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Winners, Covers, and a Reveal!

Lots of fun stuff today, so let’s get to it!

First off, the winners from the two recent giveaways were:

Sadie won the Mother-Earth Series Omnibus ebook from the “Pick a Jenni” contest and

bookaholicholly won the signed paperback of Knot in Time from the Summer Splash Blog Hop!

Congratulations ladies and I hope you enjoy the stories!

All right! Let’s talk about book covers. As you may know, I have been working on a redesign of A Measure of Disorder, the first book in the Mother-Earth Series. This book was first published in April of 2010 and this isn’t the first time it’s had an extreme makeover. Although I am a graphic designer as my “day job” I hadn’t had much experience with book covers. Unfortunately, my inexperience showed with the book’s first cover.

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My intention for the artwork was to create a stylized, watercolor look. It certainly didn’t come off, especially at smaller sizes, which I’d failed to consider in the design. Tip #1: Make sure your cover looks good and is clearly visible/readable at thumbnail sizes as well as full size.

I experimented with this cover briefly for the ebook only.

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I wanted something more exciting, but the flames just never looked right and I had a couple of people who were disturbed by the image of someone on fire — even though this scene does happen in the book, there is a difference between reading about something and actually having a graphic representation of it. Tip #2: Do some widespread polling/opinion gathering of your cover options/ideas. Get as many opinions as you can, especially from people in your target audience. Don’t rely simply on close friends or family members. Just as with critiquing your writing, they may not be completely honest with you for fear of hurting your feelings.

The third iteration is better and has served well for almost two years, but I was still stuck on trying to depict a scene from the book.

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My good friend, Clint Thorne, had created a stunning image for the second book, A Cure for Chaos, and I kept feeling like the cover for the first book didn’t muster up. Time constraints hadn’t allowed Clint to do more artwork and budget constraints forced me to continue creating on my own. I’ve been happy with this cover for the most part, but it just doesn’t have the punch I’d like. All the great fantasies I read through my teens and twenties nearly always had a painting depicting a pivotal scene from the story on the cover. I failed to heed that times change. Yes, many fantasy stories still have covers that follow that convention, but most have moved toward artwork of a more graphical nature. A Game of Thrones is a great example of this. Tip #3: Unless you have access to an outstanding, professional artist, don’t try to depict a scene from your book on the cover. In most cases, it will turn out looking amateurish and unprofessional.

Focus on what’s important. Title and author name should be easily identifiable and read, even at small sizes. Color is crucial. It, along with any images you choose, can convey the type of story contained in the book. Finally, experiment. If sales seem to be lagging, maybe it’s time to freshen things up! So, without further ado, I present the new cover for A Measure of Disorder:

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There will probably be more minor tweaking done between now and the time I need to order more print copies of the book, but I’m pretty happy with this result. As those of you who voted can see, Jenni #3 was the winner, hands down. I think she captures the spirit of the character pretty well. And thanks to Austin at ReadingTeen.net for his fantastic review of this book that I’ve treasured these past three years or so!

Okay, there it is! You’ve heard about what I think, now it’s time to let me know what you think. Don’t hold back. If you think it’s terrible, say so! But tell me why you think the way you do. That’s the only way we can learn!

Emblazoners Gigantic Giveaway!

It’s here! It’s live!

Emblazon is on line and ready to deliver the best in tween literature to you! Every Wednesday (at the very least!) one of the Emblazoners will offer up a post talking about books, writing, readers, really all things tween. We’ll also have Tween the Weekends once a month where we invite everyone to join in the discussions about tween literature.

Okay, enough about that. I know why you’re really here. You want to win books! Well, just have a gander at this:

EmblazonGiveaway

Lots of folks are going to win lots of books, both paperback (signed!) and ebooks. So, click the image to get started.

Go! What are you waiting for?

New Site for Tween Lit and Prizes!

Book Bloggers! Here’s an opportunity to share information about a brand new site and maybe win some prizes along the way!

emblazonbuttonEmblazon is a blog written by a collection of indie and traditionally published authors who care about producing high quality stories for kids. We have a particular focus on ages 11 to 14. We call them Tweens. The purpose of Emblazon is to celebrate tween literature. We want to draw attention to this fabulous genre, interact with other enthusiasts whether child or adult, and encourage new writers.

Emblazon launches its first post on July 10. Please consider helping us spread the word by mentioning us on your blog that day. You may cut and paste from this email or the website and use our attached logo if you wish. All bloggers who participate are eligible to enter our $100 Amazon gift card drawing that will be held the following day. You can also treat your readers to our upcoming Sizzling Freebies bash that will be hosted on Emblazon on August 1 during which a great selection of ebooks will be free for one day only.

We hope you’ll join us in kick-starting this fabulous new adventure!

What Is a Clean Read?

Hey ladies! I’m clean!

Ask ten different people and you’re likely to get ten different answers. Even the word “clean” itself, as an adjective, has multiple meanings. Of course it’s the opposite of dirty (which is also a multi-faceted word), but it can also mean precise, chaste or virtuous, and even complete or thorough. If you’re perusing a dating site, clean could mean anything from having good hygiene to simply being disease free. That in itself could encompass a wide range of people.

