Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Monday, May 30, 2005

The making of a book jacket

Quite a few people have asked me about the rich blue jacket of Ingledove, and they have wanted to know how much control I have over a book's appearance. I gather that I've had a good bit of input, judging by the accounts of many others--even judging by my own experience with a few of my other books.

The process of choosing an illustrator for Ingledove resembled that of The Curse of the Raven Mocker. Steve Ciezlawski's jacket illustration for that book, an oil, now hangs over my library table--a wonderful gift from him. Since work on solo shows now takes up most of his time, Raven Mocker was Steve's final book jacket.

1. My editor proposed various possibilities for Ingledove; except for one, all of the illustrators he suggested were rather well known in this country. I visited web sites, looked at books, and viewed lots of xeroxes and email attachments of illustrations.

2. After some email exchanges, my editor and I settled on Renato Alarcao. The illustrator read the manuscript and came up with a surprisingly large group of preliminary sketches, and so we had more back-and-forth discussion about this choice. We singled out the one that included two of the three main characters, showed mysterious "music" swirling in the sky, gave some sense of the "drowned lands" beneath, and served as an image of "border crossing." While we liked many of the illustrations, this one summed up more of the tale.

3. We picked a second image--Malia with her victim and Ingledove wielding Jarrett's sword--for the frontispiece. It was a very different picture than the first, a good contrast to it, conveying the peril and strangeness of the story.

4. That was my last bit of influence over the physical look of the book! Along the way I found out about the "watery" title, and I met the designers after-the-fact. I also helped with making up a list of writers to be contacted for a blurb. But I knew nothing more about the appearance of the book until I received a copy of the dust jacket.

That's jacket, not cover! The cover is the wrapped boards and spine underneath the jacket . . .

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.