I want to write a quick post about this because I just had that age-old argument with a colleague.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” as if it was supposed to be some great metaphore on how we put too much thought into appearances and not enough in the guts.
While it may sound like glitters and unicorns where everyone can feel good and embrace mediocrity…let’s face it : we need to judge a book by its cover.
We need to…
Because being a writer also makes us artists and therefore, we CANNOT neglect the aesthetic aspect of our work.
Some people only care about aesthetics (Art for art’s sake) and others will claim a work is purely sociological/political…both work with aesthetics, or at least they should.
As writers, it is imperative to dig into design and visual art. We need to know what we love visually, what we like aesthetically and how we can translate the stories we have in our heads, not only into words, but also visually.
It can be daunting : how do you synthesise 300 pages of work into one single image. It is an exercise in minimalism, that is for sure. But why not live up to the challenge. It can be a visual concept, an emotion, a character… why not take this chance to be creative just the same.
Of course, some will say that authors don’t always (or ever) have final word on cover designs. That can only mean two things : A) you had no guts to impose yourself (everything is negotiable) or you wouldn’t dare to try in the first place.
You don’t even need to be a designer. Simple photoshop skills (which most younger people have anyways) will suffice to AT LEAST do a proper maquette of a cover that you can then send to a designer (if need be).
With all the photographs available online in various databases (stock photos) you can do a mock-up in a half-hour, probably do a full (usable) cover in a matter of hours… at least to indicate to your designer what kind of direction you’d like to go.
Cover design it not THAT complicated. If you’ve been raised around computers, you already (probably) know how to do it. And the best thing is, it’s cheap too.
If you can’t afford photoshop, try a cheaper program. Don’t have a good camera : stock photos. Fonts aren’t interesting : buy a few good ones online.
The cover for “Northern Gothic” is basically a texture I bought online and photoshopped it to get the color I wanted plus, I added a very common font (that is cheezy, yes, but so what?) It cost me $4.34 (Canadian) to do… that’s it.
But you don’t have to go “cheap” all the time.
With A Teenage Suicide, I wanted to push my creativity and use everything I knew about the world of Punk rock. So I designed one cover for each of the characters, using “A Teenage Suicide” as a band name, while imitating logos from bands that the teenagers in my story would listen too… I had t-shirts printed and then asked people I know to act as models.
All of that cost me a few hundred dollars (printing one t-shirt at a time is REALLY expensive) but I found the experience worthwhile (sometimes an idea gets in your head and you can’t sleep till its done.)
On a simpler note, I’ve designed the mock-up for my next novel (Grand Trunk and Shearer) because I know what kind of visual I wanted. I wanted to use the Victoria Bridge because it crosses the neighbourhood my story is set it. It’s a Montreal landmark, plus it looks great. I could have gone there at night and taken a picture, but I was lucky to find one that was perfect in a stock photo database.
I also wanted big BOLD letters that took a lot of space (like the tattoo on my left arm) Because…well, that’s what I wanted.
Total price for the cover : maybe 40 bucks.
Try and fail and try again, untill you’re happy with what you got. It’s that simple and it’s that cheap.
There’s no reason not to do it.
Notre chauffeur de truck est en vacances fait que j’me suis ramassé sur son shift pour la journée!
J’ai fait le tunnel Ville-Marie,
Le tunnel Lafontaine
Le pont Champlain (dieu ait mon âme!!!!)
L’échangeur Turcot (Osti m’a mourir, osti m’a mourir!)
L’autoroute Décarie (Ouin, c’est cute NDG vu d’en bas)
La 40 entre les 2 15 (ohhhhhh boy!)
la 15 nord jusqu’à Boisbriand, ma sortie est bloquée (construction) SImonac!
Fait que j’me ramasse sa 13 sud… vers Montréal
Détour, détour dans Boisbriand (qui a des osti de zones de 30 a grandeur, en passant!)
Trouve l’entrepot, pis on recommence
13 sud vers Montréal
Sortie Hickmore, Arrêt a Lachine
la 520 est vide (AMAZING!)
Mais b’en vite j’me ramasse s’a 40 entre les 2 15 (ENCORE!!!)
Sort au plus criss, arrêt Rue Stinson
Mais Stinson débouche pas nulle part a cause de l’osti de track. Meme si mon prochain arrêt est sur Lebeau (distance a vol d’oiseau, 150 PIEDS!) J’me ramasse dans ville Mont-Royal (allo les riches!!!)
