Judging a book by its cover

I remember the day it it finally arrived . . . the cover for the Kindle version of Peak Season, the first in the CW McCoy series of crime novels. With its palm-tree sunset and police motif, the artwork reflected the setting and theme of the book—the fictional city of Spanish Point and the dilemma narrator CW (Candace) McCoy faces in her new life: how to live in peace while surrounded by violence.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Here she is, working in a resort town in Florida, selling beach homes to the uber-rich, sailing with a former police commander and kayaking with a hunk who manages more money than the Philadelphia Mint. Paradise by most standards. If it weren’t so dangerous, she’d find the situation ironic.

That’s a lot to ask a designer to convey. Even more taxing is translating emotional nuance into something people can see.

I know, I’ve tried. Back when I made my living as an art director as well as a writer, I designed the cover and interior of my first published work of nonfiction, the Spirit of Swiftwater. It proved challenging but fun. I selected objects that embodied the theme, hired a terrific photographer (David Coulter), designed the cover in Quark and handed the whole thing to the printer.

Fast forward a dozen years to a technology that has outrun my ability to comprehend it. The applications are new and utterly complex. I tried designing a cover for Peak Season in Photoshop and cringed. Time to get professional help.

I found Rick Smith’s how-to book CreateSpace and Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass on Amazon and followed it to a site called Fiverr. There I found a person in Bulgaria who created a design that’s provocative, attractive and professional.

But it’s your opinion that counts. Can you judge a book by its cover? Has a cover ever made you want to read a book?

Brave new (digital) world

Everything old is new again . . . thanks to a little help from my friends.

My new website launched today. In the words of Crosby, Stills and Nash, it was a long time coming.

Checking the Internet Archive, affectionately known as the Wayback Machine, my first website went live in 2002, back in the day of dialup service. It was designed by Tom Thornton, a true artist and a gentleman if ever there was one.

The next iteration, the version we just replaced, went online in 2009 with an update a few years ago by a blessing of a designer, Robyn Dombrowski of Creative Heads in Sarasota, Florida. For her fortitude, she gets the patience-in-the-face-of-ignorance award.

After six years, we discovered the custom features of the site didn’t play well with WordPress anymore. The site didn’t look like the home of an author, either, since we’d designed it to sell marketing communications services to corporate clients.

The new site emphasizes my shift in focus from nonfiction to fiction, specifically to a series of crime novels I’m developing around two characters, former detective CW McCoy and a defrocked journalist known as Brinker. The website incorporates new ways to share stories about them and the publishing industry through social media links and an e-newsletter called Behind the Book. And wonder of wonders, the new contraption is responsive, which means the site should adapt to any browser or device that taps into it.

It was a long time coming but we’ve finally caught up with the digital age. Here’s to good friends and guidance . . . and another decade on the Web.

Jeff Widmer