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)


  1. Dear Sir:

    This is an opinion on the design that was provided to you, which you did not like. It is a matter of opinion. If you are not satisfied with the design, you have a right to recover your money in an action in a court of law for breach of contract, not to publicly libel the company that performed the work with false or misleading statements.

    This firm hereby makes a public demand to remove these lies and misinformation about the company since your intent is not to resolve the matter in a court of law but to damage the reputation of the company by posting false and misleading information.

    This firm is also demanding the name, address and telephone number of the attorneys who represent you. Failure to remove these posts in the next 24 hours will result in further action against your company and you as an individual.


    Michael J. DeFilippo, Esq.
    Attorney At Law
    37 New Dorp Plaza
    Staten Island, New York 10306
    Tel. (718)667-8700

  2. David, I think you need to take a big breath and think about how immature and childlike this long drawn out diatribe about 1106 reflects on you personally.

    I'm not wishing to make any inference about how good or bad 1106's work for you has been, or to imply you don't have a right to develop or express a personal opinion, but you must have looked into 1106's experience and their design portfolio to see if you liked what they do and confirm they were appropriately qualified for the job before you appointed them.

    If you did not, then I'm afraid any problem you perceive to exist may well be one of your own making.

    More importantly, if you didn't like what 1106 delivered on the first or second attempt, then surely a more mature and business-like response would have been to simply terminate the contract and ask for a discount or a fee waiver?

    I'd encourage you to clear out your posts around this issue David - they're doing you no favors - and think more carefully perhaps about what you decide to publish on your Blog in the future.