Posts Tagged ‘Covers’

Progress Report, Covers, and Complaints

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Progress Report!

I’m doing a paper read-through of Surrender to Ruin, which is going about as expected. It’s a little unusual that I’m at 82K words without a final chapter and with all but chapter 1 to read and revise. That’s because, per usual, I have heavily revised chapter 1 three times and then got all the way to chapter three when I realized I needed a whole new chapter before the then current chapter 3, which I then wrote and then I started over and revised chapter 1 twice more and now I’m moving on to chapter 2… Which is more or less how it usually goes with the paper revisions.

At this rate, I’ll end up at well over 100K, but I expect to find chapters that require deletion. I’m almost ready to post a first chapter to read, so look for that!

For those who care, I am currently revising my paper version with a Kaweco Sport fine point fountain pen with “lilac summer” ink. It’s very pretty! The Kaweco Sport fountain pen is a great pen. I enjoy writing revising with it.

Covers

As my blog readers know, I have the final cover for Surrender to Ruin which I love love love. I asked my cover artist to match the look and feel of Lord Ruin, which is why I went with a custom shoot for the image. There was nothing out there that was perfect and I didn’t want to compromise. Then I realized that A Notorious Ruin, which is Book 2 in the series, was going to look very out of place. I didn’t even bother looking for stock images. If there was anything out there that would work, I’d have used it for Surrender to Ruin. And so….

I did A/B testing for the  cover. In the first round, my preferred image (Looking Straight Ahead pose) lost by a statistically significant amount — though not overwhelmingly. So then I A/B tested Sideways Pose with the green background and the purple background, and that was more or less a tie. There was an insignificant edge for purple. On social media, the green vs. purple choice had a slight edge for green.

!

I SO SO appreciate everyone who weighed in. By the way, purple was my favorite. As was the Straight Ahead pose. But I could see why the sideways pose had the edge.

Now what!? Well, I put the three covers up in order across my 27″ monitor screen and swapped between purple and green for Book 2. I asked my sister to look. My preference was for the green, and so was hers and so … the green background it is. It goes better with Books 1 and 3. When it’s final, I’ll post all three so you can see for yourselves.

Complaint Department

Is anyone else having trouble finding books to read at Amazon? I used to be able to browse and find books and authors I wanted to read or try out. And now? It’s awful. Apparently, there are only 5 books they intend to show me, and if I don’t want any of those, too bad. The books they show me aren’t even remotely close to something I think I’d enjoy.

My last 10 book purchases were all at iBooks.

How about you?

Share

New Cover for Free Fall!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

I have a new cover for Free Fall, my My Immortals novella. I spiffied up the inside, too. Here’s the new cover:

Cover of Free Fall featuring a hot Asian demon

Cover of Free Fall

About Free Fall

Share

Book Covers and Branding

Friday, October 10th, 2014

As some of you may know, I’ve been rebranding my book covers with a more consistent look. I’m also using a custom name font. My name is the same on every single new cover. I have given my cover artists very specific instructions about what I’m going for, and one of those instructions is that my name should be big. Bigger than the title, even.

Today, I saw a great illustration of why that’s a good decision. Amazon (as of Oct.10.2014) is now showing pages of top selling books in categories with two sections to the right that look like the below. Take a look. Which authors are in that Hot New Releases category?

Well, the ONLY author name you can read is Eloisa James. If you are a fan of historical romance, and you were thinking, maybe I’ll buy something else, how likely are you to click on a cover where you don’t even know the author?  I think it’s very likely that buyers will say, oh, hey, I’ve heard good things about that author ….

Who's on First? No name shown

What’s in a Name?

And, of course, the image above illustrates the problem with covers in the digital space. The two boxed sets have issues. Yes, the images convey boxed set, but nothing else. The first one is just a blobby mess. The second one is partially saved by a recognizable image. This is the reason I’m not wild about boxed set covers like this… They are a design challenge that is not currently being met.  So. The 3rd book in the top row. What the hell is that background? I can’t see the name OR the title. This cover is a fail. Truce — I can’t even tell what the eff that is. The title is big but you have to stare, and cheat with the title text below. All I really see is T[something]UC.

