Reading this piece about designing a book cover by Diary of Wimpy Kid author (and my pal) Jeff Kinney raises just one question in my mind: How did he get off so easy?
I can only conclude that Jeff is kindly but futilely soft-pedaling the cover-making ordeal so as not to crush the dreams of any potential authors before they bloom. Because I've done the same thing twice, with exactly the same editor and publisher, and it's been a brutal, teeth-gnashing, bone-snapping process of arguing, crying, pleading and bleeding while scores of sketches and drafts shoot back and forth for weeks.
Perhaps Jeff is simply more talented and cooperative than I am. Or perhaps I exaggerate for humorous effect.
The topic of designing a book cover actually came up during my recent lectures at UC Davis for a couple of reasons. First, it's an opportunity for designers to really strut their stuff and contribute to the look and feel of a book. Second, it's about the only time in my experience when the act of writing a book involves more than the author, editor and designer. That's because a book's cover is primarily a marketing tool, not an editorial one. If you can't entice someone to pick it up in the first place, they'll never see the terrific stuff inside. So suddenly you're collaborating with a lot of people with opinions and veto power, including some who haven't read the book. Aside from the decision to publish the book in the first place, to which I'm not privvy, cover design is the only part done by a committee. Changing something on the inside of my book takes a five-minute chat with my editor; changing something on the outside can be a slog through the Black Gates of Mordor.
Still, Jeff wrote a nice piece, accurate as far as it goes, with good illustrations of the process. Also notice the accompanying photo with the clay model of Wimpy Kid protagonist Greg Heffley: that's what his balloon is going to look like in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Yeah. That's what I said. Jeff's just that cool.
Maybe someday I'll get to hold a balloon rope. I've always wanted to do that.