Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Cover Story

I’m writing about dirt today.  This is going to be awesome.  The new Wisherton book doesn’t have a release date yet, but I’m guessing May or June.  That’s close enough that the book needs a cover.  Oh, joy of joys.

Please don’t mistake all this sarcasm for negativity.  Making a book cover is fun, and that’s not sarcasm.  I get to take a break from writing to stretch a different creative muscle.  My visual design muscle is a weakling though.  It lifts in ounces not pounds, and it gets strained easily.

On the way to creating each new cover, I typically ruin several with an ugly font or a weird effect or an accidental deletion or by merging layers I meant to blend.  I think every time I make a new cover, I also come up with a new way to ruin one.  That’s another way to say I come up with a new way to laugh at myself, and that’s why it’s fun.

Let’s talk about my new cover.  It’s still a work in progress.  Because this is a series, I need to keep it consistent with the previous books.  What is the theme of the Wisherton covers so far?  I gave you a hint in the first sentence.  The theme is dirt.  Look at the first four books on your bookshelf.  (Or you can peek at the bottom of the page.)  The theme is clearly dirt.  I’m laughing at myself already.

Now I feel compelled to explain how I arrived at this brilliant theme.  I don’t use stock photos because I want my covers to be original.  I don’t use original drawings because I can’t draw.  Seriously, even my stick figures are sad.  The Wisherton books are set in a fantasy world so I wanted to avoid a picture of anything that looked too much like the ordinary, everyday, non-fantasy world. Most of the events happen outdoors, which is where I went in search of a cover photo.

I went to my backyard and started with a maple tree.  Don’t ask me to be more specific than maple, my nature skills are as bad as my drawing skills.  But I knew it was a maple and that anyone else would recognize that much.  There were a few other nature things I considered.  They all seemed equally non-fantasy-ish.  Then it occurred to me that no matter what plants grew in this strange world, they’d probably still need dirt.  In trying to avoid anything overly ordinary, I ended up with a picture of the most ordinary thing of all.  And now you know what to think of my logic skills.

To be fair, dirt is only the background of each cover.  There is something more interesting in each one.  For this new cover, I thought I could use pretty flowers, modified in some way to appear more foreign.  Before I could do the hard part of changing the flowers, I needed to do the “easy” part of figuring out where in the picture they looked nicest.  But they didn’t look nice anywhere.  I didn’t like them draped down one side.  I didn’t like them on the other side.  I didn’t like them across the top.  I sort of liked them at a diagonal, except that my foot ruined the picture.  I’ve never accidentally gotten my own foot in a cover photo before so I guess that was the new way to ruin it.

And all that was before one of my early readers said the brief mention of flowers in the story isn’t enough to make it an appropriate cover image anyway.  The alternative suggestion is to show a paw of the imaginary baby animal from the story.  I don’t know if I need to change my flower idea.  I also don’t know if getting a picture of an animal that doesn’t exist would be any more difficult than getting those flowers to do something interesting.  I only know this work is going to be in progress for some time.  But I’m still laughing.