Words & Pictures: How Important IS Cover Art?

"Walking the Cambria Shore" original photo, Hysterical Love back cover
“Walking the Cambria Shore” original photo, Hysterical Love back cover

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

"Bene Bene" original photo, front cover, Hysterical Love
“Bene Bene” original photo, front cover, Hysterical Love

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

She Tumbled Down_v
“Street Memorial,” She Tumbled Down

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_cover

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HL front cover

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

She Tumbled Down

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Art of the Book Cover: Pictures Tell the Story

Walking the Cambria Shore_sm
“Walking the Cambria Shore” — original photo used for back cover of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

Bene Bene_sm
“Bene Bene” – original photo used for HYSTERICAL LOVE cover

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

She Tumbled Down_v
“Street Memorial” — Original photo used for cover of “She Tumbled Down”

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_cover

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HL front cover_indieBRAG

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

She Tumbled Down

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Falling Into HYSTERICAL LOVE: the New Book Cover Makes Its Debut

HL front cover

When you ponder the task of writing a novel, the idea alone seems to come with certain cultural longing, the sense that everyone with a love of words has had the urge to do the same. Write a novel, that is. Some talk about it, some have tried and failed, some have worked hard and succeeded; even the phrase, “the great American novel,” is an embedded part of our national lexicon. Writing a novel seems to be an almost mystical journey, a creative vision quest filled with trials and terrors, but still, and always, a goal of profound eminence.

And it is. It really is. It’s a singularly stellar experience, a creative process I seriously love, and one I’ve had the good fortune to experience twice (so far), first with my debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, and, most recently, with the completion of my latest, soon to be released, Hysterical Lovepublication date, April 7, 2015. I’m excited to introduce the book with the colorful prelude above, the cover designed by Grace Amandes, who also created the evocative cover of After The Sucker Punch.

My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications enjoying an advanced read!
My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications, enjoying an    advanced read of Hysterical Love!

I’m sharing this with you now, so many months ahead of the pub date, because this go-around I’m working with a top-notch publicity company, JKSCommunications, whose team, led by the indefatigable Julie Schoerke, is currently rolling out a robust pre-launch campaign to get this new book properly and prominently introduced, launched, and promoted. As in indie writer, it’s exciting (even comforting) to have a team of highly skilled, warmly accessible, and incredibly enthusiastic professionals getting in the trenches with me, a place that tends to be lonely for those of us publishing on the path considered “non-traditional.” I’m delighted to have their collaboration and guidance, and certainly the shared intent to make Hysterical Love a smashing success in all the ways it can be.

Towards that end, the book is currently available as a preorder at both Amazon and Smashwords; you’re all invited to jump to the front of the line to sign up for your copy! 🙂

(And for those interested, the paperback will be set up for preorders soon…stay tuned.)

Now that you’ve met the cover, the publicity team, and the preorder links, let me tell you a bit about the storyIt is, in some ways, a bookend to After The Sucker Punch: though very different stories told from very different points of view, both involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled on a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. Here’s HL‘s synopsis:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long.

It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest, while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona.

But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love offers a deft mix of humor and drama in a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

More as we go…!

PREORDERSAmazon & Smashwords

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

A Trailer Sets the Stage… For the Book That Tells the Story

trailer image

There are a great many ways in which projects, businesses, organizations, movies, songs, and books are introduced to the world, marketed into the cultural zeitgeist. Media – in all its forms – is the medium: newspaper and magazine advertising, online press releases, repetitive social media alerts; blogs, interviews and radio spots. If the person involved is high-profile enough, or has a good enough publicity team, they appear on talk shows, do segments on news programs, or find a reason to participate in a cause… or a cooking show. 🙂

But in the specific world of movies and television, there are trailers. Those snappy, quick-cutting, eye-catching, can’t-turn-away mini-films intended to set the stage, pull you in, ensnare your interest to the point that you must watch to find out WHAT HAPPENS.

Personally, I love trailers. I love getting to the theater early enough to catch each and every one that unfurls before the main attraction, making note of those I’ll catch and those I’ll be sure to miss. Trailers – the good ones, anyway – are significant and effective as marketing tools because they show just enough visual, share just enough narrative, and cut it all together with just the right rhythm and pace to whet the appetite of the viewer, enough to make a future commitment to WATCH.

Or, in the case of book trailers, to READ.

The notion of authors and publishers using trailers to promote and market their books is a relatively new phenomenon. There’s no doubt that as e-books and the online purchasing of paperbacks, even hardcovers, came under the growing purview of online book retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the like, the focus of book-lovers turned commensurately to online interaction. From there it was not difficult to steer their interests towards accompanying book trailers as a way to further entice their reading choices.

Brilliant! So fresh and cutting edge, trailers would surely be seen as innovation for books marketersright?

In fact, back in 2012 The Guardian published a piece titled, From page to screen: the rise of the video book trailer, that seemed to view the trend as a bit niche:

“These are terrific diversions, but their status next to the book is a little ambiguous.”

But the trend persisted and before long, more and more authors saw trailers as tools to help pull their books out of the pack, translate synopses without a document; thrill enough to grab attention (the goal, after all!). And as time passed, what was niche became notable, if not de rigueur:

Lindsay Mead, “YA author (soon-to-be), YouTuber and Full-Time Daydreamer,” runs a blog that focuses heavily on book trailers, with an accompanying YouTube page sharing those of authors she admires. Goodreads, the uber- (and now Amazon-owned) author/reader site, features a video option on authors’ profile pages. And writers swear by their trailers; author Brian Solis, for example, posted in A Visual History of Book Trailers:

“…the tradition of book trailers not only continues, it’s become standard practice as part of the book marketing checklist. From concept to script to treatment to music, I see trailers and book marketing in general as a creative challenge to engage readers beyond text.”

I agree with him, though I do think the accessibility to trailers could use some expansion. At this point, unless an author or publicity person directs you to the YouTube or Goodreads page of that author, or is vigilant about linking the trailer to every piece of promo sent out, their ubiquity as advertising tools is not necessarily matched by their actual access. Even Amazon, which allows authors to post book videos on their author pages, hasn’t yet created the algorithm to view those videos full screen… or even larger than the teeny box they appear in off to the right (I’ve talked to them and will see what can be done about getting that changed, dammit!). Frankly, I think trailers should be right there on the authors’ individual sales pages, just like the “look inside this book” feature. Hopefully, we’ll get there.

For now, I’m delighting in the fact that the medium exists… and that I’ve got one. A good one. One artfully created, produced, and edited by my phenomenally talented brother, actor/director/writer, Tom Amandes (in addition to the gorgeous book cover created by one of my other phenomenally talented siblings, designer Grace Amandes). Tom has a remarkable resume as an actor, and in recent years directed a number of high-profile television shows as well. I am truly fortunate to be the recipient of the prodigious skill and expertise he brought to this wonderful, artistic, mini-film for After The Sucker Punch. Already I’m hearing from new readers about it!

And so, with no further ado, the book trailer for After The Sucker Punch. Enjoy it… then enjoy the book!

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.