Why cover artists are Gods and Goddesses…

I love cover art. I’ll admit it’s one of the first things that brings me up to a book and makes me grab it off the shelf. Only then do I look at the synopsis and the back blurb, flip through the pages and read a bit.

I’m *that* type of reader.

Which is why I love and worship those talented people who do cover art. I’ve seen some mighty BAD covers and I’ve seen some mighty FABOO covers over the years, going all the way back to when I worked as an editorial secretary for Penguin Books Canada.

Back then the art department consisted of two artists and a manager who worked wonders with their sketchpads (remember, this was in the 80’s and BEFORE computer programs took off) and came up with beautiful images for the books. But it was a long, complicated process of meetings and discussions and reworking images until it all came together to produce some wonderful covers.

One of my favorite stories is when we were working on Peter C. Newman’s history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He wanted a certain image used on the cover of one volume and there was a problem – the canoe in the image just didn’t look right with the voyageurs looking to one side.

The cure? Flipping the image. The only way you’d know it wasn’t the original picture was the reversal of the HBC logo at the front of the canoe. It made the book even better.

Or Pierre Berton’s “Vimy”, an oral history of the epic WWI battle. After a lot of planning they settled on a purple cover with a poppy on the front. So little that said so much. Perfect.

With the introduction of such programs as Poser and Paintshop it’s become easier to produce covers and small presses have taken advantage of this to create some fine, fine images.

And… some awful, awful, ‘orrible book covers that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Exhibit one: Catherine Cookson’s backlist.

Take a minute. Get that blood out of your eyes. Please, take a minute.

Cover art is everything. Cover art will grab the reader before your words can and I thank God every day for the talented people I’ve had working on my behalf to create great cover art for my books.

Sure, my stories have to live up to the cover art. But without a good image I won’t even get a chance for the reader to pick it up and read a few words.

Think about it next time you grab a book in e-form or paperback. And send a silent thank-you to the cover artists who make magic happen for us authors with each and every creation.

 

 

Why you shouldn’t listen to me…

Every once in a while I get asked for writing advice, either in RL or in Second Life where I run around as a tiny clockwork dragon and hang out in steampunk sims. And I have the same answer for both lives – don’t ask me for writing advice!

Why?

Because I’m not one to ask. I’m a tough old broad who lucked out after a decade of writing fanfiction into finding editors and publishers willing to take a chance on my original fiction and actually PAY me to write my dreams down. I might be a decent writer and I sure like to think I can spin a yarn that’ll have you plunking down coin to purchase but I’m in no position to deliver golden words o’wisdom on writing.

However, being a writing craft book junkie, I *can* point you to people who know what they’re talking about and who have much, much more credibility than I do in this writing business.

Here they are – just a handful off my fat shelf of writing books and in no particular order – but I think that during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo everyone deserves to discover these gems.

Chuck Wendig

His books on writing are cheap, profane and will kick you in the nuts to get writing. Not for the weak of heart but it’s just what a writer needs at times.

James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers is an excellent book plus all of his nonfiction works. Buy, read, digest…

Writers Digest Books – Write Great Fiction series

Written by different authors including Mr. Bell above, this is a must-have for authors looking to kick their writing to a new level. Available in ebook form as well for those of us looking to save shelf space.

I could go on and I might in another post but these are a few of the books on my writing craft shelf that really helped me become a better writing – and keep on becoming, since I reread them at regular intervals.

As with all things literary – your mileage might vary. But I think these are some of the best books out there helping new writers (and old ones) improve and if you haven’t checked them out – you should.

Keep on writing and keep on having fun!

Now… tea!

 

Welcome to 2011 Blatherings!

It’s been a while since I posted here and for that I should apologize – but, frankly, I’m one of those people that don’t really feel that posting nothing every day is a Good Thing. While there’s been things going on here and there I didn’t think it was worth wasting the bandwidth for bits and pieces that could be better combined into a decent fat post.

That’s me, saving the bandwidth.

