Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

Sans comics

This year I retired from designing book covers — there is, after all, only so much a person can do with the hours in their day. I'm a husband and a father; I have a terrific career as a user experience designer; I write books. When cover design wasn't necessary to keep the bills paid anymore, and it started to take away from time with my family or time writing my books, it was time to let it go. But you can't just flip a switch, or turn off the spigot; some projects do take time to wrap up, and I still have a few ongoing ones. 

The thing with cover design projects is that, since I'm retired (I love saying this word), I don't really get that many emails about the work. Weirdly, though, when one email shows up, I can almost guarantee that within the next four hours, seven more will appear, each referring to some urgent need on some other project. Out of nowhere, I'm buried in cover work. 

On Christmas Eve, that's what had happened. I'd grumbled to Felicia about some of the more ludicrous requests I'd seen — significant others of designers know exactly what kind of requests I'm talking about — and she'd listened patiently. When I ran an errand in the afternoon, I texted her to ask if she needed anything else. 

F: Peanut butter. 

J: Okay.

F: Oh, and hey, can you work on my book cover? I need it by tomorrow morning. 

J: >:[

F: Also, I have no idea what my title is.


F: Or my page count.


F: In fact, I haven't even started writing it yet. 

J: You have no idea how realistic this is. 

F: Also, can you use these super shitty pictures I have? They don't actually belong to me, but I like them.


F: And maybe this clip art, too? 

J: OMG. I'm blogging this.

F: And the font needs to be in Comic Sans.

J: I'm dying.

F: With maybe Kurlz for my name. 


F: Or is it Curlz? 

J: Curlz MT.

F: My font info is clearly dated.

J: I hate that I know that. 

In the months since I've retired, I've been asked several times if I wouldn't mind putting together a series of blog posts or tutorials about cover design. And while I've resisted until now — every designer works differently, see, and there are expensive tools that not all people can afford or are willing to pay for in order to learn how to design their own books — I'm beginning to think it might be useful to write a bit about how I did my covers, and the various others I've designed. I'm not sure how soon I'll get to this sort of thing, but maybe that'll be something I work on in 2015. It would be interesting to dissect one of my own covers to show how it's built, or to write a post or two about how to best work with the cover designer you've hired. 

Here's a tip, though: Tell your cover designer to set your name in Curlz MT. If they actually do it, run, run, run. 

New covers for the Movement series

The year of books and other books and more books