30 Covers in 30 Days

Every year, thousands of people voluntarily put themselves to the ultimate literary challenge: to write a novel. Last year, 21,683 did.

It’s called NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Now an international phenomenon, over 100,000 writers, professional and amateur, have signed up at NaNoWriMo.org and pledged to do the seemingly impossible. If you can write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November, you win.

The challenge has already inspired spin-offs, from the sanctioned Script Frenzy (100 page screen- or stage-play in April), to NaNoEdMo (edit your novel) and 24-Hour Comic Day (write and draw 24 pages in 24 hours). Now designer Chris Papasadero, co-founder of design firm Fwis, has taken on his own challenge.

Papasadero is going to design 30 book covers in 30 days. Novelists who post a title and synopsis of their story are in the running for selection by the NaNoWriMo team. The plan is for one lucky novel to be transformed every day this month. As every past participant knows, November isn’t always kind to those who take on big projects.

Snap2Objects will conduct weekly interviews with Papasadero during November, to follow his progress and see how this ambitious venture fares. Read More for this week’s interview, and come back next week for part two!

First, could you recap what the 30 Covers, 30 Days project is and why you decided to take it on?

I’ve been a fan of NaNoWriMo for some time, and I often find myself appreciating volume over quality in some things, so this is a good chance to embarrass myself productively. I will be designing a cover for a NaNoWriMo writer for each day of the project.

A lot of NaNoWriMo participants have wondered, how will you select novels to be turned into cover art? Are you browsing at random, or making an effort to take a wide sampling of genres, locations, etc.?

The covers are being chosen by the NaNoWriMo head honchos; I have no idea how they’re going about it, but I have to assume they’re going for a broad variety of topics, demographics, segments, etc. to properly represent the broad range of writers participating in the project!

How did you first find out about NaNoWriMo?

I believe I heard about it four or five years ago, back when I lived in the lovely city of Portland, OR.

What is Fwis, and how long have you been involved with them?

Fwis is my design firm and we’ve been around for about seven years.

What is your background as a designer?

I’ve been working on Fwis for a long time now and have been involved primarily in the day-to-day operations of the firm and don’t do as much design as I’d like to, so this project will help me blow the dust off the ol’ visual part of my mind and maybe even sharpen it up a bit.

What sort of projects do you typically take on?

It really runs the gamut, from advertising and marketing campaigns for companies like Corbis, to package and environmental design for companies like Johnson & Johnson.

How would you characterize your work?

Conceptually relevant to the clients’ needs… humorous, ‘wonky’, colorful and optimistic. I think at the baseline the ideas are always good, truly unique and perhaps even a bit iconoclastic.

What tools do you use frequently? Do you prefer digital media, or traditional?

I definitely prefer getting away from the computer when I can, but it really speeds things up, which is appropriate for this project! I use a spiral-bound sketchpad, a Pilot Precise V5, and scotch on a daily basis.

You maintain a blog at http://covers.fwis.com/ dedicated to book cover art. What interests you about book covers?

The book cover is a perfect fusion of two creative minds; the wordsmith and the visual thinker.

I see you have a word count going at NaNoWriMo.org. Are you attempting to write a novel as well as design 30C30D? Do you think you have a better chance of finishing one or the other?

I was hoping you weren’t going to ask this question as I wanted it to be a surprise! But yes, I am also writing a novel this month as well. I clearly have no social life.

How do you plan to stretch yourself artistically with this project?

Speed, volume, experimentation. I’d like for all the covers to somehow feel a little serialized, but I’m not sure if that’s going to work out!

How does it feel to be on Day One (November 1)? Do you have any worries, or aspects you’re looking forward to?

I’m fiddling too much and need to use broader strokes, speed, and smart concept. I am so amazed at how nice the NaNoWriMo people are, they are optimistic and cheery and I hope that they all become famous, wealthy authors some day!

Follow the Project on the NaNoWriMo forums

Interview with the NaNoWriMo blog team

Do you have questions for Chris? Want to know more about NaNoWriMo? Tell us in the comments!

13 Responses to 30 Covers in 30 Days

  1. Ivan Tolmachev November 4, 2009 at 4:49 am #

    Always thought that this is the hardest work on the planet, to write something good :)

  2. D.B. Pacini November 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    This is an excellent interview. Chris, I am absolutely astonished that you are writing a novel for NaNoWriMo as well as designing 30 book covers in 30 days. Wow, I am impressed!

    D.B. Pacini

  3. Donna Edwards November 11, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Is the book cover offer something that includes overseas participants or only local participants of NaNoWriMo

  4. Jenny November 11, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    I agree, what a fun, inspiring interview — Does the scotch work?

  5. D.B. Pacini November 11, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    Hang in there Chris, you can create your awesome covers and also write 50,000 words—you are Superman!


  6. richenda November 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm #


    The Office of Letters and Light (the folks selecting the novels) are making a deliberate effort to make their selections representative of the NaNo community. So, yes, international novels are in the running!

  7. matthew November 12, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    This is very impressive! A book cover can be quite a time consuming project so I take my hat off to such a monumental effort.

  8. Taylor November 12, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Will we be asked for our permission if we’re selected for the book cover?

  9. Gregor @ Web Design Berkshire November 17, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    Wow! 30 covers and a novel is just crazy!. 30 days is nearly up – your social life will be back soon! Good luck!

  10. Ethan Brown February 20, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    Great interview from, I must say I could consider him as an expert on his field. Personally, I love hearing stories and views from participants. You can really get great ideas from them.

  11. Sam@roofmaintenance March 1, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Hey great work. I would love to read your novel. And keep on coming up with such good article online.

  12. Henry Sy July 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Wow 30 covers in 30 days. I guess from my point of view that is really amazing since I am not artistic in the first place. Nonetheless I would love to see your covers that you had put effort on for 30 days.

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