While Eleanor's release date hasn't been set yet, and the book is entering the editing phase, I'm a fairly impatient person, and have started in my spare time to lay out the print edition. I've been a professional designer for about sixteen years now, but not a print designer. (I've designed everything from web sites to software, but those aren't exactly books.) I adore books, obviously, and it's important to me to make mine look as indistinguishable from a traditional publisher's product as possible. I've been learning as I go, making some mistakes along the way (has anybody noticed that the paperback editions of many of my short stories don't actually have page numbers?), but focusing on making every new paperback edition better. In a couple of weeks, Deep Breath Hold Tight will be published, and that will be my best-looking paperback so far.
But I want Eleanor to really shine, so getting started on this early can only help. And here's a little taste of what the title spread of the book might look like:
Beautiful, isn't it? Like my friends Michael Bunker and Hugh Howey have done with their recent smash novels, Pennsylvania and Sand, Eleanor needs to not only be a well-written book, but an attractive one, and one that sends a clear message that self-published books can be gorgeous, crafted, well-loved objects. (This is something I've tried very hard to do for every independent author who has commissioned me to design their own book covers. It can be difficult for a reader to take a chance on a self-published book. It's our job as authors and craftspeople to lower the barriers as much as we can.)
In case you hadn't noticed, I'm very excited about this book. I'm stunned that I actually managed to finish it, frankly, and now that other people are taking their turn with the rough draft – the book is in the hands of over forty beta readers as well as my editor, David Gatewood – I'm left with very little to do after all these years. Hence my efforts to begin the paperback design, I suppose.
David Gatewood, for those of you who don't know him, is something of a remarkable character himself. He's a freelance editor who has become a bit of an indie sensation in the past year, in much the same way that I've experienced with my cover design. We can both blame Hugh Howey for that, I think. As legend has it, David was just a reader when he picked up Hugh's Wool. He found some problems in the book, so he wrote Hugh and outlined his findings. Hugh hired him, or so the story goes, and presto, David became an editor on the side. Now he edits the work of everyone from A.G. Riddle to Michael Bunker, and on the side is making a name for himself as an indie-centric anthologist. (Both From the Indie Side and the upcoming Synchronic are projects edited by David.) So I'm quite pleased that he's agreed to work on Eleanor with me. As he put it, "I will magically make your book not suck."
A handful of authors have also read early drafts of Eleanor and offered some marvelous pull quotes for the cover. Check these out:
"Haunting... if you liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane, you'll love Eleanor." – Peter Cawdron
"Gurley's masterful prose is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman... enchanting, magical and powerful." – Ernie Lindsey
"Ambitious, challenging... as original as A Wrinkle in Time." – Michael Bunker
A few beta readers have already reported back, and two more have mentioned Neil Gaiman or The Ocean at the End of the Lane. These comments are flattering, though I know that I'm nowhere near Mr. Gaiman's caliber. (Yet?) But most importantly, these comparisons tell me that readers just know where this book fits into the world. At the very least, it means I've done that part of my job correctly.
The novel is done. But now comes the truly hard part.
Waiting. Fixing. Strengthening. Testing.
And then: letting go. Seeing if this novel sinks like so many of the objects inside its pages, or if it takes wing and surpasses my own meager goals for it. (Those goals, by the way, have always been simple: just to finish it.)