XD

Anyway, bits and pieces as follows…

2010 = buh-bye. Good bye gall bladder, herniated back disc and root canal on the 23rd of December. Thanks for “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”! Had an excellent year writing and looking forward to a good 2011 although I can’t promise two books a year, thank you very much!

Interesting links:

Toad’s Corner reviews “Blaze of Glory” 
 
Disclaimer: Nerine edited “What God and Cats Know” for Lyrical Press, so she might be a bit biased. But I still love having her review! If you’re looking for a good review site with plenty of odd books from small presses, check her out.

The Romance Studio review of “Blaze of Glory”

Pretty self-explanatory – but it led to… THIS! Updates to follow but thrilled to be noticed!

Mrs. Giggles, one of the best-known blogger reviewers, chose “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” as one of her best for 2010!

and AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review also liked “Blaze of Glory”… although I think the reviewer thought the book was YA.

And, finally, the current issue of Romantic Times Book Reviews gives three out of five stars to “Blaze of Glory” – no online link up yet but if you see the Feb. issue on your local magazine rack, sneak a peak at page 85. I’m happy!

“Blaze of Glory” is also set for a paperback release of February – as in, less than a month from now. If you’ve been waiting to grab an actual paperback copy. drop on over to your local B&N and snag a copy – or order it off a website!

Amazon and B&N are taking pre-orders right now… right at your fingertips. How I love online shopping! It’s also up onBorders, but frankly you’ll save more on both the ebook version and the print on other sites. Sorry, Borders!

Let’s see…. my views of self-pubbing haven’t changed much, other than to remind me that there are always people ready to take advantage of others to make money. Self pub if you want, but be careful – there are a lot of self-proclaimed prophets and experts ready to take your money and not give you anything back. And the prophets saying that print is dead are definitely shooting smoke out their collective butts since I don’t see it happening within my lifetime. But that’s just me.

This year? Well, right now I’m working on the sequel to “Blaze of Glory” and a short story to sub to a Samhain anthology – but we’ll see where the tide takes us. A year ago I had no idea what was going on and I don’t like to make those sorts of predictions.

XD

Anyway, that’s the blatherings from this old dragon – best of the new year to you all and hope to chat soon!

Who do you trust?

With the big push by self-publishers to try and claim their piece of the ever-shrinking readership pie there’s been a lot of talk about dumping the “gatekeepers” – meaning the editors and the critics who review books, leaving the decision on what’s “good” to the popular masses and the readers who will leave reviews of what they purchase and read. So you can/should go to Amazon, etc. and read the reader reviews and find those hidden gems that are just waiting to be exposed to the light.

My own problem with this is… well, that’s not what I do. And I’m not sure if I should.

Don’t get me wrong, I read reader reviews. I check them out for video games, for books, for board games (Memoir ’44 FTW for all you board gamers!) but I don’t make my decision based solely on the reviews. Why? Because I find most of them to be automatically suspect.

Follow my wonky dragon reasoning. I don’t surf around Amazon looking for new books-I usually see an ad in the RT or hear something on a website or something along those lines. I just don’t have the time (or the urge) to wander around B&N (since I have a Nook) to see what’s hot in the virtual world. Especially when most of the books I like are overpriced in ebook form. But I wander…

When I do find a book that looks interesting I go to the reviews. Now, this is where the “gatekeepers” theory breaks down for me. The odds are good that if it’s a self-published masterpiece that I’ll see no less than fifteen five-star reviews proclaiming it to be totally awesome!

Uh… no.

My BS detector starts to ring like a MoFo when I see no one disputing a book’s enjoyment value. Everyone dislikes something, somewhere about a book. Some people love The Road, I found it to be boring. I *heart* Ivanhoe, you might find it a boring old tome that shouldn’t even be in ebook form. But no large group of people should agree that a book is worth five stars. ALL five stars.

