As I mentioned last time, my 5-year publishing anniversary came and went last month. Feb. 11, to be exact, the day I published Urdaisunia. Here it is with its original cover, which I made with a piece of stock art in Photoshop Elements 5. Not too bad, considering the knowledge and resources I had at the time.
In the last five years, I've met some amazingly kind, helpful, and talented people. (You can see links to some of their websites in the sidebar.) Technically, I suppose authors are in competition with each other, but the indie author community is the most cooperative and supportive competition I've ever seen, with so many people willing to share resources and tips, band together in marketing, and help each other along.
Sales-wise, I'm not where I hoped I would be at this point. But I've been correcting some things that might have been holding me back, and making new plans for moving forward.
Some things I've learned in the last 5 years:
What lies ahead?
I'm happy to announce that Source-Breaker, the newest novel in the Tehovir world, is now available as an ebook at all the stores I sell through. The paperback edition will be coming in the next few weeks. The regular ebook price will be $3.99, but right now it's at the introductory price of only 99 cents, and will go on 99 cent promo a few times over the next few months. It's available at:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | iTunes | GooglePlay | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction
This was a fun book to write. It's a little more light-hearted than a lot of my work (though still with a good dose of angst and some serious themes). Unlike a lot of fantasy which is coming-of-age stories, in this novel I decided to feature two characters who are facing midlife crises. Kaniev is all of a sudden a failure at the trade he's worked in for 27 years, and Fransisa has had her expectations of career advancement pulled out from under her in favor of a much younger Chosen. I also enjoyed telling the story of the villain, Ardavos, and his mistress Sivael. I've written some backstories for Kaniev, Fransisa, and Ardavos and Sivael; they need a little editing, and then I'll make those available.
So now it's on to the next book, Heir of Tanaris, also set in the Tehovir world. Unlike my usual habit of working on two projects at once, I'm going to focus exclusively on Heir, at least until I get the revised draft out to the beta readers, and see if I can start getting stuff done faster. I want to get to the revision of Defenders of the Wildings, so I'll start on that while the beta readers are having at Heir. I love all my books, but Heir of Tanaris is one of those that just won't leave me alone and it's a story I feel deeply compelled to tell. I've already got the cover art for it, which is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm hoping to release it early this summer. Watch for the cover reveal and more information coming up this spring!
In other news, if you've noticed the disappearance of the OmniLit links from the site, OmniLit and its parent site All Romance eBooks suddenly closed in December, owing a lot of money to a lot of authors. (They offered a really insulting settlement of 10 cents on the dollar, ostensibly to help them avoid having to file bankruptcy.) I didn't sell much there, so I'm not losing more than a few dollars, but some authors are losing thousands. Anyway, as a result, I've decided to replace the old OmniLit links with the GooglePlay links for my books. GooglePlay is a relatively large, um, player in the ebook world, and I should have been promoting my books there more. If you use Android and the GooglePlay store, now it'll be easier for you to find my books there.
If you did buy any of my books at OmniLit/ARe and are now unable to access them (readers were given about four days in the middle of the holiday travel season to download and back up their purchased books; I'm hearing of readers who lost hundreds or thousands of books in their ARe libraries), contact me with some sort of proof of purchase and I'll set you up with replacement copies.
The ARe debacle has also emphasized how important it is for authors to not become too dependent on one company. Which is why I'm trying to cast my GooglePlay net more widely, and I'm also looking into setting up to sell books from my own site. I know which service I'm going to use if I do this (PayHip); now it's a matter of sorting out tax licenses and stuff. I do know that if I have to get a city business license in addition to a state sales tax license, I'm not going to do it because the two licenses together will cost more than I anticipate making in sales from my website. :P
Anyway. So I'm adding new links to the site, and getting the Tehovir section more put together, with information and reading order on the books and things like that. Watch for more Source-Breaker book extras coming up; I've got interviews scheduled with Fransisa, Ardavos, and Sivael, and I'll be revisiting the notorious Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage blog post series with a look at how Kaniev fits into those popular romance tropes; that should be fun.
