Some three Christmases ago, I gave my dad a copy of Alexander Dumas' "The Three Musketeers". At the time, I was struggling with an adventure story that had more block walls than any self-respecting labyrinth. I had a feeling this story was going to end up in the shelf, at least for a while. But in order to make myself a goal, I wrote a promise on the first page, "Dad, I promise you one day to give you a book with my name on its spine..."
If you've ever held Dumas' wonderful work, you'll remember that it's one of the biggest novels ever written. I was trying to give myself plenty of time, after all.
Three years later, I finished writing THE GAZE, a novel about struggle, redemption, and the importance of true friendships, and their role in our lives. Truth be told, I did not look beyond writing the novel. When I opted to go the Amazon route, I played with their cover maker software. They were explicit about requirements and had stern warnings about using someone else's work. I went rounds and rounds trying to come up with a cover. The first few ideas are not even worth mentioning, so we won't go there. But the title, which I finally settled on towards the very end of the novel, gave me an idea. My wife Sheri literally became the owner of my soul the first time she gazed at me. There's no way to describe the pure beauty of her eyes. I hounded her for pictures like any accomplished paparazzi. I went as far as calling her a few unflattering things, just to see if I got that unique look, that GAZE.
One night, I simply pointed the camera at her and begged her for one more picture. She gave me that look and I thought I'd lost every chance I had.
My father is my own specialist when it comes to anything computer. He's a jack of all trades and master of many. He took the shots and brought out exactly what I'd hoped to bring out, THE GAZE. I was excited, too excited. I royally screwed up the margins of the book and submitted the files, chose a cover and used a different shot. I wanted the book in white, thinking it would look mysterious. When I got it, I was thrilled that I finally had a book with my name on the spine, but there was no way I'd keep it in that format. I chose a different style through Amazon Cover Creator and settled on another template. When we got the proof, I nearly cried. It looked like the pretty face on the cover was being censored from speaking. That was when Dad gave me THE SHOT. After putting the image in a black and white filter, I thought it mysterious and enigmatic enough. I was happy with it, until I'd see it online and notice how simplistically plain it looked. Compared to the vibrant, resplendent covers of other words, I held little hope to attract a reader based on the look of the cover alone. Dad produced the Kindle cover. Sheri was loving the fact that she could see a whole face and not just a set of eyes that seemed to be "burning into you, like 'read this, or else!'"
I liked how it looked online. It was still simple, but I liked it. I would've lived with it until a good friend of mine pointed out that people may expect to see the Kindle cover on the print, and that it didn't seem fair to the reader. I wholeheartedly agreed. By then, I was determined to make the cover a bit flashier, though I didn't have much of a change in mind. Some of my friends urged me to do it, and soon Dad was at it again. Within a few days, we had what will now be the cover of THE GAZE forever.
We matched the font of the inside title, Sheri still gazes out at the reader, though there's a certain softness and warmth now. There are times I can't open the cover because I get lost in the image. I feel very guilty about not doing this from the beginning, but the process sure taught me so much about what to do for the next novel. Putting those lessons into practice, I worked with my thinking team, Dad and Sheri, and we settled on the cover for THE NEXT CHAPTER. I wholeheartedly hope that my readers of GAZE forgive me for giving them something less than what they deserved, when they hold its sequel in their hands. I won't spoil it for you, but that cover is a one shot deal. No alterations, no changes, and just like the new image of the cover of THE GAZE, the cover of THE NEXT CHAPTER will enthrall readers. I cannot wait to share that with you. I'm simulatenously excited and fearful of releasing it. I'm looking at the image right now, and I see it as a symbol of a promise and committment to give my readers the very best of me, for it's what they deserve.
Javier A. Robayo