My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Calling All Cover Artists!

brush tipsWe’ve all heard the expression not to judge a book by its cover.

IT’S BULL!

We all do it!

A cover is the first line of communication between an author and their audience. It’s the opening shot at a race. It is what convinces a reader to pick it up and read the description (or in today’s world, scroll down the page). Frankly, a cover can make or break a book on the market and we as writers have to care. We have to care a lot!

Right now I have almost 15,000 twitter followers, most of them are my fellow writers, and each time I get the e-mail saying I have a new follower, I will usually visit their website quickly or check them out on amazon. And, I hate to admit this, a cover has been known to influence how I feel about their work before investigating further. See, if a work has a cover that is a generic one from a self-publisher or is obviously created out of stock footage on Photoshop (without any flair to it)… well… there ya go.

I know how unfair this is!

To sit down and write any work (and then have the guts to get it out into the harsh world of sales and reviews) a writer has to care some. No one simply falls into writing a book. Only Paul McCartney can wake up humming Yesterday; we authors are not that lucky. Yes, we may wake up with Yesterday (or with “Scrambled Eggs” as was the original title), but it takes months and months before our song is ready for a performance.

I am attempting to experience firsthand the contemporary self-publishing world. As I said in earlier entries, if I want to continue to give writing and publishing advice on this site, I need to know what all of my fellow authors experience and that includes self-publishing. For this “adventure” I am using my book Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare.

It is a piece of experimental post-modern literature, but it is hidden in a Victorian period mystery with foggy London streets and haunted castles. Right now it is in editing (I am working with the great editor Rebecca T. Dickson, you can visit her website here to learn about her services and career, or try one of these links: “Fear I want to write but” and “Who the hell is Rebecca T. Dickson?”) and over the next month, the work and I will be moving towards the next stage… and that means for me finding that perfect image.

Maximilian deserves a great cover.

A Jane Austen DaydreamMegan, My Problem With Doors, and A Jane Austen Daydream (coming this april from Madison Street Publishing) were all released by indie presses. Some people confuse “indie” with self-publishing but that is not accurate. Not accurate at all! Independent publishing is an old term in the publishing world and it relates to small presses outside the mainstream publishing houses. It is a rich artistic history and many of the most important writers and groundbreaking works were first published out of small presses like that.

Indie publishers are passionate about the art of storytelling, your work is not a dollar sign for them first, it is a novel. And each time I have been lucky enough to convince an indie press through query to read my book, I’ve had a wonderful experience. Frankly, they care about your novel and they are putting their own enterprise on the line for it.

With my three books, it was the publisher that worked with a cover artist to come up with an image. Many times I’ve given a few sentences of suggestions or ideas, if asked; but usually the presses don’t need it. They know the work, they read the work and are supporting it fully; and, honestly, this relationship has always worked with me.

But when you are self-publishing, as I am doing for Max, I have to say it is a little… well… intimidating.

When I see Maximilian Standforth in my imagination it looks like a bad pulp paperback cover from the 1950’s. It has that painting flair to it, capturing an exciting moment from the book (and this book has a lot of them). The book cover needs to sell the idea that this is terrifying period mystery.

Even from the title, the experimental literary aspect of the work is hidden. Yeah, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare is a pulp title. I did that on purpose. (It is also pretending to be the fourth book in a fake series; I love that concept!)

Maybe the image will be of:

  • Maximilian Standforth and his party arriving at the enormous haunted McGregor castle.
  • Max and his loyal biographer Bob fighting large haunted suits of armor.
  • Or maybe even when the loyal pair faced down a giant demonic white wolf.

I don’t want to ruin anymore of the plot here (this is only three possibilities out of dozens of big gothic moments), but you can see I am hitting a lot of the standards of the gothic mystery/thriller genre, fun for me the writer, and probably fun for those that love that old style of covers (and books).

-The Pitch-

So why am I writing this? Well, I am looking for a cover artist! Someone who wants to come in and take on this classic challenge.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: My editor is angling to be the cover artist for the book as well. So there will be competition here, and she does not seem to be the kind of person that goes down without a fight.]

And, like with the editing experience, I will share the experience with working with the cover artist (you) via posts likes this. I will discuss the initial conversations, the first drafts and making the decision, and then the final image. So not only will my readers get a firsthand account over two or three posts about the experience, but they will also see what working with you (the cover artist) is like. (It’s, honestly, marketing straight to my 400+ blog followers and almost 15,000 Twitter followers who are mostly writers.)

If you would be interested in learning more about my book, introduce me to your site, and/or show examples of work and other of your artistic creations, please e-mail me at AJAD.Southard@gmail.com or comment below.

Yes, we all judge books by their covers everyday. And in today’s congested writing world, where sometimes it feels like there are more writers than readers, it is important to stand out.

For a writer, this is the prom, the wedding day and the red carpet all wrapped together.

As exciting in the self-publishing world as it is to rush a book into the market, the truth is (like with editing) a writer need to take the time to do what’s best for their masterpiece. Take that much needed breath.

Everyone likes to look good, even a book.

If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream (coming in April), My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!…

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12 responses

  1. Going through something similar with my first collection of shorts to be published. They are very short stories and some are accompanied by an illustration. My cover will have a retro/vintage feel, like a chapbook. I have recently lost my illustrator and am now on the hunt for the one that ‘sees’ my vision!

    • I feel your pain. It is good not to be alone in this struggle. I’ve been talking to a few people since my post and I keep going back and forth what is right for my book. I might just need to step away and think about this some more. I would like something iconic for it, but that might be too high a dream.

  2. I had my cover done by ebooklaunch.com and was pretty happy with the results. I wrote a blog post about the process of choosing between three cover image options. http://bit.ly/T9UW9r Of course, there is a part of me that is now questioning my choice, as it was a very tough decision and my second choice had a strong appeal also. The good thing about self-publishing is that it is easy to make a change.

  3. I am a freelance artist and have done a number of book covers and interior illustrations, including for my own written works. The idea you described for your book cover sounds exciting and very much like something I would enjoy working on. My art style is quite versatile, and if I haven’t already done a work in a particular genre, I would enjoy the challenge of something new.

    You can view samples of my professional work, as well as some of my pastime sketches at my web page.
    http://brinawilliamson.com/art-gallery/

    All the best in your hunt for the perfect cover.

    Brina W

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