This is the OLD blogsite.

My new blogsite is here: http://www.suecampbellgraphicdesign.com/

It’s nowhere near complete. There will soon be design samples located there too. But the blog itself is live! Please update your bookmarks or get the RSS feed at the new site. Thanks.

I’ll be updating the blog over there from now on.

We are on the cusp of a new paradigm in the information industry. That’s what we are. We aren’t book designers, publishers, authors, newspaper or magazine (or even e-zine) journalists, TV anchors, advertising professionals, or artists, or entertainers. We are information producers and providers. What’s changing fast is the delivery system and the choices of our consumers.

crwodsourcingThis book: Crowdsourcing appeared last August, so I hope I’m not too late to the party. (Ironically, produced on paper first.) This video is a nice overview. I like how he uses photography as an example of a paradigm shift. It’s something we designers are very familiar with and can easily understand. The book cover itself was a case study for his thesis. A contest was held and designers submitted cover designs on which the “public” (people who pay attention to such things) voted. Like American Idol, but um, not. Many of us professional designers just hate design contests, because it reduces us to the level of say, the yodeling, tap dancing farmer hoping to win a spot on the aforementioned TV show and possibly see a profit from our speculative efforts. It’s not really a fair thing to ask of a “professional” is it? And yet, we seem to be willing to do it—the risk is worth the possible reward. But that’s a whole other rant story. I mention this book mainly to illustrate the following example.

Back to the paradigm. Think about the photography example. Technology, and delivery systems changed the way photos were made, sold, and delivered. Abundance of producers using these new technologies to create and make photos available changed the pricing of them. The result was photographers had to change the way they marketed and sold their wares and services or face extinction.
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I hesitate to write this. Like the kid who wishes another kid ill, and then it happens. The kid in his magical thinking figures it’s his fault. But it’s not looking good for print. It’s not looking good for advertising either. I’ve long known that advertising is the first thing companies cut when times get tough. Having worked in that field many years, I weathered mini-recessions time and again. Being a small time freelance designer meant that not only did I not become wildly successful and wealthy beyond my dreams, neither did downturns hurt me all that much. But I tired of the volatility of the industry just the same. Enter my first forays into publishing. I did some curriculum work for Junior Achievement. It was fun. The budgets weren’t big, but I didn’t have to go search for it either. Nor did I have do much “selling” (many a creative freelancer’s bane of existence). In short, I liked it. A lot.

So when finally an opportunity to work for an educational publisher came up I jumped at it. It was fun too, and for the first time in a long, long time I had employee benefits. Nice ones. Then years later, the company got acquired and things became not so fun anymore. Time to move on. Since then I have had lots more fun freelancing at doing trade books. But is the party over? Is it time to take the beer goggles off?  I hope not, I still love my dates. They still look good to me.

However, the writing is on the wall … if not in the books. (groan) This article: “The Financial Storm may Very Well Kill Print Media” is a sobering looking at the facts of life in the world of print media. We can hang on longer, maybe, doing what we do. But at the same time we better be thinking pretty hard about the changing world we work in and coming up with other strategies for surviving and thriving as publications designers, writers, and publishers. (And advertising workers better be thinking twice as fast.)

wwgdPerhaps there’s some good lessons in this book: What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis I am going to get it, right now. I’m downloading the audio version. I know. I am a part of the problem…. I am hoping to learn how to be a part of the solution. I want to ride the crest of the next wave and land safely on the beach in the new paradigm, not be drowned in this one.

Speaking of paradigms, my next post will be about changing paradigms and how we’ve seen them before in our industry (graphic design). One of the advantages of working a long time in one field is eventually you have the benefit of hindsight, the long view. It’s propbably the only good thing about getting older. I’ll draw paralells and contrasts to then and now…

Another salvo in the changing battlefield of publishing shows that innovative and tech-saavy authors can win an audience and eventually a publisher. This article titled “Podcasting Your Novel: Publishing’s Next Wave?” reports on a fast growing trend that I have known about for a while.

I am addicted to audiobooks. If not for them I would never walk the dogs or go to the gym. I discovered Podiobooks when they first came on the scene. In the beginning there wasn’t a lot of selection, mostly scifi and some of that pretty awful. As they grew in public awareness they drew new authors too and began to post more books in many genres, and some of them really good. All of them were by novice authors, or authors completely unknown to me. Most probably never published traditionally.

Two authors really stood out though, J.C. Hutchins with 7th Son and Scott Sigler with Infected and Earthcore. J.C. Hutchins in particular produced an audio drama that rivaled anything Hollywood might produce, and a darned good thriller. All for free. Why give it away? Well, read the article. These two have a loyal “listenership” and now are on the bestseller list for real money. Kudos and congrats to them both.

