Behind the Scenes: “Making the Cover of SOAKED!” by Abi Cushman

I loved the cover of SOAKED! from the moment I saw it! And now we get to hear the story behind it. It’s fascinating to see the effects of changes in expression, composition, and color. Thank you, Abi Cushman, for sharing the process of creating this fabulous cover!


The winner of last week’s giveaway of Wild Style is …Nora Nickum!


In traditional publishing, a book cover has to be approved by an art director, an editor, the sales and marketing department, and the publisher. That’s a lot of eyes on it, and a lot of pressure to get it right because well… everyone judges a book by its cover!

So I’m going to share with you the steps I took with Jim Hoover (art director) and Tracy Gates (editor) at Viking Children’s Books to create the cover art for my debut picture book, SOAKED!

When we first got started, Jim, Tracy and I all agreed that the cover should highlight the bear’s complete and utter misery in the rain ​and​ allow the playfulness and humor of the book to come through. Because you know… we’re jerks who like to laugh at sad bears.

I had always pictured the cover being a closeup of the bear’s face on a grey background, so I did a few rough sketches of Bear with different expressions.


Since the book was entitled, SOAKED, we decided against the ones where the bear wasn’t completely drenched. Jim did a quick mockup of the cover with one of my finished interior pieces of Bear so we could see what it might look like in full color.


After seeing it, Tracy worried about a grey background being too drab and the cover coming across as too negative. There wasn’t a ton of storytelling going on here either.

In the next version, I drew in a couple of Bear’s friends to keep him company. That seemed to brighten things up a bit. I also tweaked the background color to make it more of a blue-grey.


The storytelling was better here and the blue tint definitely helped, but Jim and Tracy thought we could give it even more pop.

Based on their suggestions, I did a few more sketches that bumped up the composition and made it more dynamic. We were getting closer.


Jim and Tracy preferred the bottom three samples but suggested making Bear’s expression in the last sample a little bit less like The Rock.


Yep. It was definitely hard to unsee that after it was pointed out. After a little tweaking, we had a winner!


Once I started on the final colored art, I decided to add the ice cream cone back in on the left for another punch of color to balance everything out.

For the title, we all agreed a hand-lettered title would look best, but I wasn’t too confident in my hand-lettering skills. Jim encouraged me to give it a try anyway, and I realized that hand-lettering is just a skill that takes some practice, no different from learning to draw umbrellas, puddles, and hula-hooping moose.


The cover was looking pretty good at this point… or so I thought. BUT! There was still more to do (of course). Jim wasn’t done experimenting with fonts on the interior spreads yet. Once he decided on the final font, he updated my byline font on the cover to match.

Then, they passed the cover by the sales team at Penguin Random House. The sales team loved the cover but suggested adding an exclamation point to the title. So I rearranged the letters to fit in the exclamation point, and after seeing it with the added punctuation, I do believe they were correct!

Finally, the production team at Penguin Random House adjusted the colors to get it ready for printing. And at long last, we had the final cover!


Looking back at the process, I am so thankful for the collaboration with Jim and Tracy. Their experience and expertise were key to pushing the cover to its full potential. It can be tough when you think you’re all done with a piece of art, and then people say, “Actually, it’s not quite there yet.” But if you’re getting feedback from people who know what they’re talking about, the end result is so much better. I’m really proud of the cover of SOAKED!, and I think we achieved our goal. Bear’s misery definitely shines through, and we only feel a ​little​ guilty about laughing about it.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Soaked! Drawing 8/28.  Continental US addresses only.

52 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “Making the Cover of SOAKED!” by Abi Cushman

  1. This is a wonderful “behind the scenes” look at the process that a visual artist goes through when creating a design for a book cover. It requires imagination, hard work, and a keen eye for detail.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. First time I’ve read about the process of creating the cover! So many helpful eyes. And in the end, perfection. It is amazing how adding the exclamation point really made the cover stand out. Love the expressions on all of the animals faces. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this process! I so appreciate a creative mind. The final cover selection is one I can really relate to, especially the ice cream cone melting in the rain. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous glimpse you provided into the writing process behind Soaked! but I had no idea that so much time, effort, and thought went into the cover art alone. When I consider, though, how many times I have decided for or against giving a book a chance based on nothing more than my initial impressions drawn from the cover, it really should come as no surprise. Thank you for drawing back the curtain!

    Neil Bowers
    San Diego, California

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I think the cover is the book’s number 1 marketing piece. (But now that I’m about to do the cover for my second book, I’m trying really hard not to think about how important it is. 😉 )


  5. I enjoyed learning about the many revisions you needed to make before arriving at the final cover design. Another great example to share with students about the importance of revision.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes!! It’s all about revision. And in a way, it’s comforting to me. I know that it’s part of the process and we will get there eventually!


  6. It’s always incredible hearing how the process for making a book is so long. I think it’s important to share with kids that there are so many people and attempts that help make a book ready! We love this book and thanks for the chance of winning!

    Liked by 2 people

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