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.

More Than Words

writingI have two projects that I haven’t been looking forward to working on, but carry on I must.  The first is a fiction story that involves the death of a character and the second is the follow-up to “The Rules of Tech Support.”

The reason I haven’t been looking forward to working on those projects is that working on stories that hit a little too close to home or that are sad can have an effect on me.  It may have happened before without my noticing it, but while working on a short story named “The Best Job In The World” for “Nine To Five Lives,” I noticed that I began feeling increasingly angsty at work.  I was even more angry and bitter than usual and it wasn’t until I finished the first draft of the story that I got over it.

I talked to a psychologist friend about it after the fact.  I asked him:  if reading fiction affects people in some way, wouldn’t writing it have an effect on those that write it as well?  He agreed, saying that something similar had happened to him when he was writing.

In all honesty, I think I am going to have a harder time writing the second tech support book.  While I can easily disconnect myself from a fictional character, I live tech support forty hours a week, which means I can probably look forward to being full of piss and vinegar for the next few weeks.  I could stop writing about work, but the insanity that the general public brings to the table is too rich of a vein of material to ignore.  I guess I’m stuck!

Off To Binary Heaven

square cover

I have been on a bit of a ‘simplify things’ kick lately, as evidenced by the fact that I am no longer a video game website editor, a drummer in a band, or involved in any conventions outside of being an attendee or panelist.  I cut back on my side projects and decided to devote the majority of my time to writing and getting the word out about my e-books.

Case in point: therulesoftechsupport.com (don’t bother, the site is kaputski and I still own the domain).  It was intended to be a ‘companion’ to my second e-book,  Things being what they are, I didn’t get around to updating it as much as I could have, partially due to the aforementioned side projects, and also because of all the other writing I do.

So its no wonder that there weren’t very many visitors to the site.  The year of hosting I had prepaid for was coming due, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to pay for a site that I didn’t have the time to keep up with and that wasn’t being visited.  So I shut down the site.

While I took the liberty of grabbing all of the articles and pictures from the site prior to shutting it down, I feel a little sad over pulling the plug.  Granted, I’ve had other websites that have gone off to binary heaven for one reason or another, but for what its worth, this one was mine.

FREE-book!

UPDATE: The free promotion for “The Rules of Tech Support is now over, but you can still get “One Sheet Stories” for free!

My second e-book “The Rules of Tech Support” is available for free today via Amazon Kindle devices and software, and of course, you can always get “One Sheet Stories” for FREE here!”

Second Storm

I believe that every creative person has, in their head somewhere, their masterpiece.  The Big One, the Magnum Opus, that one work that they believe will knock everyone’s socks off and change the world, or at the least, make them rich and/or famous.  One concept that we always preached in First Storm Manga was the idea that your Big One should never, ever, be your first project.

Why not?  As eager as you may be to unleash your book, song or artwork onto an unsuspecting world, the fact of the matter is that when you undertake your first major project, you are more than likely going to make mistakes. Thus, you should undertake a similar smaller project that you aren’t quite as emotionally invested in, so when things go wrong, you won’t be discouraged from having borked up your masterpiece.

Thus, “The Rules of Tech Support” is actually my second ebook.  My first one was “One Sheet Stories” which was a collection of five of my one-page stories.  Nobody bought it, and I also encountered a few slip-ups along the way.  I tried using a service called Smashwords which ended up not working as well as I had hoped.  Their touted ‘Meatgrinder’ conversion program didn’t quite spit out my e-book the way that I wanted it to look, which was frustrating.  I did some research and found a spiffy program called eCub that I could use to convert my text properly to e-book format then upload it directly to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

That was just one of the lessons I learned while working on “One Sheet Stories” that I was able to apply to the production of “The Rules of Tech Support.”  The process went much smoother because I was doing it the second time around and I didn’t make as many mistakes.  Time will tell whether it “The Rules of Tech Support” will be successful or not, but on a technical level, I am happy with the result.

Its not that you can’t strike gold on your first try, but the unfortunate reality is that most folks will not, and who knows, that small project just could be the one that makes it big!