Friday, December 4, 2009

A New Cover For The New Year

by John Gilstrap

When my new book, Hostage Zero, is released next July, it will mark my 7th time going through this process, and I confess that it continues to amaze me every single time. I start with the nugget of an idea, and then nurture it into a concept and from there into an outline. When it looks like something that can sustain itself as a whole story, I take that deep breath and start filling up the page.

Man, those first few chapters really fly. Look, ma! I'm a real writer! I'm freaking brilliant! Jeeze, why isn't every book this easy? Then I read what I've written.

Uh-oh. Who the hell wrote those sentences? They suck. They're all clunky and awkward. Grammar, anyone?

So the rewrite of that first section begins, and as the layers of polish begin to show a shine, I begin to believe that maybe some smattering of talent remains. Sure, I can do this.

Then, halfway through the second act, I begin to think that I might have chosen the wrong story to write. Why would the characters do what I'm having them do? Jesus, nobody talks like that in real life. Oh, for crying out loud, that character needs to know how to shoot, but I've already mentioned three times that he's never held a gun. Time to re-rewrite the front of the book.

At last, there's the ending. I know it's the ending because I actually wrote those magic words, "The End." But I can't end it there. It's flat. Nobody wants to read a book with a flat ending. Time to re-rewrite the back of the book.

Meanwhile, my deadline has come and gone. I'm late on delivery. I read the book through, from beginning to end, making edits along the way, but you know what? It seems good now. But do think that because I really think it, or because I'm past my deadline and I have to think it? Only one way to know for sure. I attach it to an email to my editor and I click "Send."

Then I wait. And wait.

Then I get the call. The editor loves the book! I mean, really loves it. She tells me great things, and I relax, hoping--praying--that I end up with a cover that will actually help sell the book. (We've discussed here before that some covers kill books before they've had a chance to thrive.) My editor tells me that the art department is working on a great concept, but every art department tells every author that same thing. Please, Lord, get me a good cover.

Then I see it. Wow. I love it. But do I really love it, or is that torpedo already in the water and I have to love it. What do y'all think?


  1. Thumbs up on the cover, John. And the Deaver blurb ain't bad, either. Good luck with HOSTAGE ZERO.

  2. A very cool cover, John. It will definitely do its job and draw in those browsers.

  3. I love the cover! I'll buy it!

  4. John,

    My mouth literally dropped open while reading about your writing process, because it was so similiar to what I go through. Especially the self-doubt. It gives me hope that its just a phase and not a realization that I suck at this.

    As for the cover, honestly it wouldn't pull me towards the book if I had never read the author before, but the title grabs my attention.

    Can't wait.

  5. That's a terrific cover, John. Crisp, clean, and terrifying in its implication.

  6. Love the cover and can totally relate to the self-doubts. The torpedo has left the boat but you can love it just the same:)

  7. I do like the cover. I agree with Jim, that it will draw in readers. Am I the only one who thought of the Freudian overtones of the Washington Monument inside the gigantic circle? God, I'm sick. But hey, a little subliminal suggestion will only help sales.

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  9. This whole second guessing and indecision thing, I'm just not sure if it's right. When I look at my manuscript, it's like I'm having someone else's Deja vu.

    Kathryn: I wonder if Freud's wife was tired, because he apparently needed an energetic woman.

  10. Great cover, John. The font is superb! And the Washington Monument (I think that's what it is, right?) in the telescopic sights creates real drama. The lines are perfect. Congrats to the designer AND to the publisher for going along.

    My first novel is coming out next year, but it's with a small traditional press, and I'm very, very apprehensive about the cover. I don't really like any of the covers they've done, but I know there's nothing I can do about it.

    Any advice?

  11. Kathryn, Sometimes a monument is just a monument. ;-)

    DL, I think that the self-doubt is common to every writer. What's more, I'll wager that the ones who have no doubt alos write not-good books.

    Mike, my advice to you is to take a deep sigh and accept the inevitable. If you really HATE the cover, then you should probably make your opinions known. Otherwise, may God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change . . .


  12. That cover rocks!! No Mercy was good, but this cover is great. I already feel like I have a taste of what to expect from the story. Can I assume that mayhem ensues and bad guys are dispatched with extreme prejudice???