Category Archives: Publishing

Going Wide – A Post For My Author Friends

Oct 18, 2016

I’m going to start this blog post with the thesis statement. If you read nothing else, read this:

Going wide is not a magic bullet means of staging a protest against Amazon because you don’t like recent KU payouts! It’s a long-term strategy for diversification that requires long-term effort, patience, and above all, a plan.

There. Whew! As long as we understand that, this blog post is going to go well.

I am a firm believer in the idea that it’s better to have as many books in wide distribution as possible than to keep all of your eggs in one basket. Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more of my fellow authors either thanking the heavens that they are and have been wide from day one, or wishing and lamenting that they didn’t owe so much of their career to the mostly fickle whims (and occasional cringe-worthy errors) of The Great and Powerful ‘Zon. Building a career in which your books are available on every platform where readers want to read them is ideal, but there are some definite things to watch out for if you’re about to jump into the wide transition.

THIS:  Don't do it!

THIS: Don’t do it!
Courtesy of Madison Gostkowski, via Flickr Creative Commons

Facts are facts. Amazon just IS about 60% of the eBook market. On a good day. Now, that number might be way higher for some and way lower for others, but on average, I think it’s still about 60%. Maybe even more. Honestly, I think for me, Amazon represents about 85% of my book sales. The key is that those are flat-out sales, not page reads that net a fluctuating amount of money based on other people’s page reads or are subject to bizarre technical problems (like the one that seems to be a problem right now). Sales are much more dependable than page reads, and depending on the length of your book, net you more income than all the pages of your book would.

So if you have been exclusive to Amazon and put your books wide, you will no longer collect on page reads, but you will have the steadier income of Amazon’s 70% (or 35%) royalty rate per buy.

Sounds obvious, but I feel the need to state it. Because one key factor to consider in the decision to take your books into wide distribution is to do a little math and figure out if the total income from your page reads is more or less than, say, 15% of your sales royalties. If the amount you are making on page reads is less than 15% of what you’re making overall for royalty sales, you might not find yourself screaming at the end of the month when all the sales numbers come in.

Different genres perform differently on different devices. As a general rule, historical and sweet do better on Amazon, and contemporary and spicy do better in wide distribution. Though my recent personal observations are that they all do about the same on Barnes & Noble. (But B&N these days is a whole other, weird story). If you’re a sweet historical western writer, you might find yourself with a bit of an uphill struggle if you’re going wide. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

I have a theory about why this is the case. It has to do with audience demographics. Amazon has made Kindle eReaders really affordable. You can get a Kindle Fire for about $50 if you catch a promo. Conversely, iPads cost around $399 for the cheap models these days. Barnes & Noble has sort of given up on the Nook—although you can get one for about $129—and are pushing Samsung tablets, which start at $139, on their site. You can get a Kobo eReader for as little as $89, but Kobo does most of its business in Canada and other English-speaking countries. Things being what they are, in a general sense, readers who love sweet and historical books are often from more rural areas and have tighter budgets, whereas readers who indulge in the steamy contemporary stuff tend to be from more urban areas where people are into flashy gadgets.

That’s a HUGE generalization, btw. Another factor in Amazon’s market dominance is that they started the eBook revolution and have strategically marketed Kindles for years more than the competition. Plus, if iPad owners are anything like me, they spend more time playing games on those puppies than reading books.

So whether everything I’ve heard and am assuming is gospel truth or not, the facts remain—sweet and historical do well on Amazon, steamy and contemporary to well everywhere else.

Courtesy of Susan Schultz, via Flickr

Courtesy of Susan Schultz, via Flickr Creative Commons

If you build it, they will come…as long as you put a LOT of effort into getting them to go there. Which of course is the thing that everyone wants to know the most about and figure out. How do you get readers to find your books on other platforms besides Amazon?

Man, I wish I had a perfect answer for that! I can only start by telling you what other platforms don’t quite have the same way Amazon does—algorithms. Sure, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo (and maybe Google Play, but I know virtually nothing about them because their pricing policy scares the *%#^$%#! out of me) DO have “Also Bought” sections, but I don’t know if they work quite the same way as the ones on Amazon do. They have categories that you can search through, but books don’t end up ranking the same way they do at Amazon, and for some of those sites, searching through the categories is an exercise in frustration.

