How to Package the First of a Series

Hush Money is Chuck Greaves’s very funny debut featuring lawyer Jack MacTaggart, who gets caught up in the high-stakes world of professional equestrian show-jumping.

The publisher, editor and I initially met to discuss the visual and all agreed that we wanted to emphasize the horse angle. We wanted a fun, bright vibe, and somewhat realistic artwork.

The illustrations of John Harwood seemed perfect. He’s so great at making things look hyper-realistic, and creates such nice lighting. John’s very early sketches are below — I liked his ideas very much.

But I felt that the art needed to be far more simple and unified—it looked too complicated. John agreed, and turned in the revised sketches below, which I thought were perfect!

But upon seeing these, the publisher and editor realized that we’d all made a huge mistake! The problem wasn’t the sketch, but with our direction. This is the first in a series and future books will not necessarily be about horses. Secondly, this approach made the book look as if it was purely a horse story, and the book has a broader appeal.

John understood the concern, and came up with the below sketches. I loved the three-quarter view of the briefcase as did everyone else. John got working on the final.

I got working on choosing typefaces, which you can see below.

A few weeks later the final was completed. I love John’s final art, and think that the  visual has exactly the feel and vibe that we were seeking, and will lend itself very well to becoming a series look. Of course, the next book will be next year, so there’s no guarantee of keeping the look, but at least we’ll have the option.