Judging a Book by the Cover

I'd love to say that it isn't done. That covers don't make or break the sale of a good book. But frankly, in this digital age there is more focus on the covers then ever before. And when the covers are good, they can make a book a bestseller. But when they are bad, they can relegate the book to obscurity.

We are a nation of impatient consumers. Everything you buy now is marketed toward catching your eye in a millisecond. As the Internet speeds up, phones and other media devices get faster and more efficient, and the time that people have to actually sit and read a book decreases, we have even less time to make an impact and intrigue the reader enough to buy the book.

For a long time I've pondered the need for a new cover for Three Truths. The evolution of this books has seen a covers that didn't work, despite the wonderful story it really does portray. But despite the fact that I knew it needed a new cover I had to wait until the opportunity came along to have just the right person create just the right cover for my baby. It was total luck that I found out that my friend Sabrina had opened her own digital imagery business. Sabrina is an author, mother, wife, and a darned good artist. And just for me she created the cover of my dreams for Three Truths. (Sabrina will be visiting the blog very soon!)

Want to see the evolution of a cover? This is the perfect way to understand the way imagery creates a visceral reaction in the decision to buy your book. Each cover was the best that could be done at that time, but neither ever offered the right amount of homage to the fairytale story. Want to buy the book now? The link is on the right side of the page.  :)

The was the original cover for the original book. It had a different title then and was published through an ebook publisher. It was my first sale and I was very excited, but looking back I know that the book did little to help sales. This is the one that my friends and I refer to as the infamous "goat-cat" cover.

This cover is a disaster of my own making. At the time, I was repubbing it as an ebook and learning the process on my own. I wanted nothing to do with any human aspect on the cover after the "goat-cat" cover and I didn't have the money to get a new professional cover for the book. The sales were less than good. (Is there a less than good that isn't horrible?) Either way, if were the consumer I would have no idea what the book was about or how great the story was. I wouldn't have bought it so why would I expect anyone else to buy it either?

So now I am happy dancing at the wonderful cover that Sabrina created for me. There aren't enough ways for me to thank her for the work she did. She understood what I wanted and was patient (always good with me) and she got my dreams for the cover.

Thank you Sabrina!

FYI: Writer Taxes Workshop

If you are a member of RWA you should know that there is a great workshop on
Taxes for Writers that is being taught by Trinity Faegan and offered through RWA University. Just log onto your RWA account and go to the RWA University links to join. It's the first day and already there's a wealth of information for treating your writing as a business.

Honestly, it's Time to Save Yourself...

A couple of weeks ago, a certain writer's list that I was on had authors who were complaining about the success of another author on Amazon. They maintained that his fantastic sales numbers and increasing presence were the work of a vast amount of money dumped into publicity and that he'd somehow had it easy because he started off published by a "traditional" publisher. While they were not totally mean and hateful toward said author, they were so busy "blaming" his success on everything they could find and missed the mark on everything they should have seen.

I kept my mouth shut. And, if any of you know me personally, then you know just how hard it is to get me to keep my mouth shut when I feel someone is being wronged. (It's a family trait. Both my father and daughter have this dominant gene.)

The author was J.A. Konrath and I won't bother to mention the list. If you're on it, then you've already seen this discussion that went on for several digests, during which time I had a hard time digesting. I don't know what their personal motivation was for dissing him. But I can guess that it smacks of little bit of jealousy and a whole lot of envy. Either way, they were completely missing the point when it comes to Konrath, so I'll point it out... HE'S MAKING IT WORK AND IT'S WORKING WELL FOR HIM.

There is no magic bullet. There is no absolute formula, and if you're looking for it then you need to find another profession. Konrath took complete control of writing and his publishing. He provides a great book and he's invested his career into making it work. It shows. Just go to Amazon and look up his titles. I daresay he's got more listings than 90% of the authors who are digitally publishing. In a sense, there is something very traditional about him in that he takes his career very seriously and gets the writing done so that he can give the readers what they want. I've never met the man, but I've been around this block long enough to know that if all you do is talk about publishing books, then you'll never actually write them. He's analyzed, scrutinized, taken chances, and taken his lumps. But he's still out there.