Incidentally on the article the writer asserts that the audience is/was mostly young male scifi geeks. I’m not sure that was true, after all I’m an older woman. I’ve listened to books on tape on car trips and when walking or exercising for years and years. By the way you can also listen to many many old books that are now in the public domain also for free on Librivox. These books are recorded by volunteers so the perfomance quality varies, but it’s painless way to catch up on those classics of literature you’ve always meant to read.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the audiobook will completely supplant the ink and paper book anytime soon… at least I hope not. But, I am in favor of authors getting their work out there and finding an audience. It’s a moment of change, and change can be scary. It will all shake out in time and anything that helps authors and readers connect can’t be bad.

So my readers, all three of you 😉 will notice I’ve deleted some pages that have just been placeholders since starting this blog in October of 2008. I will be moving the site to WordPress.org in a few months or sooner perhaps. I’ve never filled those pages as I soon realized the limitations of properly displaying my work made it not worth the effort here. So the new site will have a little bit different structure and will consolidate my portfolio on what I hope will be a much easier to manage and update platform. I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime you can find some cover samples on my old website: Sue Campbell Graphic Designs. In fact that site will become the domain for this here blog.

I’ve “rethunk” the purposes and direction of this site many times since starting it. And I’m curious to know what kinds of information you’d like to see on the blog or on other static pages? Downloadable articles and design tips? Photoshop “recipes”? Marketing ideas? A work in progress section—where you can vote on your preferences for cover designs? Links to writing and design contests? Please comment if you have ideas! And thanks.

A new book cover design archive…

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I’ve come across a wonderful new site displaying “the best in book cover design” (as selected by these folks). It does look to be very eclectic and inclusive of good works. I’ll let this other blogpost tell the story sinice they did it so well. The FontFeed blog also looks to be a good source for articles on design and typography. Here’s the direct link to The Book Cover Archive.

nytlogo153x23Today, the New York Times published an article by Motoko Rich entitled “Self-publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.” It’s a pretty realistic look at a new world in publishing. Below is my opinion on this situation.

It had to happen, critical mass has been reached. That, and the model practiced by major (mainly New York) publishing houses has at long last proved to be unsustainable. More and more books are published every year in this country, yet the cost is born by those very few “mega-blockbusters” promoted as such by their publishers. Yet by all accounts there are fewer and fewer readers of “books” each year. But readers, when polled don’t always count reading done online, or on other electronic devices, nor audio books as “books.”

Are we witnessing the death (or severe winnowing) of print publishing in the traditional sense of mass marketed ink on paper books, verses the many other delivery methods being explored? It’s hard to say. As a cover/book designer, I surely hope there will still be significant demand for that singular intimate experience that only the visually pleasing, tactile and physical book can provide. After all, that’s my livelihood, and my passion.

As for the new surge in self-published titles of varying quality and aesthetic appeal, I suppose that it’s a great thing for those who want  to share their stories with a few people. But I hope they don’t harbor unrealistic illusions about striking it rich and appearing on Oprah. For every talented newbie writer, and or compelling story that successfully uses this method to springboard to fame and a wider audience when picked up by a big name publisher, there are thousands that languish in obscurity. If fame and fortune were their aim, they may have been better off robbing a bank—infamy seems as marketable these days.

Evidence supports that this can be done though. First, they had to have a good product, but they also had to spend considerable effort, and dare we say a few bucks, in getting the word out about their book(s). I don’t think any self-published titles (with the possibility of rare exceptions) ever got picked up by a publisher without first establishing some significant and verifiable sales. No doubt there are some roses out there in the mass of stinkweeds. Or as Cathy Langer of the Tattered Cover in Denver said, “For every thousand titles that get self-published, maybe there’s two that should have been published.”

What of paying the tab? Mr. Rich doesn’t really get in to the gritty details except to offer $99 to $100,000 as the range of costs involved. Well, that’s mighty big range! If we’re talking print on demand (POD) I’d sure like to know what the author is getting for $100,000! Can you say writer’s beware? I have looked at the so-called “custom covers” many POD “publishers” offer and frankly your baby would be better off making its debut in a plain brown wrapper.

I’m paid to put the lipstick on … whether they are pigs or natural born beauties. And I do it most happily. So all you self-publishers out there, give your natural born beauty its best chance of thriving in this very crowded marketplace. Let me do the cover. (Even e-books need covers.) I can unequivically guarantee you it won’t cost nearly $100,000.

Jim Barnes presents the Moonbeams gold medal.

Jim Barnes presents the Moonbeams gold medal.

I attended the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards ceremony January 23rd in Denver. One of Stephen’s Press’ books, Ensoñsación el Jardín de Sueños (Dreamygirl’s Field of Wishes) won a gold medal for best Spanish language picturebook. Since I live here in Colorado, and the book’s author Jorge Betancourt Polanco  wasn’t able to come I came instead. The book was warmly received and Jorge will receive a very cool medal. Congratulations Jorge!

I also took a quick walk through the exhibits at the ALA (American Librarians Assoc.) Midwinter Conference. There were a number of publisher’s booths and children’s books were much better represented than adult books. It was like a mini BEA except like 1/8 the size!

And on Monday it was anounced that Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book won the most prestigess Newbery award. That’s cool.  Congratulations to him too.