The Art of Cover Art

stock photos photoI recently encountered a book with a cover that is nearly identical to one of my clients’ novels. It’s not the first time I’ve tripped on look-alikes of my clients’ book covers, but I tend to go all mama bear when there is the slightest possibility that one of my clients is being ripped off or plagiarized. So I sent a link of the book to my client.

I could almost hear the sigh in her response.

“That’s the downside to using stock photos,” she replied. “I’ve considered hiring my own photographer and models but, thus far, I haven’t seen any covers shot and designed that way that I’ve liked.”

Well, that IS a pretty big downside to stock photos. I don’t know how one measures emotional energy — is there such a thing as emotowatts? Emotovolts? — but I know authors put it into their books by the barrel. The writing. The editing. The rewriting. The formatting. The promoting. The financing. Ad infinitum. And that intense emotional energy includes cover design. Authors want their original work to look, well, like an original work. They want covers that accurately and alluringly reflect the storytelling, and they want those covers to be powerful and potent marketing lures that are darn-near irresistible to book browsers, buyers, and fans. (Fans have plenty to say about a book’s cover, and they rarely hold back!) Authors often rack up formidable hours gleaning through the most obscure stock photos they can find to ensure their book covers are as singular and original as possible, even as that publication date vibrates like a muted buzzsaw over their heads.

The stock photo conundrum isn’t just about book covers. I’m increasingly reading lamentations about the same frustration with website art, logos and other media that require graphic design elements.

“Stock photos are killing differentiation!” boomed a recent blog post for a branding firm I follow.

“Let me be blunt: Stock photography needs to die,” writes Clive Thompson in his recent Wired article, “Only You Can Overthrow the Tyranny of Awful Stock Photos.” He makes a powerful persuasive argument, citing the predictable and stereotypical results of search engine image results and the efforts by some groups to work with stock image providers to offer a broader range of diversity and perspective for certain keywords (such as ethnic groups or authority figures). In Thompson’s opinion, stock photos are to graphic design what cliches are to language and what Hallmark is to poetry. Like cliches and banal poetry, stock photos dumb us down, he argues.

Thompson encourages a sort of anti-stock photo activism — or at least, being authentically original with graphic elements. “The true cure for stock photography is inside your camera phone,” he writes.

Or, perhaps, in your actual camera, or in a family photo album, or on a video camera in your closet, or even in your own hand-drawn squiggles. I agree with Thompson, which perhaps makes me a bit of a hypocrite, since I snagged the above photo from Google images. In hopes of redeeming myself and practicing what I (and others) preach, I offer a few shots from my cameras and cell phone below. Help yourself (if you want).

What are your thoughts about stock photos and alternatives to them?

 

cades cove mill

 

 

wild turkeys

 

brides and wives

girl and doll

bahamas

suzdalsausalitogabriellev yamweaver

Fun! Hot! Video Trailer for “Legal Briefs,” N.M. Silber’s New Amazon Best Seller!

You can’t watch it without smiling!

 

 

A Teenager’s Case Against E-Readers

I have a really special teen in my life: “M.” — a smart, cute, witty, popular, avid reader and a deep thinker. She’s in 10th grade at an urban American public school. M. has some very strong opinions about e-readers — rather unconventional opinions for natives of the Digital Age. I’ve asked her to share her thoughts on e-readers as a guest blogger, and she graciously agreed (and even researched!). With great pride, I present M.’s guest post, unedited, written in her own words. Read, think and feel free to judiciously respond in the comment bubble above. Enjoy! Thanks, “M.”!

Em blog photo

Do eReaders Equal No Readers?

            Throughout the past three or so years, eReaders have become the new “thing.” They have become increasingly popular, and more and more people are jumping on their band wagon. With the increasing of electronic books, what does the future hold for the traditional paperback? Electronic readers like the Kindle, Nook, and Tablet affect the economy, are distractions, have functional set-backs, are negative on the environment and travel, and have many other problems as well.

The increase of electronic readers negatively impacts the American economy. The surge of online books has lead to the closing of many local bookshops and the long-running book power-house, Borders. When these books stores were forcedly closed, thousands of Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment rates shot up, which made the problem of our recession even worse. Also, our once-American employees have been replaced by outsourced workers from third and second world countries. Now most of the money gained from American books is replaced by money that has to be sent to lower world countries to pay for production. With that being said, the American economy does not even gain much of a profit from the best-selling eReaders.