So if you can’t rely on the sites themselves to position your books in such a way that readers can find them, how do you get readers to find them?

In a way, the answer is “The same way you get readers to find them on Amazon.” Through targeted promotions, newsletters, and Facebook ads. You have to target them specifically for each of the other retailers, though. For example, with a Facebook ad, you’ll want to have a specific Facebook ad that targets iBooks readers (or B&N or Kobo, etc.) and you’ll want to make those links available. And as with everything else, scoring a BookBub ad with links to all of those retailers does wonders for your visibility on those platforms. Same goes for those other promotional sites and newsletters.

Now, there’s one new thing that Kobo is doing that may or may not end up being helpful there. They’ve recently started beta-testing a promotions tab, which will lead to select books being featured on a special page on their site. It’s something you have to ask them for, though. My friend Angela Quarrels wrote a whole blog post about that, so I’ll send you over to her. (P.S. Her post is part of an entire series about, you guessed it, going wide!) But I can tell you that I emailed them, they put me in the program, and I have my first test in those waters at the end of November. I’ll let you know how that goes!

One other thing that is probably going to get me in deep trouble with someone… If you happen to find yourself at a conference and are able to set up an appointment with the iBooks rep, that’s always worth a shot. But honestly, I met with them a couple of times, they promised me the moon, and I got literally nothing. It hasn’t endeared me to their process all that much.

But really, at the end of the day, it’s a long-game. As I said, I highly, highly recommend going wide with as many books as possible, but it takes exponentially longer to build up a fan-base on other platforms than it does on Amazon. If you’re thinking of going wide because you’re fed up with Amazon and you imagine that the moment you put your book up for sale on other platforms you will see a similar amount of sales immediately…um, it ain’t gonna happen. I know one writer who got fed up with Amazon, pulled her books from KU, put them wide, and then was massively disappointed when she “only” sold a couple dozen copies elsewhere on her first day wide. (This was a few years ago) I had a hard time not laughing. Selling any copies wide right out of the gate is a very good thing!

Yes, go wide. But go into it with lower expectations. Remember that it takes longer to build an audience on other platforms than it does to build one on Amazon. You have to put the effort in, seek out promotions, and invest time in making them work. But once things do start to work, the benefits are awesome. No more reliance on Amazon’s page counts and the corresponding snafus! Higher royalties for the books that you actually sell on Amazon instead of page reads! And sales from other platforms which can serve as a buffer for the Weirdness of the ‘Zon! But it is work, and it’s not right for every book every time. I still have my sweet historicals in KDP Select. But one of the reasons I’m trying to move away from sweet is so that the books I’m writing will have greater sticking power on those other platforms.

It’s an ever-changing business, and those who survive are the ones who seek out opportunities and change as everything else changes.

If you have questions about something I didn’t cover, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer!

Writing Spicy and Sweet

Sep 20, 2016

sweet-spicyA lot of people who have read my Brides of Paradise Ranch series have been intrigued by the fact that I’ve been doing both a sweet and a spicy version of each book. People love the idea of being able to choose which heat-level they’d like to read, but I’m often asked “How do you do that? How do you write two versions?” 

The first and most important part of the answer to that question is that I start out knowing that I’m going to be writing two versions all the way in the conceptualization phase.  

But let me back up a little bit further to answer the question of why I started doing this in the first place.  

I generally write spicy. I like to write spicy. I like to read spicy. Not erotica, mind you, but sizzling. When I first started reading romance novels all those years ago, I read spicy pirate romance novels. That level of spice just seems natural to me. But as I started writing historical westerns (and I never intended to write historical westerns when I started out, it happened by accident—but that’s a whole other blog post), I came to see that a lot of readers preferred the sweet stuff. And I’ll confess, I looked at the success of my sweet historical western-writing friends and thought, “Well, I’m trying to make a living off of this, and I’ve got to pay the bills somehow.” 

So I decided to give sweet a try…without sacrificing the spice. Because anyone who knows me knows that the spicy side is a huge part of who I am. =D 

Back to how I do it… HisHeartbrokenBride_Libby

Like I said, I know going into a spicy/sweet novel that it’s going to have two versions. I thought about going back and rewriting some of my older books in sweet versions, but it didn’t take long to realize that it wouldn’t work. In so many of those books, major elements of the plot and the characters’ journeys center around what happens in the bedroom. It’s impossible to take that out without changing the focus of the plot entirely. 

