Love At First Sight: The Making of Jasmine Guillory’s Swoonworthy Book Covers

It’s okay to admit it: Everyone judges books by their covers. Why else would they have such fabulous designs? We’re as partial to a striking jacket as the next person, and we always look forward to seeing the covers for upcoming releases by our favorite authors. Jasmine Guillory is one such author, and her effervescent rom-coms are always perfectly paired with beautiful, tone-setting illustrated covers.

To celebrate the release of her sixth novel, While We Were Dating, we spoke with Jasmine, plus Berkley Books Vice President, Editorial Director Cindy Hwang, Senior Marketing Manager Fareeda Bullert, and Art Director Rita Frangie about the process of cover creation. Read our conversation below, then make plans to visit us this week for your copy of While We Were Dating. It’s warm, witty, and full of thoughtful social commentary—in other words, it’s everything you’d expect from a Jasmine Guillory book.

From each of your unique perspectives — editorial, sales and marketing, author, and book designer — how does the cover design process work? Who is involved in which stages?

Cindy Hwang, Vice President, Editorial Director: The book cover process always starts with the author and the editor, often over a year before the publication date, so the cover process is a lengthy one. If there is a complete manuscript already written, the editor will often try to think of potential cover ideas in mind while reading the manuscript for the first time, and then confer with the author about cover ideas before presenting their combined ideas to the art department at a cover meeting. Other times though, especially with continuing authors, the author is still writing the book when it’s time to cover conference the book jacket. In that case, the editor will usually not have as much material to work from—sometimes there will be chapters and a synopsis, sometimes just a synopsis to read. So in those situations the editor will rely more heavily on the author’s ideas for possible cover concepts.

Fareeda Bullert, Senior Marketing Manager: Marketing will see variations of the cover early, and will give input when appropriate and if needed. For Jasmine’s books, waiting for the next cover is exciting and thrilling—our designers are fabulous and I’m always in awe of their work. 

Jasmine Guillory, Author: Okay first I just have to say that the team at Berkley always works true miracles with my covers, but that’s never been more true than with While We Were Dating. This is how it usually works—Cindy will check in with me before she goes to the cover conference to see if I have any general or specific ideas for the cover, and she’ll take what I say and what she knows about the manuscript to the conference, and then they wave some magic wands and a while later (usually a month or two) I get some cover examples. This is always trickier when it’s a manuscript that no one at Berkley has seen yet, which has been the case for about half of my books, just because of the way publishing timing matches up with my deadlines. Cindy usually already knows lots of detail about the manuscript, so I give her anything I think she doesn’t know yet that I think might be important to know for the cover, and they go off and figure it out.

However, none of those other books were written during a global pandemic where all of us were stressed and terrified the vast majority of the time. I felt frozen and unable to write last spring—I think I told my agent at least three or four times that there was NO way I was going to make the deadline for this book, and each time, she just said “Okay!” I think telling her that—and remembering an old conversation with Cindy where she’d told me that if I ever needed to push a deadline because of anything going on in my life, that I should never hesitate to tell her that—took some of the stress of writing and the deadline away from me, and made it possible for me to start the book. But even once I started writing While We Were Dating, I didn’t tell anyone that I was even working on it, for fear of jinxing it. 

So when Cindy sent me an email, sometime last August, to ask if I had a title for Book Six and any cover ideas, I think I just sent her an email back saying “NO” in all caps. (Okay I just checked the emails and I did not actually do it this way, though I think it was clear from my response that that’s what I meant.) Mind you, at this point, Cindy knew NOTHING about what was then Untitled Jasmine Guillory #6, but she didn’t even balk at my response. A few weeks later, she checked in again, and at that point I was more ready to talk about it; I finally felt like I understood the book, and most importantly, the kinds of emotions I wanted the cover to evoke. So I sent a very rambly email with some of the big scenes that felt like cover kinds of scenes, how I wanted the cover to feel, and colors that felt right. I threw out glamorous, palm trees, photographers taking pictures of a couple, red carpet scene, and limos, among many other words. And I think it’s clear to all of us that the art department nailed it!

