In my experience, I get surprisingly good results on my first try at something. It might not always be a full and complete success, but normally it goes well. That might come from having low expectations when starting something new, which, any outcome resulting from a first attempt would seem like an improvement in that case.
However, I just as often try something and realize right away, “Wow, that was a mistake.” Sometimes I get that same thought before doing something and deliberately do it anyway, knowing that it won’t be good. This is my gut telling me something.
With my first book, Silenced, I did a ton of research on self-publishing and knew from the get-go not to skimp on a cover. I learned that a good cover was possibly the most important thing I could do to set up the book for success. I researched extensively what goes into making a “good” cover. It should blend in rather than stand out. Illustration on a book cover is risky for some genres, especially for the genre and tone of my particular book. It has to be clear at a thumbnail view. It has to immediately convey what type of story it is. There should be some sort of humanizing element–a person, a house, a hat, a car, etc.
Obviously, I wouldn’t have been able to check all the possible boxes for my first book. If I aimed to do that, I’d still be working on chapter one today. But I could have listened to my gut when it came to my deliberate decision to go against some of these rules. I had trouble finding a cover designer who could make me what I specifically wanted. And that was where I messed up. I was too keen on having the character appear a certain way. So I had to go with illustration. And now, I’m left with something that sort of looks like a graphic novel cover. Or something that maybe comes off as” kid-ish.” I still love the cover. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I like it. And it will always hold a special place in my heart. I think Harry looks awesome. He’s exactly how I wanted him to look. Which is probably the problem. Based on what I’ve learned, my gut tells me it isn’t working effectively.
I’m really trying to go over my first draft of my second novel, Proximity, with a fine-tooth comb. But I’m not finding nearly as much that I need to change as I did for Silenced when I started to refine the first draft. I attribute that to having a much stronger outline this time around. But it also could be that I learned from another mistake. I think for Silenced, I may have over-edited in some places. That’s because I ignored my gut instinct back then.
I’ll never know if my gut instinct was wrong, but I’ll also never know if it was right. So, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily have to follow my gut, but listen to it a lot closer.