Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 6
Friday, January 26th, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone

Hi Folks,

Welcome to Issue #6: Closure to the Cover Art Saga and a Completely Unscientific Reader Poll

Wow - only 56 days left until availability! I can’t believe this is actually happening! I’m done with the proofs and we’re in final layout. Put your orders in now before Amazon drops the price any further on me!

I have attached the almost-final-version of the cover art, which has also just shown up on Amazon.com (old amazon link). (Very small text changes will be made only.)

“So much for sneak previews,” I hear you say. Yeah, well, maybe I send the acid flashback version in an upcoming newsletter for laughs. But now, I’d like to reflect on this whole cover art process.

Tiffany (my editor) mentioned something in an email yesterday that made me realize that Elsevier probably rued granting my request to change the original contract to allow me to participate in the cover art process. When I was negotiating with Elsevier and with another publisher back in 2005, it was something important to me.

Little did we all know.

My Mind’s Eye: When I was first pitching the book, I had an image in my mind for a cover. I was not in love with this image, mind you, but it just stuck in my mind. A 1950’s drawing of a woman like June Cleaver in the traditional belted dress, holding a phone receiver that was on fire, while screaming. Campy colors. In the style of a theater release poster for a 1950’s science fiction B-movie (think “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman“).

Another idea: Yeah, so I was probably the only one who liked the idea, but it was an image that stuck with me for a couple years. Thinking about it now, it obviously does not fit what the book has turned into. (Maybe it resonated because “Lisa Simone” is the star of the 1959 campy movie, “The Giant Gila Monster“.)

Last September we had a meeting to discuss ideas and we fell in love with a different idea. A floating phone receiver with the cord still connected. The other end of the cord would turn into a fuse with a pile of cord in the middle, so it looked like the fuse on a stick of dynamite. The image we were trying to create was one of potential danger…a fuse was lit and Something Bad was going to happen if it wasn’t stopped. It tied into the title and created suspense and tension. And since September, I have had THAT image in my mind.

You remember my reaction to the first set of cover art. Acid flashback. Another looked like the Northern Lights had engulfed a 1990’s plastic receiver. The sample covers just screamed, “Buy this book to learn about 1990’s old technology!” Sigh. Did they NOT get the memo? Back to the drawing board.

So I suggested either a cartoon image of a receiver, or a Really Old receiver. Either would convey the “concept” of a receiver without making the reader assume the book was about that particular phone technology. I even sent several pictures of classic 1940’s black Bakelite phone receivers as examples. What we got back were two covers that look close to what you see here. The other had a blue background. Different fonts, graphics placement, etc.

When the author is a Pain In The Ass about the process. My first reaction was, “Ack! Not the WHOLE phone!” Too much phone! Just the receiver! I offered a lot of feedback including how to change that phone so I would like the cover art. Most of my suggestions were not taken, and when I saw the final cover art a few days ago, my heart sank.

The email carrying the cover art graphic was accompanied by the fateful words, “We will jeopardize the schedule if we ask for any more alts to the design, so this is what we must run with.”

One of you will recall having seen me about 20 minutes after I received that email, and was forced to listen to my subsequent verbal rampage - thank you for letting me vent.

It took a couple hours and an informal therapy session for me to readjust my perspective. I had gotten too close to it. Ultimately, I had to look at this from a business/money perspective…the cover is designed to reel in a potential buyer and entice them to read the back cover or to flip through the book. That’s it. SO, does it do that? That’s really the only question, unrelated to whether or not I actually like the cover. And trying to be objective about it, I think the cover probably does it’s job.

There’s a series of TV commercials in NJ right now for an auto insurance company. They feature a “real customer” with a celebrity to “help tell their story.” Little Richard narrates a Thanksgiving dinner as a customer describes an accident she had that day…Charo translates a gentleman’s succinct words about wrecking his beloved car into a passionate gush, mostly in Spanish and complete with arm waving.

I think the commercials are stupid. But REALITY CHECK STUPID!!! But they stick in your head, which means that THEY DID THE JOB.

Marketing isn’t always to make you LIKE something…but to make you remember it.

When your editor believes in you. After I emailed Tiffany that I accepted the cover art, she told me that she was “held up to public scorn by management in a office-wide meeting last week for daring to allow an author to be involved in cover design.”

Ouch! Part of my decision to compromise was that I knew there were forces at work behind the scenes…like the Amazon pressure to reverse the title and the subtitle. Tiffany went to bat for me on that one, too (which is why “Debugging Methods Revealed” is in the bold army font to make it stand out). I also wanted to retain a good working relationship for this and possibly future books.

Choose your battles wisely.

And now, a Completely Unscientific Poll. Humor me and reply back with your answers to two questions. Just send back two numbers, and any comments if you want.

Question 1: Do you like the cover art (purely your personal preference)?
__5__It’s really cool - what a neat idea!
__4__Yeah, I like it
__3__It’s okay I guess
__2__Well…not really
__1__Wow, what happened with that?

Question 2: Do you think the cover art does it’s job (entice the potential buyer to learn more)?
__5__Oh yeah, it sucked me right in
__4__I was somewhat intrigued and would take a look at the back cover
__3__I might take a cursory glance; depends on my mood
__2__The book looks kinda odd. Hmmm, but that book next to it looks interesting.
__1__Run Away! Run Away!

Remember, honesty counts. I’ll report results in the next newsletter. Reply now!

Until Next Time….
Lisa

About this Newsletter
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This is an occasional newsletter with information about my upcoming book, “If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire? Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed in Technical Mysteries for Engineers.” Tell me to Take a Hike if you aren’t interested in the Newsletter. No Problem.