Rita Frangie, Art Director: From the perspective of the Art Director/Designer, the design process starts out with a collaboration of ideas discussed in a meeting with the publisher and editor alongside the author’s ideas on how to best represent the book and the author’s voice. There is always a search for inspiration, which is crucial in order to grasp the tone and spirit of the book. Inspiration is found in reading the manuscript, research, and many discussions with the editor. Preliminary sketches and approaches are quickly developed and then an explorative design journey begins which could include bringing on an illustrator or photographer as well as exploring typographical and design solutions. Designs are then presented to the in-house team and then the author. There are instances where a design is chosen and everybody loves it and other times where revisions are needed to get to that place where everybody is in agreement that we have the right cover for the book. As an Art Director it is vital to know how to translate all the feedback and use it to make effective changes to reach the design solution that makes sense and best supports the purpose of the book cover.

Jasmine, it's our understanding that authors don't have much input on their book covers. Was that your experience? Since this is your sixth book, was your involvement in the design of the While We Were Dating cover different from your previous books?

Jasmine Guillory: Berkley has always been wonderful about this—they’ve asked my input on the covers from the very beginning, and we’ve worked together very well on all of them. Obviously the Art Department does all of the heavy lifting, but they’ve really allowed me to have a real role in figuring out the cover. The goal is always for everyone to truly love it!

Can you walk us through how the sales and editorial departments collaborate with the designer throughout the process? How many versions of the cover of While We Were Dating were there before you settled on the final design?

Cindy Hwang: At our cover meetings, we of course have the editors and the art department, and technically the editors present their cover concepts to the art department. But the heads of marketing and publicity and the publisher and president of Berkley are also at the cover meetings and will give feedback on the cover ideas. The editor often comes to the meeting with several different ideas, and they will help decide on which cover idea the Art Directors should focus on and develop. The Art Director will then work with the designers and the artist on interpreting the author’s and editor’s vision for the cover. After initial sketches are ready, the Art Director will show them to the editor, the Publisher, and Marketing and Publicity for feedback and together they decide which sketch is the best for the cover. At this point the editor will often show the sketches to the author and the agent as well, for their feedback. After everyone agrees on the cover sketch, the artist will finalize the art. We’ll often share the more final version with the Sales department—usually they love the covers, but sometimes they’ll request changes as well, so at that point the cover art can change.

For While We Were Dating, though there were a few different initial sketches, it quickly became clear which one we all loved, and it was unanimously chosen to be the final art for the cover. We did go back and forth a few times though to get the details right! 

Rita Frangie: There were many versions of the cover for While We Were Dating, mainly to perfect the characteristics of the figures and get the accessories just right. We relied heavily on visual references provided to us by the author, down to the last detail of jewelry.

Rita, how did you become a book cover designer?

Rita Frangie: My love of books began at an early age—schoolwork would get pushed to the side in favor of a new book. When school was out I spent all my summers in my small town public library immersing myself in stories of adventure and life. As I read I would often flip to the cover to check and see if the details of the book cover matched and if they portrayed what I was reading. I would question why a cover was packaged as it was, and I often discussed my love or hate for the cover with the librarian. Little did I know that was the beginning of my obsession with book covers. When I wasn’t reading, I was drawing and coloring. My father picked up on my artistic talent and encouraged me to explore my passion for design and it was inevitable that I would dive head-first into graphic design and then continue to find work in publishing as a book cover designer and later become an Art Director.


Staff Pick Badge
While We Were Dating Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593100844
Availability: Usually Ships in 4-7 Days
Published: Berkley - July 13th, 2021

An instant New York Times bestseller!

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Staff Pick Badge
While We Were Dating Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593100851
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Berkley - July 13th, 2021

An instant New York Times bestseller!

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.