Cover Design – Planning

A cover is one of the most important marketing tools for a book. Humans are visual creatures. We love color, movement, action, mood, shadows, and shape. Each of us is personally drawn to a different combination of the above.

But for book covers certain aspects seem to work more consistently. Hehe, for the most part. There is always an exception for every rule.

And this is an area where authors suddenly have a lot more control by going Indie. I’ve read a number of books where the cover had nothing to do with what was inside. As a reader I was very disappointed, as the cover helped make the sale (I’ve had this trouble with back-of-the-book blurbs before, too).

Some have argued that covers don’t make as much difference in the e-world as they do in a bookstore. After all, most ereaders are still black and white and when you start reading you typically don’t see the cover anyway. Besides, a reader can’t touch it.

Evidence proves otherwise, and for a very good reason. The same reason they are so important in a bookstore: visibilty.

If the book isn’t visible to the potential buyer then the book is unlikely to sell. It doesn’t matter if they can’t touch the cover, they can still SEE the cover. As I said before, we are visual creatures, and that fact should not be underestimated.

There are two main ways to find a book on online stores: browse and search.

Both methods will typically result in a display of grids consisting of the thumbnail of the cover, the title and the price. Those three things must push a potential buyer to the next step, which is to click through to the product page where the book description and sample might incite them to buy.

So, cover is still just as important in the ebook world as it is in the physical book world. In the initial steps of browsing or searching, the cover, title, and price are going to combine to create interest. The general buying public still very much ‘judges a book by its cover’.

Those who ignore this generally pay for it in loss of sales. For fun, google the bet J.A. Konrath made with Lee Goldberg on the importance of covers and titles. It was a bet Lee was happy to lose.

I wanted to make sure the cover for “Night of the Aurora” represented the interior of the book, so that the reader had some idea of what they were buying. But at the same time, it needed to be enticing.

Not easy things to balance.

Then I made a list of the major elements of each of the books. Did anything in that list make sense for a cover?

The mental images started popping up. Some I tossed aside as too complex. Some would take too long. I needed images that were somewhere in the middle, but still represented what the books were about.

The above step is important, even though to some it might seem silly. You wrote the book, you obviously know it. Right?

Well, yes, in a way. But some of the elements might be lurking only in your subconscious. It doesn’t do much good back there. You can’t pull it out and play with it when it’s back there.

It needs to be brought into your conscious mind. Only then do you truly see it, can the rest of your mind play with it, can it become an active part of the design.

Making a list can help bring the things lurking in the back of your mind to the front of the mind where they can actually be used.

From previous research I knew of several things that have worked well for Indie Authors/Publishers:

* Clear and striking main image with only a few main design elements. Know and play up the focus of the cover.

* Sharp colors

* Clear typeface for both title and author name

* Author name should be large, to help build the author name brand.

* Shrinks down well to a thumbnail with title, author name, and graphics still easily seen.

* Avoid white backgrounds (The cover won’t show up well in the searches as a thumbnail).

With the above as a base, I started off with research. I pulled up the ebook categories I mentioned before and made notes on the top 100 paid listings.

Any themes present? Subject matter? Colors used? Any colors not seen? Design elements that appeared used more than others, or that caught my eye and held my attention longer than a brief scan? Typeface? How did the title and author name stand out?

Whether doing your own cover art, or hiring a contractor to do it, all of the above is important. A graphic designer doesn’t have time to read all of the books he/she designs covers for. They need good information from the author in order to do a good job on the cover.

That means the author needs to have some idea going in on how they want to market it. Answering all the questions up above (and more) so they can articulate to the designer what they want from the end result will result in a good cover with a minimum of frustration and money.

The more information you are able to pass on, the better chance the designer has of hitting the mark.

NEXT: The Cover Design

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“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!
I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

The Slow Build – Examples

Victorine Lieske put together a great blog post showing the slow build many Indie authors go through with their sales. No, not every Indie publishes and starts selling a lot of books. A lot don’t even sell more than a few books… at first.

It goes to show that patience, diligence and persistence really does make a difference. Oh and adding new material. I noticed a lot of authors got a bump in total sales when they released something new.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Perception and Selling Categories

• Genre and Category Sell-through

This is where continual research is so important.

At the beginning of the series I mentioned that science fiction was one of the genres selling well in ebooks. And it is. Genre fiction is typically selling well. But some are selling better than others.

In print books science fiction is at the bottom of the ladder. Only westerns sell fewer books. That’s depressing to me as a writer. And for me, as a science fiction reader, it’s even more depressing.

Why? Because the few editors out there in traditional publishing that are deciding how to feed this niche market have created a genre full of horror and dystopia (and downright depressing) stories, as if that is all the public wants.

Maybe they truly believe that. Maybe they are following some SF publishing fad I’m not aware of. Maybe that’s what these particular editors want to read and are draggin the rest of us with them.

The problem is, they are leaving out so many readers who want something OTHER than horror, dystopia, and depressing stories. The big sellers in science fiction appear to be the media tie-ins that still understand the public wants a good entertaining read. This is the part that gives me hope.

I write what I love to read. And too many times, what I cannot find from other authors.

Perhaps there are only a few out there like me. However, in the message boards and mailing lists I’m now a part of I don’t think that number is necessarily small. It’s just an underserved segment. Maybe I can capture some of the audience who are devouring the media tie-ins and want other science fiction to read.

Now to move on to perception. “Science fiction is for geeks”, or some variation there-of is something I hear a lot. Some people won’t touch the genre, but if the story is of another genre but has SF elements, they will read it.

