• Greyhound's Ever Changing Mood ...

    Here's a fact: Most writers read reviews. However, most writers will try to sell you the lie that they don't read the reviews of their books. Some will just say that "Oh, I was just obsessively checking the ranking." Some will say that they were "checking the page to make sure it was still there and that it wasn't all a dream."

    Myself, it's all three. I check my book pages almost every morning, in every country, as I have them all tabbed and ready to click, and I love reading the reviews people leave. Sometimes I respond to them directly, sometimes I don't.

    Recently I noticed that the cover art for my book had mysteriously changed. Here's what I saw:

    I was horrified and immediately thought that there was something going on with my monitor and checked the settings. Quickly I realized my error -- and then scratched my head. Then I drank some more coffee and scratched my head again. I had no idea there would be a change to the graphic. Usually, my Publisher, Amazon Publishing, keeps me pretty well informed. 

    It hurt my eyes to keep staring at it. I felt blinded. So, I fired off an email. I think I upset some folks because I suggested that people were wasting precious time and resources goofing around with the cover art -- AFTER the book has been out for almost THREE years. Yes, Greyhound came out April, 2010. The same day the Deep Water Horizon Tanker exploded all over the news.

    For the record, here is the original image that was put up when the book came out:

    I didn't mind this image at all, even though I always thought there was a bit too much turquoise in the design. The book doesn't take place at sea and I make no references to Moby Dick or anything else nautical. But, everyone interprets art differently, so I was okay with it. Red and Turquoise happen to be my favourite colors, btw.

    When the book came out, I made a fevered and award-winning pitch to every Barnes & Noble in Southern California to carry the book. I must've went into over 40 stores back then. Sadly though, I always encountered two things:

    1) "That book isn't within our company's model." I kept hearing this line, like it was something that came down from B&N's legal department. At the time, Amazon Publishing was at war with the rest of publishing world and thus nobody would carry it, barring a few independent bookstores that I had previous contact with.

    2) "Is your book Gay Fiction?" I was stunned the first time I heard this. I think it had to do with the rainbow stripe down the side and it threw me back off my heels. I've read a lot of Gay Fiction over the years and James Baldwin happens to be one of my favourite authors. Giovanni's Room was a fascinating and engrossing read.

    But, alas, Greyhound isn't that. So, I made a pitch to my publisher about 9 months later to remove the stripe. They agreed, sided with me and the image was changed globally. This is what was put out:

    So, for about the last year, this has been what buyers / readers see when they go to purchase my book. Not a bad cover. A lot of folks have said that the cover is not reflective of the genre, tone, nor the material, and while I do agree, it is pretty. I currently have a small poster of it hanging in my garage. It's nice on the eyes.

    After I emailed and then ruffled some feathers, the image  changed a few more times. I didn't catch two of the versions, but this next one was easily my favourite and I had hoped it would remain as the thumbnail / cover art for the book.

    I like this a lot. It's balanced, you can see my name, you can read the title of the book. It looks a bit more juvenile as it should and is quite pleasing. I'd buy that book. It looks cool. In fact, as I've stated before, Greyhound is now used in public school systems across the US, supplanting Catcher In The Rye. You'd be surprised how many parents complain about CITR, saying it's too negative. So, kids are given the choice of both books -- and guess which one they pick most?

    One of the school kids that read the book and had emailed me, said this: "I picked Greyhound because it looked a whole lot cooler and modern."

    After the dust had settled, the image changed one more time. This one though, hurt the most:

    My name, which is important, is smaller, as is the title. The cool graphic and everything else seem lost on the page. It looks unbalanced, and anyone with any artistic aesthetic, would likely feel the same. Too much dead space.

    I had a dream that night where I woke up and they had changed my image again and it looked like this:

    And then the next day it looked like this:

    At the end of the day, I am an artist and aesthetic is everything. I think about aesthetics while shaping paragraphs, sentences, putting on my clothes and putting marmalade on my toast. Even editing blog posts for typos. It's unavoidable. Let's just say, my Publisher has ceased returning my emails. It's fine. I don't expect them to cater to my every demand, even though I have very few of them. They're busy doing what they do, and I don't begrudge them kicking me down some bacon & silence. I'm definitely used to it. Try marriage for 12 years, haha.

    I would think that that much effort and time being spent adjusting my cover was for something, or had a purpose, and I'm yet empty-handed with no explanation. I doubt I'll get one, but that's what life is like some days. Gotta just ramble on.

    Lastly, this was the cover that I designed for the manuscript before Amazon Publishing picked it up. I like it, it is a bit darker in tone, even though it does have a generic feel. It's a bit sub-par in lay-out, but definitely balanced. For the record, I did take this photo myself:

    I just thought I'd post this for curiosity and posterity for any and all to see, in case, you too, saw some of these incarnations on the page. And to quote Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that!"


    Steffan Piper is the author of several novels including GreyhoundYellow Fever and Fugue State. He was once kicked out of Nome, Alaska due to a minor misunderstanding. He has a blog, a Facebook page, a favorite film and lives in Palm Desert, CA.


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