Monday, 24 October 2011

My new cover!!!

This is the actual cover of my new book 'The Line of Passion'! - the previous one didn't have the title!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How Important is Cover Art?

left: Summerset - not popular?

Now, call me conceited, but I consider Summerset, my first
novel, to be my magnum opus. It was the first proper grown up novel I wrote,
and even several novels later, I think the themes covered in it are
interesting. The beautiful heroine who falls in love with the bookish
schoolteacher, even though the handsome local laird is mad for her, plus all
the historical, sectarian stuff etc. I thought when I published Summerset on
Smashwords, it would prove to be a hit and would be downloaded to the extent
that the others have. But I was wrong. The day I put it on, nothing happened,
not one download for 2 days, before someone took the plunge. Compare this to
Only You and Mad About the Boy, which were put on the site and were downloaded
within seconds. I for one, do not know what makes the cover art for these two
more attractive than Summerset, but it would seem there is something about them
that draws the eye. Maybe it's the genre I right in. I write about glamorous
women leading glamourous lives, so to put sexy types in their halter-neck
dresses on the front, it tells the reader what they're getting. To me, so does
the cover of Summerset. The young girl is innocent and dark haired, like Lou, my
heroine. Seeing as half the novel charts her life from the age of 14-16,I was
hardly going to put some foxy middle aged momma on the cover.

Anyway, it's not for me to explain why this is. But it has
made me look at cover art in general, and I have tosay that when browsing
through indie books, I do find it quite off putting when I see someone has used
a stock photograph and done nothing with photoshop to make it even look
remotely different. Or else they use really tacky typeface, or keep the standard of title at the top, name of author in tiny letters at the
bottom right of the page. Rightly or wrongly, this straight away looks amateurish
and says to me the book inside will be the same - which I'm sure it won't be.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not for a moment saying my covers are brilliant,
because they're not and I would love nothing more to have a big budget and pay
someone to make them look like all the other books in bookstores, but I'm not
at that point at the moment, but I suppose, because I did Graphic Design at
college, I do have a little idea of using themes and colours and if you look at
my books you'll see that there is little variation. This gives the books
branding – another thing that seems to appeal to readers; maybe it's the
feeling of familiarity that does it, you know what you're getting.

It would seem that if you're going to pay out for anything,
then an artist to make your book look snazzy seems to be the most important
thing. Editing and proofreading, of course, are mega important, but to an
extent you can train yourself to edit and can always get someone else to
proofread. But where covers are concerned it would seem you need an outside eye
to interpret your book and make it sellable to the public

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Hello! Is there anybody out there?!

I remember in distant times gone by (well, 3 years ago) when I published Summerset, how I somehow blindly thought that now my book was out in the public domain, that millions of people would be drawn to it and I would be an overnight sensation. Why I thought this, I’m not even sure. Yes, I think it’s a good book, but it isn’t that good, and how would someone like me, with no media profile, be sought out by eager book buyers? I very quickly learned that after badgering friends and family to buy a copy, I suddenly had no audience. This was in the days before the UK was introduced to Kindle, and I thought selling books meant hard copies sold in a book shop. In the UK most book shops, either independent or big chain, won’t touch a self-published book. They still have the stigma and the inaccurate linkage to vanity publishing – poorly edited, badly written stories so obscure no one would be remotely interested. I looked on in awe as I made friends over ‘the Pond’ and discovered that self-pubbed authors in America are allowed into book stores and on local radio shows. Even now that would be unheard of in Britain.

Then I discovered the discussion boards on Amazon. People would post, asking for recommendations. If someone was looking for a romance set in wartime, I would innocently chat to them and mention Summerset, leaving it up to them if they wanted to pursue it further. But slowly, over time, the discussion boards became over-run with other authors, plugging books in categories that had nothing to do with their genre. The same books would have glowing reviews from ‘readers’ who had never reviewed another thing, and suddenly I got lumped in with these ‘trolls’, and after receiving some abuse and a 2 star review from someone, who clearly hadn’t even read the book, (that isn’t vanity, I don’t mind 2 star reviews, but don’t just quote the blurb in the review, say something that proves you’ve read it), I withdrew from the discussion boards and just plugged away, relying on friends passing on my books, or else donating books to second hand shops in the hope someone would read it and pursue my other books.

Now things have changed dramatically. I have discovered Smashwords and Kindle, and in just over a week, my five books have received over 400 downloads on Smashwords alone. Okay, most of these are freebies, but I don’t care about that, I could never have afforded to print out 400 hard copies and donate them to second hand shops. With very little promotion, these books have been sought out and bought or downloaded and for that I’m very grateful. But when I went back onto the Amazon discussion boards, I discovered that authors are now banned from promoting their work full stop. This seems a little unfair to me. Yes the trolls who advertised their cyberpunk, shoot ‘em up novel in a thread where someone’s looking for a book similar to Downton Abbey, deserve to be banned. But should all authors be treated the same? Surely Amazon is awash with advertisements from the big publishers. Log onto any book page and you’ll see recommendations, supposedly because of what you’ve browsed, but uncannily, always a book from a mainstream publisher.

Surely the public have got the sense to just scroll over the trolls, if they’re not interested in what they’ve got to say. Or why not have an Indie Author discussion thread? Then if people are looking for something a little bit different, they can take a look, if not, they can stick to the other threads. Increasingly Amazon are making huge profits from Kindle books, surely they could afford the authors who are bringing them thousands of pounds, a little advertising space and a chance to let the world know what they’ve published.