Sunday, May 4, 2008

You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover

My last years as a cubicle dweller, I worked for a health care publisher. I was in charge of the production cycles for 4 quarterly journals, 3 monthly newsletters, 10 annually supplemented manuals, and several books. I also wrote and edited the company newsletter. In my spare time (kidding), I managed a database of freelance copyeditors. My job consisted of overseeing the production cycle from an editorial perspective only. My only involvement with graphics, other than using Pagemaker to typeset the 3 newsletters, was supervising the creation of the covers for each of the manuals and books. The journals used the same cover for each issue, with the addition of a listing of articles within that issue of the journal.

The process for creating a cover involved researching the subject matter of the publication, talking to the author(s) about their preferences, and meeting with our inhouse production department. The cover would then be sent out to a graphic designer or an illustrator. I would next see a rough draft of the cover. I would then send it out to the author and our inhouse editorial acquisitions staff for approval. Sometimes the draft covers were a hit and sometimes the covers were universally detested.

I was looking through my collection of publications from my last job. The covers are overall O.K. Some are good--see the cover for Integrated Women's Health (top right). The cover for Pediatric Home Care (see top left) is just awful. The authors' names are not even aligned with the second block! I can't believe everyone signed off on this one. I can't believe we actually paid a graphic designer (?) to do this cover.

These publications usually sold for over $100 each. The company line was that our audience did not care what was on the cover...they were more interested in the content. The publications were only sold online and at trade shows, not in stores. Several years later the company was merged with its parent company. I can only hope that the book covers have improved.

1 comment:

Amanda Agatstein said...

Yeah, it's funny to look back now and things we may not have noticed or cared about prior to this program.

I also look back at some of the old reports I worked on when I was in a more technical field and cringe at both the writing and the cover design. Oh and the ugly screen grabs and charts, ugh those are terrible.