Behind the Cover – Vincent Chong
(The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge)

by Diana Sousa

After a “slight” break Behind the Cover is back with an interview with Vincent Chong, who designed several covers for Frances Hardinge. This interview is about The Lie Tree, published by Amulet Books.

Portfolio | Blog


How did you become a designer and illustrator? Were they areas you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

 I’ve always enjoyed creating art as long as I can remember and loved to draw as a kid.  So when I realised that it was possible to earn a living as an artist I don’t think I considered doing anything else, but it wasn’t always clear what area I’d pursue.  At one point, I was very interested in 3D animation and even wrote off to companies such as Pixar for advice! After school I did a year’s art and design foundation course which allowed you to experiment and explore different areas of art.  During this, it clarified to me that I was more interested in illustration/design rather than fine art, and it was at this point I started considering becoming an illustrator.  But from there, rather than do a specialist illustration degree at university I chose to do a broad graphic design course which allowed you to specialize in illustration later on.  This proved to be a good decision for me as it allowed me to pick up design skills and knowledge that really help me with my work now.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

I’d already done another Frances Hardinge cover for the publisher (The Cuckoo Song) which was received well, so they wanted to keep to the same design approach for this with the focus on a single object on a black background.  When the art director commissioned me, she already had a few initial ideas that she wanted me to explore, including a tree with swirls of lies around it; a piece of fruit with a bite taken out of it; a rotten fruit with lies scratched into its side.  So I played around with these ideas doing some quick rough sketches to visualize their suggestions as well as giving my own slant on these concepts.

(Click the images to make them bigger)

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Frances Hardinge, any ideas or suggestions?

I only liaised with the art director and had no contact with the author myself, so I’m not sure if they consulted her during the cover process at all or just presented it to her when it was finished.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

Here are the thumbnail sketches for the various ideas.  Of the initial sketches they really liked the approach of 1D and 2A/B.  They felt that the cover image should feature some sort of tree element so they wanted me to combine these two concepts and I went on to produce a few more quick roughs to play around with ways of how this could work.

 

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?

In my experience, typically the publisher does have the final say when it comes to the design of the book rather than the designer.  Usually, the bigger the publisher, the more people there may be involved in the process, from the design and editorial teams, to the publisher and marketing department.  There’s even been instances when the book buyers have had an influence on the final cover design.  Depending on the project the author has varying degrees of involvement; some times the author may be consulted throughout the design process and invited to suggest ideas and give feedback and other times they might not be involved at all.  Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to work with a range of big publishers and smaller presses and indie publishers; the smaller publishers have smaller budgets and might not be able to pay as much, but usually I’ll get to have more creative freedom so those projects can be very fun to work on.  With self-publishing becoming more popular in recent years I’ve also been commissioned by writers themselves and so in those instances it’ll usually just be me and the author involved in the cover design.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this book cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

In the original finished version the apple was completely red.  However it later came back that they wanted me to add a touch of green to the apple as they wanted to push it even further away from the Twilight book cover which also has a black background and red apple.

    

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

I find that I’m often more drawn to the covers of children’s books which can have some fantastic illustrations.  I love the covers for the latest UK editions of the Harry Potter books which feature artwork by Jonny Duddle who I’ve been a fan of for a while now. I’m also a big fan of John Rocco’s work – he’s done a lot of covers for fantasy adventure books such as the Percy Jackson series. A few years ago at a Con I came across Canadian publisher Chizine Publications.  Their books caught my eye straight away as they’ve got some wonderful cover designs.  If you haven’t seen them before you should check them out.

    


Thank you Vincent for this interview!

Don’t forget to check out his portfolio, and in the meanwhile, here are other projects Vincent has worked on:

    

Behind the Cover – Marci Senders
(A Thousand Nights, by E. K. Johnston, and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

And it’s time for a double interview! Marci Senders designed the covers of A Thousand Nights, by E. K. Johnston, and Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken, both published by Disney-Hyperion.

Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


How did you become a designer? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist in some form. I went to Tyler School of Art of Temple University. Even when I took painting or printmaking classes, my projects either became books or had some form of typography in it leading me to graduate to get my BFA in Graphic Design. My senior portfolio was very young and playful since I ended up hand drawing most of my projects. After graduating I accepted a Junior Design job at Alloy Entertainment, a teen-centric book packager. My first hardcover book I ever designed were the original covers for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

My original research for this project was actually more literal and to show a modern take on Arabian Nights. (Please see the mood board below) I knew I wanted to do something really cool with the type. When I showed my first round to the Editorial/Sales/Marketing/Publicity teams, the reaction was that the cover should look less romantic and focus more on the tension between the main character and the demon.

Moodboards_ya7-XL

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with E. K. Johnston, any ideas or suggestions?

Our process starts with working closely with the editorial team and as the covers get refined, we show the in-house Sales, Marketing and Publicity teams. After everyone in-house is on board and we have a really strong cover or concept, we present our covers to the authors. This processes ensures us to show the author’s a cover that the entire group thinks will best represent their book. From there, we work with the author to make sure they are as happy as we are.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

AThousandNights_lineup-2880x1864

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?

Our standard process starts with the designer reading the book. We then discuss basic themes and concepts with the editor and ask them to fill out an Art Form for every book. From there, we present mood boards to the entire Art and Editorial teams. It’s a good way to brainstorm and start positioning our list to ensure we best represent each book and that they all look unique. Then the designer starts working on the project and we take everyone ideas into consideration. We then present many innovative ideas that we feel will both best represent the book and stick out on the book shelves. As we work with the editors and other members of the group the covers get revised based on the feedback and often are lead into a new direction that we would have never thought of otherwise.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this book cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

We commissioned illustrator Peter Strain based on these two images.

PSTRAIN_LIFE_AQUA_WEB_670  QFT_WONDERFUL_LIFE_CWEB_531

E. K. Johnston said:

“I am still blown away by that cover. It’s gorgeous, and intricate, and absolutely stunning. My narrator’s village, the Star Trek joke, even the end papers! It’s just amazing.”

(If you are wondering about the Star Trek joke as I was, it’s “Sokath, His eyes uncovered” from the The New Generation episode Darmok! Thank you, Emily!)


How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

The goal for this cover was to show the time travel element in a really modern, smart (yet simple) way to make sure this did not look like a historical fiction book. Please see the other versions below. The group reacted really well to the cleaner, more contained concepts with the unexpected twist.

Passenger_lineup-2880x1864

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Alexandra Bracken, any ideas or suggestions?

It was important to Alexandra Bracken that we get in the action/adventure element of the story on the cover as well. On the original version of the cover, the NYC skyline was more romantic. The lights on the bridge were shaped like hearts that we removed and we added more storm clouds on the bottom.

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 reins?

For this cover, it was important that it had some connection to The Darkest Minds series even though its a different genre. We wanted Alexandra Bracken’s fans to easily find this book. That’s one of the reasons why we settled on having one main image on the cover.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this book cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

I had created the image using a variety of stock photographs. Once everyone was really happy with the overall look, we sent to image to CGI Illusion Studio who made the image in the bottle look more like a plastic model. I am so happy with how real it looks!

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

I gravitate to really smart, simple covers with an unexpected twist. I really love the Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard series look for its simplicity and the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo covers because the illustrations really set them apart. Here is a link to all the covers I love.

    


Thank you Marci for this amazing interview! Here are other covers Marci has worked on:

    

Behind the Cover – Nim Ben-Reuven
(Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

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!

Website | Behance | Instagram


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.

RandW_handmade

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?

REVENGEWILD_nimbr_sketch_01  REVENGEWILD_nimbr_sketch_02

revengewild_finalsketch_small  REVENGEWILD_mockup_03

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!

