AWOL Sunday & Falling Behind

Lazy Sunday…

Well, kind of, I guess.  Started with dosing up as much as I dared to make a journey I really wasn’t fit for, but in a very good cause.  Why?  It was the baptism of our granddaughter Kimberly!  Sadly, the best I could manage in participation terms was arriving before everybody headed out, as the “facilities” at the church and the club afterwards were not suitable for me.  So I basically house-sat.  Still, I spent an extremely pleasant day in the back garden, enjoying the warmth and, eventually, the sun.  I dozed off for a while and then used my son’s tablet to start writing a new story (probably a short story).  It was wonderful, actually.  Being somewhere so very quiet, doing nothing of great importance.

If you’re interested in such things, I have a photo gallery of the baptism on my Facebook.  The majority of the photos were taken by my wife, Jenny, and using a Samsung Ace Smartphone (with only one exception), after the batteries died in my digital camera,  I have to say that the Samsung’s camera function provided phenomenal quality results, especially considering that no flash was used!

Not Keeping Up Well…

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been keeping up with things very well, lately.  That’s mainly because of the work involved in preparing for the book launch!  Part of it is the to-and-fro’ of getting the book into print, which will be both paperback and hardback.  I complicated matters by wanting the hardback to be the kind with a dustjacket with a plain book cover, rather than a full colour book cover.  This is probably a holdover from growing up with such things.  I used to love peeking under the dustjackets to see the smart, minimalistic titles on the covers and spine beneath.  Somehow, when I first encountered hardbacks without dustjackets but with glossy, full colour covers (often just on the front), well… to be absolutely honest, they looked cheap and tacky to me.  And yes, I know that’s silly and unfair, but it’s something I can’t get past.  Even those where the dustjacket illustration is still printed on the book cover beneath just doesn’t have the same feel to it.  A further complication because of this wish for a dustjacket is that the book sizes available are different!  Thus, I can’t have the 8 x 5 inch size.  I have to move up to 8.5 x 5.5 inches, which means that there will be a reduction in the number of pages!  The paper will also be crème instead of white.  Finally, the desire for a dustjacket means I need to come up with something for the inner flaps, without repeating anything from elsewhere, preferably.  Keith at skoobebooks.co.uk has been a huge help throughout!

On top of the print issues for the book, I have fallen foul of something I did for the release of The Sigil of Ahriman – producing a video book trailer!  There are many, many difficulties involved in the process, and I spent a considerable amount of time beating my head against very high, hard brick walls!  Without the enormous amount of help I had from Chris Graham (creator of the book’s cover illustration) with the images used in the video, and my son Damien in the narration, I would probably have conceded defeat long ago.  The task would have been, I  now know, far beyond me!  I will admit that this process was complicated when Damien pointed out that the video lost quality rather badly when watched full screen in HD!  I don’t have direct, personal access to HD.  Further, my computer seems to be suffering from serious memory problems (I know that feeling!) so many of the tricks used to persuade Windows Movie Maker to record in HD, or even pseudo-HD, simply won’t work for me.  I found a video conversion program which may have overcome the problem, but I won’t know until Damien confirms one way or another.  Finally, I haven’t yet decided on whether to superimpose the narrative on the video or to incorporate subtitles.  Both present significant technical challenges for a video creation newbie!

So I hope that you all understand why I have been struggling to keep up with other things!  If you’ve emailed me, for any reason, and I haven’t replied as yet, please accept my very sincere apologies.

~ Steve

Have You Got It Covered?

MysteryBookCover_thumb.pngIf I upset you with what follows, I regret doing so, but I am honestly speaking out in an attempt to help!

I’m on Pinterest.  I’m a member of several book groups on Pinterest.  And in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed something about book covers.  There are more and more being shown on Pinterest that I wouldn’t, in all honesty, look twice at!  It’s not the actual imagery in all cases, either, though there are some…  No, the problem lies in the titles.  I simply can’t read them!  They are in colours so close to what they overlay that they aren’t visible, lost in the background.  One thing I work hard on is a cover, and getting titles visible isn’t, as far as I’m concerned, that difficult.  In fact, it couldn’t be easier!  Yes, I might agonise over whether to use, say, plain white or a strong but bright yellow, but the principle of contrast isn’t difficult to understand.  If you’re determined to reflect the background colours in the titles, you really do have to to use a font that allows outlining, which has to make the letters visible by using a contrasting colour.  There are also certain colours that really don’t work well.  Reds can be very difficult to see, for example.  You also need to think how a cover will look to different people: the colour blind and the visually impaired, especially.  Look at your proposed  cover in negative as well as what the majority would see.  If you use red titles, how do they appear to a colour blind person?  Is the font so fancy that a visually impaired person would only see the stronger parts of letters but lose the detail, making the titles unreadable.

