On Covers and Adjusting When It’s Just Not Working

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You might not know this, but I agonize over my book covers. When you have one shot to entice someone to grab your book off the virtual shelf, first impressions are everything. I am the first one to admit that I’ve gotten it wrong. Like, a lot. If your book isn’t immediately screaming your genre and what to expect to your potential readers, it’s the first thing you HAVE to change. If you are getting it wrong, you’re missing the boat.

Do not wait. Do not pass go. Change it as soon as you are able.

Because I know that lots of people love the old cover/new cover comparisons. I thought I’d go back over the last two years of my self-publishing journey and share a few of mine with you. As evidenced below, you’ll see that I’ve never backed away from changing a cover if it just wasn’t working (at least eventually).

I’d also like to preface this by saying that I’ve enjoyed working with every cover designer I’ve ever had and changing the cover in no way reflects on their work.

Believe me- it’s all me. 🙂

Edge of Shadows

Have you been hanging around with me since the beginning? If so, you might remember the original cover to my very first book, Edge of Shadows. To me, it had an old-timey wallpaper kind of feel to it that represented something you could see in the old, haunted Bradford mansion. Although I did have early success with it, once I changed it over to the current cover when I released the second book in the series, Shadows Deep, I noticed an immediate uptick in sales. It definitely says “ghost story” now with that creepy face over the stairs, don’t you think?

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The Soul Ripper (aka The Soul Garden)

Struggle, struggle, struggle. Toil and trouble. I have had nothing but heartburn branding the Twisted Souls series since the beginning. It is such an unusual story. Yes, it has zombies in it, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about good triumphing over evil and about finding out that when destiny calls, you have to answer whether you want to or not. The end was especially bittersweet for that reason.

But it all began at the base of the Fountain of Souls inside The Soul Garden. I thought the original cover was so cool and symbolic, but ultimately it really didn’t convey “sci-fi dystopian”. I liked the second cover with the bony hand and the grave, but it was a pre-made that was supposed to be nothing more than a placeholder for a few months. I just changed it again two months ago when I changed the title- and I can say with almost certainty that this will not be the last cover. Now that the series is complete, I think I can wrap my head around branding it in its forever covers.

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(Original)

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(2nd cover)

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(Current cover)

 

 

 

Heiress of Lies

It’s funny how the books that you expect to be the easiest to design end up being so difficult. I mean, YA paranormal is pretty set in what readers expect to see on the front cover. The pretty girl in the pretty dress with some kind of spooky background is something you can’t get away from. I started out in that vein, so it seems counterintuitive that Heiress of Lies has had the most covers changes of any of my books- and yet is has.

Well, fourth times the charm. I felt so good  and certain that I had finally hit on this series “forever covers” that I even moved forward with converting this series into paperback.

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(Original cover)

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(2nd cover)

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(3rd cover)

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FINAL!!

So what do you think about all of my cover swaps? How much does the cover affect your decision to pick up a book? Sound off in the comments below!

(Header Photo credit Zach Klein)

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Write and Publish a Short Story in 8 Hours? I’ll Take That Challenge!

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People might not know this about me, but I’ve got a deep-rooted competitive streak that’s a mile wide. I hide it well behind a lot of smiles and polite talk, but, at the end of the day, if somebody throws down the gauntlet in front of me it’s Game On.

So when I read a post over in the Writer’s Cafe on Kboards (my absolute favorite writerly place to hang out) about Joe Konrath’s 8-Hour Challenge, I was stoked. The basic premise of the challenge is that you had to write, edit, create a book cover, and publish a story on Amazon in 8 hours. HA! I laugh in the face of that challenge. I had no doubt I could do it. I’m Speedy Gonzales on the keyboard when the muse strikes, and I love the short story medium.

However, I had a dilemma. I had this past week off work because I was dealing with some personal issues that I had put off that required 100% attention for a few days. On top of that, I feel like a lynch mob of Twisted Souls and Bloodtruth fans are going to descend on my doorstep any minute demanding that I finish the final books in those series.

