Though I already had experienced what it was like to publish a book when my poetry collection All This came out in 2011, each work offers its own peculiarities. Partly it’s the difference in publisher, so when Pen-L Publishing wanted to release my first published novel Fling!, I had to learn what that house wanted of me. But the difference in genre also created a new situation.
Fiction is another animal. While poetry has a more limited audience base, fiction appeals to a wider range of readers. Consequently, in some ways, the novel has to be packaged differently. What ends up on the cover must stimulate a potential reader’s imagination and seduce him/her into buying the book. Some seduction is also needed in a poetry collection’s cover, but it’s usually less narrative. In other words, a novel’s cover tries to convey something of the work’s main themes. Poetry covers have different aims. I just aimed for beauty in my cover for All This.
Now I’m once again involved in this journey with my fourth novel—The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up—preparing for publication. Once again, I’m working with Pen-L’s Duke and Kimberly Pennell, two amazing shepherds in the small press world. Duke did most of the editing. Kimberly has taken charge of the back cover teaser, working with the cover designer, setting up a Goodreads giveaway, creating a presence for the novel on Amazon as well as other sites, and overseeing a million other things. They’re both great at what they do and a terrific team to work with.
With each novel, she has queried me for themes and ideas that we might highlight. Her brilliant cover designer, Kelsey Rice, tries to read our minds and eventually sends us a mockup for us to discuss. We go back and forth like this until everything clicks. And it did again with The Ripening’s cover, as you’ll see above.
With my novel Fling!, I had reservations about the first draft and said it needed to be as colorful as the characters (a 57-year-old hippie artist and her feisty 90-year-old mother) and the settings (mainly Mexico). I also wanted it to suggest a fling, something in motion, even an odyssey. I included some text that gives a little insight into the narrative: “a madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico’s magic.” These words come from a blurb that Lewis Buzbee wrote for the back of the book.
Kimberly picked up immediately on what I was hoping for to represent my novel’s contents and returned two possible covers, each of which I loved. I had to make the difficult choice of one, but I’m hoping I might be able to use the second one (to the right) at some point for another novel. With a little tweaking, the cover quickly was resolved. Feather, the main point of view character, was on a quest for the “Goddess” and ends up discovering she’s existed all along in her mother, Bubbles. I tell you this to explain the image on the back cover of an ancient fertility goddess that I love!
Next was the “teaser” for the back of the book, a brief synopsis that would hopefully intrigue someone enough that s/he would buy it. This process took many emails back and forth until we were both satisfied with the results.
And so it goes on, this birthing of a creation that depends on so many variables for it to have a successful launch. For those of us who have been fortunate to find publishers dedicated to keeping prose alive, it’s always a perilous journey in some ways, but like many such voyages, well worth it in the end.