I expect to see a few four-stars. Or even a few threes, or twos or ones from those readers who bought it and didn’t find it to their liking. And that doesn’t mean the book is Bad, it just means that it didn’t work for that reader. But I’m seeing more and more vanity and self-pub authors racing to denounce anything below a five-star rating, challenging those reviews and just being darned ornery about how no one can contest Their Great Work. I think everyone’s heard about Anne Rice taking on one of her Amazon reviewers and getting into a nasty snit. In fact, I’m more likely to buy a book if I see a variety of ratings because I know that at least *some* of them must be from strangers who bought the book and not all from family and friends who dump five stars on the book because they feel they have to.

So here’s my question for the week – where do YOU go for book reviews and who do YOU trust to give you the best opinion on what to buy? Amazon? Goodreads? Shelfari? Romantic Times Magazine? The NYT Book Review? Friends? Anyone at all?

Beware of False Profits, or, Ramblings of an Old Dragon Broad

Today I feel the urge to discuss, or at least toss out my views on, the Imminent Death Of Print Publishing.

Yeah, again.

*stifles yawn*

I remember, a thousand years ago when computers first crept onto the scene. The VIC20, with 20K of memory. Really. 20K. No one knew how to use that much memory!

Really.

*snerks*

Move on upwards and forwards, through the Commodore 64 and the PC and the Mac and now I’m sitting here working on an “old” laptop that has more memory in it than the mainframes I used in highschool to program Basic onto punchcards. Yes, I’m *that* old.

And back then we had the prophets going forth, the ones announcing that paper was dead and that we’d be saving the Amazonian rain forests because we were weeks, maybe months away from having Star Trek-type of pads that would do everything for us and we’d never use paper again.

*looks around house*

Nope. Paper still here. Lots of it. Plenty of books, too.

In fact I’m not really sure that a single tree has been saved in the long run because everyone likes to have their records on paper, somewhere, somehow. The receipt from the bookstore. The check for that stereo system. That textbook that isn’t out in ebook form and that you’ve marked up with highlighters to the point that an unmarked page is a rarity.

Which is not to say that the ebook isn’t springing into the forefront of the literary world. Indeed, sales increase every time you turn around and people are picking up ebook readers or downloading programs onto their iPhones or laptops or whatever to read from.

But is it the End of Print Publishing, as some self-proclaimed prophets would have you believe?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. And unlike these people who would have you believe that we’re one short hop, skip and jump away from demolishing the NYC publishing industry, I can’t make a prediction.

And neither can they.

Now, I can make a guess, based on the fact that I *did* work for Penguin Books Canada back in the day and now am on the other side of the fence, having books published in ebook form AND in print form. But whatever I say it’ll still be a guess. I think that ebooks will continue to grow and take up a good hunk of the market but print will never go out of style.

Why?

Because people like the touch of books. I know, that’s the usual mantra given. But let me point out other factors.

Many, MANY books will never go into ebook format for a variety of reasons, from the authors not wanting to give permission to the publishers to the cost of putting them up for sale as an ebook to there just not being that much demand. If I’m looking for an obscure nonfiction author I’ll have better luck finding a print copy than hoping it comes up on Amazon eventually as an ebook. And, again, a lot of authors aren’t racing to put their backlist up because of the threat of piracy along with concerns about royalties, etc.

So print books will still be around. But publishers?

Sure.

Despite what some of the prophets want you to believe, not everyone in publishing is a drooling idiot who can’t understand what an ebook is or how to program their VCR or whatever passes for a dumb person these days. These men and women are trained professionals who spend years learning their art – be it editing, creating cover art for the books or sales. They didn’t just drop off the turnip truck and fall into their positions. And they like to make money. Lots of money. Which goes back to being professionals who want to sell their product.

They know what ebooks are. They’re not ignoring the trend or sticking their collective heads in the sand or whatever rumors are put out there, they’re having meetings and discussing options and doing what they do – figuring out how to sell lots of books. Both ebook and print. And just because they’re not calling up Joe Author and telling them what their plans are doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Remember, these people are in the business of making money.

