Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Which Cover Works?

The current cover, circa 2012

I was so pleased with the covers I commissioned for the “Phoebe” trilogy I just finished that I took a look at the rest of my books with a new eye. Back in the old days, six or seven years ago, when ebooks were still pretty new and finding freelancers who had good skill sets for book design was more difficult, I had some covers commissioned that I thought in the end were all right but not wonderful.

This first cover to the left is one of them. I like the image a lot, but I’ve never liked the type treatment. And these days, it’s design best practices to have some kind of tag line on the cover that gives readers a third hint (after the image and the title) of what’s in the book.

Maybe, I thought last week, it was time to redo these old covers.

Betting on Hope is set in Las Vegas. Hope, our heroine, holds her family (sister, mother, niece) together with a lick and a prayer. And then to her shock, she finds out that her father, a professional card player, lost their ranch—the family home and her sister’s livelihood—in a poker game.

Cover 1

Cover 2

A child prodigy poker player herself, Hope had given up the game long ago after too many betrayals by her father. But when the family is given thirty days to move out, she decides to try to win the place back from the east coast Mob boss who won it.

She enlists the professional players from her past to help her brush up her game. They introduce her to the hero and his daughter. The Mob boss brings his moll to Vegas and then the wife shows up. Not to mention, the Russians. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Cover 3

Cover 4

There’s a lot of poker playing in the book, and a lot of the reviews on Amazon think the story is “about” gambling. When I wrote it, I thought the book was about what family is and means. I read thirteen (count ’em! Thirteen!) books about Texas Hold ’em, the game Hope plays, and by the time I was finished reading those books, I’d decided that people who play poker professionally can benefit from luck, but they must have skill to win consistently, which is what makes professional card players not the same as gamblers, who rely solely on luck, unless they cheat.

Cover 5

But as we learned at McDaniel, the book you write is only half the experience. The reader brings the other half.

I mention all this by way of pointing out that some of these covers are more about card playing, and some of the covers de-emphasize this aspect. But I’m interested in what cover best reveals the story.

I have my favorites. What do you think?

 

Jeanne: Things I Learned from Publishing My First Book

1. Rely on others

I’m not a very visual person, so when I got my teaser ads back from my publicity agency, I asked other more visually gifted friends to look over the ads. They came back with issues I never would have seen.

Takeaway: Rely on your posse. (And plan to be their posse in return when the time comes, with whatever you have to offer.)

Even though I’m not very visual, because I’m less emotionally invested in their stories than they are, there’s still a chance I’ll notice things they didn’t.

2. Give yourself more time than you think you could ever possibly need.

Once you get a final draft completed, it feels like most of your work should be done. While that’s probably true, there’s still way more to do than you realize, especially if you’re going to give your book a sendoff that will allow it to sell well.

3) Give yourself plenty of backup. Don’t rely on any one arena to promote your book.

I have a couple of friends with upcoming releases, one a debut. A couple of weeks ago their web host ghosted them. Their sites are down and they can’t get support from the hosting company.

4) Make sure you know your target market and the comps for your book.

After The Demon Always Wins came home with the Golden Heart, I kind of expected agents and editors, maybe not to flock to my door, but at least to be interested. So it was really disappointing when they weren’t.

Now, four years down the road, I understand why they weren’t. Paranormal romance wasn’t selling well at that time and the demon sub-genre was almost non-existent. When asked for comps for my book, I didn’t know of any. I wasn’t sure why it mattered, since the book wasn’t likely to wind up on physical shelf anywhere.

Then I tried running an Amazon ad. Amazon ads live and die by your keywords, and your keywords are mostly going to be a list of comp authors for your book.

These days I can list half a dozen off the top of my head.

5) Understand the conventions for your niche.

We’ve covered this in some detail in other posts, so I’m going to keep this brief, but my covers were all wrong. Very cool, but all wrong for romance. Your cover should not be weird and exotic and intriguing. It should be similar to the covers that sell those comps we just talked about.

6) Recognize that you don’t know what you don’t know.

There’s a learning curve to the book promotion game.

