Hiya! I bet you’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but often it’s hard not to, isn’t it? After all, what makes you pick up a book by an author you’ve never heard of? Do you prefer pictures or photos – or neither? Does the colour of the cover make a difference? Or whether it’s sparkly? Have you ever wondered why books have different covers in different countries, or how a cover is designed at all? If so, you’re in the right place! Because for the first step on my MUMNESIA blogtour I decided to ask my book designer, Tracey Ridgewell, all about it!
Hi Tracey! What do you say to people who say you can’t judge a book by its cover?
In all other parts of life, it may be good advice, but we mostly design book covers to represent their content, so I’d say, take a chance on every book.
What’s one of your favourite book covers and why?
Bob the Artist by Marion Deuchars is a delight. A beauty for all ages.
That looks wonderful! So what do you think makes a great book cover?
One that makes you want to stare at it, pore over it and stroke it. For ages.
That’s certainly true of MUMNESIA! It’s so SPARKLY! Was that your idea?
We thought sparkles would be a perfect fit tor Mumnesia! Really tangible and girly ☺
They say a picture tells a thousand words, but how do you illustrate an entire book with just one image? How do you design a book cover? Do you read the book first?
I’d like to say I do, but we can’t read them all (we publish a lot of books), but definitely the first few chapters. It’s important to get a feel for the storytelling and the voice(s) of the character(s). The editor briefs the designer about the storyline, and any initial thoughts they’ve had for the cover route. The designer then: 1. gets excited, 2. does lots of research, 3. finds a bunch of fantastic illustrators, 4. the favourite of which gets chosen in a group departmental meeting [psst – the group chose the lovely Lilly Lazuli – see my interview with Lilly later in the blogtour to find out how she got on in “Cover Girls – Part 2”!], 5. brief the illustrator, 6. steer them and check on them a few times asking for tweaks etc… 7. hey presto! a cover is born. 8. launch party, 9. book is a bestseller!
Haha – Fingers crossed! So what elements of the novel MUMNESIA were you looking to emphasize most?
The eightiesness, the funness, the two sides of Sharon and the frustration of Lucy.
I think you’ve done a wonderful job! How long does it take to design a cover?
A few weeks but not constantly. I could be designing quite a few at the same time, where they are all in a different stage. Either they are being researched, illustrated, discussed, tweaked, and approved.
Why do you think some books have lots of different covers when they’re published in other countries?
Each country has its own fashion, cultural and lifestyles, so therefore their covers will be different from the UK’s, even if it’s an English story. The titles are often translated too. An example Moone Boy in german is ‘Eine Mütze voll Chaos’ translates to ‘A cap full Chaos’.
What does a day in the life of a book designer look like?
All are brilliantly and chaotically different but it would probably be a collection of: researching and briefing illustrators, designing interior pages and covers, discussing projects with editors and other colleagues, drinking tea, and keeping in the (book and everything) trend loop.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about the job?
Fave bit is definitely working directly with brilliant illustrators as they really make a character or a scene come to life. Chris Riddell (the Children’s Laureate) comes in and sits with me at my desk for a day each time we finish one of his books. And he is a very lovely (Costa award winning) man!
Least favourite bit is when sometimes unfortunately we don’t find the right fit for the cover illustrator and the book. It just doesn’t quite gel. It feels awful when we reject an illustrator but luckily it doesn’t happen very often. Luckily everyone is professional and although disappointed, we all want what’s right for the book. It actually happened with Mumnesia! It could haven’t turned out a very different cover!
Wow, that’s cool too, but SO different! What advice would you give to any young people who would like to become a book designer?
Get all the experience you can at designing. Whether that’s drawing/designing your friends birthday invite or a poster for the local hall, and even if you never show it to anyone, but the more you design the more experienced you become. Also remember you don’t need to have a fancy computer on which to do it! And there are lots of different things a book designer can also design, so never limit yourself 🙂
Thanks so much Tracey!
It’s a pleasure ☺
WOW, I found that totally fascinating – I can’t believe how different the cover could have been! Discover the next step in cover design with “Cover Girls – Part 2” where I chat with the artist, Lilly Lazuli later on the MUMNESIA blogtour – and you could win a MUMNESIA goody bag too! (See question at the bottom of the post!)
TODAY’S QUESTION: WHAT ELEMENTS OF THE STORY WAS TRACEY LOOKING TO EMPHASIZE MOST WHEN DESIGNING THE COVER OF MUMNESIA?
Please email your answer to: email@example.com
(p.s. there’s a special bonus draw and prize for those who answer all eight questions correctly – so why not join me next time on the blogtour?)