Thursday, February 7, 2013

Self Publishing Part 2: Designing Your Book

Today's post serves as a cautionary tale, in which I profess to know something that I don't actually know anything about. Suffice to say, it will be short, but I shall endeavor to illuminate my folk wisdom succinctly and with power.

If you have ever seen the HBO produced Spawn animated series you'll know that Todd Mcfarlane produced it, and probably had his hand in much of the voice casting and direction. I say this because it's awful, and after listening to almost two hours of voice actors whispering through what sounded like empty garbage cans lined with aluminum I had to turn it off. Now don't get me wrong, Mcfarlane is a genius, when it comes to comics. But it becomes problematic when the transference of mediums, from static images to animated motions with sound, are introduced. Someone has no business getting his/her hands into something they have no experience in, and this is where we segue into designing a book.

Writers are solely responsible for the manuscripts they produce in the publishing game, which are why cover jackets are so dissimilar to the content of the story. However, because we are talking about self publishing now, I want to warn you all that designing your own cover should be left to the work of your designer, otherwise you'll end up with a clunky mess.

Generally design work on a book involves two primary things: cover jacket and typesetting. Believe it or not, there is a precise method to typesetting a book, ensuring that the page breaks are always even, or that there is ample spacing between varying sections of the book. This is all about pleasing the eyes, and generally what looks good for you doesn't look good to the audience that will be reading your book. This is the same for the cover jacket. Concerning the primary thing that is meant for the prospective reader to see, the cover jacket isn't meant to be this glorious mural depicting a climactic scene at the peak of the book. Rather, the cover jacket should embody the essence of the story. For example, Spirit of Orn, which I am in discussions with my designer currently, has tons of viking imagery because it takes place in the Sogn og Fjordane county of Norway. Therefore, one would think that the cover should have something related to vikings. I was told however that this may seem somewhat misleading by my designer. So we decided on a temporary layout (subject to change) with pieces of drift wood with Celtic knots etched onto it. Just like any movie trailer, the point of the cover jacket isn't to entice the reader with a particular scene or moment, but to draw them into a world that they can walk around in. More so than a movie, a book's universe needs to be tangible because, unlike a movie, the reader will be spending a considerably longer time there than in any movie.

So the moral of the story is: hire a designer. Always remember this: as a writer, it is your job to write, not design.

Beyond that, I shall see you Monday where we shall conclude this series and introduce the future format of the blog. Hope to see you then!


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