Kay: What Next?

The view from my living room window, 10am, Sept. 9, 2020.

A friend gave me a $50 gift card to Amazon for my birthday a few weeks ago, and today, while we in California’s Bay Area are living with skies that look like the apocalypse, I spent it on ebooks.

I was frightened when I woke up this morning to dark red skies—fires are all around us but haven’t been of immediate danger. However, when I first moved to California, a big fire erupted just a mile or two behind my house and burned through more than 3,000 homes and killed 27 people. Most of my street evacuated voluntarily at that time, but I had faith in the fire department and the hydrant at the end of my block. My faith was rewarded, too: the fire came no closer than about three-quarters of a mile. Continue reading

Jeanne: Cartoon Covers

After I finish my current work-in-progress, I plan to take a break from the paranormal sub-genre to write a series of five romantic comedies based on five siblings, aged 24-32, who are suddenly given shared control of a tour business in Sedona, AZ. Their parents, who have grown tired of their kids’ constant wrangling, disappear for a year to cross items off their bucket list, advising the kids to “figure it out.” Which, over the course of the five novels, they will. 🙂

As you can imagine, book jackets for romantic comedies look very different from dark paranormal romances, so I’ve begun doing some research into what’s trending.

The current #1 bestseller on Amazon in romantic comedy is You Deserve Each Other, by Sarah Hogle. After seeing the cover and reading the blurb, I went ahead and bought it.

Apparently, the cover works fine, though I have to admit that the price–$1.99!–sealed the deal.

 

 

 

The Tourist Attraction is a debut novel by author friend of mine, Sarah Morganthaler, that also falls into the romantic comedy sub-genre.

 

 

 

 

Still another rom-com is The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon.

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t read any of these yet, but I think the covers are attractive and send the message “lighthearted and funny.”

What do you think? If there are other rom-com covers you think I should look at, feel free to drop links in the comments!

Jilly: New Story, New Cover

It’s August already, and the end of this pandemic is starting to feel very far away. Here’s hoping at least one of those vaccines turns out to be a magic bullet.

I expected to be in California now, drinking cocktails, eating ice cream and hanging out with Eight Lady Kay. Instead I’m about to start the nineteenth week of our involuntary staycation in North London. Sigh. The weather has turned gorgeous. I like my house, and we’re lucky enough to have a small garden. My husband is great company. The food is okay and the wine is good. I’m trying to stay focused on the positives, but a change or two would be welcome.

So while I wait for the copy edits of The Seeds of Exile (Daire’s novella) I’m turning my focus to a new writing project—the second full length Elan Intrigues novel, called The Seeds of Destiny. The main character is a mountain-dwelling healer with uncanny powers. She’s called Annis Benkith. Daire seeks her help as he battles the energy sickness that is driving him toward an early and painful death.

It’s always hard to get to grips with a new character and a new piece of world building. Annis is a nomadic mountain dweller, wildly different from the princes and princesses of the two previous books. Fortunately I have a cover for The Seeds of Destiny that evokes the ambience I’m trying to capture. I’m using it for inspiration.

It took me hours of searching to find a stock photo of a woman who looked as though she could be Annis. She makes eye contact with the reader. She looks natural and rather serious. To me she feels like Annis—calm and empathetic, skilled, but also decisive, courageous and determined. In the original photo she was Victorian and glamorous, but my cover designers, Deranged Doctor Design, gave her a new look with a homespun dress and a high-altitude setting.

What do you think? I hope you like the cover 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 it as you were browsing online, would you click on it to check out the blurb?

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

And huge thanks to the talented team at Deranged Doctor Design. I feel very lucky to be working with them.

Michaeline: Font Size Matters

 

Japanese newspapers see caption

These are two of the newspapers we get at home — above is The Japan Agricultural News (Nihon Nogyo Shimbun), and below is the Hokkaido Shimbun. Both carry the same headline outlined in black: Nationwide State of Emergency Declaration. The agricultural newspaper’s headline takes up about a sixth of the front page, while the regional newspaper allots about an eighth of the page for the headline. (E.M. Duskova, taken April 17th)

Just a quicky today, but the newspaper we got yesterday caught my eye. Look at the size of that headline! Even if you don’t read a word of Japanese, you know that some editor thinks this story is a big effing deal – that’s the size of font usually reserved for war. In this case, both headlines say the same thing: “Nationwide State of Emergency Declaration.” For more information, here’s an article from the Mainichi Shimbun with the same headline. 

So, what’s the font size on your book? If you are mostly interested in self-publishing ebooks, I don’t know if the font size really matters anymore on the inside of the book. The reader can adjust it. You do want to make it friendly and inviting, though, so don’t go for 8 points or smaller. (For reference, the default font on my Word Document is 10.5 when it’s at 100 percent. A point is about 1/72nd of an inch, or around 0.353 mm according to Wikipedia.) 

From what I’ve seen, the biggest element on the book cover for many authors is the picture. A picture can convey a feeling, a genre and a whole lot of information. If the title and author’s name are too big, it will leave less room for the illustration to communicate.

