Sunday, 15 March 2009

Interview: Amy Saidens

As many of you know, I have a huge literary crush on Jenn Echols. It made sense then that I would hunt down, Amy Saidens who has illustrated the bulk of Jenn's novels. Amy has kindly allowed me to interview her about what her job entails - something that fascinates me.

How did you get started designing book covers?
My very first book cover assignment wasn't assigned at all: an art director was browsing online portfolios and found a personal piece I had done and thought it would translate perfectly for a cover she was working on. The book was called "Wanderlust", a romantic comedy about the adventures of a fancy-free travel writer. The interesting thing is that the piece they used for the cover was something I had created in response to September 11...a perfect example of how different eyes see different things.

What would you consider you strengths in cover art design?
I like simple compositions and interesting color combinations. And i can draw an expressive face.

How much information are you provided with at the beginning of the assignment?
It varies. Usually I'm given a physical description of the characters and often a context to place them in. Sometimes I get an overview of the story and I work with the art director on a concept.

What is your favourite book jacket design?Probably "The V Club" (which happens to be another example of the art happening before the assignment). I love how simple and mysterious it is.

Could you briefly talk about how you approached each of the covers to The Boys Next Door, Major Crush and The Ex Games?
It's very rare that I get to read the whole book, though every now and then that happens.Usually I'm given a summary, sometimes specific chapters or events are sampled as well. With the Simon Pulse series (of which all 3 of Jennifer Echols Novels are part), they like the covers to feature the main characters, particularly if there's a love triangle involved. They also like if there's something a bit humorous happening, but that's not always possible.

Sometimes there's a clear direction, like in Major Crush and the Ex Games, and for those situations I usually just try to do that as best I can. But sometimes there isn't a definitive context to put the characters, and when that happens, I try to provide different options that explore a few ideas. Or, sometimes the Editors have something in mind and as I'm sketching it out, I think of something that might work better, and in that case I present both ideas.

How much of a say does an author have in determining the look of their book?
It really depends, and might be a better question for the publisher!I rarely have any contact with the author. I think usually the publisher and their team chooses the direction of the cover. The author can have feedback, but in the end, the publisher (and its sales department, frankly) have the final say.

Which other projects have you used your artistic genius?
blush I've done work for magazines, newspapers, a few ad campaigns and websites. I've also done some fully illustrated books (ie, not just the covers): cookbooks, gift books, sticker books for children, and coming Christmas 2009, a Fashion Show paper doll book.

Thanks so much for your time, Amy. I would recommend that you check out her website at to see her amazing portfolio.


Alea said...

This was great!

Kelsey said...

What an awesome idea to interview a cover designer!

This was really neat!

susan said...

I really enjoy hearing about illustrators' work. Thanks for posting this.

How about sharing this for Little Lov'n Monday. The aim is to support other bloggers by showing a little love by leaving a comment. Book giveaway, too

H said...

It's always interesting to get a different perspective on book publishing!

Steph Su said...

YES! I'd love to have more interviews by cover designers. They're just so overlooked as being an integral part of the book publishing process and success.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, this was fascinating.

And, I appreciate art based around expressive faces! It's really a form of narcissism for me; I have a ridiculously expressive face, which (to my occasional chagrin) means I always get called on in school, since it's completely obvious when I have something to say.

Erika Lynn said...

this was great! thanks so much!

Wendy Toliver said...

Great interview! Amy Saidens rocks!

Niki Burnham said...

Thanks for posting this! Amy has illustrated four of my covers, and they were all phenomenal. I did a happy dance each time Simon Pulse e-mailed me with a new one!