Rumor: “All the brick and mortar stores are closing!”
My thought: No, they’re not. The economy sucks for them, but it’s a DEPRESSION, folks. Books are still a luxury for many and I’d be surprised if library use hasn’t gone up as people cut back. And it’s an illogical jump to go from “they’re not buying print books!” to “they’re buying ebooks instead!” Think it over.

Rumor: “Screw the trad publishers! Go indie and get rich!”
My thought: I’d rather be writing. I don’t want to negotiate distribution with different warehouses, design cover art, write blurbs, edit and handsell my book. I’d rather be writing and leave it to those professionals who know how and what they’re doing. I think it’s worth “paying” my publisher with a cut of my royalties for excellent cover art, a sales force that will sell more books through their connections than I can EVER do by begging on the Amazon boards or spamming people on Facebook and get reviews from people who I’m not begging to trade reviews with.
And for all the money these prophets are making – how much of that goes right back into their sales effort? And how successful do you think the majority of them are, selling a full-length novel at $0.99? In the middle of thousands of other “indie” authors who are putting up their unedited tomes on Amazon and hoping to strike it rich?
It’s like the California Gold Rush – many will try, few will succeed. And many will follow the rantings of some who just don’t like the idea of having to answer to anyone for their writing – an editor, a cover artist who may know what appeals to the public, a salesperson who may have more connections than you do.

Do I think that ebooks are the future? Sure – to a degree. But I’d still want to have my books come out in print, from a recognized publisher with good cover art, decent distribution and a good reputation in the field. But that’s me, an old broad who just wants to write and not spend hours doing stuff that I know I’m not good at and won’t get good at because I don’t have years of training to do it.

The death of print? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe the self-proclaimed prophets leading scads of anxious, desperate authors to their doom by encouraging them to ignore publishers and toss their work up on Amazon. If you go that route do your homework and decide on your own.

But, hey… what do I know?

Nothing.

Which makes me as qualified as the next person to rant, eh?

;)

The Waiting is the hardest part…

Well, less than two weeks left to go before “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” releases.

And yes, I’m dying of anticipation here. I think I can say, without fail, that this is the best book I’ve written so far. With the help of my FANTASTIC editor, Sasha Knight, that is…

;)

Now it’s just the waiting that’s going to kill me.It’s already up for pre-order on Amazon and will probably go up on B&N a few days after it releases – B&N seems to be a little late when it comes to the new releases. But, hey… they’ve both already got the paperback version of “Blaze of Glory” up for pre-order, so I can’t complain.

Some little bits and pieces while I try to stay sane.

Just bought some faboo new tea combinations from Teavana – highly recommend them to anyone looking for a new tea experience. Don’t balk at the prices, you do get the bang for your buck. And the teas come in resealable bags with detachable labels for you to repackage! If anyone has any other tea shoppes to recommend, please do so!

Still loving my Nook – don’t regret buying at the higher price a whit, since I keep getting free books. And now picked up a subscription to the New York Times Book Review for $3.99 a month, so I can’t say anything bad there. The pricing scheme is still a pain, although I cn say with all honesty that I’ve only bought one or two books at “full ebook” price of $9.99. My heart’s with the cheaper books that are much more fun to buy and read from the smaller publishers. Like mine!

XD

Following one self-pub indie author’s blog for a bit – can’t say that I see good things in the future. When your blog postings consist of putting down NY publishers because they’re all publishing “trash” and trumpeting your own work because, well, you don’t need “verification of your talent” from other sources… I think you see the problem there. If you want to self-pub, do so – but don’t put down those of us who try and maybe succeed in selling to any publisher, even the NYC group. If you’re pulling yourself up by putting others down, well – doesn’t bode well for the future. Karma is always a bitch.

BTW, I *do* plan a giveaway from WIaIH… and more than just an ebook. Let’s just say an actual copy of a book may be involved. Not mine, but of someone who inspires me to steampunk greatness.

;)

And… off to work on the “sequel” to WCaIH! Back to Prosperity Ridge! Hiya!