Designing the Book Cover: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

When we acquire a book the first thing to do is to read the story (or sometimes an outline of a story or snippet of the finished thing). The second is to think about what the finished book will look like and finding an appropriate illustrator or designer who can do the story and characters justice. With The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place we knew we wanted an illustrator to draw the girls for the front cover and we chose the delightful Nicola Kinnear (you can see some more of her work here and she’s on Twitter here). Nicola was even lovely enough to write us a blogpost about how she drew the Scandalous Sisterhood girls:

Bringing the girls to life

My first step in bringing the girls to life was to read the story. I was interested in both the descriptions of how they looked and their personalities, and wanted to convey both in the illustrations.


I find research crucial to the way I work and so I looked in detail at Victorian 1890s fashion and hairstyles to try and be as authentic as possible. I draw constantly throughout this research stage, getting a feel for how it will work with the characters.

4(2) 514

My technique for finding the characters is quite thorough. I draw and keep re-drawing, trying different expressions, features and poses until something works, and then I draw some more!

 It was important to get all the girls looking individual from each other, which was quite a challenge, as there are seven of them! Once the characters started to take shape I looked at the composition that was suggested, doing quick thumbnail sketches.girls 8

For the final cover illustration, I decided to keep a fluid sketched line, which I could then colour using Photoshop. Colouring digitally has its advantages, as it can easily be changed and manipulated. This allowed me to play around with different colours a great deal, trying to get a vibrant and fun colour palette that reflected the playfulness of the book. I always like to keep an essence of traditional media in my illustration, even if I do take it into Photoshop. I try to use Photoshop brushes that mimic gouache or other such paint to capture that traditional look


The final cover!

The girls’ portraits are shown inside the book, decorated with floral frames. I wanted to show more of each girl’s personality through the flowers used in her frame. Smaller delicate flowers for some girls, rustic practical herbs for others, and spikey looking plants for Elinor, the girl interested in more morbid and gothic themes. This was so much fun for me as I have a real interest in looking into different plants and flowers.

all cameos3

It’s been such a joy to work on the cover illustration for Julie Berry’s novel, with its historical setting and seven wonderful main characters.

Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. If you’d like to buy the book you can do so NOW! It’s on sale wherever scandalous books are sold.

Waterstones –…
Amazon –…
Foyles –…
Hive –…

A truly Fincredible cover

Fin Spencer, a twelve-year-old stuntboy-rockstar in training, is coming to a bookshop near you soon in THE FINCREDIBLE DIARY OF FIN SPENCER: STUNTBOY by Ciaran Murtagh. For his first fincredible adventure we knew we needed a truly fincredible cover!

At the very start of the book (no spoilers!) Fin is given a magic diary that changes everything (literally), so that was the starting point for the rough: a big diary bursting with all things magic.


We then sent this visual rough on to the genius that is Tim Wesson who worked his illustration magic and brought Fin to life in all his stuntboy glory:

We loved Tim’s black and white rough and discussed with him what colours would be the most fincredible. We also thought we could change the frog from the first rough for Nan’s cat and TA-DA!:FINCREDIBLE-rough-04Do you like the final cover and the colours we picked? Tell us in a comment or on Twitter @PiccadillyPress. We give it a fin-10! 

World Book Day Costume Ideas

World Book Day is right around the corner (March 5th, in case you don’t have it marked in your calendar yet), which means it’s time to start thinking about some book-inspired outfits!  Here are some of the (easy) ideas we’ve come up with:

9780142410318bRoald Dahl characters are always a good choice. For Veruca Salt all you need is an adorable pink or red dress, preferably with a white collar, white tights, a brightly coloured lollypop and of course a golden ticket. (Without the last two items and with the addition of a wig, you’ve also got yourself an Annie costume!)

Charlie Bucket‘s costume is even easier. An old patterned jumper, a chocolate bar and a golden ticket will do the trick.

If you want to dress your child up as Matilda, you’ll only need a red ribbon for the lovely bow and some books (perhaps bound together, so they’re not easy to lose).

JOnny_Duddle_Harry_Potter_Philiophers_StoneHarry Potter (or any Hogwarts student) is a classic that always works. You might already have the right school uniform and tie, but add a lightening bolt shaped scar, round glasses and a broom or a wand, and you’re done.

For an Alice in Wonderland costume you simply need a blue dress, white apron and a blue or black ribbon for the bow. A white rabbit cuddly toy or some playing cards are the perfect addition to this costume!

1-pippiA Pippi Longstocking costume is a great excuse to find the craziest socks in the house. To get the signature braids, all you need is some bendable wire. (You can get the full instructions here.)

And finally our editor Debbie shared a funny World Book Day story:

A couple of years ago I sent my daughter as Angelina Ballerina two days in a row for World Book Day, as the school decided to host their fancy dress day on the Friday, not the Thursday of WBD itself. Because I am a Parent Who Works In Publishing, I thought I knew what I was doing. Salient lesson in reading carefully – the devil’s in the detail!

