The cover of a novel has to be special. The image has to catch the eye, fire the imagination, impel the potential reader to pluck it off the shelf -or in this modern world, click on it with their mouse. The font has to be readable and attractive. And it all has to look good in thumbnail size so that book browsers can see it online. Because that whole thing about not judging a book by its cover?
I’m not an artist, photographer, or graphic designer. Creating a cover is something I’m not exactly creatively inclined toward. On my previous publishing efforts I simply browsed through stock photography to find a striking image and then let the tools available do the rest. With The Troubleshooter, my first full-length novel, I wanted something different. And so I went a more definitive direction.
I got lucky.
I knew the image I wanted. A film noir style detective cloaked in shadow and holding a gun. Easy to find, right? Well, yes. A Google image search or two produced a number of images that fit the criteria. Finding images online isn’t a difficult task, as you know. Tracking down the original photographer? A bit trickier.
But I clicked my calloused fingers until I found a few really great photographers. One of those happened to be Mark Krajnak of Jersey Style Photography. Unlike many of the other photographers, Mark was his own model. He created a Man In the Hat noir character and took outstanding photos of himself in detective mode. What stood out about Mark’s work was that his was the first photos that seemed perfect for the character of Mick Trubble, the protagonist of my story. Mick is a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a rough and tumble type of mug who charms the dames, shoots the bad guys, and take life on with a world-weary dry wit. Looking at Mark, I knew I had my guy.
The next part is where the luck comes in. When approaching a complete stranger online, you never know what kind of response you’re going to get. Well, Mark is the nicest guy you can run across. We briefly discussed what I was looking for, and in no time at all Mark took one of his iconic images and serve up a mock cover for me to preview. It pretty much covered what I was looking for:
The only thing that needed to be altered was the font to make it readable in smaller formats, and perhaps a bit of touch up to create a look that suited the retro-futuristic style of the story. But again, I had no idea of how to do that. Good thing I had an Ace to throw.
I ran into Stefan on DeviantArt. Through his unique images I fell into the dieselpunk culture and the amazing work that he had just collected in his mind-blowing collection, Diesel City. I was truly impressed by his artistic design skills and had already discussed working with him on a story for his Silent Empire project that he had displayed on the site. When the Troubleshooter cover project came up, Stefan came to the rescue with his eye for design and noir expertise. What stands out even more was his patience with my amateurism. He put the project on his shoulders and when the work was finished I was absolutely blown away. Here was the image that I’d imagined: The Troubleshooter in all his shadowy glory. The image is clean and striking, the mood dark and fitting for the noir environment. I truly could not have asked for better people to work with.
One writer, one photographer, one graphic design artist. Hailing from Birmingham Alabama, New Jersey, and France. All perfect strangers who just happened to meet by chance online. You can’t plan these types of collaborations. But I consider myself extremely fortunate to have done so.
So the Troubleshooter novel is published. The cover –finished. The men who met by chance now go their separate ways, right?
I was happy to find out that Stefan reached out to Mark on his own and the two of them have begun a creative relationship that has resulted in the recent images that the three of us have been posting to our readers and fans. And as for me, I have a lot more Mick Trubble in my head, waiting to shoot more trouble when the time comes. Who knows? Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship. We’ll let Mick Trubble have the last word, as he did at the very end of The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues…
“It was funny, though –as I sipped and listened, I didn’t really feel like things had ended. More like had just got started.”
Amen, to that, Mick. And as for Mark and Stefan –a tip of the fedora to you gents. The world is a small place. Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to sit down in some hazy nightclub and tell war stories. Until then, we’ll always have New Haven…