Re-issuing classic books

Many publishers will try out a talented new illustrator by commissioning a jacket for an existing classic.

It’s an excellent way to give such an artist’s work exposure in book stores. It’s also an opportunity to establish a working relationship with a publisher.

As for the artist, it’s a one-shot deal; in other words, you complete one piece, and you’re done! With a picture book, the process is on-going for several months. It can seem endless.

Hugh D’Andrade got the assignment of a lifetime: The opportunity to create the cover of a special leather-bound edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. What distinguished this project was having access to the author herself. Wow. . . .

front cover for "To Kill a Mockingbird", illustrated by Hugh D'Andrade

Cover illustration for "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Hugh D'Andrade

Hugh describes the experience on his blog:

“…I have loved this book since I first read it in the 7th or 8th grade. . . Re-reading it a few years ago, I remembered how this book made me feel transported to another time and place, and how it helped me grapple with really difficult questions about morality and injustice. It’s a powerful story, told with such simple, elegant language…

back cover illustration from "To Kill a Mockingbird"

back cover illustration from "To Kill a Mockingbird"

. . . As with most book covers, this one took a lot of back and forth between myself and the publisher. We had to get all those little details right, from Scout’s ponytail, to the type, to the Southern courthouse featured on the back cover.

The biggest surprise in this process was the fact that Harper Lee herself was involved! Yes, she is alive, and though she is careful to stay out of the public eye, she collaborated with Sterling Publishers (a publishing imprint of Barnes & Noble) on this edition, to the degree that she looked over my sketches and gave surprisingly detailed notes.

As you might suspect, they were sharp and insightful, with suggestions on how to ensure that Scout looked as if she were actually tipping up on her toes to view the gifts hidden in the knot of that old tree. . . “

A previous assignment Hugh did for Barnes & Noble was a new edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Cover illustration for "Alice in Wonderland"

Cover illustration for "Alice in Wonderland"

Another recent project was the jacket and interior chapter openers for A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, a New York Times bestseller.

preliminary sketches for the jacket of "Tales Dark & Grimm"

Rough jacket sketches for "Tales Dark & Grimm"

Note the previous working title — it changed since then. . . .

Hugh D’Andrade:

“… the really cool thing is what we did with the wraparound dust jacket for the hardcover (see above). This sort of thing is tricky, because it has to work as a whole, but each panel has to work independently as well…”

title type plus two chapter opener spots

Title type plus 2 samples of chapter opener art

Here is the book trailer that evolved from Hugh’s iconic graphics:

See more of Hugh’s amazing work at his blog.


18 responses to “Re-issuing classic books

  1. Fascinating to read that you were able to use hand lettering and have it copyright as original art. Because, of course, that’s as it should be. And I find that your lettering makes the jacket as powerful as it is. Like Laura I’m eager to see the German and Thai hand lettered jackets!

    A step backwards is sometimes the right direction.

  2. YES….creative control. It is a good thing! Incredible work….the jacket is pure magic!
    Thank you for sharing the link. Would love to see the finished works for your German & Thai lettered art titles in the future.

  3. Okay! What about the actual design of the text used in the title….can style of characters be copyrighted?

    • Hugh D’Andrade replies:

      “The lettering on Tales Dark & Grimm is all done by hand. So it’s considered part of the artwork and I own the copyright on that. (Good thing, too — I’ve been paid for new publishing rights for editions in Thai and German, with the German publisher also paying me to re-draw the type.)

      In general, “for hire” work is a bad idea for an illustrator to accept.

      I do sometimes take an existing font and print it out onto bristol paper at a light ink percentage so that I can re-draw it. The Pixies type in this blog post is an example:

  4. Beautiful work. I have just finished reading the classic Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins & illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov, published in 1960 by Parnassus Press. Sidjakov’s delightful drawings are used in the same manner as shown in D’Andrade’s work here. Cloth cover embossed with art & jacket art expressed in a flowing mural format. Love the use of cool colors contrasted by black and the use of color to shadow/highlight the castle on back jacket of A Tale Dark & Grimm. My eye was instantly fixed onto that drawing. Enjoyed seeing the way the illustrator had the freedom to alter the actual title for sake of the art. Found the comment about tippy toes from Harper Lee delightful!

    • Great comments, Laura!

      Just so you know, it’s not uncommon for the publisher to change the title of a book — while or even after the cover is already designed and illustrated. After all, that new title is definitely a lot catchier-sounding than the previous one. And it further complements that artwork! I called attention to the difference between the titles to note how the wording evolved during the process. It’s the publisher’s call entirely, on the change.

      Tangent: I know of in-house meetings that would go on for hours, over the title of one book. Sales, marketing, public relations, and a cast of other related folk would be involved.

      I sense they (the publishing house and the editor) were careful to insure that the length of the new title matched the previous one as closely as possible to make sure it would still “fit”, shape-wise. And they alerted the art director (who, in turn, passed the edict onto the illustrator) as swiftly as possible.

  5. That’s terrific, Wendy! Diane D’Andrade was the editor of many distinctive titles when she was at Harcourt.

  6. Beautiful artwork. Very unique. FYI I’m taking a writing course (Writing Fiction for Middle Grade/YA) from Hugh’s mother, Diane at UCSD Extension.

  7. I remember the first time I saw the cover for “A Tale Dark & Grimm,” I thought it was stunning and it captured my attention right away. I love his classic style thanks for sharing the process.

    • I love everyone’s responses! Simplifying each shape into a stylized silhouette adds crispness. It lends mystery, while maintaining a fresh appearance, from both up close or from a distance. In other words, these covers will never look old.

  8. Great covers! Thank you for sharing this article. I found it beneficial.

  9. Wonderful covers! They have a classic look as befits the titles, and yet look fresh and new, as classic stories are for the reader who first comes across them.

  10. very cool to see!
    thanks for sharing this with us, it is so beneficial to see
    an artist’s process.
    harper lee overseeing your cover design, how incredible is that?!

    • A lesser artist would’ve found having Harper Lee as a consultant too daunting to approach! Gratifying to know this cover has her blessing. And it’s beautiful.

      • Robin LaRue Majors

        I love the cover of the 50th anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I have searched and cannot find who did the original artwork for this classic. My oldest daughter, Anna, will be 30 next year and I am searching for something special. (she calls me Robicus)
        Robin L. Majors

  11. Love the new, but timeless look of these covers.

  12. There is just nothing like a beautiful three dimensional book! I love the way Hugh and the designer have expanded all the possibilities of the physical book with embossing the leather and clever use of the wrap around and flap areas of the jacket. These look new and classic at the same time. Thanks so much for illuminating the process. Inspiring!

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