Friday, February 13, 2015

Cover Craziness

As I’ve mentioned before, I can be a bit—well, let’s be kind and call it obsessive. I edit and typeset for a living: every comma counts, every font choice matters. And I blow off steam by attending classes in classical ballet, an art form dedicated to attaining perfection in every tiny detail of placement and line. So it’s no big surprise that when it comes to something like cover design, I tweak endlessly, moving elements up and down and side to side, switching out fonts, applying drop shadows and beveling and embossing and so on until I’ve driven either myself or everyone round me mad. At this point in my life, I probably can’t help myself. But in the last week or so, I have realized that sometimes I’m so busy pruning the branches that I forget to step back and look at the forest.

It all started innocently enough. As I mentioned in my last post, Five Directions Press has decided to reissue The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel in a new, smaller trim size. That gives us an opportunity to update the cover design for this, our first book, to match the evolving standard that we have developed as a cooperative. I had a couple of ThinkStock credits that were about to expire, so I used one of them to purchase a lovely picture of Widener Library (where the book opens) in winter. So far, so good. But the rapier on the front cover had never had a high-enough resolution for print, and it no longer showed up on the site where I had recorded downloading it, so I decided to use my one remaining credit to replace it.

I won’t drag you through the ins and outs of what happened next, except to say that I ended up with a different rapier with cleaner lines, purchased from Shutterstock. But it was only after I had expanded and reduced and feathered and rotated the image, then tested the double pimpernels representing Ian and Nina in every conceivable configuration, then uploaded it as final and posted it on this blog that I noticed that the sword had a spur jutting from its hilt that suggested an erotic component more suitable to Fifty Shades of Grey than to my romantic but far-from-explicit novel. Wrong message!

To ensure I wasn’t overreacting, I enlisted Sir Percy, my faithful spouse, as arbiter. He took one look at the cover and confirmed my worst fears. Oops. I went back into Photoshop and removed the offending spur, twisted the flowers to a new angle, and re-uploaded the file. Then I went and removed the earlier version from wherever I could (Facebook stuck to the darned thing like glue), including this blog, and replaced it with the new one.

Naturally, when I received the proof of the book (with the problematic cover), I found a bunch of other errors that needed fixing, including an unrounded apostrophe and missing book title on the back cover. So the saga continues, even though the front cover is now ready for prime time. And since we may as well update the covers on the e-books, too, we will correct any “fleas” that I find in the proof in those files as well (these are tiny corrections, an “into” that should be “in to,” for example—I told you I was obsessive).

But the moral of this story is clear: don’t become so focused on the branches that you forget to look at the trees. Even the most perfectly shaped leaves won’t do much good if a whacking great skyscraper is standing in the midst of the forest.

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