The book cover design process is one of the parts of production that usually gets our authors excited and I really enjoy working with them, together with Sarah (our production manager) and our external designers on the covers.
We start designing the covers right at the beginning of the production process, as soon as the book has been approved for publication in fact. The reason for this is that we like to get the blurbs and design confirmed early so that we can start using them in our marketing materials.
Each book series has a standard series design and each book in the series must have a cover which conforms to this design. This gives the series a strong identity and makes our books easily recognisable. Anyone who has several of our books on a similar topic on their bookcase will soon see how similar the spines are! This conformity does not restrict the process however, and there is still plenty of opportunity for some creativity and fun during the design process!
Most of our series allow for a cover with or without an image and we give our authors the choice between having an image or a plain cover. Some authors opt to have a cover with no image as it can be hard to find an image which effectively sums up the contents of the book. In this case we at least give them a say in the colours we use!
Other authors are keen to have an image and we always make sure that they are then involved in deciding the artwork. Over the years that I have been doing covers we have been provided with all sorts of pictures, ranging from photographs taken by authors themselves to sketches done by a child of an editor to artwork created by the subjects of the book’s study, and everything in between! Where possible we try and use the authors’ first choice of artwork, but there are occasions when this is not possible, perhaps when permission can’t be secured from the copyright holder or the subjects of the image or a high resolution file can’t be obtained.
When authors want an image but don’t have one themselves I usually help them search image libraries for suitable artwork. Browsing image libraries can be quite fun and the wide range of images available is incredible. However, searching image libraries can also be quite stressful! This is because we sometimes struggle to find an image that looks natural and not too staged or because we have a clear picture in our mind of exactly what we want but simply can’t find it. On one occasion I actually went out with my own camera and set up the photo that was used on the cover!
Once the image has been chosen our designer draws up a proof, selecting colours which match the artwork or those that the author has suggested. The proof is then sent to the authors for checking and revisions are made before the cover is checked again. The front cover is then made into a jpg and we send it off to retailers and bibliographic databases as well as uploading it to our website.
At this stage the back cover doesn’t have any reviews on it, as these are requested at the time that the design process is started and we usually give people a couple of months to read a manuscript and provide an endorsement. Once the quotes are received they are then added to the back cover and then the whole cover is checked by the authors, Sarah and me; and then finalised for print. The most rewarding part of the process for both us and the authors is, of course, finally receiving the printed copy of the book. People often come by our stand at conferences and tell us how colourful and attractive our books are, and that really makes our day!