Of course, I can’t target just titles!  Cover images are important.  It’s better to have a plain cover, than one which will repel potential readers!  There’s an increasing number of pretty standard romance novels which have what can only be described as distinctly erotic covers, presumably to enjoy the benefits of the current fashion for erotic tales.  Fine.  Romance can lead to the erotic.  Fine, that is, if the story in the book reflects the cover!  But there are many romance readers who aren’t interested in erotic novels!  They are happy with the gentler, genuinely romantic covers that their favoured genre have traditionally used, and they’ll ignore those erotic covers.  lost sales.  I’d also question, again, the increase in the number of photographic covers in general.  If photography is used, it’s better to have the images heavily manipulated to create a more artistic effect, with facial features less clear, and a ‘softer’ focus.  For horror and paranormal, some of the covers look either amateurish (like stills from movies that don’t even achieve a ‘B’ grade!) while others are so graphic, they should be placed where only devotees of gore can reach them.  Finally, there are some where the cover illustration is so bizarre, or muddled, or dark that it’s almost impossible to figure out what you’re actually seeing!  I can’t see what benefit can be gained from such covers.

Covers need to be: descriptive/illustrative of the content; clear and intelligible; bold, bright and colourful for the youngest readers; they must have clear, readable titles that stand out from the background.  I know that many authors can’t afford to buy covers, especially custom covers, but they aren’t always the guilty ones.  I’ve seen covers which were ‘professionally’ designed, and which look truly dreadful!  The authors using such covers have wasted their money.  I have to wonder how many are actually happy with those covers, and how many use them just because they’ve paid so much to get them.

I beg authors to be more discerning in what they choose for their covers, and accept the principle of contrast for titles.

~ Steve

 

“This Cover Contains A Book”

We’ve probably all done it.  Browsing through masses of books, one suddenly stands out.  Why?  The cover is attractive, enticing.  We may have even gone further and trusted the cover illustration so much that we’ve bought the book knowing nothing about the contents.  Of course, there’s the possibility that we may even enjoy the contents, if and when we get around to reading it.  Equally, we may be bitterly disappointed!

There’s one thing I hate.  Covers that have very little, if anything, to do with the actual contents of the book.  There is nothing so disappointing, especially when the cover is spectacularly good.  If I enjoy the book despite the inaccuracy of the cover, I often feel the temptation to hide the cover in a wrapping.  I won’t name them, but I’ve got several books in my collection where I seem to have acquired two entirely unconnected pieces of art – the cover illustration and the content of the book.  I can only assume that these gross misrepresentations are the work of publishers.  Why would an author commit an error of such magnitude?  It equates with blurb that has been written by somebody who hasn’t truly read the book and cobbles together a totally misleading precis.

Covers are important, of course.  At least, they are until a book has achieved classic status.  There are many of the classics which may be found in very plain covers, amounting to little more than the title and author’s name.  If that helps reduce the cost of the book for buyers, then I’m all for it.  I see no reason why a paperback, or ebook, need have a colourful, evocative, exciting cover when it has achieved immortality.  Classics in hardback form often come in very plain style, maybe embellished by the use of gold on the minimalistic text of title plus author.  Unfortunately, achieving such notoriety is difficult, to say the least!  Most of us have to live with the need to package our works attractively, even if we’re giving them away.

As an author, I sometimes wish that people would remember that you’re supposed to buy books for their contents rather than for the quality of the packaging.  Sadly, though it shouldn’t be the case, we’re seen to be in a competitive market.  We have to obey the rules of product impact as much as a lamp manufacturer!  Avid readers will, in all likelihood, read almost everything in their favourite genre, regardless of the packaging.  What we’re really competing for are the less avid readers, who make choices based only partly on content.  These rely on the packaging first and foremost, unless they are given books as gifts.  They may establish favoured authors over a period of time, too, but the first hook is, all too often, the quality of the packaging.

As the title of this post hints, perhaps we need a visual impact box on book covers, warning potential buyers that covers do indeed contain books.

~ Steve