Having had the smarts to avail myself of the experience, insight, technical skill and patience of designer Joleene Naylor, I now have a cover for the print-on-demand (POD) version of my short story collection, The Year of the Elm. I’m not only satisfied with the result, I’m thankful I didn’t have to produce it on my own. Whatever time it might have taken to do it myself, and however much I might have learned along the way, I wouldn’t have been able to replicate the give-and-take that helped us arrive at the solution you see here.
All of the issues I wanted to deal with or resolve have been dealt with or resolved. The look of the POD cover is an evolution of the original e-book cover, but it also speaks more directly (albeit suggestively) to the contents of the stories. I can’t help but feel that it’s an improvement.
Total cost for all of the advice, artistic input, technical wizardry and plain old common sense that Joleene provided: $50.
Having never had to think about or produce copy for the back of a book jacket, I spent a fair bit of time agonizing about what I should and shouldn’t include. The smartest thing I did was come up with a whole lot more text than I needed, which I was then able to pare down with Joleene’s help. In the end I decided to go with the brief summary, humorous excerpt, statement from the author and links that you see.
If there’s anything I have a nagging doubt about, it’s the personal statement I wrote. I like what I said, and I mean every word, but I still feel self-conscious about it. I also wonder if it’s the kind of thing that belongs on a ‘real’ book, because of course real writers have friends or other famous writers who write effusive, adjective-heavy blurbs for their books — whether or not they actually read the work.
Then again, the very fact that I’m thinking about such things is more than a little irritating to me. I’m committed to self-publishing on artistic grounds alone, and to connecting directly with readers to whatever extent that’s possible and practical. So rather than allow myself to be pushed around by what others might think, I decided to go with my gut and see what happens as a result.
Which brings me to the final point I’d like to make, in advance of a larger post on the same subject. What you want in your first book cover (e-book or POD) is your best effort. You don’t have to compete with professional publishers, you don’t have to get it perfect, and you don’t have to apologize to anyone for the result.
Your goal, beyond technical compliance, is not sucking, and I’m pretty confident this cover doesn’t suck. If I decide at a later date that I want to change it, I can change it. That’s part of the freedom that comes with self-publishing, as against having your book harnessed to somebody else’s marketing plan, manufacturing machinery or launch schedule.
— Mark Barrett