Art in August #18 – New Class Act Cover

New Class Act Cover

New Class Act Cover

I finally decided on a new cover for Class Act (because I’m impatient like that). It’s by the same photographer as the most popular of the six I posted before, although in this one the daisies and heart are a bit clearer. Yes it doesn’t have people on, and doesn’t really scream romance, and yes it doesn’t explain the title (Sorry, Rinelle, your advice was good and I did try to find my perfect shot, with paint brushes and theatre tickets and daisies and people holding hands, but after four hours I admitted defeat.).

It does at least have daisies and a heart, so hopefully says romance a bit more than the previous cover, and I think it sits nicely alongside Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, so it will do for now! It can’t do any worse than the current one, I haven’t had so much as a borrow this month, despite the new Kindle Owners Lending Library. The only question is whether to change my Goodreads Giveaway, or let it run with the original cover. I’ve had so few people sign up so far, I’m thinking of the latter.

That’s about it for the art today. It turns out my mum doesn’t have a virus, she’s just topsy turvy on sleep from watching too much sport (she says she’s regressed to being a teenager) so I have to accept I’m not ill either. Just stressed and all-parented-out. At least hopefully that means I’ll feel better when the darlings go back to school. Only nineteen days to go, not that I’m counting. 😉

Art in August #14 – Book Covers

Proposed new covers for Class Act

Proposed new covers for Class Act

I released my fourth novel, Class Act, at the beginning of June and to say the going has been slow is an understatement. I have struggled to even give the book away. When I ran a free promotion the numbers were a quarter of those for Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes. I put it down to having no reviews and didn’t panic.

But now, with a couple of good reviews (and a couple not so good!) I am running a Giveaway on Goodreads and still getting a fraction of entries compared with the Baby Blues Giveaway. I’ve decided that the cover and blurb must be failing me.

I’m not surprised. I mocked the cover up last year, when I decided on a new name for the novel (it’s working title was The Real Gentleman, as the novel was written as a modern day Georgette Heyer style romance) and I do like the design, especially the bold red paperback. Unfortunately the current cover doesn’t give anything away as to genre, all it does is explain the ‘act’ part of the play-on-words title.

I love the pastel covers of Joanne Harris books

I love the pastel covers of Joanne Harris books

So I’ve spent this week, in between making loomband pets and ignoring the children, looking at images on my favourite site istockphoto to find something more in the woman’s fiction/romance genre. I know that half-naked bodies is what the genre seems to dictate, but that really isn’t me. Besides, the novel isn’t at all raunchy, and I don’t want to set a false expectation.

When I designed the cover for Baby Blues I used the books of Joanne Harris as my inspiration. Her pastel covers are lovely and she is an author that I admire greatly. It also gave me a style that fit within my capabilities using Adobe Photoshop, as I don’t know any cover designers and my experience of hiring freelancers as an author hasn’t always been successful.

Another Joanne Harris

Another Joanne Harris

As I couldn’t find any images relating to the theatre and acting, I decided to focus on the two other ‘themes’ that I feel run through the novel: art and daisies. These are the covers I came up with (I only had an hour before little lady got bored, so I know the font doesn’t stand out well on some of them).

As an aside, these are all based on composites from istockphoto and I haven’t purchased the rights to use them yet, as they’re only mock ups. I will purchase the final image once I’ve made a decision.

So, do any of these stand out? And, for those of you who have read the novel, do any of these fit within your experience of the story? Do these set the right genre? I feel they’re all much more in keeping with Baby Blues (although I have had at least one reviewer say the title and cover put them off that novel! I guess it’s difficult to win without a big budget marketing department to do customer research!)

Once I have some feedback I hope to make the change and extend the giveaway, so hopefully I’ll see immediately if it makes a difference!

Breaking the Rules and the See-Saw of Self Doubt: 2013 365 Challenge #88

My new YA cover

My new YA cover

Well, here it is. My new cover. Apologies to everyone bored to the back teeth of my self-publishing adventures. I have to make sure this blog is about my writing as well as my parenting journey!

Actually today has been a watershed sort of day in my personal journey as an author. I’ve been oscillating between hope and doubt since breakfast. First off I flexed the credit card and bought this gorgeous photograph – isn’t it stunning? Oh to take a picture like that. It reminds me of a bit in Baby Blues, when Helen takes an amazing photograph that leaves everyone stunned. It’s hard to imagine how one image can have that impact until you see one.

