Matt Broughton began designing book covers for the academic publisher Routledge in 1997, and moved to Random House in 2001. He is now a senior designer and continues to design covers for Random House's literary imprints, including Harvill Secker. Lily Richards has worked as a picture researcher at Random House for nine years, mainly working on literary book covers but also for some book interiors. I thank them both for the following piece, which describes how they worked on Philip Sington's book, The Einstein Girl.
Next time we'll hear how a buying manager at Waterstone's makes his decisions; and finally, a key account manager at Random House discusses selling literary fiction like The Einstein Girl to booksellers.
When people ask us how we design covers there is never one answer – ideas can come from any number of areas: authors, editors, and they all are considered along with a more formal brief. The brief is originally conceived by the editor of the book in consultation with Sales and Marketing. Things that would be considered at this stage are the format – is it a hardback, paperback or reissue, comparable titles, position we are aiming for in the market, print runs and artwork budgets.
The brief is for us very much a starting place and for fiction we like to also have something to read – a manuscript, or a book if it has previously been published. A decision will be made by the designer as to how to approach the artwork: commissioned illustration, photography, found images, typographical solutions etc. With that decision made, and with the brief, the book, and the various parameters in mind, we begin the creative process.
In the case of The Einstein Girl, it was clear that the cover would need picture research. We wanted to find photographs of 1930s Berlin, specifically the young woman in the book and the nightclub scene. These photographs would need to be strong in atmosphere as we wanted to achieve a design with film noir look to reflect the writing. We sourced the photographs from a German archive, AKG, and the design could then begin.
Various design solutions were taken to the weekly cover meeting where editors and people from sales and marketing all considered the options. Once we had settled on the present cover, author approval was also sought. Covers are not always straightforward and can change dramatically over the course of being worked on, but it is all part of the process.
Philip's editor at Harvill Secker has kindly squirrelled away five copies of The Einstein Girl for us. If you'd like to be in the running for one of them, all you have to do is answer the following question: where did the designers find the photograph which appears on the cover of The Einstein Girl? Send your answers to "competition at philipsington dot com": a week after the third article in this series appears, Philip will select the five winners at random and I'll announce them here.