Behind The Scenes At Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
With Linnae Crady and Alana Ruoso - Art Director, Core Series
Alana's photo is courtesy of Mark Peter Drolet.
Q: How many covers per month does Harlequin produce for their core titles?
Q: How many covers are produced for all of the Harlequin imprints per month?
Q: How many individuals are employed in the Art Department?
8 employees work in Series and 11 employees work in Single Title.
Q: Who are the individuals involved with producing a single cover?
Each cover is worked on by a Vision Team. Each Vision Team consists of an Art Director, Marketing Product Manager (and Marketing Assistants) and Editor (and Editorial Assistants). There are also the many artists, illustrators and photographers who bring our creative visions to life. Deborah Peterson, the Creative Director for Core Series, oversees the entire Art Department and all of our covers are approved by her before going into Production.
Q: Does all of the artwork for Harlequin Enterprises in North America originate in the Canadian office?
YES! We do it all!
Q: Tell us about your responsibilities as an Art Director for the Super Romance and Romantic Suspense titles.
I'm responsible for managing the creative direction of each cover, from concept to final artwork, in my respective series. I work with the Marketing and Editorial Departments to decide how best to visually represent the content of the book. It is my job to entice readers to pick up a Supers or Romantic Suspense and head to the checkout! In addition, I hire any artists, illustrators, or photographers needed to create the final cover and manage all the art budgets for my lines.
Q: How long have you worked for Harlequin and how did you become an Art Director?
I have worked at Harlequin since July 2005. I became an Art Director after about 10 years of working as a Graphic Designer for various Design Studios, Advertising Agencies, and Corporate Offices in Toronto.
Q: Were you a reader of Harlequin titles before becoming an employee?
No, however I have always been an avid reader and a big lover or romance! And I've always been into TV Movies of the Week, which I realize now are really Harlequin books for the small screen.
Q: What are the educational and background requirements needed to work in the Art Department at Harlequin?
Generally, you need either a degree or diploma in Design or Art, and every member of our Art Dept has a post-secondary degree in Art and/or Design. In addition, we have all worked for various demanding Design Studios and Advertising Agencies and all have Illustration or fine art experience. Between all of us there are over 100 years of design experience.
Q: What are the criteria for core title covers?
We always want to give our reader a book cover they want to hold on to, and that garners an emotional response by what the couples are doing, or how the hero looks. This helps form a bit of the fantasy for the reader. We like to think of the covers as akin to a movie poster giving a mood and feel for the story. We also want to reflect the editorial inside, give a sneak peek of the great read to come.
Q: How much input does the author have in choosing the cover?
Authors' suggestions for cover art are taken into consideration by everyone involved in the cover process (see below), however, ultimately the decision falls on Harlequin's shoulders. We look at not only what would make an eye-catching cover, but what is the overall marketing direction for that product and/or author. In addition, we need to look at the line up for the month and avoid repetition. For example, if we already have two cowboys in the month we may opt to focus on the baby theme of a storyline and feature a cute newborn.
Q: What is the lead time involved in producing a cover?
A cover goes into production approximately 9 months to 1 year before the sale date. The first step is to brief the book title with the Art, Marketing, and Editorial Departments (the Vision Team). The meetings are based on Art Fact Sheets, or AFS, which editors receive from the authors. The AFS contain pertinent information about the story i.e. character descriptions, plot summary, and key scenes within the story.
Q: What are the current trends in the Core titles division and what do you think will be future trends?
Covers featuring people and couples are a current trend and we continue to move in that direction. However, we have been finding lately that just the man alone on the front covers of some lines in particular; really seem to be striking a chord with our readers. For a time we tried incorporating landscape, still-life and less traditional romantic poses on covers to address some concerns voiced from readers over the dislike of our clinches, basically to give different audiences a variety of looks they could feel comfortable holding.
They had a more literary feel (a pretty beach scene, for example, or a vase of flowers). But that tends to receive a more positive response from readers in Single Title and the majority of Series readers prefer the more obvious cues of couples and families on their covers. However, we are always looking for new ways to express romance on our covers in a modern way and continue to experiment with that.
Q: What makes a cover great and how much importance does Harlequin place on producing covers that attract readers?
Producing great covers is our key priority here in the Art Department. We know readers pay attention to covers and have an emotional reaction to them. We constantly review our work and brainstorm for ways to make our series books jump off the shelves. There is a constant dialogue here between the departments, and also our artists. We work with many top-tier, award-winning artists who are extremely passionate about the quality of work they produce.
Q: How much impact does a great cover have on sales figures for a new author or an established author?
There is really no way to qualify that. While the cover has an obvious impact, truly it is strong editorial combined with a solid cover that drives sales.
Q: How have the covers for Harlequin SuperRomance and Silhouette Romantic Suspense changed since their beginning?
Out of all our series, SuperRomance has gone through the most transformation. SuperRomance has many layers to its stories and characters. We hope to show depth of emotion and romance in every cover. In 2005 we completely repackaged Supers. It was a bold move with less literal themes and more subtle branding. The covers looked like images from beautiful magazine layouts. Often there were no couples at all. Colors were subtle and oft. We wanted our readers get a sense of the story's emotion without revealing all the details.
