Your Path to Publication: What Life After Art Might Have Looked Like

March 15, 2013

People say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…

…But they do.

People make snap decisions about books and music and movies, based on their cover art.  It’s like the book’s clothing.  You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

I wrote Life After Art entirely without knowing what the book would look like, or even what it would be called.  And the title and cover turned out to be two of the biggest struggles on the way to publication.

Today, you’ll get to see what Life After Art could have looked like, and I’ll tell you a bit about what you can expect when you finally turn your hard work over to the creative people.

What Will We Name It?

For the longest time, the only title I had for the book was Art Room Parables.

That was the working title I pitched the book under.  That’s the title that’s on the contract with Moody.

But I knew that wasn’t the title.  There was just something…lacking about it.  It didn’t capture the book.  It seemed passive.

So, my agent, my editor and I started brainstorming.  Dozens of emails back and forth.  It was like picking a baby name.  Plus, we had to pick a subtitle to sum up the entire content of the book.  We started picking over grammar, deciphering the difference between three-letter words.  The title that got closest to being the title?

We Were Artists.

I didn’t like that one, because it reminded me too much of Fun’s We Are Young, and I hate that song.  (I didn’t say that at the time, in case we ended up going with it.)  It was really at the eleventh hour that I had a brainstorm and came up with Life After Art.  I’m glad we did.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Now that we had a title, we had to make a cover.  You know what they say.  A picture is worth a thousand words?  So basically, the cover would be worth at least as much as the entire introduction of the book!

I’m a very visual person.  It’s easy for me to envision something.  So turning a project over to other creative people is kind of tough for me.  But there’s no way I’d design the cover of my own book.  That’s why there are professionals.  I gave some of my ideas and let some strangers go to work deciding how my book would look.

So, what could Life After Art have looked like?  Like this:

Yeah, three very different choices.  None of which had I really envisioned.  It made it very hard for a visual person like myself to make a choice.

I was most immediately attracted to the suit with the colored pencils.  The last one looked good but didn’t communicate much about the book.

After some minor tweaks that I wanted made, obviously we went with the second one.

Trading Control for Trust

The tough thing that may be tough for a lot of creative people to swallow is that creating a book is a collaboration.  Maybe you wrote it.  Maybe it’s your story, and it’s very personal.  But eventually, you have to hand over the reins, and some of the control.  Going it alone won’t help you.  You have to trade total control for trust with others.

Ultimately, you have to trust other people and give them permission to do their best work with your story.

What do you think?  Have you tried to name or design your work?  What do you think about the rejected Life After Art covers?

7 responses to Your Path to Publication: What Life After Art Might Have Looked Like

  1. Thanks for this little behind the scenes look. I love the title. It makes me want to read more. I actually love that first cover. Like I’m crazy about it. It’s a great contrast.

  2. Good title, and I liked Cover #1 as well, but agree with your assessment of Cover #3. I read recently an author’s comment that writers normally have little say in their book covers, so I’ve wondered periodically what my still-unfinished novel might look like if it’s published. And titles aren’t easy for me, either. Did Moody give you much say in the cover decision, or was it like that homebuying show on HGTV, where they only show three choices? :-)

  3. I agree with your thoughts on the covers. What made you ultimately go with number two?

  4. Ok, long time no comment. Congrats on the book, Matt! Working my way back into old blog circles. An author I know recently released a book, and the plot involved a circus. The first cover they sent her was a juggler that looked like he was a cross between something from IT and The Crow. No kidding. It was terrifying. Fortunately, she and her agent convinced them to go with a much better cover….since it was Christian romance. YIKES! Covers seem to be rough deal!

  5. I really love cover #1 was well. The one you chose is fine as well…but it’s the more “grown up” looking cover. Ironic? 😀
    Really can’t wait to read the book…

  6. I’m not exactly sure what the book is about, but I like the cover that was picked. It conveys some kind of struggle. Is there struggle in the book? The other two don’t convey that to me.

  7. I like the middle one best. I think you made a good choice. The middle one fits, as an adult takes such a paintbrush in his hands to fix up the house or do some basic painting work. It’s not really needed for Art… Generally… and so… the picture fits really well! I want to read your book one day. The first chapter got me caught! I’ll need to have it sent to me here in Germany… one of these days.