Virtual Book Festival 2019: Event 4 – an interview with book cover designer JD Smith #VirtBookFest #books #writing

Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

Book covers are so important to both authors and readers. They’re often the first impression a potential reader will get of an author’s work. But have you ever wondered how a book cover comes into being? If so read on …

Hello everyone and thank you for coming to event number four in the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s lovely to welcome book designer JD Smith to share with us what is involved in her work as a book cover designer. (full disclosure Jane has designed all the covers of my books – and I may be biased but I think they’re fab)

So hello, Jane. Can you begin by telling us how long have you been designing book covers and how many have you done so far – and how did you get into doing it in the first place?

I’ve been designing book covers as a specialist since 2012, and before that I’d worked at a graphic design agency for over twelve years. In all honesty, I’ve lost count of the quantity of covers I’ve designed over the years. Over a thousand? Much more? It’s certainly somewhere in that region; I have a folder sat on my desk with many of the covers I’ve designed awaiting upload to my website and that contains 800+.

I first became a specialist after being made redundant after the agency I worked for closed. I am a writer myself, so it was a natural progression to move into the field of book cover design, particularly as the market was booming with the release of the Kindle.

Anne: Wow! That’s a lot of books.

Describe the process of working with an author to come up with the perfect cover for their book.

First and foremost I always ask for a selection of covers in their genre that they like, which represents their target audience, plus the title, strapline, blurb information etc, any scenes from the book they feel could represent the story on  the cover, elements and descriptions and so on. From there I research possible imagery we could incorporate and then based on that imagery mock up a series of ideas which we then develop into a finished product.

Anne: I find the process amazing as an author – going from vague and hazy idea of what I think I want to your wonderful finished article is magical.

You also design the interiors of books – doing the layout and the formatting – what does that involve?

‘Hopefully’ a proofread manuscript to start with, although you’d be amazed at how many people proofread after, which is both timely and costly for everyone involved … Ebook and print layout are completely different in that ebooks are reflowable, whereas print books aren’t. Ebooks are designed with this in mind, so we tend to keep the formatting simplistic so everything works across multiple devices and the various functions that come with ebooks perform as they should, such as table of contents links.

With paperbacks we have much more flexibility and control over things like margins, font sizes, fonts, and the general flow, so we can eliminate widows and orphans and so on.

Anne: I’m nodding as if I know what all that means. And that’s why we need talented book designers like you!

What do like best about your job as a designer?

The flexibility of my working day, the appreciation authors have for the process and product as well as their enthusiasm, plus the fact every day is a creative day. It couldn’t be better.

Anne: It certainly sounds like you love your job.

As well as your design work, you’re also an author yourself. Tell us a bit about the books you’ve written so far.

I’ve written one non-fiction book on the topic of cover design and formatting, which I hope is a useful guide for authors looking for book cover designers. And I have written so far five historical fiction novels. The first, Tristan and Iseult, was a finalist for the HNS Indie Book of the Year Award a few years ago. Then there are four books in the Overlord series, which chronicles the life of Zenobia, third century queen of Roman Palmyra, Syria. There’s another two planned but I have been busy climbing mountains of late so they’re a little slow coming to publication, but one day …

Anne: oh yes, it’s important to climb those mountains and I know you’ve been doing a lot of that lately, but your reading public – including me – awaits … 🙂

Do you design your own book covers? If so is that easier or harder than designing for other people?

Yes, absolutely, it’s so much easier as well than designing for other people because I don’t have to go through so many iterations, I know what I want, so I can just produce the finished design straight away without going back and forth for feedback and making tweaks that I personally wouldn’t necessarily choose to make because they’re the authors preference and not my own.

Anne: Yes, us authors can be an opinionated bunch. As long as you don’t end up in an argument with yourself 🙂

Are you currently working on a new book or is it all about the design for now?

Book 5 in the Overlord series sits patiently waiting on my desktop and every now and then I open it up and do a little. I really enjoy designing covers, so it’s not so much of an escape for me, because I love my ‘day job’ and sometimes I feel I need to get away from the computer screen and be a little more active, but it’s always there to come back to.

Anne: Well thank you so much, Jane. It’s been great to get an insight into how book covers come about. And all the best too with your book writing and mountain climbing.

And below are just 6 examples of the different kinds of covers Jane has designed. (You can also see my book covers – also designed by Jane in the sidebar here if you’re reading this on a desktop, laptop or tablet – and if you’re on your phone you can scroll down to see them below this post).

Six of Jane’s Cover Designs


You can find Jane online at the links below:

Design Website  

Author Website

Facebook Design

Facebook Author

JD Smith is an award-winning book cover designer and author of historical fiction novels Tristan and Iseult (HNS Indie Book of the Year Finalist) and the Overlord series, as well as The Importance of Book Cover Design and Formatting.

She lives in the English Lake District with her husband and three children, renovating houses and climbing mountains in her spare time so she can eat cake in the rest of her spare time. She has also been known to drive steam trains, once upon a time …