Gretchen Rubin

Do you judge a book by its cover? I do. Check out my new cover!

Do you judge a book by its cover? I do. Check out my new cover!

I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my next book: Outer Order, Inner Calm. Ta-da!

I have to say, I love this cover.

But it wasn’t an easy process.

Danielle Deschenes is the super-talented art director who created it (she also created the cover of The Four Tendencies), and she must have done fifty or sixty covers before hitting on this one.

It’s funny—we looked at cover after cover after cover, and some were good but not great.

For instance, one proposed cover was gorgeous (below), but just too much like the cover of Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

And another cover was calm, but seemed…too calm.

And I couldn’t decide if I liked this cover (below) or really didn’t like it at all. For one thing, I worried that so much yellow was harsh.

In describing my own ideas for the cover, I’d said that I hoped it could:

  • incorporate the blue and yellow colors used in many of my other jackets and on my site
  • have a calm but energetic vibe, and not look like a book about meditation
  • make use of circles (I think that circles really draw the eye to a book jacket, see The Four Tendencies)
  • be eye-catching both on a bookstore shelf and in an online thumbnail

We’d reviewed image after image, and time was passing, and at the very last moment, when we had to choose an image for the galley by the next day—even if had to be a temporary, placeholder image—she sent around a version very close to the final jacket. And everyone agreed: This is it.

Take a look at what a masterful job Danielle Deschenes did at incorporating all of the suggested elements!

And more than that, she suggested nature.

This, to me, was the brilliant stroke. I love this suggestion of the sky, moon, and sunrise. This fits the book perfectly, too. The book’s epigraph is from Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law,” and the theme of nature runs throughout.

For instance, I quote one of my favorite passages from Jules Renard:

"Oh! Old rubbish! Old letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!" – The Journal of Jules Renard

And, given my current obsession with color, I love the way she uses color to suggest time unfolding and the serene energy of the natural world.

I’m thrilled with it.

Please note: If you don’t like the jacket, don’t tell me! As they say, this ship has sailed.

At the same time that we were racing to finalize the jacket, I was working with editors and copy-editors to finish the text of the book.

If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a short essay, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

I was inspired to try this approach by a book that I’ve always admired: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I love the way Pollan presents his ideas in pithy, witty statements, and how he’s able to convey big ideas in such an accessible, fun, compulsively readable way. I’d always wanted to write a book in that style, and finally, I just couldn’t resist.

As always happens, after I started writing about my own ideas, the form evolved to suit my voice and my subject. But if you look at Food Rules, you’ll definitely see the family resemblance.

Also like Food Rules, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm includes illustrations, which I think really enliven it. In my previous book Happier at Home, I included photos of objects around my apartment, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought I’d like to include more visual elements to my books.

But I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, and it was interesting to see what Jon McNaught chose to illustrate, and how. I didn’t know I had strong views about illustrations, but it turns out…I do! I loved most of his illustrations, but there were a few things that I asked to change.

Outer Order, Inner Calm started out as a “hooky book”—a book that I worked on when I wanted a break from working on The Four Tendencies. I’d sneak off (in my own mind) and work on the inexhaustibly absorbing subject of outer order. I had so much fun writing this book, and it’s exciting that it’s about to hit the shelves in March.

If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. I have a pre-order bonus that’s not quite ready to launch, so if you do pre-order, gold star to you, and just hang onto your receipt or confirmation number, and stay tuned for pre-order bonus details. Pre-orders give a big boost to a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.

Want to support me and your local bookstore at the same time--and get a freebie for yourself, too? Pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm at your local bookstore, and snap a photo of your physical receipt and save it to get the pre-order bonus when it's ready.

Do you judge books by their covers? As a devoted reader, I think I should be able to say “no,” but I have to admit that the answer is “yes.” Though usually, it’s a matter of being intrigued by a great cover rather than being turned off by a bad cover.

For a reveal of the illustrations and book tour details for March 2019, stay tuned!

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