‘No one is going to mess with my looks! Do you hear me: I said no one!’ The Nymph is beside herself. She rushes over to the bookshelf and pulls out a copy each of all our 18 titles. She lays them out on the floor. ‘They are so beautiful. High quality. I fight tooth and nail to keep them that way. ’
I sit very still at my desk, bending my head low. I don’t want to aggravate Peirene even more.
‘Only once did I agree to put a sticker on the front cover,’ she continues, hyperventilating. ‘The Maya sticker on Beside the Sea. And as soon as we did it, I knew it was a mistake. It ruined the entire cover.’ She straightens up, places a hand on her heart. ‘I’m the custodian of our brand,’ she announces as if addressing a huge crowd. ‘And I will defend it with my life.’
That’s enough. The Nymph clearly needs some fresh air to clear her head. I send her out for a run. She borrows my gym shoes and slams the door. While she is gone, I email Sacha, our designer.
We have received a PEN Award for our next book, The Man I Became by Belgian literary super star, Peter Verhelst. This means we will receive a subsidy. Delightful news. There is only one drawback: We have to put the PEN logo onto the front cover. I’ve tried to argue with them. But PEN remained adamant. Money and logo. Or no logo, no money. Initially I, too, was upset and contemplated of returning the award. But only briefly. Then my business sense regained the upper hand.
Sacha’s response drops into my inbox. I take a deep breathe before I open it. She also is a fierce defender of our brand, and I know she’d prefer not to have to deal with any extras on the cover. On the other hand: I need a solution, not another tantrum. Luckily, Sacha is a professional designer who turns challenges into opportunities. I stare at the cover images on my screen. Our beauty hasn’t been compromised and PEN has their logo on the cover.
I print the image and put it on Peirene’s desk.
She returns from her run in a much better mood. ‘I was wondering,’ she says as she walks into the office smelling clean and refreshed after her shower, ‘why don’t we see what Sacha says. She might have the perfect design solution.’ Her eyes fall onto the paper on her desk. For a moment she looks on in silence, while my heart misses a beat. Does she approve? ‘Oh my God!’ Peirene then sighs. ‘Sacha is a genius. This is really quirky, interesting and the logo adds an extra touch of style.’ She picks up the books from the floor and places them back onto the shelf. ‘Mind you, I was also wondering on my run… if PEN gives us money… I could really do with some designer sparkling running shoes.’
By Meike Ziervogel
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 18 October 2015.