The Marketing Makeover Begins with a Book Cover Survey!

Part of the Book Marketing Makeover I mentioned last week has involved taking a long hard look at the books in my Osteria Chronicles series and accepting that, although the books themselves are well written, the covers and descriptions don’t quite cut the proverbial mustard. So, over the past several weeks, I’ve been studying other books in my genre (Greek/Roman historical fantasy) in preparation to relaunch the series.

Relaunch? But Didn’t You Just Launch Book Three?

Yes, The Maze (Book Three) only came out a month ago, but even before the launch something was eating at me about the current books. Mainly, if you look at my books there is really no cohesion to them to alert you to the fact that they are a series (other than similar font), you can’t tell what genre they belong to (I’ve had more than one person ask if they were history books), and the descriptions lack a punch.

After listening to several marketing podcasts and reading Chris Fox’s Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist, I realized this cover conundrum (and the lackluster descriptions) may be playing a big part in the reason my books aren’t selling. And believe me, it was a hard truth to accept. But once I embraced this notion, I’ve been all over trying to resolve it!

So, although it’s taken me a long time to admit, my books are in desperate need of a makeover including new titles for some, a new look, and new descriptions.

Ye Olde Booke Covers

We’ll get to the description makeover in a few weeks, but this week is all about book covers (in case the big bold title above didn’t clue you into that). And, as always when it comes to covers, I would LOVE your input on the designs I’ve come up with.

Comparing Myself to Others

Sometimes it’s bad to compare yourself to others in your field, but at other times it’s necessary. This is especially true in self-publishing when you need to see what’s out there, what’s popular, and what readers are expecting.

Step One of the relaunch/makeover was to go to Amazon, go to my genre, and pick a few covers from the top sellers that really grabbed my eye. From these I could get an understanding of the fonts used, the imagery, and what magic i could work based on their style.

A few of my favorites were these…

The covers that most caught my eye and made me want to know more about the books all have some central figure – usually a guy dressed in legionary-esque battle gear – and bold, clear font. None had a ship, none have columns (except as a background), none have a stone maze, and you could tell every book in a series belonged to that series.

Now that I knew what I needed, it was time to start designing. By the way, during this process I had to look at photo after photo after photo of hunky guys dressed (barely) as fighting Romans/Greeks. I know, tough job, but someone has to do it.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

At the end of the post is a little survey asking your opinion on which of these designs (or collection of designs) you like best and that you think best matches the genre conventions I’ve shown above. So, as you look over the next section I need you to keep in mind a few things…

  • These are mock ups which means fonts may not be perfectly lined up (most should be centered) and the images may need a little nudge up or down, or some tone adjustments.
  • These have not been purchased which means there are watermarks on them. It can be hard but try to look past the “Canva” and grid marks on some and the word “Copyright” on others.
  • I want all six books in the series to have a VERY cohesive look. This means the images will be similar and the font will be in the same place for all six.
  • I will be re-namiing Books Two and Three to have the same number of words as Book One and Four (so all books will be The Something of SomethingThe Trials of Hercules, The Bonds of Osteria, the Battle of Ares, etc)
  • Because I haven’t yet chosen new titles for Books 2 & 3, I’ve just used The Trials of Hercules as a placeholder title for ALL the designs. Designs you see grouped together are the covers in ONE design group, I’ll later replace the titles.
  • Remember that these will most likely be seen as thumbnail-sized images so they need to have a punch at that size.

Enough pre-amble, let’s get on with….

The Designs!!!

My absolute favorite of the covers I came across was The Realms of God one above. I loved the clean look (and the number of words closely matched my titles). Working in a warrior type guy into the design, I came up with Design A.

Design A

There are several similar images of “Warrior Guy with Red Cape,” so there’s no problem maintaining the look of these covers for all six books (I’ve only shown three).

But maybe people want a better look at my warrior/gladiator. Using the style of the other three comparison books, I played around with Design B…

Design B – sorry, I cropped my name a bit when taking the screen shot of the right hand one

Then there’s Design C in which I ditched the centering and tossed the words over to the side…

Design C

Once I got tired of going the comparison-book route, I started flipping through the templates on Canva. On 123rf.com I’d found a gob of cool silhouettes of Spartan helmets and fighters and thought these could work into a cover design of some sort, which resulted in Design D…

Design D

I do really like this, but am afraid it might be a bit too comic-booky for the rather somber tone of the Osteria Chronicles.

