If you’ve been following Bookish Serendipity, you probably know how much I LOVE book covers. I’ve picked out books based solely on their covers (*cough* The Selection *cough*), and the cover design process has intrigued me for a long time.

Today, I’m interviewing Erin Fitzsimmons, who designed several of my favorite book covers, like the covers for Snow Like Ashes, Cruel Beauty, Dorothy Must Die, and so many more! She’s also the Associate Art Director at HarperCollins Children’s Books! Thanks so much to Erin for participating. You can find at her website, or on twitter (@erinferdinand)

The Interview:


1. Thanks so much for joining us today! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me!
I am an Associate Art Director at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where I design and art direct tween and teen novels. I’ve been at Harper for just over 5 years, and I absolutely love the people that I work with. In fact, I recently became engaged to one of them: the incredibly talented book designer, Ray Shappell! I’m originally from New Jersey, but I came here for school 12 years ago and never left. I live in Brooklyn with Ray and our three (adorably fat) cats.
2. How long have you been designing? Are you self-taught, or did you go to school for design?
I have been designing book covers for about 8 years. I did not go to school for graphic design. I went to undergrad at The Gallatin School for Individualized Study at NYU. They offer an interdisciplinary approach to study, so while my concentration was technically Photojournalism, I had the ability to study in each of the schools at NYU, and broaden my education beyond my major.

It was this freedom that encouraged me to try and design a book cover when my first Art Director gave me the opportunity to, even though I had never been trained in it. I learned to design through trial by fire, and discovered very quickly that I loved it far more than I ever loved photography. Since then, I’ve taken continuing education classes in other areas of design (mostly type design), and I’m always looking to build and improve my skills!


3. Could you tell us a little bit about the book cover design process and how it happens when you’re working with a publisher?
We always start with reading the manuscript. To me, this is the most exciting part of the design process. This is when we take notes, sketch thumbnails, and visualize the cover in our head. After reading and discussing with the editor, we’ll begin to rough out our concepts into compositions, or “comps”. These comps can be sketches, stock photographs, or images from other sources that we combine for a loose representation of a concept that will be sent to a photographer or illustrator to execute.

When we have a comp we like, we share in-house, and if the concept is approved, we have the go-ahead to create final artwork. This stage is also incredibly fun, because it’s like watching a dream come to life. All those images inside your head become one image outside. It’s so rewarding to see that process take place.

Whether in-house or as a freelance book designer, there are always many rounds of people at the publishing house who need to approve the cover — the Editor, Sales and Marketing teams, Publisher and Vice-Publisher, and ultimately, the Author and Agent. It takes a village to bring a book cover from sketch to final cover, and along the way the art directors and designers are tasked with finding a way to take all the feedback and direction and focusing it into one solid cover design that makes our team and our readers happy!


4. What software do you use?

I work primarily in the Adobe Creative Suite — InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

5. Do you have any tips or resources for aspiring designers?

When I was just beginning to design, I spent a lot of time designing for various free online competitions. I never won a single one, but I treated each competition like a school assignment, so I was able to learn and try something new with each entry.

One resource I wish was around when I was learning is Skillshare. There is a wealth of talented designers and letterers teaching classes there, if I had more time I would be taking all their classes!
And I always tell design students and those new to design to just CREATE (anything and everything) and POST it. Make a blog, post to Instagram or Twitter, or set up a free portfolio site. If you are putting work out there, people can find you and hire you!

6. Note: this was a question asked by a commenter (Chloe) and Erin was kind enough to answer it. Thanks!

I was kind of wondering…do you know if the authors have any say or do the publishing people and designer(s) decide without any opinions from the author?
I can’t speak for all publishers, but at Harper, the authors absolutely have a say. We ask the editors to solicit the author’s ideas and examples of covers they like before we even begin the design process, and we aim to share sketches or concepts with them as early in the process as we can. We always take their thoughts and feedback into account as we work on finalizing the cover art. The tricky thing is that we have to take so many different opinions into account, that in rare situations, we might have to make some changes but not others. In my time at Harper, we have never published a cover that the author didn’t approve. It’s very important to us that their voices are heard and valued!

Thanks for joining us today, Erin!


11 Comments on Behind The Scenes: Interview With Book Cover Designer Erin Fitzsimmons

  1. Ella
    February 16, 2015 at 1:37 am (2 years ago)

    THIS IS FABULOUS! xD The cover of Cruel Beauty has been a close favourite of mine ever since I read the beautiful book last year, and I just LOVE how the cover pictures it PERFECTLY. The cover of Crimson Bound also by Rosamund Hodge is mindboggling as well, did Erin design that to?

