The release day of my story Conduit is fast approaching. As of late, I have been working with a talented artist on the design of my cover. I had originally tried to design the cover myself but found I’d be better off hiring someone with more skill then I possess in the Photoshop realm – sadly learned from experience.

I have to give myself a pat on the back though, my attempt wasn’t too bad. Especially for someone who had only used Photoshop in college years ago. Compared to a lot of DIY covers out there, I think it would hold its own well enough. I had some grand ideas of what I wanted my cover to be and I began to dig into the free trial only to realize how much things have changed since my coursework in 1998. I remembered completing my project for the class which consisted of a giant squirrel crushing an image of the hotel I was working at through my college years. The image of a giant Mr. Clean, the hotel’s mascot at the time, stood laughing in the background (I really didn’t have anything against my job. I was actually enjoying it and even shared the image with my manager who thought it was quite funny – so it wasn’t a disgruntled employee sort of thing.)

With my hopes set high, I started drafting the image from a blank slate and then it hit me. Back in the day, there weren’t all these stupid rules around rights to images. One could open up the web browser – which happened to be Netscape at the time – and find images to their heart’s content so long as the page didn’t have copyright signs posted throughout the site. (That is at least what the instructor informed the class. Maybe she’s in jail now?) Now there are sites dedicated to clipart and images that designers pay money to use. Even images of toilette paper can be right protected. Good luck finding any decent free use image.

Still determined, I whipped out my digital camera and began snapping images of cross necklaces – my wife was good about it and lent me her jewelry and granted me all rights to the images I created. One hurdle out of the way, but I really wanted a needle in the picture since the theme in my story is science vs. religion. I’m no addict and I don’t have any diseases, at least that I know of and prefer to happily remain ignorant of it if I do, that require injections. So where would I find a needle?

Again, I have to give my wife credit. Using a dropper from baby Advil and a needle, she snapped a picture. It fooled me, but that’s not saying much.

Now, with all the layers I needed, I put them together. A day later, I sat and stared at the picture with triumph. I happily began to share the picture with friends and family to get their opinions. The responses I got ranged from a flat, “Yeah, that’s neat.” to a boring, “eh.” So I went back to the computer and stared at the image with a new perspective. After a moment of swearing to myself once I realized everyone else was right, which I hate to admit, I took some advice and decided to pay for someone else to do it.

After a few different versions of the artwork, I decided that I’ve tortured the poor artist enough. Everything that I received was excellent, but I couldn’t quite fit them to my story. I believe with this latest round, there are some versions that fit perfectly. Now I have the hard task of deciding on which I want to use.

If you have read this far, you may be wondering what the point was to all my ramblings. To summarize it all as one quick tip for authors who aim to self-publish their work: hire someone to design the book cover. Unless an author happens to be a maverick of all trades and has a reservoir of artistic ability to draw upon, I guarantee they could never create cover art as well as a person who specializes in graphic arts. I especially realized this when I saw the first images that came through from the artist. I had to force myself to swallow my pride and pony up the funds.

If my book tanks, at least it will tank with a nice cover.

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