It’s been a long and winding road to the final version of the Null_Pointer cover. And it’s still not set in stone. But I thought I would offer everyone a glimpse of where it is going and where it started. At this late hour in the history of the cover, it appears to be coming full circle, back to where it started.
My first Gimp sketch of the cover showed some Ruby code in the Vi editor, wrapped around a ball and shrinking into the ball as if the ball had a tiny black hole in it. The implication was that the code was going into a null pointer; a memory reference that did not exist. This is how many UNIX programs are broken enough to allow crackers to exploit them. So the code ball, as it came to be known, is a visual representation of a program dieing.
I gave the sketch to my brother, a graphics designer, and he made it look good. Thus was born the first cover design. A black code ball on a pure white book with black, elegant font that had a soft shadow to it. It was clean, simple and related to the book’s title. For the longest time, it was a done deal. Until I showed it to my local independent bookstore owner. She held a print out of it up to her mystery book shelf and compared it to other mystery books. It did not look as richly designed as all the other covers. It was too simple and too amateur looking. She told me only the most successful authors in the genre could get away with simple, solid color covers. The book needed more complexity or texture.
So back to the drawing board. A friend suggested we invert the colors. With a black background and white text, it suddenly looked more mysterious, but it also looked more ominous. One version we did actually looked like a horror book cover or at the very least, a ghost in the machine book. That was not what NP was about. So we tried again, this time with a darker gray code in the background. The final dark cover was better, but still suggested a dark and ominous story.
I went back to the white cover version and did another Gimp hacked up version. This time I added strings of binary code to the white background. Several sizes of strings to suggest depth and detail. I sent it to my brother and am now awaiting his attempt using the new binary code background. If this works, I think we could finally have the final version of the cover. It still has the meaning of the code ball, and it also has a textured appearance that suggests a high-tech story, without looking too much like a horror novel.
Of course all of this could be for not, if the bookstore owner says it still looks bad. Stay tuned.