Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cover Design (Part 2 of 5)

What a shock it was to get that email.  After viewing the 4 draft-concept images for roughly 20 seconds I threw up a little inside my mouth and closed the images.  I knew the more I looked at them the more I would become irate and irrational.  I had to cool off.

I decided to wait a day to look at them again.  IT would give me time to cool down and assess what my initial problems were with the concepts.  After all, they were merely concepts and nothing more (despite being high-school flyer equivalents filled with boxers).  I collected my ideas and replied to [book cover design company] with this email:

[book cover design company rep]:

I have thoroughly reviewed the cover concepts over the past few days
and I must say I am disappointed in what was sent to me.  While I
realize the priority in a marketing standpoint, these concepts do not
appear to be at the professional level with which I want to represent
my book.

First and foremost, BOXERS are placed everywhere.  This isn’t a book
about underwear (shorts if anything, hence the double meaning title).
On the other hand, I acknowledge that these are concepts and concepts
only, being works in progress and I anticipate things improving from
here.  As of now, 3 of the 4 concepts not only do not match the book
conceptually, they are simple clip-art images of underwear thrown on
to the design and do not fit what I believe to be objective
requirements. These concepts do not resemble professional graphic
design etiquette and look like fliers you would see for high school

Attached are my notes and concerns with what has been presented to me.
 I also created my own concepts over the past few days for
consideration to use – I feel these are stronger aesthetically and
conceptually than what was provided to me, and present a stronger
message to what the marketing design needs to be.

Regardless of the marketing strategies incorporated, they need to look
professional and not like jumbled fliers.  If anything, they look to
be cheap non-fiction covers at best.  Without having read the book,
how do your designers know who to target? What is the marketing design
based off of? Your email described that marketing strategies are key
in selling a book, regardless of subjective changes.  I value all
aspects you have in mind to finalize a cover, but much is lacking. The
concepts as is, are not presentable.

Please review my notes and concepts and let me know the best way to
proceed from here.

Thank you,

David Goodberg

I then attached two documents the email (both below)
1 - A word doc of my comments
2 - Simple concepts (that MIMIC what I already sent them)


  • Goodberg is misspelled.  While this doesn’t affect the design, the fact that it was misspelled and reached me without being corrected is disconcerting.  You mentioned a lot of thought going into these concepts.
  • 3 of the 4 concepts utilize boxer shorts as the primary image and selling point, which has nothing to do with my book (Underwear vs. time travel).  This leaves me with very little to consider of these concepts.
  • I wish that some of my design requests that were sent with my information were incorporated in these concepts.
  • Regardless of the boxers displacement to the concept of the book, they are basic clip-art photos merely pasted onto the cover – this looks very cheap and amateurish and can only hurt the book when considered by a viewer (or distributor or review).
  • These give off a feel of collages of pre-designed images and concepts.

  • Beach and underwear themed (nothing related).
  • Distortion of boxers and clock make this look worse (never distort!)
  • Very bland – no lights or darks in the concept, everything is blurred together in the same murky tone.
  • Nothing is engaging in this concept.
  • I am disappointed in this concept and am surprised it was sent to me.

  • Boxers ruin this – even if they were shorts, it would be a silly means to decorate with – this is just a bunch of clip art photos placed about.  This isn’t a birthday party decoration.
  • Main font is too simple and basic for what is happening around them–looks like a cheap flyer.  Shadows behind font are too distorted and are distracting.
  • Spacing around text compared to boxers is jumbled and make the viewer feel trapped. (Bad use of space).

  • This concept is OK – this is the only one in the right direction.
  • Why is the cartoon blocked off by the text?
  • Text/Font is too jumbled – needs to be simplified (make “and other methods of” smaller, example).  The entire cover is text that is all the same size and will not be read by the viewer because it looked like a gigantic page of text.
  • What is the moon cookie cartoon floating and half blocked off by the text?  Why is it here and what is it doing?
  • White BG is not ideal

  • “Boxers in a tornado” (bad)
  • The font/design is pretty good, but looks identical to most rock bands and is not helpful
  • White BG is not ideal

(click to enlarge)


Hi David,

First and foremost I’d like to apologize for the misspelling of your name. When I sent the information to the cover designer, I typed the last name of a previous client by mistake.

The purpose of concepts is to get us heading in the right direction; first concepts are a bit of a shot in the dark. We went in the direction of humor in order to tie in the double meaning of the title as well as the fun illustrations in the interior.

We’ll use your feedback to generate additional concepts that are simpler and more in line with the samples you attached. This is also a common way to design a cover.

Will be in touch shortly. We want you to be delighted with the cover design and we’ll work with you as a team to create a cover that is pleasing to you and also meets the criteria of the book industry.

Please let us know if you have any other questions or comments.

Thank you and enjoy the day,



I read this email and calmed a little.  I replied with a thank you, saying "Thanks for the reply - knowing how smoothly the interior changes were made I am confident the cover will improve," and they responded with "We’ll get right on the revisions and send another PDF as soon as possible."  OK, well see what happens from here...


I created a cafepress store and while the "free" shops have annoying restrictions, I am happy with what it will be in the near future.  I recently listed a few shirts and purchased one for myself. The shirt came and looks great.

Yesterday was the first time I wore it in public (and the voyage wasn't anywhere in particular in crowds of people- it was a short walk around the neighborhood).  2 houses down, about 30 seconds from stepping outside my apartment, a little girl told me she liked my shirt. "Thanks!" I said, without stopping or trying to make a pre-pre-order sale.  Just comes to show that if you have something that appeals to people (adorable cartoons) people will want to do something about it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

COVER DESIGN (Part 1 of 5)

(Click pictures for full-size viewing)

A week or two after my glorious interior design went full-gear into production, I received an email from [book cover design company]. "Selected Shorts Cover Comps 1-4." Yes...YES! My heart began to pound as I opened the email, I was incredibly anxious to see the concepts for the cover of my book. I was excited to see what they did with my thoughts and recommendation of different things I would like to see on my cover (I uploaded a variety of Antonio's illustrations and a few posters that depicted the atmosphere I wanted to portray):

I opened the email to find a very lengthy letter:

Email Highlights
  • We took several different approaches to give you plenty to choose from
  • The original contract stated three cover concepts, but the cover designer had an additional idea to share; there is no charge for the additional comp.
  • Please know that much thought and consideration has gone into these concepts.
  • We have applied our many years of book cover design experience to create a cover design that will compete well in the marketplace and make the best possible impression on the buyer.
Alright! Looking good! But then there was more and more in the email....

Email Highlights (cont.)
Please keep in mind that any cover design is really not about what we like or what you like, in the end. It's about SALES. We have just 7 seconds to establish credibility with the buyer online or in the bookstore, and the competition is brutal. Big, simple and bold gets sold, because the cover has to look good not only in it's full size, but also about 1" tall when displayed online. A book cover has one simple make people LOOK.

When soliciting cover feedback from others, you'll discover that there's an irresistible urge to change something... anything... about the cover, no matter how trivial the change may be, and that everyone you ask will suggest something different. It's important to distinguish the subjective from the objective comments you may receive.

Objective "musts" include a clearly visible title, an engaging graphic, and an overall design that grabs the eye and also looks good in small sizes. There are many right ways to do this and all will sell your book. The four (4) covers attached meet these objective requirements.

Subjective comments may include "I don't like the background texture or color", or "I don't like the font." No matter how the cover is designed, some people will like it and others won't, so there's really no such thing as a "perfect" cover. The important thing is to keep the goal of selling books in mind.

If you have colleagues in the book publishing or marketing industry, then their experienced comments about the cover design should be given the most weight.

We have put a lot of thoughtful attention into the designs presented and experience shows us that changes from others do not necessarily strengthen the design, but actually can weaken the concept toward the ultimate goal — selling your book.

All of the above being said, rest assured that we want you to be delighted with the final design, so that it not only meets, but exceeds, your expectations.

