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A look into the cover process

Here’s a look into how an author’s mind works when it comes to coming up with covers for indie publications. As you know, Bob, I wrote Grading the Curve back in 2013. It was my first MF romance, and if I’m brutally frank it shows. I also had a few issues with the original cover, so I came up with the graphic on the left for use in ads and other promo. While the models weren’t a perfect match, I felt they represented Alex and Ellen a bit better than my cover (e.g. an impoverished scholarship student working multiple jobs would not have a spray tan and a French manicure. Just sayin’).

Fast forward to 2018, and I got the rights for Grading back. I immediate set into gutting the story and rewriting it because hoo boy it needed it, and in my spare time I played around with turning the 2013 ad graphic into a new cover. One eensy problem — while I still liked the female model, the male model I used had turned into the 21st Century Fabio. He’s absolutely everywhere, on everything from romance novels to HIV test kits (I’m serious). We’re talking ridiculously ubiquitous. Plus he didn’t really look like Alex, whom I described as looking like Daniel Craig if you shoved a big stick up his ass. Call me fussy, but I like having my models bear at least a faint resemblance to the characters in the books, and since I do my own covers I can call the shots.

GradingtheCurveSmSo off I went to Deposit Photos to start searching for a new male model. Luckily my Google fu lends itself to coming up with good search terms so it only took me an hour until I hit the jackpot on the gentleman at right. Not only does he look far more like my cranky, sexy English professor than 21st Century Fabio, but he also was in the right position for me to do a composite with the female model’s pic (in an aside, I love photographers who use blank backgrounds with their subjects. They make my life so much easier). After much tweaking, shading, adding of effects and whatnot, I’m happy with the final result for Belaurient Press’s edition of Grading the Curve. Now I just have to finish editing the story–

Well, no, let’s be honest — I’m gutting and rewriting the story using the skills I’ve picked up in the last five years. It’s gone from 15K words to approximately 30K words, with far more backstory for both Alex and Ellen and some new characters such as Alex’s English department colleague Amar, who is trying to get Alex to let go of his guilt over his late wife’s death. Personally, I like Amar — he’s like a Sikh Jiminy Cricket, a good friend who’s more than willing to call Alex on his bullshit but still wants to see him happy. I’ve also relocated them to my favorite imaginary college Lake Michigan University, which allows me to use Hyde Park as a setting and puts GtC in the same setting as my short story “Tied with a Bow.” Because I like meta stuff like that.

Basta. Genug. Enough.

So I’m working on Chapter 17 of Storm Season today and inserted a # to indicate a scene break. I centered the hash mark, as I do, and moved the tab over so that the line wasn’t indented. The entire frigging document then centered and lost its tabs. Swearing under my breath, I had to hit Undo to get the text back to normal. Oddly enough, the hash mark remained centered.

This has been an ongoing problem with Word ever since I passed 65,000 words on this book. Word, which is enough of a resource hog as it is, tends to start horking on large documents — it messes around with the header and footer spacing, tabs, alignment, and formatting. I did have the doc set up so that I could use a format for the hash marks as well as italicized text and chapter headings, but after the third time I lost all that and the doc reverted to its standard format, I gave up.

Now, I know a lot of writers get around this problem by splitting their chapters into separate documents and linking all those together with a master document. That’s fine and dandy, but it’s also has its own pain in the ass elements and frankly, I’ve had problems with the pagination flowing smoothly from one doc to another.

Luckily, there is a solution, and I bless the esteemed Jerry J. Davis for cluing me into it. The brilliant minds over at Literature and Latte make a wonderful word processing app called Scrivener that runs on PC and Mac platforms, and is designed specifically for writers. It allows you to storyboard, store pictures and notes, switch back and forth between a virtual corkboard and your document, and contains all kinds of fiction and non-fiction format templates for everything from a short story to a novel manuscript to a screenplay to an article. It also outputs in a variety of formats, including ebook formats .mobi, .epub and .pdf for people who are self-publishing. I’ve used Scrivener before for my self-publishing, but never got around to using it for a novel.

That ended this afternoon, when I imported Storm Season into a new Scrivener doc. Yes, it took an hour to get everything fixed and set up the way it was supposed to be, but as a result I realized that I’d somehow seriously defaulted on the size of Chapter Three and it had to be expanded, which in itself was massively useful. Writing in Scrivener also seems much easier to me, and Lord knows its easier to learn and work with than Word. You can download a free trial for thirty days — if you like it, the app is $45. If you’re developing a loathing for Word that’s interfering with your writing, go check it out. I truly think you’ll be glad you did.