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Enable your passion.

Create your vision.

Enable your passion.

Create your vision.

Enable your passion.

Create your vision.

A Snap Shot of My Cover Designer & Illustrator Journey

Updated: Jun 14

2019 Amity by Danica Peck Book Mock Up, Design by Dayna; Amity glitter gold cursive, girl with purple curly hair and purple eyes


In the beginning, I kind of fell into Cover Designing out of necessity. Sure, it combined multiple skills and passions that I did possess, but it was always meant to support my greatest love: storytelling. Not become it's own thing.


And yet. . .





2020 The Bargainer Series Omnibus, Author Laura Thalassa, Design by Dayna; Italic title and burning ashy wings

So, a few people have been curious about how I got here.


Like many creatives, I am entirely self taught without any explicit training outside of art extension in high school and the odd art class. In this industry, often the 'traditional' pathways don't really exist.


So, this is how I came to be :)






The Goodreads Era (2005 to 2009)

Believe it or not, Goodreads used to be a fantastic and active community for authors, writers, and readers. It was a digital haven for young me and I spent a good portion of my primary school and high school years invested in it. I was hooked, really. Hooked reading and reviewing. Hooked posting stories. Hooked engaging in communities.


Before I made the decision to delete my account, I had even become a moderator of an immensely popular teenage writing group which still exists, and stills plays the games I set up!


(It was a strange throwback to find during the pandemic haha).


I also learnt the best way to get multi-chapter critiques wasn't to swap reviews. But to offer cover services. So, that's what I did--Using the OG Canva, Picnik. (Remember that gem?)


And then, in 2009, the tides shifted. We were gifted Harper Collin's teen wonderland.





The Inkpop Era (2009 to 2013)



Original Inkpop Site pre-2012, featuring the original green logo and The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon as a Top Pick
Can you spot Leigh Fallon in the top picks?

For those unaware, Inkpop was a fantastic online platform for young writers that encouraged healthy participation, constructive criticism, and goal making. It centered around Top Picks where, each month, five stories with the most votes (picks) would be read by Harper Collin's Editors. You can imagine the craziness that generated. And if I had been hooked on Goodreads. Inkpop had me addicted.


It was basically a teenager writer's Wonka Factory with the actual promise of a golden ticket to a publishing pathway. Because, while slim, it did happen. Inkpop was how beloved authors Wendy Higgins and Leigh Fallon were discovered.


I was all in and Inkpop ended up being the best education I could get at the time in terms of writing, editing, designing, and marketing. But, of course, like all too good to be true things, the other foot dropped.


2012 Screenshot of HarperCollin's Inkpop Young Writer Platform, featuring To Turn Left by Design by Dayna
Harper Collin's Inkpop, Young Writers Platform



2012, I had managed to reach the Top Picks with my novel, To Turn Left, and thanks to the championing of my fans and friends, I even became Inkpopper of the Month.


Turned out I was the last.






I won't go into what happened with my novels (because that's a whole other thing), but industry wise, this is the short of it:


Overnight, nearly 100,000 teenagers despaired when news broke--through a third-party news outlet--that rival platform Figment (est. 2010) had bought Inkpop. We had a brief moment of hope when Random House Children's Group bought Figment the following year; hope that we'd have a new home to 'cut our teeth' on traditional publishing.


But that was shortly put to bed too.

Figment crawled along until it was shutdown in 2017.


Users were promised a new home at Random House's Underlined platform, but their ability to create and post stories didn't last. (It's now a blog and reader community).


Outside of Wattpad, I don't believe similar pathways exist sadly for the younger generations.


But for us Inkpoppers, I guess we all grew up and jumped on KDP anyway. . .


Book Cover Mock Up of 2012, To Turn Left, Harper Collin's Inkpop, Design by Dayna; A girl with black hair stands left of cover, staring past the spine, a crow sits on a old-fashioned light pole behind, the dark black night sky morphs into galaxy overlay and the title 'To Turn Left"
2011 - 12, To Turn Left, Harper Collin's Inkpop, Design by Dayna (I had to be fifteen or sixteen when I created this)

On the design front, Picnik also shut down in 2012 after being acquired by Google in 2010. However, seeing the gap created in the market by its end, the original founders banded together to create PicMonkey which I became an avid user of.


2021 PicMonkey was then acquired by Shutterstock in a $110M cash deal. 


But we're getting ahead.



The Swoon Era (2013 to 2014)



Book Cover Mock Up, Purple Cover featuring a girl throwing back her head, windswept blonde hair; 2014, Don't Fall by Rachel Schieffelbein, Swoon Romance, Design by Dayna
2014, Don't Fall by Rachel Schieffelbein, Swoon Romance, Design by Dayna

After graduating high school, I initially took a step back from writing platforms to focus on other opportunities.


That changed, momentarily, when I entered on a whim and won Swoon Romance's design competition for Rachel Schieffelbein's novel, Don't Fall.


This was a big learning curve moment for little eighteen year old me.





Fortunately, local photographer Beth Mitchell is a beautiful goddess and it wasn't too odd being asked by the publisher to, err, 'soften' the models nipples.


Really, it was a super cool moment. . . But nothing came of it.




