Cover of The Birth of Super Crip Visit the home page of The Birth of Super Crip to read Chapter 1
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Creating the Cover for The Birth of Super Crip

When I decided to self-publish my second book—first novel—with much more of a do-it-yourself approach, the last thing I ever thought I’d discover was that I actually enjoyed drawing. Though I anticipated hiring an illustrator to do the cover, finding someone never worked out for various reasons. And, unfortunately, while I had a picture that was perfect for the cover of my first book (at least I think it was perfect), I didn’t have the same luck for The Birth of Super Crip.

Having taken only a handful of art classes in my life—and by “classes,” I mean 50- to 60-minute periods, not “Art 101” freshman year—the challenge of creating a cover was more than a little intimidating. The whole spastic cerebral palsy thing didn’t help either. But, unless I wanted to spend more money to self-publish the novel than I had spent on the first book, I didn’t have much choice other than to take a crack at doing the cover myself. The whole point of using stripped down services this time was to save a few bucks. I had already spent money to hire an editor, and I couldn’t find a combination of an illustrator with whom I was comfortable and a price that I thought made sense. The templates I found just weren’t going to cut it, and I thought I needed more than a text-based cover (though I gave it serious consideration).

One of the many things I learned by going through the process of publishing my first book is that readers ultimately get to decide whether or not the book was done well. That will certainly be the case again, and I’m sure they will let me know if I produced a worthwhile cover.

Regardless, I thought it might be fun to share some of the efforts that went into the final image. Below are just a few of the images I created as I worked toward the final result.

Doodle of cresting wave in the ocean complete with sky, sun, and seagulls
Readers of The Birth of Super Crip will understand why I knew I wanted some sort of wave imagery on the cover. I had the strange urge to put this on the refrigerator, but that might be because it was my first effort. Of course, I didn’t produce it alone. I followed a very useful post at I knew this type of image wasn’t what I wanted, but I thought some practice with waves would be helpful.

Series of lines meant to resemble side view of a wave
Practice drawing the side view of a cresting wave. Yes, Sixers and Allen Iverson fans, we’re talking ‘bout practice!

Doodle meant to be frontal view of a wave
More practice. The frontal view of a wave was quickly abandoned.

Doodle of cresting wave in red
My “first logo.” Eventually, I decided the cresting wave idea wasn’t the best.

Swooshing symbol going up into a cloud meant to suggest an explosion
I have this labeled as “logo 4.” I don’t think it was bad, but it seemed just a little too cartoonish. However, I also thought it was more in line with the “wave” in the story.

Side view of swooshing lines, blue in between, leading to a cloud suggesting an explosion
Getting there with this one.

Soon after the above, I came up with the image as it appears on the cover. The only problem was that it wasn’t reusable. In other words, I couldn’t resize the image or use it on different backgrounds without having problems. So, on the advice of a professional designer, I downloaded a free trial of Adobe Illustrator and took a few more attempts.

Side view of swooshing lines leading to a cloud suggesting an explosion
This one wasn’t bad, and I might have gone with it, but I just couldn’t do the rest of the cover in Adobe, and cutting and pasting it into MS Paint (which I used to do the cover because a) I already had it, and b) I could make it work) made it look cut and pasted.

While I may have just made a professional designer’s head explode at the simplicity (if I can call it that) of my designs, I think the cover works. As is the case with most people when they start focusing on a new endeavor, once I started working on the cover image, which is essentially a logo, I started noticing other logos in TV ads and other media. I’m not comparing my design to others, but I took solace in the amount of fairly simple images that I saw.

When my cover was finally approved by the self-publishing services I used for the novel, I found myself doing the 2015 version of doodling. At least it’s my version of doodling. It was actually a good stress reliever as I continued to work on the interior layout of the paperback version of my novel. After months of worrying about every detail of the book—down to whether or not there was a space after an indent that no one would actually see, but I would know it was there and it would bother me because that’s what the process does to you—I enjoyed creating something for fun. It was nice to “mess around” doing something creative that didn’t mean anything or need to be edited. I wasn’t wondering how it would “come off” or if a publisher might be interested. Here’s a couple of my efforts:

Doodle of a very simple, small house; tree beside it; dark sky and round moon in the background; lawn in the foreground
“Silly House”
(You like the tree? They have a hell of a front yard, too, eh?)

Round, carved, smiling pumpkin; triangle eyes and nose; one tooth; dark sky with crescent moon
(It’s almost Halloween. Yes, I was inspired!)

So…I’ll never be an artist. I don’t want to be. I hope people like the novel—and the cover—and I’ll settle for finding a relaxing new hobby in the art department.
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