The Mysteries of Publishing
Until very recently, I had absolutely no personal experience (or idea) about what might be involved in producing a book. Indeed, the notion of a publishing house had always held an air of mystery for me. Whenever I submitted a manuscript for consideration, I had a mental image of it being received by a cynical, time-frazzled publisher; a mountain of manuscripts teetering on the desk beside them as they thrust printed sheets at their vast team of underlings; an unspoken instruction to make all those pages disappear. It was hard to imagine any of them reading the words with a positive eye because there would always be more, more, more submissions, every one of them clamouring for attention.
And, for those few mystical writers whose manuscripts were accepted, I imagined them being whisked off to launch parties, treated as gods, while things (I had no idea what things) went on in the background to transform those manuscripts into real books.
Now that I'm one of the (ha!) ‘mystical writers’ (who, it turns out, are not mystical at all), I’ve learnt that publishing houses aren’t really as I’d imagined. They’re filled with interesting, generous people who are passionate about reading and who are enthusiastic and hungry to find great new manuscripts.
In the case of MidnightSun Publishing, based here in Adelaide, the team is also made up of people who like writing as well as reading. I don’t know if this is common with small presses, but it’s something that I found myself wanting to know more about. How did these writers end up working for a publisher? And did that mean they were still primarily writers, or did they see themselves now as publishing professionals?
I decided to ask a few people at MidnightSun Publishing how they’d found themselves in their current roles and what it meant for their working/writing lives.
In this first blog, I'm talking to Kim Lock, who is both a freelance graphic designer, and the author of three published novels.
Kim and I haven’t met face to face yet, but I was in touch with her when my novel, Heaven Sent, was being prepared for publication because she was commissioned by MidnightSun Publishing as the cover designer. And I’m thrilled to say she’s now working on the cover for my second novel, Hide.
Hi Kim! Firstly, thank you for agreeing to be put under the spotlight for my blog.
Hi, Sue! Thank you for having me.
So, Kim, as a graphic designer, has book-cover art been an aspect of design you’ve always been interested in or was it something that came along serendipitously?
Having always been a corporate-type print designer (branding, marketing materials, annual reports, etc) book design was a separate sphere that I never paid much attention to as a designer, because reading (a loved pastime) and design (work) were two very separate things for me. So when I finally wrote a manuscript for publication, and it was picked up by MidnightSun Publishing, it was just in chatting with publisher, Anna Solding, that it came out that I was also a graphic designer – and she asked if I’d be interested in designing my own cover. Which is a very unique opportunity!
How did you come to be one of MidnightSun Publishing’s go-to cover designers? Which book covers of theirs have you designed?
After designing the cover for my own debut novel, Peace, Love and Khaki Socks (2013), I was delighted when MidnightSun asked me if I would be interested in working on their next title … and it went on from there. Since 2014 I think I have designed the majority of their novel covers, from middle-grade to adult fiction. I enjoy it immensely.
What are some of your favourite (non-MidnightSun) covers? What sorts of artwork are you attracted to?
One of my all-time favourite covers is Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe, 2016). It’s just beautiful, and I imagine would have taken a tremendous amount of work on the designer’s part. I tend to gravitate towards anything with imagery or illustration of natural materials.
Which books have you particularly enjoyed working on, and why?
I have really enjoyed working on the cover for your new novel, Sue! The brief was terrific, the novel’s premise exciting and it’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to design the cover for a thriller. I also really liked working on the cover of a book called Crush, a beautiful anthology of short stories about love in all its dark and light forms, edited by Simone Corletto, Amy T. Matthews, Jess M. Miller and Lynette Washington.
Can you take us through the process of cover design? How do you begin? Where does it fit in to the overall publishing process?
The first thing that happens is the publisher sends me a short brief, with the title and author, the genre or target audience, and where the book fits in the market. (This usually happens while the author is still merrily working away on early structural edits.) Any comparable covers or author requests are also taken into consideration. Then I prepare several rough concept designs of a front cover, anything from about 5 to 12 designs, and send those to the publisher. Once we have tweaked it down to a few potential designs the publisher sends those to the author for feedback. After we have a front cover decided upon, it’s then a matter of laying out the ‘flat’ – which includes the front, spine and back cover. Once the book is typeset, and we know how many pages it will be (as page count dictates the final spine width) I can finalise the cover artwork for the printer. This all has to be done several months before publication, in order to give the novel enough time for publicity, inclusion in catalogues, etc.
I notice from your website that, as well as writing and being a designer, you’re also a breast-feeding counsellor. How do you manage these various roles and do you find that you have periods of time where there are competing pressures and deadlines?
In terms of the latter part of your question, the answer would be: only very rarely. These days I am very careful about protecting my space, and if something makes me feel uneasy I don’t do it, or find a way to make it less stressful. So I think like most people who wear a few metaphorical hats I just manage as best as I can! At the present time most of my work with breastfeeding advocacy is in the form of op-ed style writing, rather than 1-on-1 counselling, so I tend to leave advocacy work for when I have something to say. I usually write in the mornings and work on design projects in the afternoon, unless I’m editing a manuscript, and then I swap it around – design in the morning, edit in the afternoon.
Do you consider yourself a graphic designer first and foremost? Or a writer?
It took me a while, but these days I consider myself a writer first.
What training did you undertake to become a graphic designer?
I was lucky enough to be trained ‘on the job’. Late in high school – in 1998 – I spent a week doing work experience at a magazine, and was afterward offered a job. At first it was basic typesetting on a casual basis, but I worked under a really talented, old-school type art director who taught me a lot of the ropes, and I moved up from there. After a few years I moved into the artroom at a large printing house, and from there on to a graphic design and advertising studio. After about 8 years in the industry I had my first baby, and decided to work freelance for myself – and have been ever since.
What things are you working on at the moment? What are your immediate work plans?
At the moment I’m revising the second draft of my new novel, as well as having a few covers in the works for MidnightSun.
Kim – thank you so much for agreeing to be part of my mini-blog series.
In the next blog, I'll be talking to Zena Shapter who is one of MidnightSun's layout designers as well as an author.
About Kim Lock
Kim Lock is the author of three novels: The Three of Us (2018), Like I Can Love (2016) and Peace, Love and Khaki Socks (2013). Like I Can Love was selected to participate in the QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program in 2013, and was subsequently published in Australia, the UK and Germany. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Kill Your Darlings, The Guardian, Daily Life and The Sydney Morning Herald online, among others. In between writing, Kim works as a freelance graphic designer and volunteer breastfeeding counsellor. Kim lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and children, a dog, two cats and a rabbit. She is currently at work on her fourth novel.
If you want to find out more about Kim, head over to her website:
If you want to find out more about MidnightSun Publishing, go to: