You can judge a book by its cover

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You can judge a book by its cover, by its inside, by its weight and heft. Size matters. Font matters. Layout matters. If books are to survive, they must be worth owning. We all know that reading is on a steady slide down. The only genre saving us from swift destruction is YA. The YA group reads of dragons and emperors, hobbits and vampires. They read of future worlds where people are hungry, they read of danger and they play video games. They live in a calm protected world but they dream of being wizards. You may think you’re nobody, that you wear glasses, that you’re invisible, but you’re a wizard!

We tell our kids that they’re more special than they are. Your son is not a prince. Your daughter is not a princess. If you want your kid to be loved and happy, you’d have a lot better luck with teaching him/her to think of other people, to act with compassion and to remember that he/she is not the most important person in the universe than by feeding them the prince/princess line. But, entering story is where we build our imagination and we’re going to need one to get through life.

Imagine that you can fly. Imagine that the world is free of pollution. Imagine corporations care about human rights and the future of the planet. If you can imagine all that, maybe you can create that universe.

But back to books. We work to create book covers that make the reader want to pick up the book and see what’s inside. Everything about the layout of the book matters. We want the poems to have enough room on the page, no lines diving into the “gutter,” the center of the book. Fixed margins are never going to make a poetry book look better. Using display fonts is usually going to be a mistake.

And having a cover with an image that’s static is the thing that can sink a book. We’ve done it before. In the early days, we would try to please the author endlessly even if it meant that the book would look terrible. Now we’re willing to delay the book if necessary to come up with an image we love. We don’t want to publish a book with an image the author hates because he/she has to live with the book, hustle the book, get out there and make room for it in the world.

Right now we are struggling with two fall book covers. It’s not easy coming up with the right cover, but I believe we will do it. I’m exhausted to the point of being a walking zombie from everything—AWP, teaching, etc, but I’m still hunting for cover art. I’m not giving up. I’m in the zone. I have a long run to do tomorrow morning and swimming in cover art is my job tonight. Wish me luck. I hope something spectacular will swim up to me like the mythical Loch Ness monster and I’ll know it. Just like I’ll know Bigfoot if we ever meet. “How goes it?” I’ll say.

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Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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