Saturday, August 18, 2007

Book Proposal - The Cover

I am not a graphic artist. In fact I don't even know what is correct, "Graphics Artist" or "Graphic Artist." Never-the-less, I learned a way to make my manuscript stand out. And all it takes is a little cut (Fiskars required) and paste (minty-fresh past required). Several hours, OK days, of trial and error and I came up with a cover page idea I like. So here are my tips along with how I did it;

  • The Background Tells the Overall Theme- What is the theme that runs throughout your book? What is something found in every chapter, even if it's just a nuance? What is the feel of your book? What sort of feel do you want the potential reader to have when they first see and touch your book, while standing in a bookstore filled with thousands of books? For my book, that theme relates to the ocean, the sea, sand. So for my background, I scrounged up a piece of scrapbook paper from my ill-fated, "I'm going to scrapbook all of the photos from the last 24 years-stage." I found one that has a photo of an ocean scene, waves crashing on the shore, a stretch of sky above and sand below. Bingo-a ready-made book cover.
  • Tell What the Words Don't - You obviously can't include 47 words in your title, so use the picture, or graphic to tell the rest of the story. My book uses the word "code." As someone recently noted, code could refer to lots of things; code of conduct; code of ethics; little orphan Annie de-coder ring (Can you name the Christmas movie I got that from?). The possibilities are endless. The code I am talking about is a secret code that my father broke during the war. It began with a version of our Morse Code. So I got an idea. I went to my good friend, Google and asked the question. I found a site where all I had to do was put in english, and it would translate it to Morse. Cool! Next, I had to make a decision. What words to use?
  • Meaning Your Reader Will Only Realize by Reading Your Book - Have you ever been reading a book and you get half-way through and think, "Hey wait a minute. I've seen this before." Then you close the book and look at the cover and go, "Ah, that's what that photo/graphic/picture means." What is the turning point in your book? What is the overall theme that is not obvious from the title? Sneak it in! For me- that meant putting the code subtly in the background. My choice of words? A passage from the book that talks about my father drawing a line in the sand. Tricky huh? Yeah. But there's more- if there is a military person out there who still knows his Morse Code, and he wants to stand there in the bookstore deciphering it, he'll get a preview of my book. *
  • Merging - I warned you. I'm not a graphics person so I don't know the technical term. So for me, it's "merging." You know, you are from a small northwest town. You go to Seattle for a writer's conference following your trusted Mapquest (that's a whole other story) directions. "Merge onto 405 North" it says. So you pretend you know what the heck you're doing, and merge. So now I had several elements to merge. I used my trusty Microsoft Word to copy and paste the Morse Code onto a page. Then in the middle of it, I added the book title and author names.
  • Let the Craziness Begin - Wait a minute. Do you know how hard it is to center a title and author name in the midst of Morse Code? I didn't want to break up a sentence, but since I don't know Morse, I didnt' know where that would be. So I messed with it until I made myself and my family scream. The first printing revealed that my title was in che sky, literally, a dark blue sky with dark black writing...not good! Then I decided that the "photo" needed a little girl and her dad walking away from the camera holding hands, on the beach. So I looked online for photos to use. I won't go into all the trial and error, but there was a lot!
  • To Staples and Back - I stood at Staples cutting the tiny image of the father and daughter and pasting it to the "sand." It didn't really look that bad. But I was beginning to question. The leader of that session at the conference had said it really didn't matter that it wasn't professional looking. Hmmm...could that be true? Because even if it doesn't bother a potential agent/publisher...it bother's me. But alas, I must remember the original premise. Agents/publishers receive thousands of manuscripts. I'm not trying to be cute or to truly create the real-final copy of the cover of my book. My point is to put time into thinking about it; my point is to create a cover that the agent/publisher sees and thinks, "I could see this on a shelf...hmmm...I think I'll take a better look at this one. Mission Accomplished!

-Karen

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