I love books and writing so much that I also work in the publishing industry. I like to be close to the industry all the time. So that’s my day job. I’m a producer of books, or lately, of ‘content’ for digital consumption. Though my official title of ‘Production Controller’ lends less credit to the art of literary project management than I’d like, it does give license to indulge an anxiety to control, and there is none more anxious than myself when a book is going out to the world for the first time. It’s that last proof that has me simultaneously stressed, excited but seldom smiling such is the horror of not catching the potential blemish, the typographical blunder, the miscalculated spec. The gathering of a team’s efforts – author, commissioning editor, managing editor, copy-editor, marketing, publicity etc – is not only a responsibility but can be informally sacerdotal at times, which has a pressure of its own. Or perhaps it’s a bit like being a literary mid-wife? You can even feel tearful sending a book out there on its own finally, no more dusting and polishing, let it grow, deliver another. Many books pass through my desk daily, too many to count. I suppose there are times I’m too busy scowling at them for potential blunders that I can miss the beauty in them entirely. By beauty I mean the book’s cover.
I do love cover art for its own sake as a stand-alone entity, a thing that can lift your day. Sometimes a cover that looks innocuous on the surface is a sly little gem deep down that catches you unaware and brings out a surprise reaction, a yearning even, which I suppose is the idea if the marketing people are doing their job. One cover comes to mind. Vincent Capranni’s ‘Rowdy Rhymes and Re-c-im-itations ’ designed by Garry Wiley in Create. Now, call me a lush – I swear I hardly ever see the inside of a pub – but is this not the epitome of the imagined lock-in in a boozer where everyone knows your name? Or even better, where everyone doesn’t know your name? Or perhaps you are a still a tourist, still open to the world of strangers, still receptive to the musings of a bawdy old man in a pub? But it’s not the image alone that makes this cover sing, it is the slight tweaking the designer has given to the man’s face that does it for me. See the pull-focus on the eyeball? This genius drink-fuelled beady eye zones in on you through a haze of pints and pipe-tabcaccy smoke, making you the audience to some innuendo that in real life you mightn’t even get. But who cares? Who cares if the next day you have the worst hangover you ever had in your life and a head full of rowdy rhymes you’re never going to repeat in dull company? The point is that for now you are in that boozer, you are having a blast, you are in another world or time and this old man made you smile at your desk because he’s still sharp and has years of life left in him yet.
Never said it to Garry the designer, never got a moment what with the volume of books always waiting to be scowled at and deemed fit for release, so I’ll say it now — Garry, it is some artist indeed that can stop this anxiety ridden production controller in her tracks at deadline hour to stare at an old man’s face for five minutes and say ‘Now that is beautiful.’