A version of this post originally appeared on the Soaring 20’s blog

Before becoming an author, I never understood the big deal about cover reveals. Why all the hoopla about the front of a book that isn’t even out yet?

Now I get it. The business of bringing a book into the world happens mostly behind the scenes. There’s the writing, the querying, the rejections, the offer, the contract, and the edits. When the publisher picks an illustrator, there are the preliminary sketches, more detailed drawings, and then the final art. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a glorious process, and I savor every single phase. But it’s entirely hidden from view.

Until the cover reveal.

With just a few months to go until THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE hits bookstore shelves, I now get to share its face with the world. I get to introduce it to you, the reader, who will hopefully connect with its message of standing up for what you believe in even when it’s unpopular, and giving voice to what matters to you.

So here it is, friends, the cover of my very first picture book, a girl-power story featuring themes of resistance and defiance:




Oops, older book, same themes.

Here you go:

Okay granted, I might be biased, as this is my first-born book (that isn’t held together with staples) and I gestated it longer than my actual child. But I am completely in love with this cover!

Vivien Mildenberger’s old-world style illustrations are a perfect match for the historical nature of this book, which tells the little-known story of a mother from Tennessee, whose last-minute letter to her son helped give all women the right to vote.

The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and releases in 2020, which marks the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage.

As I wrote the manuscript, I held in my mind a rough idea of how the illustrations might look. But Vivien exceeded every expectation with her ability to not only bring each scene to life, but also to capture the frustration, determination, concern, and celebration of the players in this important chapter in history.

I used to work in television news, where I’d do my reporting and my interviews, write the script, and voice the story. I’d then hand the tape back over to the videographer, who would emerge some time later from the edit booth, having seamlessly woven all of the elements together into a package that was far more engaging and compelling than my words alone ever could have been. This is exactly how I felt seeing the cover – and all of the illustrations, really – for the first time.

As an author, I really didn’t know much about the illustrator’s process. But I was curious, and thought readers might be too. Vivien graciously agreed to answer a few questions:

Vivien, I couldn’t believe it when my editor, Sarah Rockett, told me you live in Tennessee, the state where this historic vote took place! Did that give you more of a sense of personal investment in the story?

Vivien: Definitely! I’ve been living in Tennessee for nearly four years now and I love it out here. It made me feel proud to live in the state where this important moment happened! I was able to visit the capitol building, and I live on a farm not far from where the main characters had theirs. I have such an appreciation for the nature around me here, and I was glad to be able to incorporate that into this book.

How did you come up with the concept for the cover? Did you begin thinking about it right away? Or did the concept formulate as you began sketching out the story?

Vivien: It was actually the very last thing I worked on! It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to develop the cover after the book is finished. Seeing the book as a whole makes it easier to tie together the important elements from the story for a compelling title piece.

I know you share my passion for women’s rights. How did that passion inform not only the cover, but your illustrations throughout the book?

Vivien: It was really important to me to visually tell this story in an engaging and respectful way. I did a whole lot of samples and experiments at first to come up with an approach to these drawings that would celebrate the time period and all the women that fought so hard to make this vote a reality. The story is so important for all of us! I really pushed myself in the sketching phase to ensure that the quieter moments of internal decision and political workings were as engaging as possible to children. I wanted the artwork to help convey the incredible and exciting power that there is in casting a vote.

How much involvement did the design team have in the cover? And how many drafts did you go through before getting to this final one?

Vivien: I really enjoyed working with my designer at Sleeping Bear, Jennifer Bacheller, and she gave me a lot of space to explore the directions I wanted to take for this book. The cover sketch was pretty much one and done, with only minor changes from the sketch to the final! I think by the time we started working on the cover for this project, the art already had a very clear direction and the title piece felt like a natural continuation of that.

Below, from bottom to top, you can see the cover’s evolution. Our initial title was A VOTE IS A VOICE, which is the first line of the book:

Anything else you’d like readers to know about the cover, about the rest of the book, or about you?

Vivien: I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to illustrate this important project and I’m so excited to share the book with everyone!

Vivien, I’m so excited too! Thank you so much for taking the time to share a peek into your process.

And thank you, friends, for taking this journey with us! I can’t wait to share the book with you when it releases in March. Until then, please stay in touch!

Connect with author Elisa Boxer:

Twitter: @eboxer
Instagram: @boxerelisa
Facebook: Elisa Boxer, journalist & author
Linkedin: Elisa Boxer

Connect with illustrator Vivien Mildenberger:

Twitter: @vvmildenberger
instagram: @vvberger