Book covers, Skyrim and the speech mark conundrum

bookcovers

Every night I close my eyes and wait for the gates of dreamland to appear in the distance. Before they do I watch words roll across the inside of my eyelids. I write even when I’m not writing.

I want to share my novel, The Range, with others, and whilst it may seem like a simple thing to do, I see a large hurdle I can’t get my head around, or legs over, or any body part for that matter.

I’ve read about the mechanics of how to process a Word doc for publication as an ebook, I’ve asked questions from those in the business and read blog posts by those who know their way around the ebook maze.

Yet for me the hard part right now is finding a book cover.

And please, dear blog reader, don’t tell me it’s the content that matters not the cover – because we all make judgements on appearances. Though I have considered having a book cover with no art whatsoever, a single colour with the title and my name on it, and maybe a tag line.

But that doesn’t feel right somehow.

bookcoveridea

I guess a lot work goes into achieving a minimalist look for a book cover. More than a few minutes mucking about in Photoshop. I mulled over the idea of designing my own cover but dismissed it because whilst I’m skilled in graphic design I know my own artwork wouldn’t do the story justice.

The logical step is finding an artist to design one for me. Shouldn’t be too hard right?

Um, yes, I think it is.

Questions that buzz inside my head:

  • How do I find the right artist who can bring to life my story in one single image?
  • What if they live very far away from me? Does that matter? In my head I have a vision of meeting the artist, discussing ideas and styles etc, or is that unrealistic?
  • What if they spend ages creating a piece of work and I don’t like it?
  • Should I be specific in what I want it to look like?
  • Or just give them a vague idea?
  • Do they need to read The Range first?
  • Do they need to know the arc of the story through the entire series?
  • As I’m planning a three-part series would that artist be willing to commit to such an arrangement? I want consistency.
  • Are artists willing to lower their fee (or reduce it to almost nothing) for that first cover, with the understanding that I’ll pay for a second and third?
  • If so would they be happy with a “thanks to…” or recommendation/links etc in the credits?

Sometimes my brain hurts.

I know what I want but not how to achieve it.

I’m looking for a style that can encapsulate darkness, despair, hope, light and friendship. Impressionist style with colour and shadow yet with something solid for the potential reader to visualise – people maybe, silhouetted in the forefront. Thankfully I have been fortunate to come across a few artists whose work captivates me.

Christina Deubel – In The Depths

Take a look at these absolutely stunning paintings.

Courageous

How amazing is that? The darkness and colour are beyond words, and I’m a writer! I could easily see this as a book cover for The Range, or something very similar that captures that thin line between darkness and hope. Back in 2011 I wrote a five-part novella inspired by one of Christina’s paintings, Ground Fall.

And her latest commissioned piece Survivor is simply beautiful.

christinadeubelsurvivor

Roo Sangster-Bullers – Dragon Hall Gallery

Though she doesn’t display them on her website, Roo has crafted some fabulous impressionist paintings – land and sea scapes, soft colours, subtle blends and wonderful use of light and texture. I imagine a blend of Christina and Roo’s style for The Range.

Eduardo Garay – eduardogaray.carbonmade.com

Zombie and apocalypse fans out there might recognise Eduardo’s style from the successful The Undead series of books by RR Haywood. If you haven’t read them, oh man, you are missing out on a treat! I’ve enjoyed every single book and even wrote a post on them back in January 2014 – My Undead 2013.

What caught my eye about the book covers was their gritty realism, washed out colours and heroic visuals of the characters, Day 14 being my favourite cover so far.

rrhayoodtheundeadday14

Weird, I’ve just noticed I seem to have a thing for characters throwing their arms in the air as if celebrating a victory.

I’m cool with that. I’m all for that moment where heroism conquers darkness and characters can finally scream at the heavens that they beat the odds, saved their friends, vanquished their foes and lived to fight another day.

Getting the feel of the cover for The Range is very important to me.

If I could blend the styles of these artists I’d be a happy bunny. Part of me is very eager to get The Range out there for people to read, but after the hard work of writing I don’t want to rush the last few steps. That cover has to be right, not only to entice and intrigue the reader but also so I can feel confident it represents my story.

