Figuring out what the cover of your book should look like is a lot like trying to figure out exactly what outfit to wear to the interview for that job you want so badly that if you don't get it you'll slit your own throat. Should you look subdued and dress in gray? Is a suit too professional, or professional enough? Would a soft pink blouse be too feminine, or since the color goes well with your skin tone, make a good impression on the interviewer? Oh yes, this is the woman who wore that lovely shade of pink. Forget pink, what if you wear a bright red dress? Too bold, or is making a bold statement the right thing to do? You try on every outfit you have, terrified of picking something that will make you look more tired than you actually are, or possible too sexy. Or is sexy a good thing?
My muse and I have been struggling with the cover design for Traveling Blind. We started with a picture Laura took of a bright yellow road sign which shows a curvy road and says "next 23 miles." The sign has personal meaning to Laura and clearly shows the theme of the book. Traveling. Blind. Not sure where you're going. Lots of curves along the way. Gotta keep going forward. The sign stays.
But our first attempt gave the impression the book is a travel book and is far too similar looking to another memoir set in Mendocino County. Back to the drawing board. We keep the sign, but how do we show that this is about the "unlikely teachers:" Laura's students?
Enter Rick, our in-house graphic designer and my wonderful life-partner. My muse watched him work and from her silent attention I knew she was impressed. She doesn't know a thing about Photo-Shop and refuses to touch a computer key-board, so it's fun to watch her try and hide her ignorance while at the same time being fascinated by Rick manipulating an image on the computer screen. After several days, much discussion, and taking pictures of our bored but willing daughter, he presented us with four ideas.
My muse and I laid them out on the couch and studied them. One has my daughter's grinning face with the ocean in the background. Another has the two of us holding hands with the forest in the background. Two more have our silhouette in shadow, one with the ocean and the other with the forest. All have the road sign.
I looked at my muse who was frowning. "What do you think?"
She shook her head. "Hard to say."
"Which do you like best?"
"Very hard to say."
We silently stared at the cover samples and then I picked up the one with my daughter's face. "This one is nice, but is that because it's my daughter?"
"It is nice. A real child on the cover to show who the teachers are. And nothing catches the eye more than a child, and we need something to really grab the person browsing in the store." She touched the one with us holding hands. "I like this one also."
"Do you like the forest or the ocean?"
"Hard to say. They both express different moods." She tapped the one of us holding hands. "I'd like to see this one with the ocean in the background. And you should ask Laura what she thinks."
Laura stopped by later that day with a white cane so we could take more pictures of my daughter for possible use on the cover. I showed her the images while my muse lounged on the chair beside her and watched.
Laura also liked the child and the hand-holding, but said that the shadows were disturbing somehow. "I don't know which is better, but the only thing that grabs someone's attention more than a child is a cute animal." I glanced at my muse and she nodded. Laura also wanted to see the hands with the ocean in the background and she gave good technical advice about the layout of the cover. It's good working with someone with a degree in Art.
Later, I gave the notes to Rick who seemed happy to have something more to work with than a road sign and some vague suggestions about "showing the teachers." I realized just how lucky we are that he understands graphic art and design, and is a wiz at Photo-Shop.
That night, he was still working on the cover when I went to bed, my muse by his side, leaning toward him, watching everything he did.