  

Behind the Cover – Jenna Stempel
(This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

New year means new amazing covers to talk about! Today I’ll be talking with the very talented Jenna Stempel about This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab published by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

Website | Twitter


How did you become a designer? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

As a teenager, I had a brief fantasy of becoming a badass printmaker, making enigmatic posters to paste up around town in the dead of night. (The documentary Beautiful Losers came out around when I was graduating high school and I had romanticized the idea of vandalism in the name of self-expression.) Otherwise, I was pretty set as a teenager on studying illustration.

I went to Washington University in St. Louis where illustration and design were both under the umbrella Communication Design major, and it turned out I liked design and typography just as much as image-making. After school, I discovered publishing was the perfect combination of the two. I worked at a small children’s book publisher outside Chicago for a little over a year before moving out to New York to work at HarperCollins.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

Overall, Greenwillow art director Paul Zakris wanted a mysterious atmosphere. It was a great opportunity to read the manuscript and run wild! The design process on this title was actually quite linear; it definitely helps when the narrative is engaging and there is such strong sense of tone. I submitted an array of concepts and once one was picked, there were only a few rounds of minor iterations.

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with V. E. Schwab, any ideas or suggestions?

It’s a designer’s dream to work with an author who lets us do our thing with no creative limitations.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

I do! You can tell I really wanted to make something drip, but I also liked the idea of a knife with a violin scroll handle.

SavageSong_Comp1  SavageSong_Comp2  SavageSong_Comp3

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 definitely don’t have free rein—at the very least the publisher, author, editor, marketing and sales departments, and our big accounts all want to agree that the final cover suits the market, genre, and narrative. I don’t mean to make the cover design process as complicated as putting together furniture from IKEA, but I’m definitely not at the top of the food chain.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this book cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

Working with a couple concepts involving violins brought back some repressed memories of playing in the orchestra in middle school, where I frequently competed for the second-to-last chair. I’d say my rivalry to be second-worst really prepared me for the high stakes, cut-throat industry of teen book covers, haha. In any case, I really enjoyed working with a limited color palette, as well as lettering a script that was both gritty and decorative.

Finally, what are some of the favorite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

My coworkers aren’t just willing to chuckle politely at my anecdotes and commiserate over the rattling noise from the coffee maker nearby— they also make really inspiring work. I love Joel Tippie’s The Crown’s Game and Aurora Parlagreco’s Dumplin’. Outside our department and genre, I also really admire covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith, Jon Gray (below), Isaac Tobin, and vintage covers by Roy Kuhlman.

    

Victoria Schwab, amazing author and a very lucky person when it comes to covers( as seen on our previous interview) said:

I am beyond thrilled with the cover of This Savage Song. The designer had the seemingly impossible task of conveying not only the book’s thriller underpinnings and supernatural content, but also its more universal notes of identity, of hope. She did an extraordinary job.


Thank you Jenna for taking the time to do this interview, and Victoria for your comment!

As always, I accept any and every suggestion on what covers we should talk about. For now, I leave you with more of Jenna’s work – even though the next interview will also be about another amazing cover she’s worked on!

    

Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2016

by Diana Sousa

I am probably missing some amazing books in this list, but this is mostly so I remember to keep an eye out for these books. If you know of a book I might enjoy that is not here, please say something in the comments! They’re ordered by releasing date.

(Also, if you hover over the image you’ll see a small synopsis of the book, and a link to its Goodreads page, because I like to procrastinate by writing code)



I’ve already read This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, and A Hold On Us by Pat Esden, which you should definitely get!

What about you, what are some of the books you’re looking forward to?

Top Media of 2015

by Diana Sousa

Media other than books that I enjoyed this year. Most of them came out in 2015, the exceptions being some of the comic books and the games. And of course I didn’t watch / play / read these as a form of procrastination… it was research. For… stuff, and things.

The results are in alphabetical order and not by preference. And because this has a lot of images, the lists follow after the cut!

Continue reading

End of Year Book Survey 2015

by Diana Sousa

booksurvey2015

Another year, another survey! You can read the original at Perpetual Page Turner.

