The Cover Is Here!
It’s a long way off, but the official cover for my forthcoming story collection, How To Carry Bigfoot Home (Red Hen Press) has been revealed. I’m a big freak about book covers (as the three of you who bought my last book/album can attest). So when it came to finding someone to do the cover for my first official collection of short fiction, I went to the best illustrator I could find, the great Santiago Uceda. He’s done some amazingly original Bigfoot illustrations over the years, and I had a feeling he’d be the perfect choice.
My plan was to have Santiago come up with a few concepts, complete one final version, and then, if it turned out, present the cover to my publisher, Red Hen. I paid Santiago out of my own pocket so I was taking a risk. If Red Hen didn’t like cover, I’d be the proud owner of one unusable book cover. Because I had done a lot of work illustration and design-wise on many of my albums, Red Hen trusted my eye and allowed me “cover suggestion” in my contract. I figured, well, let’s come up with a suggestion and see what happens. I rolled the dice.
Santiago and I went back and forth on a few initial sketches, he was super-easy to work with. Obviously we had time (early 2015 publication date), so I didn’t push him, he didn’t push me, it was a really wonderful collaboration. Easy. No pressure. In collaborating artistically with many people over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best to leave the other person alone as much as possible. Let them shine, let them do their thing before tweaking or making comments. For me, the best collaborations usually happen this way.
Once we arrived on a concept for the design, Santiago set to work on creating the final cover. This involved a series of more detailed drawings; adding color, lettering, etc. It was amazing to watch the detail grow over time, the little things an illustrator like Santiago adds each time he takes something to the next level.
He came up with two versions of the cover, the one we’d been working on and a last minute version he’d been tweaking in private. I loved what we’d been working on, but the last minute version was astounding. Maybe it was the fact that I’d seen the original version a few times by then? Whatever it was, I fell in love with it, sent it to Red Hen, and in a united “We Love It!” it was decided, book cover chosen.
I’ve heard so many horror stories of writers who fight with their publisher over book covers, not here, not this hombre. Partly because I have an amazing publisher in Red Hen, but also because it doesn’t need to be that hard. Someone has a good idea? Someone spots a good opportunity? Grab it, take the chance. It’s collaboration on every level; between the writer and the illustrator, the publisher and the writer. It’s always better to work together as a team, embrace a job well done, and move on.