Somewhere along the line, marketing an original science fiction story as strictly science fiction became a kiss of death. Many best sellers in other genres are actually science fiction. But they aren’t called that. They will argue till they are blue in the face that they DO NOT WRITE SCIENCE FICTION. Yet, in fact, they are.

And they are selling well.

Well, there’s a lesson. Sometimes, even if we may not like it, we have to bend and take advantage of the PERCEPTION in order to make the sales to those who have a mind block on a particular label or tag.

I want to find readers, but I don’t want the books to be held back by reader perceptions.

This means a slight change in the marketing of the books. While they are most certainly science fiction, and I’ll be doing all I can to categorize them in the science fiction categories of the online stores, I also need to seriously look at the other categories these books fall into.

Categories where readers who might not necessarily look in the science fiction category would nonetheless, want to read the story.

* Taking into Consideration Categories

Time for more research!

Not taking into consideration any of the short stories, the first two major projects I am releasing are the following:

Night of the Aurora (Book 1 of the Salmon Run series): The Callahans arrive in Alaska to begin a new life at the lodge left to them by crazy Uncle George. But first they must survive the wilds of Alaska, a massive Aurora… and an alien spacecraft hidden under the snow.

Into the Forest Shadows (Stand-alone): On a world of valuable giant trees and intelligent animals, a red-cloaked headstrong teen struggles to save her family from a planetary conspiracy awaiting her at Grandmother’s house. A Science Fiction novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Both definitely go into the science fiction category. However, they both have elements of other genres. To position these books well, they need to be a part of other genre and sub-genre categories that have nothing to do with science fiction.

“Night of the Aurora” has element of our contemporary world (although placed slightly in the future), that just happens to have aliens and spaceships wreaking havoc with the MC’s lives. But it also could be classified as adventure. Most certainly as young adult. Each of those categories would reach different readers.

This is where the research comes in.

At the moment there are two big sellers of ebooks: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Each online store uses different categories and subcategories.

To start the process I took that tags I thought would apply to each of my novels and used them to navigate around each site, learning what their main and subcategories were in each, making note of them.

Then I used the same tags and did a general search. What came up? Going to these books, what were their listed best seller status in what categories? Did that match up in any way with the list I previously made? Did new categories come up that I didn’t think of?

The process takes some time, but it’s important. While categories can be played with a little bit later, it’s a good idea to go into it with an idea of there the books should be placed.

Here are the results in the Kindle store for each of the books:

Night of the the Aurora

• Books > Literature & Fiction

• Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Adventure

• Books > Teens > Literature & Fiction > Adventure & Thrillers

• Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction

• Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction > Adventure

Into the Forest Shadows

• Books > Children’s Books > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths

• Books > Literature & Fiction

• Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Adventure

• Books > Teens > Literature & Fiction > Adventure & Thrillers

• Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction

• Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction > Adventure

Are they the right conclusions? I don’t know yet. Time will tell. By going Indie, I have the flexibility to change if something isn’t working. The categories are not set in stone.

But at least I started out the process with researched results instead of blind gut instinct. I feel better with the chances of the books by using the research.

Night of the Aurora: AmazonPerception and Selling Categories, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Into the Forest Shadows: AmazonPerception and Selling Categories, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

_______________________________
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

 

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

Google Settlement… Is Not Settled

Hehe, play on words.

Simple way of saying that the Judge Denny Chin rejected the settlement on several grounds, including anti-trust, privacy, and copyright concerns. Google says they are studying the 48 page ruling to review their options.

I wasn’t involved in the settlement at all in any way, as I wasn’t published at that time, but I’m glad to see the Judge reject it. It had so many problems with it.

I’ve seen sources calling the Google plans as a ‘library’. Uh, well, maybe a paying library (through one-time fees, subscriptions, and/or embedded google ads). Because don’t doubt for one minute that Google has been doing that to increase dominance and to make money. Not that it’s bad to make money, but I think calling it a wonderful ‘library’ is a stretch. To me, the library is a place that you go to check out books for *free*. Where someone who doesn’t have money in their pocket isn’t denied knowledge.

Oops, sorry. Went on a bit of a tangent there. Back to the news…

Will Google work up another agreement? I’m sure they will, and have said as much. They have spent too much time scanning in the books, and it means potentially too much money for them to abandon. What form it might take, I have no idea.

And you are lucky this news distracted me. Because I was about to post a rant about ‘dystopia’ after reading ANOTHER recent source saying that’s one of the big new trends New York editors are looking for. Thank goodness for Indie Authors providing other reading material!

Oops, almost went into the rant anyway…

Yep, you are really lucky. 😀

Big 6 Ebook Pricing Insanity

For about 15 years I only bought used books due to economic reasons. No money went to the publishing houses or authors.

Then I bought a Kindle. I could increase the font so that suddenly I could read comfortably again (the print in the last few years is getting far too small in so many books). Suddenly I’m buying and reading like crazy, and the money I spend IS going to the publishing houses and authors.

That is, if their prices are reasonable. If the price of the ebook version is lower than the print version.

Random House opted out of the Agency model for so long. Well, this past week that changed. And the old books that are 30+ old that I was slowly buying in ebook format, after first buying in paperback way-back-when, went up in price. To $8 and above?

For books that old? When I can get paper replacements for under a dollar?

Good grief.

Well, goodbye Random House. You were getting money after I already owned the book, just so I could have it in ebook format. Not now. There are plenty of smaller presses and Indies with reasonable prices I can buy. I’ll miss my favorite authors, but enough is enough.

Newsflash Big Guys: Your games will not stop me from reading on my ereader or buying for my ereader. It will not slow me down a bit in making a nearly-complete switch to the digital format. It will only drive me to other authors and publishing houses.

Your loss is their gain.