You guys, I am so dang excited.
I get to reveal a cover.
It’s not a cover for a book that I wrote. None of my manuscripts are anywhere close to being ready for cover design. The only parts of this book that I wrote are the back cover blurb and the copyright notice. I’m not terribly proud of the first, and I hope I didn’t do anything wrong with the second.
It’s not a cover for a book that will net me any royalties. The cost of the book covers only publishing and shipping and handling.
It’s not even a book that’s being publicly sold. You have to have a direct link to the item page to be able to order it.
So why am I so dang proud? Two reasons, actually.
1) It is a poetry anthology composed of poems written by my creative writing students in a professionally published book. In the previous creative writing classes I taught, the students typed up and submitted their poems to me and I put them all in a binder with a black and white cover designed in Microsoft Word. Sure, those kinds of poetry anthologies have their charm. That “Look, mom, look what I made?” kind of charm. But they’re extremely limited. It would be irresponsible for me to allow the students to print off enough copies of the three poems they were allowed to include for everyone to have a copy of the anthology. And who’s going to pay for all those binders?
But with the evolution of indie publishing, my students can see their poetry in a professionally published book that they can buy and be proud of. This ain’t no stinkin’ binder. And anybody who wants a copy can buy one (so long as they have the link): the students, their family and friends. (Again, the student has the freedom to share that link with whoever they want.)
2) I designed the cover. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Rembrandt or Michelangelo. Really and truly, my artistic skills are much stronger in the writing and music categories. But knowing that actually makes this feat that much more amazing. I designed the cover from concept to final product. It may not be anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring. But it’s all mine and I’m proud of what I did.
And guys, I had to learn how to use graphic design software to make this dang cover. That was HARD!
For those of you wondering, no, I didn’t shell out a million bucks for Photoshop. I mean, c’mon, I’m a public school teacher. Instead, I used a free program called GIMP (available here) that I heard about when another author friend (who was designing covers for her own indie published ebooks) shared the cover she had created for one of her books. It was a prayer answered because at the time I had no clue how I was going to design this cover.
(The other amazing coincidence was one of the nearby chapters of my writing group inviting my chapter to a meeting where they had an actual cover designer come speak to them. I learned SO MUCH about cover design that helped me to make better decisions than I would have if I hadn’t attended. He did tell me it was okay to send him my cover design once it was finished, but it took me so long to get it done, that once it was, I knew I just needed to get it published. Still, I think I might still send the final product to him to get some advice on what I could do better in the future.)
So, I downloaded the program, and then took months to really figure it out. Not that I was spending day after day, for months, learning the program. I’d try it out for an afternoon, not look at it for weeks, pull it up again for another few hours and dink around, forget about it for another week or two. You get the point.
But just this week while I was sitting home sick on my couch, I pulled it up again and finally it clicked. At least to the point that I felt comfortable using the software. And then the very next day I finished the cover design. Finally. And finalized the book. And put it up for sale. And ordered the first copy. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to tell my students. Unfortunately, Creative Writing is only a semester class where I teach, so I had to compose a letter and have one of my teaching assistants deliver them around. But once they had those letters they were as excited as I was!
Okay, I’ve made you read long enough. Time to see that cover!
RoughWriters is a play on our school’s mascot: The Roughriders. Yes, of Teddy Roosevelt fame. It certainly is original. I’ve never heard of any other school with that as their mascot.
The subtitle was chosen by my creative writing class. I plan on letting each class choose their own. They all came up with suggestions and then voted on them as a class. There were a lot of good suggestions, but in the end, this is the one that won out.
The graphic on the front cover was my idea, after suggestions to the art classes and art club for a cover design contest didn’t go anywhere. I pitched this idea to my class and they went for it. It’s the words from all the titles of the poems in the anthology grouped together in the tree shape. I’m not sure why I envisioned a tree, but that was what I came up with. I’m very happy with it. I wish I could remember the website I used to get it, but any search for word art or word clustering should bring some options up.
That’s my class on the back. I miss those guys, although I’ve got a pretty great group this semester and I’m excited to see what they come up with. I even told them about the book and I can’t wait to show them so they can see what they have to look forward to.
Other technical stuff: I used lulu.com to publish the book. Why I chose lulu over other more popular options like create space, I can’t say. It just seemed to be the best fit for what my needs were. Also, I’m still not sure how well the cover turned out, and I won’t until I have an actual physical copy in my hand. But even with it’s imperfections (and it will no doubtedly have imperfections) I’ll still be proud and happy.
And of course, this has been an amazing learning experience. Learning about formatting (like margins) and cover design and all that fun stuff. I hope this next time it won’t take me three or four months to get the book done. I’ll be able to get the cover done in a week or less.