Last week I gave you my cover art mission statement. I’m a writer. I’m a pretty good one, I think. I can reasonably expect that, with focus and effort, I can deliver a novel to a professional standard. There are a lot of pitfalls in doing this on my own, without the advice and control that a publisher can offer, but I’m aware of them.
What I’m not is a professional designer or artist. Visuals are how many of you will be introduced to my books – only after you’re convinced to buy one do my words start to matter. If I care about my books (I do, a lot), then I have to give it the best visuals I can. As this is something I can’t possible do to good effect on my own, I have to pay other professionals to bring their own expertise to bear. Even though I’m self-publishing, I’m not a one man band. Have you ever seen a one man band? Sure, it’s impressive, that they can get the cymbals on their knees to bash in time with their harmonica and guitar, but after the novelty wears off? Let’s face it, it’s not great music. There are no one man bands on my iPod. Just bands – skilled people combining talents to do something good enough for me to want to own it.
Anyway, money where my mouth is and all that, behold the first example! As I mentioned last week, Malcolm McClinton is providing two of the three images that will be associated with Thy Fearful Symmetry. Here’s the first, delivered a week ago. I bloody love it.
It’s not stock art. It’s not something that I found online and thought might match my story. It’s a scene from the story, as Malcolm saw it when he read it. I bloody love it. The angel pinned to the wall is called Pandora. You’re looking at one of the worst days of her eternal existence.
However, this is not the cover image for Thy Fearful Symmetry. This is the cover of a short book I’ll be giving away for free, to anybody who wants it. Some history.
Before Thy Fearful Symmetry came to be, I wrote a short story called When The Stars Threw Down Their Spears. Nearly fifteen years ago, Brian Keene published it on Horrorfind.com, which he was acting as editor on at the time. When I wrote the story, I knew the story it told wasn’t finished – was only getting started, in fact. Thy Fearful Symmetry is ‘what happened next’.
For a long time, When The Stars Threw Down Their Spears was part of the novel as an extended prologue. A couple of years ago, while dusting down the novel, I realised that it was a problem. The short story kicks off with a bang, and races giddily along to the close (a bigger bang, as it happens). Chapter 1 of Thy Fearful Symmetry is the opening of a longer story, and as is right, takes its time building a backdrop and mood. By keeping the short story as a prologue, I was almost forcing the opening of the book to be anti-climactic. The novel is an apocalypse book, and it starts as the apocalypse slowly comes to light, building pace throughout. I needed the calm before the storm. Putting a squall in at the very beginning unbalanced the journey the novel is trying to take you on.
As a result, I cut the prologue. The events it depicts are absolutely critical to the novel (what you read there is the reason why the apocalypse is happening), so i rewrite the novel to seed them in as backstory. It was surprisingly effective – by seeding reference to what happens in Stars throughout the first half of the book, I kept the information without having to worry about laborious exposition.
Yet I like the story. I miss it. It shows aspects to Pandora and Ambrose that you don’t see later on, when they’re dealing with the cost of their actions during the end of the world.
So, the story is good. It feeds the novel. It is, let’s face it, a perfect promotional item.
I’ve been reading a lot online about book giveaways, where ebooks are given away. A lot of self-published authors do this, in an attempt to kick start word of mouth and boost their bookstore rankings. That’s fine in theory, but the practice is so established now that readers are starting to expect it. Why buy the book, when you can wait a few weeks until the author is feeling desperate enough to give it away, and get it for nothing then? I don’t blame those readers at all. Feeding the author isn’t their agenda. Getting hold of a good book is.
As such, Thy Fearful Symmetry will not be given away for free. Ever. It will have a cover price, and if you want the book, you’ll need to pay for it.
At the same time though, because Stars is a separate entity, I can live with making that free right from the word go. I’ll never charge anything for the ebook edition, and if all goes well you’ll be able to get it wherever you buy your ebooks from, for exactly no dollars. The image Malcolm’s produced is the cover for this free book.
Just because it’s free to the reader, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to judge me against it. That’s why it’s going to be published with the same care and attention as Thy Fearful Symmetry, right down to making sure the cover art is something that can sit next to anything else you might buy.
I’ll also be publishing some hard copies of the short book. My main purpose is to give them away at Anthocon in November (where this blog journey will end), to whoever gets to me first. After that, if there’s demand, I might let people order it online if they want a physical copy to go with their ebook. That’s a possibility for another day though.
That’s the plan. How’s it looking to you?
There are two things I now need to have a look at. The first is the title. When The Stars Threw Down Their Spears is a big title. To be ledgible on a thumbnail, it needs to fill a lot of cover space. On the other hand, I’ve just commissioned and bought a beautiful cover that speaks volumes about the story within. I don’t want to cover it in typography. My solution, I think, is to change the title of the story. When The Stars Threw Down Their Spears and Thy Fearful Symmetry, as you probably know, are quotes from William Blake’s poem The Tyger. I’ve gone back to source, and as an alternative (and approprate) title for the free book I’m considering…
His Work To See
Do me a favour. Fix the title in your head. Go look at the image if it’s vanished off the top of the page. Does the title work? Please do let me know – titles matter.
Another question, for self-published types. What’s the value of Kirkus Indie? This is Kirkus’s paid review service – you charge them to review your story, and use the review however you wish. The idea is that, as trusted industry reviewers, such a review is worth paying for. It’s a lot of cash, and I have to decide quite soon whether to spend it if the review’s going to be in time to help launch the book. To pay for itself, I’d have to end up selling about 300 copies of the ebook. Anybody had any experience with this? Does a good Kirkus review really help shift your book to that extent? I’m sceptical, and about to rule it out – but if you’ve experience that tells you I’m wrong, for god’s sake tell me. I’ll spend the extra on top of my budget, if there’s a good chance it will find new readers for the book.
Okay, that’s it for this week. Over the next seven days I’ll be finalising the layout and design of the free book, and hopefully getting it ready to go. I don’t want to release it too early (if it’s effective in encouraging people to move on to Thy Fearful Symmetry, I don’t want to keep them waiting too long), so I’m thinking of releasing it in July. In the meantime though, I want to get the formatting and layout work done on it now, so I can concentrate on the novel over the next couple of months.
I’ll let you know how it goes, next Saturday, and we’ll talk print on demand, and how I’m going to distribute each book.
And thanks, to all those who have shared and commented on this at various social networks and such. Very much appreciated, and please keep doing so when you see something of interest here.
Tagged angel, book titles, cover art, crucifixion, free ebook, giveaway, his work to see, kirkus indie, malcolm mcclinton, seeking opinions, self-publishing, thy fearful symmetry, tyger, when the stars threw down their spears, william blake