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Archive for August, 2013

Today, I decided to talk about cover art, because, I don’t know, some of you may be thinking about e-publishing or just starting to and wonder about cover art.

Now, I’m currently forced to do this on a shoestring budget, so I make my own cover art. I’ll confess, my first covers were dreadful. Awful. And it does make a difference. Here’s my very first cover for the Novelette “Heart of Oak”:

Heart Of Oak Cover

Now, this isn’t my worst cover, but it’s pretty bad. It’s actually from a photograph I took several years ago.

Look at it in gray scale:

HeartOfOakCoverSmallBW

I didn’t realize at the time that you have to worry about that too. A lot of e-readers are still black and white. (Mine is.) This is what the cover looks like on those readers. Make it as small as a postage stamp too and even the color version is just shades of green.

Here’s the current cover:

h

So much better.  Isn’t that image just about perfect? Here’s what I did.

There are a lot of sites out there that allow you to purchase the right to use art–photographs and other images. I like Dreamstime, mostly because I have better luck finding what I’m looking for there. Also because the licensing agreement specifically says the images can be used for book covers. That background image cost approximately $13. For that, I purchased the right to use it 10,000 times.

Again, I’m working on a shoestring here, so I use GIMP (a free download image manipulation program) for the titles, etc. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of say, PhotoShop. I can’t easily do drop shadows on the text, for example. But it does everything I need, if not everything I might wish for.

Occasionally, I do a few other manipulations with the background image, like adding the dragon silhouettes to the covers of BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER. The background image for BLOOD WILL TELL was landscape orientation. I had to rotate it to make it work for a book cover, but that’s easy. The right to use the background image for BLOOD WILL TELL cost approximately $17.

Blood Will Tell Cover

I had a couple of false starts on the cover for BLOOD IS THICKER. I purchased images that I ultimately didn’t use before I found the right one, partly because I’d let myself get focused on one idea and only looked for images that fit that idea. (I wanted to use magical skies as the backdrops. What’s more magical than an aurora?) You have to open yourself up to other possibilities. Who knows? I might find a use for those images, later.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

That yellow sky is pretty magical, too. And I knew it would work for the silhouettes because there was another photo in the same group with geese in silhouette.

My favorite cover so far, hands down, is for the combined edition. After a couple of false starts, I figured out how to clip the cloud images from the background for the BLOOD IS THICKER COVER and overlay them on the background for the BLOOD WILL TELL cover. Then it was just add the dragon silhouette and the titles. But the deep blue and gold skies are so striking together.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10567743

Isn’t that a huge improvement over that first “Heart of Oak” cover?

So that’s how I do it.

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A little of this and a little of that, today.

I have started  looking for potential reviewers for BLOOD IS THICKER. Not nearly enough yet, but sometimes just getting started breaks the log jam. It’s certainly the first step.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

I got my proofs for the paperback version. I might make one change before launch, but I haven’t decided, yet.

Meanwhile, my first review for FIRE AND EARTH went live. Check it out, here. There’ll be a giveaway on that site next week and an author interview in early September.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

In other news, I’m extremely excited that my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM, got second place in the pitch+250 contest on Adventures in YA Publishing. I’ve just started querying this and I find this a very auspicious beginning. Besides, I get a critique from one of the judges. Who knows?

I’m almost finished with the paragraph-by-paragraph rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. If nothing else, this has been a great learning experience. I’m confident this story will see the light of day one way or another before too long.

As always on Sundays, a new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is up on wattpad for free. This one is one of my favorites. What if a couple of dragons in disguise arrived in our world just before Christmas, and had to go shopping for clothes? Well, take a look and find out. Or, of course, you could just buy the book. (Click on the pretty picture of the cover above.)

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It runs in the family. Dad was a champion at it.

Promotion is outside my comfort zone and it’s so easy to just keep working on things I enjoy more–like writing–and push off the promotion stuff until tomorrow. It’s always tomorrow.

But that’s the point. I have to reach the point where I’m reasonably comfortable with promotion. It’s not optional. Writing without some promotion is just shouting into the wind. Not very many people will hear you.

Last week, I had an excuse. WriteOnCon. And that was definitely not time wasted. But that was last week.

As of yesterday, the official launch of BLOOD IS THICKER is three months away. Time to get serious.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

I need to start dedicating an hour or so a day to this–whether I want to or not.

In other news, I got the proof of the paperback version. And, you can read the first eight chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER free on wattpad. (The next chapter coming up is a fun one.)

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It’s time to take a step back and figure out what I want to do next with THE BARD’S GIFT. This is a tough one.

When I first sat down to write TBG, I had a choice to make. I could either write the story as straight up second-world fantasy or I could do a lot of research and write it as historical fantasy or alternate history. I chose to stretch myself as a writer and go with the historical–a story with fantasy elements set in 14th-century Greenland.

