Cover Design 101: Rebellion (Book 3 in the Tankborn trilogy)

We’re so excited for the upcoming release of Rebellion, the final title in the Tankborn trilogy, which comes out this May! Here’s what to expect:

In the wake of a devastating bomb blast, severely injured Kayla has been brought to the headquarters of the organization that planted the bomb—and many others like it in GEN food warehouses and homes. Her biological mother tells her that Devak is dead and that Kayla must join her in the terrorist group, which is ramping up for something big. Now Kayla must pretend that she embraces this new role in an underground compound full of paranoia as she plots a way to escape and save her friends.

Meanwhile, Devak has emerged from his healing in a gen-tank, only to be told that Kayla is dead and his family has fallen from grace. Can he overcome his grief at the loss of his power to see the clues that point to Kayla being alive?

As Kayla and Devak overcome the multiple obstacles between them while trying to free GENs without further bloodshed, the Tankborn trilogy rushes to a thrilling conclusion! 

Stacy Whitman photoIn this post, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares the process of creating the cover:

As we discussed in the cover reveal post about Awakening (book 2 in the Tankborn trilogy), we showcased two different characters on the covers of book 1 and book 2. Originally, I thought perhaps we should showcase Devak, Kayla’s love interest and the major trueborn character, on book 3.

The challenge with covers that depend upon stock art, however, is finding a model that fits the description of the character. The model on the cover of book one fits Kayla (mostly—the hair is different from described, and her skin is a few shades darker). It was the best fit at the time, as finding stock photography featuring people of color that fits your exact parameters can be a great challenge. This is a problem within stock photography that is only starting to get addressed.

covers of Tankborn and Awakening

Kayla on the Tankborn cover; Raashida on the Awakening cover

The photo featured on Tankborn was a single photo—there were no other photos with that model in them that we’d have been able to acquire for a possible sequel. This is why we decided to put Raashida on the cover of Awakening—featuring a different character for every book allows us to use different stock photos. As I was looking through stock photos, considering models who looked like Devak, our designer was also looking at models who might look like Kayla. Another challenge was that in Rebellion (minor spoiler alert), Devak has some scarring that would be quite visible, and it would be necessary to depict that on his face on the cover (requiring complicated Photoshop magic).

And the bottom line was that the story was about the freedom of GENs, so it felt more right to depict a GEN–Kayla–rather than a trueborn–Devak.

We decided to go with Kayla on the cover again—after all, over a year had passed since the events of Tankborn, so Kayla’s features might have changed slightly enough that a similar-looking model might fit well.

The designer found three options for models, and then gave me two background choices for each model:

model #1

model #1

model #2

model #2

model #3

model #3

You might recognize the first model, who we’d considered for Awakening as well. We thought she might look like an older, angrier Kayla. But at the same time, she almost looks a little too angry. Kayla is pretty angry about her situation, but she’s also determined to change things, and I was looking for a depiction of her that would convey both emotions.

Model #2 is just too old to be seen as a 16-year-old girl and was immediately eliminated from the running.

Model #3, though, was just the opposite. Everyone I showed her to LOVED her look—determined, fierce, but also calm and ready to act. The look in her eye felt like a slightly older Kayla to everyone who saw her.

To be sure, I asked several teens what they thought. Everyone in that survey also thought that model #3 looked more like Kayla.

Model being decided, we moved on to background. Minor spoiler: much of this book is set in a vast, barren wasteland called the Badlands, east of an impassable mountain range aptly named The Wall. Barely anything grows in this area, so we loved the look of the moon over the mountain range, given how important the trinity moons are in this series.

mountain background stock photo

The water wouldn’t work in the barren landscape, so we cut that out, and we decided to swap out the mountain range for something even more barren-looking. Adding a moon—to represent that there is more than just one moon for this planet—and a GEN tattoo for Kayla’s cheek finished off the look, and we had the final Rebellion cover!

You can check out the final cover of Rebellion over at:

Amy’s Book Den

Rich in Color

Finding Wonderland

YA Highway

Karen Sandler’s blog

Win an ARC of Rebellion! To enter: go to the Tu Books page and like the post about this cover reveal.

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    So fun to read about the cover creation. Includes a few details I didn’t know about.

    Readers, if you’re wondering why these samples say “Revolution,” that was the original title for Rebellion.

  2. jacquelinegrant282395071
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I love that you use stock images in your cover designs, and the process you use to decide on the layout is super instructive for those of us building our own covers. Thanks for sharing.


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  1. […] At Gunga Peas Books we build our own covers using stock images and lots of creativity. We loved reading the Tu Books blog about how one of their authors designs her covers. Enjoy! […]

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