A Cover Story with Creative Director, Ashley Schrock

Ashley Schrock serves as creative director for Barbour Publishing, Inc. Outside of work she enjoys playing tennis, coloring (you’re never too old to color!) and walking her newly acquired puppy, Sawyer. She currently resides in the fabulously small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.

My job as creative director covers a lot of ground—I oversee covers that are sent out to freelance designers, manage cover schedules so they get out to the printer on time, facilitate the communication of cover processes with our editorial team, and more recently coordinate photo shoots for our full length fiction. Basically if it has to do with our covers, I have something to do with it. But the majority of my time is spent designing covers and that’s what I’m going to share with you.

And let me preface this by saying how thankful I am not to only have a job during this time of hardship for so many but a job that I love! Sometimes I can’t believe that I get paid to do something I enjoy so much (don’t tell my boss I said that). 🙂 So here it is, in TLC title fashion
When we’re working with new books everything starts with the publication list. We work from 2 lists a year—a spring and a fall. This is screen shot (below) of a pub list from a few years back. You probably can’t make out the info but the highlighted yellow column contains the title info and that’s where I start—finding the titles, author, and what category it belongs too. Most of what we do is in the fiction, gift, reference, kids, or devotional categories but we have several titles per list that are wild cards. The number of titles on these lists ranges from about 75-90 titles and included in every fall list are about 20-30 Christmas titles so once this list is final I can start what is about to be a crazy couple of months…

Once we have our pub list final I have meetings. Holla if you love meetings! (crickets? that’s what I thought). But no, these meetings are great because it’s with our editorial team. We go over upcoming titles and the direction we want to take them in. In our meetings review the strategy of who we want the book to target (read: market analysis), say a 20’s something group and that gives me an idea of why kind of style we’ll looking at. We decide if we want to art of some kind or photography and maybe we want it a little edgier than some of our other titles. Or if it’s woman’s devotional we look at who we’re targeting and go with a whole different approach. We talk about budgets and what we can do as far as the cover treatments go, spot uv, foil, emboss, etc. Now it’s go time…
And this is how the magic happens…

This is my handsome 24″ iMac I named Zeke. In the morning I come into my office and say, “Zeke, it’s go time.” 🙂 If ever there is a Mac vs. PC match going on you’ll find me in Mac’s corner holding the spit bucket. And those Mac commercials… love em! (Big surprise, a designer likes Macs. I know.)Anyway, getting off point. Now it’s time to start. I always start a new design by sketching out ideas first. And to be honest, I’m a terrible drawer so I usually want to skip this part, but I’ve found that you can’t be afraid to sketch out 10 awful covers because the 11th might be great. So I get over my insecurity and stick to drawing mostly straight lines. 🙂 I very rarely let people see my sketchbook but here’s a shot from a page that I was sketching out ideas for The Names of God.

Then I go to work on Zeke. I begin with a blank page in Photoshop and a few minutes later I take a step back and find a cover. Poof! It’s just that easy! Okay not really. This final cover was the result of many hours and several bad comps, gradually turning into better comps, and eventually landing on a final. A comp is what we call a cover that is designed but not approved yet. Like when I’m done with designing a front cover and send it out for feedback I say “Here are the first round of comps (compositions).” And we refer to them as such until we choose a final
I have to say I was happy with this one (below) at the end of it all. Some days I’ll start working on a cover and it feels like no matter what I do it just keeps getting worse. Then I’ll come in the next morning, open it up, and think, “Oh I need to do this!” And then everything just falls into place. I think that happens to a lot of people. Author’s can you back me up on this?

And just because I call it final doesn’t mean it actually is. It has to pass through several people before it gets the stamp of approval. I refer to this process as “the gauntlet of cruelty”. 🙂 But in this case The Names of God cover shown is the approved, final cover. Yeah!!! The worst part now is waiting until I can have a printed copy in my hands. Depending on how late in the year it’s scheduled to come in it can up to a year. I’m currently working on designs for our Spring 2010 pub list. I know who to blame when I write 2010 on my checks.
So that’s a pretty quick run-through of my design process. Hope you enjoyed it!