Here’s what you need to know about me: I love putting lipstick on pigs.
It was about four years ago when I was first introduced to Tara Gilesbie’s My Immortal. If you’ve never heard of it, allow me to clue you in. My Immortal is widely considered the worst piece of fanfiction ever written. Ostensibly set in the Harry Potter universe, it follows Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, an anti-establishment vampire witch, as she adventures at Hogwarts and uncovers dark forces at work. At least, that’s what the summary would sound like if the fanfiction were actually any good. A more honest synopsis is “she wears such gothic clothes and looks so hot and goes to a million My Chemical Romance concerts and has to seduce Voldemort and everyone loves her”.
It’s so bad. I thought I was ready for its level of badness when I began reading it, but I was wrong. I don’t think anyone can be prepared for its level of badness. My Immortal is an affront to decency. It’s abhorrent.
Which is why, as soon as I’d finished reading it, I wanted nothing more than to put it on my Kindle.
Of course, to really do it justice, I’d have to give it a cover–so I designed one. Then, I realized that an ebook this singularly atrocious deserved a proper foreword, so I wrote that too and added it to the ebook file. My Immortal may have been a pig, but damned if I wasn’t going to go whole-hog on its makeup.
A year or so later, I went one further. My ebook version of My Immortal had a classy cover and a foreword, but I realized it was missing something shared by most classic pieces of literature: discussion questions. Over the course of a few months–I was still in school, after all–I wrote up 15 discussion questions and appended them to my version of the text.
With a cover, a foreword, and discussion questions, I figured I’d reached the pinnacle of lipsticking on this particular pig.
That is, until I remembered a few weeks ago that the Espresso Book Machine at Powell’s exists, allowing anyone to print custom books on-demand.
As you might imagine, this inspired me.
The ultimate goal–the absolute peak of porcine makeup application here–was established. I wanted to design, lay out, and print a single hard copy of My Immortal to put on my bookshelf.
This is what I dreamed of. I wanted to casually file Tara Gilesbie on my bookshelf alongside George Orwell and Madeline L’Engle, in a stylish volume that looked like any other modern edition of a classic. I wanted to fool someone, casually browsing the bookshelf, into opening it–only to find it filled with the most asinine prose imaginable. I dreamed of pulling it off the shelf and cracking it open for the occasions that called for offensively bad fanfiction.
I wanted that. I want that. And so, I had some tasks to complete.
The first was to redesign the cover. My initial design was for a low-resolution Kindle screen, with dimensions of 700 pixels by 1,000 pixels. Additionally, I hadn’t kept track of the sources of the images I used, and by now, I knew better. Using the same basic idea, I redesigned the cover at 300dpi resolution, and noted the sources for all my resources. (Check them out at the bottom of the post.)
Now that’s a classy-looking cover.1
My Immortal Cover by Spencer Wharton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you can share and remix it for non-commercial purposes, but only if you credit me (and my contributing artists) and only if you also license your work as shareable.
The next steps are where it gets fun. I have the entire text, plus my additions, in a variety of formats, including HTML and Word documents, but it’s far from being print-ready. Before I can print my copy of My Immortal, I need to set the type, lay out the pages, and generally transform the text from a digital document to a print-ready, professional-looking book. I’ve never set a book before, so this will be a learning adventure for me. (I may end up working with–or outsourcing the work to–a friend who does this stuff professionally. You know who you are. 😉)
Then, I need to design a spine and a back cover–entirely unnecessary for ebooks, but, oddly enough, rather important for paper books.
Once that’s all done… it’s off to Powell’s with me.
I’ll keep you posted.
That classy-looking cover up there would not have been possible without the following resources:
- “Frankenstein Cover,” by M. S. Corley: Back when I didn’t know much about graphic design, I aped (with permission) the stylings of this beautiful cover design. Please check it out and share your appreciation.
- “Realistic Paint Brushes,” by Stalcry: Used for roughing up the texture of the heart shape.
- “Dried Blood Splatters,” from photoshoptutorials.ws
- “Heart Circulation Diagram,” by Patrick J. Lynch (illustrator) and C. Carl Jaffe MD (cardiologist): Released under a CC BY 2.5 generic license. Used for the heart shape.
- “Waxing Gibbous Moon 6th September 2014,” by Melanie Davies: Released under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license, but used with permission. Thank you, Melanie!
- “bats,” by Stuart Anthony: Released under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license, but used with permission. Thank you, Stuart!
- “St. Vitus kathedraal,” by Nieske Vergunst: Released under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. I used the shape of the cathedral for its silhouette, and duplicated the roofline to the right of the big spire. Thank you, Nieske!