Cover story

In my previous post I reflected on some of the aspects of self-publishing. Making a good cover is obviously one of the most important ones, because it is the “public face” of a book, the thing that will draw people in and catch folks’ eyes.

The cover also has to tell a story in itself – it’s not supposed to be just a pretty face, it’s meant to convey something of the contents too so, that when you see it you can have a pretty good guess what style of story it is.

For instance, a dreamy-eyed young woman clutching a glass of wine and gazing into the colourful distance tells you it’ll be some sort of chick-lit. A dark cover with a pair of angry eyes and a blood-soaked knife means the book will most likely be a thriller or horror. And a cover with a picture of a leather whip and a pair of handcuffs suggests it’ll be a police procedural – perhaps set in the world of horse racing…

I really enjoyed the work I did with my publisher and their chosen graphic designer in the run-up to the 2010 publication of Up The Creek Without a Mullet. The discussions focussed my mind of precisely what sort of story I was telling, what the key messages and themes were, and what the style of writing was. I was really pleased with the cover because it captured the meandering curiosity of the mission’s origin and hinted at some of the rural landscapes that were the backdrop to the story.

But with self-publishing my second book, things were different.

The Return of the Mullet HunterI had neither the funds to commission a cover from a professional graphic designer nor the skills to make one myself, so I had to think creatively. I knew I wanted something that was a little similar to that first cover – this is a series after all so there needed to be some consistency – but it had to look fresh and different at the same time.

Thankfully, I knew that my friend Phil Hatchard (who among many other things is a cartoonist) was a dab hand at such things, and had done book covers before. I asked him if he fancied doing my second book’s cover, and I was delighted that he accepted.

We discussed the story, and opted for a globe idea, a concept that had been explored for my first book. Phil found the font used in Up The Creek Without a Mullet’s cover, came up with a few ideas, and after several rounds of editing we finally settled on what we both think is a pretty great design (see right).

It’s a bright, bold image, it captures the essence of the story, it shares a stylistic continuity with the first book, and it includes most of the locations featured in The Return of the Mullet Hunter.

(I say only most of the locations – it takes some extreme cartographical liberties to get England, Canada, the USA and New Zealand in the same hemisphere. Cartoonish is one thing, clumsy and unrealistic is another. So England, the shortest part of the book, sadly had to drop off the globe.)

In lieu of payment for the work he did on the cover, Phil graciously accepted that a ten percent cut of the royalties from The Return of the Mullet Hunter instead goes to a charity he helped set up in Tanzania called The Hoja Project. Over on Phil’s website,, he sells many of his cartoons in the form of comics and t-shirts. His online shop is well worth a browse if you like your humour geeky and peppered with puns, and he also supports The Hoja Project through his sales.

I’ll write more about Hoja and the great work they do in my next post, but suffice to say it’s wonderful to be able to support a good cause while at the same time drawing upon Phil’s talents to ensure my book looks as good as it can.

So in both my previous post and this one, I’ve shared a few reflections on how the journey to self-publishing need not be quite so lonely, unprofessional and uncollaborative as you might think. The journey to getting The Return of the Mullet Hunter published has been a slow and at times frustrating one, certainly, but I’ve only got to where I am by working with others.

Of course, the road to getting the The Return of the Mullet Hunter out there is only half the story. Now begins the task of promoting the book and getting as many people as possible aware of it and interested in buying it.

And that’s a whole other story that, in the book’s early days, has obviously yet to pan out. Time, as they say, will tell. In the coming months I’ll no doubt reflect on that side of things in my blog. Watch this space!

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