Making covers: Whiplash by Tracey Farren

WhiplashTess by tracey Farren
Next up on this small series about making covers is the cover of  Whiplash by Tracey Farren, the first novel we ever published. It came out in June 2008. Read more about it here.


Whiplash was short-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2009, and the author received A White Ribbon Award from the Women Demand Dignity Advocacy Group.

In 2017, a movie adaptation of Whiplash was released. It was called Tess, because in the previous year a movie called Whiplash had won Oscar awards. We brought out a movie tie-in edition, which we also called Tess.


Here are some of the cover ideas that we considered before we got to the evocative cover that Hannah Morris made in the end. Tracey had initially asked Hannah to think about the beach at Muizenberg and to consider using something that referenced the belly-dancing in the book. As you can imagine it is not possible to reference everything in the book, or even several things. In the end it has to be this one cover that speaks to the reader. Also over the years I have come to understand that covers need to be reduced to thumbnails that act as avatars for the book on social media and on the internet.







When we showed Tracey the one at the end, which was the one we had begun to settle on, she said, “It is a lovely graphic composition, but I would much prefer the cover to emphasise the ‘growth’ aspect, rather than the ‘death’ aspect of the story. I know that Tess struggles with fears about dissolving into nothing, but at each turn she fights to remain substantial – sometimes even by risking death. I would feel much happier if her fighting energy informed the iconic visual for the book. I find this shadow very desolate. It seems to lack the liveliness, the determination, even the kinetic energy of the other options. Also, to me, the picture gives no hint of the wonderful protection and excitement she allows to infuse her life much of the time. I’m not saying that the cover should be a ‘happy’ picture. I just think that it should give the reader a hint of eventual redemption, something relentlessly alive that the reader can put their trust in as they embark on a dangerous journey.”

Our thinking had been to capture something of Muizenberg that wasn’t the side that tourists see, although is still somewhat familiar. You can see how Hannah developed the last image into the final cover, she used a lipstick pink to lift the energy of the cover and a shadow that was more lively, although still vulnerable. The image with the photographed woman felt too obvious, didn’t leave space for each reader to dream into, to create their own picture of Tess. (When we brought the book out as Tess in 2017, we used one of the movie poster photographs of the actress playing Tess, Christia Visser, because now the book was linked to the movie and we wanted readers to make the connection.)

Hannah tried out different kinds of pink lipstick handwriting for the title and author’s name, before we settled on the final one. We had also thought of other colours. But the pink lipstick just worked.






Natascha Griessel-Mostert, the book designer tried out a few things before we decided that we wanted the whole of Hannah’s painting to wrap around the book. The pink back cover didn’t work for me, and the second one doesn’t give enough information about where this is, some drab urban landscape that could be anywhere. The first one is Table Mountain, but from the side, not the iconic tourist view.

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