Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why I Quit Querying and Proceeded to Publish, Part 4

Though the ring in my story is the tie that binds two families, it does so in a rather understated way. Sometime in 2010 I learned  today’s covers need to look good as thumbnails, and I just couldn’t see any way to make a ring discernible in that format without making it utterly dominate the cover, so I had to find another symbol. I remembered a famous war photograph of a lone B-24 bomber flying low over a burning oil refinery in Ploesti, Rumania, and since the B-24 and the spectacularly costly raid on Ploesti play no small part in my story—I had my cover symbol.

I did the best I could with the photo and software I had (Microsoft Office), and when I was finished I thought it looked pretty good, all considered. But Cassandra was always such a great critic (as in honest, balanced, and definitely not wont to dish up unwarranted praise), I thought I’d run it by her—and a few hundred other friends on Facebook. Predictably, everyone loved it except Cassandra. I asked her to tell me honestly if it screamed “self-published” and, a little sheepishly, she confirmed my fear.

Then she sent me a potential cover featuring a photo of a man in what she didn’t realize was a Vietnam-era flight suit standing next to a C-23 cargo plane, smiling like he’d never even been forced to spell ‘combat’. With our mutual honesty policy established, I told her it looked like any other of the garden-variety pilot and other “career” memoirs keeping vanity publishers thriving these days.

She asked me what I wanted my cover to convey. Thinking about my story, how a lot of nasty stuff that happens to my characters in the 1940’s gets buried by the war, only to be uncovered at a rather inopportune time in 1986, I said, “I want it to look mysterious and foreboding, and I want it to feature this airplane” and attached the picture of the Liberator. In way less than an hour, she sent me something very close to what’s now my cover.

I said out loud, “Oh my God. That’s it."

“Wait. You don’t mean you actually want to use this, do you? I was just messing around. I do this stuff for fun all the time. Kind of a hobby.”

“I can’t imagine it any better. It’s absolutely perfect. Except the letters—can you make them silver?”

I had my wife, Pam, a published artist and writer in her own right, standing by to help me with my cover design and even had another artist/author friend of hers, Chrysti Hydeck, offer to help me if I wanted another professional’s take on it. When I showed them Cassandra’s design, they both abdicated. Put the fork away and just trust me—we’re done.

Now all I had to do was select a printer and figure out how to turn my Word and .jpg files into usable .pdfs. Memorial Day was upon me.

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