We realized our readers missed seeing some of their favorite themes in an obvious way. In addition, the overly blurry images proved hard to see on the rack from a few feet away. We decided to go back to a slightly more traditional romance novel look. We kept it updated, however, by cropping in close to the figures and keeping to a photographic, but still soft, artistic technique. Couples once again became a key feature.
Currently we have applied a more illustrative approach to our covers, less photographic. This makes it feel like more of an escape read, which really is the key to the Harlequin brand. We've also brightened up the overall color palette of each cover, eliminated all blurriness, and made the branding more obvious. Couples are kept close together to emphasise the romance in Supers. We've also placed emphasis on our miniseries by adding large, contemporary flashes prominently placed near the title and author's name.
When we turned Intimate Moments into Romantic Suspense, the visual direction was to make the covers look like movie posters for big budget, romantic thrillers. Each cover was given its own color tone, with branding to match, so each book would look like its own special read. We cropped in close to the figures for added drama, and kept type big and bold.
After a year or so we decided to work in more visual cues into the covers, in keeping with our more traditional series looks. For example, adding babies or men in uniform.
Currently our covers continue to work in our reader's favorite themes, while emphasizing romance. We made more changes to the title type, switching to a script font, to add a feminine touch.
Q: Could you select one or two of your favorite covers and walk us through the process of its creation from start to finish? Why are they your favorites?
The first cover, Man from Montana (Sept 2006) was shot in Toronto on location by Mark Peter Drolet. From around 200 photographs I selected my favorite, and the final selection was given to a digital artist, Allan Davey. He then worked on the image to create the final softened look. In the end we decided to show more of the hero in the composition. Why hide those great arms?!
The second cover, The Family Solution (August 2007), is another one of my favorites. This was shot in NY and I was able to be on set and work closely with the photographer and an Illustrator. We took about 100 photographs; then again I selected my favorite which was given to the artist, Richard Newton. He then added the kitchen setting and gave it a soft, painterly look. Below is the initial comp, notice the artist had to add more of the kitchen to fill in the full cover area. The original blouse was actually a light green checkered pattern, but we decided a pink or lavender color would help make it pop off the shelf.
This cover was completed with 11 others over 3 days! What I love about this cover is the genuine feeling of affection between the couple. And the hero has that coveted rugged, man-you-can-depend-on look.
Q: What are the special challenges core titles face as opposed to other genres? I know there is a smaller window for marketing but what are the other challenges?
The sheer volume of books that we put out into the market place is our biggest challenge. We work on a lot of covers! Since we have new product hitting the shelves every month, we must work extremely quickly. Keeping our covers fresh and exciting is a constant challenge.
Q: Each of the core titles has a specific flavor and subject content. How do their logos and specific artistic style contribute to marketing what's inside?
The look of each series is carefully considered. The logo, art style and typography all need to work together to suggest a specific genre to our consumer. Presents, for example, has a very traditional Romance look. It always features a sexy couple inside a bold circle layout, passionate colors such as red, and romantic, script style fonts. The overall tone is intended to play up the hero's alpha male presence. The Presents package reflects exactly what is behind the cover.
Q: Who makes the decision to change the logo and what type of research goes into a new cover design?
The decision to change a series logo is not one made lightly. The Art Director would work with Deborah Peterson, our Creative Director, to see how best to approach a re-design. Depending on the project we may do it internally or hire external designers. It is a lengthy process that requires many levels of approval, from the Art Department right up to Donna Hayes, our President. We often do focus groups or panel research to see how consumers may react to our new designs.
Q: Can you tell us some humorous stories that happen while the Art Department produces covers every month. I like to call this question, A funny thing happened on the way to designing a cover.
1. A male model, someone who has done tons of covers for us, had to drive the photographer to the hospital. A few hours later she gave birth to a bouncing baby girl!
2. We often spray PAM on our models to get that sexy, glistening look!
3. On a photography set sometimes the chemistry between the hero and heroine is very real indeed! On more than one occasion the models have left the set together and begun their own Harlequin romance.
Behind The Scenes In The Studio
Krista working with the model.
Q: Do you have any stories about disaster covers that the Art Department wishes they had never designed? I like to call this the What were we thinking when we designed this cover? question.
We would like to think every cover we put out there is a gem, but know that isn't always the case. We are in a creative field, working with creative artists. Some days they deliver gems, and some days not so much. It is not a science. As much as we would like every cover to be art gallery worthy, there are too many variables involved for that expectation to be realistic. But we never stop trying and we love the process!
The scariest part of our jobs is when the first sketch from the artist comes in through email and we hold our breath! Is it going to blow us away or does our head end up in our hands! We want our readers and authors to know we do the best we can, every time, for every cover.
to Harlequin Art Directors, Alana Ruoso and Deborah Peterson!
Celebrate with Harlequin at eharlequin.com.
Linnae Crady () - October, 2009
Back to the Cover Biography summary page.