In conversation with Kerri Resnick
IN CONVERSATION WITH
As someone with so much admiration for book cover design and art direction, talking to a designer with a portfolio as stunning as Kerri's felt like talking to a celebrity. I've held so many of Kerri's books in my hands over the years — The Scent Keeper, Remember Me, You Have a Match, Full Flight, Hurricane Summer, and You've Reached Sam, to name a few.
Her book covers are so memorable, and evoke so much emotion, warmth, and comfort. Each one is a telling of what's buried deep within the pages. I'm a member of book review platform NetGalley, and to be completely honest with you, I've selected many of Kerri and Olga Grlic's covers based primarily on the design. I’ve never been let down by what’s inside, either.
Kerri and I connected over email to talk about her path to the publishing world, the creative process of one of my favourite covers from last year, and how she felt seeing her design hit the number one spot on the Times bestseller list.
What path did you take to get to your position as Art Director of Wednesday Books?
In 2009, I started my career as a part time design assistant at St. Martin’s Press. I was very intimidated and had a serious case of imposter syndrome (still do, most of the time), but also felt so fortunate to land my dream job.
I began by working primarily on mechanicals (full spreads: back covers, flaps, spines), which helped me understand the basics. Soon, I ventured into cover design and eventually earned the opportunity to try my hand at a variety of different genres.
Fast forward to 2016 when Wednesday Books launched. For me, it felt like I was in the right place at the right time because I'd enjoyed the few young adult titles I had worked on and was so excited for the chance to be part of a brand new imprint.
I fell totally in love with Wednesday: the books, authors, all of it. While I continued to design for other imprints, I shifted much more into the YA space. Under the guidance of my boss and mentor, Olga Grlic, I was able to move up in the ranks and become a senior art director in 2022.
Wednesday Books is one of my favourite imprints, and you’ve designed covers for many of my favourite books. The most recent I can think of is You’ve Reached Sam. Dustin Theo’s debut was stunning, the characters were beautifully written, and the story was so memorable. What was the creative process like?
Oh, yes. I love that book so much. I cried while reading the manuscript and knew we needed a cover that reflected the raw emotion of the story.
That said, my process for this one was a bit different. While scrolling Pinterest for inspiration I came across a piece by Zipcy. It felt like it was created specifically for You've Reached Sam, and I remember sending it to the editor in a frenzy because it just felt right. She agreed, as did Dustin, and so I reached out to Zipcy and asked if she could recreate the image with specifics from the story. Luckily, she agreed, and the process was fairly seamless from there.
|You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao, cover by Kerri Resnick|
Courtney Summers will be joining me on AD soon. We talked about the gorgeous cover for her forthcoming queer thriller, I’m the Girl, which you also designed. What’s the first thing you do when you get a creative assignment? Do you have an opportunity to read the manuscript first?
I'm the Girl was a very special book to design, and I can't wait to read your interview with Courtney. Her books are some of my favorites.
My process is always a little bit different. I'm often asked about it and am never entirely sure how to answer, but usually the first thing I'll do is read the manuscript if it's available (which answers your second question). Sometimes I only have a partial manuscript or an outline to read, but any source material is a helpful first step to get a feel for the tone of the story.
Next, I'll check out similar titles that are already published. It's helpful for me to see what trends are working in the market, and also the imagery readers seem to be drawn towards. I'll also usually go through Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. Whether I'm looking for an artist to collaborate with or just some inspiration for direction, it always helps get the wheels turning.
|I'm the Girl by Courtney Summers, cover by Kerri Resnick|
A recent jacket designed by you, Anatomy by Dana Schwartz, was selected by Reese Witherspoon for her acclaimed book club. In Reese, we trust when it comes to books, and usually the books she chooses end up on the New York Times bestseller list. Schwartz’s Anatomy made the list the week Reese made the pick. How does it feel to see your cover sitting at #1 on the Times?
Anatomy is very special to me. I struggled to come up with the concept, and once I did I felt so proud of it and to see it hit #1 on the Times list means everything. I've been at my job twelve years but haven't had a book reach #1, so it felt like a huge accomplishment. I'm still pinching myself over it, honestly.
|Anatomy by Dana Schwartz, cover by Kerri Resnick|
Scrolling through your portfolio, I’m in awe of how many books you’ve designed (and how many of them I’ve held in my hand without knowing you designed them). Which one is the most memorable and why?
This is a tough question! Like asking a parent their favorite child (okay, maybe not that extreme...)
I really can't choose just one because each cover has its own unique history. I treat each one with equal weight, but two memorable covers that are Fable and Namesake by Adrienne Young. I found the image of the young woman on the covers on Pinterest (are we starting to see a trend here?) and the author fell in love with the model. I realized that if we were to re-shoot it, we would never get exactly the same look, so I went to work tracking down the photographer.
Long story short, the photographer was abroad and didn't speak any English. I felt like a bit of a stalker because I reached out to her on every form of social media she had, but between Google Translate and some very patient colleagues, we managed to secure rights to the image and make it work for both covers.
|Fable & Namesake by Adrienne Young, covers by Kerri Resnick|
Thank you! The cover image is actually a painting combined with a few photographic elements. The style is quite realistic, so it definitely gives off the appearance of a photograph at first glance.
I originally came across the artist, Gank Pansuay, on Instagram. The emotion in his work drew me in, and after reading Hurricane Summer I felt that he was the right choice to create the cover portrait. I had the thought of a storm being incorporated into the main character's hair, and Gank felt like the perfect artist to capture this concept.
There was a bit of back-and-forth, and I ended up combining a few pieces from a reference photoshoot of Asha along with Gank's painting to create the final cover image.
|Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield, cover by Kerri Resnick|
Lastly, what’s one book you’d recommend to my readers?
So many of the books I read are titles I work on, so I may be a bit biased, but I absolutely recommend A Brush With Love by Mazey Eddings! It's fun and romantic but filled with heart.
|A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings, cover by Kerri Resnick|