I am about a week away from the launch of The World Without Crows. I am also sick. Not real sick. Sick enough so that everything is a little more of an effort. And I get tired walking around the house. This isn’t the best of times to be sick, damn this cold, but as they say in Chile, es lo que hay—that’s the way it is.
So far work on the book has been a mixture of pleasure and annoyance. I really enjoyed designing the book, especially the chapter headings. At first I thought I might do a heading based on the red dotted line of a trail map, but it didn’t work out the way I hoped. I ended up with a plain, but very nice chapter heading. I also tried to get a nice design for the punctuation that marks a strong break in the prose, called, interestingly enough, a dingus, but in translation to the Kindle, the dingus was reduced to a dash. In the future, I think I will use a shrunken * for this punctuation, which I saw used in the Kindle version of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars and thought worked very well. (Very good read by the way).
One of the things they always say about independent publishing is that you have total creative control. As if that’s a good thing. The secret is that some things I’d be quite happy in letting other people have some control.
Book design, while interesting, takes up DAYS of your time and also, because I’m not an expert, a lot of this time is wasted doing things that won’t matter, like, for example, picking the perfect dingus and ending up with a dash. I really respect people who design books. It’s not easy and takes an eye for detail, but, more than that, I think it takes a lot of experience. I’m happy with the design of the book, but I recognize it would have benefited from an expert’s touch. (If you want to see a screen shot of the first page, zip over to the Facebook page for The World Without Crows). In the future, if I have the resources, I will try to find a book designer who I like to work with. It seems a wonderful thing to be out of my control.
I am fortunate enough to have a bunch of people doing advance reviews of the book, so I am waiting for that to design some Twitter ads and Facebook posts, the great tools of indie marketing. That has been another learning curve for me.
I use Pixelmator to design ads in three different sizes: one size for Twitter, one size for Facebook, and a full size, interactive ad—you know the kind you see on Twitter you have to click on to see the entire image.
Designing images that will grab people’s attention enough to either click through to the book’s page on Amazon or, at least, earn a Retweet or a Share, has been very interesting. But I can’t say that it has been exactly fun. This is work that really should be done by a graphic designer, yet another type of person that I really respect. It takes some color theory and basic composition skills to put together something that won’t be scrolled through without a glance. It’s also critical that it looks good enough not to reflect badly on the book. I’m not going to name names, but I’ve seen some ads on Twitter that I would never, ever click through or Retweet. They really make the book they represent seem like a waste of time. Advertising matters. Deeply. So I have spent a lot of time designing these things and then showing them to people and then thinking about them again. This is work I would be all too happy to hand over to someone else. Let them have the control. Please.
My latest past time has been writing summaries and descriptions of my book ad nauseam. One sentence descriptions, one paragraph descriptions, full page descriptions, summaries for a Tweet, descriptions for this and that. It’s amazing how much I hate this. You would think that as I writer I would enjoy this, but in fact, I detest it. I’ve never been good at this. I wrote a novel about this precisely because the ideas don’t fit into a paragraph. Whenever something is summarized, to me, it feels trite and foolish. It really shows how little of writing is contained in the plot. I mean, imagine all the great books reduced to a pitch to a literary agent or a Tweet. Shakespeare Tweets: Boy Meets Girl, Stars Crossed, Much Death Ensues. Cervantes Tweets: Old man driven insane by romance books sallies forth to change the world. Also Sancho Panza. Ursula K. LeGuin: A wizard in training learns the power of words. Nothing benefits from a summary. I understand it’s necessary, but this is definitely an area that I would love someone else to do.
I’m also waiting with great anticipation for the arrival of the cover art. A friend of mine is doing the design, and I’m really excited to see it. There’s something wonderful about art created thinking of your own art. It’s very satisfying for some reason. It’s very important to have a professional do your cover, and I’m really lucky to have a friend who can do this for me. Nothing ruins a Kindle release quicker than a bad cover. When I get the cover, I intend to share it immediately, so be prepared!
Well, that’s the news. Back to the demands of sickness: herbal tea, Halls cough drops, and shallow breathing. And most likely a summary of my book in two sentences. I prefer the cold.