So keeping that in mind, when I set out to write books with both sweet and spicy versions, I knew I had to include the spice in such a way that it wasn’t the pivot point of the plot. The major thrust of the action (no pun intended) had to focus around something that could still be told without following the characters into the bedroom. In other words, the tension of the plot needed to be something other than “will they or won’t they.” 

I think that plotting this way has actually made me a better writer. In the past, I’ve always considered external plots to be the weak point in my writing. Well, here I was writing stories that needed to depend on external plot rather than just the relationship between the hero and heroine. At the same time, that relationship has to play a major role in the story. After all, the spicy version wouldn’t work if the schmexy scenes felt tacked on or superfluous. 

That leaves me with a complex dilemma for each book. How do I write one version in which sensual scenes play a major part in character development without the entire plot hanging on them? And how can I remove those scenes and still maintain an intimacy between the characters while keeping the story sweet? 

HisTemptingBride_Miriam_2coversI think the answer lies in my process of writing. When I draft each of the Paradise Ranch books, I draft the spicy version. The first draft is spicy. Actually, the second and third drafts are too. Once I have everything just the way I want it, I send it off to my editor. And then I go back and start working on the sweet version while she works on the spicy one. 

The sweet version is all about subtracting and adding. I go through and take out everything non-sweet. Gone are the schmexy scenes, gone are any swear words or even references to alcohol. I have a kind of silly list of words that I do a search for when I’m writing that sweet version. But of course, most of the time if you take something out, you leave holes. That’s when I go back through and add many more Christian references and rewrite any sensual scenes to be emotionally powerful, fully-clothed, upright scenes. 

This is another area where preplanning is key. When I’m writing the schmexy scenes in the first draft, I always have a point where the action will veer off into the sweet scene in later drafts. I build that jumping off point into the draft to save myself the work of rewriting tons and tons of words later. I keep both versions in mind even as I’m spicing it up. 

Once the spicy draft comes back from my editor, I go through and make all the changes she suggests in both versions. After that, they go off to various proof-readers and beta-readers I have, depending on which draft they prefer. Once those come back, I make final changes and corrections, and voila! Two versions. 

I’ve had a lot of positive response from readers about the fact that two versions are available, even though they prefer one or the other. And I also get a lot of questions about whether I will be going back and writing sweet versions of my older books. The answer to that is no, it would be way too much work, and I’d rather focus on writing new books.  

HisBewilderingBride_Wendy_2coversThe second question I get is “Will you be doing sweet and spicy versions of new books/series?” That’s a much harder question to answer. Harder not because I have to think about my answer, but I’m afraid my answer will disappoint people. Because the answer is no. No, this series has taught me that I really do prefer writing spicy. It comes more naturally to me, and so I’ll be sticking with just the spicy in all new series. BUT, I’m going to continue to write both sweet and spicy versions of the Paradise Ranch series, and that has many, many, MANY more books to come! 

I want to add one final note before ending, though, based on a few private comments I’ve had from readers. I do not think sex is dirty. That’s why I will never refer to a sweet novel as “clean.” I take offense to that term. I don’t think sex is shocking or scandalous or evil, and especially not dirty. It’s a natural part of human relationships and intimacy. I don’t think it should be treated as an unmentionable topic, because I believe that that way lies dysfunction and fear. So all those 1-star reviews that say “This book has too much sex in it?” Those are like 6-star reviews to me! For those who like to leave those reviews, just know that those kinds of reviews sell more books than the best of the best 5-star reviews.

Check out all of the books in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series on my “Other Works by Merry Farmer” page!

$3,000 Big Romance Author Spring Giveaway!

Mar 31, 2016
Big Romance Author $3,000 Spring Giveaway April 1-30th, 2016.

Big Romance Author $3,000 Spring Giveaway April 1-30th, 2016.

