Monday, 9 November 2015

Behind the Scenes in a Publishing House

Behind the scenes at a publishing house - Interview with a Book Cover Designer

I am doing a new series of posts – all interviews with people who work behind the scenes at a publishing house (I have my monthly author interview but it’s nice to find out what other people do… and how they cope with us temperamental authors!). My first interview is with Harris Channing who is a freelance book cover designer who works with Siren Publishing, one of my publishers. I am delighted to have you on my blog. The great book cover below is one that Harris did for me.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, how long you have been working as book cover designer and what made you take up this profession? Do you do any other work?

Hello, thanks for having me! I'm excited to be a part of your behind the scenes project!

I'm an army brat so I've lived in many places over the span of my life.  I have, however, lived in Middle Tennessee for the longest.  My little city is about an hour outside of Nashville.

I have been working as a book cover designer since about 2011.  I also write but with two kids and my graphic design business I haven't had much time lately. But I do hope to dive back into that part of the business very soon.

What is the thing you most enjoy about being a book cover designer?

When I was younger I used to draw and paint a lot and I am into photography too, so it just seemed like a natural leap to get into computer art.  I have fun putting together covers and smoothing out the lines.  I really like trying to make stock images look fresh and different. 

I guess I have to say that even though I enjoy the process of making the cover, my favorite part is when one comes together and the author says, "Thank you Harris.  I love it."

If you can say, what has been your favourite book to design the cover for?

With near 2,000 covers under my belt I'd be hard pressed to choose just one!  In fact, I don't think I could!!!
(wow! That’s a lot of covers!)

What are the biggest things that make it difficult to design an author’s book cover? And what helps you?

The lack of certain models in the stock image world.  For example, there is a demand for BBW and there aren't a lot of images that glorify the beauty of a full figured woman. I do wish there were more of those available.  I sometimes wish I could set up a studio and take pictures of models myself...but I wouldn't even know where to start!!

What helps with a design? Not being overly specific in design.  Flexibility gives me the opportunity to really be creative in the design and I think some of my best work has come from being able to freely design.

Do you find it difficult to design a book for a genre you don’t particularly enjoy? Or what genre do you prefer to design a cover for?

My main focus on book covers has been romance but I have done covers for suspense and westerns and truly enjoyed designing them too. To be quite honest, I like all genres.  I will say, romance is my favorite as I'm the most familiar with it but I am open for most genres.

As an author I find myself picking up on other author’s mistakes, eg, head hopping or plot inconsistencies. Do you have any similar thoughts when looking at other designer’s book covers?

There is so much talent in the cover design business that I don't usually pick up on mistakes.  I usually try to get fresh ideas!

I know you write books as well – do you prefer being an author or a graphic designer?

It's really hard to compare the two.  My graphic design business is far more successful than my writing at this point...but I do love to write.  Sorry to be so unsure of my's just that I enjoy them both.

What are your top five tips to authors when completing cover questionnaires that would make your life easier?

Leeway...I understand that authors have a very specific look for their characters in mind.  And as an author I understand that too.  But given the limited number of stock image models, sometimes it's hard to find the exact right model.

With that said, my number 2 hint would be for authors to scour the stock image sites for their perfect model and send either the picture or a link along with their questionnaire.  That way they get the look they want or something very close.

Hmmm 3.  Understanding that I can't always see clearly the cover you want from a questionnaire.  I do my best, but sometimes I miss the mark.  Covers matter so much to authors (and they should) so emotions can run very high. Just remember that it wasn't an intentional slight and with proper communication with either your publisher or me (if it's a freelance job), we can make it work.

4. Your cover is important to me.  I want clients and potential clients to know that I value their business and that I want them to have a fulfilling experience if they choose me to be their cover artist.

5.  Patience.  It's exciting to get a cover and I strive to be as quick as possible getting the product to you. Sometimes however, life gets in the way and I get a little behind.  Those times are rare but patience is always appreciated.

Thank you, Harris. It has been fabulous interviewing you and the tips are really helpful. Good luck with your covers and your writing, too.

Thank you for having me.  I had to flex some brain power to answer some of these.  Good to know the verbal light bulb still flickers!  Have a great day!




  1. That was a fascinating interview :-) So, when I put my ususal, I have no clear idea, just work your magic, please on my book cover requests, that's the right ting to do then? LOL. Harris has done a fair number of my covers with Siren, and I have to say they rock! :-D

    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Doris. It was interesting to come up with questions other than the usual author ones!

  2. Thanks for having me on your blog, Jennifer! And yes, Doris....I like work your magic too! :D

    1. It was great to interview you, Harris. Thanks for taking part.

    2. You are so welcome! It was fun!

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  4. Great interview. Harris does fantastic covers.

    1. Thanks, sweetie. It was a fun interview to do.

    2. Thanks ladies! I so appreciate the kind words. :D

  5. Ditto, love the covers you do. I've bought books by authors I've never read because of the cover.

    1. Yes, I've bought books just because of the cover, too! Shows how important the cover can be.

    2. THANK YOU! I'm glad you like them. Yes, they are important! :D

  6. Ditto, love the covers you do. I've bought books by authors I've never read because of the cover.