The Eloisa James cover is a win. Not only can you read her name, you can read the title, too! AND the image is recognizable. I would have asked for a fix at the upper left corner, which is too dark, but over all, that cover works.  That last one? I can read the title, I have no hope of reading the author’s name. But the image is compelling and atmospheric so it I’d give it a marginal pass.

These books are doing well, that’s why they’re in that corner, but this corner real-estate is not doing the authors any favors. I imagine the click-throughs are disappointing because Amazon isn’t showing the author name and so loses a key reason for clicks. (I’ve heard good things about that author….)

There are six books there, and yes, a click will get you a Hot New Release, but there is nothing here to compel the user to click any given title (aside from rank).  The publisher (whoever that might be) needs to provide a cover that will compel clicks on THEIR book over the other five.

I ask you, which book, other than the Eloisa James book, does that?

I expect Amazon to redesign this real-estate. They should remove “Kindle Edition” and show the author’s name so that buyers have more reasons to click. Plus, all these authors, except James, are losing name recognition moments. Free advertising that, in this set of covers, only accrues to  James.

So, the image above was directly to the right of the one below. And you should be able to see why I was looking at this page.

 

Image showing book covers with author names of varying readability

Names. Yeah. Who can you Read?

 

Right. So at least these images have text that includes the author’s names. But that’s going to be the second or third thing people look at. Even if you have no interest in Scandal because you never heard of me, you see my name.

Miriam Minger has a similar success even with a cover that looks cramped. Those horizontal lines are a problem for Bolen’s books, too– whose name is barely legible and has a further problem with a busy background that distracts.

Now, I heartily dislike that P&P cover, but here I will give a pass on author name because the title is so famous. Yes. It’s Jane. Have we learned our lesson about horizontal lines? None of them are well done here.

The other two, well. The leftmost author’s last name is Cook. That’s really all you can read. And, I fear, someone seems to have actually tried to make Mary Campsi’s name invisible. It’s actually possible to look at the cover and think the author’s name is Sophie Seacrest.

The take away? I’m outselling Jane Austen in free books. Read it and weep. And who the hell is giving Jane fewer than 5 stars?

 

 

Share

General Update

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

General Update is a fine military man. I like him lots. I would share pictures with you, but I don’t want to get in trouble.

In other news, I will soon have the new covers for Passion’s Song, Not Wicked Enough, and Not Proper Enough.

I have the final print cover for A Notorious Ruin and hope to have a print proof pretty soon . . .

We’re zeroing in on the final cover for Christmas in The Duke’s Arms.

I’m hoping to see a sample for Dead Drop.

My son is back at college. The house is too quiet.

Share

Covers and Branding

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I’ve been working toward getting new covers for my books, with the idea that they would essentially be branded, that is, they’d have a recognizable look and feel.

I uploaded the ones that are final to my Pinterest Board. You can see, I hope, the developing look and feel. I haven’t finished updating everything on my website yet. Soon. Very soon.

Challenges

There were two major challenges. Good artwork and the fact that I write historical and paranormal under the same name. Cost was another. Setting up a custom shoot with professional models is more or less far outside my budget. Otherwise, I’d be taking to John Marron and guys like that.

That cost issue : with sufficient budget, I could get the models I want and the clothing required, and the models would know how sell the poses. ::dreaming:: I’ll circle back to that.

Regarding covers and design, first, I recognize my lack of design talent. I do understand the principles of typography and design, since in my web development days I worked closely with the graphic designers. It was in their interest to educate me since I was more or less in charge of the website. Having been schooled, I am very very aware of my shortcomings. That is why I don’t do my own covers.

Why our Gender Problem Makes The image Challenge Worse

At the moment, we live in a culture that uses women’s bodies to sell products. The female body is sexual (as if a man’s isn’t, too.) The cliche is “Sex Sells” But what they really mean is “Women Imaged as Sexually Available Sell.”

