The Mark's Cover Designer: Danielle Delaney

The Online Launch Party continues!  Read the giveaway rules, prize list and enter here   Almost any conversation about The Mark that I've had in person or online includes talk about the awesome cover.  So pretty, no?  Of course, I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Danielle Delaney, who designed not one, but two beautiful covers for The Mark, graciously agreed to answer a bunch of my questions about her work...

How did you wind up in your current job? 

DD: I went to the University of Delaware, and had three rigorous portfolio reviews to be in the Visual Communications program there, which I like to refer to as Art Boot Camp. It was extremely competitive, which forces you to grow a very thick skin. I learned that 95% of your ideas are horrible and get thrown onto the metaphorical cutting room floor.  The remaining 5% (or sometimes .5%) get worked into a final design. As a designer, you have to be okay with most of your work not “working”—it’s just the process of getting to the best solution.

After graduation, I did two internships at Penguin, one at Puffin and one at D.K.  They were fantastic; the design teams there gave me real projects, included me in meetings, and really just took me under their 10-person-design-team wings. My Art Director from Puffin, then gave me a recommendation for my current job here at Bloomsbury—the exact job I wanted. My Art Director here took a huge leap of faith on me, and I’m fully indebted to her for the opportunity and experience she's given me.

. What’s something about your job that most people would be surprised to learn?

DD: Probably that designers come up with so many ideas for each book.  The fact that some books require literally 100 different compositions before one is chosen is something that no one really knows outside the industry. 

What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened at work/as a result of your job?  

DD: When you are a student in school, you take part in hypothetical project situations. There is a big difference between creating an illustration piece for a pretend article and actually seeing a book you’ve designed in the store. Honestly, the coolest thing is just seeing how my work is accepted or rejected by the general population. Also, I just had my first anniversary at Bloomsbury, so it’s still a bit surreal.  

Can you give us a behind-the-scenes look at the process of designing a cover? 

DD: First, the manuscript comes in house to editorial department, and they begin discussing how this book will be placed into the market. The design team is given a Design Brief, which is individually tailored to the kind of book. That brief has character descriptions, plot summary, and important scenes to possibly depict. We (the design dept.) are also given the most recent version of the manuscript and comp (competitive) titles that already exist in the market. The designers then present the most recent compositions to editorial staff in design meetings, and a conversation is started (including feedback from the author along the way). When we have a few solid comps, we present them in Launch meetings where they are shown to a larger group. Sometimes we get all the way to a final, and it can go back to the drawing board. The process really changes with each project.

Book design is a VERY collaborative process. Every book has a team of people behind it.  

Can you tell us anything about concepts for The Mark that wound up on the cutting room floor?  

DD: The Mark was actually a really funny situation because the original design was one of my first concepts. Due to many designers using stock websites, another company had purchased the same image. So, the original “final” cover ended up on the cutting room floor. Then we started the mad dash to come up with something that was better than the original cover. Caroline Abbey (the editor) and I worked very closely on this book. I had found probably another 50 possible images, and Caroline and I tossed them back and forth to each other, but it was Caroline that actually found the image for the final cover through hours of searching for something worthy.

Some people think there's isn't much effort that goes into a book cover—it is quite the opposite. There is a team of people trying to create the best possible cover for each book on their list, so that it not only sells copies, but that it compliments the hard work of the writer. Its the writer’s name on the book in the end, and the cover should reflect that. The people that are in book publishing are in it for the heart of it. And, we all have big hearts for books!   If there’s a photo shoot, how involved are you in that?  

DD: If the decision is made to have a photo shoot, my Art Director is in charge of talking to photographers about schedules, make-up artists, casting models, wardrobe, etc. I then come up with a mock cover that we can use as an example of how the cover could look. That is brought along to the photo shoot, and I assist in any way that my Art Director and/or Photographer need.

How many book jackets do you work on at a time?  

DD: Depends on the season, and we work on about 3 or 4 seasons (Fall/Winter/Spring) at a time. We are a fairly small design team, so depending on how many books each imprint has going for any given season they are divided among us. At the moment I am working on about 20 books. I am given the jacket and the interior of YA and middle-grade novels, as well as picture books to design.   How long does it take to design a jacket?

DD: We start about a year before the book is going to be published. As soon as the final manuscript is in house, it is available to us. It takes a couple months to finalize what we want to be the jacket, and then it is good to go to the printer. 

What is the purpose of a dust jacket - is it really to keep away dust? 

DD: I’m going to be a dork for a moment (and if anyone reads this and feels compelled to correct me, please go right ahead!). I believe the idea of the “dust” jacket originally was a piece of cloth or animal skin that wrapped the book, protecting it for generations since books were generally passed down. Historically, books were very expensive and time consuming to make. Materials like vellum and leather were reused often. Books were never just thrown away. Over time, it morphed into cheaper materials with better/cheaper printing techniques. Today, I do feel that the jacket is more of an advertisement for the book than to actually keep it from harm. Usually it’s the jacket that gets taken off and gets hurt first when reading.

Is there one that is a personal favorite or that you’re most proud of? 

DD: I really can’t and don’t take full credit for any of them wholly because it is such a group endeavor. However, my favorites are coming out in the next couple of seasons, one called Good Behavior and the American version of the French book No and Me. All covers are compromises between all the different parties involved, however, these two seem to have had a consensus with the concepts at the beginning, which always makes it a bit easier.

What are some of your favorite books?

DD: Tough question! My favorite adult fiction book to date has been The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall. It’s the only book I have ever just continued to re-read. The interior would have been super fun to design, so I tip my digital cap to that designer/typesetter.

My favorite children’s book to date is probably The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. With my illustration background, it always strikes me how Jeffers choices of what he paints on add another dimension to his work.

Okay, now tell us a little about you.  Your formal bio, if you will... 

DD: I’ve written a whole bunch, I hope that I am not boring your readers!

I’m just a 24 year old from New Jersey that has recently made the move to the big city for her dream job. Life is good.

Many thanks for the interview AND the beautiful cover, Dani!