“You can’t tell a book by its cover.”
I beg to differ.
During most of 2015, and with the incredible help and guidance of my editor, Jan Weeks, we began to pull our book together. By September the manuscript was pretty much done and I decided to self-publish using Amazon’s Create Space platform—now known as Kindle Direct Publishing.
On the recommendation of one of my buddies who had recently released his first book, I engaged Damon Za based in South Africa for the cover design. I filled out their “What’s the Book About” questionnaire on-line.
Deciding on the title of our book was a no-brainer. Suffering Is The Only Honest Work. It was so much about and because of Jimmy, that borrowing the title from one of his most prescient and powerful poems just felt right.
The cover was another matter.
Alisha, my contact at Damon Za, asked me if any of the covers from their collection called to me. There were a couple I identified.
Before I sent them the photos I wanted to include in the book, they sent me six possible cover designs.
I huddled with Hilary and Brittany. We quickly dismissed all but one—#2B- we felt this one might have some possibilities.
Brittany said it so reminded her of a photo Ryan had taken in 2005 or 2006 of Jimmy running around the Rancho Santa Fe soccer fields. I’d never seen it.
This young man on the cover did look like Jimmy. Same build, strong shoulders, head slightly bowed. How did they get him so right? It also reminded me of something else I’d seen somewhere, but I just couldn’t place it. I sent back this eval to Alisha:
2.B. We like the colors—brighter, more positive. There’s the galaxy/universe thing and the other-worldly effect with the larger shadow figure. The young man also bears an eerie resemblance to Jimmy which is kind of cool—we might want to use that element in another iteration.
Within a couple of days Alisha sent a new draft. Almost done! My only comment was to move the title off of the head and neck of the young man and lower onto the back. We went to print in late December.
A couple of weeks after we went live, another good friend of mine sent me a message:
“ Love your book! The cover reminds me so much of another book I read several years ago. I can’t remember the name, but I think it was about a gymnast and some gas station attendant.
Oh, that rang a bell. That’s what I was trying to remember. I got on the ‘net and quickly figured out the trigger.
In 1980 Dan Millman wrote the bestseller, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In 2006 it was made into a movie starring Nick Nolte and Scott Mechlowicz. I’d read the book and seen the movie. I loved them both and strongly recommend them. Here’s an excerpt of the plot.
Dan Millman is a gifted gymnast whose desire for success drives everything he does. When a mysterious stranger (Nick Nolte) opens Dan’s eyes to a new vision of strength and understanding, the Olympic hopeful finds that he still has much to learn and more sacrifices to make.
And if we just flip those photos upside down…..
It was a week later when I first spotted something else about the cover—something that blew my mind.
Among the photos for the book I’d sent to Alisha–after she sent us the cover drafts–was this one of me holding our six month old grandson, Hunter, for the unveiling of my fresh tattoo on Jimmy’s fifth Angel Date.
Hunter’s stick-up hair is strikingly similar to that of the young man on the cover. And of course, there’s the tattoo-title across the back.
But, take a look at the neck of the man on the cover. Do you see it?
The face of a baby looking over the right shoulder? Just like Hunter is doing in the unveiling photograph.
I thought I might be imagining things. I asked Hilary, Brittany and others to take a closer look at the cover. A universal “Oh, my God.”
I reached out to Alisha and asked if they had tried to “copy” the photo of me holding Hunter for the cover. She replied:
Our person that worked on the cover never saw that photograph.