Sticking with the abstract look, I tried this one on for size (each book in the series would have a different colored background). Meet Design E…

Design E

I worry that this one, while I love how bold and eye-catching it is, says nothing about the genre, but I’ll let you leave your thoughts on it.

Your Opinions Please

If you’re short on time (and who isn’t this time of year), I’d love it if you could just take half a second and tick a circle in the survey below letting me know which design you found most eye-catching and genre appropriate (again, that’s Greek/Roman historical fantasy).

Note: if you’re in WordPress Reader or reading this in your email, you may need to go to this post on my website to respond…just click the post title to get there)

If you have more time, please do leave a comment telling me your thoughts on the designs (what works for you, what doesn’t). I appreciate ALL your input!!!

I’ll have the results next Wednesday and will hopefully have those new titles sorted out to share with you. And, as promised, Finn McSpool and I will be back Saturday with our waxy wonders from the beehive! See you then!!

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Limited Time Offer!!

Oh, sorry about that super sleazy salesman title, but I’ve been listening to hours upon hours of marketing podcasts and yesterday’s listening binge ended with the sage advice, “Putting ‘Limited Time Offer’ at the top of any sale is the best way to boost interest.” I mean, no one likes to miss out, right?

But it’s true. We’re nearing the final days of my own limited time offer. So if you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, you better get your cyber-shopping fingers moving by 30 November because time’s a tickin’ to  pick up both The Maze  and The Trials of Hercules for only 99 cents each…that’s over 65% off the retail price!! Continue reading

Prepping a Pre-Order Despite Finn’s Flamenco

Here’s the deal…I did have a terrific post planned all about Finn McSpool’s recent adventures in my kitchen (the room will never be the same, I swear). Unfortunately, the vagaries of Amazon.com shipping means the final tool needed for the project he began weeks ago STILL hasn’t arrived.

However, Finn wasn’t going to miss out on his spot of weekly fame. Seeing me at the computer yesterday and feeling like he’d been missing out on some mischief lately, he ran over to lend a paw with what I was doing…and insisted I take photos to show off how “helpful” he was being.

I can see my productivity declining already.

Of course Finn’s version of assistance quickly degraded into him using my keyboard for a Beastie version of Dance Dance Revolution. Continue reading

osteria chronicles four

Book Four Has a Title…I Think

That’s right, I have a title for Book Four of the Osteria Chronicles. I know, this is shocking news because I normally have nothing more than a working title (something super clever like, say, “Book Four”) up until the very final drafts of a book. But this time around, I’m trying something a little different, so I needed a title ASAP.

And oddly enough, on the surface, this book was the most challenging to title.

The Tale of a Title

Because there are simply so many story lines happening in this book it wasn’t easy to pick one overriding myth such as the trials of Hercules in Book One, the voyage of the Argonauts in Book Two, or Theseus in the Minoan maze with the minotaur in Book Three. In Book Four many of the story lines from the first three books come into play as well as several new ones in order to bring about the events that lead up to Book Five (and eventually Book Six).

The old school cut and paste method of story creation

These new story lines include the myths of Perseus pursuing Medusa, Bellerophon’s battle against the Chimera, Helen and Paris’s and Menelaus’s love triangle, plus my own additions to add more layers and depth to the myths and overall series plot such as the titans joining together, the gods not playing nicely with each other (when do they ever), and the personal struggles of the heroes you’ve met in Books One through Three.

In other words, picking a title was no easy thing.

Thankfully, Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties (aka “Finn McSpool’s creator”), reminded me of some sage advice: Examine the themes of the book to develop your title.

Themes? What, is this high school English class? Ugh, I never did well on those theme-related essay tests.

But her advice did get me thinking about all the many things going on in the book. My initial idea was Rise of the Titans, but that really didn’t convey anything about the other story lines. The Fall of Heroes also came to mind, but there’s really no heroes crashing and burning in this book no matter how cruelly I treat my characters.

