As I said to Angi, it never ceases to amaze me how an artist can take a dream and make it manifest. I’ve worked most of my life to master the art of doing this with words. Crafting language to be the vehicle to transport a story from one mind to many. Choosing the words best suited to capture emotion, sensory experience, inner struggle and external striving, drama and humor. The commercial aspect of a writer’s work too often cynically drains the sublime magic from this process. But that’s another rant.
In the course of having cover art for my novel done, I have had the privilege of seeing a vague vision in my head turned into a reality that other eyes can see. This is neither simple nor exact. Readers of even the very best writing often come away with ideas of what characters or settings look like that are different from what the writer had in mind, or what others readers envision. How often has the movie version of a beloved book been a disappointment because you didn’t picture it that way at all?
Angi and I went back and forth via email (she’s in Connecticut and I’m in New Hampshire) trying to triangulate in on an image that would do the trick. We started with sketches, then moved on to a painting which had to be tweaked and modified repeatedly. Sometimes I asked her to change something that just wasn’t right. Other times she came up with something that was actually better than what I had in mind. That’s the beauty of working with a professional. I got my money’s worth.
Or should I say, my backers got their money’s worth. I couldn’t afford to pay Angi what she asked for. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to offer her less. Artists, like writers, deserve to be paid for what they do. You can’t pay the bills with “exposure”. My publisher would supply artwork, but its a small press, if a respectable one. They don’t have a stable of professional artists on hand. I’d get a cover that was striking, professional-looking, but somewhat generic.
Angi suggested crowd-sourcing, something I’d never done before. We went with Kickstarter. I did the thing I hate most, putting myself out there and begging, and by jiminy, people came forward and helped out. I got 30 backers, plus a couple who just handed me cash. Thanks to them, I was able to hire Angi. Their support helped both the artist and the writer advance their dreams.
So instead of a generic cover, I got Shaka Mahdi, on her ship, watching Prilock emerge from the marsh having discovered how to become a bird and fly. It is a moment of exaltation; he is discovering his power, his freedom, the legacy he has but to rise up and seize. She is happy for him, but wonders if this also means she will lose him. What use has a god for a mere mortal creature, however fond he may be of her?
The book will be going into final production as soon as the other particulars are settled: author bio and head shot, dedication, layout of the back cover, and so forth. The publisher will take care of getting the ebook formatted and into all major outlets, and setting up the dead tree version. Double Dragon is primarily an ebook publisher, but they do make print copies available on demand. I’ll be getting a box of 50 to take to the release party at Pi-Con And no, they do not come to me free. I pay for them, and then must recoup the investment. So every freebie comes directly out of my pocket. The Kickstarter funds cover Angi’s work, and the backer rewards, plus the processing fees that Kickstarter charges. Anything left over will go towards other expenses. There are always other expenses. This is why most writers of fiction can’t afford to quit the day job. This, and readers hooked on draconian Amazon discounts. Who do you think takes the hit for those? Not Amazon. But that’s another rant.
Never mind. Today I am happier than any human has a right to be. It is a beautiful day in June, I have a fantastic cover for my book, which will be out in another month, I have Pi-Con coming up, my favorite convention, and I have friends who will make sure I get there and get home again. And, thanks again to friends and family, I am heading to the North Country this weekend. I’ll be getting out and, rain or shine, taking to the trails. Staying two nights in my friend Mary’s cabin. Restoring my soul.
Life is good.