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Are You Ready?

A while back, my publisher asked me to consider a new book cover for Unwillable. Whether it was because I already had too much on my mind, heaps of to-dos on my plate, never enough sleep, the knowledge that it would be a decent venture in time and energy, or the fear that I’m historically not good with covers (or titles) or all of the above, I was averse.


But in early January, in a conversation with some friends, the idea came up again. And they were persistent. The book could use a refresher. A new image. A second edition with an afterword to detail what’s happened in the two years post-publication. Although I was still a bit hesitant, I started to come around a bit.


I’m proud of the initial cover art and all the work that went into it. It was a trip. It’s unquestionably the most important piece of art I’ll ever own. But in these book cover discussions, I realized that something subtler was beckoning me.


My friends discussed the idea of a photograph of me in a courtroom, with a blurry background, and me smiling away. But that didn’t quite resonate with me. I couldn’t see me in the lawyer suit anymore. Or in the context, looking in any way happy.


We had already experimented with the courtroom scene. And for most people (except for me when the process began) the story was never really about me as a lawyer. The story has always been about being human. It’s about heartbreak and hope. And how others can see themselves in this particular, albeit terrifying, journey.


I didn’t envisage the cover depicting me in the courtroom, but I did fancy the cover art depicting, well … me.


Not too long after that conversation, I reached out to a friend who also happens to be a multi-talented consultant. We have known each other for a couple years now and she’s knowledgeable about my work, family, backstory, writing, and Unwillable. She’s also highly versed in trauma and the human spirit. She was the perfect hire for collaboration on a new cover.


We brainstormed about ideas, themes, emotions, and vibes. We looked at books together for inspiration and I continued looking at covers ad nauseum, like I have for a few years. We met and I took notes. I spinned. And spunned. And got nervous. I even learned the difference between serif and sans serif fonts. (I can now honestly say that I don’t like: titles, covers, and fonts.)

I tried to give input and yays and nays, but overall, I also took a step back and granted great deference to an experienced artist and designer. And did I mention that the process was anxiety inducing for me…I wasn’t certain in what I wanted in the cover redux. I also realized that everyone has an opinion on book covers. And I didn’t have much confidence in my cover generating abilities. But I wanted a great new first look for Unwillable, because I wholeheartedly believe in it.


Spin. Spun. Anxious.

She nudged me ahead and we continued to make progress. And along the way, Sean, my mom, and my bff Lacie answered a ton of my questions, gave input into my ideas, and looked at various drafts. Sean even took the cover photo (Lacie didn’t come over that day, because it was a -55 degree North Dakota January day…). Until we finally got to our vision. My consultant-friend led the way, and she did a fabulous job!

 I can’t tell you that it’s exactly how I pictured the new cover, because I never had a complete design in mind. Although I did envision a photo of me, with a dark, black background and bolts of lightning coming out of my iridescent forehead showing my brain… (For the record, I don’t do any design consulting work).


But I can tell you that I love it!


It’s hard to represent a story that was a lifetime in the making, in one small 9ish by 6ish inch dimension, that’s made even tinier online. It’s challenging to set forth an entire journey at one glance. It’s impossible to convey what autoimmune encephalitis did to me, how it terrorized me, and how it’s made me feel. It’s difficult to convey what the illness took from me.


But I think this new design checks all the boxes and then some.


This is one book that I’m happy to judge by its cover. (And the title. I’ll always love how we landed on Unwillable.)


I’m continually grateful to my friends for helping me out. To my family for putting up with me. And to you, the JM Stebbins family, for supporting me along the way.


Are you ready for Unwillable’s second edition?

I sure am. Let the fun begin.


Love ~ jackie


Unwillable Part Deux, is set to go live online in the next few days. Along with the new cover, it also includes an all-new afterword and the soundtrack. You can buy it in all the usual online places (Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, etc.). And if you do buy it or read it, an Amazon review is always greatly appreciated! Thanks friends.


“Catch a star if you can

Wish for somethin’ special

Let it be me, my love is free

Sing a song to yourself

Think of someone listenin’

One melody, you’re all for me

“I’ll write a symphony just for you and me

If you let me love you

I'll paint a masterpiece just for you to see

If you let me love you, let me love you

“Are you ready, are you ready for love?

Yes I am, are you

Are you ready, are you ready for love?

Yes I am, are you

Are you ready, are you ready for love?” Are You Ready for Love by Elton John


/ / The JM Stebbins blog is an autoimmune encephalitis blog by former lawyer and autoimmune encephalitis survivor, Jackie M. Stebbins.

Jackie M. Stebbins is also the author of Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim my Brain, a book about autoimmune encephalitis, resilience, hope, and survival. / /


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