So I decided I wasn’t going to do it. Even though I felt like this challenge was tailor made for me, I thought I’d do the grown-up thing and let it pass. I watched the thread of Kboard  participants get longer and longer as they each raced against the clock to snare their win. By the morning of August 29th, the final day of the challenge, I was gnashing my teeth wanting to throw my hat into the ring.

My personal issues dealt with, and with 8000 words down on A Soul to Settle (Twisted Souls #4), I decided to go all in on the Konrath challenge. I HAD TO DO IT, if no other reason than I knew that I could do it.

Four hours and ten minutes later, I hit publish on Forbidden. I had been waiting for the right opportunity to return to my haunted house roots, and this short story scratched that itch perfectly. Clocking in at 5500 words, it is a horror short about a girl who defies her mentor and decides to test her special abilities on her own with disastrous consequences.

Alas, I fell down in properly following the directions of how to submit my entry to Joe to get credit in his epic post that showcased all the challenge winners (all 140+ of them!!). There’s a lesson to be learned there, and it’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Hopefully Forbidden will whet the appetite of any new-to-Cege readers, and for those of you who might have noticed I haven’t published anything in awhile, this will (hopefully) remind you why you liked me in the first place. 🙂

Forbidden is FREE on Amazon through tomorrow (9/2/13), so go grab your copy today!

 

(photo credit The U.S. Army)

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Where Do We Go From Here?

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I am astonished that we’ve just crossed over the 2013 mid-year mark. The old saying is that time flies when you’re having fun. In my case, I feel like I blinked and lost track of the first half of the year. There’s been some fun for sure, but I’ve also faced some unexpected challenges along the way as well.

Way back in January (haha- I feel like that was just yesterday!) I published my tentative 2013 Production Schedule. I hit the mark for the first three months of the year. (Yay, me!) Life derailed the last three months, and my writing derailed as well. Now that’s not to say I haven’t been writing or releasing new work. In addition to some short stories under my new pen name, I also started the Gamescape serial.

Having just wrapped my first full-length contemporary romance novel under my pen name, I found myself uncertain of where I should go next.  There are days when it’s necessary to  hit ‘Pause‘ and take stock in order to decide which road you plan to travel. For me, today is one of those days. I’ve got a bazillion stories ideas buzzing in my head, but I also know there are fans of the Bloodtruth and Twisted Souls series waiting patiently for me to deliver the next books.

Reassessment was needed.

As much as I love the idea of a serial, Gamescape’s production schedule isn’t working for me. First I promised a new installment every two weeks, then every three, and finally once a month. I still can’t hit it with all the other irons I have in the fire. So I made a decision. I’m pulling back the first three installments, and incorporating them into a full-length book that I am planning to release by year end.

So that frees me up to refocus on my two series, which hopefully makes a lot of people very happy. 🙂 So here it is, the refreshed Production Schedule for the remainder of 2013.

August 2013: To Be Titled (Twisted Souls #4)

September 2013: To Be Titled (Bloodtruth #4)

November 2013: Step To My Bones

December 2013: Gamescape

Things may still shift around just a bit, but this is my plan and I’m sticking to it. As always, thanks for sticking with me!

(photo credit Jean-Louis Zimmermann)

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Three Fun Facts About Heiress of Lies

By now, you might have heard that Trials of Truth (Bloodtruth #3) is going to be released on March 31st. (In case you’re wondering how you hear about stuff like that, check out either my Facebook page, or consider joining the Cege Smith Fan Club.)

What’s kind of fun for me is that when I sit down to write the next installment in one of my series (I have 4 of them!) I go back and do fact checking in the previous books to make sure I can keep people, places, and things straight. That means that I get to do a little reminiscing about those books too and I always remember some interesting nuggets about them. Today, I thought I’d share three little known facts about the story that turned into Heiress of Lies (Bloodtruth #1).