So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:
For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.
After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).
Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.
So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.
In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.
I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.
And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.
And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.
So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.
On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.
As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.
That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!
And now, back to work.
Yes, it's finally here, the day I turn the manuscript of yet another novel into a lovely ebook, the last step before releasing it into the world. The first time I did this process, it took 2 weeks; I've now got it down to a day or two, depending on length of the book (lots of chapters take more time to do). This isn't counting the paperback version; I do that in my spare time after the ebook release.
So I'm taking a quick break between preparing the html file and running it through the ebook generating program (I use Sigil) to announce that Bad Hunting will be available in just a few more days at a wide variety of ebook sellers. There'll be some special promotions in connection with the release; to make sure you don't miss out, sign up for my email alerts. (I only send these out when I have a new release or special offer to announce; no spamming!)
Also, this was cool, I had a guest post yesterday at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a blog devoted to indie fantasy, science fiction, and related genres.
One other bit of business, Facebook has become pretty much useless for announcing my blog posts, book news, buy links, and special offers. If you want to keep up with what I'm doing, there are several other ways you can do this: follow me on Twitter (not my platform of choice, but I do tweet my blog posts and release news) and/or on Google+, bookmark my main site, and/or subscribe to one of my blogs: main site, Blogspot, or Wordpress (same content, just different platforms and options for following).
Time for lunch, then back to work!
For the last six months, I've been doing an experiment with having some books exclusive on Amazon, in the Select program for indie authors. The perks of going exclusively with Amazon are that you can have your choice between running a "Countdown" sale or free giveaway days on your book, and also your book is put into the Kindle Unlimited subscription program. The idea behind these is getting more exposure for your work.
I found the results of the experiment, for me, underwhelming. I did have some successful free giveaways, getting copies of those two books into several hundred readers' hands. But the long-term benefits are uncertain, and the days when a free giveaway on Amazon would give a long-lasting rankings and visibility boost seem to be long gone. As for Kindle Unlimited, some authors have seen their incomes soar with the program, others have seen drastic drops. The deal with Kindle Unlimited, as far as how authors get paid, is that an equal share is paid out of a monthly pool of money for each borrow, with a short story that would normally cost 99 cents to buy and a 500,000 word epic priced at $9.99 getting the same amount. When I put those two books into Kindle Unlimited, the share was around $2 per borrow. Which wasn't a whole lot less than I would get on a sale of those books, priced at $2.99 and $3.99. However, within a few months, the per-borrow share dropped drastically, to under $1.40. This meant that on borrows of my $3.99 book, I was making about half of what I would make on a sale. That's a pretty big reduction, unless you're getting tons of borrows (and exposure), which this book wasn't. So I came to the decision that the benefits of being in Kindle Unlimited (and the corresponding drop in payment) weren't worth giving up the wider exposure of being on other sales platforms.
The upshot of all this is that The Warrior and the Holy Man, which came out of Select a few days ago, is now available at iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, DriveThruFiction, and OmniLit, and it'll be coming soon to Barnes & Noble (it's been submitted; just waiting for the people there to do whatever it is they do to make it go live). Beneath the Canyons finishes its 90-day term in Select early next week, and will be going wide as well. The release of Bad Hunting has been delayed because I lost about a month of work time between the run-up to Thanksgiving and the start of the new year, but it works out because it should be coming out a couple weeks after Beneath the Canyons goes wide and will be available on all my current sales channels, hopefully giving both books a nice visibility boost.
I'm also looking into adding some new channels, including Google Play (tricky because they do a lot of discounting, which Amazon then price-matches, even to the point of making a book free when you don't want it to be free), and setting up direct sales from my site. Also tricky because of the wild and wacky world of sales taxes and VAT, but there are some shopping cart sites I'm looking into that handle the tax stuff. Right now, getting Bad Hunting ready for release and getting back on track on my writing schedule is the first priority, but I hope to be able to get these expanded sales channels set up before too long.
