They say you shouldn鈥檛 judge a book by its cover, but when the cover is insanely gorgeous, who can blame you? Definitely not Alyssa Nassner, an Associate Art Director at ABRAMS聽Kids. Her job requires creativity; browsing through bookstores; and working with editors, artists, and book sellers to come up with a beautiful cover you can鈥檛 wait to add to your bookshelf. Sounds like a dream gig to us.

We caught up with Nassner and got the 411 on how she nabbed her spot at ABRAMS, what she鈥檚 up to when she鈥檚 at her desk, and more. Scroll on to find out more about her dream job!

What Does an聽Art Director Do?

When it comes to selling books, there are A LOT of cooks in kitchen 鈥 not just authors, but also editors, sales teams, and bookstore buyers. With all those voices, it can be a challenge to come up with an exciting book cover everyone agrees on.

That鈥檚 where Nassner comes in. She tells us, 鈥淚t鈥檚 my job as the designer to mediate between the two voices [sales and editorial teams] and find a creative solution that鈥檚 both true to the vision of the book, but also saleable and competitive with the titles it will sit next to on the shelf.鈥

For Nassner, art direction combines two things she loves: 鈥渓ooking at a problem with a business lens and finding a creative solution that also meets market demands.鈥

How Does A聽Book Cover Get Made?

When an editor acquires a book, they鈥檒l send Nassner guidelines on cover design ideas 鈥 similar book titles, age ranges, author feedback, and vision. The sales team weighs in too, 鈥渂ased on what鈥檚 selling, what鈥檚 not, what our accounts like Barnes & Noble and Target require.鈥

From there, Nassner works with the creative director to come up with mood boards for the editor. She says, 鈥淲e will pull trends, look at designers, do bookstore visits, and overall try to get an idea of what this book should like and where it will sit in the store.鈥 Once the editors are happy, Nassner hires a designer to conceptualize, and/or an illustrator to execute the design concept.

Nassner tells us, 鈥淔rom here I鈥檒l share the sketches/concepts with all of the teams involved and collect their feedback. We鈥檒l decide what the priorities are and work with the artist to develop solutions to address them, which then go in front of the team again. It鈥檚 a pretty long process and we learn new things at every step.鈥

How Do You聽Become an Art Director?

Before she worked in publishing, Nassner was a textile designer for Target鈥檚 in-house children鈥檚 brands. On the side, she was a freelance illustrator, creating artwork for stationery products, children鈥檚 books, and greeting cards. Nassner had illustrated five books for ABRAMS before she landed a full-time Art Director gig 鈥 without a book design portfolio or even specific publishing experience. 鈥淚t goes to show that career experience doesn鈥檛 have to be linear for a candidate to be right for a position.鈥

Advice for Aspiring Book Cover Designers

1. Create a portfolio of covers. If you鈥檙e interested in freelance cover design, Nassner suggests 鈥渟tarting to build a portfolio of covers, either redesigned published titles or imagined, that showcase strong conceptual thinking and design aesthetic.鈥 She says it鈥檚 important to show off what you know, like market and design sensibilities, illustration skills, and photo editing abilities. At the same time, you don鈥檛 have to include skills you hate 鈥 instead, think about ways to highlight what makes you passionate. 鈥淚n math class your teacher always told you to 鈥榮how your work,鈥 and I think it鈥檚 true for book cover design as well.鈥

2.Buff up on your software design skills. Nassner tells us that it鈥檚 also important to be realistic about the job 鈥 it鈥檚 not just designing covers all day. She鈥檚 also flowing and designing interior text, making text corrections, doing photo clean-up and manipulation, and working with production to proof jackets and interiors. Buffing up on your typography and inDesign skills is mandatory.

3.Work and study hard. Nassner says, 鈥淎ll of that being said, I came into my role with minimal book design experience, so I think it鈥檚 possible for trend and industry knowledge, good taste, and hard work to trump the technical skills you will learn on the job.鈥

Designers You Should Know About

Nassner tells, us, 鈥淩ight now I鈥檓 working with two super talented ladies whose work I鈥檝e admired for some time. Na Kim is designing a cover for the second book we鈥檙e publishing from Sarah Nicole Lemon, author of Done Dirt Cheap.

Kimberly Glyder is working on a middle grade novel called Every Shiny Thing that is sure to dazzle. Her Instagram feed is one of my current favorites. Both of these women have killer portfolios, and you can鈥檛 go to the bookstore without seeing their titles face out on the shelf (one of the highest merchandising honors)!鈥

鈥淚n addition to people I鈥檝e hired, I鈥檇 like to recognize my friend and fellow designer Maria T. Middleton. She was my mentor at ABRAMS before she joined the design team at Random House. Her passion for book design is infectious, and the amount of care she gives to every detail of every book she designs 鈥 not just the cover 鈥 is truly inspiring.

What鈥檚 your dream job? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

(Portrait images via Sung Park, book images via ABRAMS)