  1. Heiress of Lies wasn’t the original title. When I wrote the manuscript, I called it ‘Angeline’s Quest‘. It was Angeline’s Quest all through the editing process right up to the point where I was formatting it for publication. At the last minute, I changed my mind because my working title didn’t quite capture the story the way that I thought it should. A huge theme that drives the entire series is the thread of deceit and betrayal within the royal Robart family that spans centuries. Viola! Angeline’s Quest became Heiress of Lies.
  2. In the original version of the story, Connor wasn’t the one who kidnapped Angeline. Readers of the series know that Connor’s kidnapping of Angeline is a pivotal event that forever changes Angeline’s life. When I first wrote the opening scenes of what was then ‘Angeline’s Quest’, Angeline was traveling alone to a secret meeting in the middle of nowhere to meet with someone whose support she needed as she took the throne. The meeting was a trap, and a band of rogues waited to kidnap her. Angeline was mortally wounded in the ensuing battle. (We all know that a Robart doesn’t go down without a fight!) That’s when Connor stumbled upon her and helped her…in the worst way possible.
  3. The original version of the story was lost forever, so I had to start over. This fact still pains me three years later. I had written about a third of the story of the original version, and then my computer was stolen. I lost that version completely. It took me awhile to get over that and be in a good place to begin the story again. When I did, it reshaped itself into the story that you can read today.

I can’t wait to share the next part of Angeline’s story with you with the release of Trials of Truth, but while we all wait, look for another post from me in a few days sharing some behind the scenes dirt on The Queen’s Betrayal (Bloodtruth #2).

Don’t forget! Heiress of Lies is only $0.99 through March 31st. Get your copy and begin sharing in Angeline’s adventure today!

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So Far, So Good! Trials of Truth (Bloodtruth #3) Is On The Way

One of my favorite things is hearing from readers that they have fallen in love with my characters the way that I have. That seems to be especially true for readers of the Bloodtruth series.

I have been on the journey with Angeline and Connor for well over a year now. Their story flew from my fingers onto the keyboard for NanoWrimo 2011 and was the basis for Heiress of Lies (Bloodtruth #1). I visited them again last summer when I wrote The Queen’s Betrayal (Bloodtruth #2).

I heard loud and clear that the ending of The Queen’s Betrayal literally left people hanging- some even screaming “NOOOO!”.  I write until the logical end in my mind, and sometimes that means that we’re all left in a place of discomfort for a little while.

I am delighted to share that things are well underway for Trials of Truth (Bloodtruth #3) and I expect to be able to share the release date of that book shortly. One thing that I’ve added to this book is that we get to hear directly from Malin about what’s going on in his world. I felt like that was important to share in this book because Angeline’s kingdom is in a great deal of peril, and unfortunately, she’s got her own stuff to deal with before she can deal with that. Since somebody had to stay at home and man the fort, that means that Malin gets a lot more stage time.

Is he good or he is bad? I’m going to let the readers decide. But one thing is for certain- in Altera, nothing is that black and white.

 

To whet your appetite, here’s my working blurb for Trials of Truth:

Queen Angeline Robart left her kingdom and her people in the hands of her betrayer to embark on a mission to find her cure. But each passing hour that the wraith remains part of her seems to make it even more difficult to banish. The mysterious and elusive Clan seem to have the answers, but Angeline can’t help but question their motives, and the price she will be required to pay for her freedom.

Connor is forced to make a decision between his fate and his love for Angeline. While his hope has always been that those two things would coincide, it seems that their ability to be together isn’t meant to be, at least if the Clan has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, back in the capital city of Brebackerin, Malin finds that the enemies who have been lying in wait want revenge for Connor’s betrayal. He must find a way to hold them off, and keep the kingdom in one piece, until Angeline’s return.

Sound off in the comments below. Which character do you love? Which one do you hate?

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