Judging a Book by its Cover

27 Aug

A lot of people keep telling me they like the cover of this book.  Are they surprised when I tell them it  was the most difficult part of this whole project.  Google “what makes a good book cover” and you’ll get 184 million people telling you it must be unique and clever and that it has to catch your eye, convey a message, and entice you to read it.  Layer the online market on top and all the concerns about book covers as shrunken images the size of postage stamps, and Ay yi yi you’ll see why this is such an anxiety-producing topic for writers.

I settled on the title for this collection of stories very early on, but I must admit to being stumped about how to illustrate the concept?  How could I show the highbrow and the lowbrow, the homo and the hetero, the urban and the rural — all of which makes Rehoboth so unique and charming – in a simple image?

This was a tough challenge.  For a hilarious look at how the real professionals think about creating book covers, check out this TED Talk by Chip Kidd, the man who “spawned a revolution in the art of American book design and packaging.”  David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, two of my favorite contemporary writers, have worked with Chip.

Yours truly, however, didn’t have the budget to hire Chip, so I had to find my own unique solution.  I decided to start by asking friends in Rehoboth what they didn’t want to see on a book about Rehoboth.  No boardwalk images.  No orange Dolle’s sign.  No dolphins. No seagulls.  No French fries. No lifeguard stands.  No beach umbrellas.  What I heard was that the typical, iconic images often associated with Rehoboth Beach might be appropriate for some things, but not for my book.  I was on to something.

A discarded cover concept

It clicked one night when my partner Michael and I were enjoying some wine on the screened porch.  Why not put the porch on the cover?  Rehoboth, after all, is known for its screened porches. Better yet, why not put a picture of our cottage on the front, complete with a set of interesting characters loitering about having drinks?  It’s a scene not too uncommon at my home. And, it would certainly jive with the content and my objective of presenting a “different view” of Rehoboth.

The next thing you know, I’m chatting with Louisa Marcq, an artist in England specializing in wacky house drawings, and, voila, a cover was born.

I’m not sure what Chip Kidd would think about the cover.  It is a tad busy, but on the other hand, it certainly catches your eye and draws you in.  It makes you wonder what’s inside.  And as far as I can tell, that’s what you want in a cover.

Final cover design.

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