What I Learned From My Book Cover

This week, I took a big step.  I’ve spent a fair amount of the last few months grasping and clawing at the morass that is my book cover.  I’ve agonized over it.  I’ve raised my fists to the sky (really, I did this—loudly) in frustration.  I’ve had moments of both great delight and of sheer terror as I slowly passed through the intermediate realizations that have occasionally joined me on my path through this depressingly slow process.  This Monday, the process ended.  This week, I  took a finished pdf file and uploaded it to Createspace.  I have finished my book’s cover.

Here’s what I figured out…

I made my own cover, which is probably the most unbelievable fact I’m going to print here today.  I didn’t mean to do that.  In fact, when I finally finished the various tasks involved with writing, editing, and formatting the text of my book for print, one of the major decisions I made was that I was going to let somebody else draw my cover.  I didn’t want to design a book cover; I’ve never designed anything in my life.  I didn’t want to draw the necessary illustration; I can’t draw!  I made a firm decision back in—what was it, November?—that I was going to go out and find a professional book cover designer to do the work, and to likely spend far too much money doing it.

So, what happened, you ask?  It started out harmlessly enough:  there are about bazillion sites out there that claim the ability to create professional-looking book covers, and while I was sorting through them, trying to decide which of them made me the least suspicious, I started doodling these little sketches, trying to figure out what kinds of ideas looked good to me  Any illustrator I contracted with was bound to ask me something to the effect of, “So what do you want, exactly,” right?

That was where things went wrong.

I’ve already made a post about the various stages of the cover, and the way it ended up will be obvious when I finally break free of whatever it is that’s stopping me from putting a page for the book up on this WordPress-y thing.  Thing is, I needed to composite these scenes and ideas, and that got me into learning about things like layers and masks and stuff.  Then, I wasn’t all that sure about colors, and that got me playing with palettes  and applying filters, and breaking out my Wacom Bamboo tablet for the first time in years.  What exactly would such-and-such a pose look like?  Well, let’s sketch it and find out.

My mom is the artist in the family, and she’d lend me her support and experience, giving me feedback on what worked and what didn’t, and occasionally sketching out ideas of her own.  Then, I’d scan the ideas, put them into the growing TIFF, and composite a new idea.

And, before I knew it, I’d made a cover.

It’s not the best cover in the world, a fact which I become keenly aware of every time I look at it.  The morning after I submitted it to Amazon, in fact, I suddenly thought of “exactly the right three or four things” I could have added to the image to make it “perfect”.  I’ve decided to forgo actually making changes for now, though.  I have trouble knowing when to stop writing, sometimes, and I know how to do that; imagine how long I could spend trying to make a picture work.

The thing is, though, it’s mine.  And I don’t just mean the cover illustration, I mean the whole thing.  The words, the formatting, the cover design, the cover illustration…all of it came out of my head, through my fingers, and onto the printed page.  That’s kind of a neat feeling.  No matter what happens now, I can trace the entirety of my book’s success or failure directly back to me.  And I got myself a broader perspective on the publishing process because of it.

Would I do it again?  Probably not.  The major drawback to making my own cover (other than the amateurish look of it) is that it took a lot of time, and it basically annihilated all the momentum I’d gained up to that point.  As interesting and fun as the project was, I don’t feel I can afford to spend another 6 months not writing again.

So, what’s next?  Well, Amazon tells me they’ve shipped me a proof copy, and it should have arrived on the UK shores by this time next week.  I’m guessing I won’t be quite satisfied with it.  In fact, if I know me at all, I’m fairly certain I’ll submit exactly one revision to the original before I’m satisfied.  So, add a week for the revision, then another week to get the next proof shipped from the Carolinas, and I’ll be able to sign off on the final product.  I’ve read that it’s hard to say exactly how long it takes for a book to show up in the Amazon.{yourCountryHere}, but I’m assuming a couple of extra weeks there.  If I’m lucky, I’ll have a release date in May!

In the meantime, I’m working through formatting the copy for the Kindle and for Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, etc), and I’m getting myself psyched up to finally start recording the podcast that’s going to release with the novel.  Lots to do, and I’ve actually got a sort of deadline for it now.

Jeez, I haven’t even gotten my launch party organized yet… 

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