Tourne pis tourne pis tourne autour des cônes oranges, finit par traverser l’osti de track! Mais la, criss, ya pas une rue drette a Ville Mont-Royal…J’me ramsse en Angle Nord-Nord-Est…
Autour de Rockland, j’me retrouve dans l’échangeur 15/40 (ENCORE!!)
Finit par pogner la sortie l’Acadie… mais évidemment, on peux pas tourner a Gauche sur Sauvé (la seule OSTI de rue qui traverse la track dans l’autre sens) tourne pis tourne pis tourne a droite… se ramasse enfin sa bonne voie…
Prochain arrêt : Park-Ex! (Yé!)
deux p’tits slaloms entre les cones sur l’Acadie (rendu icitte, chu habitué) pis finit par trouver la place… Y’ont un parking (AWESOME)
(faut je dise en passant, que j’ai envie de pisser depuis 3h la, moé la!)
Prochain arrêt : St-Hubert pis Everett.
Chu en business sur Jean-Talon…
Passe par la ruelle : pas de porte arrière (évidemment)
Tourne pis tourne pis tourne a droite…
Finalement, dieu me calisse patience : ya deux spots libres devant le magasin (parcomètre, mais rendu la, osti, j’lai payé de ma poche)
(OBSERVATIONS : depuis quand y’a rien qu’une osti de voie rendu a Rosemont? Aussi :le club échangiste WAY sketchy au coin de Rosemont est démoli, VIVE les condos (pour une fois)
Descends St-Denis, ya juste 3-4 spots, mais j’menligne correct pour pas me ramasser sur Sherbrooke (question de m’éviter un mal de tête de plus) même si les travaux commencent autour d’Iberville.
Bref : J’aime le transport en commun finalement…
“The year is 2014 and scientists are still bewildered that Allah, Buddha, FIFA and 6000 Terabytes of free porn barely made a dent in humanity’s insatiable need for violence.”
From CRASS: A Tale of Ordinary Havoc. (an upcoming project)
I’m not a HUGE fan of rant pieces. I like them every once in a while, like once a year when summer’s here and life gets boring again.
So here it is : my rant piece for the year : the gym.
(Now, I know this post will trigger algorithms, sending me fake likes and “men’s health” spam by the truckloads (much like my rants against Religion has put me on many “save their soul” christian spam-bots) BUT FUCK IT… I’ll write it anyways.)
I used to work out at this East-Downtown gym. Big fancy place, perfect white walls, tiled floors, flatscreens everywhere… won’t give you the name. They had given my company a half price rebate and being one to look for a bargain, I signed up.
I mean, the place was filled with single, 35 year old “bankers” whose main job, I came to learn, was to look busy until the next crisis came around and claimed their paycheck.
It was the greatest collection of the most insipid people I had ever met in my entire life.
It was that bad.
And there are only so many times you can sit there and listen to them trying to figure out what combination of whey-protein-shakes-or-bar, combined with a 17×3 series ratio with weight increments ratioed to their current heartrate bpm will improve the condition of their posterior abdominal muscles. I can only bear so many discussion about HOW they look while working out, chicks they were gonna fuck (I mean, I’m 31, shacked up and father to two kids : really, if you haven’t found your wife by now, you’re probably too boring to get there…) and other shit like the type of garment they wear that improves their crossfit performance by improving their hydratation/perspiration cycles.
I told them that switching to left handed masturbation really improved my own crossfit scores by allowing both my hands to perform equally when time came to powerlifting. When they asked it switching hands would mean my right would lose its grip, I replied, “jerk off at least twice a day, four if you can…gotta keep them in pairs.”
He walked up to me two weeks later, asking what I did about the chafing.
Now I don’t usually write rant pieces. In life like in the gym, I mostly keep to myself and focus on the work at hand.
That is why I switched to the Chinatown YMCA and luckily found that the typical 35 year old man-child did not find the YMCA to be sexy and/or fitting into his lifestyle.
As far as working out goes, the YMCA’s fucking awesome. Everyone’s mostly minding their business. No flatscreen TV’s no protein shake displays at the door… I fucking love it, plus it’s in Chinatown which I also happen to like.
So there I was, thinking I knew how to work out, thinking I had discipline, feeling good about how I did my exercises and all…
The life lesson of this rant is this :
I’m in the weight room this one day and there I see this 70 year old Chinese man lifting his weights while in horse stance.
That’s when I realised that, we, my friends, every single one of us, are fucking pussies!
See you in a year for another rant… until then, keep your head up and focus on the work.