Attention all awesome people! This month is a cool time to be a reader. 101 of your favorite authors contributed to one massive giveaway! Giveaway rules are listed on the rafflecopter. International peeps can play! Got any questions? Feel free to ask. There are 100 ways to enter for a maximum possible 500+ entries per person. The giveaway lasts the entire month of April, so come back every day and hammer away at a few more entries until you’re all done!

ONE PERSON WILL WIN $3,000 USD! That’s the biggest giveaway I’ve seen recently! Tell your buds! Don’t miss out. You’ll kick yourself if you miss this one.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Terms & conditions are listed on the rafflecopter. Read it for full details. The winner will be chosen on May 1, 2016 and contacted via the email address they used to enter. CHECK YOUR EMAIL! The winner’s name will also be posted on the rafflecopter widget above.

Participating Romance Authors:

101 different authors came together to make this giveaway possible. If you’ve been looking for a new book boyfriend, or you’re literally famished between your fave author’s releases, check out some of my peeps! They write in various hot romance genres including contemporary romance, new adult romance, erotic romance, steamy romance, urban fantasy romance, dystopian romance, historical romance, futuristic/ sci-fi/ fantasy romance, Teen/ YA romance, inspirational romance and time travel romance!

Big Romance Author $3,000 Spring Giveaway April 1-30th, 2016

Big Romance Author $3,000 Spring Giveaway April 1-30th, 2016

H.M. Ward
Kim Golden
Drew Jordan
Christi Caldwell
Scarlett Metal
Chris Almeida & Cecilia Aubrey
Heidi McLaughlin
Jenny Gardiner
Stacey Joy Netzel
Merry Farmer
Mallory Crowe
Julia Kent
Jean Oram
Vella Day
Meli Raine
Sherri Hayes
Jayne Rylon
Sarah M. Cradit
Erica Ridley
Christine Zolendz
Beverly Preston
Marquita Valentine
Melissa Storm
Dana Marton
Amy Bartol
Michelle Fox
Magan Vernon
Ainsley Booth
Venessa Kimball
Sidney Bristol
K.M. Scott
C.C.Wood
J.M. Miller
Zara Keane
Eliza Knight
L.P. Dover
Sadie Haller
Patricia McLinn
Suzanne Rock
Katherine Lowry Logan
Erin Richards
Tori Scott
Danielle Stewart
P.T. Michelle
Suzan Tisdale
T.M. Franklin
Evelyn Adams
S.E. Hall
Lauren Hawkeye
Josie Bordeaux
Melanie Marchande
Raci Ames
Catherine Gayle
Sam Cheever
J.M Cole
Brooke Blaine
Ella Frank
Allison Bell
Cristin Harber
Jacki Delecki
Tawdra Kandle
Sydney Logan
Laura Kaye
Laura Kamoie
Evie Harper
P.J. Fiala
Taylor Law
Pamela DuMond
D.L. Roan
Jenni Moen
LG Castillo
Rachel Schurig
Nina Levine
Rachel Hanna
Cheryl Bradshaw
Jessica Scott
Beth Yarnall
J.T. Geissinger
Stacey Mosteller
Kylie Gilmore
Maryann Jordan
Cari Quinn
Lauren Royal
Renea Mason
Christine Bell
Felicia Tatum
Fabio Bueno
RaShelle Workman
Nana Malone
Annika Martin
Sophia Knightly
Nikki Lynn Barrett
Marian Tee
Sarah Castille
Allyn Lesley
Ambrielle Kirk
Jami Davenport
Bonnie R. Paulson
Laura Stapleton
Kennedy Layne

TERMS & CONDITIONS:
Must be 18 years of age or older to win. No cash value. Void where prohibited. Open to international & US residents. *The winner will receive an e-gift card via PayPal in the amount of $3000USD for this prize.* Winner must have: 1. an email account, 2. may be requested to fill out additional paperwork for tax purposes, and 3. must have a PayPal account to accept the prize. We are not responsible for fees taken by PayPal for this transaction, nor are we in any way responsible for VAT and/ or taxes. We are not responsible for items damaged or lost in the e-mail. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. By entering you agree that we are in no way to be held liable for anything pertaining to this giveaway. Winner(s) will be contacted by email 72 hours after the giveaway ends. You must claim your prize within 48 hours or it is forfeited and another winner will be selected. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

