Monday 21 March 2016

How do you become a cover designer? Art Director Thy Bui tells all

My latest: Book of Lies,
published by Orchard Books 24 March!
by Teri Terry
I'm taking a break from blogging about writing this time, and moving on to something that can strike hope, fear, joy and despair into the heart of all authors... sometimes at the same time. Yes, you guessed it: book covers. 

Covers are so critical to the success of a book. The most amazing book with the wrong cover will struggle; the most average book with the most amazing cover will do well. Them's the facts. 

When I first saw the cover for Book of Lies, I was still writing the story. It was love at first sight for me: an amazing cover! Actually possibly the most amazing cover in the history of covers! Though instead of thinking, ok, average insides will do the job, it somehow turned the pressure up a notch to get the story just right.

Considering how important they are, there is very little out there about the shadowy figures behind cover design.

So introducing Thy Bui, YA and middle-grade Art Director for Orion and Orchard:

Thy started her design career at Warner Music UK. The three years on sleeve design gave her a unique insight into the visual world of teens and young adults; the move from music to books was an obvious transition. She joined Orchard Books as senior fiction designer at an exciting time – Orchard were building their middle-grade, teen and YA lists, having acquired incredible talent like Ally Carter, Teri Terry and Jonathan Meres . 
At the beginning of 2015 Thy began her role as Art Director for middle-grade to YA fiction, working across the Orion and Orchard list. It was an unique opportunity to work on two distinctly different imprints, and to work with amazing debut and prizewinning talent including Annabel Pitcher, Dawn Kurtagich and Leo Hunt.

I decided to do this blog recently when a reader, Carina, asked me about how you become a cover designer. I emailed Thy, and her reply was so generous and detailed that I asked her if I could blog it. Here it is:

Thy on becoming a cover designer:

I went to university in Australia and did a Design degree focusing on Visual Communication – graphic design, illustration and typography. The following are known for being good for those graphic design (2 dimensional design as opposed to product and industrial design) focused:
  •  London College of Communication
  •  Central St Martins
  •  Kingston University
  •  University of Brighton
  •  Cambridge School of Art

My advice is to completely immerse yourself in book design and design in popular culture – music, fashion, games, film, food, interiors/furniture…everything – as design, and good examples of design and inspiration, crosses all arenas.

And also to bear in mind the importance of type. Keep an eye out for good use of type, and if the degree chosen offers a typography elective, take it. 
Design talks and events are also great, I've yet to go to a GLUG event, but they are meant to be inspirational and good for networking. There's also OFFSET in Dublin.

Below are a handful of book cover related sites to check out. There is so much out there, independent designers, design agencies, illustrators etc…so this is just a starting point: 

And also follow publishers' instagram/pinterest boards. A lot of them are set-up by the designers and they're a little more inspirational than the actual websites which are set-up by the corporate bods as a business tool rather than celebrating the design side of publishing. 

And finally, let her/him know to expect to work VERY hard, you need a good portfolio to get into a Design degree. Design is challenging work and not just about making something look pretty. Fantastic design is almost always about a creative concept/approach, followed by great execution.

...and a final word from the author who shamelessly put all her Thy-designed-covers down the side of the blog:

know how lucky I've been to have Thy as my cover designer for all my covers, from Slated to Book of LiesI wrote this in the acknowledgements at the back of Book of Lies: 
...thanks to Thy Bui, the very amazing cover designer who has done all my Orchard Books covers. I kept looking at the cover for Book of Lies while I was editing it, and thinking, I have to make this good enough to live up to this cover.
Very true. All I can say is that I hope the insides have lived up to the outsides.

And now for a giveaway with a difference! A copy of Book of Lies, signed by both designer (Thy) and Author, me (Teri):
To enter, please leave a comment to this blog - say hello or ask a question, and then tell us what is your favourite ever book cover and why.
A winner will be chosen at random at noon on 28th March (UK time), using a random number generator.
Open internationally.

Note added 28 March: this giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Sabrina!

Here is Thy holding up two of her creations at my launch event at Waterstones Islington on Saturday.
Thanks, Thy! For being there - both then and now.

