Almost Midnight: Cover and Blurb reveal!

Well, I’m officially a hermit. I’ve been chained to my desk for weeks hammering away at rewrites and rewrites and rewrites, and I still have plenty more rewrites to go. But while I do that, why don’t I finally introduce Almost Midnight to you properly?

Almost Midnight is a collection of three classic fairytales: Cinderella, Hans My Hedgehog, and The Little Mermaid. While we all know the basic stories of all the great fairy tales, I think the details, themes and lessons change depending on the person telling them. So these are my versions of the fairy tales, and while they still have happily ever afters, the getting there involves a lot more talking hedgehogs and dancing scarecrows than you’re probably used to.

So without further ado, here’s the cover, the blurb, and a sneak peek of one of Ben Sigas‘s stunning illustrations, featured in both the eBook and the paperback.

Almost Midnight

 

‘Keep a careful eye to the hour,’ said the white bird. ‘Our magic will last only until midnight, and everything we’ve changed will be as it was.’

Meet Ella, a young woman who has lost everything; Hans, a boy doomed by his father’s greed to live as a monster; and Nameless, a lonely mermaid who yearns to be loved. Each seeks their happily ever after, but wishes and magic will only get them so far…

Almost Midnight takes three beloved fairy tales and retells them with new twists and turns, uniting them with the powers of love, courage, hope, and the magic of midnight.

 

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Release date to be announced!

Creating My Cover (plus resources)

In my last blog, I had a bit of a ramble about covers and what I think makes good ones.

So how did I apply all that to my novel?

I found my cover through 99 Designs, but this process will apply if you use a specific designer (as I intend to in the future).

TONE

I thought about what I wanted my cover to say about my story. I knew that I wanted it to go with my title (The Edge of the Woods… fairly specific), but more than that I wanted it to evoke the feel of my book. Emma, my protagonist, lives in a village surrounded on all sides by thick woods, and has grown up hearing myths about the dangers of wandering into them. Although the majority of my book takes place in the village, the simultaneous call and threat of the woods are constantly there. So it made sense that the look and feel of the woods should be evoked on my cover. I also thought about colours. Blues are very popular in YA, and can evoke a sense mystery and magic, so I asked for blues with pops of gold in the form of fireflies, which are a frequently used symbol in the novel.

I received several mock ups of the cover featuring woods, but most felt too safe. They were pleasant woods, daytime woods, woods you wouldn’t think twice about going into. Or they were flat out horror movie woods – woods you wouldn’t need to hear stories about to want to stay clear of them. Only three designers really nailed the beautiful-but-deadly tone I wanted to to convey. (I’d like to show you the designs, but as I only own the winning one I won’t).

I went back and forward on including Emma in the cover. My own preferences said no, but I didn’t want to rule out a very popular marketing trend out of prejudice. So I included an optional Emma in my brief with a description (which I made up for the brief, as Emma is only described as being tall in the book) and waited to see what came in. Most were pretty, bland stock models staring bored into the middle-distance. But again, three (and not quite the same ones) designers used her in an interesting way that I felt added rather than detracted to the cover.

So I ended up with four finalists. Three featured Emma. Three featured the woods. Two featured fireflies. All conveyed the tone I wanted.

GENRE

So then it came to genre (fantasy) and target audience (young adults, primarily girls). And here I enlisted a test audience.

One cover was immediately put out of the running because it skewed quite young. It appealed to boys more than the other covers, but looked like children’s fiction. And while my book is appropriate for children to read, I didn’t want to turn young adults and older readers off. Another looked great and appealed to young women, but my test audience interpreted it as a historical drama rather than a fantasy.

So I was left with two covers I loved: one showed the woods and Emma, the other only focused on the woods. Both gave the tone I wanted, and both featured fireflies which gave the test audience a sense of magic. But in the end, I found that the cover featuring Emma actually skewed older, appealing to 30+ readers while the woods-only cover appealed unanimously to 13 – 25 year old readers. With their results in, the decision felt clear. Only one design ticked all the boxes and even fell in line with my character-free preference.

