Monday, July 27, 2015

ANOTHER military sci-fi cover using FREE graphic design software

A couple weeks ago, I experimented in a half-assed manner in creating a new cover with KDP’s Cover Creator.  The big drawbacks to this new cover were 1) it wasn’t very inspired or impressive to behold, and 2) it could only be used on Amazon and was not usable through any other medium (like Nook, etc.).  So last week I sought out yet another cover design, and this time I used two different FREE graphic design programs to get it done. I now have the FINAL cover for my contest finalist SF novelette, The Thorne Legacy.

I’m especially proud of this image (mainly because I did it myself).  It clearly relays the story’s genre and more clearly states that this is an adult story, rather than young adult.  Plus, it just looks cool! 

So how did I do it?  How much did the whole thing cost? 

Only two dollars and a few hours of my time. 

There are many sources of royalty free and creative commons licensed artwork.  I got the two images I used here from the Dollar Photo Club, which requires a monthly membership of $10, but gives you 10 downloads for that and allows more at a dollar each.  Now this may be too much if you’re not consuming a steady diet of images, but the site serves as a darn good source.

I have had Photoscape on my laptop for two generations now (meaning two laptops), which is a free and very user-friendly photo editor, but is also somewhat limited compared to something like Photoshop.  I also downloaded, which mimics many of the features on Photoshop, but also has a downside: it pretty much sucks when it comes to text or titles. 

So bouncing back and forth between these two, and using my own rough skills gleaned from watching my wife use Photoshop, I created a background canvas, altered image colors, clone-stamped the starscape, then overlapped my two modified images, and faded and erased much of the top layer.  BAM! a cool cover image is born.  After doing it in 5x8 format, doing it again for the square audio shot literally took only minutes to complete. 

In the final stage, I bounced back to Photoscape again and planted my titles and text. 

The only thing I can’t do for this on these two programs is create a PDF paperback cover, which I’ll have to reflect back to my wife and Photoshop back home.  (Though that’s not a priority at the moment, it will allow me to revive the paperback edition of this novelette, which I discontinued because I wasn’t happy with the previous cover results.)

FINALLY that uncomfortable itch at the back my mind has faded away.  I can stop glancing back at Legacy’s cover image and continue forward to the next big project.

Here’s a look at my previous covers:

This one only had about a week up on Amazon, created with the same soldier image and using the KDP Cover Creator, which is a nice program but can only be used on Amazon, leaving me to find something else to do for my other outlets.

I still really, really like this one, derived from original artwork created specifically for this story by artist Julius Camenzind, but I have also had a few reservations about it (thus the ghost itch that wouldn’t go away).

Here’s the very first one I made myself (using Photoscape) when I first published this story.  I have since used the blue planet (with my wife’s help) to create an AWESOME cover that I plan to use for a future collection, which will include Legacy and set the stage for my Endless Dark Universe of science fiction books.

If you’re still reading this far, Thanks!  (And while you’re at it, why not read The Thorne Legacy too?) (hint-hint

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Question of Cover Art Design, And Your Opinion Matters!

I have struggled with cover art for this story ever since I published it.  We all know cover art is a major element for a book, and a huge factor in book sales.  Does a book's art and design draw in readers?  Does it convey the genre, pique your interest, and make a professional presentation?  It should, or it isn't doing its job or helping you reach your goals.

**Notice the survey at the top right of this post...**

I thought I had the problem solved with Julius Camenzind's cool action scene image.  But...  I have two issues with it.  One, I'm not real thrilled with the figure in the foreground (presumingly Thorne himself); and two, when printed out in paperback form, the image proved to be too detailed and just too busy to make a nice, clean cover.  So as much as I like this image, I still feel this is an incomplete mission.  The cover still isn't where I want it to be.

So the other night, I spent too many hours on a new one.  I wanted to experiment with Kindle's own in-built cover designer, and so after shopping around for an image I wanted and altering it to fit my tastes, I plugged it into Kindle's device to see what it could do.  And mostly, I like the application.  The biggest drawback on the KDP Cover Creator is that I can only use it on Kindle.  I can't download the image for use on other sites, at least not that I can see.  And that makes perfect sense, especially for Amazon, who encourages us to only sell with them in the first place.