Update: The Warrior and the Holy Man is now available on Barnes & Noble. The cover image, however, is not. Hopefully they'll fix that soon; B&N tends to be kind of laggy with updates.
Updated Update: The awesome cover of The Warrior and the Holy Man is now showing on B&N. Yay!
I don't usually blog about other blog posts, especially not posts directed more at writers than at readers, but this is too good to pass up.
Right now, Amazon, which really opened up the possibilities for independent authors with its invention of the Kindle (the first really usable e-reader) and Kindle Direct Publishing (Smashwords also gets credit for starting the independent author revolution, but it was Amazon that brought it mainstream) is involved in difficult negotiations with one of the Big 5 publishers (Hachette). The news media (which in large part is owned by the same giant international comglomerates that own the Big 5 publishers) has been in an anti-Amazon frenzy, spouting out ridiculous claims about how Amazon means the end of literature and ideas and civilization and life the universe and EVERYTHING!!!
Passive Guy is an IP (intellectual property) and contracts lawyer with a special interest in independent writing and publishing and in the disruptive technology and business practices that make this revolution possible. His blog is a must-read for independent authors. Here is part of his response to the frenzy:
As independent authors arise, empowered by Amazon’s democratic commons of ideas, PG says we’re looking at a renaissance of American literature, an upheaval that is shoving the suits out and putting authors back in charge of the art they create.
You can read the whole thing, along with quotes from the article that inspired this response, here:
For readers, the independent author revolution means more books, less expensive books, a wider variety of books - not just what the sales departments at the publishing companies decide they can market, access to previously out-of-print books whose authors have gotten their rights back (often at great time, expense, and stress), continuation of series that were cancelled by publishers, easier and more convenient access to books in a variety of formats, and closer interaction with authors. Big publishing does not see readers as their customers; their customers are the book distributors and the big chain bookstores. The independent author revolution is good for readers, good for authors, good for everyone except those with a vested interest in preserving the old, bloated, exclusionary, wasteful way of doing things.
I've been thinking about this post since reading Dean Wesley Smith's post on setting writing goals for 2014. This year got off to a rocky start for me; I had an abnormal EKG a week before Christmas, which was kind of alarming, and I've been dealing with tests and a lot of anxiety since then. Everything is still inconclusive so far, but right now it looks like we're not dealing with anything immediately dangerous; most likely it's nothing serious, or we've caught something more long-term serious in the early stages.
Getting this glimpse of my own mortality had the contradictory effects of making it hard to make future plans and goals (who can make plans for the future when they're afraid they're going to drop dead at any moment?) (seriously, I'm a terrible hypochondriac) and making me really zero in on what I want to accomplish in my life. The main thing I realized, besides wondering who would make the Christmas fudge and homemade dinner rolls at our house if I wasn't around (getting alarming health news right before Christmas really sucks) is that I would be extremely bummed out were I to shuffle off the mortal coil before getting Daughter of the Wildings out. I've instructed my husband that should something happen to me, DoW is to be made available however seems best at the time - put up for sale, or just posted for free, or whatever. The problem is, as it is right now, still in rough draft, it kind of sucks. It's not terrible, but there are parts that make me cringe or that are just plain wrong, and I really don't want it to go out into the world this way.
So, with that as my focus, and now that I'm not quite so convinced that I'm going to drop dead at any moment *knock on wood*, here are my plans and goals for the coming year.
Although Sarya's Song is the next book scheduled to come out, I'm going to be spending most of my work hours on the initial revision of Daughter of the Wildlings. DoW is a huge project, nearly 300,000 words, and if I'm going to get it released on any kind of schedule, it needs to take priority. This shuffling of priorities will mean that the release of Sarya's Song may be delayed a bit. I'm hoping for a February release, but it may take until March.
