Archive for the ‘Book Store’ Category

I’m just finishing the cover on the first picture book I wrote and illustrated. It will be out in the autumn of 2014 from Candlewick Press.

Let me say this about book covers – they are the toughest element in the book making process for me. This is no surprise because they have proven to be enormously impactful on a books’ success, so a lot of different people at a publisher have input. The covers are important not just for consumer sales in the retail environment but also when the publishers show the books to the retail buyers.

I used to believe that covers were pretty straight forward. But the more I tackle picture book covers the more I realize they have a unique set of communication needs. This is due in part to the duel audience of young reader books. They need to communicate to both adult book buyers and young non-reader book ‘readers’. A few books back I had done a cover I was pretty happy with and I got feedback from the marketing department on my design/illustration ( it should be noted that with picture books the cover is most often a collaboration between the illustrator and an art director or book designer ) and you know what, they were right! I know artists are always supposed to be upset and willing to fight the fight against ‘marketing’ department advice, and I have done that from time to time, but on this project that had a great POV that I hadn’t thought of. And we created a really good cover because of the notes.

So I’m open to plenty of discussion when it comes to the cover. And plenty of revisions, as long as I think it’s headed in a good direction.

bepawrdOne of my favorite covers from a book I illustrated is for The Book That Eats People. This was conceived of by the designer and editor I believe after we made a few runs trying out different approaches. The designer had the idea to make our names look like sharp teeth. What a great touch!

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Great  piece in Publisher’s Weekly on how indy bookstores are having scavenger hunts during the summer. And how one bookstore has kids searching for Green Beans. Especially the ones with mustaches! Click here to read it.


Of course you ALL know about the bad green beans that take parents captive. That play dice. That dance and make … well, if you don’t know get a copy of David LaRochelle’s wonderful book. And I’m not just saying that because I did the illustrations! Really.

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too many books illustration. Mark Fearing

too many books illustration. Mark Fearing

Here’s an update on my book-letting. Two months ago I wrote about my need to get rid of books. That perhaps being buried alive by books in my studio isn’t the way I want to go…though honestly, it’s not a bad way all things being equal.

And now for some blog-honesty…I haven’t gotten rid of one single book.

I tried. We had visitors for Thanksgiving and I tried to talk them into taking some books with them to read on the way home. But they already had plenty of books.

It gets worse…I recently purchased three new books and my bet is the Holidays will see me get at least one or two or three or more. So I am losing the ‘war on books’. I may never move from this house. I don’t have the energy to box-up all these books…

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Too many books…

Too many books. Too many shelves packed with books.

There, I said it. I have too many books and they are beginning to weigh on me more than I want them to. So it’s time to start deleveraging. So to speak.

It’s a big decision to make. But I plan on getting a box, then going through all the books on my shelves and I will keep only the books that fill that one box. No more, no less. I have too many tomes that I haven’t looked at in 15 years. I have those ‘Art Of’ books from animated films. Probably a dozen of them. Beautiful big, heavy, books. Love the art in them.Wonderful to casually page through, like I have time to casually page through anything anymore.

I do almost all of my visual research on the web now. I have directories full of art samples. I find myself going to the books less and less often for research. Either because of sloth or…well mainly because of sloth. This will not be an easy task but I need to clear the overstuffed shelves, the stacks on tables, the piles on the floor.

I’ve done this with CD’s and DVD’s and records and cassettes. Media storage nightmares all of them. I have three or four comic book cartons that need to go too. I’ve managed to ignore them, stick them in the back of the studio, move them to different corners, but honestly – it’s time. I realized I haven’t looked at what’s in those boxes for many, many years. Some I don’t think have been opened since I moved from Wisconsin to LA. Oh my. I feel even older now.

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I got to watch rain dance across the open fields on my way down to Salem last night for a book signing.  I’d like to thank the Morningside Elmentary school for being such a great host. I had a ton of fun meeting creative kids and talking about ‘drawing’ stories.

I was also really excited to be talking to kids about Earthling! for the first time (Thanks to Chronicle Books for some early support for Earthling!) as well as signing favorite copies of The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, The Book That Eats People and So You Want To Catch Bigfoot.

Thank you to the staff and parents and students who came out to celebrate books, illustration and storytelling. I saw some wonderful student books in progress and was excited to see so many students creating original tales of monsters, aliens, penguins and lemons!

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I read that Taco Bell is making taco shells out of Dorito chips. Talk about making a food product even less appealing…but it got me thinking. Perhaps the answer to all the problems the traditional book format is having can be solved by making – edible books. Print them on Doritos. Licensed Barbie books would be on bubble gum pages. Anything by Lemony Snicket would taste like lemon of course.