PANIC! And Ways To Get Around It

Mar 15, 2016
Panic at the Disco

This is the only acceptable kind of panic!
image courtesy of BluEyedA73 via flickr creative commons

I’m going to be brutally honest with you. There is one thing that I can’t stand in life, the universe, and everything. And that thing is panic. Whether it’s people panicking about the fate of our country in this current election year, panicking because there’s a spider in the sink, or panicking because Amazon has changed the way they do this, that, or the other thing, panic for panic’s sake is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about elections, spiders, or Amazon. All three of those things are decidedly concerning (some more so than others). And I’m not saying that actions shouldn’t be taken to avert disaster. By all means, ACT. But do it with a level head. Go out and vote for the candidate you think will steer your country in the right direction (and not just in presidential elections—state and local elections are actually FAR more important than national ones, but that’s a topic for another day). Get a newspaper and swat that spider—or gently move it to a place where it won’t harm you.

And as for Amazon? Wait, watch, and plan accordingly. But by all means, don’t get your blood pressure up as you scream, tear your hair out, and wail that we’re all doomed. DOOMED!

Okay. To anyone who just asked “What is this Amazon thing we’re panicking about?” Congratulations, you’re a normal person and not a writer. But if you are a writer, chances are you’re tempted to go into high panic mode right now.

Amazon has two things going on that have people ready to shift into panic. First, they’re cracking down on eBooks that either don’t have a Table of Contents or that have one at the back of the book. Many authors do put their TOC at the back of the book, both because one of the formatting programs out there does that automatically and because moving the TOC to the back gives you more content up front for readers who click on the “Look Inside” option on the Amazon homepage while searching for books.

But the reason why The ‘Zon is cracking down is because there are scammers out there who are raking in the dough through the Kindle Unlimited program by throwing up (and I do mean that in both senses of the word) trash books of hack work or plagiarized content—hundreds and hundreds of pages of it per “book”—and including links at the front of the book, sending readers straight to the last page so that they collect literally tens of thousands of dollars in false page reads.

This is bad. Amazon is trying to combat it (in spite of what nay-sayers assume about The ‘Zon not really caring. I think they care, but this is an enormous problem, and I don’t think they have the manpower, or enough magic wands, to tackle it and make it go away INSTANTLY, like we serious authors would like).

Non-panicked solution: Fix the TOC in your books. It took me less than a minute to fix the one they sent me a notice about. You lose space for that “Look Inside,” but you gain…well, not having Amazon send you nastygrams.

The other thing that has people in a panicky tizzy over at Amazon is their efforts to investigate the possibility of selling used eBooks. (Note the key words in that phrase: Their efforts to investigate the possibility—it’s nowhere near being a sure thing, as a certain newsletter would have you believe) That is exactly what it sounds like. A reader buys an eBook. They read it. They resell it on some Amazon-operated market. I used to do that all the time with paperbacks at my local used book store.

Authors are panicked because this would seriously cut into their profits. It totally would. IF readers actually jump on the bandwagon and list their books for resale once they’re purchased. IF Amazon is able to get all of the permissions they need and get past the new copyright laws which are being debated this year. IF it becomes something that makes sense for readers to do. There are a lot of ifs involved in this whole used eBook equation. And as far as I know, Amazon is still just looking into it. I also read somewhere that it would only be books in the KU program. Not sure about that.

So what do we do, panic??? Do we panic now???

NO!

Non-panicked solution: Avoid KU. Distribute your books as wide as possible. Put effort into marketing to iBooks and Kobo. Um, I’d say Nook too, but I think Nook is about to go under. For real this time.

Sub-solution: Authors, stop giving away Kindles as giveaway prizes! This is not rocket science. The reason Amazon sells so many eBooks is because they deliberately and calculatedly got as many Kindles into the hands of as many readers as possible. Amazon sells Kindles WAY below the cost of production, specifically so that they can control the eBook market because more readers have their devices than have iPads or Kobo readers. We can market to iBooks and Kobo until we’re blue in the face and have spent a zillion dollars, but if readers only own Kindles, we’re SOL.

iPad

image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via flickr creative commons

The inherent problem in this is that Kindles sell for as low as $49, while the cheapest iPad I was able to find was $269. Yikes! Makes it sort of hard to go giving those puppies away, right?

