in the Fields of Keynote A note on
the covers from C.M. Mayo
As a writer, I've had the sometimes disconcerting
(if othertimes also joyous) experience of having someone elsea
person I have never met and perhaps never willdesign
the covers of my books.
I am talking about the professional graphic designer. Book cover
design is a specialty informed by both graphic design principles
and marketing. A publisher wants a book cover that fits with
their brand image and everyone hopes
will fly off the shelves to the cash registers. Alas, though
sometimes fortuitously, the author's vision for the cover is
not always taken into consideration, and in fact, very few publishers
will cede approval to the author in a book contract (believe
me, I've tried).
my previous incarnation as an editor, of the literary journal
Tameme, I relished
the opportunity to, if not design, preside over and approve the
cover. For each issue, I selected a work of art (paintings by
Francisco Miranda, DeLoss McGraw, and Dereck Buckner for the
first, second, and third issues, respectively) and then hired
designers to turn my (admittedly, very rough) idea into a cover.
Kathleen Fetner designed
the first cover and Inés
Hilde the others. I think you'll agree, they did a beautiful
job (and to anyone looking for a graphic designer, I warmly recommend
them both). But those were back in the days before e-books. Digital
publishing may be far less expensive than traditional print publishing,
but Dancing Chiva would not be a viable enterprise if we were
to pay for a professionally designed book cover. Neither do we
need the kind of technical savvy a professional designer can
offer (preparing files for offset printing, etc.). For viewing
an e-book's cover on a screen, a jpeg made from, say, a screenshot
in Apple's Keynote
works just fine.
who is designing the covers of Dancing Chiva's e-books? Why,
moi. And what a joy it is! With all due respect to professional
designerswho know a thing or three more about
the craft than most writers, to be sureit
feels profoundly right to me that the author design his or her
own books' covers, for they are the introduction to and indeed,
an integral part of the reader's engagement with the text.
would be lovely to have the input from some of Dancing
Chiva's other authors, but alas, they are no longer in this
world. And should the day come when Dancing Chiva publishes living
authors? I admit: contractually speaking, I'd probably do the
same as my publishers have done with me: invite comments and
suggestions for the cover, but not cede final approval. That's
not hypocrisy: that's reality.
covers for e-books has presented a few interesting condundrums.
When is it a "book-book," that is, an electronic version
of an actual book100 to a few hundred pages, the sort
of size we usually see between covers, with a spine, on a shelf
and when is it really only an essay or a short story? I've seen
texts as brief as a couple of pages being called "e-books."
Our culture has not yet developed the vocabulary for all these
newfangled distinctions. (And by the way, I think digital literary
short story publishing is going to go the way of songsincreasingly
offered individually, rather than as part of a collection / album.)
Should an e-book cover look different from a print book cover?
I have come down on the side of a distinguishing e-book "look,"
with similar dimensions to most print books but with rounded
corners suggesting a screen (Kindle, iPad, Nook). I have also
made the titles and other text proprotionally larger that they
often are on print books, so they made be read when shown as
a thumbnail on a screen.
Each of the Dancing Chiva e-books has a web page about its cover
design, with information on fonts, photographs and/or artworks.
I invite you to have a look; satisfy your curiosity and, if you're
a writer, perhaps they may inspire you to try making your own?