Luckily at 4 and a half, being dressed as a mouse at school, complete with tail made out of tights, when no one else is in costume is not a big deal, apparently. Social embarrassment only sets in when you get a bit older, I guess…

Looking for more ideas? We gathered some of our favourites on Pintrest.

And if you want to get crafty, have a look at the DIY costume suggestions on the Guardian website.

We hope you’ll all have a happy World Book Day! (And if you have any picture of your costumes, we’d love to see them. You can show us on Twitter @PiccadillyPress.)

Let’s Talk Love! Our Valentine’s Day Picks

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t resist going through the Piccadilly backlist to give you a lovely selection of teen stories with a romantic theme. Enjoy!


First up, we have NEPTUNE’S TEARS, a futuristic love story that follows Zee McAdams, a healing empath at a busy hospital where she meets (and falls in love with) David Sutton. Her attraction is complicated by the fact that he is an alien, a group whose presence – and purpose – on Earth is deeply mistrusted. But the more time she spends with him, the more she’s drawn to him. Will she have the courage to follow her heart, no matter where it takes her?


If you’re looking for a heart- wrenching and beautifully told tale, TESSA IN LOVE by Kate Le Vann will be right up your street. Tessa, a quiet sixteen year old girl, finds a soulmate in scruffy green activist Wolfie. But just when their love is at its strongest, tragedy strikes. Keep a box of tissues handy for this ‘un!

Another one that will definitely pull at the heartstrings is the aptly titled SHADES OF LOVE featuring three irresistible love stories in one. Warm, witty and insightful, what more could you ask for?

For a lighter read, may we recommend MATES, DATES AND FLIRTING by Cathy Hopkins. The girls from the popular MATES, DATES series: Izzie, Nesta, TJ and Lucy, have rallied together to give you the real ‘low-down’ on how to get that boy. Perfect for bagging the boy of your dreams or just to have fun being fabulously flirty!

Hollywood comes to town in the hilarious STYLE SISTERS: CALIFORNIA CRUSH by Liz Elwes, featuring Carrie, left behind in dreary England whilst her friends holiday in exotic locations. But when she discovers Hollywood teen star Gregg Madison is in town, things really start to look up!

Did any of these pique your interests? Let us know what your favourite swoon-worthy teen book is!

Our New Logo

We’ve been getting such positive feedback on our new logo these past few weeks that we really couldn’t wait to tell you more! It all started a good 6 months ago when we all got together to discuss what we were looking for. We wanted something that was fun, warm and lively.

As a starting point, we created a mood board, which is a very helpful tool as it puts all those words into visuals. The result evokes a feel (or a ‘mood’) for the logo:


Then we started sketching and putting ideas together, one of the initial concepts was ‘Building stories’ creating letters as you would with building blocks:


It was fun but it was really not warm enough, we needed something that would truly represent Piccadilly’s unique personality and so we went back to the sketching board (quite literally!) and drafted what would become the new logo.


The hand lettering feels warm and playful but is easy to read and balanced. What do you think?


A Cover’s Journey – after design, comes production

Once a cover is designed – gorgeously, I might add, by our brilliant design team – there are several stages it has to go through before it is ready to go off to print.

The back cover gets as much scrutiny as the front cover – every word is pored over, the ISBN checked and double-checked, every tiny piece must be perfect before it’s printed.

The whole cover is designed and printed as one big sheet, that then gets wrapped around the insides, which are printed separately.

SUNK cover spread

This is a working print out of the full back cover of SUNK, an adventure in the SHRUNK series by Fleur Hitchcock, where beach furniture is out for revenge in the sleepy town of Bywater-by-Sea. (Coming in June.)

We’re redesigning the whole series so each of the covers for the four books is being circulated around to each department for corrections and approvals, before it’s sent off to print.

You can see some design comments on the above SUNK, written right on the sheet, as well as below for SHRUNK: MAYHEM AND METEORITES.


Can you see the different greens that are being pointed out? That two tone differential shouldn’t be there. We can’t print the cover like that!


Above is an example of text corrections, precisely noted by the editorial team. The top note is as tiny as making sure that the comma looks enough like a comma, and can’t be confused with a full stop.

On the above, you can see the marking for inserting text; it’s the pointing-looking h thing.

IMG_9254This is what the circulation form looks like. You can see the cover specifications in the top box and then people leave comments and sign off below.

IMG_9253When a cover has glossy bits on it, the shiny reflective stuff, that’s called “Spot UV” – in order to instruct the printer exactly where it goes, we produce a guide, a mask, that everywhere there is black, the Spot UV goes.

(If this kind of stuff gets you as excited as we get, you can take a look at our cover finishes blog, on our sister site Hot Key Books.)



Piccadilly Picks of the Week – the Doodle edition

A pen that writes in the air? A 3D pen?

This is not the future – this is now! (We’ve got one on order and will definitely post pictures when we play with it in the office!) Read more about it on this tumblr post.

3D pen 3Doodler

It’s so exciting to think of what kind of storytelling can be done with amazing tools like this!