Barnes & Noble could become a lunch destination. The remainder bins would be take-out.

If you get 3 chapters into a book and lose your interest, no problem, just eat it. Let’s see an e-book do that.

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Over the weekend we stopped into the local Barnes & Noble. It was nice to see the store busy, if not exactly packed. The coffee shop was full and they had a nice selection of toys and games to go along with the books. The kids book section was well stocked. About 30% of the floor space was left to ‘classics’. Books originally released at least 20 years ago. So that limits how much floor space they have for new titles. They had a large display area of picture books, with covers out (YEAH!) and had a bazillion middle grade novels/illustrated novels. Vampires, nerds, monsters, kids investigating mysteries…it was completely overwhelming. I had no idea that there were so many of these type of books. After about 10 minutes they all ran together. Reading about a half dozen first pages also brought home the sameness of many of them. But most of them looked great. Beautiful art and plenty of funny character names…

I glanced at the picture books, but if I spend too much time I tend to get kind of depressed. A few of the things that really bug me jump out – overly cute stuff and books where the characters all lack expression. Characters have basically the same look on every page. A look of bemused detachment. The characters seem to suffer from some sort of post modern malaise. They stare into the woods, or at one another like sullen teenagers. Favorite topics revolve around losing ones mittens, or a hat, or wanting to dance or something equally wry. There’s something a tad disingenuous with them though. They don’t seem to capture much about the spirit of younger kids that I pick up on, but they capture plenty of ironic detachement.

But overall I was glad to see what appears to be a fairly healthy book store. We ended up buying a book/game combo thing for an upcoming birthday. My daughter wanted a  DVD, but honestly, it’s easier to just order it on iTunes than have another chunk of plastic in the house, so they lost out on that sale.

But overall, the book store was still alive. That made me happy.


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There’s been a lot more coverage about the Apple initiated iBooks Author program. I’ll post a few links to interesting articles and discussions. There is definitely a prevailing feeling that a lot of the text book companies early attempts are lacking in interactive features. Which I expect. But I also expect that to change over the next 18 months. This article at Apple Insider looks at some of the issues. It warns the conventional book publishers that basically providing a PDF where you flip pages is NOT what the audience is looking for. That alone is not a step into a new form of textbook that encourages interactive, student directed learning.

This is also an interesting new tool that will let you build Flash like animations utilizing Css3, so the animations can easily be dropped into iBooks Author. It’s by web developer Sencha.

And here is a review of iBooks Author (The new Apple application) that lets you build ebooks for the iBookstore for playback on an iPad. This is by Steven Sande and Erica Sadun who are ebook publishers. They wrote the following conclusion on the new iBooks Author application:


Let me reiterate one key point: iBooks Author is designed for creating textbooks. If you’re thinking about using it for other types of books, you can — but understand that this app may not necessarily be the tool you’re looking for if you want to create and sell books on all ebook platforms.

iBooks Author does a great job at what it’s designed for, and I think we’ll see a lot of incredibly interactive books hitting the iBookstore in the near future. Is it perfect? No. But for a first release of a new app, it’s pretty darned close.

There is a great discussion after their post on TUAW.

I’m going to dig into the app in the next week and see what I can do with a picture book project I have sitting here. It will be interesting to see what kind of interactive elements I can add using my set of digital tools.

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I wonder what the new year will bring to the publishing industry? It was easy to find articles in 2011 predicting the end of dead-tree books and announcing the upending of an entire industry. Of course much has been written about the changes sweeping the entire media landscape. But as 2012 starts, I’m reading two dead-tree books, and one book on my iPad. So I guess they can live together in peace. But what this means for the traditional business of selling and marketing books, I don’t know. Honestly, the biggest media consumption change for me is that I rarely go out to see films anymore. I watch them at home, months after they leave the theatre. So I’d rather be writing and publishing books than running movie theatres in 2012. The only growth the film industry has seen is from rising prices for tickets.

We also suffered through the closing of Borders in 2011 (years after we finally stopped hating them for moving into midsize markets and putting the local book shops out of business). But with Borders going under it left a lot of shelves that no longer needed to be filled and deleted a place where readers could discover new books while browsing aisles.

It feels a bit precarious to be making a living working on books in the year 2012. Especially since I spent many years of my career glued to the interactive and digital space. As 2012 starts I find myself working in one of the oldest media technologies. True, I use a computer to draw and paint. I send my final art on DVD or CD or FTP and the printing process uses digital technology at every step. But the finished product isn’t that different from a book crafted in 1454. That’s the strength of the platform and perhaps its weakness.

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Download The Thing with No Head as an e-book for $4.00 here!

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