For some reason I never fully noticed this before. But when I helped out at two book sale events this past fall, it became all too clear: People love dogs more than anything else. Dogs are cute. Dogs attract. Dogs are cuddly and lovable. Dogs rule.
This past fall, the Independent Book Publishers of New England (IPNE) were vendors at two different conferences: The New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) in Providence and the New England Library Association (NELA) in Manchester, NH. I helped out at both events and expected people to throng to our table and exclaim over the books—Book Design Made Simple above all, naturally. Well, I was in for a couple of surprises.
Notice that Book Design Made Simple is in a great location in the front row, and the three dog books are in the second row with the dogs barely visible!
First, many of the booksellers politely gave our table a very wide berth; they may have been under the impression that our books were all of inferior quality or were difficult to order for their stores. (Let this be a warning to all prospective publishers: make a high quality product so it will be competitive, and arrange for easy ordering.) Librarians, by the way, were a lot more open to the indie published books.
Second, the folks who did venture our way went straight for the books with dogs on the covers (example below). I could see their eyes lock onto the dogs from across the aisle, then they headed straight for the dogs, searched for the authors of the dog-related books, and talked about the dogs in the book, the author’s dog, their dog, and dogs in general. Then they either ordered the dog books or picked up the author’s sell sheet, and they left. Hunh? Hey, you! What about the rest of the books?
Later, I found out that this dog thing is a well-known phenomenon. A famous illustration teacher once told his class that if an illustration in progress is going poorly, add a dog. And if it’s going really, really poorly, add a dog with a bandage.
Okay, fine, but what are Fiona and I going to do about this attraction to dogs? Book Design Made Simple has no dog on the cover and no dog even mentioned inside it. (There is one photo of a dog with a baseball on page 394, though, if you care to look.) Clearly we need to make some changes. How about a title change?
DOG DESIGN MADE SIMPLE?
BOOK DESIGN FOR PUPPIES?
BOOK DESIGN MADE SO SIMPLE THAT EVEN YOUR POOCH CAN DO IT?
YOUR DOG’S NEW TRICK: BOOK DESIGN?
Those are pretty terrible. How about a cover design change, then?
What do you think? Will any human be able to resist?