Part 4 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Cover and interior Design
I’m going to move from editing to a couple other contracted roles: Cover Design and Formatting.
I’ll start sounding a bit like a broken record here, but when I started thinking about this, I figured that I can draw my own cover pretty well, and formatting, well, honestly, how hard can it be to pick a font for the book…
This was typically foolish of me, as I have learned pretty quickly. I can make a cover that looks really amateur, and an interior format that looks like I wrote a high school report, perhaps a little better than average, but not professional.
My editor, Bobbi, suggested that I get the interior formatted. I have grown to trust her judgment now, and not knowing any better, and the costs not being too rough, I decided to take her advice. This was a good decision. She is affiliated with Indie Publishing Group and she was up-front about that, but strongly encouraged me to get it formatted by somebody professional. I talked with Chrissy, the head formatter, and felt good about it so I took the leap. It really made a huge difference. It didn’t cost a lot, it didn’t take a lot of time, but what she sent back was significantly better looking than what I had sent. Better font, took care of necessary margins, consistent titling and accents, and a bunch of little touches I don’t even recognize to name. As a bonus, they also posted my first interview as an author!
As a result, I would also recommend any would-be self-publisher get their book formatted as well!
Similarly, but more easy to demonstrate, I’ll show off the same kind of feedback about cover pages. I expect I’ll take some ribbing for this, but here was my original cover draft:
This wasn’t actually meant to be the finished product, more of a proof of concept idea. Still, looking back on it, it isn’t very good.
I searched a bunch of places for cover designers and for a while I considered putting a competition out there for graphic designers to submit an entry. It sounded like a great idea, for not a lot of money, get a bunch of different designers to submit their entries and get a great cover. When I thought about it a little more, and thought of some of my friends who do that kind of work, it occurred to me how horribly unfair that would be. Dozens of people do a bunch of work, submit an entry and only one of them gets paid anywhere near what their work was worth. Writing a book wasn’t about getting rich, but that would have been a nice perk… Writing On Swift Wings was about sharing ideas and hopefully having some great experiences, conversations, and to grow as a person. I didn’t think screwing a bunch of poorly remunerated artists would help me achieve any of those objectives.
A second idea was to contract an artist friend to paint something for me. I approached a friend of mine, but she turned me down as she wasn’t able to find sufficient time to do it. Pity, that might have been something pretty special. I thought it would be cool to have the cover be a piece of art that people might be as happy to have sitting on their shelf as it was to read.
Ultimately I conducted a long web search for professional designers and found one a couple that I quite liked. One of them turned me down saying they don’t do illustration… which wasn’t what I asked for, but the other, JD&J design stepped up.
I gave them a little guidance… I gave them too much guidance. I wanted to let them be artistic, and use their skills, but I steered them too much. I got the cover that I thought I wanted, I was happy with it, and it is the original copy that I used for the first year of publication.
I certainly have no complaints about them, but a key lesson I learned was that giving an artist too many instructions and not enough rope results in less-than-optimal results. I got what I asked for.
After a year, I approached JD&J again and said, I’d like to revisit the cover. I don’t think that this tells the reader much about the story. It doesn’t really tell them that it is a fantasy-adventure novel at first glance, and a strong lesson to take away is that you have to give the readers what they are expecting in a cover unless you’re already a huge recognized name.
I phoned JD&J and we discussed it, and after a full revision they returned with a series of great ideas and we settled on the current cover.
Much better. Wish I had let them do their thing completely from the start…
Beyond making it look great and professional, the benefit of hiring a professional cover designer, much like the interior designer is that submitting the book to the various services I used to publish (IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing) was a breeze. It just worked the first time… I can’t imagine how much pain it would have been for me to try to pull that off myself.
Next: Publishing (Oh, did I learn a lot here.)