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by R.S. Mellette

Jennifer Vance of Books Forward, you saved the book! Or, you know, at least kept the release date from being pushed back to oblivion.

Spoiler Alert—At the end of this story, we finally get our cover.

Now that we have the cover wrapped up, here are some details of the issues we were having. 

Like Star Wars, Kiya And The Morian Treasure doesn’t include Earth, and I’m one of those writers who likes to keep physical descriptions terse so the reader can envision herself in the role. For those reasons, I sent my publisher notes about how I pictured each character. For Kiya, the thumbnail was “Tina Turner from Thunderdome, but around 19-years old.” 

The first draft, due in November, came at the end of the month and was a blonde, white woman.

To be fair, Kiya’s hair does change color and at one point she does turn blonde. Fine. I didn’t mind that too much, but the narrator/sidekick, Nadir, wasn’t on the cover at all. So my big note, publisher Matt’s big note, and Jenn’s big note was to include Nadir.

At the end of December, we get this draft:

Well… Kiya is great, but still no Nadir. I know that some contracts limit the number of characters on the cover, but I was assured that wasn’t the case here. I give notes to that effect, also that the background is too busy for text.

Nothing comes in January. In February we suspend the PR campaign. On February 28th, publicist Jenn—the one I’m spending all the money on, which is what this series of articles is supposed to be about—sent an email to Matt and I basically saying, “I’m starting up again, are you coming?” That’s how she saved the book.

Matt gets in gear firing off an angry email to either the artist or his agent, I’m not sure.

On March 4th, we get this:

REALLY!?! I mean, nice job creating Nadir, but there are TWO CHARACTERS! It’s like Starsky without Hutch. Hall with no Oates. 

By ten days into March, I’m waking up at 4:00 in the morning sweating bullets. I have a handful of Photoshop skills from an old day job, so on March 12th, I download the software and with my extremely limited skills create my own cover:

Of course, without closing the deal with the artist, there are legal issues, which I get. And I’m not complaining about the quality of the work, but you see my points, right? Matt, being afraid of the legality, doesn’t want to use my draft, but sends another angry email. I suggest sending my draft and saying, “Something exactly like this!” I don’t know if he did or not.

More morning insomnia for me. Finally, March 20th, I get out of bed at 4:30 to draft an email to the artist saying, we’re obviously on a path toward court, but as I’ve invested $20,000 based on the art being done in November, it won’t be small claims. I asked, in lieu of a suit, that he give us the rights to the second two drafts, and we’ll pay the original contract and be done. I sent it to Matt. He liked it but fired off another email of his own instead, promising to send mine if this one didn’t work.

That same day, Jenn said we’d have to push back the release if we didn’t get it soon.

March 22nd, we get:

Everyone agrees this is the one, so things can get moving.

The audio book requires a square piece of art, which is part of the deliverables from the artist, but I know better than to wait for this guy. Once everything’s agreed, I get the audio book campaign going with the cover I made. If you remember, the idea is to present the first nine chapters as a free podcast series. I was planning on doing them once a week for 9 weeks, but now we’re late, so once a week leading up to the release, then one a day. Within a few hours, the first audio chapter is live. You can follow the podcast release here—or wherever you get your podcasts.

Jenn also gets busy. With art in hand, she gets my press release placed as an interview with Azure Dwarf and Reading Renee. And several other pending interviews and reviews.

Throughout these articles, I haven’t named the artist because I don’t have a problem with his finished work. This behind-the-scenes blog for fellow professionals is the only place I’ll tell the whole story because when talking about the book in public my job is simple—make people want to read it.

I would get that opportunity when I ran across a Facebook post by one of my 4,000+ followers saying he’d had a novelist have to cancel on a panel he was organizing and could anyone fill in?

A few days later, I’m off to WonderCon.

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R.S. Mellette is on the board of the LA Region of SCBWI as the PAL Liaison.

Images provided by the author.