There have been several lovely notes sent to me since the guerrilla book launch of The Weighing Of The Heart on Wednesday, mostly about the cover*. Many have simply admired it, but some, the Deep Thinkers, have asked how it came to pass that an award-winning artist such as Vincent Chong came to do the art and design in the first place.
The assumption, unstated but palpable, appears to be that I kidnapped those dearest to Mr Chong and posted small pieces of them back to his home address until he relented and got to work.
Now I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have done this if I’d been backed into a corner (I definitely would**). I’ve been a fan of Vinny’s work for longer than he probably knows (he likely doesn’t actually remember selling me a print of a painting of his back in 2011 in Texas, because I was a bit mumbly and awestruck when we spoke then). I knew I wanted original art on these novellas, and Vinny was pretty much the standard I was looking for. After some scratching of the head, and much pondering regarding who I could possibly get to do the work who was a bit like Vincent Chong, I had a brainwave.
Ask Vincent Chong.
That’s what I did. I dropped him a not-at-all-grovelling email through his contact page asking in a not-at-all-terrified way what his going rate was for the kind of thing I wanted.
The answer, to my astonishment, was not “a million billion pounds”. I sort of expected it to be, because his work often makes my jaw drop. But it wasn’t. What’s more, there were a couple of gaps in his schedule that we could work with. On top of that he hit the project with enormous enthusiasm, coming up with the tabloid design of the series and turning my loose ramblings about the sort of thing I wanted into proper honest-to-goodness art.
If you want to publish something yourself, and expect anybody to actually buy it (especially if you’re not famous enough to have a massive fanbase), you need a good cover. It’s worth paying for. It’s the one piece of advice I can usefully offer. I can’t tell you how to write stories (I can tell you how I write stories, but I don’t know how you should write stories). I can’t pass on the hidden secrets of the bestseller (because I don’t know them). I can tell you to invest in good art though. Do that. Entrap yourself an artist you admire, preferably one you could not previously imagine working with, and let them give your book a face.
Over on his own blog Vinny has just unveiled some of the sketches that he worked up when devising this second cover in the series. They were done to give me a loose idea of where he wanted to go based on my chaotic brief, and offer up some choices and alternatives. Go and see – receiving these was almost as much fun as getting the finished artwork.
Of course, if you subscribe to my newsletter thing you saw these sketches last year. In the not too distant future subscribers will get an early look at sketches for the final part of this loose trilogy of novellas. You should probably sign up for that before you forget.
*I can only hope that these are eventually replaced by notes complementing the actual story underneath it, but I’ll take what I can get…
**No I wouldn’t – and nor should you. Please don’t harm those closest to your favourite artists.