Judging A Book By Its Cover

They say “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” But we writers know differently. People do exactly that, so you’d better be able to judge a book by its cover… and quickly.

It’s always been an issue for authors and their publishers. Unless you’re a household name with a stack of New York Times best-sellers to your credit, people will take a quick look at your book in the store and decide from that cover whether it’s worth even picking up to read the slipcover, let alone purchase it. So your book needs to have immediate visual impact, and suggest to the newcomer just what kind of book it is. Take a look at these examples:

sking

Granted, almost everyone who ever sets foot in a Barnes & Noble, and most of those who don’t, know who Stephen King is now. But even if that weren’t the case, it wouldn’t take a lot of imagination or guesswork to figure out from the cover that this wasn’t going to be a cheery work designed as a lullaby in print! And, since King is so well-known, note how his name takes up about half the cover. When you’re that successful, your name alone will lead to sales.

Contrast that to this one:

egif

Although it would soon be made into a successful movie, when it came out, Emily was an unknown author. But the cover made for a quick suggestion as to what it would be about and its character. We’d have been quite surprised to find it about a deranged super-natural clown, wouldn’t we?

People do judge a book from its cover. It’s always been true but now is more so than ever, as much of the browsing is done online. Now instead of a 7X10” book sitting in front of them, readers make their choice increasingly by looking at a stamp-sized image on a screen. That thumbnail better have something to make them interested right away.

It was a problem confronting me when I put out my debut novel, Grace…fully living. While my dad, ever the cheerleader, would probably have told me to be confident and go the Stephen King route and have my name take up half the front, I realized outside of a few dozen Facebook or Twitter friends and my little circle back home, no one knew me from Adam. Visuals would have to do the selling.

So, I needed something to catch people’s eye, tell them the book was a light-hearted one about a young woman…and be within my relatively small budget. For that, I find Pexels is one of the best sources of stock images.

My first cover, on the initial e-book release, was this:

gracenewsmallcover

The photo was taken by a Toni Cuenca and I loved it. It was bright, it was colorful (even more so after I tweaked it in a photo-editing program), it said “fun.” The model was attractive, and a redhead, as Grace is in the book. I chose bright summery fonts.

I thought it was great, to be honest, but my sweetie didn’t. Now, it is my work and my choice, but it was worth considering. She was a lady of approximately my target audience and she didn’t seem to appreciate the cute girl in a swimsuit. If she didn’t, many other women might not either. Not to mention, it had no direct tie-in to the book other than the redhead and the easy-going feel. And the proof was in the pudding. Initial sales were low to say the least (not that I expected it to be a million seller no matter what was on the cover!)

I put it out last summer, and decided to try and reboot it and spark sales late in the year by putting it out as a “Christmas edition.” It wasn’t altogether too cheesy an idea as the book begins and ends at Christmas. I added in a little bonus content and changed the cover to this one. The image also came from Pexels.

cmaswrapping cover_small

It was cute. My very small focus group of women seemed to prefer it to the first one. It made an appropriate lead into the start of the story… young woman, Christmastime, cold area, looks like she might be happy enough. But for the new cover and few extra pages, it didn’t fly over the internet into a lot of Kindles.

So when it came time to actually get a small run of the book printed this year, I wanted a new look for it. The hot chocolate cover wasn’t going to cut it, since it might give a hint that it was a romance or comedy, it screamed “Christmas!” with the image and all that red and green going on. Which might be good come December but is going to torpedo summer sales.

Again I looked at Pexels and found by Thiago Schempler. I liked it for several reasons. It’s simple, it’s sort of upbeat looking and it could easily have been a part of a few scenes in the book. The model looks casual and happy, and her hair obscures her face somewhat, leaving a little room still for the reader to imagine Grace as they like. And it was fairly basic in image and colors…more so after my digital tweaking of it. There was space to add in the title without covering essential parts of the picture and, without too much detail, it translates quite well when reduced to phone thumbnail size.

grace resize cover

It’s not pushed the book onto bestsellers lists or bought me a new Ferrari (not even a diecast one!) yet, but I think it works. And I thought you might like to get a feel for one of the myriad of things that go into being an author besides the “simple” writing a book!

Your Summer Reading List Just Grew… ‘Grace…fully living’ Now In Print

Finally something “novel” that’s not a corona virus!

Time out here to blow my own horn a little. My first novel is now available in limited quantities as a softcover book and you can be one of the very first to get it. A perfect light read for the poolside or wherever else you might be spending the holidays!

