Thinking on Covers, Names, and Self-Publishing

July 23, 2014

Hello my imaginary friends,

I’ve been thinking again about self-publishing. Less about the idea of doing it and more about the puzzle of doing it.

From what I can tell there seems to be 8 parts to it:

  1. Writing the book
  2. Story and Copy Editing
  3. Formatting the inside of the book for various outlets (Ebooks, Print, Etc)
  4. Formatting and producing a cover for various outlets (Ebooks, Print, Etc)
  5. Having the books printed.
  6. Distributing the printed and Ebooks.
  7. Letting people know that the books exist.
  8. Repeat number 7 several times in many different ways.

Written out as a list it looks a lot less intimidating than it does in my head.

Now the problem with self-publishing is that an author isn’t by nature good and doing all 8 steps. I knew that I can handle 1 (I’m close to finishing novel five) I know I can do 3 (I’ve worked as a Layout Artist for over five years now) and I have a good idea how to do 5 and 6 (I also have friend who have offered to teach me how.)

My big problem is 2, I know I need to pay for an Editor and the minute I know if I’m self-publishing, I’m contacting people who can do it. I realize it isn’t cheap but it’ll be worth it.

Let’s leave 7 and 8 for a later post.

Book Covers

So the majority of my thinking has been about 4. I strongly believe that an awesome cover is worth its price. If I self-publish I want the book to practically sell itself. I want to pass by it and say, “That looks awesome I should read that… oh wait that’s my book.”

For The Elizabeth Investigates series, if I self-publish, I want to make sure that the covers stay consistent in style and feel. That means I need, not a cover artist but an artist. I have one person who I know will do a great job but is ridiculously busy with other projects.

I know that there are cover designers out there but I haven’t found one that matches what I write. So I looked on DeviantArt for artists that match certain styles. I found a bunch and I wonder if getting a commission from them would be difficult. I know I’d have to look into copyright issues and so on but I think it might be the best option. I can format the cover myself, what I need is the art.

I’m sure a lot of them will/would ignore me but it’ll be worth a try. I wouldn’t offer anything specific; I’d lay out my needs and ask for a quote. I’m assuming it would be somewhere in the ballpark of $100 to $1000. Dollars but maybe I’ll be surprised.

The next question becomes one of style. Since I write YA, I tend to mix genres a lot. The Elizabeth Investigates series is Urban Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, with smatterings of Supernatural, Suspense, and Romance. That’s not the easiest thing to show off in a cover.

I could go with the normal YA Urban Fantasy style, like the Percy Jackson or Harry Potter covers, I could follow the Adult duo-coloured Urban Fantasy style, I could go with an old style fantasy cover where they try to put everything that happens into one illustration, or I could go for the simplistic Twilight style of cover. Or do I go for the older Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys style? All of which are awesome.

It depends on what I’m trying to sell the book as. If I go with the old teen mystery books, I’m telling people this book will be similar but with magic. If I go with a darker Urban Fantasy cover I’m telling them that this is a kid’s supernatural thriller.

nancy-drew-books-cover

It’s a lot to decide, I almost think it could be more important than even the title. The best case scenario, I think, would be to get an homage to the old mysteries with the art style of newer urban fantasies. Best of both worlds.

Author Name

The next thing that’s been bugging me is my name. I don’t want a pen name because that would be a pain but I’m trying to decide what variation to use for my writing.

In day to day life I sign my emails and credit card receipts with Éric Desmarais. My full name is Éric Albert Desmarais.

For a long time I considered using my full name but I don’t know, it feels pretentious.

I could use Éric A. Desmarais and I have. The initial makes it seem more literary for some reason. I could also use É.A. Desmarais.

You get the point. It’s an identity thing I guess. Maybe I should just go with Éric Desmarais.

 

Does the cover affect your interest in a book?

Would the name of the author, who you don’t know, make a difference in whether you bought a book?

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Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince by S.M. Carrière

December 17, 2013

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I’ve known S.M. Carrière for a little over a year now I should have read one of her books earlier.

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is an otherworld novel in line with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Fairy series by O.R. Melling, or Jack of Kinrowan by Charles De Lint.

It borrows heavily from Welsh and Irish mythology to make a well-rounded and fascinating world.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

There were a lot of characters in this novel but it didn’t distract from the main characters’ story arcs. I really enjoyed watching Ethan’s development from listless jock to Battle Prince. It was so well done that until I thought about it I didn’t see it happening.

