cohen’s upcoming YA mystery, Garden of Earthly Delights. As a full-time cover designer for young adult and middle grade novels (and a big YA fan myself), I was thrilled to take on this book, description below:

Ani Abrams wants nothing more than to escape Garden City, a town founded as a haven for women, run by women. Ani dreams of journalism school and boys. She’d rather spend her summer falling for Nick Lake, the cute barista at Beanie Babes, and hanging out with Johnny, her drama queen BFF, than serving pastrami at her stepmother Evelyn’s Jewish deli and getting caught up in small-town politics.


But when someone begins vandalizing Garden City with misogynistic hate speech, Ani quickly gets pulled into the hunt for the “Vag Vandal” and finds that leaving Garden City may not be as easy as she’d planned. During her search for the Vandal, Ani soon discovers a very secret and very naked society of businesswomen that threatens to ruin the town—and Ani’s future.


Ani’s investigation quickly turns personal as she unearths more questions than answers. Why is the Vandal suddenly singling her out? Could her own stepmother be involved in the attacks? And most importantly, does a stakeout with Nick Lake count as a date?

In addition to helpful materials such as a full manuscript and a synopsis, Carly also shared the below cover comps, which is a great way to help your designer get an idea of which books that are already published are ones that this new book should feel similar to, in order to attract the right readership:

Carly and I also talked about her likes and dislikes for covers, and what elements or objects from the story could be used on the cover. The tricky thing with this cover was that although Garden is a mystery thriller, the story wasn’t about murder, like so many other YA thrillers, so we wanted to avoid blacks and reds for a more unique cover and color scheme.

With all this in mind, my first round of concepts went two ways: illustrated and photographic. In the illustrated options, I wanted to focus on our main character, Ani, paired with interesting typography and bold colors. You can really see that come to fruition with options 2, 3, and 3A, and these felt strongest when compared to the comp covers I had; they really screamed YA.

But, you ask, what’s going on in Option 1? Option 1 was the first idea that popped into my head. I thought, What if we simply played up the title (“Garden”) and went for an icon-focused cover—yes, that is a giant flower-patterned uterus, a nod to the women-led town Ani lives in—with elements from the story hidden in the background (if you look closely, you can see eyes, statues, a grand house, and footprints). When I finished mocking up the idea, I could tell that it felt too literary and not thriller enough, even if I were to change the color scheme like I’d planned, but I kept it because it was so different and I felt it could help inspire other cover ideas. All that to say, don’t throw an idea away even if it’s “out there”! You never know what might come of it.

Next, I really felt like we needed some photographic options since that is on trend with YA mystery thrillers and I think it really helps the reader know what they’re getting. However, since I wanted to avoid blacks and reds, I opted for a purple/hot pink/blue palette that felt mysterious and dark, but less bloody than red would suggest. And then, I experimented with covering one or both eyes with graffiti-like markings, since vandalism is part of the central plot, with hand-lettered text that I drew. I ended up loving these options even more than the illustrated ones (unusual for me!), especially 5A and 5B.

After I shared all these with Carly, she loved many of the ideas too, but felt the photographic ones were still too dark and the illustrated ones not quite mystery enough. And then—she had the brilliant idea to try the composition of 4 or 5 as an illustrated version, using the girl from Option 3. So that’s what we did…and you might have noticed that the florals from my unused Option 1 have reappeared here in this new round, but with a darker color scheme.

Re-looking at these four revised options, I’m a huge fan of how the collage option came out, and I think it could have also been stunning as final art. But the close-up girl just felt more compelling and bold, and I think we definitely made the right choice. From here, we chose the composition and text of Option 1, but mocked up with both girls:

Once we saw them side by side, we chose the forward-facing girl, as that felt much more compelling and strong. And when we were decided, I purchased the final stock images and created the final art, with a cover layout to match:

And that’s another cover done! Garden of Earthly Delights is available June 6. Preorder a copy on Amazon here.

Jenny Kimura is a book designer based in New York City, making books by day for a Big 5 publisher, and books by night for Indigo: Editing, Design, and More. Are you in need of a book cover? See Jenny’s past book design work at and reach out at if you’d like to collaborate!