where the writers are
Copycat covers, photography, digital books, and gratitude

Something about two articles caught my attention about art, design, photography and process. The first, “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” appears on the blog Rap Sheet, by J. Kingston Pierce, and presents numerous book jackets that use the same stock photo. Granted, most of these copycat covers are for crime novels, but there's also an adaptation of the same image on James Patterson’s detective novel, Cross,  that was originally used for a reprint of Mann's Death in Venice. This article is fascinating in itself and speaks to the alertness of readers to graphic design, while the blog discussion raises interesting questions about how this happens and if it can or should be prevented.

The second piece is a brilliant time-lapse video, “Cover Creation,” by photographer Peter Belanger that collapses the process of shooting and creating what on the surface appears to be a “simple” magazine cover of two iPhones for MacWorld. Belanger’s blog reveals how many other parts of this process were left out of the film. 

I'm still a graphic designer in addition to being a writer, and what strikes me about these two articles is how breezily photography was used and taken for granted in the copycat piece, and how deeply involved it actually is to professionally create a photograph for a cover. And then last night, I was briefly interviewed about what I thought about digital books, a regularly trending topic online. I hadn't until then verbalized my thoughts on the subject, and the interview brought out a not-so-surprising passion for the beauty and art of tactile books. My response spoke to children’s exposure to books, and the wonder of turning a page, the surprise of seeing art and story revealed to yet another level, the anticipation that it would continue as long as there were pages to turn, and how that act, a slow, ongoing and time-conscious process, is one of the wonderful things about books. 

I don't want to be old-ladyish about how tweeting fast things are moving these days, but I would like to remark that care and informed appreciation for what is so often taken for granted is a useful act. I’m just as guilty as some of those copycat book designers of finding my photos on the fly for a few dollars on iStockphoto, and have even bought photos with the blue or red flame, marking them as images purchased more than 1,000 or 100 tiimes.  But I‘m careful about where and how the photo will be used, to always credit the photographer if their real name is posted, and I try to send back a PDF of the finished design to the photographer to show how the image was used. It isn’t much, but it’s a way to say that the work was noticed and appreciated. 

When I learned my book had found a publisher, I asked a friend, whose debut novel had released the previous year, if she had any advice. “Don’t read those casual reviews on places like Amazon and such,” she said. “Here you’ve  worked for YEARS on your novel, and then someone will spend two minutes to vent their opinion, good or bad. It just isn’t useful.” Certainly, reading fiction is incredibly subjective, but off-the-cuff remarks don’t typically take into account the process that built the book, the process that yielded the photograph, or the cover design, or the illustration on the next page in a picture book, and so I appreciate work like Peter Belanger’s time lapse video that make me stop and wonder at the beauty of process. And to say thanks. 

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Cover art production

I totally loved the time lapse video. Simple = Complex for sure.

Keep writing from your soul,

April Martin Chartrand
Poetess, Fiberalchemist, and Artist