Something that did unite the many story lines, though, were bonds. The titans are bonding together. there are bonds of friendship and trust being broken, and bonds of marriage being entered into (unwisely in many cases) to name a few. And so, The Bonds of Osteria was born. Hopefully, that title doesn’t have too much of an S&M ring to it, but then again, I may lure in a new audience!

Fantasy/S&M mash-up, anyone?

Why the Rush?

Recently I’ve been studying A LOT of book marketing and how to move forward with my career in writing (more on where that’s headed in a few weeks), and one of the tips is to have a looooonnnnngggg pre-order time period.

The pre-orders generated during this time are supposed to boost your launch day rankings which makes the online retailers’ search algorithms go all atwitter for your book. I haven’t had much success with pre-orders in the past, but those pre-orders were typically only set up six weeks out from launch day. If I get myself in gear and get Bonds up within the next couple weeks, I’ll have a six MONTH pre-launch pre-oder period.

And while you can set up a pre-order without actually having a completed manuscript to upload (called an “assetless preorder”), you do need a title to generate the book’s retail page. At least now I’ve got the first step done.

There’s Even a Cover!

Or at least a temporary one. Although you can set up an assetless preorder without a cover, I think more people would be drawn to the book’s listing if there was at least a temporary cover.

Done quickly via KDP Cover Creator (which has a surprising number of options to play with) using a photo I had downloaded for The Maze’s promo stuff, here’s what I came up with…


osteria chronicles four

Despite only being a play-around/temporary cover, I do like the impression of walls at the edges (since many of the cities in Osteria are walled) and was really excited when I came across the font. This doesn’t match the covers of Books One through Three at all, but since I’m planning on making all new covers for the whole series within the next month or so, the difference in styles is fine for now.

Phew, for only wanting to announce a four-word title, this has turned into an incredibly long post! I’ll be back Saturday with whatever Finn has been up to this week, and next Wednesday I’ll have some (sort of) sad news to share. See you then!

What do you think of the title? Does it make you curious about the book? Or do you think I should go with one of the other two I came up with? 

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Get your copy of The Maze today….
For e-book fans and bargain hunters….

From now through the end of the month you can get The Trials of Hercules (Book One) and The Maze (Book Three) for only 99 cents each. Clicking on the books’ titles above will take you to a handy dandy site with direct links to all your favorite ebook retailers. 

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For those of you who love the feel of a real book, or who are perhaps looking for a great gift for a fan of epic fantasy or historical fantasy fiction….

From now through the end of the year you can get all three books in the series for only $30 (plus shipping*). That’s over $13 off the retail price!! To get this deal, just email me, let me know you’re interested, and we can proceed from there (I promise, it’s very easy and relatively painless).

Want to Help a Writer? Leave a Review!!

Now that The Maze: Book Three of the Osteria Chronicles has been unleashed on the world. It’s time for me to remind all you lovely book readers out there just how important book reviews are and how helpful they can be to give a writer a boost.

And I’m not talking about an ego boost (okay, maybe a little ego boost). Here’s just a handful of ways taking a couple minutes to leave a review can help an author…

  • It can encourage a writer. Sure as a writer you have to be self-motivated or you’re never going to get a book published. Still, if my stepsister hadn’t told me how much she enjoyed Books One and Two of The Osteria Chronicles and how much she was looking forward to Book Three, that Book Three may not have existed. I was so disheartened with writing at that point and so frustrated with the manuscript for what would eventually become The Maze that I was about ready to give up on the series. Even though it was only one person’s words, they were enough to drive me back to that pesky manuscript.

  • It provides another tool for authors to promote their work. It’s a bit tacky to post “Buy My Book!!” ten thousand times a day on social media, but it’s perfectly acceptable to post a snippet of a reader’s raving review….especially if you doll it up using a fancy-schmancy quote creator like I did with this one…

  • It helps other readers. If you were sifting through the “shelves” on Amazon and saw two books for the same price and one had fifty reviews while the other had no reviews, which one are you likely going to click on first to learn more? In most cases, you’ll check out the one with more reviews. It’s not to say the book with no reviews is worse than the one with fifty reviews (in fact, it may be better), but with our limited time and limited budgets we’re more inclined to go with books that have proven themselves to be worth reading.

Continue reading