I said something in my little rant the other day that’s stuck with me: The book is the art.
To me, Harry Potter’s fabulous because it’s a whole experience. The cover art and the story work together. It’s got color, movement, focus, texture. You’re sitting there in your reading chair on a cold day (possibly snowing), drinking hot chocolate, bundled up with this heavy hardback book in your hands.
Your head’s in the story. Your eyes are seeing the specialized fonts in the header and the brilliant colors of the edge of the binding. Every once in a while, your eyes get a treat in the form of a graphic buried in the text denoting handwritten notes that give you a sense of intimacy with the events that you don’t get with typesetting. Your arms feel the weight of good storytelling. Your fingertips brush the dust jacket and feel the texture of the thick mottled matte paper, they pinch heavy paper between them and turn the pages.
I have a leatherbound edition of Alice in Wonderland. It, too, is an experience, with a little bit of the feel of age. Deckle edges are the best.
I can tell you all the usual reasons I decided to publish independently, and give you another half dozen reasons why Dude enthusiastically encouraged me to do so (the biggest being that he has faith in my work). But after my little temper tantrum, it occurred to me that there was one other reason I really hadn’t thought about much:
The whole book is the art. I had a vision for my book, the series. Even when I was sending out queries galore, I had a vision and I’ll tell you, I was vaguely depressed to think that even if I got The Call, someone else was going to take my vision and put his own spin on it–and he may or may not give a fat rat’s ass what I want or what I see. That’s not to say a graphic artist wouldn’t have done better than I could have and surpassed my vision by light years. It’s simply that I would have no control over it, a little input that might or might not be taken into account, and perhaps no veto power, especially if he was up against a deadline. This is not a client-vendor relationship between the author and the artist.
Interior design is a relative static: You design so as to make the reader unaware of your design. You don’t give him a headache, you don’t wear his eyeballs out. In short, as Zoe put it, you don’t piss him off.
I can give no advice with regard to other indies and how they handle cover design. All I’m saying is that I’m a very visual person and for me, the story is not the art.
It’s the book.