Making a Book in Grown Up Land

I have been telling stories as long as I can remember.  As a kid, when I wrote a story, I wasn’t content to simply write my words on a piece of paper.  I would staple pages together and write my story in these handmade books, complete with illustrations and hand drawn covers.

IMG_20191110_143619521~3.jpg
Some gems from early in my career.

I wish it was so easy to make a book in grown-up land.

Almost from the time I began writing The Compass Code, I planned to self-publish it.  The primary reason I decided on this route is that I like owning what I create.  I own the words.  I own the art.  I like having the freedom to do what I choose with it.  So, as I considered my options, self-publishing felt like the best fit.

Of course, self-publishing means–surprise–my job doesn’t end with writing the words.  I have to turn those words into an actual book.  Properly formatted, with things like headers and page numbers and a table of contents.  And a cover.

This has terrified me.  I can write the words, but formatting a document on a computer?  I was lost at the word format.  I have some skills with a pencil, but graphic design?  As in, art on a computer?  Did I mention how computer challenged I am?

Last month, I had the good fortune to take a class on formatting manuscripts into ebooks and paperbacks, and designing a cover using the free software GIMP.  I still have a lot of work and learning to do, both with formatting the manuscript and with my cover design, but for the first time, I feel as though I just might be able to actually make a real, not-stapled-together, grown-up book.

There will still be some hand drawn art on the cover though.  Because tradition.

Many in the industry say over and over again that authors shouldn’t make their own covers.  It won’t look professional.  It will look self-published.  (Oh the shame.)  People won’t buy your book.  I can appreciate the advice.  But, I have contrarian tendencies.  And remember, I want to own it all, the words, the art…

I drew the images I envisioned for my cover years ago.  I tried different configurations, colors, fonts, etc.  It was a lot of fun, and I did succeed in making an image I like enough to use for headers on social media.  But I knew it wouldn’t translate into a professional looking cover without help.  I filed all the art away and packed up the pencils and got back to writing.

The class gave me a reason to pull all the drawings back out and art to my heart’s content for a couple of weeks.

Figuring out how to turn my pencil drawings into an amazing cover I love using GIMP was extremely frustrating in the beginning.  (Could be my afore mentioned computer illiteracy.)  As I played around with it (subjected myself to much mental anguish) for entirely too much time, I finally managed to make some sense of GIMP, and it turns out, it’s pretty fun.

squirrel
Image courtesy of Pixabay

After days of dangerously elevated stress levels, hours of raging, and a little bit of swearing (okay, a lot), The Compass Code has a cover design concept. And I’m really, really excited about it.  I can’t wait to share it, along with all the words it will soon be wrapped around.

Now, if I can just get through the formatting part…