I’d like to share an experience from last week that made me realize how deeply I feel about my art, that is, the stories that I write.
My publisher, Zumaya Publications, informed me that my debut novel, Island Song, is on schedule to be released later this month. After waiting over two years for its publication, I was doing cartwheels. When I calmed enough to read the rest of the email, I realized that they were asking for my input on the cover art. More cartwheels.
I filled out the form they sent, describing the story in detail and also some ideas I had for a cover. All that was forwarded to an artist contracted to create my book cover.
Three days later I received a picture of the proposed cover. One glance at the picture and I wanted to vomit. The artist had used my concept -- a hunky Polynesian in a loin cloth chucking a spear with the sea in the background -- but they had made a cartoon-like rendering of it. And rather than a hunky, obviously Polynesian man, it showed what looked like a West Hollywood Queen dressed in a Las Vegas-style Hawaiian costume. It seemed to make a joke of my very serious, island romance story.
I sent an email to my publisher, asking that they make the man look more Polynesian and less Las Vegas, and could they make it less cartoonish. The next day I received a polite yet firm note explaining all the cover’s positive aspects, and for me to leave the art work to them.
I was thrown into a profoundly depressed state, but my husband, Herman, took the bull buy the horns. In a single day he took some pictures from our travel folders and superimposed a surfer onto a beach scene. It was perfect. Right out of my story.
I excitedly sent Herman’s picture to my publisher stating that this was exactly what I wanted and ask them to use it.
Again, I received a polite note back telling me that Herman’s picture is inappropriate for cover art, although they didn’t go into detail as to why. I did, however, come away with a small victory. My publisher explained that they had asked the artist to create another cover, based on a different, unnamed concept. Which leaves the door open for hope.
They say people don’t buy books based on the cover, but I disagree. From my own experience, I know that when I shop in a bookstore, or online for that matter, it is an appealing cover that makes me pick up the book in the first place. I turn to the back cover and read. If I find that interesting, I read the first page or two. If I’m still interested, I buy it. But it is the cover that initially makes me investigate a book over the other thousand books on the shelves. And for me, if the cover looks cheap, I feel that the rest of the book is probably less than stellar.
The thing that amazes me is how crazy I’m getting over this issue. My dreams of becoming a published writer are finally coming true, and yet I’m ready to trash it all simply because the book will look crappy and cheaply done. Go figure. It has to do with pride, I know. That I don’t want the years of work that went into that story to be marred by a cheap cover.
Pride? Vanity? Call it want you will. I want it perfect, damn it.