Adventures in Self-Publishing : Cover Stories

rotscover

It’ll do

I am not a visual person by any stretch of the imagination.

When I was in college studying computer science back in the 90’s, people would occasionally ask me if I could make websites for them.  The conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Can you make a website for me?”
Me: “Yeah, I can code one, but it’s going to look like a computer guy made it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s going to look terrible.”
So yeah, I didn’t make any websites.

Given that I’m self-aware of my lack of design sense, I don’t know what possessed me to make my own book covers when I started self-publishing short story collections.  It comes even more perplexing considering that I knew artists that could do quality artwork.  Ego may have had something to do with it; the notion of doing everything on my own.  Maybe I didn’t want to pay for art at the time.  Whatever the reason, I figured some text on a solid color background would be good enough.  I did three covers like that, and it honestly only worked for The Rules of Tech Support.

cf1cover

A picture! Yay!

I like to think I made the most of my limited skills with my Nine to Five Lives ‘clock face,’ but that may have been too clever for its own good considering its low sales (it’s free now!).

At that point I figured it was time to get some actual artwork done.  My friend Damon Cone provided some artwork for Con Fluff 1, which I used to make a faux ‘con badge.’  I thought about making similar ones as promotional items for the book.  That never happened, but it remains an interesting idea for future use.  The character on the cover is me, which seems a little conceited, but at the same time, why the heck not?

cf2cover

SO PRETTY

I commissioned an artist friend who goes by Padunk for Con Fluff 2 and she knocked it out of the park.  She was also kind enough to put the title text on the artwork, which made it look really nice.  Future volumes have also featured artwork, and with the exception of The Rules of Tech Support, most of my collections featuring my early awful covers have been put off-sale, though you can still see them here.

While I have been happy with all of the artwork (Faeries, Fantasies, and Furries is another favorite) there are a few that need a do-over:  As the first book in the series, I don’t want to pull Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories, but it does need a facelift.  Funny Animals, Funny People kind-of works, but I have a better concept in mind I’d like to see for it.  I took the easy way out with Fuzzy Words by plastering a picture into the middle of a (wait for it) solid colored background.

I’ve since commissioned new cover art for the printed version of Fuzzy Words from an artist named TinyBunner.  After spending the day arguing with CreateSpace I think everything is ready to go for printed copies.  I’m very excited at the prospect of having an actual printed book, but that’s a post for another day.

Working My Way To the Top (of the page)

covers4

Bottom, bottom, bottom…

I forget which short story collection I was working on and discussing with a friend, but he posed an interesting question as we were chatting:

Why is your name always at the bottom of your covers?  Shouldn’t it be on the top?

While I may not completely produce my own covers anymore (for the better, as you can likely tell) I do place the text atop the artwork.  The decision to de-emphasize myself was a conscious one and I did it for a very simple reason:

Nobody knows who I am.

It’s a harsh thing to admit, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If I put “Eduardo Soliz” on the top of a cover, a potential reader might think that the book is about a guy with that name, or they might even think it’s in Spanish.  Either way, my name (right now, at least) is not a very big selling point.

Stephen King and James Patterson and those guys, yeah, they can put their names up top because people will recognize then as authors who’s work they enjoy so they’ll be more inclined to pick up a book with their name on top and buy it.

Someday, I’ll be ‘big enough’ to have the nerve to put my name at the top of the page, but until then, I’ll have to play second fiddle to the books themselves.

Then again, maybe that’s how it should be!