Friday, 18 October 2013

Cover Design - a Journey

I don't know the first thing about cover design. But it's something I've spend a long time thinking about because frankly I'm poor and cannot afford to pay someone ££££ to create a cover for me.

Here are a few tips and ideas I've picked up -

1) The actual title is the most important feature on a cover. It needs to stand out. The font needs to hint at the tone of the book - don't use Comic SANS on a horror title. The text should be sharp and clear, even on a tiny preview image.

2) Colour matters. Get on Google and search for "colour" + "marketing". You'll find a whole bunch of info covering how sales can be influenced by colour. There is also plenty of info regarding moods and meaning of various colours. I spend ages mulling over different colour schemes for my cover... I picked a shade of blue purely because I liked it in the end, but it was an eye-opening avenue of research none-the-less.

3) A cover is not a picture. You cannot paint a picture or take a photo and then overlay some text to make your cover. A book cover is a cover. 'Covers' that are pictures which have had text plastered on them in MS Paint always look awful.

4) Gimp is an awesome free alternative to Photoshop. http://www.gimp.org/ Ok, it's a bit of a steep learning curve but if you've got a bit of patience it's easy to create some cool cover art.

5) I like to see text along the top of covers. Snippets of reviews, that sort of thing. To me it's a reason to click on a book - if I like the sound of a novel and it's got tiny writing on the top of the cover preview I can't resist clicking to see what it says.

6) Spend lots of time looking at books and list what you like and what you don't like to see on a cover. Me, I love a big clear title plus an image which compliments the title.

7) Look at tutorials for GIMP. It is possible to create some awesome text effects and artistic images in GIMP if you can follow basic instructions. Tutorials are also a great source of inspiration.

8) Don't go overboard with drop shadows, lens flares, and other 'special effects'. Simple and subtle is definitely best, unless you are a bona fide artist, of course!

9) Don't steal images and ideas from other people!


Monday, 7 October 2013

Time Flies..

It's been a while since I last posted. Writing has been on the back of the stove for months now. I badly want to resume work on book #2 but time is so tight. I feel like Riffic sometimes - so much to do, but no time to do anything except work, homework, sleeps and eats.

I got another 5-star review on Amazon.co.uk a couple of weeks ago. I only just noticed it a few minutes ago, but it's such a lift and makes me smile. I feel proud of me. Does that make me sound gloating or smug or big-headed? Maybe, but it's not often I feel proud of me. Time Ferret was such a hard slog to write I don't think it's a bad thing to feel proud when somebody actually takes the time to write a good review of it.

Oh well, I'm off to day-dream my way through the next plot outline. Here's hoping for a few more good reviews :)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Newbie Mistakes #2

..And my cover art that looks great in my image-editor looks awful on the Kindle Preview.

Here's a crop of the top-right corner of my cover, I've zoomed in to 200% and it's shocking how blurry the amazon image is. It looks like they use really high compression. Bummer.


So either I need to start a new design with fewer geometric shapes, or I need to find out if I can get around this compression issue. I've tried it as a TIFF rather than a JPG and it's somehow inverted the colours. Oh well, it looks ok on the Kindle Fire and iPad preview, maybe the inversion is fate.

Newbie Mistakes

So I've made a couple of newbie mistakes. Firstly, the way I uploaded Once Upon a Time Ferret to the Kindle site and stepped back from it. It felt like saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time - here was a book I've worked on for years and years and there I was putting it out into the world for all to see. I would be spending no more time proof-reading or editing it, so my thinking was 'just let it go'.

I had a look at it today and was shocked. Word 2010 seems to have a bug when saving a document to HTML  format. Even though the pages look fine in Word, when viewed on a Kindle or in a web browser the document had a blank line between each paragraph.

Took me a while to figure out. I'd used the 'remove extra space before and after' button on the ribbon. What I hadn't done was to right-click on the Normal Style and modify the paragraph settings there too. Once this was done I saved it again and all was well.

