All about the design process for the Don’t Overthink It book cover

I love to know how things are made, whether we’re talking about sidewalks or lesson plans or pencils, so I’m sure it will come as no surprise to hear that I’m fascinated by behind-the-scenes looks at anything to do with publishing.

I know it’s not just me: this is a community that loves to know how books are made, and so today I’m delighted to share a little bit about how the book cover for my next book Don’t Overthink It came together.

I’ve heard from other authors and publishers that every cover—and its design process—is different. Some designs come quickly and easily; for others it’s a long, slow road. My cover for Reading People went through dozens of iterations before we arrived at the final version. I’d Rather Be Reading was relatively simple, because we knew from the beginning that the cover would be an illustration of my home library.

As a starting point for Don’t Overthink It, I asked for something that felt calm and cheerful, and that wouldn’t look jarring next to my other covers, as they’re often sold together in bookstores and online. These conversations began months before my manuscript deadline.

I saw the first designs for Don’t Overthink It last April. My brilliant designer Patti Brinks, who designed my two previous covers, presented me with three initial ideas drawn straight from the text. Here they are.

1. Sunshine

Patti told me this design was drawn from a story I tell in the first chapter of the book, one she said she related to. It’s fun, colorful, and happy, and she liked that the design team got the concept without having read the story. I loved her idea to do the raindrops and text in a soft silver metallic ink.  

2. Paint swatches

I tell a story—okay, two stories—involving paint in the book, and Patti drew on that idea for this design. She said everyone on the team could point to a time when they were trying to figure out what color to choose and just couldn’t stop obsessing about it. She liked how simple and calming this design felt, along with its use of negative space, plus the hand-done type made it feel more personal.

I liked this—and I especially liked the title font—but it didn’t “pop” the way I’d hoped.

3. Grocery cart flowers

This is the final book cover and not the first version Patti showed me, because the two are so similar I fear sharing the draft will only create confusion. For this design, Patti drew from a story I tell in chapter 13. (Listen to me read that chapter here.) She said, “I showed this design to the group and every women in the room “got” this concept immediately. Every one of us has put those flowers in our cart walked around the store, put them back, walked around the store some more, asked ourselves if we really need those flowers, purchased them and then felt guilty. This is a fun and pretty way of telling us to stop overthinking it.”

With this cover, it was love at first sight—but then we did lots of due diligence. I showed it to my team, plus a slew of friends and fellow writers. My publisher and I discussed the idea of a pink cover at length, and then we endlessly debated the exact wording of the subtitle. In the end, it felt right for the book.

I love it, and I can’t wait for you to hold Don’t Overthink It in your hands come March 3!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the design process and judging books by their covers in comments.

***** ***** *****

If you’re considering buying the book, it helps me so much if you preorder. No matter where you preorder—from your favorite online or offline retailer, from the Page 1 Books Spring Book Club bundle, or a signed copy from my local indie Carmichael’s Bookstore—your early purchase helps spread the word to media, industry reviewers, and your fellow readers, and directly impacts how many copies will be printed.

As an added enticement, I worked with my publisher to create these fantastic preorder bonuses for you. I think you’ll get a lot of value out of these bonuses. To claim your bonuses, take your receipt and visit

If you’ve purchased a ticket to one of my book tour events that includes a copy of Don’t Overthink It—yes, please claim your bonuses. I can’t wait to meet you in person.

If you’ve already preordered, thank you so much! It means the world to me.

I learned so much in the process of writing this book, and I’m eager for you to read it. It won’t be long now!

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  1. Becky says:

    I’m curious about the decision to break the line of the subtitle between “Bring” and “More.” As a layout designer, I would have made each line be a complete phrase, beginning with a verb. Even the line lengths would have been more balanced with the break after “and.” Since every detail is agonized over, I’m curious about the intention behind that choice.

    • Wendy says:

      Oh my gosh, yes. It’s a beautiful cover but I noticed this immediately. I’m a graphic designer as well and have been designing magazines and books for years. Maybe it’s just us who notice these things?

      • Claudia says:

        As a reader and greatly disorganized person, the whole sentence spoke to me more in a complete thought than as three separate “steps”.

  2. Louise says:

    Definitely the right choice. The first two designs look dull and uninspiring; the third one is joyful. I love the flowers in the cart, both for the concept and for the actual picture.

  3. Valerie H Rolandelli says:

    Although the third one is certainly bright and cheerful, I don’t understand the safety/diaper pin on the cart handle (at least that is what I see it as; maybe it is the actual cart handle.) I too wondered about the decision to have the word ‘bring’ on the second line, rather than the third, in the subtitle. For me, although it is not bright (at least in the draft shown), I like the second one about the paint colors the best. I agonize over such decisions frequently, whether it be fabric for a quilt block or borders or paint for a room or piece of furniture, so I could relate to this one the most. I would have liked to have seen more drafts using brighter colors and different fonts for that design.

