Monday, September 20, 2010

Cover Design (Part 4 of 5)

I was pretty torn given the last few emails.  Either way I was out of luck and trying make sense into all of it because either way I was going to lose.  To justify the service, I decided that as long as I get three somewhat tollerable concepts that would at least complete what the package description was.  I sent them an email:
[Rep] -

Below and attached are my notes for the cover - please let me know if there are any questions.  I enjoy the back copy and am currently making slight changes to it and will have that back to you shortly.  I will also have my headshot, illustrator bio, and additional flap/back cover information soon.
Thank you,

Attached is a file called 'cover'  This contains my original ideas that I already sent.  I have also included additional notes: together, this is a lot of information so please let me know if there are any questions.
Again, I want to stress that all my concerns with the existing concepts is that they look too amateur, like too many self-published POD books riddled with design red flags. (it is not that they don't fit my instructions - I didn't say I wanted anything specific - I just want new, different ideas done well and not just the title in a tacky font in the middle of the page).  I am excited to make a decision between multiple covers options that I like.
I look forward to seeing another attempt at this. 

The attached files to this email were materials I had already sent them, 90% of which was ignored thus far.  Hopefully now they would get me something not embarassing. Five days later I received the new concepts:
Good Afternoon David,
Attached please find a low-res PDF of Cover Comps 8-11 for your consideration. Numbers 9 and 10 are the same except for the color used for your name. Please let us know your thoughts.
Thank you and enjoy the day,
My blood began to boil yet again.  Of the four concepts attached, only one was new.  And GREENBERG!?  Are they kidding me?  What an insult on all levels.  Not only did the designer make the same terrible mistake, but the REP failed to even notice, that is, if the proofs were even looked at before sending to me. 
So what else is there to say?  Three of the concepts were not new, with only minor changes implemented and therefore, nearly useless. And the new "greenberg" design looks like a cheap, McDonald's flyer (if made by an 8-year-old).  What was the point in sending me a new concept of things already sent to me?  What was all this talk about marketability?  Is there no conceptual aspects to design in their minds? Like changing the color of the background would change my thought on any previous concepts? (especially when changed from girly pruple to blood red).
I was at a loss as to what to do.  On one hand, I couldn't use anything they gave me.  I didn't even have three options to choose from as pathetic of a hope that was.  Everything was terrible.  Thinking logically, my options were simple: 1 - go with them and have an absolutely horrid book jacket, or 2 - do it myself and make sure it's good, or 3 - hire someone else.  Going with them was suicide and hiring someone else would be way too much money - I had to do this myself, which wasn't a bad idea.  I am an artist - I do have a BFA.  I know photoshop and have regularly made graphics for a variety of projects.  And I have a wide variety of resources for help and support.
In my next email to [book cover design company] with multiple updates, I included the following:
"I will be designing the cover.  I will create a near-complete layered TIFF with the design to be used for you guys to add layout/information to the back/spine."  
And that was that.  I would create the jacket myself and send to them for any additional tweaks and that would be that.  What a waste of my time and money.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Little did I know that the title of my book would create a concern to another company.  In this case, SymphonySpace wrote me a letter letting me know that they own an incontestable United States federal trademark registration for the mark "SELECTED SHORTS" in connection with 'entertainment services - namely, the production and performance of live and recorded readings of literary works.'

While I could bore you with the legal requirement lingo they sent me, it appears they own the rights of the term "SELECTED SHORTS" and sent the letter telling me that while they noticed the entire title of my book to be "Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel," I should not use the short phrase "SELECTED SHORTS" in connection with the production or performance of live or recorded readings of my book would confuse consumers.

While I doubt that consumers will be confused, seeing how countless book titles and movie compilations (let's not forget every single film screening ever conducted) uses these same two words, this is a legitimate issue and concern.  I have nothing to worry about since I have no plans for making a live performance of my book and therefore, have no legal border to cross.  On the other hand, I will never refer to my book as "SELECTED SHORTS" solely, as it confuses consumers because it means millions of things.

