Cover ideas – to blow your own horn

Spring has sprung in NJ. A noisy little male thrush sits in my little dead tree – the one I haven’t removed yet because it is a perfect place to hang the hummingbird feeder (which must be filled this week, according to my calendar, lest an early hummingbird return and need sustenance in the still-cold days) – and the binoculars come out for the first time this year. He is so LOUD. Life moves on; it is all about him: he needs a mate, and to get on with the business of producing baby birds. He doesn’t ask anyone’s help – telling his story is ingrained, natural, built-in. Unstoppable: “I am the best darned Thrush in these parts, and if you want me, I’m ready.”

Last night I finally had my first ideas for a cover for Pride’s Children. Which is amazing – I’ve been working on this story for twelve years, and not once could I visualize what the cover should be.

Maybe the previous post on symbolism kicked off something deep in the Old Brain that finally put disparate pieces together. Plus my little noisy friend.

Maybe the cover idea is crap. Maybe it is just the first of many ideas. Maybe, even, I should leave designing covers to the professionals.

That last one: it is a new publishing climate. ALL the jobs which used to be done by the pros – often with little input from authors – are now up for grabs. Writing used to be our only job. Now, we can learn typography, interior layout, cover design, ebook formatting, publicity and marketing and ‘creating a platform.’ We have CHOICES our forebears in this writing game lost for many decades, except for the few enterprising self-publishers who have always been there quietly in the background.

But I HAVE ideas. Maybe some day I will give the idea to an artist for a more professional rendition. This is the advice offered on many websites – websites that, just by coincidence, also offer their services to create a cover for you. For money. You didn’t think it would be out of love, did you? No, I thought not.

But right now I’m not jaded. The idea of doing my own cover – at least up until the point where I realize a steadier hand at the drawing tools is a requirement – the POSSIBILITY that I, and only I, could choose the cover to my opus is intoxicating.

I wouldn’t perform my own brain surgery. Nor would I necessarily write my own will. The former, because no one would lend me the tools, and, even though the brain is insensitive to pain (or so I read), getting to it does require a brain saw unless you go in through the nose, and… this is getting too gory even for me, and that’s exactly why I didn’t go to med school.

The latter – well, I would so write my own will – IF I could convince myself I had gotten all those pesky little legal details RIGHT – because there IS a ‘right.’ Instead, I now ask for – and expect to pay for – professional competence from a good lawyer friend.

But cover design? That I feel perfectly comfortable to at least try. People have done it before me, and have written about it extensively on the web. I can judge their competence to give advice by how well the advice works for me, and their competence to actually design a cover by the samples they post of their own work. I have been reading about covers for over a year. Asking myself, after each book or blog post, whether the information provided makes sense to me.

I’m starting to see mostly repeats in the information. To me, as a determined self-learner, that means that the learning curve which was exponential to start, is reaching the flattening part of the curve that indicates saturation.

No, this doesn’t mean I’m ready to go out there and design covers as a business. Frankly, I have no interest in designing other people’s covers. Way too much actual work. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing covers out there, designed by people who I will never come close to who have spent their own lives learning graphic design and typography and…

It just means (go look at my About page) that there’s one more area of life in which I have developed an informed opinion. And one more area I’m willing to take a stab at, to believe I can have ideas (or AN idea), because when it comes to my own book, I am the one with the most to win – or to lose – and now I will have the CHOICE to do it myself, supervise someone else doing it to MY satisfaction, or leaving it to a PRO whom I hire to do my bidding.

I can also go the old-fashioned route: getting someone to create an awesome cover for me with minimum or no input from me – and paying them.

The CFS comes in here as a factor. Some might say that my lack of energy is the best reason NOT to attempt this myself, to leave it to those who know what they’re doing. There’s merit in that – it takes energy to create, to learn, to evaluate and compare with published covers. There’s also merit in the idea that excellence in covers is a tangible quality which may help sell my book: an attractive cover makes readers at least read a few of the words that go along with the thumbnail on Amazon, possibly choose to actually read a sample or the reviews posted by other readers (if any) or a review on someone’s blog, just to name the indie possibilities.

I understand all that. But the counterargument to that is that it also takes energy – and on a schedule I may not be able to control – to find a cover designer, interact with that designer, deal with revisions or suggestions or alternative versions, take input and feedback. Here, I fear the overwhelmingness of CHOICE. I’m no longer good with being given lots of options, each of which must be carefully considered, weighed and balanced against the others – my brain easily goes into decision-fatigue mode, and shuts down.

All of this was moot until last night, at least for Pride’s Children: I had NO ideas. I wondered why, but the decision was not imminent (and still isn’t), so it was a background worry – I knew I’d manage something when publication was nigh and cover selection became a foreground task.

But now I finally HAVE an idea, and it tickles my fancy and intrigues the “I want to do it myself, Mommy” part of my brain.

I won’t show it to anyone yet, but I have sketches (which remind me I need to learn to draw better), and have started looking through the online world for images I will need – with a very clear idea of exactly how those images will appear on this version of the cover.

I need to look at more mainstream covers – I’m not sure this idea will scream ‘mainstream’ and ‘read me!’ and “I’m a good story.’ Yet.

But, where there was nothing in my brain, there is now SOMETHING. I have skin in the game. I have an IDEA. And it feels good.

How about you?


2 thoughts on “Cover ideas – to blow your own horn

  1. sarahcradit

    What are you planning to use to make your cover? I paid for my first one (and I think it turned out great, and was a great investment) but given that I have several more I need to commission I’ve considered giving it an attempt myself by researching how others have done it. But I’m wondering if I need to shell out an arm and a leg for Photoshop.


    1. ABE Post author

      I don’t think I’m going to shell out for anything yet. I did that with Dramatica for plotting (and I’m still happy I did) – but it was a lot of money and a huge learning curve. But I use it – or the results – every day.

      Photoshop is for those who are going to get into it. I want that for my writing, but the covers will be occasional incursions into another world: that of graphic design. Full fledged. I can’t manage another career! If I end up doing more than two covers a year, I will be surprising myself. (Though eating one’s own words, especially when they are pessimistic, is a time-honored tradition.)

      I have been saving links in my Bookmark file for the whole time I’ve been reading about self-publishing. There are hundreds of them, and for each I stored very little. Now will be the time to go back and look at them, figure out which ones make the most sense, try a few programs (GIMP is one that stuck in my mind).

      I swear if I had my old MacPaint, I’d try that!

      Ideas first, methods later.



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