The Evolution of a Book Cover

I’ve always enjoyed looking at book covers. In fact, choosing a cover is my favorite part of the Indie Book Publishing process. In the beginning, I didn’t care too much about the cover and that was cool. But then, as I matured, I started to look at my writing differently. I stopped looking at my writing alone and started looking at the book as a complete package. In doing so, I’ve learned that the best chances of a book succeeding is not just one thing, but a collection of things. Not just a nice cover alone or a well-written story alone, but everything together. That is what I’ve learned and that is how I will look at book publishing from now on. I will look at the process as a complete piece, a body that I must dress not just outwardly but inwardly and not just inwardly but outwardly.

I’ve been having a little success with I am Soul so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the evolution of the cover and how I think it has played a major role in that success.

To start, I wasn’t going to even release this book when I did. I was supposed to release book two of Nora December 20, 2017, my mothers birthday. Instead, I pushed that book back (it wasn’t ready) and released I am Soul.

I am Soul is a collection of poems from this blog as well as my personal journal, collected, compiled and edited into what is now my 4th collection of poetry. I call it I am Soul because some of the poems are personal, some of them are centered around the African American experience (a people of Soul) and also because people have always said that I have an old soul. Even as a kid people have said that I was mature for my age. For these reasons, I am Soul.

Grainy pic of me and I am Soul with old cover.

The first cover was decent. I liked it a lot. A purple book with a heart-shaped bible page. It was nice enough to land me the #7 spot in the African Literature category of Amazon before release day. It started at number 17, then dropped to number 9 and then number 7.

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But…

I liked the cover a lot but I didn’t love it. I couldn’t help but notice that the cover looked better electronically, to me, than it did when the paperback arrived. It also didn’t stand out very well on Amazon.

I AM SOUL- 3D

I still think this is a cute cover but it doesn’t look all that great offline. Once the book printed it didn’t look the same. The dark blue on top the purple didn’t pop. In fact, this is still the cover on Goodreads. I don’t know how to change it. At first I didn’t care but after awhile I had to follow my heart and change the cover. (A privilege of publishing books Independently. You can change what you want, when you want.)

I decided to try something that matched the name of the book and the content in full. When you think of Soul you think of something deeply personal and connected to that individual.

Soul is something Israelites (Blacks) have always had (think Soul Train), from our hair styles to our creative way of dance, the way that we dress, the way that we sing, and the way that we speak. We set the trends and nothing was more trendy than the Afro at the peak of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. From the practice of shaving the head to pass as a free person in the antebellum south, to the Afro of the 60s and 70s that said that Blacks were proud of who they were and free to be so openly, natural hair had made a comeback.

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Young, beautiful Cicely Tyson.

In the 1950s-60s it was common for Black women in Africa to wear their hair in small bushes. In America, Black women stopped straightening their hair. Women like Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln are examples. And then Miriam Makeba (“Mama Africa”) emerged with a fro in the January 1960s issue of Look Magazine and Cicely Tyson wore her hair in a fro on episodes of the CBS drama East Side, West Side. And as college students and political activists like Jesse Jackson and Angela Davis started wearing fros, the fro had eased on into the mainstream.

Before and After

 

It wasn’t just about hair no more than Samson’s locs was about being trendy. Those locs were a representation of power and strength and so the Afro was a representation of the social-economic and political era of the time. A time when Black men and women were gaining strength and reclaiming parts of their lost heritage, one hairstyle at a time. A similar revolution is taking place today. Black men and woman are embracing more of their natural selves and waking up to the true knowledge of who they truly are.

For all of these reasons, I felt an image of a Black woman wearing a fro spoke volumes concerning the kind of messages I was seeking to give with the poetry inside of the book. Not just the soul of one woman but the soul of a people. The soul of an era.

I still think both covers are nice in their own right but the one that sticks out the most and which embodies a much more clear message; the one that will not just appeal to those who are biblically conscious but reach a larger audience; the one that makes people stop in their tracks, is the new cover.

When I uploaded this to social media, readers responded immediately. This had not happened with the first cover.

 

 

The new cover got me new reviews…

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I submitted this book to two different bookstores. One using the old cover and one using the new cover. The one with the new cover got a call back and the book is beginning to sell at the store. I am still waiting on a response from the store using the old cover.

 

I’ve learned that book covers really are important because I’ve experienced how important they are. Don’t get me wrong, content is just as important. At the end of the day if there’s nothing special to read there’s nothing special about the book. I am Soul still had to be edited and get through the bookstore’s professional reviewers to be stocked.

But, when I walked into the store yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that because of the cover, Soul stuck out more than some of the other books that I could tell, as an Indie Author, were also self-published. In fact, to my surprise, Soul was sitting right next to Nikki Giovanni’s A Good Cry. Whether someone just sat it there or not, I cannot be sure. But, I was sure enough proud. I wasn’t going to taint the moment with thoughts of how it got there. It was there nonetheless.

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The Evolution of the Blog

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I was fulfilling some orders this morning, you know the daily grind, and my thoughts fell on blogging in general. I thought about the history of blogging and how it has changed over the years. But what my thoughts focused on more so is how the increase in technology seemed to have downgraded the professional image of blogging in the eyes of the (wait for it) blogger.

