Monday, January 14, 2013

My Giveaway Experiment & Eyeballs

I recently posted The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove, the original version of my YA gothic, Dark Companion, on Scribd to see how or if it would affect sales. It's been read over 2,000 times in a week -- so it hasn't yet reached the numbers of a version of it posted in Portuguese. I wondered who would translate the entire book into Portuguese, but someone used one of those new-fangled computer translators. So the dialogue probably reads like, "I give you happy shiny love greetings of the daytime variety! I accompany you on the walking voyage to consume a meal of fish and popular beverages. We will talk of my desirous feelings to have marry calisthenics with the beautiful waiter." In other words -- completely accurate!

I still don't have permission to share news about my next book. But I kinda sorta totally love the cover. Which is very different from my feelings about the covers that another publisher wanted to put on my ebooks. One was nice, but others were Heinous, which a capital H and several subsequent hs. Hhhheinous.  Here's my question: why do so many people think they can design stuff?

Good book cover design requires not only a sense of aesthetics, but also creativity and an ability to meld form and function. The function of a book cover is to attract readers who will like the book and to convey a message about the book. It's no good putting an image of a juicy steak on a cookbook if you only have vegetarian recipes inside. The customers will (and should) hate you for misrepresenting the book. It's no good having a gorgeous image that doesn't show up well as a small graphic, because so many readers are shopping for books online.

Design is like brain surgery, stunt driving and comedy: it should be only done by professionals. Do not try this at home. (I always tell The Husband that when he tries to make a joke. He is very pretty, though.)

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but has anyone else noticed the trend of eyeball covers? You know, covers that watch you watching them.


Everyone seems to be watching Girls, ugh, or Downton Abbey, which is a bit too soap-operaish even for an admitted BBC fan like me. I prefer something darker and creepier, like Whitechapel, which features Rupert Penry-Jones as Joe Chandler, a detective inspector with OCD who uses historically significant crimes to solve modern day murders. My theme today is videos featuring RPJ...who can rock either the cravat or t-shirt with aplomb.

He was also in M1-5, aka Spooks, and I watched all ten seasons in a mad marathon. It made me very tense and paranoid. (Please refer to eyeballs above.) I loved the brave, complicated, ambiguous, heroic characters, and the show made me cry all the time. I highly recommend it.

Persuasion is probably my favorite Jane Austen novel. While I'm charmed by Pride & Prejudice, I just like Captain Wentworth more than I like Fitzwilliam Darcy.


The Mighty Buzzard said...

Well, how did it affect sales?

Marta said...

Hey, TMB. I have no idea. The Amazon numbers are crap, but my book went into a second printing and has earned out the advance even with crap Amazon numbers. I think I'll have to wait longer to find out if there's a bump anywhere. My feeling is that my writing is not for everyone, so if I can give out samples, I have a better chance of being discovered by those who might enjoy my writing.

My theory is not based on things I've learned from sitcoms.

Marta said...

Correction: I meant that my series is based on things I've learned from sitcoms.

Jane said...

Hi Marta,
Love the Rupert gvds. I love Whitechapel, too. Are you going to watch Ripper Street?

Marta said...

Hi, Jane, nice to have you stop by! Yes, I plan to watch Ripper Street. I have been in the Whitechapel neighborhood because it was on my way to a market, and it's strange how people now are still obsessed by those old murders. There are lots of novels out now featuring Jack the Ripper.

Elie said...

Love reading your blog! I have noticed a few eyeballs lately, but not too many.

Covers are SO important. I am guilty of judging. It seems that books with smallers presses often get jipped in the cover department. I wonder how big an impact it makes. Would be an intersting experiment.

Marta said...

Hi, Elie, thanks! A few books sell well with crappy covers, but good covers can make crappy books sell well. I often see lots of creativity with smaller presses -- because every book is an important investment for them, they take a little more time. I'm not referring to the small publishers churning out books with Hhheinous computer created models that look like pervy robots.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

He stood literally two feet from me in 2006 when they were making the market scene in Bath for Persuasion - cravat and all! *sigh* Happy memories... I'm going to check Whitechapel, Marta.
As for bad covers, it's ego. Bad artists think they are bloody marvelous and would not take any criticism, good artists are always unsatisfied with their work. I abhor bad covers.

Danielle Fifer said...

RPJ is amazing. Those eyes! He did a great job in Whitechapel, and of course he was brilliant on Spooks. I agree with you on that show. My husband saw a few episodes with me and said, "How can you watch this? My stomach is in knots!" It's incredibly tense ... some of the shows feel more like a movie than a TV episode. And their willingness to kill off main characters just adds to the tension. I mean, I love James Bond movies, but we all know he'll make it out alive some way. But with Spooks, the peril is always real.

BTW, I wanted to say THANK YOU for offering 'The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove' on Scribd. I downloaded it and read it in a day. Loved it! And now I'm quite eager to read 'Dark Companion' and see how the story has changed and evolved. As an aspiring writer, I really appreciated the opportunity to view both versions of the work. Thank you for sharing it!

Marta said...

-Kara, I am sooo jealous. RPJ, Bath & Persuasion! It's been forever since I visited the Octogon Room there and the costume museum. Tell me what you think of Whitechapel. The supporting cast is terrific and there's an low-tech quality to the detective work that is so refreshing.

-Hi, Danielle! My husband didn't know how I could watch Spooks/MI-5 before going to sleep either. The show had both heart and ruthlessness -- the characters had to do terrible things and I was always shocked when they were killed off...but that made me value them more than characters who always survive.

Thanks for the kind words about The Shadow Girl! Dark Companion has many different scenes and some different characters. I also got to develop things in the final version.

Lori T. said...

Book covers are always such a huge deal in libraries. I mean, it's really hard to get someone interested in a book, especially a teen, if the cover is boring/ugly/ridiculous. And trust me, I've seen my fair share of all those! Sure, there's that old saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover," but apparently whoever coined that never was around teens or reluctant readers. I was an Art major in college and one of the most basic design concepts is to design something appealing to the crowd you're selling to. So, book covers that in no way convey the message of the book will not register with readers. We've had to tell many of our readers to "ignore the ugly book cover" if it's a really good book, but has a bad cover. I really enjoy when those great books with bad covers are redesigned with a MUCH better cover for the paperback release.

Yep...eyeball covers! Wow, I've been seeing a whole bunch of these lately! Honestly, I really don't get it (other than Tahereh Mafi's SHATTER ME series, now those are gorgeously done!) It's funny, I was talking to someone about this new trend the other day, and she asked "Why only one eyeball? Where's the other eyeball and how do they choose which one to put on the cover?" She had a really good point ;-) If I'm EVER published someday, I know authors get little to no say in their cover designs, I will beg for a cover to not be ugly and to not be an eyeball cover. Some trends just have to go.

Marta said...

Hi, Lori! Thanks for your input on book covers - yes, appeal to the right readership. One of my pals who is a design bigwig said, "The thing about book covers is how bad most of them are. They ignore design and marketing basics." Publishers don't do their research. They don't invest in their basic marketing tool.

I hope that you will be spared an eyeball cover!

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