I came across some of the original cover art mock-ups and sketches I did for Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook, so I thought I’d share.
Originally, the book was simply to be called “The Retail Employee Handbook”, so when it came time to do a cover mock-up for use in Hyperion’s fall catalog that year, I drew the artwork above. Before the catalog was printed however, the folks at Hyperion made the suggestion that we make “The Retail Employee Handbook” the subtitle of the book and take part of one of my chapter names (Faux Empathy: Pretending You Care) for the main title instead. It was a great idea, but the artwork no longer fit the title. They used this art for their catalog, but we needed something different for the book when it went to print. So I went to work on some new designs.
As you can see in the sketches above, I tried to incorporate the original layout into the “pretending you care” theme, but it didn’t work out too well. Having Cooper, Marla and Val stand close together behind the counter worked when they were scared of the looming crowd of angry customers, but not so well in the new context. So I switched gears and decided to simplify the design.
There were probably about half a dozen other sketches before the one above was settled upon as the winner. It was given the green light by Jay Kennedy and the folks at Hyperion, so I went to work on the finished artwork.
Ah, but when the artwork was finished and submitted, some marketing people somewhere decided that having two women on the cover might give people the idea that the book was only meant to appeal to women. So, it was suggested that we put Cooper behind the counter instead. I argued that it wouldn’t make much sense in the context of the strip (save for Cooper’s short stint in the shoe department), but the powers that be were pretty adamant on the subject. I was reminded that despite the old adage, people do indeed judge books by their covers.
In the end I decided to defer to their experience in the matter. I figured the fans of the strip probably wouldn’t give it much thought, and that anything I could do to maximize the odds of getting the book into the hands of people who weren’t familiar with the strip was a good thing. So I Photoshoped Cooper into the scene and the cover was finished.
In retrospect, the change was probably a wise one … and I’ve yet to get any angry “Hey! What the hell is Cooper doing behind the counter?!” emails.
I think one of the hardest things to learn as a professional artist is when to make concessions for the sake of your editor/clients, and when to stand your ground. You don’t want to cave in to every suggestion, but you also don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot just to defend the absolute purity of your ideas either. It’s a balancing act to be sure. It’s not always easy to make compromises without damaging the integrity of an idea, but it’s an essential skill to learn in this profession … and one that I think can ultimately make you a more successful artist.