Is Your Book Cover A Stinker?

I know I’ve had a lot of posts lately about my books, but I promise I have a bacon post coming up.

*** BACON ***

If you are a man reading this, please comment as to if that word caused some type of reaction within you. I’d like to know for my research.

Today, I want to talk about book covers. I’m not an expert, and for as many times as I’ve Imagechanged my covers, I am definitely not the person to be giving you advice.

The look of a cover is not a deal breaker for me, but some definitely pull me in more than others. I do like when a cover gives me an idea about the book – at least the genre. I saw a lovely cover recently that gave the impression of being a memoir, both via the title and the soft abstract style of the design. I was surprised to read the blurb and discover it was a romantic comedy.

I know my covers don’t follow the rules of the experts. They wouldn’t like the font, the placement of my name, or the fact that they are on the “busy” side. They would be critical of my using a clichéd pink theme for chick lit. I don’t care. I wanted pink covers, and I was going to have them.

It was my idea to have Susan in gym clothes with a racquet in Florida. I thought racquetball would play a strong role in all of the books, but it doesn’t. It isn’t even the main theme of Sunshine Hunter.

After the fifth book was published, I knew it was time to make the first one free. Then it hit me – change the cover again! I sent this note to my niece: “You won’t believe this, but I want to go back to Sunshine Hunter. I think the sports theme is keeping people from giving the book a chance.”

The book is chick lit first. There is a mystery, a little romance, and some humor. Having a Imageracquet on the cover was definitely giving the wrong impression. I think I realized this several months back, but I didn’t act on the nagging feelings.

The book went free at Barnes & Noble on February 20. The cover change showed up the next morning. I saw later that the book was promptly listed by two Nook Facebook sites, and the downloads at Barnes & Noble started right away. I didn’t know it at the time, but sales of the other books in the series started the very next day.

I truly believe that changing the cover on Sunshine Hunter to a cuter, more girly cover representing Chick Lit made a huge difference in people choosing to download the book or not. To all of the over 20,000 people who have downloaded the book so far – thank you! Thank you to everyone who has read their download, and another big thank you if you have chosen to read more of Susan’s (mis)adventures. I’m grateful and appreciative.

bacon

Bacon post coming up. I promise!

Have you always loved your book cover? Have you had any nagging feelings about it? Have you changed your cover, and if so, how many times? I know I’m not alone in this.

Book Covers and The Public Domain

ImageNow that National Novel Writing Month is over, I have a book in hand. I didn’t take the advice of experienced NaNo participants, and I did some editing as I went along – at least on the first half of the book. I finished writing last Monday, and since then, I’ve made a pass on the second half of the book.

My mother has finished reading it, and she has proclaimed it entertaining and a winner. That’s what mother’s are for, but she really did like it. We laughed over a few scenes, and she approved a few minor swear words that worked well in their context. My books really are pretty squeaky clean.

I usually cut out pictures, use glue, crayons, and markers to cobble together ideas for covers. I used the cover from Big Apple Hunter and started playing around with that yesterday.  Here was my first attempt. It is only being shown for humor purposes:

ImageThis is what I sent to my niece and asked her to work a miracle for me: ImageI want a Christmas tree that is mostly white -or- one that is very colorful; whichever looks best. I’m leaning toward a colorful tree. If I’m going Christmas on the cover, I may as well go all the way. I want a Chicago skyline, Susan in an apron while holding a cake, and I need a gorilla head! She also needs longer hair because Mick doesn’t want her to cut it. Men! It will be fun to see what Gillian comes up with based on the mess I sent to her. I gave her free rein to discard my ideas and go with something completely different if she wanted to.

This morning (Saturday), I double-checked the story I “used” in my book to be certain it was in the public domain. I spent most of my day reading about public domain works, and how they can be used for inspiration, or in your writing itself.

You may remember that I wanted to put Susan into a situation where she was seeing events unfold in the apartment building of Stephanie Plum. I wouldn’t mention any names from the Evanovich book, simply references of hearing gunshots, seeing a redhead lying in the hallway, men in black at her door, etc.  But, I soon found out that even if names are not mentioned, if a scene is recognizable, it is copyrighted.

I started reading books and stories in the public domain. I had the main storyline for my book mapped out, but I still wanted a sub-plot in the condo. I wanted Susan and Darby to have a parallel view of Imagesomething happening in another book. I finally found a short story in an old pulp fiction magazine.

It started out perfectly. The two of them saw the body, and they were questioned when the police arrived. It was all downhill from there. I only meant for them to observe and comment, but Susan can’t keep her nose out of anything, and she ended up smack dab in the middle of everything. I actually felt as though I had no control of the story at times. Writing still surprises me so much.

My book turned out better than I could have hoped by taking some elements of the public domain story and turning them into something completely different. I didn’t use any of the same names, nor did I use any text from the original story. Once Susan started snooping around the building, there were actually only a few original elements that remained.

That brings me to some of the things I’ve read as I’ve searched public domain books and articles over the past two months. It’s been fascinating!

Public domain is massive. There are more than 85 million books and stories in the public domain. In a nutshell, that means you can pretty much do anything you want with them.

If I wanted to write a book about Cinderella (the original Cinderella) traveling in H. G. Wells’ time machine to obtain some advice from Romeo and Juliet, I could do so. My new, original story would be copyrighted, but the characters would not. The characters will always remain in the public domain for others to use.

Many old fairy tales have been rewritten into modern day tales. Beauty and the Beast didn’t originate as a Disney movie. Look no further than Once Upon A Time on television, and you will see very creative use of public domain works.

You can borrow ideas, concepts, plots, and characters, and do Imagewhatever you want with them as you write them into your new work. Numerous beloved stories have been adapted. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a New York Times bestseller, a creation from the public domain, and it’s being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman.

My husband and I spent nearly an hour this morning chatting about the public domain, and discussing how so many books, movies, television shows, and music have used work from public domain sources to create wildly popular spinoffs, mashups, and new works.

Because there is still at least one Sherlock Holmes work of Sir ImageArthur Conan Doyle that is under copyright, the character of Sherlock Holmes won’t be released into the public domain until 2022. Start working on your zombie and vampire books now. The Sherlock Holmes fans will be gobbling them up.

Have you ever written a story, book, or song based on something that was in the public domain?

P.S. – The little cutie pie at the top of this post? She’s there because the first picture posted in the reader is the *BIG* one, and I couldn’t let that goofy cover with the gorilla head behind the Christmas tree be it, so you get to look at a little cutie pie.