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  • How I Designed The Book Cover for the 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep
How I Designed The Book Cover for the 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep
Written by
Fran Sorin
October 2014
Written by
Fran Sorin
October 2014

Initial attempts at a cover design for Digging Deep's 10th Anniversary Edition

Initial attempts at a cover design for Digging Deep’s 10th Anniversary Edition

When I made the decision to create a 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, I knew that I wasn’t going to use the cover of the original Digging Deep book, even though I had grown attached to it over the years. It was time to give this baby an updated, fresh look.

It was great fun discovering book designers who I thought were talented. I ended up hiring one whose work impressed me and who had actually designed a few gardening books. In my initial conversation with him, I explained in broad strokes what I wanted, but felt that because he was the designer I should give him free rein. I immediately sent out a copy of Digging Deep so that he could get a feel for what it was about. When he told me that he was a gardener himself, I thought to myself,  “This is going to be a piece of cake.” Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Within a few weeks, he sent back 6 covers (see photo above). My first reaction was a positive one: he certainly was prolific.  But  I was also a bit concerned that all of his photos were of vegetables–not a flower in sight  For the first 24 hours after receiving the mock-ups, I didn’t pressure myself  into narrowing down the playing field. But within a few days, when I saw that I was still tentative, I began asking friends for advice and also posted the covers on FB to get other folks’ opinions.

My FB friends voted the top left one and bottom right one as their favorites. But guess which one was still their favorite? My original Digging Deep cover design. I agreed with their vote. As much as some of the covers were ‘wows’, none of them represented the emotion that I wanted to convey to potential readers.

Digging Deep original cover

So the designer and I went back to the drawing board. I suggested that for the next round, he use photographs of flowers or bulbs with roots.  I sent him several examples in the hope that it might get his creative juices flowing. These are 3 of the 5 covers that he designed.

digging 1003.jpg-re-sized

Digging Deep Book Cover

digging 1000 (2).jpg-re-sized

Once again, I worked hard at having one of them sweep me off of my feet but it didn’t happen. There were a few times where I nearly chose one just for the sake of being done with what had become a frustrating and less than exciting process. Thank goodness for my colleague, Julie Isaac, who reminded me that I would be living with the new cover for another 10 years so I damn well better be in love with it.

This particular book designer, who went beyond the call of duty in trying to create a cover I liked, agreed, in a last ditch effort, to use botanical illustrations; something similar to the original Digging Deep. Here is his 3rd attempt.

1 sheet 3 (3)

My heart dropped when I saw these. None of them worked, even though he had followed my suggestions. It reminded me of when I was a young girl and my family moved a lot because of my dad’s work. In each new city upon our arrival, my mother would tell the realtor what she wanted in a house and then we’d spend days looking at several that on paper fit the bill. I’d watch in dismay as this petite, gentle woman walked away from each one without a second glance, until she found the house that she knew could be transformed into our home. Although her decision on what house to buy involved some logic, ultimately her decision was an emotional one.

So it was with my book cover. I was beginning to feel the pinch of time. I had already spent 3 months going back and forth with this particular designer with nothing to show for it.

I took a few weeks off to regroup and then made contact with 3 or 4 book designers who had won awards. Although I admired their work, after the initial contact, I felt no desire to hire any of them. I was left thinking “Is there something wrong with me that I can’t find what I’m looking for?”

Finally, a light bulb went off and I thought of contacting my talented co-contributor here at GGW, Saxon Holt. After working together for over 7 years and knowing his outstanding photographic talent and poetic soul, my instincts told me that there was a good shot that he could help me. Saxon responded to my note with words that made me feel at once comforted and understood. After some back and forth, I got onto his wonderful site, Photobotanic, and chose some photos that I thought might work.

It was then that we began a conversation in earnest: Saxon tried several configurations. When I came upon one photo, I almost jumped with glee. It was lush, filled with color, taken at Chanticleer (a garden dear to my heart) and the shovels in the photo were perfect for what Digging Deep metaphorically and literally is all about. Saxon had used some special effects which gave it a contemporary feel. I was hopeful that I had finally landed on the one.

Saxon Holt photo of Chanticleer

Saxon Holt photo of Chanticleer

But like plants in a garden or a musical phrase as part of a composition, they need to work within the context of what the artist is trying to create. And as much as I loved the photo above, it just didn’t feel right for a book that is equal parts gardening/creativity/self-help/spirituality.

To cut to the chase, I went back to my original concept of using just one flower, went onto Saxon’s site, Photobotanic, and found the flower of my dreams–Rosa ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’.

I  quickly hired someone to play with the placement and size of the rose, fonts, and text. Working on what colors to use became a creative endeavor within itself.

Of course, the process is much more involved than what I’m sharing, but I hope I’ve conveyed the ins and outs and ups and downs. The bottom line is this. It took me 7 months to develop a cover design that I knew in my heart was perfect and that I love more than the original one! The bonus? I ended up designing it!

Digging Deep Cover Design, 10

Digging Deep Cover Design, 10th Anniversary Edition


Please check out the Kindle edition. It already hit #1 Bestseller in Gardening and Horticulture Essays. The paperback version just became available on October 7th. It is also available on Kindle.

Anyone who is interested in writing a book review for Amazon or their blog automatically receives a free copy. Please let me know by leaving a comment in the comment section after the article. Thanks!

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