A five part blog? I’m worse than the Twilight series! Moving along…..
I was starting to get a real flavor for the book publishing world. The vision for my book was quickly becoming their vision for my book. As I stated previously, a lot of good came out of the publisher’s ideas and changes they had me make. Unfortunately, I believe some really devastating ones came out of it as well. The book title which I already discussed and then the cover concept. My original idea was perhaps not all that original but certainly it was apropos to the subject matter of the book. I wanted the book to look like a faux leather bound roughed up field guide. Perhaps with a single character from the book featured on it with some hand written notations to make it feel like a real “field guide”. But no. The designer and the publisher had a “better idea”.
They wanted me to draw a lot of the characters standing on an island shore around a sign that had the title of the book on it and a few creatures in the nearby water. What?! My argument was that their cover concept was inappropriate for the content of the book and that it would look like the cover to a collection of newspaper strips. I desperately tried to talk them out of this but again to no avail. So I offered up some sketches that took their basic idea but made it more pallatable to me.
With these two concepts, the title of the book was central and large. It gave an idea of the concept without putting the characters in a “situation” or “setting” that just didn’t make any sense to me. The first one was my choice but I could have begrudgingly lived with either. Of course, both were rejected and I was forced to do their “cheezy” idea.
I felt the design was dull and there was nothing that made me look at the piece and make me want to pick up the book. My lack of enthusiasm for the concept probably aided in my rather crappy execution of the final painting. Bad design and bad execution never adds up to anything good.
After looking at this rather unsuccessful painting I once again tried to pitch them another cover concept. One that I felt had more focus and again was more appropriate for the subject matter. This was also rejected. I think my big mistake on this was I should have chosen a more interesting or unusual looking character for the main image. But this was a concept piece not a finished proposal.
At this point I was ready to jump out a window. I tried one last suggestion to try and give the book a more appropriate and grounded look and save my book from looking like a Peanuts’ collection. I thought by adding a faux leather border around the image it might at least give a hint of the correct feel for the book.
I actually thought to myself, “this just might work”. You guessed it….REJECTED!
I was totally depressed at this point. Then they came back and wanted me to paint some continental maps to use in the book. Actually a good idea, just not what I was motivated to do. But I did a reasonable job on them. Of course, they pale in comparison to James Gurney’s maps in Dinotopia but come to think of it all of my work pales in comparison to James Gurney’s!
So they published the book and it tanked. Now I am not saying the book isn’t good, it actually got really good reviews and I do believe it is a very fun and entertaining read. ( It is available through Powell’s Books (see link) and other online outlets) It just never found its audience which was my biggest fear and why I so vigorously tried to make the changes to the title and cover.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t sign over creative control unless you have to and then be prepared to compromise until it hurts!