Actually, I don’t have a solution for that. It is what it is. It sucks.

Sub-solution #2: Produce paperbacks of your books that are formatted in such a way that you can sell them for competitive prices. The reason indie authors do so well in digital format is because we can undersell NY Publishers by a lot. Well, NY pubbed paperbacks are costing about $7 or $8 these days. Produce paperbacks that can sell for less and market those to your readers, and you might stand a chance.

In fact, I’d love to see more indie authors invest in paperbacks (and audio, but that’s super expensive) and do a big push to get people to buy paper. But it has to be cost effective for the reader.

At the end of the day, everything Amazon is doing makes life easier and books cheaper for readers. THAT’s why they’re so successful. They will continue to do that until…well, they’ll just continue to do that. We as indie authors have to face that fact, scale back the panic, and start thinking about ways we can keep our heads above water, avoid the thumbscrews Amazon is putting to us, and give our readers the best, cheapest reading experience possible. BUT, Amazon is an inevitability in this publishing game. We HAVE to deal with them, and since we have zero control over what they do—and I mean zero—we need to learn to adapt instead of balk every time they change a policy.

So to summarize: Don’t panic. Separate fact from hearsay. Seek to understand changes when they are made, and adapt your publishing and marketing strategy to best harmonize with those changes. Seek to understand the market you’re writing for, their needs and their habits. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Covers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Jan 04, 2016
image courtesy of goXunuReviews via flickr commons

image courtesy of goXunuReviews via flickr commons

Okay, covers. It’s about time we had a little talk. Study after study has shown that the most important things to sell a book (particularly if you’re an Indie author) are your blurb (which we talked about here) and your cover. So many times, if a book isn’t selling well, there’s a good chance your cover just isn’t hacking it. And there are several reasons for this. So here we go.

If I could only say one thing to people about choosing the best cover for your book (a book you’ve worked too long and hard on to send it out into the world dressed badly) it’s this:

DO NOT EVER DESIGN YOUR OWN COVER

I can’t say that loud or frequently enough. (I know not everyone agrees with that, but I’m pretty passionate about it) Even if you think you’re a fantastic designer and are super capable when it comes to working with Photoshop or other graphic design programs. Just don’t do it. Just like you shouldn’t edit your own work because you’re too close to it to have a non-partial eye, you shouldn’t design your own covers because you aren’t going to be able to see the flaws in your work. Don’t go out that door with broccoli in your teeth!

Second, not all cover designers are equal. I know you love you sister’s daughter’s boyfriend’s brother who is really good with computers, but just because he knows how to cut and paste does not mean he has a designer’s eye or that he knows what images draw readers to certain genres of books. Book covers have their own language, their own symbolism, and it’s constantly changing. You need someone with an artistic eye, but also someone who knows what’s trending, knows how to blend light and shadow, and knows how to create vibrant, original images that pop and draw a reader’s eye. Talent does not come as an accessory to graphic design programs, and a designer who is talented at designing stationary, for example, may not be talented when it comes to book covers.

So let’s take a look at some things you should watch out for in cover design world.

mating with raptorFirst and foremost, readers are savvy these days. Unless you’re writing something deliberately tongue-in-cheek or trashy (like Mating with the Raptor), readers will click right past any covers that look Photoshopped. What does that mean? Anything that looks like the designer took a background and started randomly pasting stickers on it looks bad, Bad, BAD. You can tell one of these amateur covers a mile away because the light levels don’t match. Look for shadows that are going in the wrong direction, images that are disproportionate in size to other elements of the cover, figures or pieces of the image that appear to have more or less light on them. For example, in this delightful cover, the girl has a relatively bright, warm light illuminating her, but it doesn’t match the darker, shadowy light of the background. Same goes for the dino, which is in a cooler light. I used this example cover because I don’t think the designer cares how realistic and smooth it looks, but flip through Amazon for a while, and you’ll find covers where the designer just didn’t know what they were doing.

that guyI could find you a ton of examples of covers that look Photoshopped. You know what I mean. Also look out for lines that are too sharp around elements of the design, or that are too fuzzy because they’ve been blended with a particular tool. Anything that looks like stickers should send you running for the hills. Also, this guy on the right. Bless his heart, I don’t know who he is, but I’m not gonna lie—when I see him on a cover, I automatically pass on the book. Dude is everywhere!

