Even self-published authors, at least the wise ones, don’t try to do it all alone. We rely on editors, cover artists, photographers, etc. to help put all the pieces together into an actual, finished book. Sometimes it seems that writing the novel is the easy part. It’s the logistics that can feel overwhelming. Editing and proofreading, font choice, paper color (white or cream), front cover art and font, back cover blurb, cover style (matt or shiny), headshot, bio, etc. must all be completed before the book can be assembled and made available to the public.
I am truly grateful for the professionals who participate in helping me with all those logistics. In this blog I’d like to highlight two of them. I couldn’t have done it without either, and they are worth their weight in gold: my head-shot photographer Beverly Guhl and my cover artist Karen Phillips. (I have a new editor starting with me in September – I’ll do a blog on her then.)
I originally met Beverly when I owned Mermaid Waterscapes and was a professional koi pond builder. The one in her backyard had been built by a stone mason, and her waterfall looked like a fireplace. We enlarged her pond and completely rebuilt her waterfall. It was a challenging job due to the steep inclines in her yard, but it was also rewarding and fun.
I didn’t realize at the time that Beverly was a professional photographer who specialized in headshots. She sometimes sent photos she’d taken of her pond or Japanese koi, and I loved their artistry and beauty, but I didn’t connect the dots any further.
Small world proof happened when I became a full-time author and asked published friend Larry Brill who did his head shot. It took a moment when he said Beverly’s name for my memory circuits to fire in the right order. I’d completed Beverly’s pond several years earlier and hadn’t received any pond pictures in months. When I realized I already knew her, I was excited and immediately got in touch. My next book was due to come out, and I wasn’t happy with my old head shot, mostly because I hated how my hair looked that day.
My BEFORE headshot
I was pleased with the package options Beverly offered and set an appointment. The experience was fun, relaxing, and completely rewarding. She had me bring several outfits so we could take a variety of photos. (We ended up taking at least twenty or thirty; I lost track.) From those, she gleaned the few best ones and sent proofs.
I selected two: one standard, and one “mysterious” for my science fiction books and publicity. Beverly took care of retouching — removing shadows under eyes, eliminating those pesky wayward hairs that stuck out, etc. The end results were beyond my expectations. (Even though I’d always admired Larry’s headshot, I didn’t expect the same quality for my own face and head. Like pretty much everyone else, I have a dim view of my own looks.)
On the left above is my before headshot. It isn’t that it’s a bad shot, and it was actually done by a professional photographer. He didn’t specialize in headshots for authors, and I really was having a Very Bad Hair Day that day. On the right are the two photos from Beverly. My biggest problem these days is deciding which photo to use in different situations: Facebook author’s page, backs of books, interviews, blog, Amazon page, etc. I love them both. I just wish I looked this good every day!
As with my referral to Beverly, I asked several author friends whose book covers I admired who had designed them. Two recommended Karen: Mark Bentsen and Kaye George. I respect both authors and love their books (and covers) so was delighted to find they used the same artist.
I contacted Karen about my second book Born Rich (temporarily not available for sale). I’d had an idea what I wanted for the cover of my first novel, The Case of a Cold Trail and a Hot Musket. I worked with a professional artist who turned my rambling vision into eye-catching reality, but he was no longer available when I was nearing completion of Born Rich.
It’s a dystopian science fiction story, and I was lost – I had no idea what the cover should look like. I tried creating a draft and posted it on Facebook for friends to share their thoughts. No one liked it. I mean, NO ONE liked it. I knew it was time to seek professional help, perhaps in more ways than one.
Karen responded promptly to my email query. She asked great questions, trying to get a sense of what the novel was about. Nothing initially clicked with her, so she asked for the manuscript. She read the entire thing, then sent me her cover concept. She’d almost perfectly nailed the essence of the book. We made a few tweaks and were done. She completed the back cover and spine to the publisher’s specifications and sent me the final copy. I was beyond thrilled. Although Born Rich is temporarily unavailable because of a content issue, I can’t wait to get it back on the market. I have no doubt Karen’s amazing cover will help drive sales.
On the left is my original, universally-hated design. On the right is the front cover from Karen. She wrapped the cool cityscape and creepy people around to the back, further enticing readers to explore the world created within.
I’m happy to say that two other authors I know, Tammy Francis and Phil McBride, were so pleased with my covers from Karen they now use her, too. I’m hoping when they are ready for headshots, they’ll turn to Beverly.
It’s so nice as an author to be able to focus on writing and not have to sweat the artistic areas where my skills are not the best, or non-existent. Thank you Beverly and Karen for making my life easier and more successful!