Gilmores, Blocks, and Judging a Book by Its Cover

The quick-and-dirty concept cover for Dad's new book—with a possible marketing problem that no one has noticed yet. (Click to enlarge.)

Recently, a friend commented on her little one’s first day of school. Must have been preschool. The little tyke was so excited, she was up and ready by 8:15 in the morning.

For me, though, this week, the Missus is on staycation (except 2 mornings she needs to go in and catch up on work—she’s salaried), and I was looking forward to her taking the kids out of the house to do fun things with them. The house being quiet and empty, I was hoping maybe I could post a fun video today. But so far, it hasn’t worked out that way, because the Missus has phone calls to make and stuff to clean and stuff to pack for moving and stuff to load up into my in-box, which I promised to do but I haven’t gotten a round two yet. Therefore, I really haven’t gotten much done today, and now my head is beginning to hurt, a slow, dull ache.

Oh! I can so not wait for the kids to go back to school!

(I’m going to get to the book cover. Trust me. Just give me a moment, please…)

So I hope you can understand why I’m so grouchy. And why I won’t be talking with any of you about universal healthcare. Because the next person who cites the New York Times in support of a stupid idea that 10 seconds worth of Googling would have dispelled, in the mood I’m in right now, he’s likely to get my fist up his nose. So we can just pick up our conversations later in the week… maybe.

Truthfully, though, the Missus is trying really, really hard—I can tell—not to interrupt me. She’s controlling her natural impulse to badger me about stuff I haven’t gotten done right this minute, and basically letting me focus enough to finish this blog post.

And last night I watched up through tomorrow morning’s episode of Gilmore Girls, taking enough notes for a good piece for my Gilmore Girls fansite. And watching Gilmore Girls usually relaxes me, because the characters are engaging and entertaining. Yeah, it’s hilarious how Headmaster Hanlin “Il Duce” Charleston bludgeons Lorelai with guilt and expectation in order to get her to overlook how his minions ignored Rory’s educational needs in favor of their own backwards perception of the world. Great fun! But they always end up with a happy ending. At least they did before stupid Universal fired Amy Sherman-Palladino at season 7, the season to end the show, both literally and figuratively.

(Yes, I’m an opinionated grouch. But I’m getting to the book cover. Really, I am.)

The thing is, this week is likely to be busier for me than normal. Because my Dad has a wonderful opportunity to gain recognition for his new book, which we haven’t released yet. We weren’t planning on releasing it for another few months, because we’re still finishing the final proofreading. But he has an unexpected chance for PR at an event next month, and if we can bring it to press this week, he can present it to a large, influential group connected to his target market.

Now, with most publishers, he’d be out of luck. But because I operate a lean-and-mean, Agile publishing operation—and because I’m family—he’s not out of luck; I am.

So yesterday, we had an emergency planning session: determine the minimum work needed to bring a first edition of the book to press this week. Well what’s left?

  1. Complete at least one proofreading pass.
  2. Assign an ISBN, and prepare the copyright page for the first edition.
  3. Write the back-cover copy and inside-front copy.
  4. Design the cover. (And send an image of the front cover to the people handling the book display for the event.)
  5. Double-, triple-, and quadruple-check the layout.
  6. Skip printing a proof copy (in order to make it within the week).
  7. Quintuple-check the layout.
  8. Publish it, and order the first box of books!

That last one is actually a whole bunch of steps, but I have them fairly well systematized, and only the first part of that process needs to be completed in order to take advantage of the opportunity.

The others… Let’s see. I was planning to do #1, in order to help me with #3, which I am the most qualified to do (of the people on the production team). #2 is simple enough—all standard stuff—and hopefully will go off without a hitch.

#4… My brother was going to help with the cover, but then he had to go and get married and promptly ended up in the hospital. By the way, the latter had nothing to do with the former. No, it was an injury, probably sustained by lifting at work, carrying sick people. (He’s an EMT.) Then he came home and promptly had to go back for major surgery, in order to make sure he wouldn’t sustain similar injuries in the future. Then he came home again and promptly had to go back again due to complications from the surgery. Frankly, we don’t know how much more of this we can take.

In any case, yesterday, our emergency planning session turned into an emergency design session. We looked at a million fonts, hit iStockPhoto in earnest—the picture of Hebrew toy blocks was the best image we could find to reflect the concept and mood behind the book, and frankly, I think it looks trés kewl—threw together a concept cover, I playing the designer and Dad playing the client.

Then I posted the cover to Facebook, asking my friends and friends-of-friends and friends-of-friends-of-friends et cetera to glance at it and tell, What does the cover make you think of?

Because there’s a possible impression that is not consistent with the content of the book. I didn’t think, however, that it would be an issue for our target market—primarily Christian young adults immersing themselves in their faith. Still, the only way to tell is through testing, and we’ve had next to no opportunity to test this cover design, neither in ads nor else-how.

As it turns out, no one yet has mentioned the possible misinterpretation I was thinking of, so that’s good news.

One person mentioned “children,” because of the blocks. This could be of concern, if the thought of the feeling of children turns off people in our target market. But as our target market is still young, they probably haven’t had kids yet, and so the thought of the feeling of kids probably isn’t likely to turn them off.

In any case, look at the book cover above. Click on it to see a larger version. And then comment below: what does it make you think of?


P.S. I still have many more refinements to add to this cover before it’s done. This is only a concept cover to test the main elements.

P.P.S. All the other items on the list are fairly well systematized as well, and should go off without a hitch. #3 and #4 are the heavies.