Struggle to find decent typography
The art of arranging types on the front and back cover is very delicate yet necessary part of production. Almost every Slovak publisher is failing to deliver a timeless design of a book. Majority of covers is boring and some are disgusting. The problem is many bestsellers in Slovakia fall into the latter category.
There are beautiful books for sure. But only few publishers aspire to win a design prize every year. Others just don´t care. I was constantly comparing the production of Slovak publishers with books in English literature section. The difference was overwhelming. Book covers made by English publishers are focused on different kinds of types and every cover is unique. You can see the skill and respect for tradition. You realize that writing a script is only a half of every book. There is much more in production process that Slovak readers often take for granted. And that´s why they buy junk pieces of books. If you have an opportunity to visit a bookstore here in Slovakia, I dare you to do the same — take a walk around and compare on your own. Lack of originality is a bit scary. Dozens of book covers are using similar types combined with awkward background picture. I think it has something to do with still developing perception of culture in our country. Ordinary people do not discuss culture on daily basis. Publishers don´t mind as far as they make money.
When you buy something you also vote for the direction of the business. When you buy a book with boring layout and cover the publisher will reproduce the same formula every time. Suddenly there is a downgrading spiral and nobody gives a damn. It is nice to have an official prize for book of the year (one in terms of composition and one in design). But largest publishers are giving up to compete for quality and cultural contribution. In current context the prizes are irrelevant. Slovak book covers pale even in comparison with Czech publishers. Types are important carriers of message and a great opportunity to attract the reader. I was repeatedly asking myself how could people put so much effort into extensive marketing campaign just to promote an awful book. Answer may be simple — they think they know how to manage things and refuse to reinvent.
It was difficult for me to sell these kind of books. I´m sure that there are people who could do better job in this field but they did not get the opportunity. In a post-communist country it´s more about who you know than what you know. The result is bookstores full of creepy products which they call “bestsellers”.
Stay tuned for more info on publishing business in Slovakia. Feel free to write a comment or email me at: kandrac2(at)gmail.com.