Here with us today is Nim Ben-Reuven, the amazing letterer and designer behind the cover of Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto, published by Belzer + Bray (HarperCollins). We also have an introduction by Jenna Stempel, the designer!
Jenna Stempel: I knew this cover would be challenging from the start—the author packed so much imagery into a steampunk Western world full of magic, cannibals, and vampires. It felt especially important to hint at the boisterous adventure and occasional violence that had me entertained and telling everyone at the office about this book. I was a fan of Nim Ben-Reuven’s cheeky work on Instagram and thought his gorgeous and elegant hand-lettering was a perfect match to balance out the flames and blood splatter I had in mind.
How did you become a designer and illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?
Nim Ben-Reuven: One day I saw a book jacket that Chip Kidd made for Augusten Burroughs’ book, Dry, and immediately I wanted to learn how to create that type of stuff. Soon after, I applied to grad school and moved to New York, thinking I could somehow get in without any design background and somehow it worked. I’m still a bit shocked.
How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?
The creative team at Harper Collins had a pretty good idea of what they wanted from me (hand made, super elegant letters), so the process was quite smooth. They had a specific examples of other work I had done to shape how I created the title lettering for the cover so I was never left high and dry to try to read anyone’s mind (which happens often with clients). The photographic imagery below the lettering was put together exclusively by Jenna Stempel and her team.
How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Michelle Modesto, any ideas or suggestions?
As far as I could tell, the author was not involved in the design process. In my experience working with large publishing houses, the author is only brought in toward the end of the process to sign off on final imagery. I’ve had experiences working almost exclusively with authors in the design of their book jackets but only when the authors themselves have enough sway to personally bring me on the project. Or if I’ve been kidnapped by the author and trapped in their basement until I do exactly what they tell me to do in terms of design sketches.
Do you have pictures of earlier designs?
From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer (and in some small ways the writer) have free rein?
I’d say the publisher (specifically the marketing team) has the final say in how most jackets are designed. This can be frustrating at times when the final goal becomes a marketing ploy rather than an engaging and unique piece of design art. Oftentimes, for better or worse, a publisher will try to shape the design of a cover in order to sell the book quickly rather than actually look interesting. The only time I’ve experienced any free rein is when an author is self-publishing or paying me out of their own pocket to design the book.
Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?
I’d have to say that Rodrigo Corral is always killing it with his jackets. But pretty much any book store I walk into, I’m floored by the art and typography out there these days…
Michelle Modesto said: I loved this cover immediately. It was beautiful and unique, and fit the tone of the novel perfectly.
Thank you Nim for this amazing interview, and Michelle for your words! Let’s hope that part about an author kidnapping you is not based on real experiences ;)
I leave you with more of Nim’s great work, and see you next time!