    DOROTHY MUST DIEEEEE. Aaaaaah that book!!! Ha, that cover is yet another favourite as well XD

    I need Madness So Discreet in my life like NOW. ;)))

    Wonderful interview, Sam and Erin!! Thanks for the great advice, Erin! I can now make a note on my dream list on who I’d like to design the cover on my book if it ever sees the light! xD
    Ella recently posted…If I was a BOOK, what book would I be?!My Profile

  2. Nova @ Out of Time
    February 16, 2015 at 2:50 am (2 years ago)

    Whoa! Such an awesome post <3

    I heard about Erin Fitzsimmons from the Ice Like Fire cover reveal but I'm really annoyed at myself for not recognizing her sooner. She also designed some of the most epic covers ever! And even though I don't like the inside, the covers for The Selection series are awesome!

    Love this interview and I found it really interesting to read. I consider myself "sucky" at PhotoShop but I'm definitely looking to learn.
    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted…Book Review: The Brokenhearted – Amelia KahaneyMy Profile

  3. Leigh @ Little Book Star
    February 16, 2015 at 3:08 am (2 years ago)

    Oh wow she was the one who designed all those gorgeous covers!? *Hands down*. That’s amazing how she didn’t even major in graphic designs yet look at all these amazing works she has done! Now that’s talent! haha. My favorite cover of hers would probably be Cruel Beauty and The Heir! Amazing job and thanks for sharing!
    Leigh @ Little Book Star recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #13My Profile

  4. Fari @My Little Corner of Books
    February 16, 2015 at 3:59 am (2 years ago)

    WOAH!! AAWWWEEESSOOOMMMEEE!! *sigh* I love this post so much! I, too,, absolutely ADORE covers and when i see a beautiful cover, I just want to find out who designed it and HUUGG them!!! 😀

    Awesome interview! AND THE BEST COVERS EEVVVVVVAAA!!! Oh, how beautiful they are. *sigh* We love you, Erin! And you too, Sam! Hehe. 😀

    ~Fari 0:)
    Fari @My Little Corner of Books recently posted…Why are Vegeterian Vampires Seen As Better?My Profile

  5. Cait @ Paper Fury
    February 16, 2015 at 5:38 am (2 years ago)

    This. was. INCREDIBLE. omg, I love behind-the-scenes interviews like this….and these covers are gorgeous. I’m always picking up books on covers alone, so it’s awesome to hear from the person who makes that kind of stuff happen. 😉 Genius, Sam! Loved this!
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…Valentine’s Day Quiz: Who Said That?My Profile

  6. Chloe @ The Book Hugger
    February 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm (2 years ago)

    This is really cool! Book cover designers are geniuses. When I design my own covers using [probably copyrighted] images I find on the internet and PicMonkey, I feel so fabulous, and then I see actual book covers and I’m like, well then. -_-
    I was kind of wondering…do you know if the authors have any say or do the publishing people and designer(s) decide without any opinions from the author?
    Chloe @ The Book Hugger recently posted…Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle FormanMy Profile

  7. Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination
    February 16, 2015 at 10:55 pm (2 years ago)

    I LOVE GORGEOUS BOOK COVERS SO MUCH! In fact, I’m thinking that I’ll read A Thousand Pieces of You just because of its beautiful book cover. That’s actually happened to me with a ton of books. I’ve always wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes in the cover making process, and this is so interesting. The covers Erin Fitzsimmons has worked on are so beautiful.
    Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination recently posted…My Kingdom for a Quest Blog TourMy Profile

  8. Claire W.
    February 18, 2015 at 1:46 am (2 years ago)

    This interview is awesome! I’ve only worked with Photoshop briefly, but I want to learn more about design and things so I can enhance my blog design (plus things like covers and drawings would be cool too!) Mrs. Fitzsimmon’s work is absolutely beautiful, and they fit the books so well! I’m reading Proof of Forever right now and I think the cover definitely hits the spot. Lovely post Samantha!
    Claire W. recently posted…Ten Bookish Problems I HaveMy Profile

  9. Elise Forsyth Mort
    May 19, 2016 at 7:12 am (12 months ago)

    Cover art definitely sways my opinion, even if we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover!

    As for the book I’d choose, I’d probably go with The Selection Stories or a fall preorder .

  10. continuing education
    March 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm (1 month ago)

    Hello there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I’ll definitely digg it and in my opinion suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this web site.


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