I did my own cover art. Got a problem with that?
I did my own cover art for "Blood Picnic and other stories". I composed the elements, arranged the lighting, shot the photo, framed it, put it out for public comment, incorporated suggestions, added the touches of digital blood, selected the fonts and effects for the attribution and title and put it all together. Could a real graphic artist have done a better job, even building on the photo I took? Oh, absolutely. I don't know what details of color, shadow and proportions would have been changed, but it would be much better than I could do. When I send a piece of my photoshop work off to a real artist, the way it looks when it comes back always reinforces that fact. I do OK, but I'm no artist.
In the #bookmarket tweetchat yesterday, the topic was cover art. The opinion was expressed that an author doing his own cover art is taking a big risk, i.e. that it might end up looking lousy. Said opinion was expressed by a graphic artist; I agree, and I said so. I noted that I did it myself because I didn't have the ability to pay an artist for a cover. This reason was, to put it kindly, waved away.
At the end of the chat, the graphic artist said, to a chorus of agreement from other graphic artists, that any author that "claims they can't afford professional covers" is kidding himself and needs to "rethink his plan". I'm pretty sure this was intended to be insulting and dismissive of stupid amateurs, so I took it as such.
I've got a couple of standards that I'm bringing to it, OK? My published work needs to be a) good, b) salable, and c) result in a net positive on the balance sheet. Look, I would LOVE to be able to have gotten professional editing support, professional cover art, professional promotion for "Blood Picnic". The book would have been better because of it. It would be great to have such things for my future anthologies and novels. Will I get it? If I can find a way to pay for it, sure. The fact is though, this whole thing? This "writing"? It's a pay-as-you-go thing, which started from zero. Not only have I got no wealthy patron behind me, no big government grant, and no generous fellowship covering costs, but Mrs. Noland and the four little Nolands get first crack (and second, third, fourth and fifth cracks) at any spare money that happens to come along. It doesn't leave much for writing-related expenses.
My self-publishing only becomes vanity publishing when I sink more money into it than I could ever hope to recoup through sales. Hence my irritation with the graphic artist who was dismissive of my having done my own cover art. Book #1 had a few typos, has a tolerable layout and has a decent but not fantastic cover. My plan, what I intended all along, was for profits from Book #1's sales to pay for Book #2's pro editing and pro cover art. Book #2 would then pay for Book #3's editing, artwork and promotion. Lather, rinse, repeat until I have no more worlds to conquer.
That's my plan. I'm not going to "rethink" it because it's a good plan and it's working. It's been slower and more difficult than I expected, but every plan of attack suffers when it comes in contact with the enemy. For my next book, I might try putting out a call: "Will Edit In Exchange For Cover Art". Aside from that, the plan is what it is. Anybody who doesn't like it can either tell me how to do better within the particular constraints of my life, or shut the hell up.
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Posted Friday, October 07, 2011