Friday, July 19, 2013

Covering Myself

Now that the touch-up and final copy editing is complete for A Small Sacrifice, it’s time for a couple of things people say the author probably shouldn’t do. Well, I’ve already done my own copy editing (and will guaran-damn-tee you I have fewer typos than the book I just read published by Mulholland), I might as well do the cover and formatting, too.

It’s common knowledge authors are supposed to hire someone to do the covers. I’m not going to argue that, but The Beloved Spouse and I have built two covers we like and have good ideas on the third, and no one has complained about them. Admittedly, they’re for e-books, so we’re not too worried about them leaping off the shelves and grabbing potential readers by the throat, but I’ve seen at least as many professionally made covers that turned me off a book than have enticed me in.

Pictures of people are problematic, so we stick with what I guess would be called landscapes. Wild Bill takes place in Chicago, and a pivotal scene occurs on Navy Pier at night, so the cover is a photograph of Navy Pier at night. Worst Enemies is set in a dying mill town. The cover is a lone smokestack set against a dreary sky. The titles and my name are positioned to frame the images. Neither will win any awards, but I’ve seen worse by pros; they’re not hurting us. A Small Sacrifice ends with a scene near a statue of the Virgin Mary in a cemetery. We found an appropriate picture, but will fade it a little and superimpose the title over it, along with the comment “A Nick Forte Mystery,” so no one mistakes it for a religious book. The Beloved Spouse showed me an early draft yesterday, and I like it.

The internet is full of photographs taken by people who are delighted to grant their permission in exchange for an acknowledgement and maybe a free electronic copy. It takes a little time to find what you like, and you’re not going to get exactly what you envisioned, but, honestly, how often does the author get exactly what he or she has in mind when they hire out the work? It helps to know someone with some PhotoShop chops—or to sleep with one, as I do—but with a little creativity and perseverance, stuff is out there.

You’re a writer. Creativity and perseverance are supposed to be what you’re all about. Don’t be such a pussy all the time. You might surprise yourself.

Next time, the dark and scary world of formatting a Kindle MOBI file. It’s even easier than the cover.


Rick Ollerman said...

As someone who has proofread literally hundreds of books, and I think well, you just can't proof yourself. The sub-vocalizing in your head gets in the way and you don't see the words, you hear them, and the mistakes get by.

But that's me. And I'm so good at covers I just had my 11 year old daughter take pictures for an upcoming book. They look good, and she'll get a credit, but I have the satisfaction that I drove the car.

And we saw a moose feeding in a pond, which is always nice. Not that he made the cover, though. It's still a tough business.

Dana King said...

Not to say A Small Sacrifice has no typos, but the Mulholland book I read last was a mess, and it was not an ARC. It even had the classic "I'm in a hurry" typo: "teh" instead of "the." Someone could have at least run a spell check.

Unknown said...

You’re a writer. Creativity and perseverance are supposed to be what you’re all about. Don’t be such a pussy all the time. You might surprise yourself.

Love that. Spot on Dana. I am surprising myself. Mind if I tweet that tomorrow?

Dana King said...

Feel free to tweet.