How I Was Almost the ‘Cover Girl’ Of a Star Wars Book

By Sue Rostoni

In early 2000, the incredibly talented sound designer Ben Burtt approached Lucy Wilson, then Publishing Director of Lucasfilm Licensing, to propose a book wherein he could relate his stories of developing the sounds and various intergalactic languages used in the classic Star Wars films. Del Rey Books loved the idea and we began work on Star Wars: Beeps, Bleats, and Boskas.

As editor of the book, I was excited to work directly with Ben and we brainstormed various layouts for the book, which included illustrations by Sergio Aragonés, who I fondly remembered from my childhood obsession with MAD magazine.

Phrase book cover with Sue

The book came together wonderfully. Ben was a joy to work with and submitted some very entertaining text. When it came time to design a cover for the book, the Del Rey editor let us know that since the retail price of the paperback was set at something like $6.95 (the final price was $8.00), there wasn’t a budget for a cover artist. We’d have to develop a cover ourselves.

So Ben and I, along with Lucasfilm Licensing’s art director Troy Alders and fellow editor Ben Harper, met outside the Tech Building at Skywalker Ranch and Troy started shooting stills to use against a backdrop of a Mos Eisley street scene. The idea was for we humans (Ben and I) to have traveled to Tatooine (of all places!) for our summer vacation. Lost, we consulted a map (this was before the iPhone), and viola! a cover was born.

Phrase book cover by Warren Fu

The cover was sent to Ben, who showed it to George Lucas. This cover would not get George’s “Fabuloso!” stamp. He was basically appalled. When it was explained to him that there was no cover budget, he promptly called ILM and had artist Warren Fu work up a far more appealing rendition of a summer vacation to Tatooine, using the same species as one of George’s favorite characters in Episode I, Podracer Rats Tyerell.

This original sad excuse for a cover is seen here for the very first, and last, time. Thanks George!

Until she retired in 2011, Sue Rostoni was Executive Editor for LucasBooks. She worked there for 20 years and was editor of Steve Sansweet’s Star Wars Encyclopedia, published by Del Rey in July, 1998.