  4. Debbie in Alabama says:

    I love the cover, and I probably said so when I got my arc copy. Now on further reflection, I do wonder about “Are men negative about reading something with a pink cover? Is it perceived as too feminine, and did Mr. Bogel voice an opinion as we consider him an honorary member of our club..,HA!

  5. Nancy says:

    As another reader commented, the cover with paint choices resonated more with me, but I think it needs to have different colors, probably brighter ones, for more appeal. The choice of paint colors makes a clearer statement about the purpose of your book. The cover with flowers is more appealing colorwise, but a cart of flowers does not have much meaning for me and is not as clear about your book’s purpose. I think the appeal of that choice is really the colorfulness.
    As a side note, please share what brand/type of colored pens are shown in your initial picture. I am a pen collector.🙂

  6. SusanK says:

    I agree in part with Valerie, I have not had a CLUE all this time as to what that book cover with the flowers meant (and those flowers are not especially pretty to my eyes) with that safety/diaper pin on the cart, but I could immediately see what the paint swatches were all about. True, why not have them be brighter? Three different shades of green, or blue, for instance? For me, without reading the book first, this would be more instantly understandable. And I found the second cover soothing.

    • Denise P says:

      It’s funny how we all react differently to the covers. I didn’t like the paint one. I would have thought this was a decorating/design book and moved on!

  7. Melanie says:

    This was a fun peek into book creation. I’m in the camp that liked the paint cover, and would agree perhaps different colors would have helped with that pop. I’m not a fan of pink, so that doesn’t attract me and nor until I heard your story about the flowers would I have “gotten” the connection, even though I’ve had similar mental battles myself over indulging or not in a store aisle…can you agree too at Target’s dollar spot! Any rate, I’m awaiting my preorder and will feel a bit smug when I now know the back story 😉.

  8. Denise P says:

    Enjoyed this brief glimpse into the cover design process. The end result is bright and cheerful. I find it interesting that the designer made the prototypes based on anecdotes from the book, when someone buying the book hasn’t read it yet. I would have thought a more general design, like the first one, would be better than something so specific. I for one would have thought that the paint swatches indicated a decorating/design book and wouldn’t have given it a second look. I guess there is a fine balance between making the cover relevant to the contents and snagging the readers attention.

  9. Lisa says:

    Oh my word, how fun to hear about this process, and your thoughts along the way. Now I cannot even WAIT to get my hands on this book! Regarding your book tour events…three words, Anne: Seattle, Seattle, Seattle!!!

  10. Kelsey says:

    Hi Anne,
    Silly question. But as a pen nerd, I really would love to know what pens are in the picture you used at the top of this post? 🙂

  11. Jae says:

    What strikes me most is the simplicity of all three covers. I’d be pleased with any of them. I’ve just received a preliminary design for the cover of my debut book and it seems overdone, though a good representation of the story. I don’t know how to approach the publisher with changes, because I don’t know what I don’t know about the process.

  12. SusanK says:

    OK, I may have to reverse my comment above! After listening to Anne read a chapter from her book (which talks about the flowers/shopping cart thing), although I “get” the paint swatch cover better because it’s clearly about decision making, on the other hand, deciding on paint color is serious business! You actually are REQUIRED to overthink it! Who hasn’t agonized over paint strips, chosen one finally and had it turn out wrong? I once painted a room three times before I got the right red. So, for the purposes of the book, deciding to buy flowers or not (which are optional, and many different bouquets would make one happy) is a better illustration of what she’s getting at. If only the cover could show “in the cart—out of the cart—back in the cart” craziness….AND I wish I could get flowers for less than $5!!

  13. Alix says:

    What a gorgeous cover! It was so interesting to see the other designs and how different they are. I love them all, but the last one definitely pops! I’d pick it straight up if I saw it in a bookshop.

  14. Suzanne says:

    It’s so interesting to hear about the process and also everyone’s different reactions to the covers. I like the final cover (daisies are the friendliest flower, after all!), but the more I look at it, the pink is beginning to seem a little too precious. It’s more appropriate for a parenting book, or something inspirational for teenage girls. I actually liked the blue and silver cover, although the sun could’ve used some work.

  15. pattie halbach says:

    I tend to notice things that others don’t as well, as someone with graphic design training (and being a perfectionist!) But my eye likes to see the layout of the words as they are because I feel more strongly that it offers a balanced base for the cart! 🙂

  16. Allyson Wieland says:

    Was surprised to find this in my Enneagram thought for the day feed. Looking forward to Anne’s book so I can follow the advice.

    Type Six EnneaThought® for February 21st
    Today, see if you can do the opposite of your ordinary personality pattern. Don’t over think so much! Find your own answers for yourself and see what happens.

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