Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jovita ugly book cover

I remember one particular girl back in grade school. Jovita — she was ugly. For that reason, no one liked her, and everybody picked on her. Nobody wanted to be seen sitting next to Jovita in the lunchroom. She was beautiful on the inside, I know because I befriended her. I'll spare you a physical description of her as not to offend you even more than you probably are now. But here’s my similie: some books, regardless of how beautifully written they might be on the inside, are ugly on the outside (cover), and may get overlooked for that reason.

When we think of children's books, we usually think about the writing and illustration aspects of it. But there's another facet of the business that, I think, is underrated, and that is good book design. Book design includes the choice of a cover font; inside text font and size; end paper colors; spot varnishing; matte or glossy jacket; even the books physical size, although that may be driven by the budget. The use of type on a book’s cover should compliment the illustration, not compete with it.

Today, I accidentally stumbled onto a book that I illustrated that will publish later next year. The cover is Jovita ugly. I'm sorry, there's no other way to describe it.

I won't give away which book it is, I'm sure my publisher wouldn't appreciate that. Besides, it's my job to sell, promote, and speak highly of my book, so I’ll do that. It is a fun book! Children will love reading it. It will make for exciting school visits. I'm happy with how the illustrations turned out and reproduced. However, to be honest, the art department went a bit overboard with the type treatment. Maybe the artists were trying to make their own artistic statements. I used to design books and book covers when I worked at an educational publishing house. I know how the designer can feel as the invisible creative behind a book, the person who contributes much to how a book will inevitably look but, in most cases, will not get a byline. In other cases, the publisher sort of takes a do-it-yourself approach to designing the cover. Desktop graphic publishing programs make it easy for a non-designer to step into the role of graphic artist.

My concern is that my book may get overlooked, kicked aside, and misjudged because, at first glance, like Jovita, it’s ugly.

I'm trying to decide if I should contact the publisher and — as tactfully as possible — ask them if I could make some design recommendations. I just can't stand the thought of this book publishing with Jovita ugly written all over it's cover.

Anyway, I’ll sleep on it.

Here’s a link from the folks at Midwest Book Review which offers tips on the Do's and Don'ts of Books Cover Design.

And Jovita, should you find yourself Googling that one nice guy who used to actually talk to you...I'm sorry, I'm sure you've aged gracefully, now with a full head of hair.


On an unrelated note: I got a new computer, and monitor at work. I know I should'nt be looking at my blog from work, but I do. What concerns a brotha is how blue my face looks on this new monitor. Is my face blue?


Chris Barton said...

Naw, I think your face is more of an aqua...

So, what's the worst thing that would happen if you diplomatically mentioned your concerns with the cover to the art director?

Don Tate II said...

Hey Chris,

They've promised me a second book later next year, so i want to be careful. Actually, I just now sent an email. I didn't make any design suggestions, but opened the door for suggestions should it not be too late.

Aqua! thats what I was afraid of!

The Archivist said...

You look fine, Devas.

The Gig said...

Did you design the book cover you are talking about?