Also, aside from the actual cover artwork itself, what about the words?

More questions buzzing in my noggin:

  • Font style? Oh man, where do you begin with that one?
  • As The Range is the first in a trilogy, do I state it’s Book 1?
  • Do I include “Bloodwalker Legacy” on the cover? As that is what the series is about.
  • And my name – as I use Dave instead of David, is Dave a little too personal?
  • Do I go with “Dave Farmer” or “David Farmer?
  • Or, as with RR Haywood, and other authors, do I go with my full name or initials? “DRH Farmer” for example?
  • That seems like overkill to me, and though I tend to use David Richard Farmer, dropping the Herbert, for most things, maybe “DR Farmer” would be okay, right?
  • Argh, but then it might read like “Doctor Farmer” which is dumb.
  • Okay, how about “D.R Farmer” instead?

But I like Dave. It suits me.

A friend of mine has a t-shirt with the slogan “Everyone knows a Dave.” I like that. Always makes me smile.

Procrastination hurts me a lot.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been playing Skyrim and exploring a world of dragons, swords, magic and ignoring the fact that The Range is sat there waiting for me to deal with it. Skyrim, like any video game, offers instant gratification that allows players to escape any real world problems and responsibilities for a short time.

skyrim

Video games are awesome fun but they’re black holes for your time.

I’ve also avoided writing on my blog because it invites me to think about what’s next for The Holt, the follow-up to The Range, that I’m working on at the moment. I’ve been a bad writer and know I should sit on the naughty step for not being a better, more dedicated writer.

I dip into it now and then, write a few pages, then crack on with more adventures with my sword wielding chum.

Yesterday I opened up the Skyrim menu and almost clicked Play. It dawned on me that I was spending time in someone else’s fantasy world and neglecting my own. There’s nothing wrong with escapism but too much of it is bad for you. So before writing this post I dedicated three good quality hours to writing more of The Holt.

Yet even that good sense of achievement feeling doesn’t solve the book cover issue.

Problem answering my own questions.

When someone asks me something, either at work or home, I have no problem giving an answer. I’m a decisive chap, and always reply with a positive slant. But when it comes to my own questions I have to bash my head against something hard in order to make sure I get the right answer.

How dumb is that!

And painful.

Summing up.

Usually I end my posts with something uplifting and hopefully inspirational.

This time all I can say is I think I’ve figured out what to do about my speech mark conundrum.

As a reader I’ve noticed that books show speech marks differently. Some use the double ” and others go for a single ‘ which I never really paid much attention to until now. So long as they were consistent it didn’t make much difference either way.

When editing The Range the question of what style to use hit me.

Double whammy or single slither?

I pulled books off my shelves and flicked through them. Different styles everywhere.

In Word I changed all of my double speech marks to single to see what impact it had, if any, on the look of the text. I couldn’t make up my mind so I changed them back again. I trawled around the interweb for answers and after some heated debate with my inner writer I changed them back to single.

Was I giving this way too much thought? I wrote using double speech marks out of habit. But was that wrong?

I read a blog by JW Manus, who shares wonderful advice, tips and how-to’s on the subject of self-publishing ebooks.

So on a post about Punctuation & Special Characters, I wrote:

I’ve been reading through all of your posts and have found your advice to be hugely valuable. I do have a question about speech marks in regard to ebooks, and as I write this I wonder if it’s a silly question, but here goes. Does it matter what style the speech marks come in? Either the double ” or the single ‘ one? I ask because I’ve noticed both ebooks and traditional vary from one author or publisher to another.

Is there a rule of thumb for this or is it simply based on the preference of the author?

A second question, just to be annoying, is that as I’ve used html for designing websites, would it worth copying text from my Word doc into Dreamweaver and editing the html there prior to uploading to Amazon? After reading your topic on Clean Source Files I figured this would be a good way to ensure text is as clean as possible. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Jaye’s response was worth the question:

Hi Dave,

Punctuation is a cultural thing. American English standard is to use double quotes for direct speech and single quotes for everything else. In the UK, it’s the opposite. If you go further around the world you can find all types of punctuation styles ranging from double brackets to dashes to nothing at all. If you’re writing for mainly an American audience, go for the double quotes. Best of all is consistency. Readers will accept just about anything as long as it is consistent and doesn’t confuse them (even if it takes them a little while to get used to it). A pretty much can’t go wrong with it style manual is Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. It’s short, to the point, and if you follow their style recommendations, you won’t confuse anybody.

