Judging a book by its cover

How often are we told not to judge a book by its cover? How often are we told that first impressions count?

If first impressions count, then we ARE judging by the cover if the cover’s the first thing you see on a bookstore shelf.

That contrariness is just another thing to make writers nervous. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right? And panic starts to set in when you see other covers that are just awesome and your brain’s hit a creative brick wall.

Many of my novels don’t even have titles, let alone time spent on wondering about cover design. But when I did a self-publishing course run a few years ago (which actually set me on this self-publishing treadmill), one of the classes was on covers and suddenly I was checking out designers and images and going into overload. Sort of forgetting about the novel behind the scenes too. I covered this new addiction in a previous post Covers without stories.

Mackerel Sky – first cover

But… getting sidetracked in that manner led me to the MC of Mackerel Sky. I’ve been writing his story for years but I knew very little about what he looked like. Not helped that he’s a first-person narrator who doesn’t like to stand in front of mirrors and ruminate on his looks. Anyway… on SelfPubBookCovers I found a cover by Shardel. The general design didn’t relate to Owen’s story, but the young man on the cover was Owen to a T! ‘There you are,’ I said. ‘I’ve been looking for you for a long time.’

Out of that discovery and some wonderful work by the artist came the first cover for Mackerel Sky (and I was stoked that one of the three main images was mine!)

Shardel’s covers can be found on Facebook and on SelfPubBookCovers

Mackerel Sky – second cover

This one doesn’t exist, but fragments are whirling in my head. Why am I looking at having a different cover? Because I had a look at other books in the LGBT/Teen and Young Adult genre(s), and the original cover doesn’t come close to being similar. Of course, I want something different but I don’t want it so different that it doesn’t ‘fit’. And, well, even though the Pantheon is still part of the story, I’m thinking it’s not really big enough to be on the cover. I’m also not going to use Owen – at least not this lovely version.

I’m still going to use clouds, because the mackerel sky formation is a key aspect of the story. But now I’m thinking clouds, mackerels and the Chicago skyline. The story’s set there so I’d like the skyline somehow in the picture.

I’m a terrible artist so it’s not easy to translate what’s in my head onto paper, but I’m hoping I can get the basics right enough that someone might be able to see where I’m going and help out. At the moment, I’m still thinking photographic images, or at least half of that, but I don’t mind hand-drawn either. They are just as notable in the genre as photographic images are.

I’ve got four months to sort this one