The Icing on the Pie

Aliens! Truck Stops! Rhubarb Pie! Oh my! Coming soon to an e-book retailer near you!

I’ve always had this sense that book cover design was a mysterious magical tower to which publishers held the keys and no author was ever allowed across the moat. They knew what arcana sold books. They managed the sorcery, and authors could only look on in distant trepidation and horror. I had long prepared myself to endure this step like a rite of passage.

In the world of big publishing, the author, especially a first-timer like me, gets absolutely no—yes, you read that correctly—no input on the cover at all. But you know what? I can walk into a bookstore (“What’s that?” the kids ask) or browse Amazon and I can see what grabs my eye and begs me to read more. And so can designers. As e-reader independent publishing is fast breaking down the separation between authors and readers, it’s creating an environment where the tower has been unlocked and designers have been set free from their dungeons. Authors and designers can now work together, and at reasonable costs authors can afford to be experimental, perhaps create more than one cover, and be faster and more flexible than any publisher ever could be. (Thanks also to Moore’s law for all the cheap computing!)

This is all easy for me to say now, because I haven’t sold book one. But my first foray into the world of book cover design has been an enormously painless one. With fantastic results.

Honestly, I don’t know how exactly I found StreetlightGraphics—a little Googling, reading a few author blogs—but I immediately liked their company. Tabatha and Glendon Haddix have been great to work with. They’ve set up services just for independent authors. (She's an author herself.) They’re relatively new at this, but their portfolio had a professional look in a variety of different styles and genres. And after going through the process, I can at last recommend them without reservation.

I had a few ideas about the cover when I started but nothing concrete, but Streetlight started with a questionnaire and ran with it from there. I really tried not to direct the ideas from the outset because I wanted to see what they would do with it. But either I did direct, or they “got it” at once, because they came out of the gate right on track. Once we got going, they were very responsive with major changes and nitpicky details.

Will “Rhubarb” sell with this cover? Can’t answer that yet. But I’d pick it up. Aliens? Truck stops? Rhubarb pie? What’s not to love?