Sunday, June 08, 2014

Great Moments in Failed Cover Art

This one’s entirely on me. The first cover for my first book. 

Dear God, what was I thinking?

Oh, I was thinking I was a genius for finding a photo of central Kansas landscape taken close to the actual setting of most of my novel. (I thought the wind turbine really sold the setting. Central Kansas is lousy with them.)  I cropped the photo, and maxed out the color saturation in Photoshop so that it looked like a painting. 

It would have helped the painterly effect if I’d blurred out the digital artifacts, but I hadn’t thought to do that. The lurid colors had a nice pulpy feel, though. The three zombies shipped in and blended into the picture by my son provided the Uncanny Valley touch. 

I even wrote in a scene in  the last chapter describing this exact tableau. The reader would come across this scene and realize he’s seen it before. He’d look at the cover of the book, and understand beyond a shadow of doubt he’s been reading something Really Special by someone who cares for the quality of his product.

The title and the name of the author were rendered in the tall, spiky Mesquite font for maximum visibility, and a reminder of the locale. I used Adelaide for the secondary copy as another small flourish of Uncanny Valley, to remind readers this really is a novel of the zombie apocalypse, with the promise of some bang-pow! comic-book action inside.

What was I thinking? Maybe that was the problem. I’d thought everything through, and thought myself a wonderful Hard Workin’ Inspired Genius for my trouble. Check this out, all large and in-charge.

Check it out looking lame compared to what’s really selling out there.

As it turned out, this was the first of three covers. The German cover made my son and I feel ashamed for our lameness. Severed Press, realizing that the German publisher Luzifer Verlag had it going on with their covers, upped their game. Severed gave a few of their writers, myself included, a chance to run a rewrite for a second edition—a “re-branding,” if you will, addressing the complaints of the books critics in the reviews. So I omitted a controversial death in Chapter 9, and smoothed over some of Derek Grace’s rough edges by removing his arch commentary on the social situation around him.

So get this: our Bad Cover here is to the edition of my book with a controversial death and some rude observations by the main character. And it’s still available in paperback.

Bleeding Kansas not only has three different covers, but those covers represent three different editions of text: Original Rude Text, German, and Semi-Sanitized for Sensitive Types. I’m all about the options here. And certainly not above making a bad cover.