The Yonderworldy Era (2016 to 2018)



In my non-digital life, I completed my Music Technology Bachelor, majoring in Screen Composing, at the state Conservatorium. And then started film school. However, I still felt an itch to create some kind of visual static art in publishing. So I joined two friends from my Inkpop days in founding a Premade collective: Yep, Yonderworldly!


It was a small offering, prioritising our creative whims and low prices. We wanted to create products that would be affordable to most emerging authors while not limiting our experimentations. At this point I still couldn't afford Adobe, so I graduated from blessed PicMonkey (which I think is still around) and delved into Gimp.


To our surprise, we managed to pull in some reputable emerging names in the indie publishing world! For me, this included Annie Cosby, Laura Thalassa, and Pauline Creeden.



Book Mock up, Black with a sword pointed up from centre, a red ribbon dangled around, title in red, Daughter of the Diamond King, Annie Cosby
2016, Daughter of the Diamond King by Annie Cosby, Write For You, Design by Dayna


Original Book Cover Designs of the Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa
2016 - 2018, The Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa, Lavabrook Publishing Group, Design by Dayna


Yonderworldly Premade was an enjoyable endeavor that helped teach me a lot of the business side of design beyond sales and marketing.


Unfortunately, it ended up being fairly short lived due to our leader's declining health and our individual need to make 'grown-up' money which ran contrary to our subsidised model.


The passion project came to a quiet end.




The Freelance Era (2017 to Present)



Book Cover Mock Up of A Soul to Take by Emily Taylor for REUTs Publishing, Design by Dayna
2017, A Soul to Take by Emily Taylor, REUTs Publishing, Design by Dayna

Towards Yonderworldly's end, I began reaching out to author communities across social media and writing platforms offering services. Many of these mutually beneficial friendships and alliances I still hold dear today, years after first establishing.


But I will admit, I probably could have a fair more significant following if I didn't keep jumping platforms, changing my name, and just actioning silly (and sometimes paranoid) whims! (Know kids, stranger danger is a fallacy!). (Mostly).





I now work for myself with my main income split between teaching piano and creating awesome book covers. It's taken over a decade to get here, and I still have a long way to go.


But I am proud of what I've achieved so far--even if I sometimes forget, or gloss over, large chapters of my life--especially given so much of it has come full circle!


For an example, remember me being hooked on Goodreads at the start of this? Well, I made a friend on there that I later reached out to after school for an author panel who instantly became a great friend of mine who I regularly catch up with for breakfast.



Book Mock Up of 2019, Her Crown of Fire by Renee April, Write Plan / SkyNation Publishing, Design by Dayna
2019, Her Crown of Fire by Renee April, Write Plan / SkyNation Publishing, Design by Dayna



Funnily enough, I also met Danica Peck through the same event and we too do breakfasts--


Just last Friday actually.


(Yes, we discussed a new work of hers that's in the pipeline though I cannot say anything more at this time, hehe).



Mock up of 2019, Amity by Danica Peck, Ouroborus Book Services, Design by Dayna
2019, Amity by Danica Peck, Ouroborus Book Services, Design by Dayna



My work for Laura Thalassa also continues to bear fruit as the extraordinary lady continues to reach new heights, and regions, of her own! The original series design rights have now been sold to five different regions now for their translated editions, which is a huge privilege for me.


(Seriously, whenever I'm concerned about rent it's like someone, somewhere, knows, and I get a magic email about a new translation needing rights. It's insane).



Mock up of 2020, The Bargainer Series Omnibus, Design by Dayna
2020, The Bargainer Series Omnibus, Design by Dayna


Book Cover Mock Up of Across Stars and Blood by L. A. Marie, Design by Dayna
2020, Across Stars and Blood by L. A. Marie, Design by Dayna



Beyond the publishing industry, I now work for the wider entertainment industry and for small to international businesses assisting with publicity materials and project / company branding.




Mock up of 2021, Hating Peter Tatchell, Wildbear Entertainment, Design by Dayna
2021, Hating Peter Tatchell, Wildbear Entertainment, Design by Dayna

Mock up of 2022, Normal People Would Drive, Tempus Media, Design by Dayna
2022, Normal People Would Drive, Tempus Media, Design by Dayna



But while I love all forms of design. (All forms of art and storytelling!).


Designing and illustrating book covers still have that special place in my heart.


It's one of my happy places.



Mock up of 2023, Childe Roland by J. M. Nelson, Design by Dayna
2023, Childe Roland by J. M. Nelson, Design by Dayna

I now focus on pushing the boundaries of my craft to better merge all aspects of design and art while growing my broader skillsets. Next on the list? 3D Modelling. But not any time soon.


Probably. We'll see haha



Mock Up Of 2024, Beasts of London by Jonathan Maloney, SkyNation Publishing, Design by Dayna
2024, Beasts of London by Jonathan Maloney, SkyNation Publishing, Design by Dayna


ABOUT DESIGN BY DAYNA

Dayna Watson is an Australian-based freelancer working globally. She has thrived in creating innovative designs and art for publishers, filmmakers, and other creatives for the past decade and counting. Her work has reached global markets and been licensed in at least five different languages. She constantly strives to challenge and evolve her practice.



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