A book and its cover

In their 2013 book, APE: How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch point out that successful indie authors assume multiple roles. They not only have to write, but also do all the work traditionally shouldered by publishers. In short, they must be entrepreneurs. I’ve been struggling to be the author, publisher and entrepreneur, and I’m glad I didn’t have to add book designer to the list. I have a basic sense of design, I think. ‘Basic’ in the Cro-Magnon sense. Just enough to let me know I should hire a professional (Cro-Magnons were all about outsourcing). Sure, second-rate writing has given self-publishing a bad name over the years. But the main curse of many self-published books has always been self-designed covers. Yikes. What were those people thinking? Look, if you expect your writing to be compared to other books on the store shelf, don’t you think your cover should lead the way? But I vent.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the cover of my book. My wife and I invested an afternoon at Chapters comparing covers and spines, photographing those we liked. Many hours have been lost pouring over the Book Cover Archive—a great resource.

Now I realize I’ve been pushing my designer around (not that this isn’t necessary now and then). Nicole is a pro, a former president of the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. But she’s a minimalist. I’m not, unless you’re serving me rhubarb. So we’ve been doing a lot of back and forth. It’s all good—very collaborative, from my perspective at least. And I’m very excited about the results.

The cover features a work by one of my favourite local painters, Gwendolyn Best. Bless her, she was kind enough to give me permission to use Cat in a Box. I’m not much of an art expert, but what I love about this painting is that it’s at once dark and comic. That balance appealed to me as being relevant to the theme of The Cutting Room, which is, oh I don’t know. Most of the time theme to me is, uh, a five-letter word.

As we fiddled with the front-cover text—er, as I fiddled with the text, I suggested that it might be cool if we slashed the word cutt­ing. You know, as if Zorro had taken a swipe at it, or Danny Kaye with a snap of his finger in The Court Jester, or Tony Curtis in The Great Race (not much of a movie, but a fabulous sword fight scene—gads, it’s even online. And so is Kaye. This calls for another blog, or more time on YouTube). Actually, I can’t take credit for the idea. It was my wife’s. She’s got the design sense I was denied at birth. And Nicole agreed it was a good idea, but she was diplomatic in pointing on that the cover was already a busy place, filled with nuance when one considered the title on one hand and, on the other, the painting’s cat, striking a heroic pose as he peers into the darkness of the box.

In fact, I think slashing the word cutting was more than Nicole could stand. She directed me to a TED Talk featuring book designer Chip Kidd. This is a piece all writers should watch. In fact, I think all booklovers will find it entertaining.

Anyway, Nicole. I get it. You’ve minimized me. And I feel maximized for it.