Designing your own book cover, part 2

After my first book was published, I figured that because I had helped design one good-looking book cover, I could easily do another. As I started the second draft of y1, I returned to Shutterstock thinking that this one was going to be easy. I mean, the action takes place in the South Pacific, with much of the plot occurring on a sailboat at sunset. Oh and it involves a chameleon and a fire-dancer. This was going to be like putting puppies and kittens on a book cover. I couldn’t go wrong.

It is true, the world is full of wonderful orange images of boats and setting suns, and I had no trouble finding several. My first pass is shown to the right, and it was better than my first try with the previous book. But the lone chameleon didn’t look right to me, so I got the bright idea to use two chameleons, so that this book would sort of mirror the two ladies on the cover of x0.  Now, my chameleons were having a staring contest.

It was time to contact the graphics people at Mother Spider, and see if the same magic could be performed on this cover that had happened with my first book, xo. I explained to Jennifer, the owner of Mother Spider, that the novel was about the grown-up adventures of a boy who had once taught himself to shift his appearance while watching his pet chameleon. I had to have the boat, the sunset, the fire-dancing imagery, at least one chameleon and an orange cover.

“We’ll see,” was all she said.

I was surprised and mostly delighted when she sent back this idea. It hadn’t occurred to me to try to get Zane, my shape-shifting main character, on the front of the book, but I liked the idea. Never mind that for most of the novel Zane is in his twenties, and never attempts to look like a chameleon. It captures the spirit of the story.

But, unlike the revision done for x0, I didn’t like everything about it. Maybe I was getting picky, or maybe my own sense of how these six covers were going to come together was growing. I wanted the font to match the first novel, and I didn’t like the way she had tamed my fire-dancing background behind the title of the book. I also didn’t like the weird white strip that ran across Zane’s face and stuck out of his right ear or the funky stuff on the left side of his neck. Like I said, I was getting picky.

Jennifer fixed the font, the fire and the neck, but was at a loss as to how to easily fix the half-morphed Zane. Furthermore, she let me know gently that those three revisions took more time than I was paying for and there were understandable limits on how long she was willing to dink around until I was satisfied. Fair enough.

I was lucky that while Mother Spider was going to put its stamp on my cover, Jennifer was willing to make this a collaborative effort. My real life job (making geological maps of the subsurface) involves a lot of computer graphics, too. I didn’t start with much knowledge of book covers, but I sure knew how to manipulate a digital image.

So I took Jennifer’s half-morphed Zane and blew him up big on my screen. I had a free program called “Paint” on my laptop and I played with the image until I liked it. The differences might seem subtle to someone else, but I enjoyed making the improvements and was happier with the result. Jennifer graciously put my revised Zane-without-the-white-stripe into her cover, and y1 was published as shown above September 2012.

I learned a few things from this. One is that I am going to care more about how my cover looks than anyone else, and as a self-published author I need to be satisfied with the end result. Another was that while I do benefit from professional help with my book covers, I also need the skills and tools to make the sorts of subtle modifications that I cannot afford to pay someone else to do. That means I need to work with someone who doesn’t mind my staying actively involved in the art.

I recently removed the many live links from the electronic versions of y1, as they have become too difficult to maintain. I had to redo the cover, calling it “a novel” instead of “an interactive novel.” While I was at it, I went ahead and fixed Zane’s chameleon eye, which had had always bothered me. My minor improvement is shown above.

The ability to modify a stock image has turned out to be quite useful. I’m now working on the cover for book six, and struggled to find a my new character Violeta. She’s a forty year old telepathic Argentine, and nothing came close. I selected an image of a native American teenager, which I morphed until I liked it. Several of the steps in my process are shown below.

 

 

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 1 and Designing your own book cover, part three)

The give-aways end (sob) and I turn in my hour of need to my first blog tour

I little over a year ago I thought I was writing books to entertain and express myself, and creating a novel from little more than my imagination certainly did that. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating, but dammit is was also FUN.

Soul searching confirmed for me that neither money not fame were the object, especially given that I am incredibly introverted and already work in a fairly well paying profession that I enjoy. But days after I hit that first publish button for x0 on Kindle, I discovered something that surprised me totally.  I wanted people to read my book! It was even better if they liked it of course, and I had absolutely no objection to them paying for it, but basically I wanted it to be read.

megaphoneSo suddenly I had two hobbies. I was writing away on y1 and loving it, and I was trying to come up with ways to get total strangers to open x0 up on their kindle and read it instead of the (gulp) million or so other books available electronically.

This second hobby has been more frustrating than fulfilling for me, and clearly there are reasons that I did not end up working in advertising. I tried getting bloggers to review my book (most never answered my queries.) I discovered that producing a paperback book on Create Space was both free and rather easy, and after that I discovered that I could give away copies of my paperback on Goodreads.  Oh boy!

Suddenly my day job was providing the pocket money for me to mail copies of x0 and y1 (which author (2)came out in paperback about the same time) to Romania and New Zealand and Brazil. I don’t even know if most copies made it to their destinations, but slowly responses to both books have begun to pour in. Some people gave me 5 stars (an A) and others two stars (a D) with no comments either way.  Some people praised my book and gave it a poor rating while others did little more than complain then rated it high. I could only scratch my head and wonder. But in other cases, other wonderful cases, I could tell from the review that the reader “got” my book. And whether they loved it or just kind of barely liked it, their understanding, and the sense of that connection that came with it, was a high almost as strong as writing the book itself.

And now all that has come to an end.  Goodreads only allows give-aways on books published within the last 6 months, and my time has run out for both x0 and  y1.  What to do, what to do?  I think I am addicted to reviews. Luckily, I have two solutions

One, my third love child, z2, will be out in paper back next week. Hurray.  I have six glorious months in which to give copies away. Two, I discovered fine people on the internet who will get my 6-month-olds out there onto people’s blogs for me. I elected to try my first blog tour with y1, and to use a group called Orangeberry.  My blog tour officially starts today, and the schedule for the first week is as follows.

4th June – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

5th June – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

6th June – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

7th June – Book Review & Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

8th June – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

9th June – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

10th June – Book Review & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

Please check me out at these venues, and I’ll post the rest of the tour next week.  Ahhhh …. I think everything is going to be okay.