warriors womanAnother problem I’ve seen in some covers these days is that they look dated. Ah yes, remember the good old Fabio-style cover? It’s just not the thing right now. These sorts of clinch photos with tons of wind and clothes about to fall off were all the rage a few years ago, but not so much now. Take a look online at the bestselling romance covers today (for example, if that’s your genre). We’re in the era of the heroine with the big skirt that takes up half the cover right now. There’s also variation in covers depending on the level of sweetness that the story entails. If you’re writing a Christian romance, for example, you don’t want this Fabio-style cover. It doesn’t send the right message. (All right, I’ll admit that my latest book cover for His Perfect Bride has shades of this era, but note the key differences: my cover isn’t an illustration, and the heroine is fully dressed, in spite of the hero’s shirtless good hair day.)

Okay, so what looks good on a cover? And how do you get a truly stellar cover design, especially for historical books, when there’s an extremely limited amount of historical stock photography out there?

MF_SavingGrace_2_smallWell, great book covers have all the design elements in harmony with each other. Truly stellar designers know how to put color and light and background ambiance to work for them. This cover of mine from Saving Grace, by designer Kalen O’Donnell was nominated for a cover design award last year. Frankly, that book sucked (well, it didn’t suck, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, which is why I stopped writing sci-fi), but man, based on that cover, you’d give the blurb a look, wouldn’t you? The color, the light levels, the visual impact are all stunning. And that started with a very simple stock photo.

EdenTheDangerousBride_smallAs for the problem of there not being enough original images out there, well, one of the reasons I hire the immensely talented Erin Dameron-Hill to do my covers is because she’s so good that she can dissect images and create new models from various parts! This truly awesome cover, she tells me, is actually three different images combined to make an original image. And as you can clearly see, the foreground blends with the background, the color scheme matches the rest of the novels in the series (peek over to the right), and there is no sticker-ness anywhere.

At the end of the day, “good” and “bad” is subjective, but only up to a point. There are standards, and if you’re in this business to win it, you’ll want to find the highest quality designs that you can. The good news is that covers aren’t super expensive these days. You can get good ones for under $100! And so, I leave you with a pretty amazing list of cover designers, shared with me by author Christine Miller:

LIST OF RECOMMENDED COVER DESIGNERS

99-DESIGNS http://99designs.com/book-cover-design

ALCHEMY BOOK COVERS http://www.alchemybookcovers.com/

AM DESIGN STUDIOS http://amdesignstudios.net/sample-page/

ART BY KARRI http://artbykarri.com

AUTHOR MARKETING CLUB http://authormarketingclub.com/members/pre-made-book-covers/

AVALON GRAPHICS http://www.avalongraphics.org/books.html

BEYOND DESIGN http://www.tamianwood.com

THE BOOK COVER DESIGNER http://thebookcoverdesigner.com/shop/?vendor=jesrdesign

BOOK COVERS GALORE http://bookcoversgalore.com/

BOOK COVERS MARKET http://bookcoversmarket.com

BOOKS DESIGN http://www.books-design.com/

BOOKFLY DESIGN http://www.bookflydesign.com/

BOOK GRAPHICS http://bookgraphics.net/

CANDESCENT PRESS http://www.candescentpress.com/coverdesign.php

CAROL’S COVER DESIGN http://carolcoversdesign.com/

CHARISMA KNIGHT http://designsbycharisma.yolasite.com/book-covers.php

CHIP KIDD http://www.chipkidd.com/gallery.html

COVERS BY ALDELM JOHN FERRIOLS http://www.coroflot.com/Maggs/Book-Covers

THE COVER COUNTS http://thecovercounts.com/

CREATION WARRIOR http://www.creationwarrior.net/

CREATIV INDIE COVERS http://bookcovers.creativindie.com

CUSTOM INDIE COVERS http://www.customindiecovers.com/

DAFEENAH JAMEEL http://dafeenah.deviantart.com/gallery/

DAMONZA http://damonza.com

THE DARK RAYNE http://www.thedarkrayne.com/book-covers/

DIGITAL DONNA http://digitaldonna.com

EBOOK COVER DESIGNS http://www.ebook-coverdesigns.com

EBOOK INDIE COVERS http://ebookindiecovers.com

EBOOK SERVICES https://ebookcovers4u.wordpress.com/cat…/covers-weve-made/

EL DESIGNS http://www.eldesigns.net/index.html

ESTRELLA COVER ART http://estrellacoverart.com/

EXTENDED IMAGERY http://www.extendedimagery.com

FANTASIA FROG DESIGNS http://fantasiafrogdesigns.wordpress.com/premade-bookcovers/

