WHAT IS BEHIND THE DESK?
Behind the Desk is a new monthly series in which I interview amazing published authors, unpublished writers, librarians, teachers, book designers, etc. so that we can learn more about the intricacies, struggles, and excitement that goes on in the world of books and literature. Feel free to contact me with suggestions for future interviewees!
Behind the Desk: Marci Senders
Ninety percent of publishing is done behind the scenes. While the authors and booksellers are in the public eye, the editors, copy editors, proofreaders, and sales and marketing teams carry out their work with little fanfare or recognition from the public. Book designers, however, occupy that grey space in the middle. Their work is often the first part of the book you'll notice, perhaps even before the author's name, but you'll rarely know who created that amazing front cover you can't get out of your head or the wealth of other covers they have designed.
I'm lucky enough today to not only have an incredible book designer here on the Anablog, but the person who designed the cover of Rachel Cohn's newest solo fiction book, Kill All Happies (out May 2017). The cover is revealed at the end of this interview. Marci Senders is designer extraordinaire at Disney-Hyperion and you can see some of her beautiful work below. Marci received her BFA in Graphic Design from Tyler School of Art at Temple University, previously worked at Alloy Entertainment and Random House, and now lives in Brooklyn where she loves to crochet when she isn't coming up with stunning Pinterest boards for her newest book covers.
What do you most look forward to as you begin a new project?
I start every project by doing image research, mostly on Pinterest, and I start piecing all the elements together. I love the idea of starting with a clean slate, brain-storming with the editor, reading the book and sometimes rereading the book.
How have book covers changed since you first started out in publishing? Do you have a secret disdain for e-readers since they can't show off the stunning work of yours and your colleagues?
No, eBooks get covers too and we work just as hard on original eBook covers as we do on print books. As far as how designing books have changed, for any format, most books are bought online and seeing what a cover looks like as a thumbnail is just as important as what it looks like at full size.
Were there any particular book covers that influenced you to become a designer? Are there any stand-out covers from your childhood that you remember?
I always thought of myself as an artist, and had hand-lettered most of my projects in art school. I like covers that show an expected solution with an unexpected twist. The cover for Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer speaks to an easy approach or at least it looks effortless.
Authors face a lot of public pressure for a book's success or failure, but book designers must feel a similar pressure. How do you deal with that and what advice do you have for designers just starting out, facing that pressure for the first time?
Of course we feel pressure…a cover is the marketing for the book and it has to grab the consumer within 30 seconds. If it’s a great story, covers come pretty naturally.
What advice would you give newly-published authors as they go through the process of having their first cover designed?
Trust that the designer does not design in a bubble. We work with Editorial, Sales, Marketing and Publicity to make sure the book has the right cover.
There's been a lot of talk recently regarding diversity in publishing, such as hiring more employees from minority backgrounds to publishing books by authors and illustrators of color. What role does cover design play in all of this?
When designing any cover, it’s important to be all inclusive regardless of gender, race, socio-economics, etc. while being true to the content of the book.
Peter Mendelsund said it can be more freeing to work for deceased authors ("one less person who has to approve" the cover). Which deceased author would you love to design for and what would a cover for one of their books look like?
Edgar Allen Poe…his stories are so conceptual and smart. I would do something very simple and graphic with an unexpected twist.
And finally, I have to ask: do you judge books by their cover?
Yes, of course, but less since I’ve become a book designer.
Cover Reveal: Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn
Anablog: I know I'm biased, but I truly LOVE and am EXCITED BY this incredible cover for Kill All Happies. It immediately caught my eye and reminded me how much I loved this funny, smart manuscript when I read it last year. My first thought was, "WOW, now this is a unique cover." Tell me how this cover came to be, from the background color to the original fonts and the brilliant icons.
Marci: First of all, thank you so much! The process was a little different since I started working on this cover at a much earlier stage than usual and the cover developed as the story developed. As I worked on this cover, it was important to speak to the voice of this book and that it’s, at its a core, a coming of age story.
It was too hard to tell the story with just one image. There wasn’t a shortage of ideas. I tried smashed pies and that looked too young. I played around with dinner signage and that looked too retro. Anything with party scenes looked too festive and anything with attitude looked too harsh. I was talking with the editor and we were throwing out funny images from the book and it just made sense to go iconic. It was a good way to get in all the pieces of the story and still show the main character’s personality. The pie is sweet, yet the upside down van speaks to the rebellion. It all just fell together. I wanted to show the girl’s voice in the fonts as if she wrote it. We liked the yellow background as it felt happy. The texture was originally just a placeholder for textured paper I was planning on using, but the printed texture reminds me of the vinyl seats from a diner.
Last Call at Happies! Tonight, 8 P.M. Senior Class Only! Please with the Shhhh….
This is it. Graduation. And Vic Navarro is throwing the most epic party Rancho Soldado has ever seen. She’s going to pull off the most memorable good-bye ever for her best friends, give Happies—the kitschy restaurant that is her desert town’s claim to fame—a proper send-off into bankruptcy, and oh yes, hook up with her delicious crush, Jake Zavala-Kim. She only needs to keep the whole thing a secret so that her archnemesis, Miss Ann Thrope, Rancho Soldado’s nightmare Town Councilwoman and high school Economics teacher, doesn’t get Vic tossed in jail.
With the music thumping, alcohol flowing, bodies mashing, and Thrope nowhere to be seen, Vic’s party is a raging success. That is, until Happies fans start arriving in droves to say good-bye, and storm the deserted theme park behind the restaurant. Suddenly what was a small graduation bash is more like Coachella on steroids with a side of RASmatazz pie. The night is so not going as planned. And maybe that’s the best plan of all.
Pre-order Kill All Happies here or from your local bookstore!