The Power of The Cover

One of the first things new authors learn is how important their book cover is in attracting readers. It’s got to look professional. It’s got to stand out, but still communicate the genre norms in a recognizable fashion. It’s got to look good in thumbnail.

What people don’t always tell new authors is that there’s a learning curve in discovering what works and what doesn’t. Be open to feedback from others about your covers, and don’t be afraid to rebrand. I did. Twice.

Here’s the first cover for A Demon Bound. It was early 2012, and the world wasn’t filled with all these amazing freelance cover artists like it is now. My Photoshop skills were nil, and my goals were modest. I wanted to publish my book so friends and family could read it. Deep in my heart I hoped it would take off, but I was a realist. I didn’t have high hopes.

What I did have was a boyfriend who did photography professionally, knew Photoshop, and offered to do my book cover. I was a babe in the woods, but I still had enough sense to scroll through the Amazon bestseller lists in my genre and show him what I thought would work.

He hated those covers. Here’s where I made mistake #1 I didn’t trust myself. And mistake #2 I took cover advice from someone who didn’t read, let alone enjoy, the genre I was writing.

I let The Boyfriend take the reins and watched while he did a photoshoot, then created a book cover that had a whole lot more to do with noir/thriller than urban fantasy. There was no fantasy element. It was monochromatic. The book sold 5-10 copies a month after my family and friends bought theirs. Books 2 and 3 had similar covers. Reviews loved the book, but in 2012, when indie authors were flying high, I couldn’t get off the ground.

First Rebrand: These are so much better with fantasy elements! Sales picked up immediately. But there’s still a problem. Do you see it? Can you tell?

This artist creates gorgeous artwork and covers, and her strength is in making them look ethereal and magical. Guess what this series isn’t? Ethereal and magical. It’s about a foul-mouthed imp anti-hero with tons of violence and laugh-out-loud quirky humor. The model also is very young, and in spite of the artist’s efforts, she’s far too young to represent my main character. Now, in all fairness, this artist has done some great edgy work, but that isn’t her default, and I wasn’t able to communicate exactly what I wanted, because at the time I didn’t know myself what would work best.

Once again, mistake #1, I didn’t trust myself. I knew when I got the proofs that this model looked too young. I knew that some of the series covers seemed far too young-adult, and not edgy enough, but I figured this wasn’t my area of expertise and just went with what the artist put together. They were gorgeous. The books were selling well, but I knew they could do better. And the nail in the coffin was when I entered a website contest, and the feedback came in. The judges said that I should remove my erotica titles from the website, because they were out of place with all my YOUNG ADULT books.

My covers made it look like I was writing sweet, magical, young adult fantasy. Which meant the readers who wanted edgy f-bomb heroines weren’t picking up my book at first glance. Which meant that I probably had a lot of confused young adult readers buying my book.

Second Rebrand: NOW we’re smoking! Clearly adult, edgy model. These are urban fantasy covers. And the uptick in sales shows that I’m finally hitting the mark. So don’t be afraid to rebrand with new covers. And if you ever ask for a cover critique, put on your big girl panties, and try not to let it sting if people tell you they’re horrible. Don’t have the money to spend $400 or $600 on covers? Save. Get the best cover you can for now, and save. Trust me, the right cover will earn that back lickity-split.

Spend Black Friday with a couple of books

I’ve got some preorder links for you all for November!

City of Lust will be released on November 15th!

Italy is for lovers—unless those lovers are on opposite sides of a 900-year-old family feud.

Mastering the intricacies of winemaking isn’t the only challenge Amber is facing on her and Irix’s trip to Northern Italy. Two prominent families with secrets of their own are on the edge of war, and a young romance might be the spark that ignites their hostilities into flame. Romeo and Juliet ended in tragedy, but Amber and Irix are doing all they can to ensure this young romance has a happily ever after and that these two families come to a peaceful resolution of their ancient grudge.

Amazon UK

And Ten Lows A-Leaping (a holiday short story) will be released November 24!

