Today I’m going to read the style guide for publishing on Smashbox. It’s time to get Cricket and Grey into e-book and print-on-demand formats for buying. I’ve been dragging my feet with indecision but I just need to do it. I can’t afford a professional editor – not even part of one – and I’ve done all the editing I can personally do. I don’t believe there’s a single spelling error in the manuscript though Microsoft Word has argued with my use of commas versus semi-colons and my use of fractured sentences pretty much as aggressively as it can. For the record – I think Word is much too keen on semi-colons when commas work just as well in many situations. Also: people talk in fractured sentences ALL THE TIME. Fractured sentences are useful for dialog, a sense of urgency, and can add a rhythm and emphasis to narration when used efficaciously.
Do I use fractured sentences to good effect? I think so, but I would, wouldn’t I? It’s really for you to judge if you read my novel. Which I hope you will since I’ve worked so damn hard on it and fought Word so valiantly for my artistic license. It won’t embarrass you, I promise. People with discerning taste have read it and said it was good.
A book cover is an important thing. It doesn’t matter if you publish through traditional routes or self publish – a good book cover is essential. It’s the first point of connection a reader makes with your work. A crappy cover can turn a person away without giving your story a chance.
That’s why I’m going to have Philip illustrate a buxom half naked Cricket carrying an AK-47, her hair flowing in an obvious wind and she’ll be snarling sexily at an impossibly buff oily-skinned Grey. This will be a great way to lure people into thinking my book is super sexy and full of long breathy descriptions of Cricket’s double D knockers brushing up against Grey’s rock hard abs. BECAUSE THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT YOU GET WITH MY BOOK.
(Except for the part where Cricket is small breasted and Grey has a fairly normal musculature and according to my friend Dave there is not enough SEX in the book. That’s his only complaint. That and the fact that he really thinks I should have had Cricket choose and M16 instead of an AK47.)
I took a poll on facebook to find out if people generally preferred illustrated or photographed covers. Everyone aside from my cousin Carrie prefers illustrated. I insist on photographs for cookbooks but for everything else I prefer illustrations. My friend Aimee mentioned her pet peeve of covers that have nothing to do with the story and I share that pet peeve. So how does one go about coming up with a great cover if you can’t hire a professional?
I live with a professional artist and an excellent one at that. One who has agreed to illustrate my cover. But he’s not a professional cover designer. How do we channel his skills into a great cover design?
I guess the place to start is with what the book is about. What symbolized the story? What are the key scenes in the book? What are the key elements? What is the landscape and what kind of mood is the book? What is most memorable in the story that can be conveyed well with an image?
Here’s my concept and key elements brainstorm:
- Landscape is wintery and gloomy
- Cricket’s cabin in the woods has a dovecote and they keep carrier pigeons.
- There are several scenes at the dinner table where a lot of preserved foods are eaten as it’s mid winter – a lot of pickles and cured meats.
- Death is an over-riding theme of the book.
- Cricket’s memory and dreams of her mother are a big influence on Cricket in the beginning.
- There are a lot of weapons in the book. Pistols and hunting knives and semi-automatic rifles.
- It’s a book about an apothecary turned armed guard. A major theme in the book is the uncomfortable contradiction in being both a healer and a soldier.
- There are drying herbs and a still-room and scales for waxes and bottles and jars for mixing herbal medicines and soaps.
- There’s quite a bit of drinking. Home made fruit wines, whisky, and clear vodka-like hard alcohol called “white” that Shockey Robbins makes both legally and illegally.
- The woods figure pretty big in the book.
- There’s a dead grouse as a peace offering. How about a dead grouse on the cover? Right? That would get your attention! You’d totally want to read a book that featured a dead grouse!
Now – an attempt to translate those themes and ideas into possible book cover images. Remember that this is a brainstorm so any ideas you think are stupid – just move on. Brainstorms are about putting all your ideas on the table and then discarding the silly ones as you evaluate them.
Cover image ideas:
- In the middle of the cover there is a hunting knife (pointing up) with a pickle impaled on the end. Why? It’s a book about people having to be self sufficient and tough but they spend plenty of time at table eating pickles and jams and meats.
- Mairead’s at 3/4 view looking away from you her red curly hair characteristically falling out of a chignon and you can see the bleeding bullet hole in her forhead.
- A landscape showing High Heaven Road – the small ribbon of road showing in the center of the cover and the looming glowering trees crowding it from either side.
- A pigeon in flight carrying a message. A little off center and motion blurred.
- An apothecary table with Cricket’s gun on it.
- A rough wood table surface with a tiny bottle with a single violet in it on the left and lined standing up next to it extending to the right are bullets.
All of this doesn’t begin to address the style of the illustration. I don’t know how to describe what I see in my head because I’m not an artist. I can visualize things but don’t have the language to describe it.
But first – what cover idea do you like best just based on my rough description? If you happen to have your own ideas (particularly if you’re one of the few who have actually read it or are in the middle of reading it) please share your ideas.