Discover more from From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
On Book Design
Or, specifically the design of my book.
“Can I confess that the cover that we see printed was my first go?” Beacon Press creative director Carol Chu tells me. We met over Zoom because I wanted to talk about how she ended up designing the cover of my book No Meat Required: The Cultural History and Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating.
I assumed the reason I liked it immediately was because I’d sent over such fabulous material to work from: paintings, book covers I hated, and only one I liked (Doug Bierend’s In Search of Mycotopia). It was shockingly akin, especially, to a painting I’d seen while leafing through an issue of ArtForum while I was still writing the book, “Tomato Plant” by Manoucher Yektai. Bolder and brighter, of course, but, as Chu notes when she sees it, “the hand was there.” What I wanted for the cover was something very human and enticing, that showed food was indeed the book’s central subject—that it was not something purely ideological.
Those materials I sent never actually made it to Chu, because my editor had the sense she wouldn’t need them, considering her many years’ experience. This assumption was correct: She designed this first cover, which is the printed cover, based just on what she envisioned from reading it. I was shocked—and relieved. I called my mom immediately after our conversation to tell her, “The book conveys what I wanted it to convey!” (She was at work and dealing with people coming in and out, but at this point is used to her 37-year-old child calling in the middle of the week yelling about what her work “conveys.”)
“It's totally kismet in that I really enjoy reading books on culinary culture,” says Chu. “I really enjoy like the sociological and historical aspects of food. Could I have done this with a book on—I don't want to come up with a topic—but like topic X? Something more legislative or nitty-gritty about law? I don’t know.”
Chu has been at Beacon for five years, and before that, spent many years in children’s book design after getting her masters in design from Pratt. At Beacon, because it’s so small, she’s able to both illustrate and design. She likens presenting her cover designs to the team as being a “Mad Men presentation,” and while she did more than just the one design for my book, it was clear to everyone immediately that this was the cover.
As a person who’s very immediate in my writing, who spends a lot of time thinking, reading, interviewing, and note-taking so that the writing itself ends up feeling seamless and easy (most of the time!), it was really interesting to find out the design of my book came together in a similar way. I know many authors end up miserable about a lot of book design options: Mine was, when I first saw it—just as when the publishing team did—immediately apparent to me as perfect.
The book is out next Tuesday, August 15. I’m very excited and very nervous. My book tour will happen in September. The dates are here on my website—there’s now an RSVP link for the D.C. date at Bold Fork, and spots are available if you also preorder. A paid subscriber Zoom event will be announced soon, too.
If you have an unanswered question, next Monday’s newsletter, right before publication, I’ll be publishing a reader Q&A. Please leave a comment with your question or reply to this email.
This Friday’s From the Kitchen dispatch for paid subscribers will include a summer mocktail that can easily become a cocktail, depending on your mood. It’s another entry in the complex simple syrup entries, and I’ll explain why this has become my go-to approach for beverage recipes. See the recipe index for all recipes available to paid subscribers.
My Grub Street Diet (!!!) went out on Friday. A cool full circle moment for this former New York copy editor—copyediting these used to be my job, when I couldn’t have imagined the day I’d be seeing my own go live!
For Vox, I wrote about the ways in which traditional food media isn’t appealing to as large an audience as TikTok creators’ who are sharing vulnerable stories and transparent grocery hauls. I have more to say about this, per usual!!!
Deborah Reid, who did the first interview with me months ago in preparation for a piece set to run in website that was shut down, published a lovely write-up of the book on her website. I’m so appreciative.
My small capsule jewelry collection with By Ren, whose designs are handmade to order in Philadelphia, is live through the end of 2023. There are cocktail picks with a pearl on them, which are my favorite thing ever!
A lot but honestly still finding it difficult to focus these days!!!
Read my Grub Street Diet!