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Cover dilemma: please help me choose…[RESULTS NOW IN]

As the book pledge campaign is doing so well on Kickstarter (it blew through the £4000 target within 20 hours and the campaign still has another two weeks to run) I have to think of ‘stretch goals’. These are extra rewards for pledgers or extra investment in projects added when Kickstarter projects do better than expected.

RoadsWereNotBuiltForCarsEbookEvery pledger is now going to get a poster along with the book thanks to the campaign reaching £8500 and now I have to decide whether to throw down a serious chunk of cash on bespoke cover artwork should the campaign reach £14,000. And I’d like your help. As with previous books I’ve produced – such as the Bike To Work Book – I like to get feedback on the covers I produce. [THANKS FOR ALL YOUR FEEDBACK, SEE BELOW FOR THE RESULTS].

The existing cover is by an American artist called Seth Whipple and the painting was produced in 1897 for a competition run by the League of American Wheelmen. It’s a great illustration and even if a new cover was chosen I’d likely use the Whipple painting somewhere else prominent (perhaps the back cover?).

The potential new cover would be contemporary and produced specifically for Roads Were Not Built For Cars. I’m wondering whether to commission Pete English to produce fresh artwork. He specialises in period cycling-specific artwork and, as you can seen from his Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France posters, he’d produce a damn fine cover for my book. But what do you think?

Thanks for the 128 replies to the online form I created. But you lot were meant to help me decide what to do and it turns out you’re just as torn as me!

Commission the artist 57
Keep the existing cover 57
Not bothered either way 14

I’ve decided the best thing to do, if I reach £14,000 in pledges, is commission the artist and then I’ll have another vote and you can decide which of the two covers makes the final cut. I was convinced to go down this route by the comments from people urging me to be a patron of the arts, and help create something original. I like that idea. Even if I don’t reach the new target I’ll commission a cover designer to produce a new version of the Whipple cover because a number of publishing folks said they liked the painting but not the cover design or the typography. (Shucks, that sucks -the cover font is an 1890s-style font and wasn’t cheap).

As I’ll only be printing enough copies of the book to satisfy the Kickstarter orders I could very possibly print two versions of the book and, via the Kickstarter survey I’ll be sending out, you can choose which one you’d like. I’ll also be able to do this for the iPad and Kindle versions.

This seems to be a way of making sure everybody’s happy but it all depends on the number of eventual Kickstarter pledges and the results of the survey.

Thanks for all your comments; here are a selection of them.

Voteforsmithbiycle“I love art and I love the creative process, but much of the creation has already gone into this work, and I am more interested in your ideas and words.”

“I love the existing cover and think it’s perfect for the subject!”

“The existing cover is simple, it directly conveys to the reader the era and the sense of harmony involved in riding a bike on a road uncluttered by motor vehicles. The cyclist looks happy and free.The ‘new’ cover is complicated, it conveys a sense of unease and chaos The cyclist in the foreground looks harried and oppressed. Is that really what will make potential readers pick it up? I doubt it.The original cover is far better.”

“Make the cover unique as the book certainly is going to be unique.”

“I like the existing cover art as it gets across the theme of your book. But I really don’t like the font chosen for the title with the cross-hatched shadow effect nor the left-justification. The font should be retro but not as heavy as the one currently chosen.”

“While the existing art is fine you have the opportunity to add something new to the world along with your book. Why pass on the opportunity?”

“The original cover was what attracted my attention in the first place – my vote is to keep it.”
“Definitely change the font, too! It’s so old-fashioned, and though the building-of-roads-not-for-cars has taken place more than 100 years ago, the actual problem we face is very contemporary and most influential for the future, even. Go for it, I’m looking forward for the book.”

“What about the contemporary cover on the bac? It has a touch of amusement to it which seems appropriate for a rear cover, while the existing front cover provides “respectability” to the topic.”

“I love the idea of connecting with both the historic bicycle artwork (present cover and you will still use it prominently) and new bicycle artwork (become a patron of the arts!)”

