Did you interact with Ng when planning your design?
I worked closely with the art director, Darren Haggar. We bounced around ideas and tried to figure out a mood/setting that would best capture the closeness and secrets in this particular town. I came across Amy Bennett’s artwork and we both felt we’d hit upon something.
What were some ideas for this book that you didn’t end up using?
Some of the ideas were very abstract and some were too specific to the book. I painted some tudor homes.
What is your favorite part of your job? What’s the hardest?
I love reading the manuscripts. The hardest part is creating a cover that fits the tone of the book and that is also visually striking.
How has your approach to designing covers changed over time? What did you most want this cover to convey?
I was especially pulled into Ng’s book. I really loved the compellingly intricate and complex storyline and characters. The hard part is the process. I do a lot of art/photo research and sometimes create my own illustrations or hand-lettering, which can all take time. For this particular cover, finding Amy Bennett’s artwork was a perfect fit for Ng’s book. The evening hues, the aerial view of winding roads and the light in the homes, the idyllic sweet suburban street. You know that all can’t be right here.Thank you so much for following along with The Life of A Book! Be sure to grab a copy of Little Fires Everywhere, especially now you know all the behind-the-scenes work that has shaped it.
When you describe Little Fires Everywhere to book buyers, what is your hook? What is memorable or unique about the book? Why would they want it in their store?
First a little back story. I had been a buyer and bookseller at Harvard Book Store for many years and when I was hired to be his co-rep in New England, Karl Krueger invited me to an author dinner with Celeste and a bunch of booksellers even before I was a rep. I was excited to meet her as she lives just minutes away from me. Her book Everything I Never Told You was the first book I read as a PRH rep and is special to me for all this, so when I heard she had a new book coming, I hounded the editor (okay, asked politely a lot). I read Little Fires Everywhere as soon as the manuscript was posted, about 4 months before sales conference and I was immediately hooked. A sophomore novel can often slump a bit relative to an author’s first book. Not so this one—it dazzles. Rich characters and sense of place, Celeste is able to make you see the story from a variety of perspectives. I told my stores that this will be one of the biggest books in the fall and they should pile it up.
What do you like about this new book? Do you have a favorite moment or line? Were you surprised by anything?
I think the character development is richer in Little Fires Everywhere. And there are so many moments to pause and think that I don’t have a favorite. Elena Richardson, the mother of the Richardson clan, surprised me. She could have been written as a cookie-cutter wealthy woman, unaware of her privilege, but I felt Celeste wrote her with some compassion.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? What would surprise a layman to know?
I love getting to read books so early! It’s so much fun to talk with booksellers when you know one of their favorite authors has a book coming. I often feel like I’m a bookseller still just in a slightly different role.
Do you have a favorite bookstore in the Boston/Cambridge area?
I love all the stores around here, but I spent 14 years at Harvard Book Store and it’s part of my DNA now.Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
Why is the book cover different in different countries?
Essentially the reason for different covers is because there are usually multiple international publishers for any major author’s titles, and we (PRH U.S.) do not always have rights in every country to every title, or we license to a company that is not part of PRH. So, for example, John Grisham is published in the UK by Hachette UK, George R.R. Martin is published by HarperCollins UK, etc. They will design cover treatment and print quotes which are relevant to their marketplace. Same for any given non-English speaking market. (Cyrus Kheradi, International Sales)Why is [book title] not available to purchase in my country? The Penguin Random House international sales team works with distributors, wholesalers, and retail booksellers all over the world to reach readers in over 240 countries and territories. While we have robust international sales and marketing reach, our distribution is formally limited to a list of territories the publisher negotiates with an author’s agent when purchasing book rights. Rights to the UK and British Commonwealth are often sold separately and exclusively to a British publisher. Territories outside the exclusive domains of the US and UK—the “open market”—are generally shared between the two publishers on a non-exclusive basis, but may vary at the country or regional level. Every book is different, and one of the exciting challenges we face in international sales is keeping them all straight and getting copies into readers’ hands everywhere we have the rights. (Kelly Roberts, International Marketing Manager) What are the other jobs associated with publication? (Sales, Marketing, Publicity, Subrights, Special Markets) In addition to editorial, there are a wealth of other departments in a publishing house that help bring the books to life and to the marketplace. Our managing editorial, production, and art teams usher books through the process that creates the physical objects. Our publicity teams bring them to the attention of the media, while our marketing teams bring them to the attention of consumers. Our subrights team coordinate getting our books published internationally, and also get excerpts from our books placed in magazines and newspapers. Our sales and special markets teams bring our books to retailers and the marketplace so that consumers can buy them. And this is only the tip of the iceberg! (Casey Blue James, Manager, Business Development Penguin Publishing Group) A Huge thank you to all of our employees who took the time to be interviewed. We hope their answers have helped you better understand the publishing process! Check back soon for another installment of The Book Lover’s Guide to Publishing.