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Posts Tagged ‘I.G. Frederick’


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I. G. Frederick Discusses Judging a Book by its Cover

I’d like to welcome I. G. Frederick back to my site to share some very interesting insights into something very near and dear to every novelist’s heart, book cover design and its effect on sales.

 

DommemoirPeople do judge a book by its cover. Case in point: my third novel, Dommemoir. The original publisher approached me and offered promotional/marketing support to get me to sign with them.

They sponsored a launch party that featured a cake topped with a marzipan male genitalia wearing a ball spreader. I wrote guest blog posts. I gave workshops. I appeared on radio shows. I held a second launch party hosted by a Body Piercing & Tattoo establishment whose owner had been a resource for scenes in the book. The book received excellent reviews and was a Night Owl Romance Top Pick.

Sales were disappointing.

After two years, I got the rights back to the book and re-released it. I did none of those things. No party. No guest blog posts. No radio shows. I mentioned the book on Twitter, Face book, and G+.

My launch day sales exceeded those the publisher reported for the entire first quarter when it was originally released and they’ve steadily increased since then. As of mid May, my sales exceeded those of the publisher for the entire time they had the rights to the book.

The only thing I changed (except for correcting some minor typos) was the interior and cover design. And, while the former might make for a better reading experience, the latter is what dramatically increased my book sales.

The original cover looked okay in print, but it did nothing to sell the book. The thumbnail was a black blob. I never liked it, but I’d already gotten the publisher to ditch an even worse cover design and knew I’d never get this one changed.

One of the advantages of Indie publishing is having complete control over how your book looks. But, that also means you own responsibility for every facet of your book’s appearance. I’m fortunate in that I have skills as a typesetter and book designer. The interior design of the first edition of Dommemoir was just plain boring and I could fix that.

I’ve had some graphic design experience, and I’m comfortable creating simple covers for short stories. But, I’m not a designer or an artist. As I mentioned on this blog at the beginning of the year, I already had Nyla Alisia at Pussy Cat Press, who is both, redesign the covers for the second editions of Broken and Shattered. (Sales for both have also increased dramatically with the new covers. They are not romances so they have a smaller audience. But, they still outsold their original, three-year publisher release at the end of May after less than seven months with new covers. Some of those sales could be attributed to the lack of e-books when the books were originally released. But they’re selling in paper as well.)

As a result, when Nyla asked me to trust her and give her free reign to design the new cover for Dommemoir, I agreed. Although normally she only reads a synopsis and a few chapters before working on a cover design, apparently she wasn’t able to put Dommemoir down and ended up reading the entire book. (And, after she finished it, Nyla decided she would like to be a FemDom and wrote a tagline warning readers: “This book will change women’s perspective on relationship dynamics forever.”)

She took the elements that touched her, that made the story powerful, and combined them in a unique cover that captures the emotional content of the book. I know if she had tried to explain the cover to me or showed me a sketch to convey the idea, I probably would have vetoed it. But, the minute I saw what she created, I fell in love and only requested some very minor adjustments.

In one image she managed to cover every critical element of the book, without giving away too much. It is absolutely perfect! And, the sales numbers prove that a good cover really can make or break a book.

Recently, I taught a class on self publishing at a local college. When I spoke about cover design, I started with a bag full of books that I believe have great covers. One by one, I pulled each book out of the bag, held it up for a few seconds, and put it back. Then, I asked my students to tell me what genre that book was marketed in. (Genre being a way to categorize the emotional response expected from a reader.) Even with only a few seconds to view each cover, at least one student accurately stated the genre of each book.

And, then, I went on to explain why that was important.

You have to write a good book. You have to put it in front of the right audience with a blurb that entices them to read a sample. But, if you don’t have an eye catching cover that captures the emotional tone of the book at first glance, you’ll never get readers to click on your cover instead of one of the dozens of others vying for their attention.

*****

I.G. Frederick has traded words for cash more years than she cares to admit and has specialized in erotic fiction and poetry since 2001. She has sold numerous short stories and poems to various print and electronic magazines and anthologies. Her novels have received high praise from readers, critics, and other authors.

You can download the first two chapters of Dommemoir or a free short story excerpt, “Jarod,” from her website where you can also read reviews of her work and find links to purchase her novels, poetry books, and individual short stories. She resides in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. with her submissive, Patrick, and three other felines.

 

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Busted Boobies or Titting Around with Cover Art

My guest today, critically acclaimed author, I.G. Frederick shares her experience with internet censorship.

 

When I got the rights back to the first two novels I’d had published, Broken and Shattered, I engaged the talented Nyla Alisia who works with me at Pussy Cat Press to create new covers for them. The publisher’s covers gave no clue as to what the books are about and had done nothing to sell them. I wanted to correct that.

While cruising a stock photo agency website, I happened upon the perfect picture for the Broken cover. The model looked like the protagonist, she appeared vulnerable, what she wore spoke to the dichotomy of the roles Jessica plays in the book, and the expression on her face was appropriately haunted. I turned the photo over to Nyla along with a synopsis, the first few chapters of the book, and the pitch:

Jessica lived luxuriously until her father lost everything in the dot.com bust. To continue her graduate studies and support herself, Jessica begs her professor for a research assistant’s position. He refuses unless she agrees to also serve as his slave. When in desperation she consents, he breaks her. Then, Jessica discovers she has a Dominant streak and exploits it.