I also liked the unabashedly strong and intelligent women in this book. It’s not easy to write a female warrior without falling into stereotypes. S.M. did it extremely well.

I didn’t like

There were a lot of characters and a few of the secondary ones felt like they had interesting stories to tell but never really got the chance to develop. O

There were two that bothered me the most. First was a character called Mitch, who was friends with Ethan. Their seemed to be more to the character and his odd submissiveness but his story ended with a handshake and a nod.

The other was a character called Joseph who was introduced around two thirds into the book. He was interesting and worked as an emotional foil for Ethan but felt like he didn’t need to be there.

The role that Joseph ended up playing in the end of the book was what I expected of Mitch after a step character arc.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The ease with which S.M. weaves mythology into her story is impressive and she manages to avoid info dumping by giving us tiny details throughout.

I particularly liked her use of vocabulary, in many otherworld novels or urban fantasies, the other keeps a very standard language akin to a hardboiled detective style. S.M. keeps the book’s voice in a tongue-in-cheek fantasy style that works perfectly with the story.

One of the strengths in this book is S.M.’s ability to write convincing dialogue. Each character has a unique voice that rings true and it makes it easier to follow which characters are which.

I was definitely taken back to a time I lived with three other guys during university.

I didn’t like

On TV, in movies, and in books I find great pride when I understand the language that the main characters don’t. However, when the opposite happens and I don’t understand, I feel kinda dumb. This book has a healthy dose of Welsh and Irish throughout. At times the conversations are long. Never do they last more than half a page but it still frustrated me.

One the other side of the coin, the author did put a translation for all these scenes at the back of the book. If I had noticed I wouldn’t have minded. I think the translations might have been better as footnotes.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a standard otherworld story but inversed. Instead of a regular everyday person falling into another world, a Queen fell into ours. I liked the inversion and I liked how well the character handled herself, it’s easy to think she’d panic and go nuts but she dealt pretty well.

Typically this story end after the character returns, or chooses not to return, to their own world, quite often with plot points dangling, and irritating me. The story reached that point and then proceeded to give us some extra action and extra story.

I didn’t like

The story was well crafted and other than the Mitch thing, there were only a few things that frustrated me. I felt that it was a little too neat at the end. I felt like too many people got what they deserved and all was right with the world. It rang true but it also felt like the author didn’t want to wright a sequel and made sure she didn’t have to.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The book was entertaining throughout. S.M. really knows how to keep your interest. Even through the parts that should have been slow, it was still fascinating.

I also liked the extremely subtle inclusion of herself. A character talks a lot about her roommate and I’m fairly certain that roommate is the author.

I didn’t like

This book was fun through and through. If I were to give it a fault it would be that it was a little too addictive.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is the perfect otherworld novel, with enough twist and turns to keep an aficionado of the genre happy. I’d happily recommend this as a “gateway drug” to fantasy novels.

The author weaves convincing character arcs with mythology and wonderful storytelling.

I highly recommend getting this book and devouring it. It’ll leave a smile on your face.

Final score is 75%


Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire – Book Review

October 28, 2013

If you’ve been following my book reviews. You know that I have a soft spot for Urban Fantasy. I also have a soft spot for interesting female characters. Discount Armageddon delivers both and does it well.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

At the center of the story is Verity Price, a tough ballroom dancer who’s been trained from birth on how to kill things and study them. Unfortunately she isn’t the most interesting character.

The supporting cast from religious mice to a shapeshifer cousin truly makes the book. There is a wide and varied group of people. I loved both the interactions and dialogue between the characters.

I didn’t like

Again, unfortunately Verity Price isn’t the most interesting of characters, falling into the girly tough girl stereotype. She loves to dance and seems to have a love hate relationship with her life. She wants to dance but also wants to follow in the family business.

To ignore her own inner struggle she tries to continuously meet the world with sex appeal and one-liners. She played dumb, when she obviously wasn’t, too many times.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author isn’t afraid to go on small tangents to explain the world. I really enjoyed the history and Price family life. It’s a great world with all kinds of interesting people and events.

Despite what people often think, writing first person is more difficult than third and if done wrong makes the story sound like “than guy” at a party that wants to tell you all about his d&d character or cat.

Ms. McGuire makes the story flow quickly, smoothly and keeps all the action tight.

I didn’t like

The language bugged me a little. I understand first person characters using slang and odd turns of phrase but sometimes it felt discordant. The writing had a strange juxtaposition of British and American slang.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The flow of the story was wonderful. Never leaving us in the same place long enough to get bored. The story shape is extremely simple but works wonderfully. Never leaving me annoyed with what was happening.