I asked the photographer if he had a vertical version better suited to a book cover (the original of this one is horizontal) and he sent me another from the shoot. It wasn’t the same at all. The expression was more sulky than vulnerable, as if the model was saying, get me out of this damn rain, I’m cold. So I had to work with this horizontal one and create a ‘rainy’ background for it to sit on.

That was my high (working with beautiful photographs is like a drug).

My low came after reading a post on Catherine, Caffeinated‘s blog, by an editor, about why you must have an editor if you intend to self publish. I posted a comment along the lines that I just plain can’t afford one and her response was, well then you mustn’t self-publish. I’ve thought that before and I don’t blame her for saying it. However if I listen to that advice I’m back to querying agents and wondering everyday if I’m meant to be an author. It took the edge off my excitement about the new cover. Especially as hubbie confessed to hating the type font of my novel (I do too, so that’s okay) and to finding another typo. I’m sure the manuscript is littered with them and I do intend to have another run through with fresh eyes. Only now I’m scared to look in case there are hundreds!

Sneak Preview of 200SH March Cover

Sneak Preview of March Cover

My see-saw of self-doubt tipped upwards again with a lovely comment on my blog from someone who is also self-publishing (albeit with the use of a professional editor!). She stopped by to tell me not to be disheartened by Catherine’s comments and that people will forgive a badly edited book for a good story. Well, they did with Twilight so I know that’s true.

I’ve ended the day somewhat level on my see-saw. I know I’m breaking the rules by self-publishing without paying for the services of an editor or proof-reader and without going through my manuscript again the minute someone spotted a typo.

I will do. One day.

But if I wait for the right time I might never get anything done because by the time the kids have started school, or left home, or whenever is a good time to focus, I will have talked myself out of doing it. I have a short attention span and a small amount of self-belief so I have to carpe diem.

There’s been a song floating round my head for weeks (hubbie has it on his ipod playlist I think) and I heard it on the radio today while working on my front cover. It sums up where I am nicely:

You’ve got the words to change a nation
but you’re biting your tongue
You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
afraid you’ll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?
So come on, come on

I don’t think my words will change a nation but I do so love Emeli Sandé’s song and I love the concept of Our Version of Events. Everyone has an opinion on the right way of doing things – be it writing, parenting or anything else. Our job is to discover our version of events and stick to that.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked up at the hills towering either side, blocking out the sun. Bloody typical. It was almost spring-like back at the hostel. I could be sitting in the lounge ignoring the awful floor covering, reading my book and drinking tea. An image of the scene she’d left behind floated into her mind: Fiona and Josh entwined on the sofa, chatting to baby Lily, while Sophie and Lucas played snap on the bright blue carpet. Even though she was pretty certain the domestic bliss had lasted approximately five minutes before one of the children was screaming or sobbing, the sight had still left an odd taste in her mouth. I’m better off out of it. A morning spent in the Hall grounds with Josh’s kids was sufficient to convince her peace was rare and fleeting.

I certainly didn’t need to come out on a five-mile-hike to escape. Although I guess I do need something for the blog. I can’t coast on the concussion excuse forever.

Her rough research had suggested a walk along Wolfscote and Beresford Dales would be picturesque and easy-going. Unfortunately the website’s estimate of a two-hour circuit hadn’t allowed for the snow. The path was hidden and she had slipped several times on the crunchy ice-crystals that had formed in the heart of the dale.

To her right the river Dove gushed along, swollen and grey from the melting snow water. On the internet pictures the brook had sparkled in summer sunshine. You’d think an Advertising Director would be trained not to believe everything she sees, especially online.

The footpath snaked through tightly packed hills, making Claire feel like she was walking between a giant pair of breasts.  Lovely. Josh will piss himself when I tell him. He’ll be gutted he didn’t come. Then she remembered Fiona’s expression as she announced her afternoon plans, and her smile dropped away. Josh had glanced at his wife and met a blank stare, as if she had decided not to influence her husband’s decisions. Claire hadn’t been so lucky. The woman had flashed her a micro-glance that had slapped her across the face. It wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t have let him come. Wandering around with a single man is one thing, but hiking alone with a married man – even one who is just a friend – isn’t my style.