2015 Reading Stats

Number of books you’ve read: 52

Genre you read the most from: Fantasy

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Clementine, Cherie Priest

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2015?

Saga #1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (in a good way)

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2015?

Same as above.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

– The Code Name Verity series, by Elizabeth Wein

– Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoirs by Lady Trent), by Marie Brennan

– I’m *assuming* Winter, by Marissa Meyer

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Elizabeth Wein

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don’t really reread books (there are so many others to read!)

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

  

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

The narrator of Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

(I want to keep choosing Elizabeth Wein’s books for everything)

Fairest, by Marissa Meyer

13. Most Thought-Provoking / Life-Changing Book of 2015?

The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

Code Name Ver

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

“The Fraud Police are the imaginary, terrifying force of ‘real’ grown-ups who you believe – at some subconscious level – are going to come knocking on your door in the middle of the night, saying:
We’ve been watching you, and we have evidence that you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING. You stand accused of the crime of completely winging it, you are guilty of making sh*t up as you go along, you do not actually deserve your job, we are taking everything away and we are TELLING EVERYBODY.”
― Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking

“He wanted to care, he wanted to care so badly, but there was this gap between what he felt and what he wanted to feel, a space where something important had been carved out.”
― Victoria Schwab, Vicious

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

(not counting with single issues comic books)

– Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, Maarta Laiho (128 pages)

– Winter, by Marissa Meyer (824 pages)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

This Is Where it Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp (I was expecting stuff, but uggghh)

18. OTP of the year

Thorne and Cress (The Lunar Chronicles) [And the same as last year!]

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The friendship in Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

None.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

A Thousand Pieces of You, by Claudia Gray

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

(I just noticed I don’t really read fun books. It’s only drama, and feels, and terrible things)

Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

This usually doesn’t happen to me, but since this year it actually did some times, I’ll have to mention all those books.

– Code Name Verity, by Elizaebth Wein

– This is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

– The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Far From You, by Tess Sharpe

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Same as question 26.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

(will you really make me say Code Name Verity)

The Martin, by Andy Weir (for the humor)

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

So I won’t repeat the answers to 26 again…

The Saga series, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (UGH)

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

A Gathering of Shadows, by V. W. Schwab

On The Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duyvis

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Beyond the Red, by Ava Jae

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

In The Labyrinth of Drakes (Memoirs by Lady Trent), by Marie Brennan

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading Life In 2016?

Read more comic books, and more diverse books.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone.

This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp, because I want you all to suffer like I did!

Pitch Slam – Feedback Giveaway

by Diana Sousa

For those who don’t know what Pitch Slam is, it’s a contest organized by L. L. McKinney where writers hoping to gain the attention of agents can receive feedback on their work, and then revise and resubmit their entries before the final round. I’ve been a slush reader for the past contests, and this time I was also a Head Girl.

This year we got 336 entries, almost two times the submissions from last year! That’s amazing! But since each team has a limited number of entries they can choose, that means a lot of people didn’t make it to the agent round. This doesn’t mean their work wasn’t good, but unfortunately we couldn’t choose everyone.

So, in order to try and help more people, me and some amazing people involved with Pitch Slam (Angela Cappillo, Brandi Lynch, Kimberly Ito, and Rebecca Waddell) will each be reviewing 5 pitches + first 250 words. That means 25 lucky winners will get another chance at getting feedback!

The rules are very simple:

– You must have submitted to at least one round of Pitch Slam;

– You can’t be part of any of the teams;

– Only 1 entry per person;

Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Behind the Cover – Will Staehle
(A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

After a break, Behind the Cover is back! As always, I accept suggestion for covers and designers I should feature, so feel free to send them to me.

This time we have Will Staehle, the amazing designer behind the US cover of A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab, published by Tor Books.

Website


A Darker Shade final for Irene

How did you become a designer? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

I’ve always been interested in art. I even have a bunch of sketchbooks from back when I was three and four years old!