I didn’t like

This is the first in a series and with that there are a lot of details added that don’t directly impact the story. Relatives that weren’t essential, and plot points that won’t be important until later books.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading about her grandfather stuck in hell and her grandmothers quest to find him but I would have liked to learn more about the characters that were important to the story.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Despite her clichés and often bad one-liners I like Verity Price. She perfectly personifies that struggle and lost feeling that I had in my twenties.

It also has a few steamy scenes that made me blush.

I didn’t like

I often would have like more in depth descriptions or interactions. It would have slown down the story pace but it would have given the book more substance. However I realize that this is an action book and not an epic.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

If you like fast paced action and fun characters thrown into ridiculous situations I recommend you pick this up.

Final score is 75%


How to be Death – Book Review

June 20, 2012

How to be Death is the fourth Calliope Reaper-Jones Novel by Amber Benson. The first three concluded the main story of Calliope. This novel is not a stand-alone book it’s a sequel rather than a continuation. I recommend reading the first three books before you pick up this one.

I’m only going to be reviewing this book on its own, not the whole series.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

If you’ve read the first three books, you know the core cast of characters. They do evolve a little but this is more about expanding the world of Death and the secondary characters that inhabit it.

That being said the characters are well written and for a murder mystery that is extremely important.

I have a terrible memory. It took me re-watching all the Marvel super hero movies to remember whom agent Colson was in the Avengers. When I watch a reality TV show, I’m continually asking my wife who each person is. In a murder mystery, for me, it’s important that the characters stand out and are memorable. Benson manages to introduce nearly a dozen characters and I never once had to go back to the beginning to see who they were.

In her earlier books, I found that Calliope regressed at the beginning of every book. In this one she hadn’t and that was nice. There are also some really interesting character revelations in this book that I look forward to her exploring in future books.

For creating characters that were clear and easy to follow, along with interesting I give it a 4 out of 5 for characters.

Writing Style

A first person narrative’s writing style is dependant on the character’s voice. All of the Colliope Reaper-Jones books are written in first person, and follow Calliope. She is a mildly narcissistic, fashionista, with a huge victim complex.

When she stops whining and starts acting, she is a wonderful person. In between she complains and whines about everything. In this novel, she’s toned down the whininess and started taking responsibility.

All this to say that the writing style is extremely casual, even for first person, and at times a little shocking.

Benson does everything that a good author has to do to balance a self-involved character with a good narrative. She makes sure that the reader understands things that the main character doesn’t, she makes sure that the character doesn’t cross the line between frustrating and hated, and most importantly she keeps interest in parts that could easily lose a reader.

Speaking as a man, a lot of the shoe, and fashion stuff didn’t interest me. Benson manages to avoid overdoing it and I think I might have learnt a few things. Apparently Steve Madden isn’t just a line of NFL video games.

For writing style, I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

Story

The story structure of a good murder mystery is usually split into three acts. The first act introduces all the characters and defines them. The second act starts with a Murder, which is followed by multiple interviews, clues, and sometimes one or two more murders. In act three something shocking happens, either another murder, theft etc. Followed by either a blind plan (In which only a few characters know what’s happening) or some action (Usually a chase) and finally excessive amounts of exposition. Incidentally, a survival horror or slasher share the same first two acts. A great way to tell the difference is to see if there’s a detective which indicates a mystery, or if the body count is over 40% at the end of act 2 which indicates the horror story.

I found the story took a chapter or two too long before the first murder. It could be me but I was looking forward to a lengthy act 2 with all kinds of hi-jinks and it made act 1 feel a little slow. I also think the exposition was rushed. It could have been done longer and in two scenes instead of what felt to me to be too quick.

The story was good, the structure could have been better, I give it a 3 out of 5.

Fun

This book is a continuation of a series that I greatly enjoyed. They are fun. The book is a departure from the story structure of the other three but I think it works towards the books advantage. I like the banter and enjoy the characters.

This book is more fun than you’d expect. It’s a nice twist on a supernatural murder mystery. For fun I give it a 4 out of five.

Overall

There are book and series that I plan to never read again. No matter how amazing they are I just don’t want to relive them. This isn’t one if those series.

The Calliope Reaper-Jones Series is one series that I look forward to
re-reading. Amber Benson is one of a small group of authors whom I will buy their new books as soon as they come out.

If you like Urban Fantasy that’s a little light on the doom and gloom, read this series.

I give it a total score of 70%