“Your book deals with history so I think the cover should be historic, as well. Please keep the existing cover. I’m glad you introduced me to Peter English, though. His work is very nice.”

“I like the Pete English artwork – contemporary, funny but biting – just the job. The Whipple one is very evocative but rather weak in the message you need to convey, ie that cyclists are being literally forced off the roads they pioneered by the motorists who assume the roads must have been built for their sole use.”
“The new artist would definately be a home-run, I feel. I love the examples listed. I’d say turn him loose on it ! This is exciting, what a concept is Kickstarter. Your execution of the concept is stellar! Did I mention I’m excited? 🙂 Can’t wait for the book.”

“I like Pete English’s style, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the book. His style is quite whimsical, and although I’m sure you’ve included many moments of whimsy in the text, I get the sense the book overall is historical, probing, reflective, thoughtful. The Whipple cover, being a period piece, catches that spirit well.”

“Should be an ordinary on the cover!”

“Love the cartoon cover. There is interest with what you find hidden in the picture. Helps pass the time and also makes a good poster.”

“The existing cover addresses many issues at a time: the role of bicycles in the process of women’s liberation (real, not ‘ideologically’ driven); relatively smooth surface needed for comfortable cycling and a generally well maintained, balanced/sustainable landscape.”

12 thoughts on “Cover dilemma: please help me choose…[RESULTS NOW IN]

  1. Mark Martin / Reply April 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Comic sans! 😉

    I find the vote and its resulting dilemma interesting. Perhaps you should introduce a third option.

    Really, though, if you go forward with the new commission (my vote) you can do any number of things with it – variant covers, use them recto and verso (combine with the first for variants of the rector / verso), posters, screensavers, whatever.

    Ultimately, it’s the content that matters but you do need a strong cover. Happy decision making!

    • carltonreid / Reply April 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Comic Sans? You’re right, by jove. I’ll get on that straight away…


      You’re right about the content, esp for iPad and Kindle books, covers aren’t as important digitally. I guess the cover choice will become obvious once the artwork has been completed.
      But I do love the Whipple painting so will use for other prominent stuff.

  2. Justcos / Reply April 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    You know best what is right for this book. You will decide correctly. We are confident in ( and will back ) what you decide.

  3. Tim Kirk / Reply April 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Perhaps a silly thought, but what about printing the dust over for the hardback double-sided? Another reason for people to go for the hardcover.

    Didn’t see this until too late to vote, but since reading the background on the vintage cover I’d go for that I think myself. Congratulations on the kickstarter success.

  4. Nitram / Reply April 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Saw this too late to vote but the original cover idea looks good to me, but like previous comments – change the font and layout of the wording – that’s awful and looks like cheap nasty second hand book that nobody wanted to buy rather than the interesting and intriguing masterpiece that is sure to lye within

  5. Toby / Reply April 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I’m too late too, but I think the Whipple and its period atmosphere sets the scene well. I think anything contemporary risks being too clever.

    • carltonreid / Reply April 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      The wonders of small-run printing means I’ll probable be able to offer both covers, so you can choose your favourite. It’ll be good to see what the artist produces.

  6. The Purple Cyclist / Reply April 15, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I didn’t get around to voting on the cover either, sorry. Here’s my 2 cents worth anyway. I think the original cover is perfect. Maybe you should keep it as the cover and put the other artwork on the back. That would give the message that the book covers everything from the time of the original roads that were built for bikes to now when most roads forgot about the bikes. So it shows the historical passage of time and the issues we face today as opposed to what we faced then! Then (the old days) on the front and now on the back!

  7. Peter Veasey / Reply April 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I think the Whipple is the better choice. For a start it doesn’t have any motor vehicles on it, just a couple of horse drawn one, thus emphasising the massive change that cyclists brought to the roads.

  8. Iain / Reply April 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I missed the vote too. Pete’s art is interesting but I definitely prefer the original cover including the text.

  9. David / Reply August 30, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I missed the vote too. I prefer the original cover!

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