Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Power of Art

So... this isn't the first time I've done this whole self-publishing thing. I mean, it is, but it isn't. Those of you that have been following for a while have probably caught on that this is the second edition of The House on the Corner that I just released. See, there was a problem with the first edition. A problem that turned out to be a really huge problem, but, at the time I was preparing it, I didn't think it would matter. The first edition had no cover art.

Okay, so I hear some of you groaning, right now. "My gosh! Won't you guys shut up about cover art!" Us guys being me, Rusty, and Michael. Well, probably, after this, I'll be through with the topic. At least for a little while.


Back in January when I was doing all of this the first time and under a deadline, I didn't have any way to get any art for the book. [At some point, I'll explain about the deadline, but, for now, just accept that there was one.] Now, I know that art is important, but my logic went something like this:

1. It's just going to be online, so no one will be going into a book store and seeing it, so there's no real need for an eye-catching cover. It's all about the story anyway, right? Well, it should be, so, darn it, I'm just going to have to go with it without one, because that's what I can do, and it's about the story, not the cover art!

2. But I looked at the stock art that was available, anyway. You know, just in case there was something worth using. But it all sucked. The closest thing to what I was looking for was a close up shot of a doorknob; which is to say, there was nothing remotely close. I figured it would be better with just the title in black on a gray background, the closest I could get to the feel I wanted.

3. I have people asking for the book, people ready to buy it, and they don't care about  the cover; they just want to read it, so, really, it's not that big a deal, right? Right! Of course, then, very few of those people followed through and bought the book. Near to none, in fact, but that's beside the point.

What it boiled down to, though, was a book without a cover.

It was still an awesome feeling to hold that first proof copy in my hands. Cover or no cover. And people thought it was neat that I had this book that I could show them that I wrote, and people would ask me, "When's it coming out?" And I'd explain that it was "out" and that if they wanted it they could get a copy from Amazon or from me, but they'd all look at me like there was something wrong with what I was saying and do nothing about it. Those conversations always felt weird to me, and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. Really, I couldn't.

Now, I know.

See, I have my new proof, now, the one with the cover art. I took it up to my kids' school the other day, because my kids wanted to show it to their friends. They get very excited about this sort of thing, and, hey, it's exposure, so that's good. The reaction to the version with art is... well... the response has changed from, "Oh, when's it coming out?" to "Oh! I want to buy a copy" that accompanies rummaging in purses for money. And it's all because of the cover art. It just makes it more real. It looks like a book, now, whereas before, I suppose, it just looked like a proof. Like something that wasn't quite finished.

The experience has been interesting. And there's been an offer to host a book signing. An offer by someone that really sort of dismissed the whole thing the first time. That is the power of art. Specifically, the power of Rusty's art. This whole experience has given me a whole new outlook on the whole art thing and they way people react to it and, really, just how important it is. At least, how important it is to other people.

I think my problem came about because of that saying, "don't judge a book by it's cover," which was said to me at the right time by the right person. Not someone just repeating the saying to me but someone telling me about how important it is to look beyond the surface of things to what's really inside, and I have tried to apply that in my life ever since. Including to books. Since 5th or 6th grade. I've really always just tried to look at cover art as something extra because of that and not let it sway me as to whether the contents of a book were any good. So, when it came to my book, I knew the contents were good, and I just sort of hoped that people would would use the same criteria I did to decide whether to buy.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. It just doesn't work  that way. Well, I know, now. It was a good lesson to learn. I mean, I already knew. I knew when I decided to go back and do a second edition that I had to have cover art. That was the motivation for doing a second edition. Sure, I made some internal edits, but, if I hadn't needed a cover, I probably would have just let them go. The cover art was critical, and I spent some months agonizing over it before Rusty graciously volunteered his services. But, still, I didn't know. I hadn't experienced the difference there would be  in the reactions of people. The difference between knowing the stove is hot and actually touching it. The difference in standing outside a restaurant window while hungry and watching people eat and actually getting to go inside and sit down to a meal. A whole world of difference.