When we launch these blogs, I do not think we really understand its significance. At least I didn’t.

Anyone can create a blog today. It is as easy as signing up for a Word Press free account. You can write about what you want and organize your blog how you see fit. Though it is easy to do, have you ever thought about what it means to be a blogger? I remember watching television over the years and seeing someone speak. Sometimes the person speaking had a title that said “Blogger” and as he or she spoke concerning their subject of expertise I never second guessed that they were a professional. “Blogger” was no different to me then than “Attorney at Law” or “Psychologist”. That is because before the blog evolved into what it is today, it was a big deal.

“The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. The Open Pages webring included members of the online-journal community. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers, as is Jerry Pournelle. Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person’s personal life combining text, video, and pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994.

The blog was independently invented by Ian Ring, in 1997. His online journaling platform was called an “e-journal”. Ring’s project was later abandoned, but was rewritten in 2006 but didn’t become popular amid the overwhelming flood of other CMS systems becoming available, including WordPress. Ring still maintains that he “invented the blog”, which is technically true even though there were other projects that could make the same claim with greater authority.

Another early example of an early online entry into the evolution of blogging was created by Dave Winer. Winer is considered a pioneer of Web syndication techniques and has been considered one of the “fathers” of blogging. As the editor of Scripting News claims that his site “bootstrapped the blogging revolution and that it is the longest running Web Log on the internet”, Winer did not use the term “blog” and has never claimed the term. However he has gone on record as saying that “The first blogs were inspired by this blog, in fact many of them, including Barger’s Robot Wisdom, used my software.”

Websites, including both corporate sites and personal homepages, had and still often have “What’s New” or “News” sections, often on the index page and sorted by date. One example of a news based “weblog” is the Drudge Report founded by the self-styled maverick reporter Matt Drudge, though apparently Drudge dislikes this classification. Two others—Institute for Public Accuracy and Arts & Letters Daily—began posting news releases featuring several news-pegged one-paragraph quotes several times a week beginning in 1998. One noteworthy early precursor to a blog was the tongue-in-cheek personal website that was frequently updated by Usenet legend Kibo.

Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today.” – Wikipedia

So what of all this? What’s the point?

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From personal reflection, understanding the magnitude of what it means to blog helps me to maintain a level of professionalism on my blog; whether that is the appearance or the quality of the content. It helps me to remember that people are browsing the internet and coming across this blog from Google everyday in hopes of finding solutions to problems, or to overall be informed. It is not to say that blogs are not fun because I have lots of fun on this blog. And as we have read the first blogs were online diaries. Interestingly enough, many of the blogs I come across have this format.

The blogger is not a writer in the organized sense, just someone using the web as a way to publicly vent their thoughts (which I think we all do to an extent). It is just to say that I have come to look at blogging in a new light. As opposed to when I first started this blog, I place a kind of value on it now that I didn’t really think about before. Not value as in its my whole world or anything, but value as in the fact that real people are taking the time to stop here and to read and to learn. Therefore, how I present myself online, as a reflection of my real self, is not just some mediocre past time. What we write here is a big deal. Every day you are helping people in every aspect of their lives. To be a blogger then is kinda a big deal. I would even say it is something worth mentioning on a resume.

Timeline: Blogging Evolution:

January 1994
Swarthmore student Justin Hall creates first blog ever, Links.net.

December 1997
Online diarist Jorn Barger coins the term “Weblog” for “logging the Web.”

April 1999
Programmer Peter Merholz shortens “Weblog” to “blog.”

August 1999
Blogger rolls out the first popular, free blog-creation service.

January 2000
Boing Boing is born.

July 2000
AndrewSullivan.com launches.

February 2002
Heather Armstrong is fired for discussing her job on her blog, Dooce. “Dooced” becomes a verb: “Fired for blogging.”

August 2002
Nick Denton launches Gizmodo, the first in what will become a blog empire. Blogads launches, the first broker of blog advertising.

December 2002
Talking Points Memo highlights Trent Lott’s racially charged comments; thirteen days later, Lott resigns from his post as Senate majority leader.

December 2002
Gawker launches, igniting the gossip-blog boom.

March 2003
“Salam Pax,” an anonymous Iraqi blogger, gains worldwide audience during the Iraq war.

June 2003
Google launches AdSense, matching ads to blog content.

August 2003
The first avalanche of ads on political blogs.

September 2003
Jason Calacanis founds Weblogs, Inc., which eventually grows into a portfolio of 85 blogs.

January 2004
Denton launches Wonkette.

March 2004
Calacanis poaches Gizmodo writer Peter Rojas from Denton. Denton proclaims himself “royally shafted” on his personal blog.

December 2004
Merriam-Webster declares “blog” the “Word of the Year.”

January 2005
Study finds that 32 million Americans read blogs.

May 2005
The Huffington Post launches.

October 2005
Calacanis sells his blogs to AOL for $25 million.

December 2005
An estimated $100 million worth of blog ads are sold this year.

January 2006
Time leases Andrew Sullivan’s blog, adding it to its Website.

February 2006
The Huffington Post surges to become fourth most-linked-to blog.