One of the most delicious covers I have seen recently belongs to Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon, and I am delighted to bring you our exclusive interview with its designer - Rafi Romaya of Simon & Schuster...
Hi Rafi, Can you tell us a little about how you got into the world of book cover design and which covers you have had a hand in?
After graduating from art college, I was lucky enough to get my first job as junior designer at Faber & Faber. I’ve always loved books so it was the perfect job for me. From there I went to Pan Macmillan and now I’m at Simon and Schuster designing jackets across a range of genres, including literary fiction, non-fiction, biographies, as well as women’s fiction.
Overall I’ve had a hand in hundreds of covers since joining S&S, but no matter how many you do, it’s always a special moment when you get the proofs back. Some of my recent favourites from a design point of view have been The Red Queen, Full Circle, The German Genius and Paige Toon’s Pictures of Lily. We were pretty excited when the finished copies came in for Pictures of Lily and got a great response. It was the second cover I've designed for Paige; her titles are bright and fun which makes them a pleasure to work on.
Do you read the book before you design the jacket?
Ideally, yes, and I've come across some of my favourite writers this way, but it varies depending on the type of book the jacket is for. We always get a detailed brief from the editor, if the manuscript is unavailable. Just reading the first few chapters of the book can give a good indication of who it’s likely to attract/is aimed at, the style of writing and where it should sit visually in the market place.
We seem to see lots of cover trends in chick lit (women’s legs only, women’s backs only, silhouette women, super-imposed women). Can you tell us about any new trends that may be coming up?
Book jackets with immediate impact are increasingly important for time-pressured buyers and also because of the way books are sold on-line and in special promotions in book stores. Recently, there has been a trend for covers that look more gifty, with finishes such as foil and flitter [flitter is a varnish with glitter added]. I used flitter for the first time on Paige Toon’s previous title, Chasing Daisy, to lift the title type with a wonderful sparkly effect. It was such a success we used it again on Pictures of Lily and this time integrated the flitter into the design process rather than just as a surface finish, making it add more texture to the cover and highlight the fireworks. The book should look beautiful, like a designer accessory you just have to own.
JUST A TASTER OF RAFI'S WORK!
What is an average working day like for you? (the process of design)
I generally work on around twenty-five new titles at a time so I spend a lot of time picture researching, finding new illustrators and photographers and keeping an eye out for new trends both in finishes and in the market. I’m lucky as I get to work with talented people whose work I really love. I’ve recently commissioned New York based illustrator Jessica Hische for RSVP which is one of our lead women’s fiction titles of 2011. This cover looks like a beautiful wedding invitation held in place by an intricate ribbon design. Last week we shot the cover image for Dannii Minogue's autobiography with renowned photographer Elizabeth Hoff, which felt very glamorous with dresses being flown in from Paris especially for the day. Each week I’m designing something different which keeps it exciting and engaging.
Do you liaise with the author on cover design?
Each author is different – some think of the cover as part of the book and get very involved others less so. For example, Paige sent over photos of things she liked and colours that she had in mind. It's always nice to get feedback from the author and thankfully I’m pleased to say most of it is positive. It is very important to me that the author is happy with their cover and I like to feel I'm helping to attract more readers by creating an eye-catching jacket. I recently designed Tara Hyland’s jacket for her first novel, Daughters of Fortune. Tara liked the design so much she based her whole website around it, which was great!
What piece are you the most proud of?
That changes all the time and you always hope your best cover is still to come. I recently worked on the design and branding for Philippa Gregory’s new novels, The White Queen and The Red Queen. They’re historical fiction so I went to the V&A’s collection for inspiration before designing a bespoke pattern for each cover with illustrator Liane Payne. The White Queen went straight in at Number 1. Fingers crossed The Red Queen will match that success on publication later this year.
Another would of course be Pictures of Lily because it felt fresh and captured a new audience which is what a cover should do.
If somebody wanted to get into the business of cover design – what would they have to do?
To love books is a good start. Most cover designers come from either a design or illustration background and it’s imperative to have a strong portfolio. If you’re going for your first job in cover design, it would be a good idea to mock up a few covers for your favourite books. There are also graduate schemes and internships on offer from bigger publishers. It’s important to have enthusiasm and be responsive to new trends while developing your own style. Regular visits to a range of book stores are habitual behaviour for most good cover designers.
What is your absolute favourite book jacket of all time and why?
Gosh, that’s a tough one to answer, partly because a jacket can be great for so many reasons. I love many of the classic Penguin covers that have set the benchmark for book cover designers.
There are also many great designers to choose from. Gray318 constantly produces beautifully imaginative covers. His cover design for Everything is Illuminated caused a paradigm shift in cover design.
To individual titles, I recently bought The Behaviour of Moths (HB) by Poppy Adams which has a truly scrumptious cover.
Actually, something I’m looking forward to and would be of interest to anyone who likes books is Faber & Faber’s exhibition at the V&A this summer. It celebrates part of their 80-year cover design heritage. The exhibition will highlight how publishers have always thought cover design is an important part of the business and how designers/artist have often risen to the challenge of creating a truly original and stunning cover.
Which covers are you currently working on?
I'm just putting the final touch to Jackie Collins’ new novel, Goddess of Vengeance. It’s classic Jackie so I’ve used a strong photographic portrait of a femme fatale character for the cover.
Other current projects include Dom Joly, Brian Moore, Dannii Minogue and Maureen Lipman’s respective books. For the crime list I’ve just designed The Terror of Living by Urban Waite and Random by Craig Robertson. Re-branding Chris Bohjalian look for his new novel, Secrets of Eden was fun, as was working with illustrator Chris Corr on Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James. Women’s fiction-wise, I’ve just designed Kate Long’s, Mothers & Daughters and I’m also re-branding Matt Dunn’s new novel, The Accidental Proposal which will feature our first knitted cover! Once finished we’re hoping one lucky reader will be able to win the framed artwork by telling us their funniest wedding moment!
You can find more info on the books that Rafi has mentioned on the Simon & Schuster website
You can find out more about the exhibition Rafi mentions by clicking here!