by Sylvie Fox
I live in Los Angeles. I have celebrity neighbors, celebrity parents at my kid’s school, and even ran into Rob Lowe (and his swarm of paparazzi) at LAX a couple of weeks ago. Despite all this, I nearly fell off my chair when I met Jenn McGuire last week.
Who’s Jenn McGuire of JEM Designs? The minute I tell you, you’ll know, even if you live under a rock.
At a reader convention in Dallas, we’d chatted for nearly an hour about books. At the end of the conversation, Jennifer hands me her card. I had to sit back down. You’re that Jenn McGuire? (I probably screamed).
She nodded. Yep. She’s that one.
The woman who designed the Fifty Shades of Grey (trilogy) covers.
Take a breath. I’ll wait.
I love cover design. I think incessantly about cover design. So I begged, pleaded and cajoled and Jennifer was kind and generous enough to grant me this short interview. I’ll bow out now.
Q. You’ve designed one of the most iconic and recognizable covers in this decade. How do you think your covers have influenced book design?
I think the Fifty Shades Cover have proven to the industry that you don’t have to have half-naked men or heaving bosoms on an erotic cover (or even a romance one) in order for it to sell. A good, inanimate object can grab a readers attention and make them want to read the blurb to see what the book is about. If the design is good it will attract attention. I also think a lot of women were more than happy to have a non-traditional cover. They were not embarrassed to pull the books out and read them in public. Of course that was before they were a media hit and plastered all of the internet and television.
Q. How did you get started in graphic and/or book design?
I never set out to do this as a career. I worked for a short bit with my mother putting together a community paper that had business card ads around the border. I learned how to use a photoshop program for the paper’s printer. After I was finished with that I just played around with graphics as a hobby in the fanfiction community. I became very good friends with a fanfiction writer and would always make banners for her stories. When Fanfiction.net started pulling everyone’s stories from their site I helped a lot of writers including my before mentioned friend to set up blogs for their stories. I created many graphics and personalized blog templates for these authors. My writer friend wanted to start a website for all of the stories that no longer had a home. She asked me to help her set up the site and do the graphics for that as well. Since she always dreams big and wants to do more her next goal was a publishing house. One day she sent me some pictures and cover templates and said make me covers. After that I was the main graphic designer for The Writer’s Coffee Shop. For me it was just knowing the right people and sheer dumb luck 😉
Q. What do you think makes good (or bad) book design?
It is very easy to make a bad book design. Having too many elements on a cover is disastrous. With cover design 99% of the time less is definitely more. Bad font can kill a cover design as well. There is nothing worse than having to really look at a title and try to figure out what it is due to a bad font choice.
Q. What could authors & publishers do to make your job easier?
Communication is the key to making my job easier. There is nothing worse than an author that won’t reply or the ones that have no clue what they want. I have waited up to three weeks sometimes waiting for an author to get back with me regarding a design. Sadly, I don’t have time to read every book that I design before the cover is done. I have to rely on the summary and the author’s ideas. If they have no clue about a starting point for the design then my job is a hundred times more difficult. Also, my job is easier when an author is flexible with their ideas for a cover. I will work with any idea and do my best to execute the idea the author has given me but I will be honest and say, “Hey, here’s what you wanted but I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I’ve had authors not listen to my opinion and insist on the cover I did not recommend and the book did not sell well. Authors just need to remember that designers do this for many different books. If they think the design is not good or a good idea please listen to them.
Q. Lastly, what do you like to read? Favorite authors? Genres?
I honestly like to read anything as long as there is a good plot and there is a happy ending. I read to escape reality and my escape demands an HEA 😉 My favorite genres are romance and mystery/thriller. My favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon, JR Ward, Sydney Sheldon, Helena Hunting, JM Darhower, and Amber L. Johnson. I devour everything these authors put out and do a happy dance anytime I can get my hands on a signed copy of their books.
Who doesn’t love a good happy dance?
Thanks to Jennifer McGuire for stopping by Girlfriends Book Club today.To see more of her designs, please click on over to Jem Book Designs.
Sylvie Fox is the author of Qualified Immunity and The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of Unlikely and Impasse, the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, the first book in the Judgment series, released this September. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.