“I imagine people will be surprised at how much work goes into this type of project. I’m surprised, and I participated in it!” —Ethen Beavers
Illustrator: ETHEN BEAVERS
The following shows the process Ethen and I went through while working on the cover for Michael Buckley’s latest series, NERDS. I wish I could have better descriptions but I don’t want to give away all my secrets.
Step one find an Illustrator.
To find the perfect illustrator I teamed up with Michael and headed down to our local comic store, Rocketship (sadly, now closed) on a cold January afternoon. We shifted through comics and graphic novels , compiling a list of ten names that we would present to our editor Susan Van Metre. In the end Ethen Beavers was the nerd for us. I tracked Ethen down by leaving a message on his art message board since all other searches came up flat. He responded which was a welcomed surprise.
I then sent him Michael’s 2nd draft manuscript and a brief summary.
NERDS book description:
A secret spy ring of nerdy elementary school misfits combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, NERDS, featuring a group of unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their school, hits the mark. With the help of cutting-edge science, their nerdy qualities are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities! They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin, and an array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.
Step two begin sketch phase:
Here the idea is the same but a little more realized. We added braces in the type. I add to a nerdy style as well as to highlight the main characters nerdy quality. This would be repeated through out the series. Only there was something still not quite working.
We where forgetting the Spy angle to the NERDS story. Here are some additional sketches working out new compositions:
The idea of and official seal came up. Finally a font was chosen.
Here we begin to work out color and how it will be used throughout a 6 book series.
At last the color and composition is worked out… Only something is still not working.
Again we needed more spy imagery. So we research James Bond and Mission Impossible imagery. Ethen worked up these great sketches reworking the characters.
Then we took it to a cover meeting to see if we were on track.
Back Cover Design
Each book features a character. Book 1 features Jackson ” Braceface” Jones, the new recruit. The fourteen pounds of metal in his mouth make him the team’s go-to gadget guy!
One last bit a of business the CASE COVER!
Did you know we designed the case covers for NERDS series with a different image than the jacket. I knew it you didn’t. Who looks at the case cover anyway.
GULP! I do.
The idea for the different case was to reveal the NERDS secret identities as normal kids. Apparently when they are not saving the world they also become fashion disasters.
Also in the NERDS series:
About The Book
Michael Buckley is at his comic best in this madcap new series sure to appeal to kids looking for a quick, exciting read.
Combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, NERDS, featuring a group of unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their school, hits the mark. With the help of cutting-edge science, their nerdy qualities are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities! They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin, and an array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.
F&P level: V
Praise for NERDS
“An action-packed, tongue-in-cheek take on the world of superheroes and villains. The pacing is quick and the action is plentiful—kids will almost hear the sound effects as they read. NERDS brings a worthy message to the fore—that uncool kids can grow up to be anything but. Funny, clever, and thoroughly entertaining, this title should be popular.” –School Library Journal
“The unique format of this book, combined with the imaginative and playful storyline, will appeal to many readers.” –Children’s Literature
About the author
Michael Buckley is the author of the New York Times bestselling series and Today Show Al Roker Book Club pick The Sisters Grimm. He has also written and developed shows for Nickelodeon, Disney, MTV Animation, the Sci- Fi Channel, the Discovery Channel, and VH1. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Alison, and son, Finn.
Chad Beckerman is Creative Director for Amulet Books, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Abrams ComicArts and Abrams Appleseed at ABRAMS. For more interviews about other children’s book illustrators visit his blog: Mishaps and Adventures Interview Series.