Thrilling “Tonoharu: Part Three” Chase Scene!

Whoops! Between jetlag and trying to get back into the swing of life in Japan, another week slipped through my fingers and I didn’t have time to compose a blog entry again. So here’s a some Tonoharu: Part Three art.

I’ll try to have something a little more substantial next week!

Tonoharu 1 Paperback Promo Flyer


Above is the promotional flyer I designed to send out with review copies of the Tonoharu: Part One paperback. You can click the above image to see a larger version (but one that’s still compressed so it won’t take forever to load). Or if you’re dedicated, you can download the PDF in all its full resolution, 3.7 megabyte glory here:

As you can probably tell, I’m going for a “film festival” vibe, with the laurel wreaths and all that nonsense. I figure Tonoharu is more likely to appeal to a literary crowd than to, say, anime or genre fans or whatever, so I geared my design in that direction.

That said, I also wanted something that would grab the attention of reviewers right off the bat, since you don’t have much time to make an impression. So I lead off with the $10,000 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle thing, even though it has nothing to do with the actual content of the book. Hopefully that’ll be weird/interesting enough to get a few more reviewers to at least thumb through the book, which is maybe all you can hope for.

Anyway, if anyone knows any reviewers / blogs / YouTubers / magazines etc. that might be interested in a review copy, please let me know. Thanks a million! (^0^)/

“Tonoharu: Part One” Paperback Glamour Shots (plus Amazon pre-order!)


Here are some pictures of the new Tonoharu: Part One paperback, as well as a few notes about them:

You can order a signed copy of the new paperback right now, and I’ll ship it out this week:

Or if you prefer, you can pick it up at your favorite retailer this fall. In fact, Amazon pre-orders are now open if that’s your preference!

Get the “Tonoharu: Part One” Paperback a Few Weeks Early—Order Now!


Exciting news! I finally got my hands on some advance copies of the Tonoharu: Part One paperback, and it looks great! But don’t take my word for it–here’s your chance to get your hands on a copy a few weeks ahead of the official release in September!

I’ll have a very limited number of copies I’ll be bringing back to the States when I head back for a visit this week. Right now I’m thinking I’ll be bringing back about 20 copies. If there seems to be enough demand I might bring back as many as 30, but I probably won’t have room in my luggage for more than that.

I’m coming back this Thursday, July 17th, so copies ordered by then will be sent out by Saturday July 19th via first class mail.

For books shipping within the US: $20 USD ($15 for the book plus $5 for shipping)
For books shipping internationally: $30 USD ($15 for the book plus $15 for shipping*)


As I say supplies are severely limited, so if you want a copy order now!

*Note: If you live in Japan and don’t mind waiting until mid-to-late August for a book, it might behoove you to hold off on your order; I’ll probably have some copies for sale when I return to Japan for a lower shipping cost.

Genuine Imitations

proofcloseupPictured: Tonoharu: Part One Proof Detail

Until the latter half of the twentieth century, most books were printed on a letterpress. Rows of raised metal letters were arranged on a block, inked, and then pressed into the paper. The pressure required to transfer the ink created an indentations on the printed page. Master printers strived to have the letterpress “kiss the paper”; to use only as much pressure as was strictly necessary to transfer the ink, leaving the paper as smooth and indentation-free as possible.

These days, laypeople reproduce documents on photocopies and laser printers, and most books are printed using offset lithography. These technologies leave no indentations on the page at all, and are considerably cheaper, easier, and more versatile than a letterpress.

So when letterpress printing is employed now, it’s for aesthetic rather than practical reasons. The designer wishes to evoke a traditional/classic feel that letterpress printing imbues. And the main characteristic that distinguishes letterpress printing from modern methods is the indentations.

So rather than try to eliminate them, modern letterpress printers try to make the indentations as obvious as possible. They use durable, thick paper stocks, and apply as much pressure as they can to really dig those letters in. What was once a defect has become a feature.

These thoughts occurred to me as I was preparing files for the forthcoming Tonoharu: Part One paperback. The hardcover editions Tonoharu were printed on cream-colored paper stock, but I’ve since learned there’s a more cost effective way to get a similar effect. It’s actually cheaper to print on the interior pages on standard white paper, and then coat the page with cream-colored ink to simulate cream paper stock.

At first blush this seems completely counterintuitive. Can you imagine trying to save money by doing this on an ink jet printer? But commercial printers play by a different set of rules. And if makes sense when you think about it. Mixing inks is a lot easier and cheaper than making colored paper from scratch, so rather than having small qualities of a million different colored papers, they can just buy white paper in bulk and custom mix ink to whatever hue their customers want.

The simulated cream paper is cheaper than actual cream paper, but it’s not free of course. Giving the pages of Tonoharu the cream treatment added about 10% to my production costs.

So basically, I’m paying a premium to make the pages of Tonoharu look like they’ve been yellowed with age; to give them a more “natural” feel than the artificial, bleached white paper. It’s kind of ironic, right? I’m taking great pains to obscure the actual paper stock in order to foster the appearance of authenticity. I thought that was kind of funny.

A Matter of Scale: “Tonoharu: Part One” Paperback Design Notes

tono1thumbsPictured: Images of Tonoharu’s covers at a fraction of their actual size.

The new paperback edition of Tonoharu: Part One sports a completely redesigned cover. One of the main reasons for the overhaul was to fix an issue I had with the original design.

I designed the hardcover in early 2007, so more than seven years ago (wow). This was before the iPhone and Kindle were introduced. MySpace was still the leading social network. I was still in the demographic that marketers care about (ah, 18-34 year olds, how I miss your privileged company).

But in terms of design considerations, the most significant difference is this: in 2007, the vast majority of books were purchased from brick-and-mortar stores, whereas now most are purchased online.

The original Tonoharu hardcover was designed to evoke ordinate nineteenth century etchings. Its strength lies in all the neat little microscopic details waiting to be discovered and lost in. Its weakness is that it’s static and symmetrical, and composed entirely of washed out colors. It lacks dynamism and doesn’t really “pop”.

In short, it’s a design that only works if you can inspect an actual physical copy of the book before you buy it.

Even in 2007, this was less than ideal. But now, most buyers don’t see the actual cover until a book is shipped to them. Prior to that, all they ever see is a “thumbnail” (a postage stamp-sized reproduction) on a computer screen.

The thumbnail presentation obliterates Tonoharu’s hardcover’s one strength. At this reduced size, all of the fancy details turn into mud, leaving just a tombstone-shaped blob.

Tonoharu: Part One detail compared to thumbnail (Click to Enlarge)

So with the new design, I wanted something that would still have a presence even when displayed at a fraction of its actual size. I went with bright primary colors, a san-serif font, and an art-deco inspired design. I also cut down on the ornamentation to give it a more streamlined look.

At the same time I didn’t want it to be too sparse, so I created an intricate background pattern that weaves into the dotted lines that run through the design.

But for all the changes, the new design does harken back to the original design. I brought back the sun motif and illustrations from the hardcover, and used the same serif font for the back cover.

Being a perfectionist, I could tweak the design forever, but for the most part I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I think it strikes the right balance between reducing well and still having some neat details.

I’m curious, dear readers, which version of the cover do you prefer?