In praise of the 100% Real Fake Book Cover

A little inspirational wall art never hurt anyone.

Things are getting real over at the Emily Grosvenor studio, ahem, in the corner room where I pound out my words every morning. So real, in fact, that I’ve made a real fake book cover for my current writing project.


I believe firmly in the power of visual dreaming. It’s been a bit of a transition for this word person to move over to the graphic side, but I’m finding that having visuals of my goals on the wall opposite my writing desk inserts a lot of mojo into my practice. It accomplishes a lot of heavy lifting in keeping my eyes on the writerly prize.

Here’s the 100% REALLY FAKE COVER I just made. It’s not perfect. The title might change. The quote is not really that useful (it’s something nice a Good Housekeeping editor once said about my work).  The graphics are off (some of the text isn’t that readable). The pic itself is too grainy for actual use.

And yet: Somehow having this cover, even a fake one, makes the whole thing feel real.

That’s where I am in the process — the project is starting to feel real. I have that feeling of watching a house go up. The structure is there. I can see the form and the story it is telling. It mirrors where I am.

I have just finished a 20-page outline of the chapters in the book, complete with notes about all of the important plot developments and scenes. I just sent the outline to the agent and I am ready to dig in.

Yes, it’s a 100% Real Fake Cover.

Here’s why you should try making a cover for your writing project, too:

  1. It’s never been easier.
    I used for a lot of graphics applications these days: blog post headers, social media posts, fake book covers. For people who have the teensiest bit of opinion on graphic design but who aren’t trained in the art of it, the templates make it simple to choose fonts. It took me 10 minutes to make this cover. Really.
  2. It helps legitimize the work.
    Why even bother with this exercise? Because the whole process seems more real when it looks real. Why wait until someone else makes you a cover to feel like a piece of art is real? Give it some realness now, and be open it to changing as the project changes. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have so many covers by the end of writing that you can completely let go when the thing actually gets published and things like covers are out of your hands.
  3. It recognizes that the project changes (and changes, and changes).
    This is actually the second cover I have made for this project. As it has deepened, as the narrator’s journey has become more specific in each chapter, as my themes have coalesced, so, too has the cover and framing of this project changed. I feel really good about taking 10 minutes to make a new cover design when my project reaches new milestones.
  4. It  connects you to the visual.
    Really, it’s just a fact of publishing: You cannot make things happen in this world with words alone. Try it! This is a struggle for those of us who live through our written communication and don’t identify as visual artists. Even if you have never thought about how your project might connect to audiences visually, jumping into visual communication can feel like play. You’re not an expert at this (or maybe you are?) so you might as well have a little fun and start practicing now.
  5. Visual inspiration works.
    I’ve been playing around with my inspiration board in my office for about half a year, and it has helped me ignore the shiny objects of distraction in favor of the work I was put here to pursue. Right now, I have a Certificate of Permission I created for myself to ignore my family when necessary when I need to write, I have my Memoir Book Proposal Checklist PDF, I have a comic strip about “Gnome Depot” up there (just for yucks of course) and I have a postcard from Shannon Wheeler’s Two Much Coffee Man to remind me I only need one cup a day.  It’s a map of sorts, where I situate inspiration whenever I need it.

What about you? Have you ever tried this? I challenge you today to make a REAL FAKE BOOK COVER and post it somewhere online. Use the hashtag #realfakebookcover and I’ll find you and retweet!

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