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When Your Favorite Writer Does Not Like Your Initial Cover Designs

11 September 2017

From The Literary Hub:

Making personal work has always been a part of my practice. In fact, until a few years ago, my only job was being a bartender, and my personal illustration work was my single source of visual output. With a little luck and a lot of help, I stumbled into my career as a book cover designer. With so much to learn in design, I had to organize my time wisely. As a result, the time I spend on my personal work has diminished, but the occasional selfish urge will compel me to make something. It’s a way of practicing my skills and exercising my ego—a task I think is necessary in order to thrive as an artist.

My foray into book cover design has brought many perks, one of which is working for authors I’ve long admired. Lo and behold, I was recently assigned with a new collection of short stories by one of my favorite writers, Jeffrey Eugenides. Hell yes. Furthermore, he wanted an illustrated cover. Jackpot.

I read the manuscript overnight. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I poured all of myself into designing this cover for the following week and hit “send.” As I eagerly awaited approval, I enjoyed a rare moment of satisfaction.

. . . .

The following morning, I was not met with the reaction I expected. The author, whom I planned on wowing with my ingenious designs, did not write me a personal email saying, “It is more beautiful than I could possibly have imagined. Whatever the book’s success is will rest in significant part with your work on it; I’m so grateful!” Instead, due to the mercy of my editor, much of the author’s response was redacted and summed down to, “I’m afraid I’m bearing bad news . . .” I did not pass go, and I certainly did not collect $200.

Let the spiraling commence.

What started weeks ago as a sure winner had turned into a hundred-page InDesign document. Embittered, I started bargaining with myself through cheap edits. Surely, italicizing the subtitle will do the trick. No? How about making it sans serif? Two more weeks dragged on, and I was no closer to an approved jacket. People started getting impatient, and the aforementioned mercy of my editor was nowhere to be found. Quiet threats of assigning a freelancer to finish the job began floating around. The anxiety trickled down and spread through me like a pox; manifesting itself at 3am as a recurring nightmare in one act.

. . . .

It’s happened before, and it’s liable to happen again. My instincts as a designer had unwittingly betrayed me. I wanted to make a beautiful book jacket, but had forgotten why. I reminded myself that a well-designed book jacket ultimately serves the book it’s made for. Like a neon sign, a three-letter word switched on in my head: J O BThis is a job. I closed all the tabs and windows on my screen. A fresh start would do me good.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub


2 Comments to “When Your Favorite Writer Does Not Like Your Initial Cover Designs”

  1. Sometimes two people ‘click’ on an idea, sometimes they don’t/never do.

    I’ve managed it a time or three, but only because I’d read and liked just about everything the writer had done over the last decade. (And then he changed focus and I’m back out in left field – though still friends. 😉 )

  2. I look at portfolios first. PG posted “award winning” book covers a while back, and if your portfolio looks like those covers I wouldn’t hire you. Because those covers did not do their J-O-B: did not convey the genre, did not convey the tone, did not convey “story you’ll love to read”.

    I’m guessing whatever Eugenides’ story is about, a nail, a match, or a microphone figure prominently in it, since the majority of rejected covers had those elements. I didn’t feel compelled to find out what the book is about from any of the covers, but I am glad that the author was allowed to tell the designer to go back to the drawing board. Good for him. And good for her for realizing her ego wasn’t as important as serving the book.

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