So. I'd written somewhere around 30,000 words of Uncivil War and I was ready to publish the first volume. Which meant I needed a cover. Given that I have the drawing skills of a drunken sloth and no graphics program to help me out, this could present a small problem. Fortunately, I knew just the guy.
Chris Gugliotti is what ancient tribes used to call "one of the unknowable whims of the gods." I usually just call him "a studmuffin." Six of one, half dozen the other.
I'd already come up with a concept that would unify all the covers and make it immediately obvious as being part of the same series while giving us tremendous latitude to play with variations. The idea was simple: we'd use the American flag. It was perfect for the story—the best choice, thematically—and it's obviously immediately familiar and eye-catching, even at thumbnail size, and any slight alterations to it are instantly noticeable, even at thumbnail size. But where to start? What do we do with the first one?
"How do you feel about skulls?" I asked Chris.
"Are you kidding?" he replied. "I love drawing skulls!"
He wasn't exaggerarting. I got the first version a few minutes later.
I loved the skull. But we thought maybe darkening the flag would be a better way to go. While he was at it, Chris aged it up just a bit.
Obviously, we needed to flop the flag, so the blue part of the flag (the union, that is) would be in the correct position. We did that and added the titles and my name to the brighter version.
I liked the stark simplicity of this, but was afraid the text wouldn't read well enough, especially at thumbnail size, which is how most people would be seeing it for the first time. So we tried fading the stripes out. And while we were at it, we pumped up the subtitle and went with a stencil treatment.
Then I thought, duh, of course—instead of just fading the stripes out, let's having them turning into drips of blood.
Yeah, that worked. Man, does that work. Hm. Should we age it again?
I love that...but it's not right for this story. (But I'm planning on using something like it for a future volume.)
But now I was afraid the title wasn't going to be readable when it's only 1" x 1.6" on Amazon. We tried stacking it, which would enable us to make each letter larger.
Yep yep yep. So close! Brian Stelfreeze suggested having the blood stop sooner, as the red behind the black could it make hard to read the title. And while we were at it, we decided to pump the subtitle back up.
Kevin Nowlan suggested tweaking the kerning to close up the gaps between letters. We changed the color of the subtitle a few times...
...and we're done.
And there 'tis. The first volume of Uncivil War.
I'm very happy with the novel but you know how it is: even when it's part of the job and my income depends upon it, like many creators, I still have a hard time being objective about my own work...and an even harder time praising it. No such worries with the cover, however: my boy Googs hit a home run and that I'll shout from the rooftops.