Thanks to Candy Gourlay for the photo

AND here is most of the Notes from the Slushpile Team at the same party:

From left: Kathryn, Candy, Jo, Teri (me!), and Addy. Missing are Nick and Maureen.
I'd say photo by Candy, as it is in her photos, yet - strangely - she is in the photo...


  1. I love those covers. Do you have any influences? And is there a crossover between cover design and book illustration? :)

    1. Hi Lindsay, this answer below is from Thy:

      In answer to: 'is there crossover between cover design and book illustration?'

      I work on fiction so my answer relates to fiction cover art. Picture book designers work with a slightly different approach, but with both fiction and picture books, designer and illustrator are two separate roles. Designers and illustrators do however work closely together.
      A cover designer's role is to come up with concepts, the 'idea' for the cover artwork. Once the concept is approved, the artwork for the cover can either be created and illustrated by the designer, or a suitable illustrator is commissioned to bring the designer's concept/idea to life. At times designers may create 'incidental' illustrations for book interiors, but cover designers are not book illustrators.

  2. It's true, the covers are GORGEOUS. So excited to read the book!

  3. Hello Teri and Thy. You are both so very talented! I'd love to win a signed copy of Book of Lies. My favourite ever book cover are the covers of the Septimus Heap series, because they look so magic-y and colorful and perfectly represent the atmosphere of the books.

  4. All of the book covers are amazing, it was the cover of Slated that first drew me into your books . Although I think now my favourite cover is Book of Lies, I love the sharp colours and imagery, it really attracts your eye and draws you in, I'm very excited to read it.

    1. Thank you - I think it is my favourite, too.

  5. Sounds and looks great! Another for the TBR pile!

  6. Fascinating! And yes, your covers are beyond gorgeous! Book of Lies is possibly my favourite but it's tricky to choose ... I have to to tell you that BoL ranks alongside my tip-top favourite covers for Marcus Sedgewick's 'My Swordhand is Singing'.

  7. Love to be entered for this competition, really not sure on my favourite ever book cover though. It might be uprooted, which had gorgeous gold bits. Although I was also very fond of life after life.

  8. They are fab covers - I know we shouldn't judge a book....etc... but they do entice you to want to read it! They're great! Oh - and SLATED is (I think) just about my fave!

  9. these covers looks really good, it makes you wanna read a book more. I would like to read these books, they sound and look good

  10. I love all of these book covers! Most of the time I choose a book by its cover���� My all time favorite book cover is Rapture by Lauren Kate, I lovr that cover so much�� It's so enticing! Thanks for the chance❤

  11. What was your inspiration for Slated its one of my favorite trilogies i've always wondered that? my favorite book cover is from the novel Say her Name By James Dawson the image of blood dripping from the mirror and lit candles adds to the urban legend in the novel and the girl in the mirror,ive always thought rather than her being bloody mary it was actually the main character and it makes me think that she doesn't know herself she doesn't see herself clearly so like a fogged up mirror the truth is murky and unclear these are just thoughts that occur to me when i see the cover its always been a favorite of mine

  12. Hi! Thank you for publishing this article - it was very interesting! I really like your books - especially Mind Games. I'm looking forward to reading Book of Lies.
    My favourite book cover is the one from Miss Peregrine's Home for peculiar children. It looks fascinating I think and whenever I look at it, I want to start reading the book again. :)

  13. Hi Teri and Thy! I have Two favourite book covers: Number one is Shattered. I really like the cover, because It makes such a mood of mystery and a little scary. And the models Green eyes are totally like I thought Kyla's eyes were! It's so gorgeous. My number Two is Heist Society by Ally Carter. The cover is a girl with the sunglasses like in the book. It reminds me of Shattered because there's also a girl at the cover. And I think it's probably the headpersons from the books. I love them! I come from Denmark, so sorry If my English is bad...
    Love from Anna Aurora.

    P.S If you want to contact me so please write to my other e-mail:

  14. Yay! This is exciting, can't wait to read your new book Teri! Hmm well one of my favourite book covers would have to be Missing Me by Sophie Mckenzie, where it's a picture of a girl looking down, and her hair blends in with a pathway of someone running in it, hard to describe, but a really striking cover. The second would have to be Shattered, as it lends an air of mystery and the light/pale blue is certainly an eye catching cover.

