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The Storied Scrolls

Zack Thoutt's Reader Group & Newsletter

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Issue #12 · Dec 2nd, 2022

Sneak Peak at Book Cover for Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak


'm excited to share with you all that my next book, Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak, is nearly finished and will be published on December 12th, 2022!

Over the course of the last month, I hired a developmental editor, copy editor, and voice actor; set up and paid for promotional ads/placements on Meta, NetGalley, and Amazon; learned how to design book covers, self-publish books, and promote my creative work; and most importantly, I implemented three significant edits to my story based on the feedback from my editing team.

I spent most of my nights and weekends in October and November at my computer working on the many facets of Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak. It's consumed hundreds of hours of my free time and thousands of dollars from my wallet, but it has also been incredibly fun and rewarding.

I don't have much I can share just yet, but I do have one item...

Book Cover

I put the final touches on the book cover last night and am quite proud of how it turned out. I do some design work at my day job, though I'm mainly a software engineer. Designing a book cover was a new experience for me and it took me several iterations to come up with something decent.

First look at Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak book cover.
First look at Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak book cover.

While I wish I could paint a watercolor like the illustration on this cover, believe it or not, I actually used an AI called DALL·E to generate the base image. The way it works is pretty simple—you write a sentence or two describing what you want and the AI draws it.

The prompt I used was something like: "watercolor of two third graders walking a border collie puppy in the mountains next to a creek with a full moon and shooting star in the night sky."

As a software engineer with significant machine learning experience (see my Game of Throne AI that went viral a few years ago), I was extremely impressed by the level of control I had over the image DALL·E generated.

DALL·E's initial illustration wasn't perfect and the AI does seem to suffer from a version of the "last mile problem," where you get get 95% of what you want, but the last 5% is impossible. The dog in my illustration is older than the puppy it's depicting from Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak, but I could not get the AI to output exactly what I wanted. In the end, I decided it was close enough.

I performed a handful of cosmetic touch-ups in photoshop, purchased a fun font called WildKind for the title, and slapped my name on the bottom. It sounds easy when I write it out, but this was actually a fairly time-consuming project.

I'm planning to share more content as the publication date approaches, so keep an eye out for updates in the next two weeks.

Enjoy the journey,

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