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Designing your own book cover, part 1

I have been told that the two things you have no control over with a traditional publisher are the title of your book and the cover. It’s one of the many reasons that I knew before I began to write x0 that it would be a self-published book. In fact, I doubt that I’d ever have written a novel if the world of self-publishing didn’t exist. The whole 46. Ascending collection was kind of an art and philosophy project for me as well as a story I was compelled to tell, and I cared more about doing it my way than I cared about striving for that traditional debut as an author.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it well are two different things, as you can tell by looking at my first version of the cover to the right.  I knew my book needed to be red, and because much of the story takes place in Nigeria, I wanted Africa to figure prominently in the final result. I had been directed to Shutterstock, an affordable online service for leasing the right to use images, and I was delighted with the world map I found.

But I didn’t have clue of where to go from there. I wanted to use the rest of the space to convey something about empathy and telepathy, and to me shoes were a symbol for this. You know “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and all that. Red shoe images turned out to mostly be women’s heels, which seemed fine. But when I sent my proud new cover off to family and friends, I didn’t get the expected response. The most typical was “What’s with the ‘have sex with me’ shoes on the cover?” Oh. Back to the drawing board.

My next idea was to find an image of Lola, my main character, and put her on the cover. I wasn’t pleased with the choices I found, but finally settled on this one. She sort of looked to me like she was having a telepathic experience. That’s when my son called.

“You cover has only one purpose, mom. It is to make people want to read your book.” I hadn’t viewed it quite that way, but I had to admit he had a point and the lady on the cover didn’t particularly make me want to read the book either.

Then I found the lotus lady and she was perfect. She was so perfect that I tried using her twice, to symbolize the strong psychic connection between two different women who were highly alike on the inside. Not only did I feel good about this improvement, but my informal focus group gave it a big thumbs up.

I decided that I needed a better font for my unusual title. After experimenting with every font that came with Microsoft’s PowerPoint, and after playing around with the positioning, I ended up with the cover below and was quite pleased. It was a huge improvement over where I had started. I released x0 for kindle with this cover in February of 2012.

Over the next couple of months I began to lurk in chat rooms and on websites frequented by other self-published authors and I learned quite a bit. One thing was that I could make my electronic novel available on sites other than Amazon by submitting it to Smashwords.com. That sounded good. Another was that I could actually produce a paperback version at no extra cost using Amazon’s Create Space. Even better.

If I was going to take this self-publishing thing all the way to making a real book, it seemed worth revisiting whether I had the best cover I could have. I had assumed from the beginning that any professional touch was well out of my budget, but I was learning otherwise. Graphic artists out there were willing to take an author’s best attempt and make it more professional, for a relatively modest fee. I contacted a few that came well recommended by others.

One was called Mother Spider, and the first thing they came back to me with was perfect. It was exactly the cover I had wanted all along. The title jumped off the page, the map blended, the lotus ladies glowed and new little bulbs of telepathic thoughts shone. I tried putting my glitzy new cover on one of those websites that critiques book covers and got high praise for it. My informal focus group of cover critics was equally pleased.

I’m now working on the cover for book six. In every case I’ve started the process myself, struggling to gather together my own vision for the face I want my book to present to the world. Time and experience have taught me a lot. I’m back at Shutterstock sorting through images for a book that I know will be purple and sparkly and once again about telepathy. I’ve decided that the basic background will likely be forged from the Shutterstock image below. Other than that, I’m open to most anything, although I’m pretty sure there won’t be any shoes on this cover either.

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 2  and Designing your own book cover, part three)

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2017 in writing, x0

 

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x0 gets a makeover

cleaningI’ve been quiet lately, hard at word on my own personal version of spring cleaning. Top priority has been to get out the feather duster and my high-powered vacuum and make my original creation x0 somewhat shiny and new.

To that end, I’ve created a second print edition of x0, which has been edited to work better as a hard copy. Underlined links and the references to them have been removed, along with a little too much factual material that was included in the original text. As my writing has evolved, it made sense to take this out. All of this information is available here on the book’s website, after all, where it can be updated and better maintained.