My target for releasing the first DoW book, Beneath the Canyons, is June, though that may be a bit optimistic. The plan is to get all six books to where once I start releasing the series, a new book can come out about every other month.
Once Sarya's Song is out and DoW is well under way towards being released, there are a couple of different areas I'm thinking I'll turn my attention to. One is a couple of partially-written novels set in Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara. I also had a reviewer say they wished Chosen was a trilogy instead of one book, because they wanted more backstory on some of the characters and events. Rewriting Chosen as a trilogy isn't going to happen - I just don't feel it that way - but I'd like to do a set of stories giving some of the backstory the reviewer mentioned they'd like to know more about. Maybe I'll make this a Camp NaNo project in April or July. And the very first novel I ever wrote, Prince of the Trozdozh, and its sequel are sitting on my hard drive, calling out to me. I think they're probably salvageable, so I want to run them through my revision process and see it they really are something I can release to the public.
As far as production goals, right now I can't really set a word count goal. By the end of the year I aim to have released 5 novels (Sarya's Song and the first four Daughter of the Wildings novels) and at least one short story collection (the Chosen of Azara companion stories). I had five releases in 2013, so six releases in 2014 sounds like a good progression.
And, onward. Happy New Year, everyone! May it be happy and productive and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises.
Just a few miscellaneous things to talk about. First of all, I have the preview files for the cover of Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings on my computer now. Cover art reveal coming up tomorrow!
Also watch for The Tales of Haveshi Yellowcrow and Latan the Scholar to be posted here soon. They'll be available free on the site for a limited time before I publish them with the Kindle Select program on Amazon.
The Lost Book of Anggird is now available in the iTunes store. Still waiting on Barnes & Noble and Sony. I've also added buy links to the Diesel ebook store, which is kind of a neat setup. If you aren't wedded to one of the device-specific ebook stores, you might want to give it a look. Of course, my ebooks are all non-DRM, so they can easily be moved between as many devices as you want, and also converted from mobi into epub format and vice versa.
The paperback of The Lost Book of Anggird is now available from Amazon and CreateSpace. The paperback editions of my novels are also available online from Barnes & Noble, but, in all honesty, I get paid a lot more if you buy them from Amazon or CreateSpace. Still, if Barnes & Noble is your favorite online bookstore, you can get my paperbacks there.
Speaking of paperbacks, Amazon has a cool new program, Matchbook, where if you buy the paper version of a book that's enrolled in the program, you can get the Kindle version at a discounted price. I've enrolled all my novels in the program, which means that if you buy the paperback version of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, or The Lost Book of Anggird, you can get the Kindle version for only 99 cents! Buy the paperback for a gift and the ebook for yourself, or just buy both for yourself :D
If you're wondering where the Kobo links went, I've taken my books down from Kobo for now, as a protest against an event that came to be known in the self-publishing community as "Kobogeddon." It's a long story, but, basically, Kobo equated self-published books with pornography and pulled all self-published books from their UK outlets while leaving house-published porn on the shelves. My boycott isn't because I have the least bit of sympathy for the purveyors of really sickening varieties of porn whose scummy gaming of the system triggered this event; quite the opposite - I resent Kobo smearing me and the hugely vastly vast majority of independent authors who don't write porn with that brush. Kobo is slowly making the books that aren't actually pornographic available for sale again, so I'll eventually go back with them, once I've decided they've suffered enough for lack of my books.
Finally, don't forget to sign up for my email updates to stay informed of new releases and special offers!
Been working hard; time for a progress update.
The Lost Book of Anggird is on the final line/copy editing round. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. After that comes the proofread and formatting, and I anticipate being able to release it sometime during the later part of October. Watch for previews and book extras as the release date draws near!
The first major revision of Sarya's Song is a little more than halfway done. I'll start scaring up some test readers for it soon, and plan to be able to send it out to them later in September. It's hard to say for sure this far back, but I'm probably looking at a February release for that one.
