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FOLLOW THE HEART: Behind the Cover with Designer Kirk DouPonce

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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I am super excited today to introduce the cover designer we’ve been working with for the Great Exhibition series, Kirk DouPonce of Dog Eared Design. I’ve always wanted to interview a designer to find out what happens in the cover-design process.

Welcome, Kirk!
How did you develop the concept for the cover of Follow the Heart?

The Pinterest board you provided was invaluable in concepting this cover. It provided numerous character images, period clothing, and illustrations of the Crystal Palace. Another source of inspiration came from the movie North and South which I pulled from my wife’s DVD collection after reading the story synopsis.

The challenge was to create a cover that immediately tells the viewer that this is a historical romance set somewhere in the mid-1800s. And if they’ve watched North and South, they’ll hopefully recognize the setting. Finding appropriate models and period clothing wasn’t too difficult, but placing them in the Crystal Palace, a building that no longer exists, was tricky.

Transept of the Crystal Palace. (Getty Images)

I modeled the palace using 3D software which allowed me to easily view the structure from any angle. This helped in figuring out the general composition. I purposely didn’t put much detail into the 3D model. There was going to be a lot going on in this 5.5″ x 8.5″ piece of real estate, the less busy I could make it the better. Also, I knew I’d need to place type legibly over the structure, another reason not to go crazy with the detail.

Computer rendering of the Crystal Palace. (Kirk DouPonce)

With the background generally worked out the next step was finding the perfect clothing and models who fit the story.

Tell us briefly how you go about finding/booking models.

I live in a fairly small town up in the mountains of Colorado. Finding local models isn’t too easy though there are a few locals who’ve found their way onto covers. Most of the time, however, I work with modeling agencies in Denver which is a good 2 1/2 hours away. When I do that, I either pay by the mile for models to come up here, or, if I have numerous shoots, I’ll rent a studio down there. A third option is to use a website called The site is for amateur and professional models who don’t have representation. This is where I found our model Jordan, and it was actually the first time that I had used the site.


How do you find costumes for historical covers like this?

Time permitting, I like to work with Lynna Perry, a local woman who’s amazing at putting professional-level costumes together. Time is usually not permitting, so I often rent the costumes from Hollywood where many of the items have been used on movie sets. Stage theaters are also good for renting costumes. The dress and men’s clothing for this cover came from a theater in Minneapolis.

Kaye: Here is the first set of costumes Kirk sent me as possibles for the cover:
First Set of Costumes
My first thought: I’ve never been this deeply involved in the cover design process before!
My second thought: Those have just a little too much of a prairie-western vibe to me.

So, bless him, Kirk went back to the drawing board and came up with two other fancier options:
Brown Applique Dress

Purple dress

Was there any doubt which one I would choose? 😉

Walk us through photo-shoot day.

Scheduling models and costumes isn’t all that enjoyable, neither is set up and tear down, but the shoot itself is fun. Models photograph better when they’re relaxed. I have a couple people I work with who help to create a comfortable atmosphere. They are Stacy Gwinn, who generally assists with everything including helping models into multi-faceted dresses, and James Einhorn, hair stylist and make-up artist extraordinaire. Cranking up Barry Manilow or MegaDeth helps too.

During the shoot I’ll give some direction but I try to keep it very general. Some models get it right on the first click, others may take a few hundred more. I’m not sure how many shots I take during a standard shoot, but I’m very thankful for cameras that don’t require film.

Model Jordan in costume. (Kirk DouPonce)

How long does the photo shoot take?

The actual shoot itself takes under two hours, much less if there isn’t a lot of costume changing. I shoot with my camera tethered to my laptop, meaning everything I shoot shows up on the screen. It’s helpful to break every now and again so that the models can see the shots.

Once you have all the photos, do you ever change your mind about your original concept for the cover?

Yes, that happens often. After the shoots are done I’ll do a low resolution “sketch” in Photoshop to decide which photos work best.

Photoshop sketch image. (Kirk DouPonce)

How many variations do you go through, on average, before you come up with the final design?

