IVP - Strangely Dim - Highly Unusual

February 15, 2008

Highly Unusual

This almost never happens: IVP Books is looking for reader input about the cover design for Just Courage, a forthcoming book by Gary Haugen. You can vote for your favorite here.

Gary Haugen is the president of International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that does battle against the sex trade and exposes slave-labor practices throughout the world, out of a Christian conviction about the God-given dignity of human beings. You can learn more about IJM here.

Cover design is normally a pretty cloistered process. The designer works in relative solitude, reading through the manuscript and coming up with a few possible creative concepts for how the book's central ideas might be conveyed visually. The designer has to reconcile several complex factors in the process of designing a cover, including who the anticipated audience is, where they might reasonably be expected to run across the book, and what images, colors and other visual elements will compel the potential reader to look more closely.

The clock is always ticking, of course, and eventually the designer must show her work to a select group of industry professionals--experts in marketing and selling books, for example, and the editor or editors most familiar with the book, the author and the subject. These folks scratch their heads, stroke their chins, squint and stare from far off and close up as they consider how the proposed covers will appear in ads, online and on the bookshelf. Feel free to pity the poor designer; hardly anyone's work is so broadly and carefully scrutinized.

This work almost always takes place behind the scenes because it's so important to the success of a book, and because the capacity for people's preferences and prejudices about fonts, colors, pictures and shapes to subvert their objectivity is frustratingly high. The only controlled environment, the conventional wisdom goes, for objective decision making about cover design is a conference room in a corporate office somewhere, peopled by professionals who are self-correcting and correcting each other when the occasional slide into personal preference starts to show itself.

Why in the world, then, is IVP Books pulling back the curtain on Gary Haugen's new book? The main reason, perhaps, is that we want everyone to read it. The work of the International Justice Mission cuts across demographics and niche markets precisely because it is an international work that serves the cause of justice, and we each are called to be concerned for justice in the world God has placed us in.

That doesn't mean that we don't want everyone to read all our other books, nor does it mean that we think our other books are less important than this one. What it means is simply that since justice is the responsibility of each of us, we're open in this instance to give each of us a voice.

So stop hanging around here; get over to Behind the Books and vote!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at February 15, 2008 2:34 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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