I found Joleene Naylor while searching for a cover designer for the POD version of my short story collection, The Year of the Elm. As I’ve said many times, the best thing about the internet is that it’s possible for anyone to connect with anyone no matter where they are. Despite this insight, however, I still tend to assume that 99.724% of all people on the interwebs are curled up in an overstuffed chair at an urban coffee shop, wirelessly transacting their way to hipster happiness.
You can imagine, then, that the following line in Joleene’s bio caught my eye:
She grew up in southwest Iowa surrounded by corn and very little entertainment — so she made her own.
As regular readers know, I grew up in Iowa myself. As regular readers also know, The Year of the Elm is about a boy growing up in a small town in Iowa where there isn’t a lot of entertainment, so as often as not he has to make his own.
Despite this almost absurd coincidence, I still expected to learn that Joleene was now an artist-in-residence at RISD or CalArts, working on hyper-modern book designs using cutting edge technology. Then I read this:
…she blogs and hopes to win the lottery. Until she does, she and her husband live near Bolivar, Missouri, with their cats and turtles.
Well. Not only is blogging and hoping to win the lottery closely aligned with my own personal branch of American Zen, but Bolivar Missouri ain’t no overstuffed coffee-house chair. Throw in the cats and at least the idea of turtles, and I think you can see the appeal.
So: did the fact that Joleene grew up in Iowa seal the deal for me? Not hardly. (That’s how Iowans talk to each other.) There are plenty of people in Iowa that I wouldn’t trust to hold my car keys, let alone help me fulfill a deeply personal desire for creative expression.
No. What tipped me toward hiring Joleene was a mix of familiarity, sincerity and plain-spoken professionalism. The familiarity was anchored by the fact that she clearly has (to my eye anyway) a Midwestern sensibility. The sincerity — which was most important to me — was anchored by the cover-design FAQ she has on her site. It’s both complete and devoid of pretense in a way that speaks to my own Midwestern sensibility more clearly than any sales pitch or bullet-pointed presentation ever could. The professionalism was evident in her willingness to put herself, samples of her work, and her prices online. I was also impressed by the fact that between the first time I looked at her site and when I finally contacted her she updated the site, making it much more user-friendly.
If you’re looking for someone to help you design a cover for your e-book or POD title I can’t recommend Joleene more highly. She adapted herself to what I was trying to accomplish, she was prompt and helpful in every reply, and she brought ideas and solutions to the process that I would have had to kill myself to invent or accomplish. (She was even familiar with GIMP and its obtuse interface, which made it a whole lot easier to share mockups with her.)
— Mark Barrett