As I mentioned earlier, when you create the name of both your book and publishing company, do your research.  Not only do you want a unique title, you don't want to cross the line of a company that has a serious problem with you and a means to shut you down.  Luckily for me, this was both a friendly letter and one of which was meant to do no harm, just a means to let me know of their registered trademark and not to get too close to their product line.  Who knows, maybe one of my stories will wind up on one of their CDs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cover Design (Part 3 of 5)

I don't know if I was excited or scared-nervous to receive the next update on my book cover.  This was the end all, be all sign if this was going to be a complete bust.  All I was hoping for was something NO TERRIBLE.  It was a difficult decision for me to pay this much money for something I would do a good job by myself.  I really began kicking myself on this.  First off, I sort-of knew what i was getting myself into.  The 1106 website has samples of their work (albeit their best samples) so I knew what to expect.  While the majority are non-fiction and the covers all look-it (even for the ones that aren't), there were plenty of good ones.

While these designs are basic and the majority of them are non-fiction, they are usable and acceptable.  Some much better than others.  Either way, eons beyond what was given to me, final draft or not.  Secondly, something I soon found out after my contract signing and receipt of the first drafts of the cover is that 1106 is an "advertising" company.  No, they don't help you with ads, but they sure do put a lot out there.  I was very late into the game in becoming a member of the IBPA which is a MUST for any small publisher.  I was taken aback to find ads for 1106 within all of their publications. All companies need to advertise, but these just increased my concern.
But soon, the email came.  AN UPDATE!
Good Morning David,

Attached please find two additional cover comps for your consideration.  We stayed closer to your suggestion and used an eye catching background treatment and interesting, yet simple, fonts.

Please let us know your thoughts.

Thank you and enjoy the day,


Hmmm. Two new concepts, both nearly identical and mere copies of the "EXAMPLE" I had sent.  I am still missing something new and based off the ideas that I originally inquired about and asked for.  At least they spelled my name right this time.  The first concept was another awful, terrible concept.  The second, while actually looking professional, was someone problematic because it was purple (looking like Danielle Steele) and with the thin text, would be almost unreadable as a thumbnail, which is imperative in a book's cover design.

After letting this stew for a bit, I replied with the following email.  I was pretty upset and saw this going nowhere.

I analyzed the new concepts and ultimately I am upset that, out of the six concepts created for me, only two of them are not riddled with red flags. While I realize that design and conceptual ideas are subjective, once eliminating the unacceptable concepts, I am left with two similar concepts (#3 and #6) that are worthy of consideration.

It's disappointing that the second round of concepts you sent me last week (#5 and #6) are essentially the same concept with different fonts (only one of which is presentable).  Besides that, both are merely variations on what I created and therefore, do not present any new ideas. When different concepts are produced, they should be different layouts and ideas for creating a different cover.  Instead, I am left with variations of the same concept.

I am truly upset that the choice I have to make is between a concept that I created and a concept that you created, the latter of which is a spitting image of my concept. The six concepts that were sent to me had very little design to them - they were merely font and clip art compilations with no rhyme or reason to their creation or purpose.

Had I known I would have ended up with 2 concepts to choose from, both having the same template, I would not have chosen 'cover level 3.'  I would have designed the cover and layout myself to send over for completion (cover level 4). Overall I have found this process to be extremely time consuming with little advancement. I was hoping for variation in the choice in selecting my cover and all I was given were detracting concepts and variations of the same conceptual layout and design.

I am extremely dissatisfied with what has been presented to me. This process has proven to be stressful and frustrating, as I have spent hundreds of extra dollars (nearly $600) to receive additional concepts, most of which were unacceptable. In addition, I have been forced to spend much of the last two weeks solely on analyzing these images and creating my own designs.

I have decided that I will submit one of my own concepts for the cover to be laid out.  Please let me know how to proceed.

Thank you,
David Goodberg

The next day I received an email from the head, the very same person who did a poor job of closing my sale when I spoke on the phone before deciding what to do.  I obviously sent a heavy email and it needed a proper reply:

Hi David,

I'm sorry you're not pleased with the latest concepts.

As you probably know, there are hundreds of ways to design a cover, and finding the direction that pleases the client is always a process.

When we received your feedback on our original concepts, it seemed as though you were asking for simpler designs, so that's what we did.

We want you to be pleased with the final result, of course. If you can give us more specific direction, perhaps by pointing us to covers on Amazon that are rendered in a style that you like, we'll have another go at it. Covers are subjective, so the only way for us to truly understand your wishes is through communication.

