Why I Switched Book Covers

Last time I posted about why I decided to publish independently as opposed to the traditional route.

One of the pros I mentioned was control and how it can be both a good and a bad thing.

When it comes to covers and being an indie, the onus is on you. A lot of the stress of cover design might be taken away by publishing traditionally, but there’s also likely little you can do if you get a cover that doesn’t suit the story. The most important component of cover design is whether it attracts the right kind of readers. Your epic fantasy story needs to attract epic fantasy readers, not romance or suspense readers.

The good thing about being an indie is that you can switch covers (at your own cost) if you don’t like them or if they’re unsuitable for your market.

I had a pro designer put together 2 covers for my Vagrant Souls series. These are the covers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought they were great covers. They looked professional, and, importantly, they stood out in thumbnail (This is important because most readers aren’t going to see them up-close. They’re going to see them as thumbnails on a website).

The first negative reaction to these covers was from a writer’s forum. Everyone loved them, but they didn’t think they conveyed dark/epic fantasy. Some suggested they looked like YA or Romance, even Suspense/Thriller because of the items on the covers (the orb and the jewelled necklace).

Not happy with this advice, and feeling a little disgruntled (in all honesty), I took to another writer’s group, this time on Facebook. What did I find there? The same thing. Great covers, but totally not dark/epic fantasy.

This was a problem. My stories are in the epic fantasy genre. They’re also dark.

Now, I have to say that this was totally my fault. The cover designer I used nailed my design brief. It was what I suggested that didn’t work for the genre. (I’ll speak more about design briefs and their importance in a future post.)

For quite a while, I ignored this advice from the writer’s forums. I thought that the covers, although not a good fit for the genre, were still kickass.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was given a (super secret) opportunity from a writer that involved some help with launch marketing. He told it to me straight. The covers weren’t going to sell. At least not in the dark/epic fantasy genres.

So I was in a pickle. I knew I needed to revamp the covers. I hadn’t even launched the two books yet, so I would be spending money I didn’t really have in the launch budget.

Deep down, I knew my writer friend and the writer’s groups were right. I needed new covers.

With my pride sorely wounded, I took to DeviantArt and browsed around for artists who were 1) affordable, 2) their schedules were open ASAP, and 3) their style matched my vision for the stories.

After much back-and-forth, I settled on Alberto Besi, an artist from Italy. He was super enthusiastic about my project and wanted to get started right away. I loved his style of artwork and was happy to give him a design brief. He begun the work just a few days later.

He provided me with a color sketch and a character sketch.

After he made sure I was pleased with these, he proceeded on to the finished product.

I’m still considering whether to make some alterations before this becomes the new “official” cover for The Shattered Orb.

Maybe the background should be changed for something more world-specific? I thought simplicity might be best, but now I’m thinking a few buildings in the background and something in the foreground would work better than the magical effects. I could be wrong so I’m going to have a think about it before scheduling any changes with Alberto.

With the cover art done, I got a pro to do the typography (my attempt in Canva was abysmal).

Click to enlarge 🙂

I’m now halfway through the drama of updating my covers before I’ve even published. Hopefully the new covers better represent what’s behind them.


Alberto Besi is a comic artist, now focused on illustration, concept art and digital art in general.

www.albertobesi.deviantart.com

www.artstation.com/artist/albertobesi

Why Publish Independently?

When I first started writing, my goal was to publish traditionally with one of the big fantasy publishing houses like TOR or Orbit. Independent publishing never crossed my mind because I had never read any independently published books. I thought that the majority of them were terrible and I’ve never been a very fast reader, so I decided that the gatekeepers within traditional publishing houses would guarantee a better read.

Now, this isn’t always the case.

In my opinion, the best gatekeepers are the readers, not the acquisition editors or whoever else deals with the actual manuscript evaluations within publishing houses. Readers know when a story is bad. Readers know when a story is good. If it’s good, they’ll rave about it on social media.

My first introduction to independent fiction was the Nysta series by Lucas Thorn. I’d stumbled across his novels because, funnily enough, I saw his Twitter account and noticed that I actually worked with the guy! Small world, huh? So I downloaded the first book that night and started reading. The language was crass and the violence extreme. And I loved it! There was something raw and fresh about it.

I soon found that this freshness is one of the hallmarks of independent fiction. That’s not to say traditionally published fiction doesn’t offer this because it does. But it’s few and far between. If you’re a reader  after a particular kind of story, there’s probably an independent author who’s written it.

Now, all this is a long way of saying that I decided to publish independently rather than go through the process of submitting to an editor and going through the whole trade process. I wanted to find readers who like the kind of stories I’m writing, rather than impress a single individual at a publishing house who might just not like my particular style. (Caveat here: I’m not saying all editors are so fickle. In hindsight, it was probably a [bad] generalization, but this was my reasoning at the time.)

So, now that my prejudices against indies were overcome, the floodgates opened with many more reasons to publish independently. Here’s a few.

1. Control

You have complete control over what you write and what you publish. For some people, this might be more of a headache than a benefit. But isn’t it better to choose what’s going to be on your cover, or what to include in your story, than to have someone else decide for you?

2. Bigger Royalties

Publishing independently means making more money. The small number of books an average trad author sells per day could equal a lot more money if they were independently published.

This is also a good thing for readers. More money means a writer quitting their day job, which means more time to write and more books for story-hungry readers.

3. Success Depends Upon Me (Largely)

This one is a bit tricky. Luck is involved with almost any enterprise. Independent publishing is no different. Where independent publishing differs from traditional publishing is in the amount of luck required to succeed. The largest factors in determining success are how hard you work and how well you market. The majority of successful independent authors write a ton and publish a ton. They are also very savvy when it comes to marketing. They know the kinds of books their readers want to read. They also know where to find those hungry readers so that they can get books into their hands.

Having written these benefits to independent publishing, I now realize that many (all?) of them could be seen as downsides for those who simply want to write.

The biggest thing to remember is that everyone’s mountain is different (I’m borrowing this analogy from Michael Anderle). There are some authors who won’t feel like they’ve accomplished a damn thing unless their novel is sitting on the shelf of a chain bookstore. Others might want to torture English Lit students with their books.

Those mountains are totally fine. But they’re not my mountains.

For as long as I can, I want to write imaginative fantasy stories that highlight the darker side of human nature. Whether or not I accomplish that goal depends upon whether readers like my stories. The first (and arguably the most important) way to get people actually reading your story is a good cover. I’ll be talking about how I organized the cover for The Shattered Orb in the next post (Spoiler: there were hiccups along the way).

Vagrant Souls Epic Fantasy Series – Preliminary Release Dates

Well, we’ve booked in editors for the first three books in the Vagrant Souls series. Which means we also have some pretty solid release dates.

(TBA): Fall of Mundos (Book 0)

March 24, 2017: The Shattered Orb (Book 1)

May 2nd, 2017: The Dragon Soul (Book 2)

July 14th, 2017: The Infernal City (Book 3)

This particular series is about a year in the making. A few hiccups along the way, but it looks to be smooth sailing from here.

I have another series up my sleeve. Fullmetal Alchemist meets Arabian Nights. That’ll be releasing in the second half of 2017.

If you’d like a free copy of Fall of Mundos when it releases, feel free to sign up to my mailing list.