Saga of a Book Cover

china cover Wu Zhen._Fishermen._section.32,5x562,2cm._ca._1340._Freer.
Fisherman, by Wu Zhen. Fourteenth century.  Copyright expired.


I am an art adventurer.  The right to explore is claimed without license, skill or native talent.   A particular aspect of my adventure is persistence in designing covers for books I’ve written.  This endeavor, graphic artists and professional marketers will insist, is pure folly.  The cover sells the book.  An amateur can never match the result of a professional.  All true.  And yet, I continue, painstakingly, slowly, stubbornly.

This past weekend I spent most of my days redesigning the cover for a book already published.  Actually, my saga began on Friday, at 9:00 am.  Saturday night I uploaded my new, PDF-formatted cover to CreateSpace.  The design was attractive, with front, back and spine considered as a unified piece.   Then I viewed my cover in thumbnail perspective, with only the front displayed.  All the beauty was hidden, on the back cover.  The front was anemic, unbalanced, bland.   The last thought in my head before sleep settled, was of that anemic, unsatisfying front cover.

Next morning, before my eyes were even open, a solution to my design dilemma was manifest.  It is often the case that my mind goes to work while I slumber.  I’ll give it a chore before turning in, and hope for the best.

On Sunday night a new cover was ready and uploaded to CreateSpace.  This one enjoyed the benefit of sleep-inspired insight. The cover was good.  But still….

It was at that moment, when confidence waned, that I reflected on the way I had used my time and energy for the past several days.  Didn’t trouble me at all that so much time had been spent, and the cover still might end up in the dustbin.  The work hadn’t been about making a perfect cover—though I did want that.  If I’d spent the same three days hiking in the woods, there would be no question about the value of my time.   The goal, in a hike, is the hike.  The same goes for cover design, or any creative activity.  The process, by itself, has value.  That’s the kind of weekend I had.

Not all my books demand such care with cover design, but this book is special.  The art beguiles me.  It demands loyalty, the dignity of a worthy cover.  Fortunately, the genre is literati art, and the literati do respect amateurs.  Character is considered to be at least as important as technical skill.  I think the literati would appreciate my dedication, if not my cover.

Pasted below are images of four cover designs with front, back and spine displayed.  Beneath each is a thumbnail view.  These are presented in reverse chronological order.  There have been intermediate versions, which are not shown.

If you’d like to weigh in and pick a favorite, from the four below, that would be fine.  Please don’t tell me to hire a professional.

Since writing this blog, I have reconsidered my decision and added another cover to my list.  That cover (below this paragraph) is the one that now graces my book.  To be continued?

four masters web low resolution china wu front character manipulation5

four masters front cover manipulated characters

Newest cover, amended and uploaded Monday night:

china cover Wu Zhen lightened 9 29 19

wu zhen cover front for site


Cover uploaded this weekend:china cover Wu Zhen lightened site 9 29 18front site wu zen lightened


Cover that will be replaced by the new design:

four masters cover site shen zhipdf2

four masters front cover shen zhi

First Cover:

protest art cover Wu Zhen title

protest ar cover front site

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