I’ve been an art guy my whole life. Ad art guy on my high school newspaper. Award-winning cartoonist on my college paper. Illustrator. Art director. Bar napkin artist. I’ve almost always drawn. So when the book deal came through, I asked if I could submit some cover designs for consideration as a part of the deal. The fine folks at CamCat Publishing agreed. It wasn’t like I was asking for cover approval as a first-time author. Steve King gets that. Rookies, not so much. I figured I’d be happy if they kept the title and even looked at my stuff.
Then came the call that they wanted to fast-track my book and get it into the fall season of the publishing calendar. That meant I had a week to come up with a selection of cover designs. What I submitted was decent. But not quite right. The editor sent the submissions to the marketing department’s designer, and she looked at them and tried to turn them into something that would work as a book cover. The results weren’t solid.
We went back and forth. A designer who works for me said, “They really didn’t know what they were getting into, did they?”
I once had a coffee cup given to me that read, “I’m easy to please. I just want the best.”
After the third or fourth round of designs, I did a little informal focus group on the cover with some of my marketing contacts. They weren’t harsh in their critiques, but it was clear we weren’t getting to where we needed. They didn’t get the gist of the story from the cover art, and that’s really why the cover art is there. I gave the editor their feedback and then stepped out. I was not helping the people who do this for a living get to the best cover design they could.
The next day came the design that clicked. Striking and clean. Bold and fitting the story perfectly. MaryAnn Appel is CamCat Publishing’s book designer extraordinaire and I’m incredibly proud to have my name on the work she did on Thunder Road.