Different Natures and different covers, hundreds of the bloody things.
There I was riding through Central America when I was hit by a divine flash of inspiration, it’s not unusual, some of my clearest thoughts and dearest wisdoms have come to me through an open visor. However this particular inspired thought was simply wrong. I’m a writer not an artist or a graphic designer. I’m quite good at creating content to go between the covers but it’s the covers that people judge the content by, and all you would surmise from my first attempts at cover design is, the book is shite.
The sub title is ‘and the spaces in-between’. It refers to the spaces that were travelled between the different natures; Arctic tundra, parched desert, timeless geology, and pacific coast to name a few. But also it’s the different natures of growing older and if fills in some gaps and answers some questions raised in the first two books. So I’ve got myself a really clever title. My really clever cover concept meant changing the word ‘spaces’ to ‘reflections’. ‘Different Natures and the reflections in-between’ yeah that still works, reflection on the journeys and the diaries I read to recall them. The reflections of sunsets in oceans and full moons over still lakes, actually was there a full moon by a still lake? Fuck it, it doesn’t matter. My inspire cover would now have the bike in three different environments, ‘natures’, snow, midnight sun of the Arctic and desert, for example and between those photos the cover would have a silver strip reflecting like a mirror.
It’s been done before, Uriah Heep had an album cover called ‘look at yourself’ and that had a silver cover like a framed mirror.
Graphics like that don’t come cheap but it still looked cheap, gimmicky and amateur. So back to black and change the order of the pictures, as it was hard to tell what terrain they were, but that too was agony.
I write in diary format, I’m a fan of chronological, almost to the point of obsession, and now the natures were not in the order I rode them.
I tried to bring in some colour and chopped and changed the cover like a photo fit identity which in a way is was.
The big question for a motorcycle travel book is ‘do you have a picture of a motorbike on it?’ If you do it’s clearly and bike book and alienates the non-motorcyclist reader, which it shouldn’t as it’s not just about bikes that’s just the tool to travel with. So if you don’t have a bike how does the fan of motorcycle literature know it’s a motorcycle travel book? OK, so you go with a bike, all of it of part of it, like Ureka? Real or animated like Lois Pryce ‘red tape and white knuckles’. So much to think about.
What feelings and reflections a photo evokes in me may not have the same effect on a potential reader. You need red in the top right corner, I was told. It’s a recognised physiological trait that people eyes are drawn there. Well I have a dry bag on top of a pannier in one of the pictures will that work?
Actually, bollocks none of it does. I revisited some of my favourite desert scenes as I rode back through Mexico and Texas, always considering the cover as I looked through the lens. I’m in the very environment I’m writing about, this has to be the place for a cover shot.
Back in Denver, I spent a day with a second opinion and we picked out some beautiful shots, put them in the context of the cover and wondered. Lake Atalan in Guatemala with reflected volcanoes in the still waters was geographically apt
but ‘it’s an overlanding evolution’ -overlanding- not over water; That won’t work. I got sent an example of a reflective sunset scene but it was reflective for the person who took the photo, it didn’t make me reflect on anything, anyway it was taken in Tenerife.
I narrowed it down to three different stunning desert views, I changed the font,
it now has National Geographic connotations, it’s classy, ‘yeah’ I was told ‘ it will look great on the shelf…with the other Buddhist self fulfilment books’ Really? Humm I suppose it does look a bit find-your-inner-peace doesn’t it?
A cover designer took one of my photos and worked his magic, but it didn’t leave me spellbound, there are too many motorcycle travel books with blue covers and I’m not about to contribute to that number, besides it will make it indistinguishable from the others.
Also the bike didn’t look like that when I took the journey in question, it contradicts the text. Back to the drawing board.
The writing is done, copyedited, proofread, typeset, I just have to get a bloody cover picture, how hard can it be?
Problem is, now I’m so close to the project, seen so many examples, I just can’t tell what is wrong and what is right. What works and what doesn’t.
I wake in the night. I know, a tyre tread going through sand, mud and snow, ‘riding through the different natures’. Brilliant, it says motorbike to those who know but won’t dissuade those who don’t. I look through Google images to find tread in various environments.
The problem I have found is, a good photo doesn’t always work as a cover and an OK photo suddenly has huge impact with a title and a name plastered over it.
I’ve got a few days left before I fly home. I have a firm talk to myself, I’m in Denver, there’s a foot of snow outside and I have my KLR in the garage. I decide to ride the KLR out into the pristine snow of the snaking driveway and see what photos of tread patterns I can get.
I try a few, they’re OK the idea has potential but I need an infinite background to put the journey in perspective.
I start to ride down the hill, thinking all the time of my tread patterns. I pass deer tracks, perfect the tracks of wild animals and my tyre tread, ‘different natures’.
When I get to the bottom of the hill the thing I realise I haven’t considered is how the hell I’m going to ride back up a slick and snowy drive. I’m not. I leave the bike down there and walk back to the house, dump my photos on my lap top and play around with them. And now, now I know I’m onto something. This is going to work, less is more. Simple, black and white.
I get the snow blower out and clear the drive it’s a sunny day and in typical Colorado fashion the cleared drive steams and soon it’s not only clear but the tarmac is dry too. I walk back to the bike. It’s sitting in the sun, I look at the back tyre, snow still imbedded into the tread, I take a photo of that too before I ride it back up into the garage.
Back in front of the lap top the picture has all the impact of a 2 ton heavy thing. I look at 60 other motorcycle books on Amazon ‘people who brought this also brought…’ Dom Giles ‘Gone Riding’ was more than just a tyre, I wasn’t copying his cover and the two won’t get confused. This is it. I’ve got it. And the whole black and white thing, (it isn’t even actually) but it looks like it is. It works with the text on the rear cover and the blurb too, in fact I think it inspired the text.
And there we have it, my cover story. How it came to be. I started to post it on facebook to generate interest and a mate of mine sent the picture back all multicoloured with trippy hallucinogenic colours, ‘Don’t you dare, and anyway it wasn’t that kind of a trip’. I’m not considering this anymore.
This one will work, it’s snow, it could be sand – different natures and the snow is in the spaces in-between the tread. That’ll do for me.