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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The Twisted Souls Journey is Complete!

As a series writer, there is always a bit of sadness that comes along with finishing the whole story. I had no idea of the adventures that Samuel, Cameron, and Marius would take me on when I met them two years ago in The Soul Ripper (previously known at The Soul Garden). It has been a wild ride for all of them, and the end is bittersweet in more ways than one.

For those of you wondering, I’ve always known how this one was going to end, but their journey to that conclusion was the part that was the mystery to me. I hope the end resonates with you as it did me.

Now that the series is complete, all of the covers got a much-needed facelift that hopefully conveys the story arc a bit better. I’ve also released the box set- readers can get a 25% discount by buying all four books together (deal!).

If you are a Twisted Souls fan, please be sure to drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the ending. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Reading!

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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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Cover Reveal: Immortal End (the Ageless sequel)

I am swooning yet again over my newest cover from LFD Designs. I will be completely honest here: I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a sequel to Ageless. I left the story where the arc of the book was clearly over, but there was a nice thread left open that could be continued if I wanted to do it.

Until this past week, I was leaning toward leaving it alone. Then I found this cover, and suddenly I saw Violet there clear as day. And so Immortal End will become a reality sooner rather than later. (Hooray! More Jeremiah and Jonah *wink*.)

I am feverishly working on Veiled Shadows right now, but Immortal End will be coming in Q1 2013 (if not sooner).  When really all depends on 3 things:

  • How long Veiled Shadows takes me to get done
  • How long the 3rd Bloodtruth book takes to get done (Angeline fans everywhere- rejoice!)
  • If I have a push from Twisted Souls fans to get the 3rd book in that series first

If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or by dropping me a line (cege@cegesmith.com).  Series fans really do have a voice in my production schedule because at the end of the day, I’m writing for you.

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