I’ve also added more clearly delineated breaks for scene changes and a list of characters. A small number of corrections have been made, but the story itself is unchanged.

I’ve gone ahead and carried some of those tweaks back into my Kindle version as well, and in a few days both Create Space knightand Kindle should be selling the new and slightly more reader friendly x0. I’m excited! I hope that my story will now be more accessible to those who may enjoy it.

The next step is Smashwords.com. This site distributes all of my books to Barnes and Noble, Itunes and others. Because it must comply with so many different formatting requirements, self-published author’s like myself know that it is a bear to get a new version of a book through the Smashwords autovetter. However, it can be done and in a week or two I will put on my best armor and attempt it.

zen2zany 3Within a month or two, the new and improved x0 will have made its way out to all of the various distribution channels and then I will start a renewed publicity campaign for this, my first novel.

Funny thing. As life has gone on and reviews have come in and people have started reading x0 and never said a word about it and all the other usual nonsense that goes with a creative endeavor like this, I’ve come to think of this first book as “not as good as my others”.

Spring cleaning forced me to reread it carefully and to be more objective and less emotional about it. I found mistakes, of course, and things I did not particularly like. But I also found more that pleased me than I expected. This book was written with my heart wide open, and it shows. I’m going to enjoy spending some time with it again, and giving it another chance to dance in the light.

(Read my thoughts on giving my second novel, y1, the same sort of once over. It was a very different experience.)

 

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in writing

 

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Homemade gravy and hand-built furniture

Traveling. Today we are in Worcester Massachusetts, the town where my husband was born. We’re mostly visiting family but a confluence of scheduling has left us with one night on our own.

Buca“Italian food,” he insists. Worcester was settled in part by Italian immigrants and has long boasted restaurants that rival those in Chicago where we met. “Absolutely,” I agree. He’s heard of a new Italian restaurant located right on the banks of Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond and we head over eagerly. What do we find? Buca di Beppo, a relatively good Italian chain restaurant that also has a place about five miles from where we live in Texas. We have to laugh. No way.

His phone is dumb and mine is smart but slow, but we have a laptop in the car so we go off in search of internet and a more interesting restaurant recommendation. As we drive, I think about my writing. That is not surprising, I do that a lot. Traditionally published novels are like chain restaurants, I think. Some are okay and some are great but they are seldom awful. You have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. Self-published novels are more like tiny mom-and-pop restaurants. Some are really bad and some are absolutely fantastic and there is no good way to tell the difference from a distance. Good or bad, the contents are always something of a surprise.

PaneraWe stumble on a Panera Bread, one of my favorite chain restaurants because of its wonderful tradition of providing free WiFi to travelers everywhere. While my husband is booting up I order us beverages and it occurs to me to try the human approach. I mean, why not? “Know any good local Italian restaurants around here?” I ask. She knows several, including one called Piccolo’s that is run by the parents of a friend. Perfect.

Minutes later we walk into tiny Piccolo’s on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. The menu is hand typed, and the Pollo Maria Teresa that catches my eye is described with honesty as being a pasta dish served with chicken and “some lobster”.  I smile at the lack of polish. It’s like homemade gravy or hand-built furniture. One makes either with love and with all the skill that one can.

PiccoloEach one of my three self-published books has been created, edited and rewritten to the best of my ability at the time that I wrote them. Then, because I wanted the product to be better, each has been professionally edited with what I could afford. In my case that was a fine young editor named Joel Handley, who used his journalism degree, sharp mind and experience with one previous book to fix my dashes and semi-colons, address my frequently used words, clean up odd phrases and even make a few general plot and character suggestions. I have learned that Joel provides excellent copy-editing, some good line editing and even a bit of development editing along the way. However, he is no hardened expert from the world of publishing. At my request, he worked with a light touch. Therefore, my three books probably don’t have the polish provided by industry experts who, by the way, generally charge ten times as much. My books are like homemade gravy and hand-built furniture. They make no pretense to be otherwise, even though I hope that they can be enjoyed by those who also appreciate chain restaurants.

The Pollo Maria Teresa arrives and it is wonderful. I smile as I enjoy some of my “some lobster” and I think that it is good to take a chance.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in writing

 

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