Beatrix has to work on Christmas Day.

There are no holiday’s off for a Guardian Angel tasked with ensuring demons don’t crossover from the Gates to Hel, even when you’ve got PTSD and are subject to panic attacks from that time last year when a psychotic demon slaughtered two angels in front of you, destroyed the mall where the Gate to Hel was located, and left you pinned to the rubble with a steel beam through your wings.

The only way Beatrix is managing to get through each day is the little gifts someone keeps leaving for her. The countdown to Christmas is on, there’s no telling what gift her Secret Santa will leave when the number reaches one.

Amazon UK

Before you ask: Yes, Queen of the Damned is coming. No, I don’t have a preorder link yet. Yes, I’m still hoping to get it to you all by the end of the year, but there’s some holiday issues at the various retailers that I need to work around. I’ll be sending excerpts and little teasers of both City of Lust and Queen of the Damned to those who are signed up to my Debra’s Demons group, so hopefully that will keep the torches and pitchforks from my door!

A Bear-less week in the mountains

October is one of my favorite months of the year, partly because of Halloween, and partly because it’s when I do my annual pilgrimage to Shennandoah National Park. I rent a cabin. I hike for 3-4 hours a day. I decompress in a place where the WiFi is so horrible that it’s pretty much nonexistent, and the cell service is spotty at best. I tend to just put the phone on airplane mode, and check it a twice a day when I’m at an overlook or near the lodge. I do get some writing done, but the purpose of this trip is for me to get my butt outside, get my heart-rate up, maybe see a bear or two.

Day 1 – I drop the kids off at the bus stop. I drop the dogs off at the kennel. I do a little bit of laundry, a little bit of vacuuming, then I get in the car and drive. The trip to Front Royal (the north end of Skyline Drive) is so familiar I could probably do it in my sleep. I’ve been coming up her to camp and hike since I was in college. I can feel myself unwind and relax the moment I pay my $25 park entrance fee and joke with the ranger about how I’m going to race my Challenger along the winding roads.

I’d love drive this road top-speed, but I won’t because I don’t want to hit any bears.

Still, top speed has to be faster than this:

Yes. I’m behind a mini van. I get to Skyland at 3:00 and check in. I unload my car and unpack. I dine on hummus and kale chips (Gabe would be so proud). I drink a tiny plastic bottle of some generic red wine. I nap. And at night, as the sky begins to darken, I sit in my cabin with the windows open wide and listen. Owls. Oh, how I love the sound of owls at night.

Day 2 – I’m up before the sun because that’s when I’m used to rising in order to get my kids on the bus for school. Once the sun comes up and I’ve already had a small pot of coffee, I hike up to the lodge for breakfast, and work in their cozy lounge area. Then at noon, I forego lunch, throw one of those go-packs of tuna and crackers in my pack along with binoculars and my trail maps, grab my hiking poles, and head out. Continue reading

The Family Vacation

Ready for that endless slide-show while I drone on about jewel-colored waters and sunburn? Well then, settle in!

Each year I take the kids to the beach for a week. Well, I take the younger two boys. My eldest usually declines because we stay in a family-friendly spot as opposed to a hopping-party spot. The kids practically live in the water during this week and I chill under an umbrella slathered in sunscreen and obsessively watch them in case they get swept out to sea, or attacked by a swarm of jellyfish.

This year the youngest declared that he wanted to fly on a plane somewhere, because he’s never flown and after watching me jet around for business the last eight years, he wants in on some of that action. I immediately thought of my cousin and her family down in Siesta Key who have repeatedly invited us to come down. That’s when I had the Great Idea.

Great Idea = Fly the whole lot of us to Tampa. Spend a few days with my cousin and her family. Get on a cruise ship to some exotic destination.  Continue reading

A Public Service Announcement

Far From Center is temporarily exclusive to Amazon for a three-month run starting today, so if you didn’t grab it from the other retailers, it will be back there in late August.

In other news, water is wet, and the moon is not made of green cheese. And we will now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…..