Andri Nel runs a digital publishing company called Digi-Taal and is completing her MA in Digital Publishing. Before coming to the UK she completed her undergraduate and honours degrees in Publishing at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and worked on numerous digital publishing projects with both authors and publishers. She is driven by a passion for publishing and the process behind creating books.
Category Archives: Design
Alejandra Rodriguez Creixell was an intern at whitefox and a Publishing MA student at UCL. She is currently designing a booklet for Waterstones Gower Street and searching for a job in publishing or marketing. Here she shares some key findings from her MA research on publishers’ websites and their effectiveness.
There’s so much talk at the moment about the growing freelancer economy, the pluses and pitfalls of going solo, that it isn’t always easy to differentiate between the reality and the myths of striking out on your own. So to try and understand what it is really like, whitefox has been talking to Jill Sawyer. Jill has been freelance for 3 years, working as an editor, typesetter and project manager for a number of individual and company clients. Previously, she worked at DK and Scholastic.
Just as new indie authors benefit from the single-minded, entrepreneurial determination to make their books work no matter what obstacles they may encounter, they can also benefit from collaboration and compromise, based on the input from an experienced specialist publishing team around them.
How important is the clarity of a brief, or do you prefer to have more freedom to design a cover based on your interpretation of the book?
I’ve worked with all types of briefs, from incredibly specific projects to ones which are completely wide open, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. With a lot of the literary titles I work on the brief is very open: ‘here’s the book, have a read and come up with ideas’. There’s usually a panicked feeling of ‘what the hell am I going to do for this?’ at the start of the project which is followed by lots of head scratching, rejected ideas and finally a looming deadline which forces you into action. Because no-one has any preconceived ideas of the final design you can (hopefully) come up with something that surprises and excites the publisher and author. Also, book cover briefs aren’t set in stone so there can be a lot of back and forth between the designer and publisher before you get to the end solution. What the publishers think they want at the beginning isn’t always what the cover ends up looking like, but that’s all part of the creative process.
Are you aware of a greater emphasis on well-designed covers coming from self-published authors?
This isn’t something that I’ve noticed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Being noticed in a crowded marketplace is always going to be a challenge, so having a well designed cover is sure to be a bonus.
With the increasing move to digital, do you think more emphasis is put on having a cover that is eye-catching as a thumbnail on a screen, or in trying to make a book an attractive and covetable physical possession?
When I start to design a cover I don’t really worry about the thumbnail issue. Usually, a nicely designed cover will work as a thumbnail, so I wouldn’t advocate designing one based solely on its ability to be shrunk down. I don’t see why a cover can’t work digitally, as a thumbnail, and also as a beautiful object that uses the same design.
Who has most influence on cover design? The author, the publisher, or the sales and marketing team?
It really depends on the book, how big the author is and how much the publisher has paid for it. The cover needs to be initially approved by the art director who then puts it into a meeting with various people including the editor and sales and marketing. If it survives that then its off to the author for approval. It’s always a relief when covers make it through this process, but quite often it can be back to the drawing board.
In your experience are more publishers now using consumer insight to test covers?
I’ve had this happen on a jacket I’m working on at the moment but I’ve not had the feedback yet, so I’m not sure what the effect will be. I can’t see it improving creativity in book cover design.
What 2013 cover do you wish you’d designed?
One of my favourites from 2013 is Tampa by Alissa Nutting, designed by Jon Gray. It’s a beautifully simple idea that’s perfectly executed. Another book, or rather series, that caught my eye is the P. G. Wodehouse redesign by David Wardle/Barnes & Noble. They are a lovely balance of modern and retro. Printed in eye-popping neon, they really stand out in the bookshop.
This is a guy who could call it like it is and say, that, perhaps, postage stamp sized covers don’t mean a great deal any more. It is, after all, what comes up after you’ve searched. Maybe in an age of diminishing opportunities to see and touch physical copies of books, a good cover design isn’t going to make a potential consumer behave in any particularly way.
And yet and yet.
What Jeff actually said was.
Actually I think it is more important now”
Now it is true that maybe Jeff, who is a smart guy, was thinking his words were going to be read by, amongst others, a significant number of cover designers from within the whitefox clan, so, you know, don’t frighten the horses. But what he said was, as I read it, pretty unequivocal.
So when news reached us this week that one of the big four publishers are actively trying to solicit experienced designers to work on genre fiction for a newly launched imprint for the princely sum of £50.00 per cover, we thought we just had to make mention. £50.00. Really.
Why not crowd source a cover from students? Go on fiverr and get ten of them. But maybe think twice before you expect people with years of hard-earned experience, who have been responsible for creating some of the past few decades most iconic book jackets to bite your hand off at those prices. Is that really what a jacket is worth? Maybe send fewer people next year to walk Hall 8 of the Buchmesse in Frankfurt looking at their emails from back at head office and invest in better external designers. And sell more books. Just a thought.