However, for some big name authors, the name IS the selling point. And, in a few rare cases, the title might be the best way to grab attention.

Cover Design Studio recommends 48 pt or larger for the keywords of the title, 18 to 36 pt for the author name and subtitle, and 10 to 12 pt for blurbs, promos and descriptive texts. 

You can see how big fonts play out in this humorous BBC article about modern book cover clichés.  In particular, note how LARGE FONTS = GIANT AUTHOR in the heavy-weight literary category, and how in the thrillers, Little Known Author gets a relatively small font.

I also find the Lee Child book cover interesting – KNOWN AUTHOR is huge, the title is fairly large, and the series title (JACK REACHER) is definitely large and readable. If you look at YA series, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, the series names dominate the cover completely in many editions.

Also interesting: you can kill two birds with one stone by incorporating the title into the artwork. The “female-orientated fiction” uses silhouettes with huge fonts for the titles, and the name (our friend, Little Known Author) gets a much smaller font.

Anyway, just a short little meditation on something we all know. I must admit, my mind has not been on writing very much this week. I’m nesting – grooming dogs, cleaning house, and spending an hour or so recuperating under cats in the evening. So, here. Have a picture of a Good Boy and a Good Girl.

Doggies with somewhat long fur, freshly brushed and the wind ruffling them up.

OK, to make up for the shortness of the piece, have a double doggie picture worth at least 1,000 words. Rex, front, has been betrayed by me because I shampooed and rinsed his back. Nana, who was not betrayed today, gnaws on a fake bone. The weather is lovely, but as you can see by the ears and fur, windy. (E.M. Duskova)

Jeanne: Another Cover Story

originalsin-estridge-ebooksmallOn Sunday, Jilly shared the cover of her new novella, The Seeds of Exile. It’s spectacularly alluring and I think it will perform well for her. (Hope so!)

I, also have a new cover to share, along with a snippet from the short story it fronts.

If you’ve read any of my Touched by a Demon books, you’re familiar with Lilith, the she-demon who serves as one of Satan’s primary agents on Earth. Although Lilith excels at fieldwork, she ends each story headed for the maggot pit because she’s also Satan’s primary whipping girl when things don’t go as planned.

“Original Sin” is Lilith’s origin story and I’ll be giving it away as a freebie to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. It won’t be on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any other vendor site–only as a reward for joining my subscriber list. (And to everyone who’s already a subscriber, of course.)

The cover was created by Paper and Sage, who also did my other covers. I love that this one echoes those, but it’s enough different to signal that this is something…different. A short story, rather than a full-length novel.

Here’s the tagline and blurb for the story:

In the beginning, God created Adam and…Lilith?

Meet the founding member of the First Wives Club. Before Adam met Eve, he was married to Lilith. Created at the same time and from the same dust as her husband,  Lilith views herself as Adam’s equal.

What if the original sin wasn’t curiosity?

Here’s the first scene (lightly edited in keeping with Eight Ladies’ PG rating): Continue reading

Jilly: Another Shiny New Cover

Another week, another seven days closer to the end of this pandemic, whenever that may be. I hope you’re safe and well.

And Happy Easter to everyone who’s celebrating today. Even though this is an Easter like no other, I hope you’re able to find the joy in it.

Here in England the weather has turned gorgeous, which makes it even harder to stay inside. I’m lucky that we have a small garden, and if I work at the table in the kitchen I can open the double doors and get a hit of birdsong and sunshine. It helps a lot.

I’m still waiting for the edit report on Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile, but I have a cover, and here it is. You might remember that I found a stock photo of a guy I thought was perfect for Daire—hair, face, expression—but who wasn’t a golden historical fantasy prince. I hoped my cover designers would be able to turn him into one, and I must say they surpassed my expectations.

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 online, would you click on it to check out the blurb?

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

And huge thanks to the team at Deranged Doctor Design, who are a delight to deal with, not to mention brilliant creatively and technically. I feel very privileged to be working with them.

Jeanne: Cover Me

Old wooden gate with lianasI’ve just finished drafting a short story titled “Original Sin.” It’s the origin story of Lilith, the demon who has been a minor character in every Touched by a Demon story so far. I’m planning to offer it as a freebie to all the subscribers to my newsletter.

Because I don’t plan to receive any revenue from this story, it’s really tempting to cheap out on the cover. (Likewise, to skip paying an editor.) But if the story’s purpose is to attract and keep readers, it needs to be shiny and polished—my best stuff.

Ergo, professional cover (and copy editor).

I was thinking about doing a cover depicting the Garden of Eden beneath the arc of fiery angel wings that are the hallmark of my first two covers but Eight Lady Jilly thought that was a mistake.

“I’m convinced,” she said, “that the most effective covers for romance depict the main character.” Her cover for The Seeds of Power, you may recall, features Princess Christal Hollin of Larrochar and it’s worked well for her. Continue reading

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

demondetails-estridge-ebookweb

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