In some circles, clean can even have  negative connotations. Someone who is described as clean-cut often is thought of as dull or boring. C’mon ladies, who would you rather date: Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne? Without knowing their alter egos, I’m pretty sure most would pick the brooding playboy.

A new website called Clean Indie Reads wants to illustrate to the world the variety of “clean reads” available. There’s nothing dull or boring about this growing list of fascinating books. Founder of the site, author Lia London says,

The goal of this site is to connect writers from across the genre spectrum with readers who want to discover something great. Specifically, it is to find independent authors who are writing books that would generally be deemed “clean”. By this, we mean there are no sexually explicit scenes, no graphically violent descriptions, and no streams of profanity. Many readers would be willing to take a chance on indie authors if they knew they weren’t going to have to scour their retina after the read.

She goes on to explain,

Does that mean everything on this site is squeaky-clean Disney Princess pure? Well, no. But any books that contain scenes, language or subject matter that might be rated PG-13 will include a disclaimer and explain what that content might be. If you don’t see anything listed to that effect, you can be sure it’s G or PG.

Clean certainly means different things to different people, but this site has something for everyone. There are books you can read with your kids, books you can feel comfortable letting your kids read on their own, and books adults can enjoy too! Some of my books are even listed on there so it must be great, right? Here’s just a few of the other authors and books you can find: Elise Stokes, Michelle Isenhoff, Timothy Davis, Annette Mackey, Gloria Repp, and K.M. Weiland. You can find the full list here.

What are your feelings about what makes a “clean” read? What makes you uncomfortable when reading yourself or what your kids read? Is it sex, violence, language, or some combination of everything? I’d love to hear what you think!

This Just In: Men and Women Are Different!

One of the writing groups I follow on Facebook linked a post by Maureen Johnson on Huffington Post titled “The Gender Coverup”. Maureen took the stance, and eloquently, I might add, that publishers package books by women as “girly” and therefore view them of less quality in a literary sense. The conversation sparked a Twitter-fest about redesigning covers of current books with a “gender flip”. A follow up article with a slide show of some of the images can be found here.

There are a lot of issues to discuss from this, but I’m going to try to focus on one for today: the idea of gender bias or profiling on book covers.

First of all, I wanted to say that I thought many of the newly created covers in the coverflip slideshow were very well done. Many of them, however, for the books that I’ve read at least, did a poor job of portraying the actual story. Let’s look at Game of Thrones as an example.

The real cover for Game of Thrones on the left, and the gender flipped one on the right.

The real cover for Game of Thrones on the left, and the gender flipped one on the right.

While clever and nicely executed, I don’t think anyone who’s read Game of Thrones would think the second cover does an adequate job of characterizing the story inside. I know if I had purchased a copy with the gender flipped cover, I would have felt badly hoodwinked after reading it, regardless of the gender of the author.

So, to me, the question is: does the cover fit the story? If it doesn’t, then maybe there is some truth to the gender profiling notion.

Here’s a random sampling of some books I’ve read over the years by female authors. All excellent books by the way, GoodReads links at the end of the post. Click on the image to see it bigger.

9CoversbyWomenAuthors

This is hardly a scientific sample and it’s heavily skewed toward fantasy. However, looking at these as objectively as I can, I don’t see gender bias or profiling. I see covers that reasonably represent the mood and contents of the books.

One could argue that, being of the male persuasion, my buying habits tend toward covers that are gender neutral or have a male slant. I’m willing to concede that point. I certainly don’t gravitate to books with women in large, flowing dresses or guys flexing their abs on the cover. By and large, however, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that books with covers like that have strong romantic components. I’m generally not interested in reading romance as a personal preference.

As such, only one of these covers is classified as YA (Young Adult), The Hunger Games. Maureen and I both write YA books, and I can see more in that genre where a “girly” aspect to the covers is in evidence. But, let’s think for a moment who the large majority of those books are written for and marketed to: girls. The vast majority of YA readers are girls/young women. Of course publishers are going to create a cover designed to cater to the largest demographic. It only makes sense.

Big publishers are not the only ones following the money. Have a look at self published YA novels. The trend continues. Lots of pretty girls, elegant dresses, and hot guys. If there is any misogyny going on, it’s being perpetuated by the female authors themselves.

While I agree with many of Maureen’s points, especially the need for modernization and gender equality in our educational system, I don’t see a conspiracy by the publishing world to treat women authors’ work as second class or “trashy”. I know from experience that it’s difficult to find readers when your book doesn’t fit neatly into a specific category, as many of Maureen’s don’t. But we can’t blame our covers, or even society, for that. The simple fact is, men and women are different and are drawn to different images and stories. No one is the same and it’s our differences that make the world such an interesting place!

GoodReads links:

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Robin Hobb, Fool’s Errand

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Elizabeth Haydon, Rhapsody: Child of Blood

Fiona McIntosh, Myrren’s Gift

Barbara Hambly, The Time of the Dark

Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon

Rachel Caine, Ill Wind

Melanie Rawn, Stronghold