The draft of Book 5 of Daughter of the Wildings is getting close to finished. I should be able to wrap that up this week, then get right to work on Book 6. As I've said before, the plan with this series is to get all the books written, then revise them all as one unit to get the storyline and everything consistent throughout. When I first wrote Beneath the Canyons, I didn't intend for it to turn into a series; I'd always thought of myself as a writer of stand-alone novels. But at the end of that book, even though the storyline was resolved, Silas and Lainie were in worse trouble than they started out in, so of course the story had to continue! The series has developed in some ways I wasn't expecting - some things I thought were important early on have turned out not to be so important (so far, at least - we'll see how things go in Book 6), while other things I didn't think were important have turned out to be major parts of the overall series storyline. So, there's still a lot of work to do there. Can't say for sure, but I'm hoping to start releasing the series in Spring 2014. At that point all the books will be written and will have been through the first major revision and the test readers, so I'm hoping for no more than a couple of months in between releases of each book in the series.
(And yes, if you're counting, I'm working on three novels at once right now. I think I'm probably out of my mind.)
Also, I just got a look at a preliminary version of the cover for Daughter of the Wildings Book 3, which is now titled The Rancher's Daughter. Thrilling, I know, but it has more layers of meaning than it looks like. I reserve the right to change it if I think of something better. This cover is going to be super cool.
While I'm on the subject, I want to say that of all the fun, awesome, cool things about being an independent author, working with my two amazing cover artists has been one of the funnest, awesomest, coolest things of all! Design by Katt and me-illuminated (Mominur Rahman) have both been great to work with, and I highly recommend them to other authors looking for custom cover art.
And a reminder, to be informed of new releases and if I have a sale or free coupon or something, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter! I'm too lazy and too busy to spam; you'll only get emails when I release a new book or am having a special on my books.
Something I read recently has led me to musing on Lucie's character development in Chosen of Azara. Lucie was kind of a risky character to write, and very difficult to get right (assuming I got her right). In fantasy, young noblewomen who go off on adventures are usually spunky and rebellious and seize eagerly at the chance to run off somewhere and do exciting and dangerous things. But with Lucie, I wanted to do something different - something that is pretty much the complete opposite of almost every fantasy heroine I've ever heard of.
Lucie is pretty happy with the way things are and the life she has. She does have a bit of a free-spirited streak that pushes the bounds of convention and propriety, but she is willing (though somewhat reluctantly so) to accept the reasons why one day she will need to give up the things she enjoys doing. She also has the occasional complaint about her fiance, Estefan, but she understands that in her society, marriage is about a lot more than the whims of the heart. In spite of her "eccentricities," she wants to do what's right and proper and expected of her and to be a credit to her family. She wants the handsome husband, the beautiful house, the fashionable clothes, the social standing. She is looking forward to devoting her life to raising her children and managing her household.
And then the dream, the things she wants and that she's always been taught that she should want, starts to fall apart at the same time that she's presented with an alternative that, according to everything she's been raised to believe, is unthinkable, that would cost her her family, her friends, her reputation, and everything that's important to her. Lucie finds herself in a quandary: cling to what she believes is right and important, for the sake of her and her family's name and reputation and her own security, or throw everything away and take a leap into the unknown. Either option requires more courage and resolve than Lucie possesses at the beginning of her story, and a major part of Lucie's story is watching her find the courage to do what her heart insists is, in the end, the right thing to do.
I knew I was taking a chance of turning off readers with a character who seems weak, who wants to be proper and conventional, who is not only indecisive but outright offended when the handsome stranger says, "Throw everything away and come on my quest with me," and who wants to cling to the life she has even as it becomes increasingly clear that that life is detrimental to her. But it's a common source of conflict and growth in the real world: the person who hates their boring cubicle job but is afraid to quit because then how will they pay the bills? Or the person who hangs on to the same circle of friends they've known since junior high even though those friends aren't progressing beyond a junior-high mentality and the person wants bigger and better things out of life but they're afraid to leave those friends behind because what if they never make any new friends? Or the woman who can't bring herself to leave a bad relationship because what will she do once she's out on her own?