And that is a problem because, contrary to popular notions about Romance, A romance novel cover image (excluding erotica) isn’t about sex. It’s about the promise of love. If you go look at stock images and search for Romantic Couple you see pages and pages and pages of women who look like they’re auditioning for a porno movie. Virtually none of them look like they’re falling in love or about to fall in love.

It’s a disgrace. It’s offensive. Probably those Royalty Free sites have the dregs of a photoshoot where the excellent shots went elsewhere.

The clinch cover is not, as that idiot from Vox implied, all about ::giggle:: she wrote a word that has a naughty meaning so let’s read EVERYTHING as if it has that meaning!!! It’s damn near impossible to find a couple who look like there’s love somewhere in there.

And, 99% of the time, someone’s idea of a “historical” gown comes from a $4.99 Halloween costume.

Fortunately, there are now some additional sites dedicated to Romance Novel cover images that have good to great models. There are fashion experts who will loan their historically accurate clothing to the cause of a photoshoot. So, it’s easier than it used to be. As in, instead of impossible, it’s almost impossible.

The image Challenge

My first covers were severely hampered by two main things: the image problems, my talent problem. For some time I could get away with mediocre to good covers because there were others that were so bad … The bar was low and lots of authors benefited from that, whether they knew it or not. The fact that so many NY Romance covers were also just as terrible or worse also contributed to that low bar. I quickly realized that NY was using the same stock image sites as the rest of us. Some of my early covers were pre-made but with some custom typography work.

So, my goal then was to get my reverted titles on sale with the best cover I could manage given all the handicaps around that, and then to bring out front-list, too.

In early 2013, the cover bar got higher, or I got less tolerant of the shortcomings of my covers. I had good cover artists, but I wasn’t letting them do their job. I did have to learn to get out of the way. Early on, I wasn’t able to also get print covers made …. see lack of talent from me. The person I was working with at the time didn’t do print covers and I was not able to do them myself and be happy with the result and the time spent.

This was a problem for me. I ended up having almost no print presence, and that got to be a worse and worse situation, to the point where I had to find another artist. Ultimately, to get all the covers done, I ended up using two different people.

The 100% Improvement Dilemma

Here is a true fact. For ease of discussion, let’s pretend there’s the following spectrum of ability:

  1. Worst ever in history
  2. Horrible
  3. Never should see the light of day
  4. sucks
  5. Not bad
  6. Almost good, if you squint
  7. Mediocre
  8. Huh
  9. I like it
  10. Nice
  11. Ooh
  12. OMG that’s amazing
  13. Off the charts genius

Suppose you start out at horrible in the “Cover Ability” area. You get Photoshop or Gimp and learn a few things and voila! You have a cover that never should see the light of day. You have improved a lot. You work some more and now your cover merely sucks. You have improved 100% in ability, you can see that because look at the difference between where you started and where you are now! You can use the tools! Eyedropper! Oh, hey, fonts. That I did not buy.

But your covers are still terrible.

If you’re in the business of selling books, your covers need at minimum to be at least Nice. At least there. If you’re not an actual artist, chances are very very slim that the cover you think is Nice actually is.

Typography

It’s a skill. And it’s a separate skill from design. Courtney Milan wrote a post about this. Go read it. FYI, I Googled “Courtney Milan and the Duke’s Cock” to find and link to that post. It was more fun than it should have been. But I’m not even ashamed.

What I did, several several several months ago, was find someone good at typography and commission a custom name font. Anthony Piraino as it happens. It was a chunk of change but a more than acceptable business expense. I wanted a font that would work across genres, so it couldn’t look too historical or too paranormal. It’s not just a font with letters that spell my name. (grin) He made pixel level customizations to the shapes of some letters for me.

The first time I used it on a cover, I could see it looked — as it did. The effectiveness of the name font isn’t apparent until you see it on several covers. Then you can see the branding and how it pulls the books together.

Color and Contrast

What I know from my work on websites and from studying the hell out of my cover situation while I pondered solutions, was that in the digital space, thumbnails matter a lot. You need colors that contrast. There are a lot of things wrong with the current trend in historical covers, not the least of which is how bad they look at thumbnail size.