It also helped growing up in a artistic family. My parents own and run a design firm in the midwest, so I grew up working summers there, and learning various art programs at a fairly young age. I moved to New York after college and was offered a cover design position at HarperCollins publishers, and eventually worked my way up to be art director there before heading off for the west coast.

How did you get involved with this cover? Did Tor contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

I’ve worked with Irene Gallo the art director at Tor on a number of projects now. ( Including: Something More than Night / The Revolutions / Made to Kill / The Unnoticeables)

    

I feel very fortunate to get to work with her. She’s a great art director and Tor has a bounty of great books on each list. Irene reached out to me about working on A Darker Shade of Magic, and after a quick read-through of the premise, I was hooked!

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

I wanted the cover to be strong, and somewhat magical, but not overly so. Perhaps it’s just me, but I often approach these fantasy / sci-fi books a bit carefully. I try to walk a fine line between celebrating the fantastical nature of these stories, but also packaging them in a way where “non-sci-fi / non-fantasy” readers can pick them up and fall in love with them too. I’ve always felt that there is a huge part of the population that would love sci-fi and dragon stories, but they’re also the same audience that would never pick up a book with a dragon painting, or robots fighting on the cover ;) So I guess in some way I’m trying to trick people into expanding their horizons. Even more importantly is to make a serious attempt to present the book in the best possible way. Many of these authors work on these novels for years and years, and as a designer you’re given a few weeks to “package” it. So you want to put your best effort into it. ( Especially if you love the book, like I did for A Darker Shade of Magic! )

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Victoria Schwab, any ideas or suggestions?

I’m not exactly sure which notes came from Victoria vs. Irene, but the only real issue I had to address was that Irene had asked me to change the type, and add the additional author-of line to the cover. If I recall the illustration stayed as it was originally drawn.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs, or works in progress?

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.04.25 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.04.39 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.04.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.05.05 PM

As you can see I tried a few different approaches, but I personally always felt that the graphic, and bold solution was the best. ( It also creates a sharp and unique look for future books in the series. ) That being said, I also explored other options including a more photo-collage approach, as well as some more vintage, and map / surveyor-style illustrations.

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator (and in some small ways, the writer) have free rein?

After 10 years of designing covers, I have yet to find the project that allows me free reign with no feedback ;)

You have to keep in mind that there are often many people involved in the cover approval process. You have at very least: The Publisher ( and sometimes an assistant publisher ), editor, art director, sales team, author, agent, and often times the large book-buyers themselves also chiming in on the cover.

So there are many, many cooks in the kitchen. Tor’s process seems more streamlined than most to me, with less back and forth, which I think has allowed for very strong covers to make it to market.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this illustration, interesting facts you’d like to share?

Nothing beyond the obvious, it was an excuse to play with some fun, graphic shapes though! I’m generally interested and intrigued by very graphic, and bold shape-driven covers, something I also channeled recently in the newest Ernest Cline novel: Armada.

I was also very pleased to hear that Victoria was in love with the final cover. It always makes the project a little better when the author and the book publisher are equally happy with the end product.

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

This is always fun! There are so many talented cover designers nowadays. Some of my favorites continue to be: Roberto De Vicq, Iacopo Bruno, Charlotte Strick, Jacob Covey, Robin Bilardello, and Helen Yentus. But I could write a near endless list of favorite cover artists. As far as favorite covers of late, I’d say: The Book of Numbers by Oliver Munday, and The Buried Giant by Peter Mendelsund are both spectacular.

  

On the topic of books, I actually have a new one coming out in the fall! It’s my first original middle-grade novel, I created the character and had a college friend of mine write the story’s text. I did the cover ( obviously! ) and created over 200 illustrations in the interior. It’s somewhere between a novel and a graphic novel ;) The book follows the adventures of a cursed victorian bellhop named Warren the 13th, and a grand and powerful mystery that is hidden somewhere within his family’s hotel! If people enjoy my design work, I’d highly suggest picking it up! It comes out November 24th, but is available for pre-order now.