Woah...OK. This last novel-esq section of the email was pretty thick (and seemingly like a release form waiver that read like a big 'don't complain because we know you will want to' note). Needless to say I was very excited to see my concepts! This is what it is all about. While the book needs to be good, the cover is the vital icing on the cake. A bad cover means a bad book, no questions asked.

I have been obsessed with movie posters since my childhood - always analyzing them and considering the many options they had to deal with them deciding what to place for their official bill. I have also been wary of "B" movies and direct to DVD covers, let alone what major studios do to their movie posters once the film is done in the theaters and need to sell rentals and DVD. It's interesting that really cool movie posters change from something like this:


What is this? Why do they turn cool posters into to pictures of faces (or bad genre stereotypes) for DVDs?  It's like they BELONG in the bargain bin!  I know, I know, consumers only care about who is in the movie, right? So just faces work?  While my lifelong obsession is in the movies, I read a good amount of books too - plus, the martketing is somewhat similar. While there are many tricks of the trade, there is one aspect of movie posters and book covers that is constant - something that looks professional and something that looks amatuer (IE, something that belongs in teh $1 bargain bin right out of the box). It's easy to look at a book and know where the line is drawn:

Good Book Covers:

Bad Book Covers (very amateurish):

My heart pounded as I waited a few seconds before pressing the PDF cover sample PDF. This was it! This is what it comes down to! My book is nearly complete and now it's time to add the icing to this sweet, delicious cake I made all by myself....


What.. were... these...? My jaw sank and my heart stopped for a few minutes. Not only did these look like the most amateurish things I have ever seen, but UNDERWEAR? Plus, what was all this talk about sales and expertise? You can't say all that if you haven't read the book! (let alone understand what it's about or who the audience is). "We have applied our many years of book cover design experience to create a cover design that will compete well in the marketplace" MY ASS!

What had I gotten myself into? Right then and there I knew I had made a big mistake. Regardless of these being draft concepts created for improvement, it was clear they were going nowhere; I could list off 20 major problems and I was only looking at this for mere seconds. No regard for my requests to implement my ideas and horrid, absolutely abominable skills involved in both concepts and aesthetics, and easily the simplest, worst aspect...spelling my name wrong!

Only one concept doesn't have underwear dancing around the cover and the cartoon's face is cut off! (Never mind the mysterious space/moon cookie floating in mid-air)

I think I may have just wasted $760.

My God...

(to be continued)


It's vital to have printed material for your book. Bookmarks, postcards, business cards - anything and everything. I was just about to design and order a slew of postcards but am holding off. The book comes out in 6 months - I don't need to do this that early. My main reason is that it would be IDEAL to have testimonials or quotes on these postcards, so I think I'll re-try this process in a few months, hopefully with more marketing lingo.


I took an introduction webdesign class in college in 2003 which was amazing. Ken Fandell was my instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and was a very, very helpful class. From there I've learned even more and am at a good stance to be able to accomplish anything I want. This is a good thing because of how important a website is. It's vital - it will hurt you not to have one. And not just have one, you need it to have EVERYTHING. Buy the book, links, all information, Q/As, fun, excitement, etc. You need to have 100% of information on this site - from boring mudane data to exciting, adventurous entertainment.

Your website is a calling card and your method to close the deal - you are naked and worthless without one.


At a somewhat quick turnaround I received a set of proofs from 1106 Design, my layout/design company dealing with a variety of tasks from interior layout to proofreading to cover design. This was really exciting. An email was sent to me with two PDFs, each of the same 30 random pages with different options placed within. This was pure bliss to say the least - my first glimpse of my book as a real, professional looking book.

The differences between the two PDFs were minimal but catered toward different interests and got me thinking to all the different things I could ask for on top of it. the only thing I didn't like from either was the choice of font for the title of each story. Each seemed amateur and not a font to be taken seriously (think comic sans or worse). This stuck in my head as an off thing since everything else looked great.

I quickly printed the two PDFs and analyzed them carefully and sent my requests to which sample held the best placement of random things: placement of book page number, style of listing the current chapter, margins, chapter layout, etc.

This was truly exciting...