I have been casting about for the proper metaphor for seeing the cover of your book for the first time. One writer I know compared it to childbirth: After a lot of hard work you get to see what your baby looks like. But then, well, I’m pretty sure people always like their babies, and they don’t always like their covers (though I sure love mine!)
Then I was thinking it was kind of like pottery, how you spin a pot and throw some glaze on there and put it in the kiln and it comes out looking shiny. But that’s not quite right either, because you pretty much know what a pot is going to look like when it comes out.
It resists comparison, people.
As an agent, I have heard many authors say that seeing the cover was when the whole publishing process seemed “real.” And now I see what they mean. It does seem more real.
Only: I think I misunderstood what people meant by “real.”
I had always thought it felt “real” for writers because the cover made the whole thing look more like an actual book. And yeah, that’s probably a part of it. But that’s not really how I experienced the “real” thing. There was more to it than that.
Up until that point when you see the cover, it’s difficult to imagine that someone else reading your book will have a different imagination of how things look and feel than you. As a writer, you have a certain idea of the physical and artistic aesthetic of the book: what the characters look like, which parts of the book comprise the essence, and what people will take away from it.
So when you see the cover for the first time, at first there’s inevitably a “Whoa, this wasn’t how I was picturing it.” And of course it wasn’t how you were picturing it! No one is going to interpret a book the same way you do, even though you wrote the darn thing.
But then, when the cover is good, there’s quickly a dawning that it captures the essence of the book. It’s not your imagination you’re seeing represented… and yet it is. It may not be how you physically pictured it, and yet there’s something there that is so so so right.
The real metaphor, I realized, is that the cover process is kind of like a physical manifestation of the writing and reading experience itself. People are out there reading your book, and they’re not picturing the same castle that you were picturing when you wrote it, and they’re not imagining the characters looking the same way as you were, and they’re not seeing the same fields and mountains. What’s happening in the minds-eye is unique to every reader.
And yet despite those differences, there is an essence that binds the writer and reader, a shared kernel that is hopefully passed through the words. We don’t often get those different interpretations drawn out for our viewing pleasure, but when the cover comes along, it’s “real” because it’s a reminder that a book isn’t all yours anymore. It will soon belong to readers, who will picture a different character and world than you were picturing, while hopefully absorbing the essence what you were truly going for.
I couldn’t be happier with how the cover for JACOB WONDERBAR turned out!! When I saw these characters illustrated I couldn’t believe how well they were captured. Thank you so much to Christopher S. Jennings for the illustration and Greg Stadnyk for the design!
Savannah Chase says
Huge congrats on the cover. I know how you feel, a cover makes it all that much more real. It is like your baby and something you worked on. Enjoy the happy feeling…
D.G. Hudson says
Congratulations, Nathan, on the 'coming out' of your book. Looks great, and it's visually appealing for the MG level.
I'm looking forward to that same feeling of pride and awe one of these days.
Are you going to frame one of the covers – since it's your first? (kind of like Scrooge McDuck's first dime)
Deborah Ross says
No matter how many times this happens, it's still new and wonderful. Enjoy every moment!
Congratulations on the cool cover!
I can't wait to read it. And thanks for sharing your experience.
Congratulations on the cover!
But this post re-opens the e-book vs. real book debate. Seeing your e-book on your e-reader can't begin to match the experience of holding your own book in your hands, feeling its weight.
Julia's Child says
I just want to state for the record that Pottery may be a more apt metaphor than you knew. True glazes change from chalky nothingness to popping color in the kiln, and they also move around on the surface in surprising ways. You don't, in fact, know what they look like until it's back in your hands.
It looks fantastic, Nathan. Congrats!
Mark Terry says
I assume it sets the tone for the book–that and the title. I like it. It reminds me vaguely of the cover art for the Captain Underpants books.
The Red Angel says
Super cool cover, Nathan! 🙂 Looks like a neat book, hehe. Congratulations, I'm so happy for you.
Angela K. Nickerson says
Congratulations! It is a rare and marvelous feeling — even cooler when the cover is your own photograph as mine is! 🙂
Wishing you tremendous sales and a spot on Oprah's couch!
Congratulations. I love the cover; it is cute.
Where do you find time to be an agent, blog, manage a forum for writers, and write a book?
Kinda adorable, Nathan! =) Congratulations!
Julie Hedlund says
Love the cover!
You describe the feeling perfectly. It's probably the first time you realize that the book is no longer just "yours." Part of it now belongs to the illustrator, just like soon it will belong to the readers.
It is a bit like parenting. We bring them into the world, but once they are here, they have lives of their own, no matter how much we love them.
Good luck and congratulations!
christine tripp says
When my Author (who I did not know prior to the release of our first book) got her Authors copies, she emailed me.
I don't know if she had preconceived notions of what the character would look like but was shocked by my portrayal. Shocked in a good way I mean:)
She attached a photo of herself, taken at the same age as the PB's main character. She, looked just like the little girl I had drawn, down to the same curly hair and hair style.
Some pairings of Author and Illustrator just WORK and there's a heck of a lot of luck involved as far as I'm concerned (though I am sure Publishers like to take that credit:)