A Writer’s Life: Cover Me III – Electric Fantasy

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Remember how I was practicing making book covers? How I was posting them on tumblr and elsewhere?

I got my first “professional” assignment.

Now this isn’t professional in the paid way, but in the “on an actual book someone publishes” way. I’m helping out an ambitious co-worker with a love of pulp SF to put out his e-book. I of course volunteered to do the cover. He gets it for free, I get practice, and it probably won’t suck.

This turns out to have been a bit stressful. You never quite appreciate your talents, or question them, until you’re doing something for someone else.  Kinda in the “questioning” stage right now.

At the same time, this is also fantastic for learning.

I realized first and foremost that the book covers I was making were suffering a bit because I knew they were basically practice. I didn’t polish them, I didn’t tweak them, I didn’t revise them as much because it was “just practice.” There’s all sorts of things you don’t do in practice that you do when it’s real.

It’s real because I’m not gonna give this guy some crap. He’s my co-worker, he’s a fellow writer, he’s a good guy – I’m not going to let him down.

This means that now I’m pushing myself even farther. Exploring techniques. Considering layout precision. Learning all the things I wouldn’t learn when I just do a one-off bit of practice.

There’s a few takeaways from this that are good for you artists and writers.

  1. First, practice is good. Don’t get me wrong, it got me here. In fact practice is needed to get good enough.
  2. “Projects” work for learning skills. My practice projects gave me a hell of a lot of experience.
  3. Doing something “for real” exposes you to all sorts of things you may not get in practice – details, feedback, market issues, etc.
  4. Doing something for someone is a great motivator.

Let’s see how this book cover goes. I’ve got one mockup and a vision in my head that, hopefully, I can bring into reality. I’m sure I have plenty more to learn – but everything I learn here can help me and others later . . .

– Steve