FICTION BOOK COVER http://fictionbookcover.com/

FLIP CITY AUTHOR SERVICES http://flipcitybooks.com

FOR THE MUSE DESIGN (Pre-Mades) http://www.forthemusedesign.com/pre-made-covers.html

FOSTER COVERS http://www.fostercovers.com

FOSTERING SUCCESS http://www.fostering-success.com/autho…/ebook-cover-design

GO ON WRITE http://www.goonwrite.com

GRAPHICZ X DESIGNS http://graphiczxdesigns.zenfolio.com

HARPER DESIGN http://louharper.com/Design.html

HUMBLE NATIONS http://humblenations.com

I DREW DESIGN (FIVERR) https://www.fiverr.com/idrewdesign

INDIE AUTHOR SERVICES http://www.indieauthorservices.com/pre-made-book-covers.html

JAMES LEDGER CONCEPTS http://www.jamesledgerconcepts.com

JANET HOLMES http://www.seejanetwork.com/

JH ILLUSTRATION https://jhillustration.wordpress.com

JOE SIMMONS ILLUSTRATION http://www.jsimmonsillustration.com

KATIE W. STEWART http://www.katiewstewart.com/cover-designs.html

KILLER COVERS http://killercovers.com/#ebook

***THE KILLION GROUP http://thekilliongroupinc.com

KIT FOSTER DESIGN http://www.kitfosterdesign.com/Home.aspx

LEAH KAYE SUTTLE http://www.leahsuttle.com

LFD DESIGNS http://mycoverart.com/

LITTERA DESIGNS http://www.litteradesigns.com

LLPIX PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN http://www.llpix.com

MARIYA KRUSHEVA http://mishka19.deviantart.com/gallery/33572981?offset=0

MELCHELLE DESIGNS http://melchelledesigns.com

NESS GRAPHICA http://www.nessgraphica.com/

NINJA MEL DESIGNS http://www.ninjameldesigns.com/portfolio/

PHAT PUPPY ART http://phatpuppyart.com

PERMED EBOOK COVER SHOP http://www.premadeebookcovershop.com/

Q42 GRAPHIC DESIGN http://www.q42graphicdesign.com

REBECCA SWIFT ARTWORK http://www.rebeccaswiftartwork.com

ROBIN LUDWIG DESIGN http://gobookcoverdesign.com/pages/book_cover_design.html

ROCKING BOOK COVERS http://www.rockingbookcovers.com

RROXX (FIVERR) https://www.fiverr.com/…/create-awesome-professional…

SARAH JANELEHOUX http://sarah-janelehoux.com/coverart.htm

SCARLETT RUGERS BOOK DESIGN AGENCY http://booksat.scarlettrugers.com

SCRIBBLELEAF http://www.scribbleleaf.com

SELF PUB BOOK COVERS http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/

SHAYNE HELLERMAN http://shaynehellerman.deviantart.com/gallery/

STREETLIGHT GRAPHICS http://streetlightgraphics.com

STEFAN LINDBLAD http://www.canvas.nu/illustration-bokomslag-eng.htm

SWEET ’N SPICY DESIGNS http://jayceedelorenzo.com/sweetnspicy/

TUGBOAT DESIGN http://www.tugboatdesign.net

YOCLA DESIGNS http://yocladesigns.com/

WALKING STICK BOOKS http://www.walkingstickbooks.com/…/Ser…/Cover-Design.cfm

WICKED SMART DESIGNS http://www.wickedsmartdesigns.com

WINTER HEART DESIGN http://winterheart.com/category/covers

WORD SUGAR DESIGNS http://www.wordsugardesigns.com/

 

There you go. So now you can’t tell me you can’t find a good cover designer. 😉