Lost in her thoughts, Claire didn’t realise she had left Wolfscote Dale and entered Beresford Dale until she saw the looming pile of limestone ahead of her. Ah, the Celestial Twins. Look like lumps of rock to me. The Twins didn’t seem as impressive as they had in the pictures. Claire guessed it was because they blended into the dirty-grey snow lying thickly on the Dale floor.

She took some snaps of the edifice for the blog, before hurrying on along the path. The valley narrowed, enclosing her like a rumpled duvet, until she was striding along a gorge. Despite the blue sky and hints of invisible sunshine, the gorge was lost in shadow. Claire felt the air temperature drop even lower, but sighed with relief as the blasting wind fell away. It wasn’t late but it felt oppressive in the gorge and Claire was glad when the footbridge came into sight.

She stood at the edge of the bridge, listening to the roar of the river beneath her. The water was only inches from the bridge, although the planks were still dry. I wonder how low the water is normally and how long before the bridge is complete submerged. As if she feared that might happen imminently, Claire forced herself to plant one boot on the wood and then another. Closing her ears to the thunderous noise, she scuttled as fast as she could across the bridge and only breathed when her boots landed in snow again.

At last the valley opened out and the sun twinkled on the horizon, dazzling Claire’s eyes even though it no longer held any warmth. The field stretched ahead of Claire and she realised she had no idea which way to go. In the dales and the gorge the path had been obvious, despite being mostly buried by snow. Now, out in the open, there were no obvious markers to follow and no footsteps to show the way.

Fear tightened in Claire’s chest until her ribs ached. She tried to keep calm but memories of the mugging tugged at her mind and wound up her pulse. Great. I’m lost. The hostel is only a mile or so away. I can almost taste my cuppa and feel the warmth of the wood burner. She shook her hands in an attempt to bring life back into them. Her fingers tingled with the loss of sensation caused by the wind penetrating her flimsy gloves. Mental note to buy some fleece-lined gloves at the next opportunity.

Claire fumbled through her pockets for her new phone, praying there was signal. Eventually, with nerveless hands and thudding head, she managed to load up her satnav system and find out what direction would take her to the village.

I hope the drive to Cambridgeshire tomorrow is easier than this, or I’m going to be late to collect my niece. And Ruth will kill me.

***

Tricky Question of Cashflow: 2013 365 Challenge #87

"Driving to see the Pigs"

“Driving to see the Pigs”

I’m trying to justify the first big (relatively speaking) expenditure to support my writing. So far I’ve done all my own proof-reading (never a good idea), ebook preparation and cover design, sourcing cheap or free stock photographs from istockphoto. The most I’ve spent on a stock image is about ten pounds (although I’ve purchased a few).

However, after getting some constructive feedback on the first chapter of Dragon Wraiths recently it was highlighted that my cover doesn’t fit with my target audience. I like the dragon pendant image, and it goes with the story, but It didn’t cost me anything so I don’t mind redesigning it and hopefully boosting sales (which won’t be hard!)

Photo2834 (2)

“Look Mummy, no hands!”

After some research I’ve realised that YA books in my genre generally have a picture of a girl or couple on the front. So  I decided today to see if I could find an image that might do the trick. It’s hard getting the search terms right – I tried ‘first kiss’ and ‘teenage embrace’ and got some dodgy images, even on istockphoto! Since when did ‘first kiss’ mean between two scantily clad girls? I’m getting old!

Eventually I found the perfect shot. Unfortunately people-shots equals extra cost, as the model needs to be paid too.  And I had forgotten to put the price-filter on that guarantees I don’t fall in love with a picture I can’t afford.

Idiot.

When I clicked into my ‘perfect’ shot I nearly fell off my chair at the price. The smallest image is ten times what I pay for the images I use on the Two-Hundred Steps Home books. If I want to be able to set the book up for print-on-demand in future I need to fork out nearly £200 for the high-res file. In comparison I’ve made about a tenner so far from sales of the book!

Didicar Fun

Didicar Fun

I know anyone serious about writing needs to spend money, it’s just hard to justify when my husband and I are both unemployed. If I search long enough I may find another – cheaper – image that is equally striking. Or I may not. And if I change my cover I might make the money back in sales in a few weeks. I spent more money going to London for a job interview, so why balk at spending it on this?