And here it is! And how I love it.

Cover KINDLEI know, you’ve all seen it. 

These are my woods, and this is my book.

TYPEFACE

I haven’t discussed typeface, which I should as it can make or break your cover. In the brief I specified that it should be clear and readable, pretty but not too ‘girly,’ and not exceed more than two fonts. The font on the runner up was difficult to read, and the fonts on the other two rejected designs complimented the children’s fiction and historical fiction feel of them. Both good title fonts, but neither appropriate to my book.

I love this typeface. I love that my name is simple and small, but readable. I love that my designer used the same simple font to balance out the flourish on edge – feminine but strong – and I like that she picked one word to focus on. I also like that she gave the weight to ‘edge,’ rather than ‘woods’ which reflects Emma’s position in the story. My designer had no idea about that of course, but she did a great job and made me very happy. The only real complaint I could have is the obscured ‘w’ but if I’m being honest it doesn’t bother me. And who doesn’t love an ood?

The original title was in light blue, which was pretty (and I still use in my banners) but we decided later to change it to white so it would really pop.

RESOURCES

Are you in the market for a cover? Is that the whole reason you clicked read more on this post? Well aren’t you in luck! I’ve come across some cover designers with great portfolios over the past few months and I’m going to share my favourites.

Now, if you haven’t heard of premade covers, you are missing out. Great for writers on a budget or for something as simple a short fiction, premade covers are, as the title so handily implies, ready made covers. You just chose your cover and the artist will swap out their interim title and author name with yours. You have to be willing to make compromises and go a little more vague with your imagery (unless you find THE PERFECT COVER), but they tend to range between $30 – $100, and some designers run specials so you can get them for even less.

My absolute favourite premade designer can be found at GoOnWrite, who offers unbelievably professional covers for $40 and updates regularly. Another great resource is the Cover Art Collective, a Facebook group which highlights premade work from various artists. And if you like the look of an artist’s premades, you can always click through to their site and request a custom cover.

Custom covers cost more, especially if you want to make a full paperback version and/or audiobook cover (and Facebook/promo banners). Depending on the designer, a custom cover can cost you anywhere between $100-$1000. My favourite designers portfolios are: Art By Karri ($175 – 225), M. S. Corley (contact to negotiate price), Yocla Designs ($95 – 145), and Jason Gurley ($350 – 750). My designer, Destiny Marie, doesn’t currently have a website but if you contact me I can pass on her email address.

You can also find an artist whose style you love and negotiate to purchase the rights to an image they’ve already produced or commission new work for your cover. You’ll often have to come up with your own typeface to lay over the image, or you can see if another cover designer would be willing to negotiate a typography only price for you (if you can’t do it yourself – and if you don’t have decent photoshop skills, don’t!).

Any cover artist recommendations? Name drop in the comments! 

 

Cover, cover, on the shelf.

I’m a bookshop lurker. And a library dweller. Basically, wherever there are books, I’ll wander over and stare at them. It’s always been a thing, from when Mum was in charge of the creepy, crappy demountable library in the desert town (if five streets, one shop and one pub counts as a town) I was born in to visiting a book shop in almost every city I visit just see what they feel like. I like cosy bookshops better than shiny ones, overstuffed shelves better than orderly shelves and I like bookshops with dedicated Spec Fic and Young Adult sections.

inside crow bookshop

But this blog post isn’t a love letter to bookshops, though I could pretty easily write one.

An activity I’ve particularly grown fond of since I found myself in a publishing way is looking at covers. I always have, obviously, but it was more of a subconscious thing. I was looking at books to find a book to read. Now I look at covers to see what they’re doing, what they’re saying about the book or tone they’re trying to set. How professional do trade published covers look compared to some self published covers I’ve seen (often there’s no difference, sometimes the indies even come out on top)? How does a new-edition’s cover reflect what I know of a book I’ve already read?

It’s kind of fascinating, when you really get into it. Sometimes it’s disappointing. Other times it’s bizarre. But what it does tell you, more than anything, is how important a cover is to a book. And doing this really helped me identify what I wanted in my cover.

