I am nothing but thrilled by Davey R. Jones’ Amazon review mentioned in my previous blog post. I mean, “Most Surprisingly Good Read of the Decade?” Last night I went through the last 40 of his 81 reviews on Amazon, and mine was the only self-published novel that he had reviewed at all. So what follows should not be interpreted as a criticism of him, or of Taylor Ramage, one of its earliest reviewers who wrote, “Because the Angels is a classic example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or its layout, for that matter). Although it’s very sweet that the author’s family got involved in the design process, it’s honestly not too impressive.”
They did not like the cover. In fact, I think I could posit a mathematical theorem based on the titles of their reviews: Taylor titled her review, “Because the Angels: What Christian Fiction Should Really Aim For.” ∴ Grandiose praise of Because the Angels in review titles is in inverse proportion to the reviewer’s regard for the cover design.
So why did I choose to have the cover look the way it did? Well, my novel heavily featured the anime series Blood+, so in my writer’s fantasy, an editor would be bowled over by the novel’s unique concept, of course, and consult me about the cover design. I would suggest that they contact the production company that owns the copyright to Blood+ and get permission to have the main character, Saya, slashing through a collage of photos representing the Iraq War (blood, explosions, Abu Ghraib, etc.) with her sword.
This event did not happen, so I thought about getting a picture of a samurai girl—as a nod to Samurai Champloo, also featured heavily in the novel—doing the same thing. My brother mentioned that my niece was a member of her anime club at school and liked to draw anime characters. That took me on another train of thought. Spike and Marcus, two of the main protagonists, are writing cut-above average fan fiction based on Samurai Champloo into which their anxieties for Spike’s kidnapped sister Margie subconsciously intrude and that eventually gets turned into a trashy fantasy novel. I thought having a somewhat amateurish drawing of a samurai girl against the background mentioned above might actually be in keeping with that subplot. As it happens, my sister-in-law is a professional graphic designer. If you see this ubiquitous Minted.com design all over the web, that’s her:
She took my idea and designed a much more understated background, which I realized was a better choice, but when I said, “Could you put Gandhi heads on the samurai’s kimono?” (Margie, the hostage, is fully committed to nonviolence.) My sister-in-law said, “Sure.”
I had wanted the samurai figure to be wearing sneakers, but neither my niece nor my sister-in-law could get the feet right; hence, the explosion.
But overall, I am still pleased with the result. If the book is ever picked up by a another publisher and they say they want a different design, I will be open to that, of course, but for now, as an indie author, I can only be grateful to have artists, professional and amateur in my family, who listened to my ideas for the cover and for independent reviewers who liked my book—and also didn’t charge me.