The point is, I should have spent more time checking the 'Kindled' version of my Word document.

The other mistake I made was doing my cover art myself. I spent a bit of time yesterday comparing my cover art with that of other e-books. While I don't think it was as bad as some I saw, it didn't look great next to the professionally made ones.

I can't afford to pay someone to make a cover for me, so I downloaded GIMP (it's a free image editor like Photoshop) and spent all evening yesterday and most of this morning creating a new cover. It's cartoonish, it has a big, striking picture on it, and I put a layer of red cube things in the background. I added text, ran it through a few filters, and by version 8.0 I had something that's an improvement on the last one.

I still think I could do better, but I've only got a laptop to work on and it's not easy drawing with a touchpad.

I'll be interested to see if there is any rise in sales.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wow, a great customer review!

I've been away from the PC for a while, busy with my baby and wife with day to day life. Work has been tough lately too, I've been doing long hours and lots of distance traveling around the country and the 'marketing' has taking a back burner - I've ran a couple more free promotion days on Amazon, and I took two short stories out of publication on Smashwords - I was getting good download figures but I wanted to do a lot more with the stories and re-publish them afterwards.

It's been a slow summer in terms of sales. July was dead, August was worse still. But I'm smiling now, I've just noticed that I've got an awesome review on Amazon.com. Yey!!

The review is really well written and asked questions I'd never even considered -

"Do Robbie's parents resolve their issues? Does his dad switch to a more normal job? Who and what is the Fisherman? What, for that matter, is the Time Ferret? The Fisherman's successor, perhaps, but is that why he was created?"

This is really cool. I'm playing with a novel idea set in the same Universe and this is real food for thought :)

Read the full review here - http://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B008AC7IIC/

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sparks!

It's been a tiring few weeks at work and it gets me down. Not the job - I love my job. The thing that gets me down is not having time to write. I bashed out three short stories last month and have done nothing since ...up til last night anyway.

Last night I was up messing with an idea for a scene, just typing and not looking back, and I got a big spark. It was the sort of spark that has me lying awake at night through to the early hours thinking of the possibilities. A character formed in my head as I was drifting off, I fitted him into the scene and ran him through it in my head and by about 2am I've bashed out half a chapter on my android phone :)

Cool :) This is how I love to write. I can't sit down and think ok, I'll write a story about Mr. X and how Y and Z happen to him. It's more of a flow with me. The scene always comes first, then a couple of characters drop out of no where to give the scene some action, then the hardest bit for me, the bit I really struggle with, is the Plot.

I woke up this morning with an inkling of a plot to tie in with this character and this scene, and I think it's a good one. I think I've got enough in my head to start my next novel.

Fun!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Reviews

It's worrying. Looking on Smashwords and Amazon there are an awful lot of obviously fake 5 star reviews. Either it's blatantly family and friends or there's just something odd going on that I can't put my finger on. There are books with dozens of 5 stars all saying essentially the same thing, that contain the same spelling mistakes, and follow the same format.

At the other end of the scale, I was reading the other day that someone had a few people write nasty 1 star reviews on one of their novels because of something the author said on a forum. It's worrying.

So going back a few days, one day I'm reading that it's all about social proof - i.e. getting some good user reviews of your work - and that this social proof is far more valuable than putting a banner advert on Facebook or whatever.

But the next day it seems user reviews are losing their value. How can you trust a 5 star review if there are so many fake ones floating about? In all honestly at this point in time I'd happily swap the 5-star someone put on amazon.co.uk the other week for a properly written 3 or 4 star review that picked up on both positives and negatives.

Watership Down is a 5 Star. Macbeth is a 5 star. Grendel is (imho) a 5 star. The Hobbit is a 5 star. A silly little book written by me is not in the company of such classics, as much as it pains me to say.

I fear I'm rambling. I just like fairness and balance, that's all.