Judging a book by its cover

This one coverIn a digital world, how much does it matter for a book to be beautiful, to be physical, to look good and feel good on paper in addition to being brilliantly written and edited?

It is crucial. This I’m learning from recent experience in publishing a print book after two decades working in digital publishing.

Two years ago I published A Form of Resistance  as an electronic book using the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.  A Form of Resistance was originally written and published in Spanish as a print book in Madrid as Una forma de resistencia, by one of Spain’s leading poets Luis García Montero. With Luis’s generous support, I translated a selection of the short, poetic essays in his original and used the KDP tools to develop it into an ebook. My goal was to introduce English language readers to Luis’s beautiful writing and keen insights into human nature. The work was well-received with some glowing reviews. But many friends and colleagues said they wanted to hold this work of art in their hands to read it. They wanted to linger with the tactile experience that would form part of a creative reading experience.

A lot of work goes into translating and publishing a great book like Luis’s.  There are rights negotiations, the translation itself – a delicious and arduous process – editing (hire a professional!) and formatting. You’ll need to learn to use new tools, even on relatively easy platforms like KDP and CreateSpace, the Amazon company that helps you create print editions. You need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), a pricing plan, a marketing plan and a distribution plan. In short, you need to do yourself, or pay someone else to do everything that whole teams of people do at traditional book publishing firms.

Cover design is a crucial part of that plan. It comes toward the end because a great designer actually reads the book and creates a visual interpretation.

I turned to my friend Wendell Minor, a superlative artist and designer, who is so accomplished it is nearly impossible to write a summary of his life and work. Wendell and his wife Florence, a book author in her own right, have been dear friends for some 30 years. And they are giants in the world of picture book publishing and book cover design.

Their  friend the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough wrote about Wendell in the preface to Art For the Written Word: “Wendell Minor is an exceptionally gifted, almost unimaginably prolific American artist …. In the world of publishing there is no one quite like him. Indeed his value to the whole world of books, to publishers, editors, authors, book-sellers, and to millions of readers who care about books, can hardly be overstated.”

Wendell’s visual genius is a perfect match for Luis’s verbal genius. What Wendell has done with his  outstanding cover design for A Form of Resistance  is visually translate the ideas in the book. Each design element he selected subtly communicates and reinforces themes woven throughout the book.  Wendell not only read the book but researched the author, read the background material on Spain, understood the context of how and why Luis wrote his essays. When you read the essays you’ll go back to the cover and find the themes there.

With this beautiful print edition,  A Form of Resistance comes into its own. I hope it will find a new audience of poetry lovers, Spain aficionados and all those who cherish a great book that is beautiful inside and out.


About Katie King

Literary Translator, Journalist, Media Professional, Professor. Currently working toward PhD in Hispanic Studies at the University of Washington.
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