Speaking of doodles – do you know Sago Sago’s app for kids, Doodlecast? It’s brilliant (as are all Sago apps). Kids are inspired to draw from prompts or freedrawing, and the app records each stroke of their finger to show them an animation – complete with sound – when they are finished.

See Piccadilly editor Matilda Johnson’s artistry, as she discovers the app (and giggles):

To keep with with our doodling theme, here is a sneak peek at the cover development and inside spreads of THE FINNCREDIBLE DIARY by Ciaran Murtagh and illustrated by Tim Wesson!

Finncredible Diary of Fin Spencer spread 1

Finncredible Diary of Fin Spencer spread 1 Finncredible Diary of Fin Spencer cover rough Finncredible Diary of Fin Spencer cover final

We’d love to see YOUR doodles. What have you been doodling?

Nobody’s Perfect, or In Praise of the Proofreader

For today’s blog post, I’m here to sing the praises of the freelancer, and of copy-editors and proofreaders in particular.

Here at Piccadilly Press, in our London offices, we are a small, select and happy band, but we couldn’t do everything we do without leaning on our experienced team of freelance editorial staff. When our authors deliver the first draft of their manuscript, and the book is born, it needs to go through lots of different editorial stages before it’s finally all grown up and ready to be sent into the world. Because each editor here can work on multiple drafts of each story, shaping and honing them with the author, it’s easy to become immune to the finer points of grammar and sentence structure, or whether or not the use of capital letters or particular spellings are consistent. That’s where the fresh pair of eyes of a freelancer can be crucial in saving our blushes.

“In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.”

John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

At the back of a lot of books you might find an acknowledgements page, name-checking those who’ve helped the writer in one way or another. It’s quite rare to see the names of copy-editors and proofreaders mentioned, though, and there’s a really good reason for that. It’s because the best copy-editors and proofreaders are invisible. They work through the pages like ninjas under cover of darkness, leaving no trace of their presence. It’s like a very cool superpower. As a copy-editor or proofreader, your aim is to be all about the story not the glory.

Here are a couple of jokes to illustrate the difference between what each different sort of editor is looking out for:


Q: How many editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one, but first they have to rewire the entire building.

Q: How many line editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: You’ve already screwed in too many light bulbs. Repetition!

Q: How many copy-editors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: The last time this question was asked, it involved line editors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.

Q: How many proofreaders does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Proofreaders aren’t supposed to change light bulbs. They should just query them.

[with thanks to]


The first editor on a book here in the office works with the author on plot and structure, gives notes on characterisation and pace, and looks at the narrative as a whole. Is it an entertaining story that zips along with characters to care about? Is the ending satisfying – will readers look forward to the next one in the series? Is it age-appropriate for the children we’re aiming to reach, does it hit the mark?

Next, a line editor will go through the book line by line (as you may have guessed!), looking at the quality and structure of the writing at a detailed level. Is this paragraph as polished as it could be? Are the descriptions adding to the atmosphere or has this image been overused? Could this thought be expressed more elegantly?

And once the author has worked through their book again looking at those suggestions, a copy-editor will get to work. Has the Piccadilly house style been applied (three-point spaced ellipses, please, single quote marks for speech and follow the Oxford English Dictionary for spelling decisions)? Consistency is the copy-editor’s king, and as well as the nitty-gritty of grammar and punctuation, a copy-editor will also apply some rules for the typesetter to follow so the book’s laid out clearly.

When the typeset page proofs arrive, it’s time for the proofreader to check that no typos or misspellings have crept through, that there are no layout issues – for example, short lines at the top or bottom of pages (‘widows and orphans’) or pages that are not of equal depth – and in the case of illustrated books, that the pictures match the description in the text. Proofreaders are the last line of defence against inaccuracies.

After all’s that done, there are the revised page proofs to check and double-check before the book finally goes off to print. The Editorial Version of Murphy’s Law then states that when the printed copy arrives, you’re bound to find a typo on the first page you look at! Nobody’s perfect, after all.

In another post I’ll share some thoughts on what makes a great freelance copy-editor or proofreader, but in the meantime, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter your funniest typos or errors in books.

[Ed: I’ll start you off: I typed my username for the blog as ‘Deb the Ed’, but it looks like I’ll be known as ‘debt heed’ from now on! If this blog was a book, one of our proofreaders would have pointed it out to me!]


Piccadilly Past – Dr Who

DrWhoThe TardisInsideAndOut

I’ve been wanting to post about this since my first exploration through the archive shelves. This is DOCTOR WHO: THE TARDIS INSIDE OUT, published in 1986!

What a cover!

30 years ago, Brenda Gardner, the founder of Piccadilly Press, worked with the BBC and producer John Nathan-Turner to produce a guide to the (then) six Doctors and some behind the scenes glimpses.

This is a proper collectors book, out of print and very hard to find now. The illustrations are very of their time…


If I get enough comments on this blog, I’ll post a few more pictures or pages. Maybe comment on what is the best Dr Who episode?