Announcing the Winner of Electric Lit’s 2022 Book Cover Tournament

Plus an interview with the designers and artists about the creative process

Over the holidays, we asked our social media followers to vote for the best book cover of 2022 and after an especially close competition, a crowd favorite won the hearts of book lovers.

From 32 beautiful cover designs, here are the semi-finalists:

Valley of Want by Ross White, cover design by Ross White vs. Burning Butch by R/B Mertz, cover design by Robert Bieselin

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, cover design by Kerri Resnick and art by Zach Meyer vs. Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, cover design by Lauren Peters-Collaer

From the Final Four, now we’re down to two crowd favorites:

We spoke to the designers of Valley of Want and Anatomy about creating their book covers:

Ross White, author and designer of Valley of Want:

Electric Lit: Tell us about your design process for this book cover and what you wanted to convey through the artwork?

RW: Honestly, I was blown away that Andrew Saulters from Unicorn Press would even let me design my own book. I’ve only been designing books for a few years and had no formal training in design, so there’s always a feeling that I have no business doing this work. And I’m also keenly aware that an author’s vision for their book cover is often a more private (and sometimes less expansive) perspective than what an outside designer can bring, so I wondered if I was shooting myself in the foot. So much of Valley of Want is about seeing yourself as a monster but allowing that monstrosity to be softened by love, and I was determined to find visual representation for that specific tension.

EL: Did you have any interesting false starts or rejected drafts you can share with us or tell us about?

RW: My earliest draft of the cover had several of the elements that made it into the final draft—a dominant pink, aquatic life, the textures of a sculpture—but when I wasn’t able to license the artwork for that draft, I pivoted to a whole other visual language for the book. In retrospect, there was a lot of body horror in those middle drafts, though I was only able to see that after Andrew pushed back on a few covers in a row. I was doing research for a different book when I stumbled across Bulgarian artist Stefan Ivanov‘s work, but when I saw his sculpture “Object III,” it had everything I wanted for my own book.

EL: What’s your favorite book cover of 2022, besides your own?

RW: I don’t think I can restrict myself to just one. Matthew Olzmann’s Constellation Route, Sofi Thanhauser’s Worn: A People’s History of Clothing, Rio Cortez’s Golden Ax, Ama Codjoe’s Bluest Nude, and Andrea Gibson’s You Better Be Lightning some of the books that really caught my eye this year.

Kerri Resnick, designer, and Zach Meyer, artist of Anatomy:

Electric Lit: Tell us about your design process for this book cover and what you wanted to convey through the artwork?

Kerri Resnick: Designing Anatomy was challenging but incredibly rewarding. While reading the manuscript I knew that we needed a striking image to convey both the historical and medical aspect of the book without appearing too specific or dry. We had such a strong title, so I began with many concepts using only type. I tried integrating different body parts into the letters of Anatomy but nothing felt quite right (or legible). I also tried a few options portraying the main character, Hazel, as the sole focus, but it felt looked ordinary and didn’t quite hit the mark. 

The editor mentioned the idea of an optical illusion, which sounded great but very daunting. I had never designed an illusion before and wasn’t sure how to approach it. After many hours and a lot of trial and error, the thought of a dress turning into a heart popped into my head. I remember it struck me while I was in bed, and I jumped up and doodled it out because I was so excited to finally have an idea.

From there, the process was fairly seamless. I had already known of and admired Zach Meyer’s stunningly detailed illustrations. I’d been waiting for a project that might suit him and knew he would be the perfect artist for such a complicated concept. 

Zach Meyer: Kerri Resnick approached me with a rough photo collage of the concept; having the heart concept completed, I had to recreate a drawing in my style that matched the book and character Hazel.

I ended up putting my wife in a red wig and shooting photographs of her from above. It was such a unique angle that I had to shoot my own reference. When that was completed, I began sculpting the heart shape in photoshop, utilizing fabric photos and digital painting. This was very challenging and took a lot of sketching and tinkering to get right. After this was completed, I drew the drawing in graphite and charcoal, I scanned that in, and colored it in photoshop. I had two variant covers in the end, one of which went to Barnes and Noble as a special edition red cover. 

EL: Did you have any interesting false starts you can tell us about?

ZM: One of the false starts I had was just misinterpreting the brief and making the heart initially feel more fleshy and heart-like instead of forming into a dress. Kerri Resnick gave good guidance through this process; the cover went from looking like a real human heart to feeling like a part of Hazel’s dress all in one.

EL: What’s your favorite book cover of 2022/2023, besides your own?

KR: One of my favorites is Maame by Jessica George. This cover was designed by Olga Grlic. I find it so striking and beautiful; it stops me every time I see it. 

ZM: My favorite cover is Star Eater by Kerstin Hall; the artwork is done by Sam Weber, all painted in oil paint. 

The winner of Electric Lit’s 2022 Book Cover Tournament: Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, cover design by Kerri Resnick and art by Zach Meyer.

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