What Nyla sent back was absolutely awesome. She had created a new background of a broken mirror, harshened the model’s makeup making her look even more haunted, and darkened the shadows. She selected the perfect font (aptly named “kink”) which I echoed inside the book using it for chapter headings and drop caps.

She created the subhead of “A Disturbing Erotic Novel” and added the tag line “Some things can never be fixed” to the epub cover and as the title of the description on the back of the print cover.

I was thrilled, amazed, and exhilarated to see a cover that so well captured what the book is about. I uploaded Broken to Amazon (print and Kindle), All Romance books, and Smashwords.

Imagine my surprise and consternation when I logged into my Smashwords dashboard more than a week later and discovered this note posted for Broken: “some of our retailers are cracking down on even illustrated nudity. Could you cover up our lady’s nipples a bit? :)”

Say what? Of five distributors/retailers they were the only ones to express concern. And, they weren’t complaining that the novel contained graphic sexual content, non-consensual BDSM, coerced slavery, and a professor who pimps his students out to other members of a university’s faculty. No, they wanted her nipples, those sexualized conduits for breast milk, covered up.

Mine is hardly the first example of such censorship. On the Facebook page: “Amazon Censors” (of all places), the most recent discussions revolve around Smashwords censorship. According to Esmeralda Greene, “This isn’t new. Smashwords told me I had to change the cover of a book of mine before it would be accepted for their distributer’s channels because it used a *painting* that showed some nipple.”

I asked Mark Coker, Smashwords founder, about the censorship. His response: “Our policies have changed little in the last two years … We’ve always had a no-nudity policy on cover images. No nipples has always been standard policy. Other than nipples, fully bare breasts and penises on cover images, we and our retailers allow quite a bit.” He also took exception to the idea that there had been any recent changes to policies. “There’s always a chance that our policies have been applied inconsistently because the vetting process is a human process and subject to human error and subjectivity.”

I was left with the choice of being shut out of the Smashwords premium catalog or paying to have my cover remade. Frankly, I don’t care whether or not some of the Smashwords retailers carry my books. They don’t cater to an audience who has any interest in reading what I write. But, unless you are a publisher with more than 100 titles, the Smashwords premium catalog is the only way to get them listed on Ebook Eros (a Diesel eBooks company). I’ve written guest posts, been profiled, etc. on Ebook Eros. Most of the books I’ve published through Smashwords are listed there, including Shattered which is the sequel to Broken.

Coker did not answer my question as to why Smashwords has an all-or-nothing policy regarding distribution to retailers.

I spoke with Nyla. She is such a talented artist that she was able to hide the nipples without dramatically changing the look of the cover. She moved the model’s pearls over her right nipple and lengthened her hair over her left. On December 20, the cover was accepted into the premium catalog by Smashwords, which pushes it through (eventually) to Sony, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Ebook Eros .

I decided I did not want to have two different (even subtly different) covers for the same book, especially given the confusion already caused by the fact that this is a second edition and some of the first edition books are still out there. I went ahead and replaced all versions of the book with the new cover, which took a considerable amount of my time.

So I’m out a bit of money and a lot of time for what? To cover up some nipples? For a book that’s billed as “a disturbing erotic novel”?

At the Erotic Authors Association’s (EAA) inaugural conference last September discussions turned more than once to the acceptability of violence over sex in mainstream literature. If one wrote about an underage woman having sex and wanted to have the work published, she couldn’t enjoy it. If she was raped, an author would have a much better chance of finding a publisher than if the sex was consensual and pleasurable. As disgusting as that might seem, it’s reflective of repressive attitudes toward sexual pleasure, especially female sexual pleasure.

What does it say about our society that we use sex to sell everything from soap to shoes and then freak out when a woman’s nipples are exposed on a book cover?

In an excellent post about the Dossier Journal cover controversy last month, Lisa Wade, PhD, notes that the “social and legislative ban on public breasts rests on a jiggly foundation. It’s not simply that breasts are considered pornographic. It’s that we’re afraid of women and femininity and female bodies and, if a man looks feminine enough, he becomes, by default, obscene.”

Does it worry you that the companies deciding what you get to read and how it’s presented were founded by megalomaniacs determined to keep what they decide is pornography off their electronic bookshelves,  try to run every other bookseller out of business while hiding anything written by or about LGBT people,  support bills in the U.S. Congress that would make Internet access in this country as limited as it is in China,  etc. are deciding what you get to read and how it’s presented?

I.G. Frederick has traded words for cash more years than she cares to admit and has specialized in erotic fiction and poetry since 2001. She has sold numerous short stories and poems to various print and electronic magazines and anthologies. Her novels have received high praise from readers, critics, and other authors.

You can read reviews of her work and find links to purchase her novels, poetry books, and individual short stories on her website. You can also find her at Smashwords, Twitter, Google, Live journal, and Facebook.

In addition, I.G. Frederick is an accomplished book designer and together with the awesome artist Nyla Alisia and her submissive Patrick (web designer extraordinaire) provides services to indie authors and small presses as part of Pussy Cat Press. Pussy Cat Press services — including elegant cover design for print and electronic books, print and electronic book formatting/design, and web development and design — are available on a fee-only (no royalty) basis with all rights for work produced owned by the client.

 

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