Anne D – Team Sport

Book Jacket Design: A Team Sport

If you are an independent spirit who likes to compete, but craves autonomy, you might enjoy long distance running. If on the other hand you are more collaborative and enjoy camaraderie, soccer might be more your game.

Likewise, if you are a designer who feels protective of your space or if you bruise easily, you might not want to be a book designer at a major publishing house. This is most definitely a team sport. It is high energy and if we are on our game, it is high impact.

In a previous post, Book Jacket Design: A Sticky Business, I described what might go on at a typical Macmillan cover meeting. I mentioned that many parties have a say at that meeting. They include the book’s designer, the book’s editor, the publisher, managing editorial, publicity, marketing, subrights, and sales. It’s a large team.

I can hear you. “Good heavens”, you say, “that sounds like a lot of people! No good can possibly come from decisions made by so large a committee.” That is the old adage, and at different times and in different places it might hold true, but not when things are done correctly. Here is why each of those people has a voice at the table.

The book’s designer is the primary presenting voice. He or she is the one to offer a first look at a book’s package. They have envisioned and built the jacket. Their skill set includes visual acuity, rich imagination, technical acumen, and creative flexibility.

The editor is the one who acquired the manuscript, worked with the author to shape and improve the text. They are the one to communicate with the author and maintain the health of that relationship. They also champion the project through all of its stages from acquisition to publication.

The publisher is responsible for the cohesion and overall success of the list. Their vision of what goes on should take on a larger view of how this particular title must perform for the sake of the list. As the ranking member, the publisher has the deciding vote on how to proceed.

Publicity attends for the purpose of keeping abreast of progress, to see and hear what books may be emerging as dark horses, and to lend their voices as relates to the publicity plans for a book.

Marketing will be taking whatever the final package is to promote it, so the book’s design effects all they will create. Some of this team will promote the book specifically to schools and libraries, others to the trade.

Subrights will be selling editions of the book to other publishers foreign and domestic.

There are a number of representatives from the sales department. They are the ones who work directly with the broad array of outlets for selling our books from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, independent booksellers, book fairs and so on. Their voices are particularly informative as they know their clients’ individual tastes and buying preferences.

Finally the managing editor is in the room to keep us all on track. Every book has deadlines to meet and she reminds us of those urgencies because sometimes the creative process can run longer than anticipated.

The blessing in all of this is the rich expertise this collection of contributors offers to the conversation. The challenge is in coming up with jacket designs that are fresh and inventive that all parties feel they can work with successfully. Often enough that goal is met and when it is everyone wins.

– by Anne D.

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