When graphic designer Kim Lock’s debut novel ‘Peace, Love and Khaki Socks’ was published with MidnightSun, she found herself in a unique position - being offered the opportunity of designing her own book cover.
Now Kim regularly designs book covers for MidnightSun, and she's stopped by to answer all my questions about the process!
Hi Kim, thanks for talking to me! Can you share the process for designing a book cover.
Firstly I receive a ‘brief’ from the publisher. This is always an exciting day, because it means there is another book coming into the world! The brief includes a little about the book: the premise, the intended readership, the theme or genre.
I generally begin by browsing image libraries, playing with colours and typefaces, bringing elements together on the page. Once I have a good selection of concepts that I’m happy with – anything from half a dozen to 20 or more – I send these to the publisher. Then I wait!
Sometimes a concept is on the mark right away, and then we get to perfecting the cover. Other times, I might need to start over, and draft up new concepts. Sometimes, the chosen cover might be a combination of a few concepts – an image from one, a colour or typeface from another.
Once the publisher and author are happy with a front cover, I’ll then layout the cover ‘flat’ – the front, back and spine. And then, once the internal pages are finalised, I prepare the print-ready file, have it checked one last time and approved by the publisher, and send it off to the printer. Everyone celebrates that day!
Do you read the book before designing the cover? If not, how do you determine what the cover should look like?
Usually, when I receive the initial brief from the publisher, the manuscript is still in its early stages and the author is busy editing, but I will always read at least a few sample chapters, to get an idea of the theme and narrative voice.
Sometimes I read the entire manuscript. I also always receive a detailed blurb or synopsis. MidnightSun love their covers to be as eye-catching and unique as possible, so it’s a matter of balancing the right ‘look’ for the target readership with market trends, author and publisher preferences, and a beautiful design!
How long does the process take?
Working on initial concepts takes hours – anything from five or six to a dozen or more. I try to get these to the publisher within a few weeks of the brief. Then there are usually days / weeks / months of back and forth with the publisher, tweaking the design, moving elements around, adding the blurb and quotes, and finally, preparing the file for print. All up, it can take anything from several months to a year before the book hits shelves.
How much input does an author have, and at what stages in the process?
This varies between publishers, of course, but MidnightSun are generous with how much author preference and feedback is taken into account throughout the entire design process.
It’s important that a cover appeals to its intended audience, and while all authors need to understand where their book sits in the market, this is especially so at a small press, where publicity and promotion is ‘all hands on deck’!
An author is going to have to talk about their book for a long time, so it is important that they like their cover as much as possible.
What about the spine of the book – how do you make it stand out in a book shop on a shelf?
The width of the spine depends on the page count, which is something we don’t know until quite late in the process – until the manuscript is final and the internal pages are typeset. But it’s generally safe to assume it will be a very small area!
As with all design, the spine has to be both visually striking and functional instantaneously. We have so little time to capture the busy human eye. Clear type, effective use of space and little fuss are best.
What’s your favourite part about designing book covers?
I love nutting out concepts – searching for the perfect imagery, typeface, colours – and feeling that spark of elation when it looks just right.
But ultimately, the best thing is a happy publisher and a pleased author. When the whole team is proud of a cover, there’s a real sense that the book has been given the very best start to life (which, of course, every book deserves!)
What’s the hardest part about designing book covers?
It’s rare, thankfully, but sometimes the feeling that I just might not find the right concept. That can be quite terrifying.
Are you a big reader yourself?
Yes! I read widely and a lot. I’m a reader before I’m anything else. Always have been.
Does your job change the way you choose books to read or view books?
Having perspectives as a reader, designer and author creates a unique set of voices in my head when I’m browsing at bookstores! It’s usually something like: Ooh a new book from XYZ / Oh what a clever cover / Oh how interesting to put that author in that market … But generally, I’m as susceptible to a lovely, intriguing or attention-grabbing cover as anyone else.
Thanks Kim for sharing with us!
You can read more about Kim and discover her fiction on her website www.kimlock.com.au