With every artist we interview a new discovery is made about books and their cover design. Not all books that hit young adult shelves go through the glamorous process of finding the perfect model, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect props leading up to the photo-shoot. Sometimes an iStock photo would do.
Theresa Evangelista is the cover artist at Penguin Young Reader. Her experience working on the NIGHTSHADE series has been one of her favorite. She talks to us about her experience becoming a cover artist and her love for cover design in the following interview.
I didn’t consider book cover design as a possible career until I started working at a book publisher as my first job out of college. I majored in graphic communications and my goal was to be a creative-somebody at a high end ad agency. I took a position as a graphic designer in the ad/promo department thinking it was close enough.
I enjoyed creating sales materials, ads, catalogs, and in-store displays with a lot of great people. After five years I was ready for something new, but still within book publishing. I had experience designing covers for our sales catalogs so when I saw that Penguin Young Readers was looking for a cover designer, I went for it.
What goes into the process of creating a book cover?
The book’s editor summarizes the plot, describes the main characters, and suggests ideas in what’s called an art form. We also pinpoint the target audience, age range, and story genre.
While reading the manuscript (or at least skimming through it) for tone, I highlight memorable or moving phrases, descriptions, or events. If they happen to spark a visual in my head, I’ll make a note. I revisit these when I’m ready to put cover concepts “on paper” which ideally happens several days after I’m done reading–after letting the story sink in. Then I search for images (mainly online) that convey the right tone.
The majority of our covers use stock photos. Sometimes we find the perfect single stock photo, but usually there’s a lot of photoshop magic involved: compositing several photos together, and changing details like lighting or color to make the image fit the story/message. In some cases, we’re able to set up a photo shoot for the cover. We also work with traditional illustrators and photo illustrators for visuals. I show my art director several rough concepts and we decide which ones to share with a larger group that includes the editor, author, publisher, sales, and marketing team. There’s always discussion within the group, and a few rounds of changes before a cover is finally approved.
The photo shoot was my favorite. All three covers were shot on the same day. I always enjoy shopping for wardrobe and props, then helping the hair/makeup artist and photographer to style everything on the day of the shoot. It’s usually a nice change of pace to be out of the office and on set. I particularly enjoy filing the model’s press-on nails to a sharp point (to resemble claws) for Bloodrose.
It was an opportunity to be hands-on crafty as opposed to digitally adding sharp claws afterwards. For the prequel books (Rift and Rise), I enjoyed collaborating with a talented photographer/artist from California, Michelle Monique, who actually crafted the circular sword (on Rift) herself. I also worked with the production department to choose printing effects that enhanced the finished book. The hardcover jackets are printed on a pearlized paper stock and the paperbacks utilize a cool silvery ink.
What was the first young adult book cover you’ve designed?
I remember it fondly! It was a fun/wholesome series called Sorority 101. The goal was to come up with a design concept to tie all the books together. I remember going to the Martha Stewart website for aesthetic inspiration and came across a ribbon pin-board tutorial which became the foundation for my series design.
What other book cover art projects have you worked on, and will we be seeing more of your work on future book covers?
You can see some of my existing covers at tevangelista.com. I absolutely love my job, and I look forward to sharing more in the future.
If you haven’t seen it already, here’s a brand new addition to the Nightshade series: SNAKEROOT
Learn more about the cover release and what the author had to say about the new addition at bookish.com.
Theresa has designed many covers by best selling authors like Ally Condie (MATCHED) and Jandy Nelson (THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE)