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Moving the older covers...

May. 3rd, 2018 | 12:01 pm

I'm pulling my older covers from the place where they're currently listed, and may stick them on a page on my website.  (This is the YA-style set of girl covers.)


(There's actually a 5th one, but it's my least favorite.) Anyhow, these were good practice, but turned out to be really specific and harder to sell because someone would have to be using those specific elements. But I still like them, and maybe I'll sell one of them eventually.
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Still toying with these...

May. 2nd, 2018 | 04:25 pm

...but I'm still not happy with the fonts I've got here. Meh.
I'm still not sure whether I want to go 'thriller' or 'romance', which would affect which fonts end up on there. But I'm pretty happy with the background (made up of 4 different pics) so far.

After this, I may work on some more abstract things for a while. 

And the dog is getting better, so soon I'll be able to write again.  WooHoo!

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Tired

Apr. 26th, 2018 | 08:29 am

For anyone who doesn't know me elsewhere, my currently napping dog had a toe amputated earlier this week, throwing me into full-time dog-nurse mode. I've had very little sleep and am rather stressed and exhausted.  (The other dog is being surprisingly good through all this, although she's licking her foot, which I need to get her to stop.)

Anyhow, I'm not able to spend much time at my computer, and I certainly haven't been writing for the last couple of days (too stressed), so about all I've accomplished is a bunch of poorly-actualized graphics. 
I think this one might make a steampunk cover eventually, bit I'm still working on the background.  That gear is a little large.
This one started off with a clock pointed at midnight, then I changed the background, and I'm still not happy with this in any way.

I started this one below thinking it might make a decent 'christmas thriller' cover, but it's not red and green, so I'm not sure whether that will work.

 Of the three, I think it has the most potential.  But who knowns when I'll have time to get them finished?

Very stressed, so we do what we can. 

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This morning's graphics 4/24

Apr. 24th, 2018 | 06:52 am

Today I took my first stab at a Romance cover:
I think this has tons of potential, but I've got some problems as well.

1) I'll have to recolor the gaps in/edges of her hair. It's not that hard to do, but it sometimes comes out looking obvious, so it may not be fully done.

2) This is a rather 'old school' romance cover, in that it's not particularly current in style.

3) Dang it, there's not a good place to put the author name! In the original mockup (below, from Canva) I put it across her forehead, but for some reason in this version, that doesn't seem to work. Grrr.  So I still need to think this one over, but my graphics time for the day is gone.
Back at it tomorrow, if dog health allows for that.

UpDATED:



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This morning's graphics...

Apr. 23rd, 2018 | 07:13 am

Yesterday Canva was down for much of the day, so I had to work concepts in Paint.net.  Not as easy to use for some things.  I came up with this idea:
I basically wanted to fade one pic into the other, and I tried several variants on that using gradient tools in PS until I decided the eraser tool was the easiest way to accomplish what I wanted.

So now I have this:

Still needs some tweaking (like centering the text badge, duh), but I'm more or less happy with the base colors, etc. And yeah, I need to figure out where to put the author's name.  Looks like the bottom will do.

One of the fun parts of creating is like, in writing, when you intend to do one thing, but go off on a tangent for some reason. In this case I'd intended to use Brilon 1.1 as my font, but Briliants was above it, and when I clicked on that instead, I got a different look. I like the new font choice better. (And I've already used Brilon on a cover anyway.)

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New cover going up...

Apr. 22nd, 2018 | 10:03 am

So the first of the new covers is going up to the store. I worked on it last week on Canva, but this week switched over to PS to finish it up.

THe first image is the one that I originally did in Canva. The second is what I downloaded from them. The third is one of my interim lettering attempts. I tried out the dark letters (with a glow effect) but decided my first choice (white) worked better, so I switched back to that. 

I did try centering the woman's head on the page, but wasn't happy with that, so I'm hoping my final choices works for someone.


So in my final version, I ended up using a mixture of Abaddon and Thirsk fonts. Abaddon is a tad overused in covers, but nothing says 'dark fantasy' quite like it does.

I have some doubts about this one, but overall, I think it works. 

(It's not up in my store yet, but it soon will be.)
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Back to Book Covers

Apr. 17th, 2018 | 10:31 am

I'm getting back now into book cover design, and I'm going to be tracking that on this page.  This spring I'm working on individual covers (as opposed to the 'series set' I did last fall.)

Today I started with one photo, and tried it out two different ways (because I often change my mind mid-stream.


These come from about 30 minutes of work on Canva, which I usually use for rough drafts. I'm hoping that in a week I'll be aboe to transform them into real covers and put them up in my store.

(Canva is super good for first draft stuff because changing things out is simple. However, it has a limited number of fonts and photomanipulation is pretty limited as well. )

I started off with 3 photos from Deposit Photos:



And basically recombined them to create two 'fantasy' covers (although I originally intended to make one SFish). I may go ahead with both, or pick just one to work with, and I hope to have a couple of creditable designs to upload to my store next week.

