Designing the look of the book

Pig Tails: The First-Ever Guinea Pig Novel is Book 1 of a fiction series for adults – The Guinea Pig Trilogy. The story is warm, quirky and humorous.

(If you haven't read it yet, Hazel says, get on with the job!) 

My challenge as the book designer was to come up with something appealing and in line with my professional approach to communication, which is simplicity, clarity, precision

(Hazel, shh! I have my professional book designer's hat on!)

The book design needed to reflect the subject matter, genre and tone of Pig Tails, and be usable for Books 2 and 3.

(Yes, Hazel, and 4, if you so desire!)

I also wanted the book design to point to the larger world of The Guinea Pig Empire, of which the Trilogy is a part.

(Yes, Hazel, and of which you are the boss!) 

The book design is thus a marketing vehicle which extends beyond the particular book.

(Jolly good professional phrasing, if I do say so myself.)

To do these things I chose:

• A cover photograph and photographic elements (carrot coins) that reflect the humour and style of Pig Tails, its intended function (bedtime reading in digestible morsels), that the characters are based on real-world guinea pigs, and that the narrative is firmly grounded in daily life. The carrot coins, by the way, are ‘artistically nibbled’ by real-life guinea pigs, but not by Hazel, who was in a parallel universe deeply engrossed in bran worms.

• Small digital cartoon renditions of the guinea pig characters, which point to the forthcoming picture books (Guinea Pig Empire Books For Kids), Apple emoji sticker packages and other merchandise. The first sticker pack has 20 adorable renditions of Hazel himself.

• My professional business logo on back cover and spine (the ‘M) linking to my credentials as an editor, writer and designer at It's hard to look professional with a bossy guinea pig interrupting, but I do my best!

• Pen and ink sketches inside to add interest, playfulness and point to another artwork style available on Empire merchandise.

The design will be the same for other books in the series, each with a separate colour scheme. The spines will line up on the shelf and be distinct – Book 1 orange, Book 2 turquoise, Book 3 magenta.

(Hazel, patience! I haven't got to Book 4 yet!)

The genesis of Pig Tails

NaNoWriMo 2010 for GPE blog.png

National Novel Writing Month is a global online challenge. The target: a 50,000 word draft novel in 30 days. The guinea pig mother blurted out the first draft of Pig Tails during NaNoWriMo 2010, in Hobart, Tasmania, thanks to the encouragement of C., a former school friend residing in São Paulo, Brazil.

Excerpts from a conversation between the GPM and the Culprit:

27 October 2010

GPM: Hey C. – are you doing it? Have you done it before? I have just been looking at the site and it looks a scream! I think I should do it!!! That is less than 2000 words a day… :)

C: I’ll be doing it, or at least trying. Nano last year required me to cease all ‘normal’ function… you know… like eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom… minor stuff like that ;) . I’m out for a large portion of the day and writing with pen and paper is sooo slow. But yes, I try. One day, I may actually finish something too LOL.

And yes, I think you should do it :) .

28 October 2010

GPM: I have signed up!

This should at least make my friends happy who have nagged me for years – they want guinea pig stuff, and they want perils-of-internet-dating stuff – not sure if I could mix the two, hehehe!


22 November 2010

GPM: Hi C. … I could thank you for putting me onto NaNoWriMo, but it has turned me into a crazy guinea pig writer. I now know why all other (normal) functions stop. The first week I thought I would die. Now I have only 5,000 words left and the pigs haven’t nearly finished with me. I am exhausted. However I am losing some weight because I keep forgetting to eat the food put outside my door. ;) 

C: I’ve been wrestling with seeds and life and a few alien invasions. Ok, I wish I could blame aliens. My excuses are far more ordinary :) … I’m dying to read the guinea pig sagas! … Now, please go and eat. I will not be held responsible for your starvation ;) .

Pig Tails launched with airborne celery

His Highness Hazel surveys Fullers Bookshop

Fullers Bookshop Hobart
10 November 2017

The Pig God does nothing by halves. To his quaking servant's horror he ordered her to approach one of Tasmania's MOST prestigious human authors to launch Pig Tails. Merridy did as she was told, and to her amazement (but not Hazel's), Danielle Wood said, 'Yes.' 

His Royal Highness organised his Royal Portrait to be up-front, centre-stage, to keep an eye on the proceedings.

Hazel approved the guinea pig grandfather's introductory speech, and the guinea-pig-friendly fodder (fruit, veg, chocolate raisins) supplied to keep fans well-fed and alert.

Since the famed Danielle spoke eloquently about the sentience of furry creatures, Hazel offered her a cushion featuring Chickpea, an inferior but useful guinea pig, the 'face' of Pig Tails.

The guinea pig mother spoke alongside guest squeakers, Jupiter the Ginger Ninja and Zeus Nutkin Speedy Motors Pugh.

There was a ceremonial tossing-of-the-celery, whereupon the waiting crowd burst into spontaneous 'wheeks' of excitement as they tried to catch it. The catcher won a free copy of Pig Tails.

It ended with The Guinea Pig Song by Joe Pasquale, who knows his pigs. Performed to perfection by Mark Goninon and Angela Panarettos.

Merridy signed the books and stamped them with Hazel's proxy-paw-print (since he couldn't be bothered to be there in person, Zeus had donated a print). Then she lay down on the floor upstairs in the storeroom while kindly fans cleared up, and contemplated the various demands for Book 2. The Muse (HHH) is insatiable and will not be stopped!

Grateful thanks to all fans and friendly assistants for their support.

Boars Behaving Badly will be launched in 2018, when the human author has recovered.