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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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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The Bradford Mansion: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #11

Happy Halloween!!

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, and I’m offering up a treat for all of my readers today: a behind-the-scenes peek at the Bradford mansion, which as anyone who has read Edge of Shadows or Shadows Deep knows, is a very important location¬†in the Shadows¬†series.

It’s come through loud and clear that readers¬†are fascinated by the Bradford mansion and its dark history. I put the house on the shoreline of the Lake of the Isles in Uptown, MN. The house itself is fictional, but I built it as a composite of two different Lake of the Isles homes- the Charles C. Gates mansion, which was torn down in the 1930s, and¬†a house that¬†currently sits on East Lake of the Isles¬†Parkway (you can see¬†that house¬†in the short little video below).

This on-location video also gives you a first hand view of what the characters in Edge of Shadows see when they look out the front windows of the mansion.

A Dark History

For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to dive into the Shadows series yet, here’s the backstory on the house:

The property was purchased¬†by Joseph Bradford in 1906. There was a small, existing house already¬†there, but Joseph tore it down to build¬†his dream home. ¬†Joseph was “new money” and built the home to coerce his wife, Lillian, to join him in Minnesota and forget about her comfortable Southern roots.

Construction took well over a year, and there were “accidents” along the way. Finally, the Bradfords settled into their home and began to enjoy their new social life, which included frequent entertaining in the home.

Unfortuantely, the Bradfords happy facade began to crumble over Joseph’s financial¬†stability and¬†their inability to have children. The¬†colorful parties¬†turned dark as the Bradfords become involved in darker activities that included psychics and seances.¬†Then one day the Bradfords were gone, never to be heard from again and the house was empty.

The house went through several owners over the years, but no one stayed in the home longer than a few months, at least until Edge of Shadows begins, and we find Linda Jordan purchasing the home.

Is It Haunted?

I am not disclosing any spoilers when I tell you that unequivocally, YES, the Bradford mansion is haunted. But if you want to know by who and why, you’ll have to read the book to find out. ūüôā

 

The Virtual Haunted House Tour Comes to a Close

I want to say a big “THANK YOU” to everyone who has joined me on the virtual haunted house tour this year. If you enjoyed the tour, and would like to see this type of event next year, be sure to leave me a comment below. (I’m thinking “haunted hospitals” for next year’s tour.)

(Halloween photo credit: Muffet)

(Charles Gates mansion photo credit: 1889 Victorian House Restoration)

 

Finally, don’t forget that today is the last day of the Monster Fest sale! Three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through the end of the day¬†today. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!

  

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Magnolia Plantation: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #10

When my family decided to vacation this past summer in Charleston, my very first thought was “Yippee!! Plantations!!”. ¬†(I may have mentioned my love of plantations in the very first tour stop at Latta Plantation.)

I grew up watching Gone with the Wind, so in my mind, every Southern plantation house must look just like Tara, right? Alas, it is not so. However, there are definitely still some lovely plantation homes to be visited, like the one I’m featuring today: Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, S.C. They just aren’t as big or grand as the way that Hollywood portrayed plantation homes.

There are a few very cool things about this location:

  • It’s been in the Drayton family for 300 years.
  • This is the 3rd house to stand on the property. Naturally, after 300 years, things happen (like the Civil War) and the house has evolved with the family and the times.
  • The gardens are stunning. The late Reverend John Drayton worked in the gardens not only for the health benefits (he suffered from tuberculosis), but also to give his wife a beautiful place to live that would make her forget her former life in Philadelphia.

Now, a place that is as old as Magnolia plantation is almost expected to have its share of ghostly visitors, especially Drayton family members who have passed on. For example, Rev. Drayton’s older brother, Thomas Drayton, died of a gunshot wound (a hunting related accident) on the plantation home’s steps. It seems plausible that he may still be in residence on Magnolia Plantation.

A recent paranormal investigation by the Ghost Hunters turned up strange noises including music, a young girl’s voice, coughing, and an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) of a voice who asked “What are you doing?” (Read a full account of the investigation here.)

None of these unexplained things seem overtly threatening, but at the same time, no one wants to be there after dark.

Tomorrow is the last stop on the virtual haunted house tour. I’m in Uptown, MN visiting the location of the fictional haunted¬†Bradford mansion¬†from my Shadows series.¬†If you are enjoying the virtual haunted house tour, please share it with your friends! See you again soon!

Don’t forget that there is a Monster of a Sale going on. Just in time for Halloween, three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through October 31st. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!

  

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The LeDuc Mansion: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #9

Today’s tour stop finds us in lovely Hastings, MN, a scenic river town just 20 miles southeast of the Twin Cities. Hastings boasts 63 buildings on the National Register according to the Hastings Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Board, and one of those buildings is the focus of the post today: the LeDuc mansion.

The History

The LeDuc mansion was built in 1865 by William G. LeDuc. It took several years to build the home as construction costs skyrocketed well beyond what the LeDucs had budgeted to spend.

Over the years, the LeDuc family lived in the home on and off, between their stays in Washington D.C. when William served as the Secretary of Agriculture.

William had two daughters, Alice and Florence, who never married. William was¬†entreprenuerially minded, which meant that his finances often¬†went through dramatic highs and lows and caused unease for the family. After William’s passing in 1917,¬†Alice bought a home in Minneapolis for the whole family, although they continued to use the¬†mansion as their summer home. ¬†

The sisters sold the home to a family friend, Caroll Simmons, during the Depression after losing a good deal of their fortune. Simmons operated an antique business on the first floor and lived in the home.

Simmons came to an agreement with the Minneapolis Historical Society that he would transfer the house to them upon his retirement, which happened in 1986. The house was empty for twenty years before the Historical Society was able to completely return it to its former glory and open it to the public in 2005.

Former Residents Who Can’t Let Go?

The common paranormal occurances have been reported in the mansion: doors opening and closing on their own, cold spots, and objects being moved around the room. The speculation is that one of the mansion’s former residents, namely William or Alice LeDuc, or Carroll Simmons have returned to keep an eye on their beloved home.

Just to add to the list of potential ghostly occupants, William and Alice both had a flirtation with spiritualism, and some believe that they may have opened a door to the other world through those pursuits.

Whoever may still reside within the walls of the LeDuc masnion, it appears that they are friendly and no cause for concern.

(Source and photo credit: HauntedHouses.com)

 

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the¬†Magnolia Plantation¬†in Charleston, SC.¬†If you are enjoying the virtual haunted house tour, please share it with your friends! See you again soon!

 

 

Don’t forget that there is a Monster of a Sale going on. Just in time for Halloween, three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through October 31st. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!

  

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