Counting Blue Cars? Good Luck With That

Hallelujah! Finally we’ve found something that everyone apparently agrees on. Bland cars.

We might not be able to, as a people, agree on whether abortion should be a woman’s choice or a serious crime, on if marijuana is a fine consumable item, a cash cow to tax or a reason to send people to jail, or if our climate is changing, let alone if people are the cause of it. We can’t quite come to concur on whether Fox News is a sell-out to the liberal Left or a radical arm of the self-righteous Right or whether we should cut off Russian oil or buy more of it because Putin might have a glut of it and it could put the price at the pumps down by a dime. But it seems when it comes to our vehicles, there’s no argument – make it bland, just like our neighbors!

Such is the conclusion one might reach driving around any city or highway these days but it’s confirmed by Autoblog. com which recently noted “despite vibrant choices, people stick with bland” when it comes to car colors. In 2021, 24% of all new cars sold were white. 18% of them were black, and fully 34% were gray or grayish silver. Thus over ¾ of new cars weren’t even what the report classified as “real colors.” By the way, blue was the most popular of those “real” colors, edging out red by 8% to 7%. Both have seen serious declines in popularity recently, but not so much as green. Kermit-kolored kars represented over 7% of sales back in 2004; these days it’s barely 2%…which still heavily outperforms yellow, orange and pink which combined represent about one lone percent. One in a hundred to leave the lot. What’s more, we’re adventurous compared to the rest of the world. In Asia, 40% of all cars hitting the road are white, and 20% black. All this despite what PPG describe as a huge variety of “special colors, tinted clear coats and matte finishes” available to “better reflect vehicle owners individual personalities.” Back in the ’90s, the band Dishwalla had a hit with a song called “Counting Blue Cars”, and a line in it went “we count only blue cars.” It’d be pretty easy to do these days. They might have to re-write the lyric as “we count blue cars. Zero, all white.”

Not that many years ago, I lived close to a GM plant that made Chevy Impalas. They had a huge – football fields galore–sized – parking lot of them sprawling between the factory and the rail yards, waiting hopefully for some dealer somewhere to want them. An island of misfit cars. There’d be a gray one here and there, maybe a black one, but almost all were plain white. At the time, I thought one thing they were doing wrong was having such boring car colors. At that time Ford at least offered a few interesting oranges, and coppers and metallic primary colors. Turns out I was wrong. The uniform, boring look was the one thing they did right, it would seem.

Now, mind you, there are some advantages to having a blend-in, white or gray car (or pickup). If you are an aspiring bank robber, it’s probably much better to make your getaway in one. Good luck to the police looking for the getaway car that was “white. A car, a sedan. Maybe a Toyota. Or a VW. Maybe it was a Chevy. Or a Nissan. They all look alike.” If you are wanting a life in crime, a yellow convertible Tesla or two-tone ’70s Lincoln is probably not the car to have. But for the rest of us… it makes me nostalgic for my childhood with all its lime green Novas, sun yellow VW bugs and orange Dodges lining our street. Cars that had a bit of character and which you could actually find when you got back out into the mall parking lot.

I think the world would be a little bit better place if people would agree for inoffensive, middle-of-the-road choices for things like policing, taxes and immigration and go wild with passion for extreme car looks. And spend time counting… mauve cars!

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!

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