We see spunky, rebellious, and strong-willed all the time in fantasy. With Lucie, I wanted to start with a character who is the opposite of that and show her growth into, not necessarily spunky and rebellious, but strong-willed and courageous enough to do what her heart is telling her is the right thing to do, no matter the pressures on her from other people or the consequences to herself.
So that's the character growth part of this post. As for learning curves, that's my part.
The great thing about being an independent author is that you're in charge of every aspect of your book, from what you write about in the first place to the final presentation. It's amazing to have that much control, but also involves learning a lot of new things. And one of those things is book covers.
Book covers (though with ebooks what you're talking about is an image that represents the book on a website or on your ereader) are a hugely important tool for drawing attention to a book. They need to be eye-catching, attractive, and convey a good sense of what the book is about. For authors who publish with traditional publishing companies, the art/marketing departments take care of all that, and sometimes they do a good job and sometimes they don't. (Caution: any and all of those links may be NSFW. Brain bleach available in aisle 2.) Either way, the author generally has little if any input into or approval over what goes on the front of their book.
Independent authors have the opposite problem: It's all up to us. We have to think of the concept and then license or commission the appropriate images. And it isn't easy to think of a single image to represent your whole book. One character? Multiple characters? Just a landscape? An object? A literal representation of a scene in the book or something more general? It's mind-boggling if you aren't used to doing this, and sometimes it takes trial and error.
With Chosen of Azara, I wanted something representing one or more of the characters (I very much prefer book covers with pictures of the characters), and something representing the cove of Azara or another aspect of the magic in the book. I fiddled around with pictures of various crystals and necklaces, trying to get the magical talisman that is an important object in the book, but that didn't go anywhere. Finally I settled on a picture of someone who sort of looked like Lucie, and a picture of a rocky ocean cove, and tried putting them together, with results I wasn't entirely happy with.
When I went looking for a cover artist for the Daughter of the Wildings series, I came across Design by Katt and fell in love with her fantasy portraits of women. I knew I'd found just the artist I needed to turn my Chosen of Azara cover concept into something wonderful. And she did - she took my original images and concept and did a gorgeous job with them. Her rendition of Lucie captures Lucie perfectly.
It's a gorgeous cover and I love it, but I started feeling like maybe my concept doesn't really represent what Chosen of Azara is really about. Lucie is only one main character of three in the book, and the main main character is actually Sevry. So I started thinking he should be on the cover. As well, just having Lucie on the cover doesn't convey the dark, angsty, romantic, adult (as in grownup, not as in porno) nature of the book - it looks more like a Young Adult book, or maybe fantasy with a chick-lit-ish twist. So, reluctantly, I came to the conclusion that my original concept was a misfire.
In the meantime, as I saw more of Katt's work and as she did the lucious cover of Sarya's Song, I came to realize what a really skilled and talented artist can do with photomanipulation and digital painting. It was okay if I couldn't find a photo of two people who look exactly like my characters - the main things to look for were the basic physical type and the positioning. Everything else, hair color, hairstyle, even clothing and facial expression, can be altered. So I went browsing for stock images for a new cover and almost instantly came across the PERFECT picture to become Sevry and Lucie. I ran it by Katt and she roughed out an idea of what can be done with it, and oh my, it's going to be amazing! She's working on it even as I write this. :-D
So watch this space for the new cover for Chosen of Azara. Once I've revealed it here, I'll start uploading it to the various retailers where the book is available. The old cover isn't going away, though; it will still be around on the site, because I do think it's the perfect picture of Lucie.
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-Dean Wesley Smith
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Let's Get Digital
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