The Surprising Story Behind My Book’s Cover Image

Lisa Anselmo-My (Part-Time) Paris Life

Many people have asked me if I designed the cover of my upcoming book because, well, I’m a creative director and that makes sense.

I didn’t. My book jacket was designed by the very capable and talented Kerri Resnick at St. Martin’s Press.

When it comes to marketing and sales, people do judge a book by its cover, so I was a nervous wreck during the design process; being the client was totally new to me. We went through three rounds of jacket designs—each very different—finally landing on the cover you see at the top of this page. The moment I saw it, I knew it was the one, but that’s not what gave me goosebumps. Those were provided by the image of Paris that Kerri Resnick had chosen.

Though Kerri and I had never met, and she had only a synopsis of my story to work from, without realizing it she got right inside my head with a photo of a street view that had incredible significance known only to me.

It’s a view of rue Abel in the 12th arrondissement, with Gare de Lyon in the distance, taken from the Coulée Verte, an elevated park created in 1988 on the disused rail overpass of the defunct Bastille train line. This photo, below, is my own version of the same view that appears on the book jacket.

This view graces the cover of my new book, but the designer didn't know its significance to me. ©Lisa Anselmo

This view graces the cover of my new book, but the designer didn’t know its significance to me. ©Lisa Anselmo

Kerri chose the image because it worked well in the design, and she liked the look of it. She didn’t know, for example, that this photo was taken in the Gare de Lyon district where I stayed as a kid, and which I write about in Chapter 2 of my memoir. Or that this area is just a few minutes walk from my current neighborhood, and the Marché d’Aligre that appears in Chapter 5. But what Kerri also did not know, the thing that really made the hairs on my arms stand up: the photo she had chosen depicts the exact view I was looking at when I confessed to my friend Fabien that I had been spending long hours online Paris apartment shopping as an escape from the grief of my mother’s death (Chapter 3). The exact view.

That was February 15, 2012. Fabien and I looked out over rue Abel with its glorious Haussmann buildings, and I told him, “I want to live right around here.” I indicated the general vicinity with a wave of my hands—the very buildings and streets now memorialized on my book jacket. In fact, I’d seen an apartment for sale in the building clearly visible on the left of the photo. Yes, the same building. But at the time I saw the apartment online, which was a stunner, I wasn’t serious about buying something in Paris. I was just dreaming—and I was still in the dream stage when Fabien and I stood on the Coulée Verte and talked about how nice it would be to have a place of my own in Paris. An hour later, my apartment hunt would become real, thanks to Fabien’s prodding. And everything would change.

A Facebook post from February 2012: a selfie with my friend Fabien (who appears in my memoir), taken on the Coulée Verte, just before I began my apartment hunt in Paris. That's my sister's comment on the right.

A Facebook post from February 2012: a selfie with my friend Fabien (who appears in my memoir), taken on Paris’s Coulée Verte, just before I began my apartment hunt in Paris. That’s my sister’s comment on the right.

The photo on my book jacket was, for me, yet more proof that my mother was “up there” working her magic, blessing my new book, and letting me know she is still very much present in my life. Just another incredible and undeniable signpost along this path I’m on, telling me I’m headed in the right direction. One photo captures a moment that would change my life forever, and that’s why this was the only cover I could have had for my story.

Me, in front of the view that graces my book jacket. ©Lisa Anselmo

Me, in front of the view that graces my book jacket. ©Lisa Anselmo

Kerri Resnick, the designer at St. Martin's Press who created the cover of my new book.

Kerri Resnick, the designer at St. Martin’s Press who created my book jacket. Another sassy redhead!

Kerri has worked at Macmillan for seven years. She’s one of those lucky people who always knew she wanted a career in a creative field, but became interested in book jacket design in college. The opportunity to work on different genres appeals to her because she likes to challenge herself to grow and strengthen her design skills. We talked about book design, her creative process, and that image of Paris that she magically plucked right out of my head.

What’s your design process like for a book cover? 

When I begin designing a cover, I’ll first read a summary of the book as well as research comparative titles. This step helps me to get a sense of direction for the cover design. Next, I will read through the manuscript and gather imagery and inspiration. From there, my process becomes trial and error. I try a variety of different approaches until I reach a concept that I feel is strong enough to show the editor and publisher.

What’s one thing that people might find surprising about book jacket design?

I think people may be surprised by how many covers a typical designer is working on at one time. We often are switching between many different genres and styles all within the same day.

Do you sometimes collaborate with the authors on concepts?

The editor is typically the middleman, so I usually won’t collaborate directly with authors. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’ll likely hear any ideas the author may have from his or her editor.

Is there a formula that makes a cover stand out?

I wish! Design is always evolving, and there are new trends and styles to keep up with. What makes a cover stand out one year may not work as well the next. Also, each book I work on is very different, and requires an individual approach.

What was the overall feeling you were going for with my book jacket? What did you want it to convey, what emotions did you want to evoke?

With your cover, I wanted to convey the beauty of Paris but also give it a personal feel with the typography. I also didn’t want it to look like you were a tourist or visitor, so I avoided photos of the Eiffel Tower and other traditional Paris landmarks. I hope that people will find the cover eye-catching, and be drawn in to read more about the book.

What was the process for choosing the photo for my cover? You didn’t know it had significance to me, so what was it about that image that spoke to you?

When I first started gathering imagery for your cover, I was not sure whether I wanted to go in an illustrative direction or use a photograph. My initial worry about using a photograph was that the book might look like it was about the city of Paris rather than your experience living there. Because of this, my first designs were mostly graphic.

I actually found the image we ended up with much later in the design process. I was instantly drawn to the atmosphere and warm feel of the photo. It looked so clearly Parisian to me without being too obvious. I also liked that I would be able to comfortably fit my type layout into the image without needing to cover up any of the architecture.

We had three rounds of designs before landing on the final. Each one was very different. Are you happy with the result?

I’m very happy with the result! I honestly feel like the designs became stronger with each round. I’m glad that I was able to explore different options before everyone agreed on the final cover, and I hope that it is able to do the book justice!

It does do the book justice, Kerri. More than I could have hoped. Thank you!
Visit Kerri’s site, here.

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9 responses to “The Surprising Story Behind My Book’s Cover Image

  1. Hi Lisa…the cover is gorgeous and the best part is that it isn’t the typical picture we always see of the tower or the Champs etc..this the Paris that those of us lucky to go there know so well..the grey buildings, the sky…the sidewalks and stripped awnings….the twilight which is the best time to walk around….it’s beautiful and can’t wait to read it.

    • Thank you so much! I’m very happy. Kerri was great in understanding that I didn’t want a hackneyed version of Paris. That she chose that image was just kismet! Thank you for your continued support, Debbie!


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