(This is the thirteenth article in a series by Stories To Tell editor/designer Sarah Hoggatt recounting her experiences in publishing her poetry and nonfiction.)
This story starts a few years back at a women’s conference out on the coast. I had been looking over the contents of the book table when I saw a book called Soul Custody by Stephen W. Smith. The title intrigued me but when I picked it up, I had a hard time putting the book down. The book itself was great and I later bought it, but it was the feel of the cover that enthralled me. It was soft and velvety, a pleasure to just hold. Someday, I wanted a book of mine to feel like that.
Unfortunately, the next book I was publishing was the last of a trilogy and I needed to stay with the mold I’d already created with the first two: 6x9, glossy covers, illustrations, running headers, and white pages. But this book stands on its own. This book is complete in and of itself. I can throw everything out the window and recreate a whole new look.
To do this, I wanted to talk to the printer in person. I wanted to look at examples of previous books printed, to see for myself what they meant by “matte” covers. So this last weekend on my drive up to celebrate Christmas early with my family, I stopped by my favorite print shop, Gorham Printing, in Centralia, Washington. As I’ve already shared, we have a great working relationship and I trust their quality. I really wanted to use them for this next book if possible.
Explaining to the staff what I wanted, I was shown some matte cover books they’ve recently printed. It was exactly what I had been hoping for. That soft, velvety feel, the kind of cover you want to keep running your hand across, that’s what I wanted for my book. Writing about love, I wanted the physical book itself to be as warm as the people who inspired me to write it. I couldn’t have been happier.
I also took a look at books on their shelves printed with cream colored paper. This is a decision I have been wrestling with: white or cream paper? I loved the idea of the warmth of cream and that it was different and would match the softer feel of the cover, but it could prove difficult for drawings. Looking at their books, though, cream is going to win the day. If I stick to pencil illustrations, I think it will look lovely. I want this book to be my best work yet, both in aesthetics and in the writing. Cream paper is what I’ve envisioned for so long, it just belongs to the book now.
I haven’t yet decided on the size of the book. When I was putting the poems into their rough order, I noted many of them were shorter than I’ve usually written in the past and that means I won’t need as much physical space. I joked to my friend that I must be a better writer if I can write less. Making the book a 5 ½ by 8 ½ would also have the added benefit of being a bit cheaper than a 6 by 9, thus offsetting the cost of the more expensive paper.
This time there will be no running headers, just a page number centered on the bottom of the page with a simple swirl or some such symbol above. As I wrote in my last post, the poems will also stand on their own – no drawings on the same page, just at the start of the sections. Less is more is my new mantra.
The staff at Gorham sent me home with a printed matte cover from one of their current projects. I keep running my fingers across its surface as I imagine what it will be like to pick up my own book with such a cover for the very first time. I’m loving being able to match the physical printing choices to what the book is about. I also find it deeply inspiring as I continue writing, editing, and putting the poems in order. It’s a book I can now see in my mind as well as in my heart.