(Since the vet bills are piling up, I need to be able to turn this into profit some day.  ::sighs::)

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I Don’t Think That Means What You Think it Means…

Apr. 4th, 2017 | 09:23 am

Originally published at J. Kathleen Cheney. You can comment here or there.

Once of the decisions writers make when they’re indie publishing is whether to hire someone else to edit their work. All too often these days I run across an ebook that could have absolutely used another set of eyes on it, and even though Spell Check does a great job catching misspellings, over-reliance on it leads us to the dreaded Spell Czech.*


A Spell Czech is when you have a perfectly good word in a sentence, but it’s not what you intended.


There are a few ways this happens:



  1. AutoCorrect messes you up, and you miss that mistake in edits.

  2. Synonym Finder puts in a synonym, but it’s not quite right.

  3. Homonyms trip you up.




AUTOCORRECT:


Now I think that all of us have experienced the first instance. You’re typing along madly and AutoCorrect is going along behind you and changing your words, often with comical results. You can turn AutoCorrect off, but I don’t. I cannot spell the words just or because without screwing them up.



SYNONYM FINDER:


I usually catch a writer doing this when they’re trying to be a good writer. They’re typing along and realize they’ve used the word ‘lectured’ too often. So they click on synonym finder and it tells them ‘bloviated’ is a synonym.  And we get this:


He lectured her on economics.>>> He bloviated her on economics.


Uh, this doesn’t work. Technically, the two words are, loosely, synonyms. However…lecture can be used as transitive or intransitive, while bloviate is pretty firmly intransitive. So someone who knows the word bloviate will find this jarring and…well, unfortunate.



HOMONYM MISTAKES:


These are easy to make. I had the word mantle in a manuscript for a long time before my mom caught that it should be mantel. Nothing will get a writer past homonym issues faster than awareness. Here’s a great list: Alan Cooper’s Homonyms.


Some of these we learn in grade school. It’s still easy to make too/to/two mistakes decades later, and the internet is full of they’re/their/there and your/you’re issues.


But what I’ve seen a lot lately is the more obscure ones like PEAK/PEEK/PIQUE.


One does not engage in a fit of peak.  One does not eat a hardy meal. One does not pay their dos.


(I’ve seen variations of all of those lately. They make me strongly consider putting the book down.)



Right or wrong, I tend to associate all of these mistakes with people who are not as well read. The last one in particular seems to be the province of someone who’s heard an expression spoken aloud, but has never seen it in print. (This is the opposite of kids who mispronounce words because they’ve only seen them in print, but have never heard them spoken aloud.)


I have to admit, I’ve had things edited, and we STILL find mistakes in them several passes later. However, a lot of these things can be caught by a copy editor. This is why, for my novels, I pay someone to copy edit for me. (Rick at EQP BOOKS is great!)


(I did several posts at my old website about things I learned from my copy editors. I still struggle with DUE TO/BECAUSE OF, though.)


So if you’re having problems, try a copy editor, and try to learn from what they point out…



*I don’t know who first used this term. It is not mine. I am simply not that clever.





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Who Should Be Giving Writing Advice?

Mar. 24th, 2017 | 08:04 am

Originally published at J. Kathleen Cheney. You can comment here or there.

In the last year or so as I’ve been switching onto a more indie-focused writing track, I have read COPIOUS amounts of advice.

(This is me, only a lot thinner, younger, with more hair, and better skin, and…OK, it’s not me at all, but the expression on her face pretty much captures how I feel.)

There’s a huge market out there for people who are offering help to writers.

Very often it turns out this advice is coming from someone who, when I look them up, has only published two self-help books (on how to write a bestseller…with no evidence that they’ve ever written a bestseller themselves). As I’ve purchased a few of these books, I’ve noted that they’re full of generalizations. They won’t tell you exactly where or when to advertise or what venue to publish in. Part of that is because that seems to change with alarming speed. What works one month may not work the next, so if they get specific, it will date their advice/book.

So it tends to be a frustrating world out there. I am certainly not a big success story, so to some extent, that invalidates my giving advice, too.

But my first piece of advice is this: Check out the source of the advice.

See whether they’ve published anything. See whether they’re even in your genre. Do they write novels? Or books on how to write novels?

Are they one-sided? Do they recommend ONLY one method? Does their advice FEEL wrong?

I’ve seen advice out there that makes me cringe. I suspect that there are people out there holding workshops who spew out the most ridiculous ideas, and it doesn’t matter to them because they’re getting paid, right?

The most egregious example of this I have is a cautionary tale about a newbie writer I met back in 2010 who, at lunch during a writers conference, told all the strangers sharing the table with her that….

1) she was in the writing to make money and if her (only) book didn’t sell well, she was just going to quit writing;

2) because she was sure that she was going to be a success, she’d gone ahead and–as was recommended to her in a workshop–spent $10,000 setting up as a LLC to protect her in case she was ever sued; and

3) she wasn’t sure what genre her book was, so she’d just picked a random agent off the list to speak with, but they were sure to like it because it was going to be a blockbuster. (The agent informed her, after listening to her pitch, that it was chick-lit).

By this point, the other people at the table (and I) were sitting there with our mouths hanging open. The woman involved delivered all this information with supreme confidence that she would soon be too wealthy to care what we all thought. It was…

…well, someone had told her to do all this stuff. In a writers workshop. Someone had told her that she needed to spend all that money to legally protect herself in case her book got published. (NOTE: you can get an LLC for FAR LESS MONEY THAN THIS, but you don’t really need one.) Someone told her that she didn’t need to research her potential agent, or know anything about her genre, and that she would make big bucks straight out of the gate.

When I talk about Researching for Historical Fiction, I start off by telling my audience about my writing. Because I want them to know that I HAVE written and published Historical Fantasy. I’m not just pulling these weird recommendations to use Street-View and Facebook out of my butt.

And yet I suspect that there are a lot of people out there giving advice who have no chops at all. Instead they see a market full of writers who are desperately seeking that snippet of advice that will make them millionaires…and they take advantage.

So before you take advice, look at your adviser’s writing record. See what they have published, and where. Check their reviews and people’s comments. Don’t follow them off a cliff.

(NOTE: Self-published is perfectly valid. There are a lot of self-published authors who are doing really well. Personally, I prefer the idea of hybrid publication, because I don’t put all my eggs in the same basket, but that’s a personal choice for each writer. If you desperately want to pursue only traditional publishers, then do that.)

Anyhow, all of this is to say that if you’re going to take writing advice, make sure it’s from a valid source. Not the random internet guy.

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Indie #8 Marketing Efforts

Mar. 20th, 2017 | 02:22 pm

Originally published at J. Kathleen Cheney. You can comment here or there.

Beyond the newsletter, it’s a challenge for an indie writer to know how to market their books.

Make no mistake: There are a bunch of people out there making a fortune. A lot of them are making a fortune selling books that tells other people how to sell books.

I’m actually on a few newsletter lists from these people, and they always have pat answers as to what will give you your first 10,000 readers. And what to do to make your newsletter pop. And what promotional tools (usually theirs) you can use to accomplish that.

The problem with any marketing technique (I have a degree in Marketing, BTW) is that it’s very difficult to figure out why it worked. And whether it will work next time. And what it will work for.

I ran an experiment this past weekend. The last time I promoted a book sale (months ago now), I used several of those sites that send out daily newsletters to readers promoting books that are on sale. A couple of them had small charges, but the bulk of them were free.

And…I used those same 7 services over the last several days. How many 99 cent books did I sell?

5

Yep, just 5

Even though those were decent marketing vectors a few months ago (and well worth the time I spent to get a book in their listings), this time they were a dud.

(For comparison purposes, I did NOT run my own newsletter last weekend, because I wanted to see what kind of bump I would get without it.)

One of my readers mentioned that she had herself taken off all those lists. She just couldn’t keep up with all the daily recommendations. Me? I generally delete them unopened. So while they were useful months ago, they’re losing any value.

This is one of the horrid things about marketing. It’s not a hard science. It’s wibbly-wobbly at best. And therefore it’s hard to know where to put your time and money.  After all, those 7 resources cost me a total of $30 and my return was a total of $1.35 (or so…one book sold in UK).

And if we’re trying to look at publishing as a business, it’s imperative to put our money where it counts.

And Amazon keeps changing the rules (link here). With every new program from Amazon, authors seem to lose an edge. The Kindle Unlimited program has flattened promotional sales quite a bit. (Read through article). In fact, some people did choose to read my promotional book via KU last weekend, rather than purchase it.

But the upshot of the above problem is that bigger and more expensive promotions are losing some of their return on investment:  “The result was that promotion tools such as EReader News Today and Free Kindle Books & Tips became much less effective. Only BookBub remains reliably effective.” (From the above article).

And while BookBub is still effective, it is both now more expensive to get an ad and less profitable. So your ROI is much lower.  (The last time I looked, a BookBub ad for my genre runs about $650 for a 99 cent book…that’s a huge investment if you’re not assured you’ll earn that much back.)

So the efficacy of that type of ad is dwindling. (I honestly don’t open BookBub any longer. I just delete.)

I think in a lot of cases, readers are simply overwhelmed by the fire hose of promotions coming into their mailbox every day. So the question is…what’s the next big seller?

Me? I’m going to run a .99 cent sale next month, where all my self-pubbed ebooks will be 99 cents. So now you’re warned.

Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t.

Wish I had the answer!

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