Wow did this piss me off.  Yeah, I didn't like the original 4 concepts because they were too intense.  They were too jam-packed with conceptual ideas that it almost made my brain explode.  My reply:
I appreciate the email but your response is not catering toward my concerns.
It's not that you aren't fitting my perceived image of what I want, it's that the majority of what I have received is artistically and professionally unacceptable. As an artist I realize that layout and design is subjective and that there is no one right answer - however, the majority of options that were sent to me were cluttered with taboos and red flags, subjective concerns aside.  I did not ask for additional concepts that were spitting images of something I already created - the fact that this occurred was completely unnecessary. My concerns have nothing to do with my wishes for a particular genre, layout, or concept. 
You are asking me for covers and ideas that I enjoy from Amazon.  I already did this: when I sent in my materials I included graphics of sample layouts/themes/images I enjoy as well as half a page of ideas and notes for the cover concept. 
I am eager to move forward and continue the development process - I am extremely satisfied with the interior layout so far and am confident that the dust jacket layout will come along smoothly, but I still wish to move forward with my own concept.  As per my concerns, I recognize that two of the concepts I received are worthy to consider and are acceptable concepts: #3 and #6 (albeit identical to my design but with a different font and a purple background more reminiscent of a Danielle Steel novel than a science fiction book aimed at teens). 
The Level 4 cover option that I didn't choose includes one cover concept.  Level 3, which I selected, includes 3 concepts.  It would be fitting that we move forward with a cover layout I provide and we change my cover 'level option' to be a mixture of level 3 and 4 and I be compensated for the difference in my remaining balance.
Level 3 = $761 (discounted 15%)
Level 4 = $255 (discounted 15%)
Difference = $506 ($253 for each additional 2 concepts).
Level 3.5 = $508
This level change is more than fair considering I am not using your concepts and I only received two accepable concepts. Please let me know your thoughts and how we can move forward.
Thank you,
The Leader's Reply:


We charge for the time we spend to develop concepts, and then work closely with the client on whatever revisions they would like. Since I can’t know what’s in your mind, your participation is necessary to bring one of these concepts to completion.

I’ll repeat my offer to revise any of the concepts as needed until you are satisfied, if you can provide specific direction. This is not an unusual occurrence at all, and we have done this thousands of times for our clients.

If you don’t want to continue in that manner, we’ll be happy to take your concept, and finish the back cover and spine for the Level 3 price.

Or, we can stop now for $650 (which is the amount of time that we have into the job, as stated under “Cancellation” in the agreement) and you can finish the back cover and spine and submit the files to your chosen printer yourself.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

My Reply:
Again, my concern is that what has been presented to me has been unacceptable because they look like a high-school flyers - not book covers, let alone utilizing boxers as the primary design.  This has nothing to do with my ideas or wants...what I have been given is unusable. The fact that concepts 5 & 6 were copy-cats off my own concept and they were billed as part of the time utilized is unbelievable.
Your alternative option of paying $650 to quit and finish everything on my own offers little relief. I will get back to you with my thoughts on how to proceed given with what you are presenting.


Much of this blog is talking in the past tense so I suppose this post is one of the few current, unanswered ponders of real time.  My printer sent me their final invoice and should be shipping my order of 3,000 books soon.  This shipping process entails a freight delivery of probably 65-85 boxes.  AYE!
It's a good thing I have a large storage garage behind my apartment, I would surely be out of luck without it.  That and the print overrun was 200 books, so there are a few additional boxes for me.
I don't know if I have my math right (considering I didn't do any) but I should be able to fit the majority of my books in my storage.  If not, hopefully the spill-over will be minimal and housing those boxes in the apartment won't be troublesome.
But now I need a shipping center - a place for my books (or the open box of books) by stickers, stamps, tape, mailers, etc.  Lots of random things I need to do.  Oh, let's not forget the wooden floor easles/palettes for the ground.  I think the last thing I want is to receive me entire shipment and have a simple rain ruin everything.

Last night I took a trip to Home Depot and bought wood to create two large palettes to act as floors for the boxes of books that I receive soon (162 boxes!).  But I figure they will be small since doing the math, is only 18-20 books per box.  Considering I am not constructing boards for a warehouse I don't need to fit regulation dimensions with these palettes.  Three 2x4's with a bunch of thin pine strips connecting.  WALLAH!