by Jenny Kimura, Collaborative Designer
As a children’s and young adult book designer, one of my favorite things about the job is that I spend a lot of time looking through artist portfolios, trying to find a handful, in a sea of thousands, that I think would perfectly capture the essence of a book. Sometimes, I’ll have a new book project come down the pipeline and I know exactly which artist would knock the cover art out of this world. Sometimes, the vibe of the manuscript and the artist you have in mind just fit together so perfectly, how could another artist possibly do it better?
But more often than not, finding the right artist for a new book is a process that can take hours, especially if none of the artists I am already aware of feel like the right fit to me. I’m also always looking to find new talent, so I might spend several days scrolling through social media profiles, hashtags, agency websites, and book blogger lists, all in the hopes that I can find a few artists that not only fit the book (and the age categories!) but also have the right availability and experience to produce quality artwork. It’s a tougher list of demands than you might think, but when you discover an amazing new artist, it’s all worth it.
Here are some of the less traditional ways I’ve found illustrators for my clients’ book covers:
1. Social media: Instagram and, to some degree, Twitter are some of the best resources on the internet because, after all, they are networks of connections. I follow artists whose work I like, and I keep an eye out when they tag other artists in posts. Community accounts on Instagram that share artists’ work according to a common theme (for example, Good Type) are also a great way to find new artists you haven’t heard of. On Twitter, one of my favorite accounts is #PortfolioDay, which hosts a quarterly Twitter event where artists post pictures of their best work using the hashtag.
Here are some of my other favorite places to find artists on social media:
- Black Artist Space celebrates Black artists.
- Women of Type and Women of Illustration are great for finding women artists.
- YA Buzz posts newly revealed YA covers (and does a great job of crediting artists when they can).
2. Bookstores or your local library: These brick-and-mortar book havens are the best ways to not only see what’s on bookshelves now but also to scout out a gorgeous piece of artwork! The name of the cover illustrator is almost always on the back jacket flap or back cover, and you can additionally look on the copyright page. Take note of how the artwork looks in person vs. on the web—the difference may surprise you. And most definitely take notice of what stands out on shelves (and, sadly, what does not). This leads me to my next suggestion…
3. Digital Look Inside: In a time where it may not be feasible for you to visit a bookstore in person, it doesn’t mean you can’t scout out illustrators. Find the book on Amazon, and see if it has a Look Inside feature. Flip right to the copyright page for more information. Alternatively, some publishers upload a picture of the back cover or jacket flap to Amazon as well. If Amazon doesn’t have it, in a pinch, I download the ebook from my library and use that instead. (Should I have been a private investigator in another life? Maybe.)
4. Book blogging sites: Finding new artists isn’t always about finding someone totally new to book publishing. Looking at book covers that have been published within the last two to three years is a great way to find artists and understand current trends, and as a bonus, those artists will already be familiar with the book design process. And in order to find those recently published books, look no further than book bloggers, especially ones who specialize in the genre or age category you’re researching. One of my favorite new resources is a yearly YA database by book bloggers Rec It Rachel and Vicky C Books, which catalogs every YA book published in the US by not only year but also by subcategories such as genre, author, publisher, and yes, even cover color! While the database doesn’t have artists and designers listed, it is a tremendous starting point. No more asking your friends, “What’s the name of that book with the boy and a blue truck?”
Jenny Kimura is a full-time book designer for children’s, young adult, and adult books. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her cat, Basil, and is always on the hunt for the next great illustrator of her clients’ book covers. You can find more about her at https://indigoediting.com/about-indigo/the-indigo-team/jenny-kimura/ and more about her past work (and the names of past cover illustrators!) on her portfolio site, www.jennykimura.com.