Go Behind the Scenes of the Cover Design of IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET By Misa Sugiura

Learn about the cover design drawn by Grace Lee for Misa Sugiura’s IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET!

First of all, the cover is absolutely amazing. It fits the plot perfectly and is also adorable. The book, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, by Misa Sugiura is a sweet and romantic tale that will steal all our hearts.

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is about a sixteen year old girl named Sana Kiyohara who has many secrets but doesn’t know what to do about them. When her family moves to California she starts to realize it’s time for some honestly. Arriving there she starts to crush on Jamie Ramirez, a beautiful and smart girl and is unlike anyone Sana’s ever known.

The cover art was made by Grace Lee who is a freelance illustrator based in Tokyo. In a recent interview with Epic Reads, she reveals how it evolved, and author Misa Sugiura’s reaction.

How did the cover evolve from your earliest concepts/sketches to the final product? What led you the colors, themes, and details in the cover?

Grace: I was lucky in that the characters Sarah (HaperCollins designer) wanted me to draw where in the style I was already doing that the time, (‘little people’ in daily life, most times faceless). Originally, we had planned on having all the kids spread over the front and back cover. But we somehow ended up with just Sana and Jamie on the front, which works perfectly. Having the girls sitting ‘on’ the title was a lovely way to tie in text and image. 

And here are Misa’s thoughts on her book cover:

“I remember seeing the cover comp for the first time and falling in love with Sana and Jamie on the front. I was also excited to see the diverse groups of friends on the back cover. That diversity is one of things that I love about living and working in Silicon Valley, so it’s so cool and meaningful to me that it’s on the cover for everyone to see.

Another thing I’m really happy about is the fact that Grace, like me and like Sana, is the daughter of Asian immigrants. And she’s living in Japan! It’s just so cool to have a cover artist who has shared some of my experiences, and who has that extra level of connection to the story and the characters.

I feel so lucky to have been included in the design process, and I loved watching it happen. I didn’t have much in the way of suggestions along the way, but I did ask for two things. The first was that the palm tree in the first version of the back cover be replaced with either a redwood tree or something deciduous. To me, palm trees say Southern California rather than Silicon Valley, and to a Californian, that’s a very important distinction! The second request was that the picture of Sana and Jamie on the first cover tell a more specific story. Jen (my editor) and team at Harper suggested the notebook idea, and Grace delivered beautifully, as you can see.

I didn’t get to see the earliest versions with the brighter colors and the groups of kids scattered around—it’s fun now to see them, and to look at the subtler differences toward the end, like the lettering and the way that Sana and Jamie are posed. I love how closely it resembles revising a manuscript, going from the bigger, easy-to-notice aspects to refining details that aren’t as easy to see but are still important. I couldn’t be happier with the final result!”


It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is out now. Make sure to check it out, or order the book here!


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