Uncovering the Cover

The old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover, and I believe that's true. However a book's cover is the first thing people see when they are looking online, in a bookstore, or in the library. I came across an article on Twitter the other day that talked about the importance of a good cover. The author mentioned that of the many books she had published, she actually hated a couple of her own covers. Because the publisher had ultimate say however, the author was overruled and the crappy cover won. I don't recall how the book sales went for said crappy cover book, but my point is, sometimes you just have to suck it up and take what's given you.

The cover design process for Dirty Shirt was relatively painless. My publisher, eLectio Publishing, actually worked quite closely with me and, ultimately, we ended up with a great cover. That's not to say there wasn't some severe anguish on my end, because there was. When it is your first book, you want the cover to be the best thing ever published, (and it never is). My publisher asked for design ideas from me, the most graphically challenged person in the world. I gave them some general concepts and sent them a few images to work with as well.
My second choice

My first choice was to have something to do with the broken down Malibu picture. I thought it summed up the humor in the book and would make a great cover. A graphic designer friend of mine assured me that the picture was way too busy for a cover, so I shelved that idea.

Other ideas and images included pictures of all the brothers standing by a lake, sunsets over water, people portaging a canoe. They sent me a first batch of covers and while there were some real duds, there were a couple that I kind of liked, there was one that I thought was perfect. Before I get to that though, I wanted to show the one I thought was a close second. >>>

I liked this cover a lot, but thought it looked a little disjointed. I thought it told the story about some of the characters, but it seemed a little busy too. So I kept looking through the covers they had sent me.

My original first choice.
When I came to this one I thought, "That's my cover!" Unfortunately I was alone in my feeling for this one. With the exception of my co-workers, (all mapping people, mind you) everyone else hated it. I had one person tell me they "wouldn't pick it up in a bookstore." Another said "its ugly". My mom said it looked like someone threw spaghetti at a wall. Still another said she didn't know what it was when she first looked at it.

It's an old map, people, and I happen to like it. Everyone's a critic. Seriously though, this was a reality check for me. To go with something I like but everyone else hates would be a really, really bad idea. I took it to heart and decided to keep looking.

After I'd shown the cover designs to a few of my friends, one of them took the ideas and mocked up a few different variations of what had already been done. Eventually, he took a picture of my dad and made what is now the cover of the book. I showed it and a couple of others he mocked up to those same friends and they all said "That's your cover!" Everyone I showed it to said the same thing. The picture seemed to capture the essence of the book, most said, so I decided to go with it.

I wish I could tell you more about the date and place of the cover. All I know is it was taken sometime in the 1960's in the BWCA. The necklace around his neck is a St. Christopher medal. I wish I knew where that ended up. What a keepsake it would have been. Same goes for the watch. I'm not sure what's with the hat, but if anyone can pull off wearing a hat like that, it's my dad.

And finally the picture itself says so much about his state of mind in the wilderness. He was "in his element" in the woods. And frankly if I had caught a walleye that big, I'd have a smile on my face too. This was dad's happy place, and it's mine too. It makes the perfect cover and now, I can't imagine anything else being anything else but second best.

Blogging off...


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