Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hysterical Publishing: Because we're all a little hysterical on the inside.

When I decided to self-publish Here Comes Your Man, I naturally understood that the book’s success would depend on the selection of a sufficiently awesome name for my fake1 publishing company.

So I started a list, and for the next two weeks, everything I encountered gave me an idea that I liked for roughly four minutes. One night, my daughter was instructing me on the correct pronunciation of “opossum” and I thought: Nocturnal Books! The next day, I drove past the Riverside MBTA station and thought: D-Train Publishing! We ordered pizza for dinner, and I thought: Mushroom & Olive Press!

This little branding exercise reminded me of every attempt my high school friends and I made to start a rock band. Since we were usually short a drummer and/or bassist, we spent far more time thinking up cool band names than we did playing music. And since we weren’t even vaguely cool ourselves2, we never had much luck with the names either.

In fact, the only band name I can even remember now was one jokingly suggested by my friend Matt’s father: "Joe Banana & the Bunch—The band with appeal." I briefly considered employing some version of that moniker for my publishing company, at least until I discovered that the Joe Banana name and slogan are both already in use by a real band. (On the bright side, the band sells t-shirts, which I plan to buy for my entire staff.)

So I continued brainstorming, a process I now realize isn't nearly as much fun without a group of teenage bandmates to snicker at my inappropriate suggestions. Eventually, I circled back to my very first idea: Hysterical Publishing.

I’ve always liked the word hysterical—its sound and architecture as much as its divergent connotations. For a while, Here Comes Your Man was actually called Hysterical & Useless (a fragment from the Radiohead song “Let Down”). And I've also noticed that sticking "hysterical" in front of just about any "-ing" word improves it tremendously: hysterical accelerating, hysterical accentuating, hysterical accessorizing, hysterical acclimatizing etc. (Note: there are several thousand more -ing words here in case you're already bored with this post. My personal favorite: absquatulating.)

But anyway...with the name decided, I just needed a snazzy logo to back it up. And since Hysterical Publishing's Chief Illustrator once again blew all her screen time for the week playing Wii Sports Resort, I was forced to sit down at the computer and work something up myself. I think you'll agree that the results were pretty awesome, even employing a rather Joe Banana-esque color scheme:
Now, a few naysayers within the Hysterical Publishing team have suggested that this logo is perhaps 10-15% too awesome (i.e. manic and distracting) for use anywhere on our otherwise minimalist cover design. But even if that does prove true, it will not mean that this effort was a complete waste of time. On the contrary, the new logo will be emblazoned throughout the Hysterical Publishing campus, as well as being the centerpiece of the outdoor advertising campaign we're rolling out this spring.

Oh, and in case you can’t quite make it out, the pattern of 1s and 0s washed faintly across the logo spells "Hysterical Publishing" in binary code. (See—I told you I wasn’t cool.)

1Correction: Hysterical Publishing received its first piece of junk mail this week and thus is no longer fake or imaginary.

2Shocking, I know. Though I should clarify that, in the years since high-school, my friend Matt has acquired a certain full-bearded, acoustic coolness that continues to elude me (despite anything my kindhearted cousin Jennifer might tell you).


  1. Back in my day it was ASCII and Hexadecimal. I think those codes would have made your Logo look like a math text book instead of the cool look you came up with. Besides the uninitiated deep thinkers will be attracted to your logo and try to figure out the significance of the ones and zeros as they relate to the characters in your books. eddo

  2. Or they might just say, "You are such a geek!" as my wife did. (And as usual, she's right.)

  3. Hmm. "full-bearded, acoustic coolness" Have you considered growing a beard for your jacket photo?

  4. That sounds like a job for Photoshop. I'll see what I can come up with...

  5. Derek, I worked w/your Aunt Diane @ Plano, Tx surgery center. She gave me a freee copy on Sat PM after church. Your book is awesome!! I could not put it down, hence finished it ( & a few Margeuritas) Sunday afternoon by the pool. Can't wait for the next book. What a romantic "geek"!! HA Love the book look, publishing name, everything is very cool, too cool for a "geek"(even your picture) HA best of luck Barb

  6. Thanks Barb--I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!!