If you've been following me at all this week or last, you've probably noticed a lot of references to the cover I've been working on for my self-published novel, RELAX, I'M A NINJA. I've been lucky enough to work with my close friend Michelle Argyle (who designs under Melissa Williams Cover Design), and it has been quite the interesting experience.
You see, I've been in traditional publishing for the past two and a half years since I sold TRANSPARENT. And as anyone who works with a publisher knows, you just have to let go of a lot of control. I never had much of a problem with that. I didn't feel like I needed to be intimately involved with cover design or marketing or whatever, and I've honestly really lucked out so far in the design department. I've LOVED the covers my publishers have given me.
So approaching a cover on my own was a foreign thing for me to do. Obviously I didn't do it ALL on my own—I hired a wonderful designer—but for the first time the direction of the cover fell solely to me. The approach from a marketing standpoint, the mood of the cover, the target demographic—these were things I had to decide. Little ol' me.
As I started working with Michelle, I gave her very vague directions and pretty much free reign. Then she kept coming back to me with a question that would surprise me every time she asked:
"Well, what do YOU want?"
And the variation: "What do YOU think?"
Each time I'd be like, "Me? What? Really? I have to decide these things and tell you what I want and what to do?"
I've never been asked for my opinion on a publishing thing so much in my life! It's both terrifying because the responsibility is all mine, but liberating because I'm in charge of my own work. This became another moment when the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing was a huge contrast. Neither necessarily bad. Just different. (Because if you've been in publishing at all, you probably know that no situation is ideal and every path has pros and cons.)
As I've said, I've loved having my covers designed for me by publishers. But I've also been pleasantly surprised by the process of personally collaborating with a designer myself.
Having this creative freedom is a refreshing thing, and I feel like it's injected a much-needed dose of fun, experimentation, and joy to my writing life. I'm learning new things, and that's exciting. It's also been very nice to have A Project to distract myself from being on sub on the traditional publishing side.
I can't wait to show off my new cover next year. It's going to be very hard to sit on for a couple months, but I know from my traditional publishing experience that releasing it nine months before launch is way too soon. So I will exercise self-restraint.