Besides, the small image is slightly less than what it costs us to send two sprogs to nursery for a day. We tried to put them in nursery today, as we lose next Monday (bank holiday), but they were full.

So I may buy my perfect shot and consider it money well-earned by taking the kids to the Farm for four hours in the freezing wind. Time to take a gamble. Speculate to accumulate and all that! Okay, decision made. I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow… I’m so excited! I love doing book covers and I really love this image… Can’t wait to share it!

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“So, you’re becoming Mum for two weeks? How does that feel? Thought you hated ankle-biters.”

Claire willed a smile onto her face but suspected Josh could see the fear lurking beneath. “It’s fine. It’s only for a little while. And Sky’s six, that’s old and sensible isn’t it? For a child?”

She turned to Josh with eyes wide and pleading. He laughed, the sun catching highlights in his hair. He seemed to have discarded his Stig-of-the-dump disguise since Fiona’s arrival and Claire was conscious of a desire to feel how soft his clean hair felt under her hand.

“Depends on the child.”

Dragging her thoughts back to the conversation, Claire tried to remember what question Josh was answering. Oh yes, Sky.

“My niece is, um, a little bit highly strung.” She remembered the phone-calls interrupted by Sky’s screaming; the sweat-drenched awakening – the one night she had looked after Sky by herself – and couldn’t suppress a shiver.

Josh wrapped an arm around Claire’s shoulders and hugged her briefly. They both knew Fiona was watching from an upstairs window, as she sat feeding Lily. “You’ll be fine. Keep her entertained, keep her exhausted, and keep a ready supply of chocolate in your pocket.”

“Is that your advice as a parent or a doctor?”

His laugh jumped up like a spring lamb. “A parent, obviously. As a doctor I couldn’t possibly recommend chocolate-bribery. Talking of which -” He turned to face Lucas and Sophie, who were rolling around in the snow, making angel shapes and throwing icy handfuls at each other. “Okay, you two. We’ll be heading in shortly. Five minutes.”

He turned back to Claire. “It’s all about managing expectations. And when that doesn’t work, bribe them!”

They stood in silence. The air between them felt heavy, with the unseen shadow of his wife, and the louder presence of his two eldest children now stuffing snow down each other’s necks. She wanted to ask him how the reunion had gone, how he felt about the past, but the words seemed frozen by the icy wind swirling round the Hall.

“We fly back after Easter.” Josh spoke as if answering a question and Claire smiled at his intuition. “We couldn’t get flights before that and it seemed silly to leave straight away. It may not be the best time to visit the UK but as Fiona has never been we’re hoping to see a few things while we’re here. We went to York for a few days and we were heading for Cambridge when this happened.” He gestured at the snow still lying thick on the ground, despite the bright sunshine.

Claire felt her pulse quicken. “I’m heading down that way myself, today or tomorrow. That’s near where my sister lives.”

“Maybe you could show us round, as a local? Can you get us into a College? To Kings?”

Claire laughed, despite the goosebumps popping up along her arms. “Anyone can visit Kings, you buy tickets at the gate. But yes, I guess Sky might like to come and meet Lucas and Sophie. What about Fiona though?” She swallowed. “I get the impression she’ll only be happy where there is 15,000km between us.”

Josh ran his hands through his hair and looked over to where the children were rolling a ball of snow to make a snowman, both of them pushing at the ball that was already bigger than Sophie.

“Fiona’s fine,” he said eventually. “You can’t imagine how hard it was for her.” His voice pleaded with Claire to understand. “She had no idea. Until she rang Christie and they said they’d never heard of me. She didn’t know what to think.”

I’m sure she did. She thought you’d left her for someone else. And then I turned up at the airport confirming her suspicions. She must have realised how similar we look. Easy to think Josh had replaced her with me – a slightly younger model unencumbered by children. He wouldn’t have been the first or the last.

Claire glanced up behind her, expecting to see an accusatory face pressed against the upstairs window. The panes of glass stared blankly back at her.

“It’s just one more day.”

She felt Josh’s hand in the small of her back and willed her body not to react. Funny how forbidden fruit always appears juicier. Gritting her teeth, Claire turned and looked into his earnest amber-flecked eyes.

“Sure, why not. I’ll show you where to get the tastiest Greek burger you’ve ever had.”

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