In November, I spent three days at the Miami Book Fair in a booth talking to writers and would-be writers about publishing. For my efforts, I sold about twenty books; not really worth the effort in terms of time vs. money, but certainly a worthwhile experience from the standpoint of talking to writers and hearing what their interests and goals are. One thing impressed me over everything; put hundreds of thousands of paperbacks in one place and it all blends together into a gigantic literary flea market.
There was a single glimmer of shining hope that floated over the cacophony of the exploded confetti factory —McSweeney’s. Started by author Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s offers a variety of whimsical offerings. Beyond great writing, they offer great book design ranging from classic to innovative to absurd; unusual binding, interesting boxes, experimental typography, design work that implies the contents is worth reading. Hold that thought.
As a designer, it got me thinking a great deal about the relationship between the cover and the writing—and I don’t mean what’s on the cover. I mean the whole package from the binding to the artwork.
Consider the paperback book as a packaging form. It certainly offers a number of advantages. It’s cheap to print in volume, lighter to ship, consumes fewer resources (printing is a high-pollution industry) and ultimately gets the writing to the reader cheaper. For self-publishers, printing paperback books and bypassing hard cover editions means less up-front investment. Also, we see big publishers shipping countless paperback books to bookstores, and we want to be just like them, don’t we? Continue reading →