Order your limited edition copy of Grace…fully living now through Etsy. Under $10 for this year’s hottest, funniest and most hapless new rom-com heroine in print. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll feel good knowing your supporting independent artists like Dave.

Thank you and enjoy!

(PS- be watching for a new site soon featuring Grace…fully living discussions, pictures and more as well as other short stories and related pieces.)

Introducing Grace, Fully Living

It’s Christmas Eve and thirty-something Grace Tyler just can’t find what she’s looking for… on the store shelves this close to closing time, or in the men in her life. And while it seems like all those close to her have people in their lives to hang stockings with and successes to celebrate tonight, she’s planning to spend her Noel alone. After all, isn’t “alone” just an anagram for “A Noel”? At least it gives her plenty to time to look back over the year. And what a year it has been… misadventures on the ski slopes, the suave, talented yet creepy and threatening photographer, the art gallery parties and the male stripper the gallery’s owner tried to fix her up with. Trips home to see her school BFF’s new business venture , admire her Dad’s growing internet savvyness and try to un-hear her mother’s unwavering criticisms. All that and the driver who couldn’t get over himself, the boss called “Horrors”, the apple of her mother’s eye, namely her day-trading brother Roger and who can forget that unwanted surprise in her toilet one day? Certainly not Grace! And of course, there was Doug… enigmatic Doug, the mysterious northerner she never quite could get out of her mind…nor into her arms. If only her life was more like her “Friends” Monica and Chandler!

In the tradition of Bridget Jones Diary and The Holiday, it’s the story of finding love and finding yourself in the modern world. Join us as we tag along with Grace as she maneuvers her way into a new millennium, and a new life.

Life for the modern single lady isn’t always graceful… but with our heroine, it is Grace…fully living!

I’m pleased to announce my first novel, Grace, Fully Living is finally available! Currently it’s available as an e-book in all popular formats so you can enjoy it on your phone, Kindle, Apple device, Kobo, Sony Reader or even your PC!

Grace, Fully Living as the prologue above suggests, is a lively modern-day rom-com following the adventures of Grace, a single Gen X lady finding her way in a new life and new millennium. I try to bring a sense of fun and hope to a story many of us will find relatable while bringing back memories of our not-too-distant past. Merging the attention to detail and pop culture of Douglas Coupland’s novels with the great romance and lovable heroines of Nora Ephron’s screenplays, Grace will make you laugh and believe in love again. And maybe bang your head on the wall once or twice as well!

Grace, Fully Living is available for download now at many popular retailers including Barnes and Noble, or through the publisher Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy meeting Grace as much as I did bringing her story to you.

Grace, Fully Living… Sneak Preview

Pity poor Grace Tyler. She’s turned 30, she’s newly single, lives with a kitty who’s a real “fraidy cat” and she works putting ads for laxatives into magazine mockups. And of course, her younger brother is wildly successful in business and the apple of their mother’s eye. Her nerdy best friend from school is a blooming entrepreneur and the one man who seems to understand her is gay. The one man she’s wild about, she can’t seem to hook up with in the post-Y2K, pre-Iphone era and when she does, injuries and illnesses seem to follow along.

Can Grace find happiness? Or a good coffee shop to satisfy her caffeine-loving man of her dreams? In the manner of Bridget Jones Diary and He’s Just Not That Into You, we present the forthcoming novel GRACE, FULLY LIVING. A sneak peak… here!

 

 

The next morning, as per usual at 9:10, Labeth was leaning against Grace’s cubicle partition, travel mug in hand.

So the green soup is a go, along with the green bread, green cookies, top ten ways to make green beans and shamrock shakes recipes but I’ll be damned if we have room for the green rack of lamb. Figure I’m saving us a lawsuit dropping it anyway.”

Can hardly wait for the ‘Easter Eggs-citement’ issue.”

More green in my wallet, less in our magazine is my motto.” She sipped from her coffee and pulled a face. “That new chick at the coffee shop must be putting the shampoo she’s not using on her hair in my coffee.”

That’s the same one you called a ‘sloth’ the other morning?”

I said she moved like a sloth. And smelled like one too. But she shouldn’t have been listening in on my phone call…”

Everyone in the cafe has to listen in when you pull that thing out, Miss Moneybags!”

