There are as many ways to propose marriage as there are people who do it, from proclamations of love lit up on Jumbotrons to diamond rings stashed in whipped cream. For literary types, what could be more appropriate than popping the question in a book? Debut illustrator Sam Zuppardi did just that on the acknowledgments page of Gordon McAlphine’s Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Start, due out in January from Viking.

“Jade has been such a massive support all through the process of my starting to illustrate for children,” Zuppardi says of Jade Amers, his girlfriend of five years. “So putting something [for] her in this book felt really appropriate. Making it into an outright proposal was like one of those happy, light-bulb moments.”

But unlike many other such schemes, this one couldn’t be accomplished alone. Zuppardi had to enlist an army of helpers: his agent, Kelly Sonnack; his editor, Sharyn November; and author Gordon McAlpine were his key co-conspirators.

Zuppardi hatched his plan this past May. After much deliberation, the proposal was tucked into the acknowledgements in the back of the book rather than showcased in the dedication at the front. “I thought it’d be nicer if it was kind of sneaky,” November recalls. “I also made the decision not to put it in the galleys. My feeling was, if you’re going to propose to your girlfriend this way, you’ve got to do it right.... You do it in the finished book.”

By mid-November, finished copies had arrived, and Zuppardi had his proposal tool. Now all he had to do was stay calm until the right moment. That, and buy a ring. “I waited for the book to arrive first before getting it,” he says. “I also needed the maximum 30 days’ warranty time in case she didn’t like it.”

After two weeks of anticipation and speculation, the email that his team of supporters was awaiting finally arrived, on December 3. (Drumroll, please.) Zuppardi wrote that the day before, he had taken Jade to Castle Howard, a picturesque countryside estate 40 minutes outside of York, England, where they live. On a bench overlooking a lake, he gave her the book – he says he had to point out the proposal specifically – got down on one knee, and produced the ring. Happily, she said yes.

“It was just a really nice romantic surprise,” Amers tells PW. “Unexpected, special, and unique.”

Zuppardi, naturally, is over the moon – and very grateful for the assistance. “Kelly, Gordon, Sharyn, and the team at Viking – it couldn’t have happened without them,” he says. “It was a magical day, as well as being a massive relief to finally be able to share the longest secret I’ve ever kept!”

In addition to his pending nuptials, Zuppardi has another milestone on the horizon. His debut picture book, The Nowhere Box, is scheduled to be published by Candlewick in fall 2013.