Binnie Klein's Blows to the Head is "a provocative tale of an unlikely contender and her midlife transformation through boxing." Her Cover Story might be called "a provocative tale of an unlikely cover and its last-minute transformation through Facebook synergy."

Here's Binnie is to share the details:


"Once my brilliant husband, Scott Shapleigh, came up with the perfect title, I knew I wanted a cover that would allude to boxing but not dominate with it. I wanted an image that reflected the change and transformation in my consciousness that participating in such an unlikely sport had created. Early on, my publisher encouraged my input for the cover, and asked for samples of covers that I liked. I went berserk searching through my own library, and looking in bookstores. Naturally, I fantasized award-winning Chip Kidd (unlikely!) to design my cover. I noticed that I tended to prefer books that had evocative rather than realistic images, strong colors, and bold graphics.

"The original design my press sent me didn’t move me, and I went into a panic. They said they had gotten the design from an award-winning cover designer. It was basically a stock photograph of hanging boxing gloves that one could find on the internet in thirty seconds. The designer inserted pink laces, and that was the, ahem, 'hook.' It wasn't that it was a bad design, but it seemed dark and not representative of the unusual nature of the book. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful; this was my first book, and the press had been completely wonderful in every way. I quickly circulated it around to get opinions, which were almost universally negative. Even the press admitted to some disappointment.

"Meanwhile Scott was having fun with playful cover ideas based on other designs that we knew we couldn’t or wouldn’t use (see left).

"Synchronicity—a blessed thing. I had put out a request on Facebook for anyone who could help with a book trailer. I’d been reading about how useful these could be in the new world of social media and grass roots marketing. An angel responded, and solved the book cover problem as well! Bill Brown, a graphic designer from Madison, CT, was a fan of my radio show. He said he wanted to try his hand at a book video. I sent him the proposed unsatisfactory cover, and within an hour he was sending me mock-ups that were livelier, funnier, and more appealing. So we set to work on a remarkable collaboration to create a book cover, and my press loved his ideas. At one point I thought I'd want an image of my head with boxing gloves up by my face, heads touching with bare-knuckle fighter Daniel Mendoza, since the book is in large part an homage to the history of Jewish boxers. We also played in photoshop with a photograph of Rodin's sculpture 'The Thinker'—adding a colorful boxing glove to his hand.

"Bill Brown wanted some blend of the old and new. I was reluctant to have a picture of myself on the cover, but when he zeroed in on a childhood photo, it seemed right. Scott found the picture of the speed-bag punching female champion on a boxing website. I contacted Alan Kahn, the website author, and inquired about the photo. He immediately sent me the 1904 book from which the photo came, just asking that I mail it back when I was done. Bill scanned the photo, and we played with colors and fonts. Elena Dixon, who has a terrific design blog, was our color consultant.
"An early version had a different color scheme, a different childhood photo, and included a blurb from Bert Sugar, but the press wanted the blurbs only on the back. Bill worked very hard to get the woman’s arm to appear as if it were coming out at my head. I loved the movement and cheekiness of the whole effect. Along the way, we kept sending versions to family and friends for input. It takes a village, as they say. When I finally saw the cover, I adored it!"


Thanks, Binnie! I love the boxer on the final cover, and this is certainly a rollercoaster ride of a Cover Story?


What do you guys think?


PS: On to the video trailer! Bill and Binnie spent many hours in his studio. She brought old family photographs, boxing books, memorabilia… and what emerged was this video, which became a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s first ever book trailer contest!




Melissa Walker is the author of four Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy and Lovestruck Summer. She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily and the new awkward-stage blog Before You Were Hot. Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is

0 Kudos
by Speedbag on ‎09-07-2010 08:23 PM

Great story Melissa, about a beautifully designed book cover, as well as an awesome book and interesting story. Thanks Binnie for the mention and for using a female speed bagger on the cover!  It looks great and the speed bagging community loves it!  We are seeing many more females begin punching the speed bag as well as taking up the great sport of boxing!

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