So... do yourself a favor, and make sure you get some worthwhile art for anything you want to publish. It's worth it!

On that note, here's one more look at the cover for The House on the Corner (unless, you know, you actually want to click on the tab up there that says The House on the Corner -- the art will always be there):
Oh, and, if you want to buy it, links abound! Click the House tab or see the square up in the top right of this page. I'd appreciate the support, and I'd love to hear what you think!


  1. Hey, it looks AWESOME!!! Strange how much of an impact cover art makes :)

  2. We are visual creatures. I'm reading Briane Pagel's book "Eclipse" right now. I just finished up with Amber Argyle's. Yours is gonna be next. I can't wait. I'm gonna review it honestly though...just warning you :)

  3. Never underestimate the power of a good cover...

  4. That 'never judge a book by its cover'? Yeah, doesn't apply to book buying readers :-)

    So glad you got another chance at this. I still think the artwork is amazing.

  5. Barbara: Thank you! It is strange. Especially so, since it doesn't affect the words inside, and, yet, we let it influence us so heavily.

    Michael: I saw the review of Witchsong. And I wouldn't want other than honest. Really, the last thing I want is for people to say it's good just because they like me. Okay, well, maybe not -the- last thing, but, well, you know...

    Bonnie and Christine: Thank you!

    Amanda: Yeah, I'm going to have to remember that.

    Sarah P.: Evidently, it doesn't. Which is actually surprising to me, because you'd think (or, at least, I would) that people who read a lot would have learned that a good cover doesn't make a good book. And vice versa.

  6. I have been known to by a book specifically for its cover. Your cover art is amazing. Good Luck I hope its a big success.

  7. I have a belief that a book from a major publisher with a bad cover is a book the publisher didn't have very much faith in... that doesn't mean there aren't million exceptions, but it helps me make decisions when otherwise my sheer number of choices would be overwhelming.

    A great cover won't make me buy book though, that still has to come from the blurb and the first few pages.

    I gave up on not judging a book by it's cover a long time ago. And again, I know it's not fair, but it's what I do regardless.

    Indie's are a whole different beast though. I still want an awesome cover, but I'm a bit more forgiving there, kinda.

    Anyway, I can't tell how thrilled I am that the cover still looks good to you. It's surprising how much I'm freaking out over these things... maybe it's the permanence of the art that does it.

  8. I bought your book on the Nook and read the first chapter. I wanted to let you know that the formatting on the Nook is all messed up. It doesn't bother me but some ppl that purchase it might not be as understanding. If you would like, I could screenshot it and send you a picture of what the formatting looks like. The indents are enormous (half the page).

  9. Traditional publishers tend to take covers very seriously, and I can think of a few who have even been known to change a book's cover after it was already on shelves, if it wasn't doing what they meant it to so.

    As a reader I love covers, and when shopping I have to say they are the reason I even pick up a book to look it over most of the time. Only occasionally (when I have lots of time) will I sift through titles. And being a collector of books, I've got the ones with my favorite covers on display all over the place.

    Yours does exactly what a cover should do.

  10. Jennifer: Thanks! You need to let me know how you're liking it.

    Rusty: The cover still looks good to me. I made it my wallpaper for my desktop, even.

    Michael: I think I have the formatting issues fixed. I think.

    D. Ann: Well, I hope it does. Unless it's supposed to drive sales, which I'm not sure it's doing. At least, not online sales.

  11. Thanks, Sam! I appreciate it. But Rusty gets all the credit for the cover (almost >grin<).

  12. I'm hearing things over and over that indicate covers are important. Whether it's lack of a cover or a crappy cover, it can do damage to your sales.

    Aside from that, awesome that someone is going to host a signing!

  13. Yeah, they are. I just wanted to believe that they weren't. I mean, really, they shouldn't be. >shrug< It is what it is, though.