1

A book cover has always been a marketing tool.  But with a paper book sitting on a brick and mortar shelf, the quality and impact of the cover art isn't the only selling tool.  The book has a physical presence and sometimes the art does too.  Keyhole covers and snazzy cut outs get to play with textures.  The cover is often what gets a buyer to pick up a book, but then the buyer can read a paragraph from the first chapter, the middle chapter and the last chapter.  It all combines to make an impact that makes a difference.

An e-book has to make the sale with the quality of the art first.  It has to catch the eye with more than a visual impact.  It has to carry the book's pitch clearly enough to hint at answers to the questions that the sample pages can't convey.  The art has to carry the author's message and it can't do it with texture or snazzy cut outs.  It takes a gifted artist to create an e-cover good enough to seal the deal. 

The artist who designed the covers for Brotherly and E-mail is a phenomenally creative soul who had the good taste and poor judgment to marry me.  I think my hubby did a great job with both covers because he cared about the message of the book and even bothered to learn some of the finer details.  My husband considers learning anything about a romance novel to be a sign of supreme love and a sacrifice beyond measure. (He never knew I spent so much time thinking of creative ways to refer to men's members.)  But beyond all else, he put his artistic talents to work to design a quality cover I'd be proud to have my name on anytime, anywhere.

I don't think authors of e-books always take enough time or pay enough attention to their covers.  In many ways, e-books are to publishing what no fault was to divorce.  And that's a mixed blessing.  Some good work can now get to readers that they could never have had the freedom to choose just a couple of years ago.  But just as no fault made divorce so easy that couples too often don't try to work on their marriages, e-books can make publication so easy that authors don't take the time to design the best image for their work. 

E covers matter more and we should all work to get them right. 

And to John, the creative genius unfortunate enough to be married to a (sometimes more than slightly) warped writer in lawyer's clothing, I love you very much -- and thank you.

Or at least, let's get on with it!

I've encountered a problem with several recent books by romance writers whose work I adore.  Too much back story.  Not only do I want to meet the hero and heroine early on, I want them to meet each other.  It's their interaction, chemistry and conflict that will drive me to read the book.  I think of it as the Grey's Anatomy requirement. 

On the pilot episode of Grey's some of the first scenes were Mer/Der.  The emotions of that first meeting have carried the show and kept me watching even when the couple was apart.  Because once they had the spark and sizzle, no matter who they're with or what they're doing, the S&S factor flavors every encounter.  I give Shonda Rhimes some props for kindling the fire and for being smart enough to keep the embers burning.

That's what I want from my books.  Even though Mer/Der got to the grinding and grubbing right away, a literary couple doesn't have to (and I really, really hope they won't) sleep together in the first 10 or even the first 50 pages.  By the time they have sex, I want to be emotionally invested.  On the other hand, I don't want to be so tired of details and history and minutia that I'm too bored to care much by the time they meet, greet and make it sweet. 

I'll take some history if I have to, but first, I need a spoonful of S&S to make it go down and keep me hanging around.

I grew up in a little town in South Carolina that had a drive-in theater.  But, mind you, not a regular drive-in.  This one was special.  When my mother and my aunt drove in, my cousin and I were hidden under blankets in the back seat.  Why?  Because it showed those movies.  You know, the ones where someone moves into a new neighborhood and is greeted by the Welcome Wagon.  Before you could get back to the car with popcorn, the now naked new neighbor, the Welcome Wagon, the Postman, and the movers were grinding and grubbing all over the screen. 

(Try telling 2 pre-teen girls to sleep through that.  Also, try to explain why the forbidden children who were told to sleep were sent for the popcorn and returned with it without anyone calling the cops or Social Services.)    

The grubbing and grinding follies, if on a page instead of a movie screen, would be in the category "adults only."  I get that.  What I don't get is where the boundary begins.  When exactly does romance enter the "adults only" category?  Brotherly Love  and E-mail Enticement  both venture beyond the bedroom door.  In fact, both describe the physical encounters in graphic and - I hope - arousing, enticing and alluring detail.  Brotherly  contains a scene in a bordello with one man and several "ladies of the evening."   Neither book contains sharing of their coupling by the focal pair nor (darn it) bondage, sex toys, or overly unusual forms or foibles.  Does the writer's intent make the difference or does it take something more?  Help me out - what makes a book fit the adult only category?

By the way, I've categorized both Brotherly and E-mail  as adult only.  Does anyone have an idea whether that helps or hurts sales?  When I check out my books in the e-tailers, some (most) of the others in the same section make my stuff look and sound pretty tame.  So I got to wondering -- am I in the wrong neighborhood?

I'd appreciate someone getting out the clue gun and pointing it in my direction.

3

Amazon introduced the Kindle and it became the new "must have."  The device seems to be on permanent back-order, a status that didn't change even when Amazon announced it was about to introduce the Kindle 2.  Other companies, like Sony, have e-readers too, but it's Amazon that led the charge into a brave new world.  It was Amazon that told authors that if we wanted to publish our work, just upload it and they'd make it available on their site to all those Kindle owners. 

Wait -- there's a way to get my work out there and off my hard-drive without spending a fortune to self-publish?  I can, gulp, make my work available to actual readers?

As my husband would say --- CUE MR. BRICK!!!

Okay, I know that Amazon didn't introduce e-publishing.  It just gave it feet.  With the growing number of Kindle owners, soon, e-publishing may run.  When the app becomes widely available for cell phones, e-publishing may take wings and fly.  The possibilities percolated in my disturbed little brain and one day I turned to my hubby the computer guy and said - Give me a book cover

The first book I ever wrote, the one I wrote before I had any concept of the tight little rules in what the majors will and won't publish (Brotherly Love) became my first Kindle book.  After I uploaded it, I discovered the Mobipocket forum that formats and distributes e-books for PC and other online e-publishers to a list of great e-tailers. 

I wasn't surprised to read my Mobi contract (I am a lawyer) and learn that AMAZON OWNS MOBI.  So,  one writer who appreciates Amazon for being far-sighted enough to give everyone a forum and let the buyers decide what they want gives three cheers for Amazon.  Yip, yip, yipee!

Today the Kindle and Mobi, and tomorrow - the world.  The possibilities are endless, now that I've opened my eyes to see them.  Maybe it was all the publicity surrounding the new Kindle launch or maybe, it was a conspiracy between my hubby and his co-hort in crime, Mr. Brick.