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Interview with Lisa Kelly – my lovely book cover designer

9/10/2012
Hearts Afire
Lisa and I don’t live in the same city or even the same hemisphere. When I said I was looking to find a designer Lisa was recommended to me and so we have done our design collaboration long-distance via email, Skype and Pinterest.

I had a notion that I wanted my books to have illustrated rather than photographic covers and that I wanted them to be identifiable as by the same author, or branded, if you will. I also wanted them to look good in a small black and white thumbnail on a Kindle. So we started from there.

I asked Lisa some questions about book designing and what to ask designers if you’re looking for one.

1. From the designer p.o.v what makes an ideal client?
Honestly, the best client is one that provides constructive feedback. As a designer I know I’ll need to make edits to my work, so I want to hear what parts of a concept was successful and what wasn’t. I recently did some freelance for a friend of mine who felt uncomfortable talking to me about what he didn’t like because he was afraid of hurting my feelings. I told him I ultimately wanted him to be happy with my work and I can not do that without knowing what to fix.

2. To do a book cover design what sorts of things do you need to know from an author?
I think our process worked really well. You provided me with the book’s synopsis and the first few chapters which gave me a good feel for the story and characters. We were able to pull some themes and discuss their illustrations. Pinterest was also very helpful, where I was able to see what covers you liked.

3. Do you have any book covers that you especially love (apart from your own?)
I love book covers! It’s hard to narrow it down but two stand out in my mind – the movie cover version on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safranfoer and True by Riika Pulkkinen. Safranfoer’s cover has an image with the text written on the boy’s fingers, which I find striking. True has textured layers of color with a simple sans serif text. In the “chic-lit” genre, I enjoy Mary Kay Andrews’ colorful illustrated covers and the clean, flirty look of Kathleen Tessaro’s books. I also admire vintage book covers. I have a few interesting 1960s paperbacks from my parents that can be used as design inspiration.

4. What sorts of questions do you think an author should ask a book cover designer?
I would ask for work samples of any designer. You want to see what the designer’s aesthetic is and if you like their style. Also, a book cover designer needs to be very good with details. Any errors in the layout could
affect the book cover’s look, particularly the printed book cover.

5. Obviously ours is a long-distance relationship…what do you think the challenges are with that?
I think the biggest challenge was the beginning of the Mongrels cover. If we were in the same city (or continent!) I would show you pencil sketches and we would collaborate in person. While I could have scanned sketches and Skyped
you, I did not feel that would have worked as effectively as a sit-down together. However, a positive from the long distance was our reliance on email. Our electronic discussions regarding the design tended to be pretty detailed
and a good reference for me. There were no communication errors about design as a result.

6. How long does it take to come up with ideas for a cover..how many do you burn before you come up with a few you like to show a client?
Part of my answer relates to the last question. I spent some time on “electronic sketches” to initially show you for the Mongrels cover and I ended up going another direction for the second round. For Hearts Afire there was less burned ideas since I narrowed down key themes and we discussed them before going forward. But like many jobs, the time spent on a creative project is relative, one tends to think “off the clock.” I work ideas out in my head while I’m doing other things – driving, running, cooking, etc.

8. How is designing a book cover different from other design work or is it not?
It is a bit different. In much of my other design work, I have a general concept of what needs to be designed or certain logos or images that need to be incorporated into the project. We started from scratch together with Mr. Right and Other Mongrels, coming up with the illustration as well as the type design. Once we set the tone of the first book, the second went a little faster because we had the fonts identified and a certain look we were trying to achieve to match the original illustration.

9. How can people get in touch with you (eg website, Pinterest, twitter etc).
Right now the best way is through email lisarkelly(at)gmail(dot)com. I’m on Pinterest via this link http://pinterest.com/lisa_r_kelly/. My business goal for 2012 is to get a portfolio website up and running – I still have a few months to get it done! Fortunately I have been able to acquire freelance jobs via word of mouth so my website keeps getting put on the back burner while I juggle my family and work.
Mr Right and Other Mongrels

Comments

Betty
9/10/2012 02:02:01 pm

Interesting process. I love the covers!

Jen
9/10/2012 09:28:18 pm

I never even thought about all the different factors that go into the branding of an author!

Gwen
9/11/2012 12:57:39 am

tough work but the outcome is amazing!
Reply
Monique
9/11/2012 08:25:12 am

It’s been an interesting process and great for me working with Lisa while I learn about something new to me.

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