Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Evolution of a Cover

Favored Draft
I was really proud of the first draft of my cover (left). The final version evolved from hiring someone to help me. The cover artist did a good job but I continued to work with the same image/street scene I gave her. (The paid for effort appears in this post.)

So what happened to make me totally re-work my cover? I thought it was settled, honestly. You all responded well to it, so what happened?

Well, ten days out from my soft deadline to launch the novel, I started reading about e-book covers. The first thing I realized? The above image didn't read well as a thumbnail. Oh dear. 

Next, I received feedback from a very important reader questioning the use of the downtown image. Well, I lost it. That was my FREAK OUT in an earlier post. I'm supposed to be doing final, Final, FINAL, edits and formatting for .epub and .mobi when suddenly I'm re-thinking my entire cover. 

Once I started questioning, I read countless blogs and honestly, so many said similar things. Then I went to Amazon and randomly looked at covers. It was true--I had missed the boat. I consistently saw support for the theories behind font, layout, color, and readability. You have two-seconds to intrigue a reader, right?

Was I convinced that all was lost? No. The one thing I think truly worked on my first draft was the essence of genre: a mainstream fiction novel. The cover translated that this was not cute and fun, murderous, or techno. It conveyed a real place, slice-of-life type book. 

We found another photograph in my portfolio and decided to minimize the size of the photo. I loved certain shades in this picture and accentuated them. My title and name were bigger and "A Midwest Novel" was still incorporated into the building. But it looked like Seattle due to the saturation of grey-blue. And frankly, it simply didn't jump out at me.

This conviction I had about how my cover should look was very hard to let go. Not only did I have to divorce myself from the first cover, I had to admit that my preference was not the best for e-publishing. However, who said I had to use a real photograph to announce a more literary piece of fiction? Oh yeah. Me.

The afternoon of my tantrum, my husband/co-creator sent me images of radio sound booths. BAM, I zeroed in on the microphone. Whitney, the main character, has a visceral experience with the mic and I enjoyed translating that onto the page. So, I sent him a dozen images of mics I liked.

Our plan was to have a photo of a real mic before a window laid over a photo of the downtown scene (still had trouble letting go of photographs and downtown). Then we considered him building the scene in Maya so we didn't have to worry about copyright issues. As I said in the FREAK OUT post, it was quickly apparent that this was too big a project to accomplish in the few days we had remaining.

After looking at the various covers for High Fidelity, we settled on a silhouette of mic and DJ. The stark contrasts were excellent for thumbnail images and lent well to powerful fonts. 


But here is why I, the author, think this drastically different cover is better. It focuses on the main character, her anonomity as a DJ (a voice invading buildings and cars), and emphaizes that it's a female DJ. 

Huh? Why am I focused on that? Well, I realized that just a mic in a booth could suggest talk radio or easily conjure the image of a male DJ. Basically, it was too vague. 

Do my choices fix all of this? No, but I focused the viewers' thoughts onto a female and because of that, frankly, I believe potential readers will assume that this is a contemporary romance/potential chick-lit/definitely women's fiction novel. So the tone is set-up. But even if the only thing a viewer thinks is "female DJ?" that's okay as long as it leads them to read the book description!

Here are 4 of the blogs I read that helped me to finalize my project:

  1. A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (for all things)
  2. The incomparable Karen Woodward
  3. J.M. Ney-Grimm (discovered through Karen Woodward)
  4. The Book Designer (Thanks, Laura!)