Sunday, 4 January 2015

3D Review; Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost - Book Designer Interview with Jane Dixon-Smith

Continuing our first ever 3D review of a self published book, Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost, we thought very hard about our third blog, as usually we'd interview the books editor. As the cover for book is so striking we thought we'd interview the book designer. So we have another first for you this week, as we present our first ever interview with a book designer, Jane Dixon-Smith!

JD Smith is primarily a book designer. She is also the author of Tristan and Iseult and The Rise of ZenobiaThe Fate of an Emperor, editor of Words with JAM and Bookmuse, and the mother of three mischievous boys. Her can browse her website, and find her on Facebook.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as many others. I loved the magical aspect of it, the venturing through a wardrobe and into another land full of creature who talked and perpetual winter.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

Harry Potter sounds so cliche but I do love the series. The Gruffalo too.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

I think they have a massive universal appeal, and they have to, because children's books are read by both children and adults - adults reading for, with and listening to their children.

How did you become a book designer?

I began working for a graphic design agency when I was 17. We designed all sorts of corporate literature, company branding and so on. We did a few books, and an awful lot of magazine and brochure covers. I also wrote fiction as a hobby and ran the writers' ezine Words with JAM. So when I was made redundant 12 years later and went freelance, I naturally ended up working on a lot of books. I still work on other bits and pieces but predominantly I'll immersed in the book world and I love it.

Why do you think book covers are important?

I've always said that a cover is important if an author or publisher wants to give a book it's best possible chance of commercial success. Readers do judge books by their covers, and not just for their quality, but also to gauge what's inside, whether or not they'll like the story, what books it might be similar to etc. It's a first impression with many different judgement made. That said, it depends on the reasons for publishing. Some authors who are self-publishing are really only doing it for themselves, the commercial success isn't important.

Please can you tell us 3 examples of your favourite all time book designs and why you think they are so good. 

Gosh. You know, I've never been asked that and it's hugely tricky. Three of my own would be The Lady's Favour. This one is so very sumptuous, and as I'm a big fan of anything historical, and especially Tudor England, this one really strikes me. Yellow Horizon is a fantasy novel and I love the the colours, the blending, and the way the images gel together. Amara's Daughter is an award-winning cover, the colour very striking, even at the smallest size. And a fourth, The Last Walk Out, is one of my all time favourites. Subtle yet striking. 

As for three others, off the top of my head and more because they have stuck with me as being simple, striking and rather clever covers: Missing Men, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Great Gatsby

Can you explain a bit about the anatomy of a book cover?

They tend to work for various reasons - right imagery, right fonts, right colours. Then there's more technical details as to how elements line up, proportions of one image compared to another, the tight, well formatted typography of the title and author name, the way the whole cover sits together in an invisible grid much the same as photographers use.

Is it more difficult designing book covers for children’s books?

It's not more difficult, although many are illustrated rather than based on photographic imagery. If that's the case I tend to work in tandem with an illustrator to bring together the overall design.

Please can you tell us about the cover design of Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost? Did it have several designs? Why was this one that was chosen?

There were several variations. In the end the final design was based on opinions canvassed from a Waterstones shop local to the author. The book is aimed at both boys and girls, so to have a picture of Callum, the main character on the front, made it too gender heavy.

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