Okay, we’ve had the review, we’ve had the revelation, now we can have the resolution and be done with it.
One of the things I did right when I first delved into self-publishing was get the cover right. This is a place a lot of people seem to fall down on because they don’t do one simple thing—the thing that I did without even thinking about it because it was just common sense—and that was: go look at the covers of professionally published books in your genre.
Why people think they can just whip a cover off out of thin air is beyond me. Graphic design artist spend years studying, practicing and working to get their craft right. For a writer to think they can do as well in an afternoon is as insulting as someone at a cocktail party saying to you, “Oh, a writer, are you? Well, anyone can write.”
I knew I couldn’t do as well, but I thought I could come close, so I studied books in my genre—travel humor. Bill Bryson’s name came up a lot and I sketched out an idea formed from several of his covers. And I worked on it for days. I had my wife (who has been taking art classes for the past six years) help me. I got advice and feedback from people who were in the business and knew what they were doing. Then, eventually, I finished:
I was pleased with it. But then after Lean Market acquired the book, they produced their own cover:
Now, first of all, I have to say I am pleased that my idea was so good they used it as a template for their cover. But the differences between their version and mine became suddenly obvious and my cover, that I had spent so much time over and come to love, now screamed, “SELF PUBLISHED!”
And I was so close. Brighter colors, crisper text, stand-out images—I was really, so very nearly there. But then that’s the difference between an amateur and a professional: the professional knows how to get it right while the amateur thinks he is done before it’s finished.
Knowing what I know now, there is no way I would think I could make a professional looking cover on my own. If I ever self-publish again, I will be looking to hire a good graphic designer.
Except, of course, for the Postcards books.
I did this myself, and I truly believe it looks professional, but I could never have done it without the original cover to use as a model. This cover, too, took days. I painstakingly mimicked every detail of the original to make a suitable cover for the next in the series. (It’s not as if I stole their idea; they stole it from me in the first place, and I stole it from Bill Bryson.)
I am also going to have a crack at the cover for the final Postcards book, but as I said, after that, I would not be so foolish as to think I could do a professional job without a professional cover to act as a template. Copying the cover of Postcards From Across the Pond to make the cover for More Postcards From Across the Pond and Postcards From Ireland simply makes sense. Copying the cover to say, The Da Vinci Code for some half-assed thriller you wrote and can’t sell is nuts, it will make you look like a moron and it is probably illegal.