One Week to Live

It’s been a long journey for Necropolis. And for me.

The first four thousand words of the adventures of Rip Eulogy, necromancer-for-hire, have been copied and pasted and saved too many times to track the timecode. I worry that if I ever found the original file, it would be in WordPerfect 5.1 format. Yeah, as old as that.

Or maybe not quite. I don’t really remember. But let’s say the origin of the story dates back at least a decade, when I started writing some fun, crazy material for the hell of it. And just as I thought I was really onto something, I got stuck. It was my typical modus operandi. A lot of crackling banter and thrilling moments, but I didn’t know what the story was yet. I didn’t know where all these intriguing pieces fit into the puzzle. I didn’t even know what puzzle I was working on.

So it got shelved. For years.

Four years ago, I started over. I didn’t throw away the original material, although none of it appears in the final novel. My epiphany was that what I had started to write occurred much farther down the plotline of a series. Book three or four maybe.

Moving forward, the only thing I kept was a vague plot idea about Rip being hired to use his talents to bring justice to a long-dead war criminal. It was a starting point. That, plus my extensive research on the art of performance regurgitation—because that’s my idea of recreational reading.

No, it shouldn’t take four years to write a novel. But then, this was the single longest and most complex project I’d ever tackled. It made Longshot Comics look like a trifle. It made that four-hour TV miniseries look like a single short evening of binge watching. Mapping it all out on a piece of paper looked like pages of physics equations. Then, of course, there was my misguided attempt to approach the legacy-publishing biz before I came to realize how much the industry had changed when I wasn’t looking.

There were publishers who didn’t want to look at any manuscript over 120,000 words. Publishers who were in the process of going bankrupt and stiffing the authors they already had. Publishers who still wanted authors to send them a printed-out physical copy in the 21st century (overseas no less). Publishers who took 16 months to respond to an initial pitch.

Incidentally, when it takes you 16 months to get back to me with a “Yeah, sure, send us the whole manuscript, we’d love to take a look,” my response is, “No. That ship has sailed.” It sailed, hit a rock, and sank. The survivors were plucked out of the sea, put on another boat to their destination, and have been ashore for over a year now. They’ve received counselling for post-traumatic stress and have gotten on with their lives. Some have even had enough time to get over their fear of the water. That’s how much can happen 16 months.

So yeah, when I say I started writing the novel in earnest four years ago, it’s actually been finished for nearly two. The rest of the time has been spent editing, proofreading, and getting jerked off by agents and publishers who don’t understand that the industry is changing all around them, and that their role in it is getting killed off—largely by their own hand. It was also time spent learning the ropes of the new independent press that has arisen through outlets like Amazon. Over the last year and a bit, I published all this stuff, largely as a dry run for Necropolis.

I’ll evangelize the independent press again at a later date. And share more stories about publishing woes and my distaste for unprofessionalism at all levels of the industry. Right now, though, it’s time to reveal the cover.

Covers are a gamble. You know the old saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. Absolutely true. But you can sell a book by its cover. You can also NOT sell a book by its cover.

I’ve looked at a lot of urban-fantasy/supernatural-suspense/mystery-horror covers in my market research. I’ve seen what sells. And I can honestly say, I don’t really care for them. It’s hard to argue with sales figures, but I’ve long been an opinionated elitist when it comes to things like book covers and movie posters. And I’ve had a lot of viciously critical things to say about some of the marketing trends I’ve seen and come to loathe.

Floating-head DVD covers were the bane of my movie-collecting days. Badly Photoshopped heads of celebrity stars pasted over elements of the original theatrical poster was the norm for years. It wasn’t about aesthetics, it was about telling consumers, “Look who’s in this one!” Awful, awful stuff. At the other end of the spectrum, I was always a fan of the Criterion Edition covers. Yeah, the artsy fartsy ones. They were probably all terrible from a marketing point of view, but they had mood and atmosphere. Rather than being too literal about the content of a film, they suggested tone, and I found that much more personally appealing.

These days it’s all about the orange/cyan colour-contrast posters and covers. Every second movie resorts to this supposedly appealing colour scheme to help sell their movie, and it’s bled into book covers as well. This trend, too, shall pass. Eventually everyone will see it for the painful cliché it is, and it will become repellent rather than attractive. In time, it will go away, and when people see one of those orange/cyan one-sheets, they’re not going to subconsciously think, “Oh, how appealing.” They’re going to consciously think, “Oh, how dated.”

So after a lot of thought and image searches and one major redesign, this is what I came up with.

It’s sombre, it’s moody, it hints at content and themes, but doesn’t depict anything that literally takes place in the book.

I like it, I’m going with it, and I know I may well be shooting myself in the foot. Current marketing tropes suggest I should be going in a very different direction. But I wrote a book that I would like to read, so I figure I should slap on a cover that would draw my eye.

It’s a gamble. It always is. The stakes are high on this one. Necropolis stands on its own as a self-contained story, but I’m over 60,000 words into the sequel. It’s a lot of commitment to something I don’t know will fly with readers. The first handful of reactions have been stellar. We’ll see if that carries through.

Necropolis will be available for Kindle next week. It will debut at a painfully (for me at least) low price of $0.99 to help it scale that all-important algorithm ladder and tie in with various promotions. It’s a whole lotta book for a buck, and a whole lotta performance anxiety for me. This is the seventh time I’ll be hitting the “publish” button on Amazon, and it’s going to be the hardest one to let go of.

I’m nervous.

On a side note: The cover reveal is old news for subscribers to the Eyestrain Productions newsletter. If you want first-looks, exclusives, special deals, and the occasional free book, sign up now.