His post on his blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing is making the rounds. (You can find the post here) It focuses on the blame game that is being played out against Amazon for a good many things, including the demise of the so-called "traditional" publishers and the impact of Amazon on markets. I think there's room for both digital and traditional... for now. No one knows the future, but I do know that the cost of printing books is prohibitive to getting good books to market and readers. Blaming Amazon for something like this is ridiculous. Things change. Deal with it. And if you can't, then you didn't belong in publishing.

It's evolution, people... every market evolves, whether it's books, food, clothes, they are all subject to trends and advancements. Amazon didn't put Borders out of business. Borders put themselves out of business for a lot of reason, one of which was a failure to react to changes in the market in a timely manner. It's 101. The same could be said for those writers who stick their heads in the sand and refuse to look at the possibilities.

Let me tell you a dirty little secret... I went to college originally to be a travel agent. Okay, so not so dirty. But how many of travel agents do you see today? Most agencies have closed up shop. Oh, there are a few of them left, but believe me when I say that the increasing use of the Internet made that job obsolete. My education isn't completely useless, though. It helps me out a heck of a lot when I want to book a flight or look for a vacation package in some sunny destination (it is Maine here, after all). But ultimately, Travel Agents went the way of the dinosaurs. If people can do it all themselves and cut out the middle man and the extra cost, then they should do it. That's why companies like Expedia and Travelocity are going gangbusters!

Finally, getting back to the whole green with envy thing. My feeling is that if someone is doing better than you then that's the person you want to watch and learn from. Konrath blogs with regularity and he offers up all the knowledge he has willingly. He's a pretty open book kind of guy (pun intended). Take it. Take it and run with it. Take it and publish with it, and make your own publishing experience a success. Don't be a dinosaur, or play the blame game. It doesn't look good on anybody.

Memories of the missing | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Memories of the missing The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Photo taken from Maine Sunday Telegram 02/05/2012
Cathy Marie Moulton's face is one I won't forget. But the catch is that I never actually met her. In fact, I was only 4 when she disappeared in 1971 in Jay, Maine. Up until about three years ago, I never knew the case existed. But once I did I knew I wouldn't forget her face.

It was New Years Day and I had a serious case of cabin fever. My husband wasn't feeling well, so I packed the kids into the Durango and set off on one of our famous road trips. I would just pick a direction and drive. I knew I wanted to go inland and North. Beyond that, I had no expectations. My daughter was riding shotgun, doing her homework in the car and my son was playing video games in the backseat. I was headed for Rumford area when we got the munchies and stopped at a small store near a bend in the road. The first thing I noticed was that a man had driven his tractor to the store to fill it up. The second thing I noticed was the flyer stuck to the door of the store. I remember looking at it and instantly realizing that I was seeing a picture from the past. The hairstyle, the format of the picture and the clothes she was wearing all gave clues to her age. It wasn't until I read the flyer that I realized that Cathy was missing and she'd been missing for quite some time.

As I made my way back to my car I had a hundred different thoughts running through my head. Who was she? What had she been doing? And where was she now? I remember looking at my own kids and trying to understand what it must be like to wonder where your child is.

As I writer, there were many times in all these years that I struggled with the idea of putting a story like Cathy's to paper. Not in an effort to detract from the real victims, but to perhaps, make someone remember.

Cathy Moulton is only one of those missing in the article. Each family has it's own story. Their own hopes and fears. If there is someone out there with information for these families they should come forward. Peace of mind is a balm for the soul. I wish all of these families to find peace and the answers they need.

As for me? I won't forget you, Cathy.

January Review: Blogging, Goals and the Reality of Life

The end of January... Thank goodness it's over. The month started out as a red hot flame and ended as an ember, but this was because exhaustion from a family health crisis, having my daughter return to college, pushing myself on both the day job and writing front, and the general winter blahs. Sounds like a long list of items that are downers, but in reality I actually got a lot accomplished this month. I moved forward on some goals and others need to be rescheduled. But isn't that why goals should be semi-fluid? So that we can adjust as necessary without losing momentum? In case you didn't catch my goals for The first few months of 2012, you can find them here, but for now, I'll post January's goals below and discuss what worked and didn't.

