My debut novel, Heather’s Mannequin, had an original cover that I’m still very, very proud of. Sure, it’s not the official cover anymore, but one reason I love it is all the work that went into it.

Original cover of Heather's Mannequin, by Corey Toomey.
Original cover of Heather’s Mannequin

For those that have already read my book (link to Amazon below), you should know what the bloody mannequin hand, with the pink scarf, is in reference to.

NO SPOILERS FROM ME, but it is a major scene in the story.

And it’s a topic for another time.

Origins of the Mannequin

Today I will delve into the cover’s background, what led to it, and what I learned in the process.

Around November 2019, I was on the seventh draft of my story and things were really shaping up. While the drafts were piling up, I thought I should get to work on a book cover right away.

Suffice to say, I needed something eye-catching.

Colors

Before I could ask around, I had to decide on a color scheme.

After considering blue (for dreariness) and yellow (for mental illness), I decided on white because of the bare-bones approach to the narration.

There’s a war in Heather’s Mannequin that was kept in the background and rendered irrelevant. The narration’s purpose is to focus only on the main character and her mental anguish.

The reader is forced to perceive her struggle through a narrow scope. The background is essentially blank. White, if you will.

So white it was.

Image

Next, I had to envision a graphic. I originally imagined the main character, an amputee with prosthetic limbs, grabbing her face in agony (with her fake hand).

A woman with her hand over her face. An idea for my novel's cover.
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

Her real hand would start vanishing in embers, Infinity War-style. This was to show the remnants of her humanity ebbing away.

Now, I can’t draw or paint for crap. I can do very well with a pen, but a paintbrush? Forget it!

I tried commissioning a local tattoo parlor for an art piece. Keep in mind, this was before I knew Fiverr.com was a thing.

I met the tattoo guy and described what I was looking for. Strangely, he started getting all fidgety. He mumbled something about not being “comfortable” with putting his work out there. All right, then…

His receptionist actually indicated a willingness to do so, via email. She even stated the parlor had done book artwork in the past.

The artist took my number and said he would call me. Of course, that call never came.

So the guy didn’t get paid and I saved some coin. Water off my back. 🤷‍♂️

Self-Reliance

After that, I found myself back at square one. I realized I had to take matters into my own hands (again, no idea about Fiverr). If I couldn’t draw something, then I’d put my iPhone to good use and take some photos.

Photos are easy. You just have to position the objects correctly and snap at the right time.

Right?

Making my Own Art

Since my main character was at risk of losing her humanity, (i.e. “becoming a mannequin”) I decided to buy an actual mannequin from Amazon for $70.

I thought about drawing a fading eye, with a red Sharpie, on the face and placing it in front of a fire. This was a reference to another scene in the story.

Feeling lost? Then buy the damn book! 😀

A white mannequin's blank face with red eyes crudely drawn in. The background is dark and there's a small fire lit up in front of it
Chicks love this stuff…

Here’s a funny story: I started talking to a girl on Tinder. She seemed like the quirky art major type, which I dig.

It seemed we were hitting it off when I mentioned I was writing a novel. I sent her the above picture to show what I was working on.

She never responded back. Ha. 😀

Anyway, I realized the whole mannequin-face thing wasn’t working out. It didn’t pique the viewer’s imagination because it showed too much. Considering the story’s themes and context, I needed a figurative mannequin.

Here, I was getting a literal mannequin that didn’t carry any symbolic weight. In other words, it just wasn’t working.

I thought I should give the face concept a rest and try something else.

So I started moving my camera lens downwards to focus only on Heather’s bleeding arm (really, it was paint. Or was it nail polish? I literally tried everything at Michaels and the beauty store).

Bloody white mannequin hand

Still, something was missing. I was still seeing a literal, not a figurative, mannequin.

Plus, putting the clothes on the mannequin made me feel creepy.

You ever imagine the crazy artist in his underwear, spending hours in front of a canvas in the dark, and puffing at a cigarette? That…was totally me. 😲

Kidding. 😄

Eureka!

But one night while the red paint was drying, I mistakenly dabbed at it with the pink scarf.

This was my “eureka” moment.

I wrapped the hand with the bloodied scarf and realized it captured a prominent scene perfectly (again, no spoilers).

Bloody white mannequin hand holding a pink scarf.
My Eureka Moment

After all this time trying to capture the right look involving the mannequin’s bare visage, all I needed was its hand! Less is more!

Eureka!

Photos and Editing

I finally had the right concept and brought the mannequin to my back yard (on a rainy friggin’ day, no less). In one session, I took about 50 different shots with my iPhone.

A photography-enthusiast friend agreed the one on the original cover had the best shot, by far.

After uploading it to the PicMonkey app and dabbling with it for a couple weeks, I found a font and shade that worked pretty well.

Et viola! The official cover was done.

Now, this entire experience would have been prevented if I went on Fiverr. I could’ve gotten this professional cover done a lot sooner.

Thank you, florfi of fiverr.com!

It’s funny. I could’ve gone to florfi, asked her for the cover, and saved myself the trouble. If I had, though, I wouldn’t have gotten the artistic experience of creating the cover in the first place.

What I Learned

You see, this journey taught me two important things:

Your passion for art can be strengthened through hard work.

Don’t take the easy way out. If you do, you won’t care as much about delivering a quality product. Writing Heather’s Mannequin was the hardest, yet most rewarding, thing I’ve done in my first 28 years on this planet.

Going through all the trouble to make a cover only strengthened my resolve.

Be solution-oriented.

Don’t stop at dead ends. Get your sledgehammer out and knock down those f*ckers. Take some initiative and find a way to get it done. And that’s what I did. Like I said, I couldn’t be prouder.👍

Cut. That’s a Wrap.

So that kids, is the story of how Heather’s Mannequin got its first cover. ‘Tis a story of flaky artists, creeped-out Tinder chicks, some happy accidents, and a genuine passion for all things art!

Till next time! Deuces!✌

Buy Heather’s Mannequin on Amazon

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