An ominous-looking character pops—literally—from the front of Malice, Chris Wooding’s YA novel about London teens who get trapped in a world that exists inside a horrifying comic book. Published this month by Scholastic Press, this paper-over-board volume has a cover that features a 3-D, molded plastic figure and display type, which presented design and production crews with challenges they’d never before encountered.
Originally released in paperback by Scholastic UK last February, Malice was designed by Alison Padley, the company’s design manager. She recalls first reading the manuscript and seeing the novel’s comic book-style art by Dan Chernett. The illustrations, she says, “just seemed to come to life. I wanted to somehow portray that on the cover and have something come leaping out at readers—perhaps have an eye-catching character inviting them into the book.”
Padley remembered a sample 3-D mold that a printer had shown her previously. “I thought when I initially saw it that a molding like that would be great to use on a book cover at some point, since as far as I know that had never before been done.” she says. “And it suddenly occurred to me that Malice would be the perfect book to use a molding on.” Deeming Tall Jake, a specter-like figure who transports kids into the comic-book world of Malice, “the most visually dynamic” of the novel’s characters, the designer chose to portray him on the cover.
Using one of Chernett’s illustrations of this character, Padley then created what she calls “a flat design” and consulted with a printer and Claire Tagg, Scholastic UK’s production director, about the creation of the plastic mold. “There are five levels of depth in the molding, so basically we considered what points in the artwork stand out most and worked from there,” says Padley. “As the printer created the mold, he sent us e-mails of the various stages and we went backward and forward until we got it just right.”
Tagg, who explains that the cover’s plastic three-dimensional element was produced in China, remarks that the project presented a production challenge she was happy to tackle. The production department, she says, worked closely with Padley “to make sure that the cover realized her vision, but we also had to make sure that the cover added value to the book and had a ‘wow’ factor. It’s a tough market and it’s important to make something stand out on the shelf, but we also had to make it cost-effective.” She notes that, even with the innovative cover design, the U.K. edition of Malice bears a £6.99 cover price, standard for a paperback YA novel of almost 400 pages.
Another consideration in designing and producing the 3-D cover was making the novel retailer-friendly. Padley notes that her design took into account the fact that booksellers in the U.K. are likely to stack books on tables. “I made sure that there were three points that were equally balanced at the highest point of the molding,” she says. “That way a book easily supports another book that is placed on top if it. It was a bit of a tricky thing to include in the design.”
Yet her efforts paid off. The cover concept received positive feedback from booksellers and readers, reports Padley. “I went on a visit to a store with one of our sales reps and the look on the buyer’s face when he saw the book was an absolute picture,” she says. “You get used to doing the same thing over and over and it’s great to do something different and new. The first thing everyone wants to do when they see this book is touch the cover.”
That includes David Levithan, v-p and editorial director for Scholastic Trade Publishing, who edited the book here. He says that when he first saw the Malice cover “it was a flat picture on a screen. So when I saw the actual cover, I was blown away. I think it’s safe to say that I couldn’t keep my hands off it. Nobody in my office could. We’d never seen anything like it before, and knew we had to find a way to do it here, on a hardback.”
Scholastic’s production team used the U.K. cover as a model, yet created its own mold for the cover of the U.S. edition. Though obviously this was pricier to produce and somewhat riskier to market than the average YA cover, Levithan says, “We managed to make the expense work—thank goodness—in part because of the great commitments from our trade accounts and school market channels. We made ultra-certain that the book would stack well and that it would shelve well. We produced dummies to prove this to accounts, and they were satisfied.”
The publisher, which launched Malice with a 50,000-copy first printing, clearly has confidence in the cover’s shelf appeal. “It’s eye-catching, it’s different and, as important as those two, it works well with the art,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. We often say that books reach off the shelves. Well, this one truly does.”
Malice by Chris Wooding, illus. by Dan Chernett. Scholastic Press, $16.99 Oct. ISBN 978-0-545-16043-8