Cover design for the living dead

by John Q on July 23, 2010

The choice of cover design for a book is always a tricky process, at least for authors like me who are more comfortable with text than images. A while back Eszter dealt with the problem by crowdsourcing the cover for her book Research Confidential.

I got lots of input from readers here on the text and title of Zombie Economics, but I left the cover design to the professionals, and I’m glad I did. Here’s the cover, based on a horror comic and here,at the Princeton University Press blog, is a discussion of how it came about.

There was one anxious moment when we discovered that the design included a reference to a chapter (on central bank independence) that I’d deleted at a late stage in the process. But the designer came up with a clever tweak that changed the reference (to refer to financial markets) without affecting the impact of the design.

This is the first book I’ve done since I took up blogging (I use to say blogs kill books, but this book grew out of the blog) and the process has left me with renewed respect for the range of skills that are involved in turning an idea and a rough draft into a book.



dsquared 07.23.10 at 11:58 am

I am currently pitching “Vampire Economics: Dark and Edgy Ideas Which Exert A Strange Fascination On Sexually Frustrated Teenagers”, and oddly enough the cover design is the only thing I am more or less sure of.


John Quiggin 07.23.10 at 11:59 am

I (or at least commenter Vivian on my behalf) already bagsed that title for my sequel (I’ll leave you the subtitle).


tomslee 07.23.10 at 12:26 pm

That is one fine cover.


Cosma Shalizi 07.23.10 at 12:39 pm

That cover is adorable.


Billikin 07.23.10 at 1:35 pm

I like the cold, undead hand clutching the dollars. :)

Otherwise, I felt that it was too busy. A little too much like a real comic book cover for my taste.

Good luck with your book! :)


Irrelephant 07.23.10 at 1:48 pm

I’ll wait for the graphic novel version. You know, in my day, we called them “comic books”. I need pictures.

In a vain attempt to hijack this thread, I have a question. But first, before the punchline, the setup. I notice a certain Cosma Shalizi made an appearance. I try to read his online journal. I say “try” because I’m not very bright, yet I plow my way through despite my lack of understanding. It was Mr. Shalizi who, of all people, caused my little 40-watt to brighten briefly above my head on how (in a short discussion of arbitrage) there is a connection between wealth creation, information, and thermodynamics. “Aha!” I says, “so it’s like a steam engine. And ideas that result in human capital, goods and services, or information that other people do not have, are the difference in temperature between the hot parts and the cold parts”.

Given that the financial industry, the vultures fighting over the last scraps, the endpart ergs, of information after the fact, doesn’t seem to be involved so much in wealth creation, the question is (I understand I’m doing a fuckup job here of both description and explanation):

“What (or who) REALLY creates wealth?”


Walt 07.23.10 at 2:00 pm

Technology devoted to satisfying human needs and wants.


Irrelephant 07.23.10 at 2:44 pm

Thank Walt! A few more contributions and we’ll have this thread heading for Cuba. Although I’m hoping this hijack can be routed back to the book.

But, technology = material instrumentality (always?) + idea. And mi = capital = labor + idea. labor = toil + idea

So, ideas are what? The difference in information? A spacelike difference?

(Note: The capital = labor…? I’m not a commie. I’m a Party of Lincoln Republican. Thus the handle).


ejh 07.23.10 at 3:01 pm

It don’t matter though. They’ll keep on doing it, because they want to.


Gregory 07.23.10 at 3:46 pm

As a longtime fan of EC and other horror comics, I dig that cover the most.



Chuchundra 07.23.10 at 4:48 pm

I’d also like to announce my new book, “Werewolf Economics: Bloody and brutal business decisions in a dog eat dog world”


Salient 07.23.10 at 5:09 pm

“Mummy Economics: the Preservation of Laissez-Faire Ideology and the Curse It Left Us With”

Dead loans embalmed as derivatives!

Reverence for the living gods of finance!

Pyramid schemes!


chris 07.23.10 at 6:46 pm

The Call of Chicago: How the Cults of the Great Old Ones Seek to Reawaken Ancient Doctrines That Will Destroy the Economy

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even fractional-reserve banking may die.

There’s a lot to work with here: The Shadow over Industry, The Depression on our Doorstep, At the Business Schools of Madness, etc. But study carefully: too much exposure to the source material can drive you insane.


hardindr 07.23.10 at 7:20 pm

I haven’t heard much about this book (been busy at work for the past couple of months with little time for reading bookmarked blogs), but it sounds like you are describing the economic narratives on the Right in the US that Bob Somerby has discussed for sometime:

If we lower our tax rates, we get higher revenue!

Social Security will go bankrupt in the year [xxxx]!

The top one percent pay [xxx] percent of federal taxes, a vastly disproportionate share!

European-style health care has failed everywhere it’s ever been tried!

When it snows in Washington, that proves that global warming’s a hoax!

Liberals in the mainstream US media seem incompetent in combating these ideas. Anyway, I’ll have to read the book when it comes out later this year.


James Conran 07.23.10 at 9:42 pm

Like Billikin, I find the cover to busy to be something I’d be drawn to in a bookshop, but congratulations on bringing the project this far.

The “undead ideas” metaphor is in demand these days:

Martin Wolf today:

“Some ideas, like vampires, will not die.”

Krugman a week ago:

“But we’re talking about voodoo economics here, so perhaps it’s not surprising that belief in the magical powers of tax cuts is a zombie doctrine: no matter how many times you kill it with facts, it just keeps coming back. ”


Oscar Leroy 07.24.10 at 1:19 am

Sweet cover!


Cranky Observer 07.24.10 at 6:56 pm

>> “What (or who) REALLY creates wealth?”

> Technology devoted to satisfying human needs and wants.

People creating happy, healthy, viable families, homes, and communities, and using technology and its handmaiden corporate organization and industrial society **as appropriate** to further those goals, while maintaining a long-term respect for the state of the Earth.



Marc Mulholland 07.24.10 at 8:48 pm

Cool cover.

Did you see the pre-publication plug by the always excellent Steve Poole in the Guardian today?


John Quiggin 07.24.10 at 8:54 pm

I hadn’t seen that, thanks for the tip. As you say, always excellent, and now I can add good taste in books to his many merits.


Alex 07.25.10 at 3:43 pm

Werewolf Economics: How Perfectly Normal People Become Monstrous Predators at Work.


NickS 07.25.10 at 5:50 pm

Very nice cover.

And hopefully the sort that should stir up conversation if people are reading it in public.


Salient 07.25.10 at 7:19 pm

And hopefully the sort that should stir up conversation if people are reading it in public.

My publicity-stunt-esque plan is to dress as a zombie economics professor for Halloween, and carry the book around to holiday parties. Prop suggestions welcome.


John Quiggin 07.26.10 at 12:20 am

@Salient – sounds cool!


Lee A. Arnold 07.26.10 at 7:52 pm

Great cover! And Wow — Zombie Economics arrives in the same month as the premiere of “The Walking Dead” on AMC (cable in US and Canada). This drama series is going to be VERY big. The comic book that it is based upon has gone into hardbound and paperbound collected editions. Not only that — t is executive-produced and written by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile among others) and Chic Eglee (The Shield, Dark Angel, among many others).
What a marketing tie-in! Princeton should buy an ad!

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