Jane Donald is senior designer for Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and the visionary behind the awesome Takeshita Demons cover.
What makes a cover work? How are covers born? What do you need to recognise a great cover: do you need to be an artist? a sales professional? a book lover?
We caught up with Jane to discover more about the book covers she loves and creates every day…
1. How did you get in to your role?
I studied Graphic Design at university and always favoured illustration projects. Any self-initiated brief was always to do with creating children’s books, so I knew I’d enjoy working in this industry if I could get my foot through the door.
When I left university I did various stints of work experience, one being at Egmont publishers and then heard about the junior role here at Frances Lincoln. I applied, got the job and 5 years later I’m still here!
2. What does an average day entail? What are you working on today?
My average day usually entails working on a couple of different projects.
Today I have dropped in some new artwork for a picture book, added some finishing touches to the interior spreads of another title and I’ll probably have a look at some fiction covers which are overdue this afternoon!
3. How do you decide on a cover?
We’ll read the manuscript first and I’ll either start mocking up ideas or find an illustrator who we feel will work well with the text.
Then it’s a case of getting ideas and roughs together to show our Sales team and author for feedback. At this stage the roughs are often sent out to both customers and target audience for comments and opinions too.
Then we’ll reconvene with all the conflicting opinions(!) and make a decision as to which we think will work the best overall.
4. What makes a great cover?
Something which is simple and attention-grabbing, but gives you a good sense of what the book is about.
5. What are your 3 favourite covers from Frances Lincoln?
Apart from Takeshita Demons of course, I would have to say…
- Mother (adult title) by Juliet Heslewood
- Under the Weather (children’s fiction) by Tony Bradman
- Miss Fox (children’s picture book) by Simon Puttock illustrated by Holly Swain
6. What’s your favourite cover of all time?
Now that’s a really tricky question!!!
I really love the covers which Jon Gray designs and all the Gothic Horrors and clothbound series’ by Coralie Bickford-Smith. They’re all really beautiful and a real inspiration.
If I had to choose one, I’d probably go for Jon Gray’s design for The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. Not only is the illustration and typography great, but I love the whole production of it. It has black edges to the pages, gold foil and special lamination (without being OTT) and just works beautifully as an object as well as being a great read.
I’m sure I’ll have a new favourite cover next week when I browse the shelves!
7. How did you get inspiration for the Takeshita Demons cover?
I think instinctively we felt it needed a manga-style illustrator to get across the Japanese feel. I looked through a lot of illustrator’s portfolios and various manga books to get a feel of what we could do.
I knew of Siku from seeing his Manga Bible and Judge Dread work and thought he’d work perfectly. We let him do all the hard work by giving him a fairly open brief with only a few specifics and he didn’t disappoint. As you saw, he came up with various rough ideas which were all great.
8. Do you work with new illustrators? How should they get in contact?
Yes, we love working with new illustrators.
The best thing to do is to send samples into us by email or post. We can’t necessarily reply to everyone, but we do keep samples on file and often look through to see if anyone would fit a text we may have. Websites are great too, I love to browse through people’s work.
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