On some levels, this may have been a mistake, but I’m not sorry I did it. I really like the way it turned out. And, frankly, some elements of the story would have been different–maybe not as good–if I hadn’t done that research.

However, it looks like a young adult story set in 14th-century Greenland is a tough sell, at least to agents. Since the very first book I queried, I’ve never had so little response to a query.

It’s odd, though. I’ve had half a dozen or so of those repsonses queriers will tell you that you never get–personalized rejections. These rejections from agents who read a part of the beginning along with the query have complemented the writing, the main character, what they know of the plot–and then gone on to say that they just can’t take it on. I have to conclude that it’s the historical setting.

So, here are my choices:

  1. I could shelve it. But my gut and those peronalized rejections are telling me that’s not what I need to do.
  2. I could rewrite it as a second-world fantasy and try again. See if that gets any better response. I’m thinking about this one, but it doesn’t quite feel right.
  3. I could try sending it directly to some small and medium presses that accept unsolicited manuscripts and see if I get the same response from editors, but–wow that could take a very long time. Unlike agents, editors generally want exclusive submissions. And they may take months to get around to reading an unsolicited manuscript.
  4. Or, in today’s digital marketplace, I could just go ahead and epublish it myself. I’m leaning towards this one.

Meanwhile, following WriteOnCon, I’m ready to start querying MAGE STORM. Hopefully, this second-world middle grade fantasy will get a better response.

And, of course, I have to really dig in and start to prepare for the launch of BLOOD IS THICKER.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

Also, Chapter 8 is now available free on wattpad.

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I’ll be “at” WriteOnCon all day tomorrow, learning a lot (as usual) so I’m posting a bit early. And I’m going to keep it short.

I discovered something new this week. I prepared the combined manuscript for Blood Will Tell and Blood Is Thicker (for that promotion I want to do around the launch of Blood Is Thicker).

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10567743

(I’m starting to really love that cover.) I went to upload the file to Smashwords and guess what? They have a new function, still in beta, that allows you to set the launch date. The book will appear for preorder on several of the sites Smashwords distributes to. Readers will be able to download a sample. But it won’t actually be available until (approximately) the date I set. Woohoo! Love this.

Also, you can read the first seven chapters of Blood is Thicker free on wattpad.

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Part of my plan for the launch of BLOOD IS THICKER is to offer a bundle of both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER at a discounted price. This will be helpful with some reviewers, too.

First thing I need is a cover. Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve got now:

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10567743

It’s kind of a mash up of the two covers.

That’s the progress on launch preparations for now. I’ve also been working on my rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, although my forward motion on that slowed down a little last week.

Next week is WriteOnCon. If you write, or even think you might want to write, middle grade, young adult, or new adult you really should check this out. It’s online and it’s free. I’ll be hoping to attract some attention for MAGE STORM, so wish me luck.

The first seven chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER are now available on wattpad.

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Last post I said I needed to buckle down and get serious about preparations to launch BLOOD IS THICKER–and I did.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

I fixed the minor formatting problem with my Smashwords file. Yay! As I suspected, I had to just go back to the original and step through the formatting process again.

For those of you who are maybe thinking about epublishing, I always start with Smashwords for several reasons:

  1. Smashwords has a very comprehensive style guide (free). It takes a couple of hours to step through the process, but I have never had a formatting issue with any other upload once I’d gotten the Smashwords file right.
  2. Smashwords always knows that it’s my  book. I can download any version I want as many times as I want. Free. This makes it possible to check the various formats that come out of Smashwords meatgrinder.
  3. Smashwords makes it very easy to just upload a corrected file, so it really makes sense to check files and make corrections here.
  4. Smashwords lets me generate coupons for anything up to and incuding free, so I can offer my writing pals a free copy and hope for a review in return.
  5. Smashwords will, if I want, take care of the distribution of ebooks to almost everywhere but Amazon.

So, now that I’ve got a good Smashwords file, it only takes a few revisions to make the file for Kindle, which went live early this morning. You’re the first to know. Well, except for the person who apparently already bought a copy.  

It’s now on Goodreads and I’ve started the process for the paperback version on CreateSpace, too.

It’s a paradox. In order to prepare for a launch, you actually have to go ahead and publish about three months ahead in order to have something to offer reviewers and to use for giveaways. (Goodreads, for example, will only allow giveaways of actual books, not ebooks.)

So now I have to prepare to do the exact same thing for the dual version, both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER in one volume. Part of my promotion plan is to offer both for the price of one for a period surrounding the official launch in November.

Meanwhile, you can still read the first six chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER free on wattpad.

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