GE1 Follow the Heart
An early design concept for Follow the Heart. (Kirk DouPonce)

It usually takes numerous variations before the final composition is worked out. Then the heavy lifting in Photoshop begins. As you can see from the photos there was a lot of post production on these. You can see how huge the dress was on Jordan. I used my paster, Jeff Gwinn, for the men’s shoot knowing that I’d be switching out his head for the final. I’ve actually used him a number of times for this sort of thing. He likes to brag that he has the body of a young stud!


After the imagery is completed, the next battle is to work out the typography, a job all by itself. You can see a couple of the type variations.

Typography variations. (Kirk DouPonce)

And that is how a book cover gets designed!

A huge thanks to Kirk for joining us today. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have about how much work and effort goes into designing a gorgeous book cover!

On May 1, I will be giving away FIVE signed copies of Follow the Heart.

Beginning Monday, April 15, 2013, and ending Tuesday, April 30, 2013, I’ll be doing a series of blog posts on the background and inspiration for the Great Exhibition series and Follow the Heart. Each comment you leave on every post between 4/15/13 and 4/30/13 will earn you a name in the “hat” for the drawing. (Posts will be closed to new comments after 24 hours, so be sure to check in daily—subscribe via email above, or check my Twitter or Facebook page, as each new post gets announced there, too—for the latest post to comment on.)

Comment early, comment often!

  1. Emma permalink
    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:25 am

    I love, love, love, when I get a glimpse into the design of a book cover! I am thrilled that you had a voice in the design of it. From what I understand, that doesn’t happen very often. I think it is strange that publishing companies do not take more time with covers. I am sure most of us have been guilty of picking up a book because the cover was gorgeous. Thank you, Kirk, for providing us with an inside look. I think the cover is lovely! And thanks, Kaye!


  2. christicorbett permalink
    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:45 am

    Thank you for the inside look at cover creation. Very interesting!

    Christi Corbett

    PS. Have you decided yet on which day you’d like to be featured on my blog? (I sent you an email on March 22 regarding a date.)


  3. Ruth permalink
    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:58 am

    Oh I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing all of the behind-the-scenes photos and info!


  4. Elizabeth permalink
    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:17 am

    What a fantastic cover! And thanks for all the behind-the-scenes insight. I just assumed everything was photo-shopped in these covers, but I can see the extra value added by that computer mock-up of the Crystal Palace. And kudos to you about asking for a non-prairie dress. They did look a little sadly-drab. Overall, just spectacular.


  5. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:17 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! I love it when authors do behind-the-scenes 🙂


  6. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3:40 pm

    Excellent insight. Thank you, Kaye!


  7. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3:59 pm

    What a fantastic post about how your book cover came about! Kirk did a great job capturing the essence of the great exhibition, and I see Kaye all over it!! Wonderful and interesting to learn about the process.


  8. Debra E. Marvin permalink
    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:23 pm

    Fascinating! Looks a bit more fun that slugging through the manuscript (excuse me I’m working on a synopsis today). I love going behind the scenes. I’d love to be in any drawing for Follow the Heart! Can’t wait to read it!


  9. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:23 pm

    Fascinating! Really nice explanation by Kirk, and how he took your own input.


  10. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:39 pm

    I enjoyed seeing how all of the pieces came together. The book sounds great


  11. Wednesday, April 24, 2013 7:11 pm

    Loved it, Kaye!


  12. dingo4mum permalink
    Thursday, April 25, 2013 2:49 am

    How interesting. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


  13. Janella permalink
    Thursday, April 25, 2013 9:21 am

    Very fascinating, thanks for the post. I love the book cover.


  14. Thursday, April 25, 2013 11:09 am

    What a great blog post. Love the sneak behind the scenes. Pinned it so others can find it. Great book, too!


  15. Dora permalink
    Thursday, April 25, 2013 11:24 am

    The art work is wonderful. Was truly amazed by the process.


  16. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
    Friday, April 26, 2013 1:28 am

    Awesome interview! Learning about the cover art development is one of my favorite parts of your behind the scenes posts, Ms. Dacus!



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