On a purely personal level, I don’t care for the pastel trend, in historicals particularly. I wanted vivid, vibrant jewel tones over a year ago and I wish I’d been in a position to get all my covers done then. I wasn’t able to make it happen, alas. I would have been WAY ahead of the curve. I’m sure that will change at some point and I’ll be looking for another composition and color effect.

A Key Difference

Here’s the thing. Across all the books I ever published traditionally, my covers were always branded to the publisher and/or imprint. Not to me. I got one cover and that was it. There were no do-overs, or huh. It’s not working, let’s try something else.

What I have done is replace covers that stopped working or were too divergent from the look I was trying to hit. What I’ve done or am in the middle of developing, is a look that says, this is a book by Carolyn Jewel. And that never happened when I was traditionally publishing. I got some fantastic covers. Several of them were distinctive enough to build off of … There was nothing cohesive across my name even at the same publisher.

I am shallow. Very shallow

I have spent a lot of time looking at images of men, women, and couples. Here’s a list of the things I began ruthlessly saying:

  • She’s not pretty enough.
  • He’s not handsome enough.
  • Great body. Meh face.
  • They look like they hate each other.
  • That guy is SUPER DUPER cute but he isn’t ripped enough.
  • Please, dude. You are not that good looking. Just stop it.
  • Lady, could you at least TRY to look happy?
  • Holy shit, he’s hot.
Share

Oh, Hey About That Thing You Did 5 Times

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I’m going to whine.

I have put A Notorious Ruin through five rounds of proofreading. Five. Today I finished round five, and I updated my files etc etc etc., and then I uploaded the updated files to the places I have preorders just in case, you know, even though I have another week before bake-in, as it were, and I did Amazon last, and their spell checker, which has never ever before found an actual typo, found a typo that was an actual typo.

O_O

So I went back and fixed that, and then did one last check and I found another one (that Amazon missed. I don’t think “afer” is a word so what the hell, Amazon?) So I fixed that too.

Seriously.
::sigh::

The good news is that I have the final new cover for Stolen Love, and it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, and I’ve uploaded that most places. And, the Print on Demand cover for Scandal is gorgeous. I got that today. So, as soon as I have a final interior, there will at last, be a paper copy for Scandal.

Yay!!

Share

Newsing the Covers

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

I have two covers to show you:

First, the cover for My Darkest Passion, Book 5 of the My Immortals series. The MS is back from a beta read and I’m working on those revisions now. Then it’s off to my editor, so I’m thinking mid-to-late February is looking good as a release date. This is Harsh Marit’s story. At long last, I was able to find an image of a Southeast Asian (Indian) man that was super hot. In fact, I found more than one! Because, as the world is discovering, there is actually no shortage of Indian men more than suitably hot for a romance cover. Woot!!! Patricia Schmitt is the cover artist for both.

Serious face of a Southeast Asian (Indian) man looking to the left. He is extremely handsome.

Cover! Hot!

Second, here’s the new cover for Lord Ruin. I’ve already uploaded it to Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble, along with some updates to the text, mostly formatting, but I did find a few more typos. I’ll have the file updated for Smashwards and All Romance shortly.

A man holding the face of a woman with her eyes closed.

New Cover!

Share

News from Jewel Central

Friday, October 7th, 2011

1. I have sent the UNCENSORED version of Future Tense off to be edited. Hopefully I remembered to blog that I was putting back and writing the sex scenes that were left out of the original version. Forever was uncomfortable with a free offering having sex, which I totally get. The uncensored version of Future Tense is pretty hot and, of course, I ended up doing a fairly extensive rewrite. It’s a few thousand words longer and is just about novella length.

2. The updated Future Tense will also have a new cover. I have the draft and it is awesome, especially since I was at last able to find a totally hunky man of Asian descent. Bonus for him having an Angel Script tat on his back. I can’t wait until I can show it to you!

3. I should have the final cover for Not Wicked Enough soon, plus the book has gotten some lovely blurbs.

4. Look for some more backlist titles from me soon

5. Not Proper Enough is beginning to gel, but panic is setting in. ACCKKKK!!!

Share