I know you’ll consider me predictable because the topic of this interview is book covers and inevitably, I’ll mention the quote “Don’t judge the book by its cover”. Well you can judge a literal book by its cover, because Nixon Na, OMF Lit’s Art Director, points out that it tells what the book is all about. That and more will be discuss in this interview. Also as a bonus, we will get to have a sneak peek on his comicbook projects. Sweet….
Delighting Grace: How important is a good cover for a book? What do you think is the impact of it to the reader?
Nixon Na: In the book industry, where your first sales pitch is your cover, the cover should capture the interest of the book’s intended market in the first 3 to 5 seconds. In those few seconds a good book cover must say:
1. What the book is about
2. Who is the intended reader, and
3. “BUY ME!”
Delighting Grace: I think readers might have noticed this, why does the local edition and international or US edition of the same book have a different cover? Why do you have to come up with a Pinoy version when it already has one?
Nixon Na:Sometimes it has to do with licensing but most of the time it’s a marketing issue. The original cover may not work locally or the cover design is outdated. In these cases, our Marketing department along with the Editorial department recommend a “facelift.”
Here are some examples of re-covers I’ve done.
Saving My First Kiss by Liza Velthouse
This is a good example where the original cover may not have worked well in the local market since the image of confetti is not something many Filipinos are familiar with.
Other times it becomes more of a “packaging” concern. In the case of Hearing God by Dallas Willard, by changing the cover OMF Lit was able to reach a younger and wider range of audience.
Desiring God’s Will by David G. Benner is an example where giving it a “facelift” would help to increase sales of the product.
Delighting Grace: Those are great examples of re-covers, Nixon.Please tell us the process involved in creating book covers for OMF Lit.
Nixon Na:To start, I will need some key information about the book. First is the book title, this may sound insignificant but knowing the title is important because it determines the type of image I will choose for the cover.
Sometimes, the artists are assigned to start conceptualizing the design but the book only has a working title, the title is not yet finalized. So you really can’t fully design the cover yet.
Second is the primary target audience. This info will help me choose the design style or design approach that is best suited for the project. Third and last is the author’s writing style. Knowing the “writer’s voice” serves as a guide on how I should make the design. Will it look whimsical? Serious? Academic? etc.
Once I have all of these information I then start researching (for photos, texture, fonts, other design elements). When I can’t find the right stock photo or image, sometimes I take the photos or illustrate the image. I then make thumbnail sketches of the design and then lay-out the design in Photoshop. Usually, I make three cover studies. The covers are presented to the covers committee. When the committee has chosen the most suitable cover study, I then finalize the design.
Delighting Grace: Say for example, OMF Lit wants you to do a local cover for Joshua Harris’s bestselling book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” which has this iconic cover, what will your cover be like?
Nixon Na: HAHAHA! You put me on the spot here.
I would have to consider that the original cover is already iconic, and we are just giving it a facelift for the present-day audience. I guess my three studies will look like this:
Study One: Photo of a guy with the same iconic pose and image cropped similarly. The guy will still have the same kind of hat but I’d loosen the stiffness of the suit in the original cover and have the guy wear a simple long-sleeved shirt. I’ll stick to the same fonts used in the original cover.
Study Two: Again photo of a guy with the same iconic pose and image cropped similarly. But this time he’ll be wearing a cap and a T-shirt. Since this cover design is a bit more modern looking, I’ll typeset the title similar to how the title of Boy Meets Girl was typeset.
Study Three : Hmm…. I guess I’ll “cheat” and combine the image from study# 2 with the font treatment from study# 1 and make it monochromatic to make it look closer to the original cover, Hahaha! Paano, on the spot kasi eh :p
Delighting Grace: Hehehe. For you, what makes the best book design or cover?
Nixon Na: To answer this question, I’ll put myself in the position of a would-be buyer. For me, a book design has done its job well when it captures my attention and speaks me even if I’m eight feet away from it. If by simply looking at it I can already tell the tone of the author’s voice, then it’s a good design. And of course my best gauge for an effective book design is when the cover makes me want to buy the book even if I have no plans of reading it. Heaven knows I’ve done this more than a few times already, but the good thing is I’ve discovered some excellent writers this way.
Delighting Grace: Nixon you also illustrate comic books. How did you get into this kind of work?
Nixon Na:Illustrating comics is something I’ve always wanted to try ever since I was in high school. But not having the skills to write a story, I knew I would have to rely on a writer to be able to produce a comic book. I didn’t have many writer friends then. But when I started working at OMF Lit, I was blessed to meet Ian Magallona, who’s an editor. Through him, I met Emil Flores, one of the founders of Polyhedron Comics, who is a writer. Also through Ian, I met his best friend, writer-illustrator Robert Magnuson. Long story cut short, things clicked between me and these guys and so then I started illustrating comics with Polyhedron.
Delighting Grace: You’re working on your on solo project. I read somewhere you’re a bit hesitant with doing it on your own. Can you tell us more about it?
Nixon Na: I finished working on “CADRE: First-Born Sons” in November of 2011. In March 2012, by God’s grace, I was in C.B. Cebulski’s list of potential artists to work for Marvel Comics. So I was on a high! But there were no new stories for me to illustrate under Polyhedron. With no writer to partner with, I realize, I’m pretty much stuck with drawing pin-ups. By this time, I’ve also been designing book covers with OMF Lit for more than 10 years.
I soon started feeling dry creatively. I felt edgy. Then came a low point in my life which I prefer not to discuss for now. Sensing how I felt, Robert encouraged me to write my own story.
With low grades in my English subjects, I’ve never considered myself a writer. So yes, I was very hesitant. But with Robert constantly encouraging me, and later on, Emil giving me his insights, I felt a little more confident to write a story. Best of all, my wife, Joan, who’s an editor (she’s also Robert’s editor), read my draft and told me I should pursue the story. So that’s how this solo project started. Now, I just pray that I can finish the first issue before the year ends.
Delighting Grace: Thats something to look forward too. So Nixon to wrap this interview up, please tell our readers to check out your comic books. Do you have Facebook and other social media outlets so fans can connect with you?
Nixon Na: Yes, thank you for asking. I illustrated Ulupong ng Morong, which can be found in the anthology titled, Triple Punch Komiks. Also look for CADRE: First-Born Sons. Both of these stories were written by Ian Val Magallona and published under Polyhedron Comics. I also illustrated a short story by Jordan Santos titled New Digs, which you can see on my Deviant Art account: caswallon.deviantart.com. Also you can find me on Facebook: Nixon Na Art.
Marianito “Nitoy” Gonzales is a 30 something introvert whose passion is to proclaim the good news about God. He wears many hats but he is just an ordinary guy serving an extraordinary God. You can reach him at his Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram