Saturday, March 16, 2013

In search of the perfect cover

In the past few months I've taken on a new role in my writing career, that of a self-publisher. The necessity of this arose because some of my older titles became somewhat popular at Amazon, and other ebook distributers, and I realized I could take some of my older titles that had fallen out of contract due to publishing companies folding and rework them for publication. This would bring new life to my stories, and a new revenue stream for me. Why let a book continue to gather pixel dust instead of offering it to a potentially adoring public?

The first three titles I did this with did so well that I began looking at titles for which my rights were expiring at existing publishing houses. Rather than let them sit and get very little attention, I could refurbish them, edit them where necessary, get a fresh cover, and maybe they would also sell well. Competent editing has already happened to these manuscripts so it was really just a matter of repackaging a story that already existed.

I wish I could tell you this was a total snap and I've never encountered any difficulties, but that would not be the exact truth. This has been a learning situation. I acquired the name of my cover artist from another author on a self-publishing group, and learned a great deal about formatting books for distribution through seminars at RT and RWA.

One thing I've learned is that it is essential to have a cover artist you can work with. I've been very lucky that I stumbled into Darleen Dixon because not only is she good and reasonably priced, she doesn't seem to mind when I ask for changes. She does a mock-up based on what I think I want, then when things need adjusting works to make the cover just right.

For example, I had three fantasy erotic romance novels that had made money for me several years ago but sales had fallen off and they could now be released from their contracts. The three novels were my Divine Interventions series, Violet Among The Roses, Echo In The Hall, and Nemesis Of The Garden. All three had contest wins and finals, and great reviews, but were in need of freshening up.

There were two goals I had. First I wanted to give all three books fresh covers that both reflected the contents and made it clear that all three books were part of a series. The original covers were created as the books were released and while they ranged from great to okay, there wasn't a common look and feel to them.

The second goal was that I wanted to create a "box set", all three books available at a price point much less than the total for all three books individually to encourage people to buy the entire set. I sent my requirements to Darleen and she came up with the cover for the first book, and then a cover for the second. The first cover was okay but the second one was even better. I asked for the first cover to be more like the second. We quickly established the theme for all three covers... the books are about Greek gods and goddesses mixing with statues come to life, so white marble statues are on the covers, and all three feature classical Greek architecture elements. Color is added through the title text, and flowers and greenery, different colors for each book.

Many people try to use a three dimensional image to represent a box set but you need a two-dimensional image for the collection to be acceptable for distribution to Apple, something I'd already learned from my self-publishing loops. For the box set we went with a two-dimensional view with the same flowers as the covers and Greek columns containing the titles, a set of banners to hold the name of the series and my author name.

Once we established the over-all look of the covers, it became a matter of adjustments... for example what color text shows best in a thumbnail. Against a gold background, white doesn't work as well as black. As I said, it is essential to work with your artist on these details to get them just right. When I was finally satisfied, Dar sent me an invoice and a zip file containing all four cover images in three formats, a small version for ebook distribution, a slightly larger one for websites, and a hi-res version to use for print, including print books and posters.

I’ve been very happy with the cover art I’m putting on my republished books and hope they appeal to a wide audience of readers. Tell me what you think of them.


Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Love the covers, Janet. Wish you much success!

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