You can bypass some of it by hiring people to do some of it for you, but the fact that you don’t know how to it very likely means you won’t know how to hire the right people either.

You can bypass some of it by reading books and taking courses in book promotion. I read some books, but I didn’t take the courses. I have a friend who did. Her first book will debut later this year, and I’m waiting to see how well she does before passing judgment on the value of the course.

Jeanne: A new cover for my second book baby

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Here is the new cover for Book 2–The Demon’s in the Details. If you’ve read the second book, you know the hero is “small, dark, and hairy, with horns and a tail.” Not exactly book cover material. So I chose, instead, to go with a model who looked more like how I picture Seth McCall, the physically attractive (but emotionally repulsive) human Bad possesses in an attempt to get close to Keeffe, an artist who owns a statue that Satan covets.

If you have the original version of the book, it may be worth downloading the updated version. In addition to the pretty new cover, it has an excerpt from the third book, The Demon Wore Stilettos, at the back. I’m pretty sure no human being other than myself has read that yet. Continue reading

Nancy: Catching Up

A reasonable likeness of me this past month.

Well, hello there! Happy September!

It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I’ve been in social media hibernation mode this past month. Not total hibernation, though. I spent August wrestling a new (and very stubborn) story to the ground, gnashing my teeth over a revision gone off the rails, planning a long-weekend trip for research and Bourbon-drinking purposes, and dealing with  health upkeep (recovering from sports injuries and keeping all those pesky preventative care appointments). Today, I’m finally popping my head out of my writing cave to share a few things coming up in September. Continue reading

Jeanne: Looking for Mr. One-Click

As regular readers my know, my first book continues to win prizes but it’s not not selling like I’d hoped.demon_wins_1500--POD

Feedback from experts suggested that my original cover wasn’t working for me.

A local bookseller had an issue with the snake. “People are afraid of snakes,” she said. “They won’t pick up something with a snake on it.”

Hmm.

A couple of author friends who sell a lot of books had a more basic criticism. “Your cover doesn’t say romance.”

And I never did like the fact that it was so hard to read the title.

When I had that first cover made, a marketing friend who had read an early draft suggested going with an “object cover”—that is, a cover with an object rather than a person—with the intention of trying for cross-genre sales. Continue reading

Jilly: Shiny New Cover!

Happy holiday weekend to everyone in the US, and happy weekend to the rest of us 😉

Here in England the weather has turned gorgeous. It’s Wimbledon time, and usually I’d be on my sofa, indulging in a two-week tennisfest accompanied by the obligatory Pimms and strawberries. Not this year. I’m deep in the edits for Christal’s book, and if I’m to have any chance of publishing her on time, I have to keep my nose to the screen and my hands on the keyboard.

The edits for The Seeds of Power may not be finished yet, but the cover is ready, and here it is. What do you think? I hope you like it as much as I do.

I’d love to know what signals it gives you. Does it look like your kind of book? If you noticed that cover as you were browsing on the Zon, would you click it to check out the blurb?

Thank you in advance for your comments, whatever they may be 😉

Oh—and big thanks to the lovely people at Deranged Doctor Design who did all the hard work!

Jeanne: A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to My New Covers

My cover artist fired me.

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Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. I LOVED his initial draft of the cover (which I can’t show you because he refunded my down payment, which means his work is not mine to show).

As you may remember from last week’s post, I had two changes I wanted: to remove the snake glyph, which I’d decided against, and to make my name more visible by decreasing the letter-spacing and increasing the font a point or two.

I sent him that request, but when the cover came back, he had also changed the color of the font from white to some kind of gray.

Huh?

So I sent back a note, asking him to revert to the original white. I expected a quick turnaround, but what I got was:

I’d rather we didn’t do that because it’s balanced as it is. If you put you name in white what would happen is that the name and the title would fight against each other and it would look odd. Did you read my last email about the visual index. You have have EVERYTHING SHOUTING on a cover. It doesn’t work if you do. And it looks a mess. But here … I’ll show you. It looks all unbalanced. I don’t know whether to look at the title or the author name now. Horrid. Continue reading