I. January - Prework: Print out SD and edit for content changes in prep for BIAW. In all fairness, I was so pumped going into January that I had this done before BIAW came along. It also completed my first writing goal for the month. I purposely picked something that was a short, doable goal so that it would give me the determination to go forward positively. And it worked, but I'm still editing because I want to have just the right amount of emotion packed into such a short story.

Writing Goals:
A. Complete 500 words needed to meet goal on SD and edit. I already commented on this above, but truly, there is something to be said for setting an easier goal to give yourself motivation to move forward. Too many times people set unreasonable goals and then get discouraged when they can't accomplish them.
B. Query online presses that acquire Novellas. I didn't do any actual querying because I don't consider it complete, but I did do a lot of researching into venues that I thought would be a good fit for the story. Now, when I'm ready to query the info will be at the ready.
C. Participate in BIAW. I participated, sort of. But I'm not afraid to say that my level of participation this month sucked. For a multitude of reasons I couldn't wrap my head around any new projects and in the end decided to work on the editing of my novella. Did I fail? No, I just changed my goal to suit the situation.

Promotion Goals:
A. Blog once weekly. I think I got all but the last week on this goal and I can justify that by saying that some weeks there was more than one post. I also found that by promoting my posts through Savvy Authors and on Network Blogs I increased the traffic to my blog. I'll give you the stats on that at the end of the post.
B. Write 1 article. Since I was on a blogging roll I decided that the best place to put my article on 10 Things I learned from Hosting on my Blog.
C. Put out a call for Guest Blogs. As you probably guessed from my link above I did have a foray into guest blogging. My friend and fellow author Diane Amos was a willing participant and let me test the waters on her with a fantastic post about her trip to publication. Since then, I've put my blog on the roll call at Savvy Authors and put the word out that I'm actively looking for authors to visit. I even approached a new author about her upcoming release. Stay tuned for that. I'd say I aced this goal.

Business Goals:
A. National Dues: Silly me, they weren't due this month. It's next month. So this gets slid to February's goals.
B. Maine RWA Dues: Paid. Done.
C. Organize Tax Papers and get info off old drive: This isn't done yet, but only because the old computer is in bad, bad shape. I'm just raising more money so I can get this information from it.

So, all in all, I consider January to have been a success. I promised the statistics from my blog as tracked by Google Analytics: Totals do not include September to December of last year as I found that the tracking was off for those months.
Total Visits:    2011=63           January, 2012=114
Unique Visits: 2011=40           January, 2012=98
Page Views:    2011=86           January, 2012=244
Bounce Rate: 2011=82.54%   January, 2012=65.96%
New Visits:     2011=60.32%   January, 2012=66.67%
Most would think these are paltry results, but if you compare it with the entire calculations for the previous year then I would say that these are a successful work-in-progress. There was so much more that I gleaned from tracking the progress and analyzing my blog and how I work with it as a professional tool that I haven't added here. I'm saving that for later. But for now, I'm okay with what I have as a foundation to build upon.

So, this leads me to February's goals:
II. February - Prework: Rework list of scenes for OH and list 10 ideas for articles

Writing Goals:
A. Finish Word Count for OH, adding required pages to meet goal.
B. Edit OH (this will be a continuing goal in conjunction with final edits on SD)
C. Edit Query Letter and find 3 outlets for book

Promotion Goals:
A. Blog once a week
B. Write 1 article and find 3 outlets for other articles
C. Host 1 Guest on blog

Business Goals:
A. Track Daily Progress and word count
B. Update Tax information
C. Track blog and sales information in database
D. Take 1 online class
E. Pay RWA Membership

You will see that many of these have repeated and some are updated. Either way, I've got a workable list to focus on for February. I'll let you know how it all progresses.
How did your goals for January fare?

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