Thursday, March 1, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words...

A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you are an author, you have to find a picture that is worth 100,000 words and well, that….is not easy.

I remember the first time I saw the original cover of the Insight series. I was paralyzed with shock. The image of the electrifying sun was right there in the center, but all I could see was name. My name was on the cover of a book. Magically this cover had taken a word document that I had worked on for almost a year and turned into a novel.

I texted the image to everyone I knew. They all laughed at me when I said “you have to tell me if this is good – because I can’t see past my name.” The excitement was almost too much. I was really doing this; I was going to publish a book. I was going to let people I had never met read my work. Having that reality in front of you, realizing that the word author would be associated with your name has got to be one of the most exhilarating emotions that has ever existed.

Those of you who have followed me know that I did publish with that cover, but then year later I changed the image of my series. Why you ask, well, for me writing has been a learn as you go kind of thing , and I learned that the first cover of a series not only sets the stage for your novel, but everything that will follow in that series.

When I Okayed that first cover, I wasn’t thinking about the next covers in the series, even though three of books were already written.  When it was time to create the next cover, that sun the one that was so bold ,was placed on Embody as well.  Sure there were other elements added to it, but that sun had become a brand, one that I was not sure I wanted, simply because that sun represented a medallion in the series, a medallion that was important, but not the core of the story.  So where does one go from that point, when your name is on cover, you have a trade mark, but it’s not one that is quite as fitting?

You start over. I made it through the changes of my first two covers with the help of a great friend who saw my series the same way I did, and in the end I felt like I was on the right track, that I had an image, a brand, that could represent all of the aspects in my series.

Some writers like our beloved Emma Michaels are blessed with multiple talents ( Emma was the one that spotted the smoky girl currently on the Insight series – she was the one that not only inspired the changes in my covers but helped bring them to life). Authors like Emma have that ‘eye’ that allows them to create their own covers, to play with countless images and ideas until they have found or created ‘the one’. Others like me have to find away to explain their vision to a graphic designer, and then that designer has to figure out away to create what is in your mind.

Sounds simple doesn’t it. Not really. Actually not at all. There are a lot of reasons this is hard. One scene has to capture every one of your words, and it has to be powerful enough to allow you stand out from the thousands upon thousands of covers in your genera.

Basically you have to come up with an image that will cause people to pick the book up off the shelf (or stop their scroll on their e-reader) and lead them to read the summary. If a reader glances at your summery chances are, they are expecting your cover to match those words in some way or at least intrigue them enough to know what is under that image. You have to find an image that a reader can look at once they are done reading the novel and understand completely. Those are a lot of variables and they bare more weight than I can explain with simple words.

You would think that three covers in, five if you count my two remakes that creating or deciding on a cover would be simple at this point. That I could point to a few stock images, put a few flowery words on an email, and shazam a perfect eye-catching cover is emailed back to me, and all is right in the universe, but dare I say it has gotten harder with time.

On my learn as you go journey in writing I realized that though it is said to ‘never judge a book by its cover’ readers can’t help themselves. The cover is the first impression. On blogs when a novel is written about, more than likely the cover will be mentioned, and given a star rating like the book. Across every social media that cover will appear in streams, comments, likes, retweets, and pins will all be made. Knowing and understanding that now makes me weigh every decision very heavily when it comes to my covers.

Currently I am working with an artist to create the cover for my next release. This will be the first book in a new series, so it’s ground zero. What I put on the front of this book will be a leading image, one that will basically dictate the mood or ambience of every cover that comes in this series.

What questions or ideas are going through my head at this point? Things like should there guy be on there? How many YA books have guys now? What about the girl? Can I find a girl that looks like my girl? If I come close can she be altered to kind of look like her?  Do I want to commit to a physical image of a girl/boy – or do I want to allow the reader to see them their own way? What about a guitar? Music is the core – I should have music, but wait there are also dark shadows – how could I make that work? Should I have smoke on this like with Insight? Both of my series will connect so that might be a must. What kind of background? What if I go way different from my last covers and have some deep dimensional  kind of look with all kinds of things that would bring the book to life? It did storm a few times in the book, maybe I should have a storm – but if I have a storm will they think that that this book is set completely in a storm scene – will a storm be a warning that something bad/good is going to happen, because that is not the case. How bold should the title be? Maybe I should just have something simple and build on it in later covers. What if I layer images on top of one another – but what images should I use?

Those are just a few of the millions of questions that have been going through my mind over the past few months. Thankfully I have an artist that is basically willing to try anything and brave enough to tell me I am insane at times.

I have come so close to saying ok that is the one, but there is always a gut feeling that tells me to try one more idea. Perhaps it’s because I still have nine weeks before the release date, or it could be that I’m paranoid – who knows : )

So, writers do you go through something similar to this with your covers? Readers what covers do you love? Do you like to see images of boys/ girls? Or would you rather have some suggestive image on the cover? What really gives you a strong first impression?
 Hopefully by my next post I will have a cover to share with all of you, along with a summary  *fingers crossed*!

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