Interview with Jennifer Quinlan-Graphic Designer

Jenny QIndiebrag would like to welcome, Jennifer Quinlan today to talk about her Graphic Designing. Jennifer, aka Jenny Q, owner of Historical Editorial, is an editor and cover designer specializing in historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. A member of the Historical Novel Society, the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the American Historical Association, and various local and regional historical organizations, she lives in Virginia with her husband, a Civil War re-enactor and fellow history buff.

Jennifer, what is your Graphic Design Company called?

My company is Historical Editorial, and it houses both my editing and graphic design businesses. I have a separate website dedicated to my book covers.

How did you get in Graphic Design?

I’ve always been an extremely visual person. Even as a child I was tearing pages out of magazines to hang on my walls and making collages out of pictures. My love for design began about eighteen years ago when I started scrapbooking. That was back when we worked with actual printed photos and paper, scissors, glue, etc. A few years later, I started working in the advertising department of my hometown daily newspaper. As an outside sales rep, I met with local and regional business owners and helped them create print and online advertising campaigns, and I worked with our team of graphic designers to bring the ads to life. I learned more about the process then and the collaborative relationship designers have with their clients. Then I moved into real estate and began designing marketing materials for my brokerage. When the economy collapsed and advertising and real estate both collapsed along with it, I turned my attention and my skills to self-publishing.

A White Room by Stephanie CarrollWill you please share the first book cover you designed?

I designed a series of covers for re-issues of little-known gems in historical romance in order to gain some experience and material for my portfolio, but this is the one that started my freelance career, the first cover I designed for an independent author. A White Room by Stephanie Carroll continues to be one of the more popular covers in my portfolio cited by authors reaching out to me for a cover.

Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

Everywhere! But mostly I draw inspiration from other covers. Covers are like eye candy for me, and I’m always browsing through them, studying them, drooling over them.  It’s important to be knowledgeable about trends in my genres and also to keep an eye on which types of covers are selling the most books.  I also find inspiration in artwork as I’m browsing. I’m constantly finding images of models or backgrounds or historical paintings that make me stop and say, “Oh, that would make a great cover someday! I better save this.”

How do you keep your work area organized?

I am a fairly organized person with a small workspace, so I generally only have on my desk what I need for the project I’m working on. And since all of my work is digital, I really only have to work hard at keeping my computer files organized.

What are your goals as a graphic designer?

My goal is first and foremost to design a cover that sells books. That sometimes means that I need to coax an author into considering another approach to what they envision on their cover.  My years in marketing and advertising and my in-depth knowledge of the genres I work with have given me a pretty good eye when it comes to figuring out which elements will work best. I also have a huge competitive streak, and it’s really important to me that my covers are able to hold their own standing alongside those coming out of the Big Five houses.

Is there a particular designer that has been influential in your work? If so, talk about it.

Honestly, no. Had I received a formal education in design, I would probably have many design idols, but I am self-taught, and my work and experience is limited to designing book covers in a handful of genres. I could point to covers I love and that inspire me, but I couldn’t tell you who designed them.

What lessons have you learned along the way honing in on your craft?

That I will probably work my whole life and never know how to use even half of Photoshop’s amazing capabilities! I’ve also had to learn how to swallow my pride and handle feedback and criticism of my work objectively and professionally. And I’ve learned that although I may have strong opinions about each cover I design, I have to always remember that it’s not my book, it’s the authors, and ultimately they have to make the final decision and walk away with a cover they love.

What book cover that you have designed that stands out to you the most?

I can’t choose a favorite because they’re all my babies and I love them all, but I would say I am most proud of the covers that challenged me, the ones that drew me out of my comfort zone to try something new and different.

What covers have you designed that are B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees?

Sebastian's WaySebastian’s Way by George Steger, Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson, Murder by Misrule, Death by Disputation, and The Widow’s Guild by Anna Castle, (all of which I also edited), and Reconstructing Jackson, Red, White & Screwed, and Romancing Olive by Holly Bush.

What are the tips, tricks and tools that help keep your designing career moving?

I’m always learning. With every cover, it seems, I’m watching Photoshop tutorials to learn how to do something new or how to do something better. I’m always looking for inspiration. And I’m always talking about books! Meeting and interacting with readers, writers, and other book professionals like myself is crucial to stay in-the-know and to grow my network of clients and associates.

Where can authors find you?

On my websites,,,, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. You can also find me at the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland next June!


5 responses to “Interview with Jennifer Quinlan-Graphic Designer”

  1. Jenny Q says:

    Thank you so much for having me today, and thank you for all the hard work you do on behalf of indie authors!

  2. Stephanie Hopkins says:

    Love your designs, Jenny! So delighted to have you visit indiebrag and share with us your work. You give great insight into designing book covers.

  3. M.K. Tod says:

    Great post! And it’s so interesting to hear more of your background, Jenny.

  4. Marissa says:

    So thrilled to have found Jenny! We are working on a cover design, and I can’t wait to see the finished product.
    In gratitude,

  5. Gayle Mullen Pace says:

    A wonderful interview! I have been privileged to work with Jenny on all 6 of my published novels. She’s an excellent cover artist as well as being a superb editor–what I needed most. Very professional with high standards of excellence. And best of all, she’s a joy to work with. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a cover artist or editor–or both.

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