When Leigh Anne Hornfeldt, editor at Two of Cups Press, told me the biggest obstacle we would face in preparing my chapbook for publication was nailing down some cover art, I didn’t doubt her for a second. If my experience in the working world has taught me anything (well, besides there’s no place crazy doesn’t exist), it’s that good graphic designers are hard to come by.
Mind you, I do design in my current job and have done so in previous jobs. But there is a difference between someone who can function in a design program and an actual designer, just as there is a difference between someone who can stumble out a few sentences in a particular language and an actual writer.
Because Leigh Anne is an awesome editor who’s totally flexible and open to authors guiding their cover design process, I was welcome to be hands-on in figuring out what to do with the chapbook cover.
But wait — how does someone actually go about getting a cover designed for a chapbook?
Start Your Engines…
I knew I needed someone I could trust for this venture, especially since it would be the first decent-size representation of my work; besides my thesis hanging out in BGSU’s library, I’ve only been shopping individual pieces with literary magazines all these years. And, given the nature of this project, I knew it required a fellow woman’s touch.
Lisa Sills was the first person to pop into my mind. I knew Lisa before she became a designer and only came to respect her more as I saw her progress in her career, finally reaching the point where she launched her own design company, Anura37. I’d always been impressed by her work, but anyone who knows me well — including her — knows I can be darn near impossible to please, especially when it comes to things near and dear to me.
With sweaty palms and churning stomach, I reached out to Lisa at the end of September — shortly after I received news that my chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the Two of Cups Press’ annual contest — to see if she would even be interested in taking on the project.
When she said yes, I was relieved…and terrified. How was this going to go? The project revolved around one of the closest things a childless woman has to a child — well, besides a fur baby. If you don’t have one of those, your “child” might be your weird little poetry collection.
Like a celebrity romance, I was convinced the whole thing would end in either:
- a death threat/custody battle/arson investigation/lawsuit or
- a power couple.
We set a date to discuss the project, and I began preparing a list — not even knowing if I should be preparing a list — of themes, images, characters, and more that to me were the heart of the chapbook: silhouettes and other hidden, broken things; the sun; the dark; the ocean; etc.
Then we talked.
It was a lot of me rambling, trying to explain a chapbook she hadn’t yet read. I don’t know if I made any sense, though she was kind enough to say I did. I sent her my list and the manuscript and ate some chocolate. Because that’s how I roll.
Revving It Up
Days later, I’m sitting in the Lib at one of our student events, and my phone vibrates with a text message. It’s Lisa.
I’m thinking, “She changed her mind. I just know it. It’s way too soon to be hearing from her unless it’s bad news.”
Her text reads, “I have a mock-up that I just couldn’t wait to show you.”
I tap on the PDF she attached.
On my iPhone screen — even though it’s a Plus — I see a mess of color. My first thought is, “What am I looking at?”
I pinch the screen, then spread my fingers across it to stretch the image. I see the patches of watercolor. Broken lines of text hidden by the colors. A sunny splash in the corner. Blood-red ink smearing along the side of some sort of silhouetted creature I can’t quite put my finger on.
Suddenly, it all clicks: Holy crap. It’s my title in picture form.
Actually, it was much more than that. When I talked to Lisa that weekend, I told her I noticed that she’d worked in concepts from a couple of other poems I hadn’t even mentioned to her during our original conversation. The artwork was so spot on, I couldn’t imagine the right cover for the project being anything other than the one Lisa had designed.
Would Leigh Anne agree, though?
Crossing the Finish Line
Lisa incorporated all the other bits and pieces into the design — blurbs from fellow writers, an official ISBN (ooh-la-la!), a photograph of me that doesn’t make me want to stab anyone’s eyes out (i.e., this one taken by photographer extraordinaire Aaron Mayes), etc. There was nothing else left to do but minor touch-ups.
I could avoid it no longer; the time to get Leigh Anne’s blessing had arrived.
I forwarded the file to her, wondering if she would see what I saw or simply regret letting me run amok.
“I am so in love with this cover I can’t even,” Leigh Anne said. Direct quote.
Relief washed over me like chocolate pouring down one of those fountain thingies. Actually, it didn’t; I just wanted to talk about chocolate again. But you get the point.
Just last week, I sent Leigh Anne the finalized files — all i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I could hardly believe it was done and in a few short weeks, the whole shebang would be off at the printers! And when I checked to see how much time had passed, I discovered not even two months had gone by.
That, my friends, is how they do it in the pros. Great job, Lisa!