The image itself... Well, it's far simpler, which seems to be the way to go.  And it's kinda cool and gives more of a military thriller feel to the book, but is it better?  Does it answer "yes" to those questions I asked above? Are potential readers more likely to react to it?

Please take a second to share your opinion with me.  Visit the survey question, Which "The Thorne Legacy" Cover Is Better? and simply click on an answer. 

Your feedback is appreciated!  

(In fact, if you want to say more than the survey allows, just leave a comment!)

Thank you.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Patriotic Pricing: Independence Day Ebook Sale

The Spirit of '76 featuring Minutemen of the Revolution

In honor of July 4th and my own military deployment to the Middle East this month, I have implemented what I call my Patriotic Pricing Model.  (Like all my pricing models, this is a structured system based on word count.)  For the most part, this will reduce nearly all of my ebooks by a dollar each.

How long will these lower prices last?

All summer?  Independence Day through Veterans Day?  The rest of 2015?  Forever?  I don't know yet, but take advantage while you can.

Minutemen from the Watchmen movie

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Long Way Down

One of my New Years Resolutions was to read at least four novels this year and to review them (especially since I hope people will review my books).  Today I gave up on this book, which I had nearly dropped a couple times before.  My reading time is just so limited that unless a book really drives me to pick it up and keep reading, I eventually lose interest.

Below is the review I've posted to Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.

I forgot to also mention in it that I didn't like the author's chapter breaks either; rather than ending a scene with a cliff hanger or interesting lead, he just broke the scene itself in half.  An unclean gimmick instead of an artful break.  

I didn’t make it all the way down in The Long Way Down. 

It’s not that it’s a *bad* book, it’s actually a decent book, and a fun one.  I made it just over halfway before finally deciding I wasn’t interested enough to continue, and had almost given up a couple times before that.  I picked it up because it sounded similar to a story I’d written a long time ago, the cover was very alluring, and it just sounded like fun.  

I’m not a big Urban Fantasy fan, but this one makes a damn good fit for the genre: a former private eye and modest sorcerer operating in the mystic underground of Las Vegas. 

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Stuff I liked:
- The detective work he does is well done and realistic, like going to the county clerk’s office for property records. 
- The world building is kinda cool.  The author obviously knows Vegas and what a great place for this kind of story.  And I liked the underground community of odd magicians he gathered together, as well as the corporate cult of bad guys. 
- Though I didn’t get through enough of the book to get all of the character development for the hero, it was there.  Flashbacks and hallucinations make a scattered attempt at giving him some background, but it’s kind of few and far between, and feels a little forced. 

Stuff I didn’t like:
- It’s written with what I can only call the Joss Whedon voice.  A lot of quick quips, sarcastic comments, and clever comebacks.  Everyone’s a snarky hipster, which gets on my nerves quickly.  To me it sounds less like how real people talk and more like a corny TV show.  A lot of readers (and TV viewers) like that, and if you do you’ll enjoy that voice here too.  But I don’t.
- Similarly, the book reads kind of like a fun comic book and less noir as I’d like.  (Though he certainly makes a lot of effort to sound noir-ish by using—sometimes over using—old narration tropes and clich├ęs.)  This also made it kind of weird for me that he’d dip into such dark places as snuff films and still handle it with that corny Whedon voice.
- The second most important character in the book is a stylish demonic hottie who dresses like an Anime chick, drives a sports car, and has a crush on the loser magician.  Again, too comic book/CW TV series for me, and I just didn’t buy that a demon prince’s right hand would give a damn about the hero.  (Granted, as far as I had gotten into it, she hadn’t gone all in for dating him yet, but she was heading that way, and that didn’t work for me.)

Overall, I firmly believe that a lot of readers will love this book.  And I certainly didn’t hate it, but…  It just wasn’t for me.  3 stars.