  15. Hiya Teri and Thy! My all-time favourite book covers would have to be; Slated and Divergent by Veronica Roth. Slated because it reflects the book in many ways; her expression is totally how I imagined slateds to look, her eyes are beautiful, like described in the book, and it is almost creepy and mysterious. One of the reasons I bought the book originally was because the blurb and the cover were so mysterious!

    Divergent because it also resembles the book and is so simple. There are two covers of Divergent but i'm talking (or typing) about the one with the three birds flying away which resemble her mum, dad and brother. It resembles something, which I think is important in a book cover, which Slated and Divergent both have.

    I absolutetly love you trioligy slated,fractured and shattered and can't wait to read your new book :))

    I would ask what your inspiration was for slated but I know as you made an appearance at my school, unfortunately I didn't have enought money to buy ' book of lies.'

    I think its fastinating,creepy and inspiring how you actually had the dream of a girl running on the sand not knowing what she is running from!!! I like to write but find it hard to finish pieces, I just simply don't know how to do my story line justice! What would you advice??

    I'm really sorry if I have any spelling mistakes, :)) and sorry this is long but I had so much to say. I found this article fascinating!

    If you wish to contact me please go to;

    Chloe :))

  16. Hi �� What an interesting post!
    Hmm it's so hard to choose one. I have many! I'm not going to choose any of your covers because they are all beautiful. I'm going for The danish edition of The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan. I love the white background and the silhouette of a wizard and the colours. It is so mysterious and beautiful. It makes me want to read te book. Makes me intrigued. It is simple but stunning none the less

    Sabrina Glud

    1. Congratulations, Sabrina! you won! I'll email shortly

  17. I would love to have a signed copy of your new novel, Book of lies! Personally when I'm strolling through the bookstore it's the books with the simple covers that stand out to me the most. Amidst all the colours and action of the other books, Kylas eyes on the front of Slated wouldn't stop staring at me.
    The cover is minimalistic, the burgundy green-grey colour gives this book a sinister, creepy feeling and Kyla's beautiful eyes capture all the thoughts and feelings of what it means to be Slated. I was instantly drawn to this book and honestly I haven't been able to put it down since!

    My favourite book covers would have to be those of the Harry Potter series. Just because J.K Rowling never used movie covers.

  18. My favourite book cover is Stephen King IT

  19. Hi Teri. My favourite book cover would be the Book of Lies. I think that it shows the contrast between the twins whilst still broadcasting their similarities through the use of perspective of the 2 halves of the face. The colours are very vivid and eye catching and the orange-red of the hair reflects the characters of the 2 girls, whilst complimenting their eye colour on the front. it is also one of my absolute favourite books.

  20. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I believe sometimes a good cover can make you pick up a book you otherwise would have walked past. These covers are all beautiful by the way!

  21. I have to say, I do judge a book by its cover. I think a good cover is so important. A recent favourite of mine is The UK cover for the recently-published Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen – you can even see its design in movement on an animated gif.

  22. Hello there Teri and Thy I do like a good book cover and as an avid reader I am ashamed to say the cover is what makes me pick a book up. I have had some books passed to me for review which I wouldn't have picked up and have been very surprised at how much I enjoyed them.

  23. These covers look great! Book covers play a big part in whether I buy a book or not most of the time so very important that they look good. You've done a great job!

  24. A book cover is what leads me into discovering what the book is about and all of your books have intrigued me, you are honestly one of my favourite authors (I love the Slated series and have just finished re-reading mind games and then dangerous games). I love how your books get into my mind and make me consider life and how the future could be as your books have realistic elements. I can't wait to read Book of Lies, and the cover intrigued me but knowing it was written by you made me want to read it even more, you are so talented and I love reading your books. I would love to win a signed copy of Book of Lies and just want to say a big thumbs up to Thy as your skills are amazing!! :)

  25. I love your books so much and have been a fan since slated came out. I reread them all the time and can't wait to read your future books. I also love all the covers, they really draw me in. :)


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