Victoria Schwab had some words about the cover:

I would just add that the cover PERFECTLY encapsulates this book. I love the graphic take and the slightly retro/universal aesthetic, and it’s so beautiful that I have a poster of it on my wall!


Thank you Will for this interview! And thank you Victoria for your time!

If you want to see more of Will’s work don’t forget to check out his website, but in the meanwhile, here’s a preview!

    

Behind the Cover – Karl Kwasny
(The Year of Shadows, by Claire Legrand)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

Karl Kwasny joins us to talk about the cover he did for The Year of Shadows, by Claire Legrand, published by Simon & Schuester, as well as the illustrations he did for the same book.

Website | Tumblr


How did you become an illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

Well, I’ve always wanted to do something artistic, but it took me a while to discover exactly what that was. I bounced around various courses at university for a while until I ended up doing graphic design at QCA in Brisbane. I love design and typography and so on, but I didn’t want to end up working at some design studio doing work I didn’t care about.

So I decided towards the end of that course that I needed to have a proper go at being a freelance illustrator. I started sending out emails to every art director I could find the contact details for and eventually started getting a few jobs. Then I got an agent and work started coming in more regularly.

How did you get involved with this cover? Did Simon & Schuster contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

I think this one was through my illustration agency, actually. I’m not sure if the art director knew about my work beforehand. It’s hard to tell sometimes unless you ask.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

The brief was fairly open to begin with, aside from the fact that they wanted a full bleed image, meaning the art goes off the edges of the cover. Although, on the final version there’s an ornamental border.

I did a few thumbnails of possible directions the cover could go in, and showed Lucy Cummins, the art director. She then chose a direction (thumbnail 5) and we started developing the final cover.

(click to make the image bigger)

Roughs

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Claire Legrand, any ideas or suggestions?

Well, in my experience the publisher tends to distance the author from the illustration process. I emailed Claire a few times to clarify some things, but the publisher much prefers if you don’t. I can understand why they take this approach – it makes it much easier for them to keep the process under control. If you have the illustrator interacting with the author and making decisions without the publisher being aware of it, it could cause some confusion.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs of the cover?

Just the early thumbnails of other design options and sketches for the cover we ended up with.

OliviaEarlyDesign  CoverVeryEarlyRough  BGPencils

What about the interior illustrations, how was the process there?

Well, as I recall I was given the manuscript and a series of illustration suggestions – the editor and the author went through and picked out parts of the story they felt ought to be illustrated. I picked my favourites and started working on them. Like the cover, I sent over a series of thumbnails first, then I was given the go-ahead to work on the final versions.

The deadline was pretty tight on this project, and I had several other projects to do simultaneously, so I ended up needing to substitute one or two of the more complex interiors for less detailed ones. I wish I had more time to work on the interiors because I really love the book, but there’s not much you can do once it goes to print!

interior001 interior002 interior003

interior008 interior009 interior010

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator have free rein?

The publisher definitely has final say on projects like this. They have to get all sorts of approvals from their marketing people and so on. If you’re working on your own project – your own intellectual property – I imagine you have a lot more freedom than if you’re working on someone else’s project through a publisher.

What can you tell us about the title typography?

Typography is one of my favourite things to work on. I seem to remember that I did a sketch one afternoon for the type, and sent it over to the art director to ask her what she thought. We ended up using that version for the final cover! I’m not sure how much there is to say about it really. They wanted something script-ish with some flowing embellishments. I always love experimenting with different ways to combine letters.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about these illustrations and cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

Well, this was my first proper book illustration project where I worked on both the cover and interior illustrations, so in that sense it was something of a milestone for me.

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

Hmm, the one that most recently impressed me was Wild by Emily Hughes. I also discovered Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D. B. Johnson the other day. I quite like the style, but mostly I like it because it teaches kids about Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy.

  


Thank you Karl for your time and your answers!

Here are other works Karl has done in the past: