Process of Process: What is the plural of Elvis?


The connection? Another wonderful cover assignment from Random House with art director, Stephanie Moss.

This cover is for the latest Sammy Keyes book, Showdown in Sin City.

Wendelin VanDraanen outdid herself on this, the sixteenth book in the Sammy Keyes Mystery Series.

Brief synopsis: During one crazy weekend in Las Vegas, with the help of an entire army of Elvis impersonators, Sammy finally gets some answers about her family history.

The assignment for the cover was as follows:

“She’s in Vegas and that means we’ve got Elvis impersonators on our hands!!  For this cover we’re envisioning multiple Elvi.  : )  There are Elvis impersonators all around, even a little person Elvis. We think picturing maybe two or three impersonators in front of a pink cadillac and/or the iconic Vegas sign would be awesome!”


I need to first do my research on Elvis impersonators.

elvis impersonators

 pink Cadillacs


I begin sketching . . . endless possibilities.

Elvi sketches



Now, the pink Cadillac and iconic neon sign.



convert E 2


I threw the jumble into one composition!

jumbled composition


Wow . . . sort of. Exciting? Yes — but WAAAY too much going on for the layout. Stephanie emailed:

“In regard to the latest sketch, I’m leaning towards having one Elvis chillin’ in the cadillac. The current composition still feels too busy so it may be best to simplify it even further. Waiting to hear from the editor on this new plan and then I’ll get back to you, hopefully by tomorrow.”

The editor likes the Elvis guy at the lower right. Stephanie sketched out the directions to simplify the composition.

“I spoke with the editor about the cover and as much as we love the multiple Elvis impersonators we think it’s still too busy. That being the case, let’s go in a simpler direction and only show one Elvis. I’ve attached a rough doodle of what we’re envisioning.”



send e stephs doodleNow we’re getting somewhere. Things are distilling . . . coming together.

Hey, it’s the process, right?

The editor chooses a Cadillac from the lot, and indicates the position of the neon.  It fits with the layout, but which of the Elvi works best?



blog caddie and sign


So, I take some of the preexisting drawings and manipulate them in the Mac to decide which impersonator is our winner.





Blog Elvi by car



Number 3 is the winner. I drop him into the book cover layout for final approval prior to going to color.




send steph showdown layout


I add flat color using Photoshop.



blog elvis colored



And the final book cover . . . Zoomy. Fun. Jumps off the bookstore shelf!  That’s the idea.






2 Responses to “Process of Process: What is the plural of Elvis?”

  1. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the birdseye view into in this case most fun process — go Elvi!

    All the best,

  2. Love the blog article…showing the process shows 1)that you are flexible and willing to work easily with the team to get a winning result; 2) the lengthy amount of work that goes into the project (which will hopefully garner some appreciation for what it takes); and 3) lets us see more of your stunning work! Well done!!!

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