Creating for Yourself Instead of Your Clients
So, this is a big day for me. I’ve been building up to this for a few months and now that it’s finally here… Well, it’s hard to really express exactly what’s going on in my head. Today, the cover for book 1 in my brand new series is being revealed to the world.
Frankly, it’s terrifying. How are people going to react? What if they hate it? And, worse, what if no one cares enough to look?
I’m sure everyone feels this way when they put a new creation out in the world. Artists (and by that I’m including all producers of creative works) put their hearts out there when they share a new Thing They Did. We all want these Things to be well-received. At the least, even a negative reaction can be a positive. It means you did something that elicited some sort of response. Someone looked.
Today is like that for me, only this is a little different than what many authors may experience on cover reveal day. Most of them don’t design covers, especially not in a professional capacity. Yes, these images are representatives of the words contained in that package, but if it’s not well-liked they can point to someone else and say “THAT GUY’S FAULT”. Me? I can’t do that, because, in this case, I’m the cover designer.
If you didn’t know, designing book covers is what I do. Usually, this is for other people. Yes, that’s still my art going out into the world, but I have zero control of what happens to it after that and I’m not accountable for the story contents. There’s a disconnect in ownership after I release a client’s cover. That image becomes their herald, not mine. Not to say that I don’t do every job to the best of my ability, but, quite often, once the job is done, it’s done. I move on to the next one. You know. Work.
Designing a cover for yourself is so much more personal. In many ways, I will always be my own biggest critic and this cover speaks to that. The hours I sunk into searching through stock photos to find the exact model I wanted… you don’t want to know. As the author, I knew very specifically what I was looking for as far as representation went. The character featured on my cover has been a fixture in my head for years. I know her extremely well. In many ways, being the author makes my job as a designer harder because of that intimate knowledge. I finally had to “settle” for the most similar person I could find. I tell this to my clients all the time: we’re looking for representative, not literal depictions. Swallowing that bit of reality was painful, but at least now my clients can rest assured that I know how tough it is to take. It’s hard to listen to your own advice!
Another difference in designing for myself versus for others is the time I could take with the project. I don’t rush any job, but I had months to sit on this image, to tweak it during downtime, to scrutinize every last pixel. It was probably fine when I “finished” it the first time, but, like they say, art is never finished, only abandoned. I had to force myself to stop before I ruined it. Seriously. This cover is live now and I’m fighting myself to not open it in Photoshop again.
So, I’m sure I’ll go through this anxiety all over again when Maven goes live on June 3rd. Probably worse, actually. It’s the first long-form fiction I’ve released since The Dreamer’s Thread podcast in 2009. Will others see the change and growth in my writing? I certainly hope so. After four years, I think I’ve learned a thing or two!
Above all else, though, I hope people look.
Description of Maven:
How far would you go for love?
Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.
Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.
Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve?