On Designing Two Books at Once

by Kevin Barrett Kane

Over three months after reading Aaron Goldfarb’s The Guides for the first time, I’ve come to the bittersweet realization that my part in the creation of these books has ended. Working with Aaron and the FG Press team to see these books from acquisition to publication has been a real joy. That is not to say, of course, that designing the other books in FG Press’s portfolio was not that, but for me, this project was particularly enjoyable for several reasons. Most notably, the project’s completion resulted in not one, but two full books, with independent identities that nevertheless run parallel to one another. Also, the writing in The Guides is much edgier, and probably more age-appropriate for me, a 23-year-old recent graduate, than some of the other books I have worked on for FG Press.

We started FG Press with the goal of publishing extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, and Aaron Goldfarb, without a doubt, is an extraordinary writer. His work in The Guides is as witty as it is alarming. These are voyeuristic “guidebooks” for the turbulent contemporary dating scene whose characters become satires for the individuals (or even versions of ourselves) that we must navigate in an attempt to find an ever-elusive version of love.

For the sake of reminiscence, what follows is a list of events during the production of The Guides that will stick with me:

  1. At two instances in The Guide for the Single Man, Aaron had imagined handwritten notes to inhabit the text. The first note is from the secondary character, Les, who writes a hypothetical letter to his recent ex-girlfriend’s genitalia. The second is a checklist, created by the protagonist Devin, of all the women he’s ever slept with, and their unique qualities. Neither of these handwritten notes is very flattering in content, but as the sole designer at FG Press, I wrote, scanned, and vectorized these images without question during the typesetting process. It wasn’t until we received our first printer proof of The Guides that I realized my own handwriting had been forever immortalized on the pages during which these two none-too-flattering images occur.
  2. Designing the covers for The Guides was particularly difficult. In order to successfully coordinate with one another, the cover designs had to include similar elements without sacrificing the unique qualities that would distinguish them. After creating a slew of unsuccessful iterations using stock images of everything from the New York City skyline to the interior of crowded bars, Sandy Grason, the CMO of FG Press, suggested that we take some photographs ourselves, since we had in Dane McDonald, the CEO, an incredibly talented photographer with years of experience. I agreed to the idea, and within a week, we had an agreement with License No. 1, a recently opened speakeasy in Boulder, to do a photoshoot on their premises.  I wrote up a vague shot list but could not make the actual shoot. I had no idea what to expect, as I had never seen Dane’s work before and, to be honest, was not sure if taking cover-worthy photography inside of a dimly lit, underground bar was even possible. Upon my return, however, I discovered the images now featured on the covers in my inbox—clean, beautiful, and ready to accept some type. Several days and several designs later, we had an idea of what the final covers would look like. Not much has changed from that idea to the beautiful designs you see featured on the covers presently.
  3. If you get your hands on a physical copy of The Guides, you’ll notice that they include a map of Midtown NYC that plots the bars and restaurants frequented by the characters in the books. Each chapter heading features a new location as they characters bar-crawl their way through the night. Some of these locations are real and some of them are not (but are based on other previous locations). I grew up on the narrow roads of the Rocky Mountains and have never been to New York, so the creation of this map and plotting its points was probably the most difficult ancillary task to designing The Guides. I’m used to categorizing destinations by altitude, not by cross streets.

I hope you enjoy The Guide for a Single Man and The Guide for a Single Woman by Aaron Goldfarb. We have had the most incredible time developing the books and we hope that our passion as writers, designers, editors, and publishers glows through these two extraordinary pieces of contemporary fiction.