AMY FERNALD: a different approach
JIAM2012 Behind the Scenes Interview #5
I was really looking forward to talking to Amy. I had noticed years ago that the cover art on audiobooks was often different from that of the hardcover or paperback, and I’d surmised that it was a licensing issue. But recently, I’d read a few dialogues between a Goodreads audiobook group and the staff at Tantor and was impressed that the graphic design department was so responsive to feedback from listeners.
KW: So, Amy, what is your job title and what are your responsibilities?
AF: I’m a graphic designer at Tantor Media. I’m one of the people responsible for the artwork representing all things Tantor. I work closely with our editorial, marketing, and licensing departments to create images that you see on the website, packaging, and advertisements. Bottom line: I play with Photoshop all day. A lot of my job revolves around creating artwork from books we produce that will appear on our CD and MP3 cases. Some of this involves using my own original designs and illustrations. Other times, we get the rights for the hardcover artwork, and it’s my job to adapt it to our packaging.
I work next to the three other designers that make up the graphics department. While we always maintain an atmosphere of strict professionalism, we cannot be held accountable for the stray rubber band flying over your cubicle. We each have our own work flow, but will occasionally take a step back from our computers to doodle on each other’s marker board (This week’s marker board theme is The Avengers, of course).We’re always bouncing ideas off each other for direction or some constructive criticism. In the event one of us designs ourselves into a corner, we can meet and offer each other feedback. So while each designer works on their projects independently, we are part of a support system within a creative department.
KW: I loved when I saw some exchanges in a Goodreads romance audio group that Tantor’s graphics dept was actually responsive to listener feedback on some romance cover designs. Can you share anything about that process?
AF: For online forums such as the Goodreads, we frequently have marketing drop in and see what is being discussed. It’s the best way to get feedback on which covers are working and which covers need improvement. Then the information is relayed to the graphics department. Listeners really are judging a book by its cover in most cases so it’s important we get it right. For example, I did a cover for a fantasy romance book called Dragon Bound and it was apparently a big hit with listeners. It’s great to hear their reactions so I know if I should continue with that look for the rest of the series, or if I should take it in a new direction. We’ve actually gone back and changed covers based on what fans were saying. Audiobook forums are a great way to keep in touch with our audience and give them what they want. Sometimes I drop in just to see what’s going on!
KW: How did you end up working in the audiobook industry?
AF: Fresh out of college, I began looking into the publishing industry for employment. I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, with a concentration in illustration. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t an overwhelming demand for painters in the working world. Luckily, I had a growing knowledge of digital art and photo manipulation. That, combined with my traditional art background, created a portfolio that ended up getting me the job at Tantor. Here, I’ve learned how to make attention-grabbing advertisements and covers that help market our books. I suppose nowadays I think more like a designer than an illustrator (I never thought I would actually care about fonts). And while I love what I do, I’ll never fully succumb to the “dark side”. My heart is always in illustration.
KW: What do you love most about the work you do?
AF: There are lots of reasons why I like what I do. My daily schedule has deadlines and structure, but time management is my own responsibility. I enjoy this aspect of my job since I’m deadline-driven and am essentially free to work at a pace that produces a great product with minimal stress. I also get to research interesting topics for background info before jumping into a book about a specific subject. We cover many different genres so the variety is great. One week I can be reading about Allied forces in WWII, and the next week I can be online looking for zombie photos.
KW: What’s your favorite day of the week?
AF: My very unoriginal answer would be Friday. Aside from the obvious reasons, with my schedule, Friday is around the time when a book design is being completed and sent over to the warehouse to be printed and assembled. It’s also a good time to get ahead and start tackling the titles on next week’s shipment. Then I can start my weekend on the right foot.
KW: Do you have a favorite literary genre?
AF: I lean more towards the graphic novels for my favorite genre. I liked Jeff Somer’s Electric Church series. It’s a nice sci-fi vacation from reality and the story moves along nicely.
I also like memoirs since they offer a different perspective into someone’s life. You Are an Ironman is a book we produced last year that follows 6 average people who are training for an Ironman competition. It really makes you appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into something like that.
KW: Anything else you’d like to share?
AF: Once a month we have an employee newsletter generated by the marketing department. It lets us know recent happenings within the company, important info we should be aware of, and upcoming company get-togethers. Recently, there has been a section that profiles each department within Tantor and all the people that are in it. This profile would include a group photo. When it came time to feature the graphics department, naturally we decided to take a different approach. So, with a bit of planning and the help of Photoshop, the four of us reenacted the Abbey Road album cover by The Beatles.