As for the html question. Ebooks act just like little websites, so you shouldn’t have any trouble transferring your skill set. I haven’t used Dreamweaver, but a lot of readers of this blog do and they get good results.

So whilst I’m grateful for the reply, I’m still somewhat unsure of what style to go with.

I think I’ll leave it with the single as it looks neater.

At least that’s one less thing to worry about.

The sun is out today so I’m off out this afternoon.

I’ve missed the sun. It makes me happy.

Howdy old pal, good to see you again!

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11 thoughts on “Book covers, Skyrim and the speech mark conundrum

  1. Dave, so good to see one of your posts pop up. What a conundrum though re your cover. A friend of mine, who had a second book of poetry published a couple of years ago – and yeah I know poetry is way different from what you write – fell in love with a painting and approached the artist to use it on her cover. He responded with an immediate “yes” at no cost!
    Don’t let all these important details slow you down too long. The Range needs to get out there and be read!

  2. These are the things that put me off going the e-book route. Those and the need to self-promote, which will never be an option..
    I know the artwork’s important, but maybe not as critical as you think. Don’t forget everyone’s taste and interpretation is different – universal appeal is never going to happen. Far more important to get the book out there!
    Good luck.

    • Thanks Helen! You make sense there and I’d rather be judged on the quality of writing and story than a mere cover. Sadly we live in a visual world, so I’ll take time to get that cover business right, though I don’t plan to go nuts on it because book covers change with reprints on physical books every so often – I guess they evolve with current trends and to entice new readers.

  3. Nice to know I’m not the only one that has such thoughts going round-and-round my head! Although, never thought about which type of quote marks to use since it isn’t an issue in America (that I know of), we always use the double.

    As for cover, if you are definitely going self-publish route you will have control over that. If you decide to go traditional route first, my understanding is you will have very little say over cover art in the end. Maybe it’s different in the UK, but here in the US basically once you have the final draft of the manuscript ready to shop around, the next thing to worry about is getting the letter to solicit agents perfect!

    I agree with both Joss and Helen above — don’t get bogged down in trying to perfect the details or you will never get it out there and GET THE BOOK OUT THERE! It is hard to let your baby out there in the world but at some point you do have to push it out the door 🙂

    • I’m surprised that speech mark thing cropped up to the point where I had to flick through loads of books to see the difference.

      I figure there must be plenty of upcoming writers who have similar thoughts buzzing round and round, and can be pretty daunting too when going the ebook route. I’m looking forward to the challenge and the learning curve too, not shying away from anything, and learning as much as I can from others who have been through the process so I’m at least armed as much as possible before clicking the big LAUNCH button.

      Man, that’ll be scary as hell, but insanely exciting at the same time!

  4. P.S.: As for the name, personally don’t like the initial route. Either Dave or David.. and if you don’t mind Dave than I say go with Dave. You use it on the blog already. That is another issue I never had since I always knew I’d use my first name, middle initial, last name as I do in life 🙂 My signature is AWESOME!

    • Aww man, never really thought signatures as I figure ebooks don’t need them, unless the time comes if I get a book publishing deal, maybe, who knows right! My signature has become something of a quick squiggle mess in recent years!

      I like Dave, it suits me, so right now I’m leaning toward that route. The idea of having a book cover saying Dave Farmer makes me happy!

    • Ooh thanks Pip! Nice information and thanks for sharing. Had a look at the very bad book covers link, eww, some nasty designs out there. I don’t want mine to anywhere as amateurish, or at all! I’m still on track for launching it this year, though I don’t know when exactly, maybe summer time, that’s what I’m aiming for, or what like, but then that depends on what times scales the artist has. Baby steps as always!

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