LaBeth grinned despite herself. “Cellphones are great! When are you going to join the 21st Century and get one?” Before Grace could answer, she added what had become her usual refrain since Royce had become history. “Or get a boyfriend. Or at least a guy to bump the headboard with and make you forget about that piece of turd whose name I refuse to speak?”

Bump the headboard with? God, I’d have a cast on my head- that thing’s solid oak! Besides,” she added perkily, “that guy I was telling you about from the ski store called me last night!”

Broken Jaw Bruce?”

Doug! Doug the Canadian.”

Canadian? Is he a hockey player? What’s he doing here?”

Looking for the girl of his dreams maybe.”

So are you going out for that coffee with him?”

Grace looked away. “Well, sometime…I told him I was real busy at work right now.”

Like you even think about ad spacing after 5 PM! Girl, I swear I don’t get you…”

I want to see him. I just don’t want him to see me like this. Crutches? Ain’t no way I’m getting my cute jeans on over this cast. How’s he even gonna see my butt if I’m in baggy trackpants?”

Put on ski pants and hope he buys into the ‘Sportsy You’ concept?”

The redhead rolled her eyes.

Say, my mother’s neighbor’s son just broke up with his wife. He’s a poker player or something. Maybe a cowpoke. Anyhow, he’s like 35 and not bad looking. Maybe you could come to dinner with me and Mom could invite…”

Did you not hear a word I just said?”

Have it your way, Four Legs!” With that she wandered away to her cubicle. Singing “One Is The Loneliest Number” all the way.

Grace turned back to her computer and began “March-ing Into Spring”. LaBeth’s section had been uploaded and she was able to fit a chewy antacid banner ad nicely beside a green Irish stew recipe like a hand in a glove. Next she flip-flopped the full page Campbell’s (Not green!) soup ad back and forth between recipes pages or between “Ask The Chef” and a feature on Ten Things To Do In Your Garden Now (To Be The Envy Of The Block Come July). She glanced at that article. “Prune those bushes” made her think again of beavers which led her mind back to Doug the Canadian. Should she have played her hand and been more effusive when he called? She sleepwalked through the ad placement for much of the rest of the morning until she came to an ad for a pet food brand that had the tagline “Feed Your Doggie With Style” which of course took her mind back to the Christmas party and the coatcheck room.

***

She’d been a bit self-conscious of her breath – well, a bit self-conscious, period…when was she not?- after the hors d’oeuvres that consisted of pearl onions and some sort of pate or spread she’d not encountered before but which seemed to be comprised largely of garlic and some sort of fish placed on a cracker. Ironic that her boyfriend played Metallica and schmoozed for a living while she helped women create the perfect meal, the perfect cocktail, the perfect home for the man to come home to, yet it was his company that put out the lavish, surely Emeril-approved spread. She recalled the year before her office party had a stack of pizzas delivered to go with the trough of icy Pepsis and Old Milwaukees.

The onions and odd meat-paste had made her as approachable as a dragon fresh from hibernation (she distinctly remembered thinking that and wondering if dragons hibernated) but she was sure she had a pack of gum in her coat pocket. She went to look for her coat, before trying to track down Royce, whom she’d not seen for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? Deftly maneouvring between a junior manager in a banana-colored suit and Jag the Sports Guy (a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Packers player stats through the decades, ego of a bear with a voice to match but the body of a junior high student who’d be bullied by guys like, well, adult Jag). Her college year working weekends as a waitress came in handy working through the crowd towards the coatcheck room.

She didn’t end up finding her gum. She did find Royce however, and understand why she’d not seen him for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? She didn’t spy her coat among the many hanging across the room right away but with that Harley Davidson tattoo just above it, there was no mistaking the ass gyrating in front of her nor the piglike squeals coming from its owner. It was less obvious to her who the shapely little ass underneath Royce belonged to; someone pert and short and pony-tailed. She was moaning for “daddy” to “drive it home” which was something Grace had never remotely considered asking despite Royce’s frequent utterance of “Who’s your daddy?” in the throes of passion.

As she played the scene over in her mind she came to realize she never did go back there later that night. Memo to self- go back to that club and see if they still have my coat. I loved that coat. And the gum was quite nice too, I think. The minty-fresh flavor lasted longer than most. Or than that bastard’s faithfulness for that matter.

The phone on her desk ringing snapped her back to the here and now and page 38 with its dog food ad. Dentyne had just changed the photo for their ad. Hello again Page 19, my old friend…