There’s an old saying, which everybody knows – and not just because about 70% of indie cover designers cite it on their welcome pages – that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. But that’s kind of the whole point of a cover: to give you vital information you need about genre and tone so that you know within a second whether or not it’s the sort of book you might be into. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, then the cover isn’t really doing its job.

The problem then is to convey genre and tone in a way that appeals to the target market. That’s a hard one, because different people respond to different things.

Let’s take me, for example. An avid book buyer of about seventeen years (choosing my own books), with a focus on fantasy and young adult and whose debut novel sits in both of those categories. I tend not to respond to characters on my covers, as they often seem to be portrayed as the same-looking conventionally attractive stock models with no personality indicators. I also like to come up with my own image of the protagonist, and if they’re already some bland beefcake/beauty it throws me off and colours the way I read them – if I get that far. I will make exceptions for illustrated covers or models who have some personality to them. I don’t really like silhouette covers unless they’re illustrated, and I don’t like covers that are so vague they tell me nothing.

Let’s look at some examples.

Zac & Mia is a really wonderful contemporary young adult book. I picked it up to read before doing a workshop with author A.J Betts at the Perth Writers Festival earlier this year. It’s a good thing I was going to buy it either way, because the Australian cover does absolutely nothing for me, nice as it is.

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It’s very graphic and cool, but at best it tells me it might be aimed at young adults. What’s the tone? What’s the genre? The Canadian edition, however, gives me much more of what I need:

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The whole thing kind of screams ‘young adult,’ and further than that the handwritten design implies quirkiness (the new international symbol of humour, I guess) and the love heart implies romance, sweetness and has elements of innocence. We have a genre and we have a tone. Job well done, Canadians.

Let’s take another cover that does absolutely nothing for me, the original cover of Throne of Glass:

Throne-of-Glass-BIG

Here we have my pet hate: pretty stock-art/model girl with a neutral facial expression. She implies young adult by default by her age, but I’m not sure whether the photoshopped dagger and glowing cityscape denotes fantasy or historical fiction, and personally I don’t really get a sense of tone. This cover doesn’t inspire me to look at the blurb, but it does kind of make me want to watch Xena reruns.

But then, thank heavens, Bloomsbury re-issued Throne of Glass with this:

frontcover throne glass

 

Who is this awesome looking girl? Straight away we know this is a fantasy from her weapons and armour, and we get the idea it’s a younger, ‘cooler’ version of fantasy from the punk-ish twist on the traditional fantasy get up. But look at her face! That’s some grim determination. Immediately we can see that this is a woman who knows how to use those swords and won’t hesitate to do so. She’s beautifully illustrated and looks unique, which is impressive for a pale, white haired girl in the time of Daenerys Targaryen, and she makes me want to know more about her. All up, we can take away that this is a female-led adventure fantasy with a bit of a dark twist to it. I haven’t read this book, but now I really, really want to. And remember how I said I don’t like to have my character images dictated to me? Here I really don’t mind.

And what does this have to do with designing my young adult cover? I’ll tell you next time!

 

Now this is not a hard and fast guide to covers, or even young adult covers. These are just my thoughts and my process. Other genres have completely different rules and target audiences – erotica and romances probably should feature characters, literary fiction can be a little more artistic, and so on. You need to figure out your genre, your audience, your tone, and what you want your cover to say about your story.

But what about you, readers? What do you love to see in a cover? What are you sick of/wish you’d see more of in your favourite genres? 

 

Shout Out!

As you can see, I have a fancy new blog banner courtesy of the amazing Ben Sigas. He’s done some gorgeous commissions for me in the past, and if you’re in need of some illustrations I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you.

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The new banner (a scarily accurate depiction of me and my horrible work habits) will probably alternate with my eBook banner, depending on my mood. Which I’m sure is the basis of a solid marketing strategy.

And in other news, I’m still a recovering film student and Wes Anderson fan and the trailer for his new movie looks like ridiculous good fun.

Now back to your reading/writing/art/tv/work/internetting/whatever you’re actually supposed to be doing.