This post is a special Publisher Spotlight organized by Goddess Fish Promotions for Eggplant Literary Productions. One commenter at each stop will receive a postcard-size cover art signed by the author or cover artist, and one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour will receive the full set of cover prints in a custom-made handbag embroidered with the logo. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Sam Press is the art director at Eggplant Literary Productions. She’s the one who makes sure we have striking covers. You can see them at: http://eggplantproductions.com/e-books/. Here is what she has to say about her job:
Being an art director is a funny thing.
Most people don't know what I do - the best explanation I can come up with is "an art director at a publishing house does what an editor does, except for all the visual/graphic content instead of the text." Which suffices, I suppose. I evaluate submissions, decide which artist will do work for which publication, direct any changes that need to be made to the artwork, generate the final designs of the cover and interior art from the raw files our artists send us, and create any additional graphics we might need for promotional & web use.
I sit in front of my computer a lot. I almost always have my email open in one tab of my browser, just in case. I've developed an uncanny fondness for spreadsheets that I never would have predicted back when I was pursuing my art degree.
I also have an addiction to Tumblr. This should come as no surprise: Tumblr is an excellent platform for artists to share their work with the world. There are so many great new artists out there that I can't possibly hire them all - but I try to get as many as I can.
There are also the blogs that make me laugh: Escher Girls, Boobs Don't Work That Way, The Hawkeye Initiative, Lousy Book Covers, WTF Bad Fantasy Covers, Bad Ebook Covers, and so on. (Please note that most of those blogs are likely to have some NSFW content; proceed at your own risk.) These blogs make me laugh and cry, and sometimes I forward them to my editor so that we can boggle at entries together.
Every time, I swear that Eggplant's covers will never be on one of those blogs.
It's a tricky thing to mock art, especially art for speculative fiction. There's an artist - a person - behind every cover, after all. Also, there are so many ingrained tropes (chainmail bikinis? really?) that are unquestioned and even defended by some segments of the community. They have their place, certainly, but I always wonder if blindly clinging to these tropes is preventing speculative fiction from doing what it does best: examine the world around us and imagine something different. Better, maybe, or greater, or richer somehow. Speculative fiction, at its best, does not merely ask "what if" but also "why not...?"
So as art director at Eggplant, my primary goal is to embrace new styles of art, new voices in 'genre' art, and stand out from the crowd both among speculative fiction publishing and epublishers. It is, of course, a tall order, and the kind of goal where 'success' is a sliding scale wholly dependent on many factors, some of which are beyond my control. But I try, and I can honestly say that I've succeeded more often than I've failed, and that I have a wonderfully supportive company backing me up every step of the way.
Every title is a new challenge, a new opportunity, to fulfill this goal. That, I think, is the most important part of my job: an enthusiasm for every challenge, a genuine love of the medium and its potential, and a fervent desire to contribute to the speculative fiction field that I love.
So when people ask what an art director does? I often answer, “I enable artists to do their very best work.” Because that's the most important part of the job description, in my book.