My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Finding Inspiration in a Cover Artist

Grim ReaperIn today’s overly-congested world of writers, you need something to stand out, something to capture the eye.

As much as I would love to say it needs to be all in your story… well… that is not enough anymore. Because, frankly, readers might make a decision before even getting to the point that your characters can breath a faint hello.

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, author pages on, etc., every little bit helps. But another part, a big part, has to be that the cover captures the eye. The cover needs to buy you a few seconds of consideration; enough to draw the eye to the description and then to your story.  This is true for traditionally published books, indie books, and self-published authors as well. Yes, it is one of the overarching and common struggles that they all share.

Another way to understand what I am saying is that the market is senior prom. You remember senior prom, right? Well, at this prom you want to wear the powdered-blue suit from the 1970’s.


Because everyone will remember that you did… and they will remember it for years after.

In my last update on my “adventure” I reached out to cover artists, looking for someone interested in working with me around my experimental/period mystery/thriller novel, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare. I heard from quite a few nice artists out there, and also had a few recommendations (thank you everyone!), but one artist pushed forward in the queue… let me correct that, she owned the queue.

Celtic WomanBrina Williamson is a freelance artist working in illustrating and book covers (You can see more examples of her work and learn more about her here). She is also an author, publishing a mystery entitled The Pale Rose just last year.

The fact she is a fellow author doesn’t surprise me in the least, because each of her examples either tell a story or show character development in just a glance.  Look for example at this sketch she made for a short story. The expression on the celtic woman’s face is so striking. This image haunts me, it’s hard to look away.

Frankly, I want to know that celtic woman’s story, which means for me as a reader the image did its job. And you see that power of expression in each of the examples on her site.

When Brina and I began our discussions, her first request made me laugh and then take pause. She wanted not only to know about what we were going to capture in the cover but also about the characters in the image… let me share what she wrote:

Their hair color, eye color, skin color, etc, as well as any other physical character traits, such as preferred clothing they might wear, in order to help me depict them accurately. Also, any personality traits, such as flirtatiousness, shyness or bravado, are helpful for me to give them the right sort of bearing and attitude.

Wow… I was immediately overwhelmed and giddy all at once, turning the experience into one of my favorite e-mail exchanges in a very long time. I quickly drew up a document doing that, containing as well as the selection from the book I was thinking might be a good match for a striking cover.

(FYI, what she asked for would also be a great exercise for any writer. Your characters have to be that real to you, even if you don’t describe all of it in the tale.)

Truly something special is on its ways. And what is more magical to me about it is that I find this inspiring. Right now, I want nothing more than for the final version of the book to live up to what will be recreated on its cover. She inspired that in me.

I look forward to sharing the process with you as it moves forward. Be sure to visit her site… Oh, and how awesome is this image (it makes me smile each time I look at it):

The Battle for Christmas

An Editing Update

Rebecca T. Dickson (my bold editor who you can learn more about here, or try one of these links: “Fear I want to write but” and “Who the hell is Rebecca T. Dickson?”) has finished her first run through the book, and I am reviewing her notes and changes from the last two chapters of the book now.

Why I like Becky is she is not afraid to ask me the hard questions. This is not a light edit of just grammar, and I wouldn’t have wanted that anyway. I have said this before on my blog, but I think a lot of the artistry in writing takes place in the editing and in each of my books published I have had things cut from my book that I, while writing, would have thought of as heresy.

The previous experiences don’t make it easier though, but that’s okay, they shouldn’t. No, it should hurt every time, without question, if you are committed to your book enough. In A Jane Austen Daydream I lost major sections of the beginnings in the book, in My Problem With Doors every page was a struggle (You have to read the book to see what I mean), and in Megan the book was completely restructured.

But while I am happily editing away, I think it makes most evident to me one of the problems that exists around self-publishing.

A big problem…

It’s too dangerously easy to do it! It’s an illusion of trust. Your book in print may be in hand, but how ready it truly is for a reader… that is another point.

What I mean is that in self-publishing how much oversight between a writer and their book hitting is the market is pretty much, well, defined by how much the writer wants it to have. Some might find that liberating, but I find that a little troubling the longer I do this.

No, I’m not talking about just publishers, I am talking about proofreaders, editors, the people that take the time to make sure your manuscript is ready to actually be read by the market.

A writer needs to take the time to build the right team to make their book succeed.  I have that team locked in now for me. I just hope more writers who decide to self-publish take the time I did for their own work.

Your book (and readers) will appreciate it if you do.

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 author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!…

19 thoughts on “My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Finding Inspiration in a Cover Artist

  1. Hey, fantastic post! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m always happy to know that my art inspires, and I’m really looking forward to working with you in capturing your vision for Maximilian’s cover.
    From the short sample I read of your work, I’m not worried in the least that the book will be great, I just hope my artwork will live up to your writing.

  2. Pingback: The Posts of an Anglophile | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  3. Pingback: “I Wrote a Book…Whoop-di-do!” by Mercy Pilkington | Authors Helping Authors Resource Site

  4. Pingback: My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Next Steps and a Vision | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  5. Pingback: Cover Art for Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare | Scribblings of Brina Williamson

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