One thing E-readers are fantastic at is being distracting. Most people I know do not even use them to read, instead the three hundred or so dollars spent on electric readers goes towards children playing apps. The touch screen and internet features of E-readers provide an outlet for owners to not read, but to spend more time on Facebook or Candy Crush. Most electronic readers are being compared to Ipads, whose primary function is entertainment, when they should be compared to other eReaders. The comparison of I-products and electronic readers increases the public’s view of eReaders being used for entertainment, not books. Finally, many people bring their Kindle Fires to school and pretend to read in class, when they are actually on in the internet or playing games. This new distraction is causing our next generation of leaders to not succeed as much in school, because more time is spent playing games than learning.

There are also functional set-backs with items like Continue reading

Cover Reveal: BETTER by S. Walden

Second and final installment of the Too Good series!

Anticipated Release Date: Nov., 19, 2013

Anticipated Release Date: Nov., 19, 2013

Their relationship has been exposed, and now their lives are changed forever. Continue reading

Shop ‘Til You Never Drop

Penis Renuzit           Years ago, I worked in a department store. Bed and bath department. A doorway opened to the parking lot. An archway linked us to the men’s department. One day, my co-workers and I heard a frantic kerfuffle in the men’s department. “What’s going on over there?” we tittered among ourselves, straining our necks, forbidden to leave Bed & Bath before our breaks.

Minutes later, an ambulance crew burst through the door with a gurney and oxygen and medical supplies, flying toward the men’s department.

Before long, the same crew ambled back through our department, wheeling a covered body out the parking lot door.

“What happened?” I asked a colleague from the men’s department who was standing agog in the archway.

“A lady just dropped dead on our floor,” he said, stunned. “She was shopping with her family. She … just collapsed. When the paramedics arrived, she was dead.”

HOLY CRAP!

“You won’t believe what happened at work today!” I told my mom that night on the phone. “A lady dropped dead shopping in the men’s department!”

“Really? Wow! That’s exactly how I want to go!” she quipped. “I want to shop ‘til I drop!”

I gasped.

“Mom, I’m not kidding! This lady collapsed on the floor of the men’s department and died! She was shopping with her family! It’s not funny!”

“Oh, I’m serious,” Mom replied. “I think that’s a great way to go. Enjoy life with your family right up to the last minute. I can’t think of a better way to die!”

Then I realized … yeah, she was serious.

If there was an intergalactic shopping championship of the universe, my mom would nail it in seconds flat.

She wasn’t a shopaholic in the sense of “Must have! Must buy! Must overspend!” Shopping was just a hobby and a joy to her, and she was damn good at it. She could smell a bargain at 10,000 paces, but she didn’t need money to shop. She was happy just to browse and try on and oooh and ahhh – even to window shop.

Once, she bought a case of Renuzit air freshener from Big Lots for 10 cents a can. Some wiseguy packaging designer arranged a penis among the flowers on the can, and she overheard the Big Lots staff giggling about it as they pulled the cans off the shelves.

She persuaded them to sell her 24 cans. Then she gleefully gave cans of “Penis Renuzit” to her nearest and dearest friends and family.

She really did want to shop ‘til she dropped, surrounded by the people she loved.

Only half her wish came true. Leukemia got her before the mall did. Today is her birthday, and it would have been a big one – ya know, one of those major benchmark ages that ends with a five or a zero.

I went to visit her in a place far more bucolic than I’m sure she’d secretly choose for her final resting place. I think she’d rather spend eternity in a place surrounded by art or fashion or children.

But I have to believe that she’s busy celebrating in that big Skymall, with our beloved long-gone pets devotedly tailing her as she tries on St. John knits “just to see how they fit”  and honing her radar in on great deals to share with family, friends and charities. I think her birthday party is at a place where she can shop and shop and never drop.

Happy birthday, Mom. ☮

How to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance: 9 Tips

bookfestivalphoto

Don’t sit. Bring posters of your book cover. Stand your books upright. Draw a crowd. And more! Great tips for maximizing your promotional impact and sales at book festivals.

How to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance: 9 Tips.

Some Personal Lessons From “Probabililty Chain”

Probability Chain Pt1 photo        When Regan Keeter offered me a review copy of Part 1 of his novel “Probability Chain,” I did what I usually do when I’m offered an ARC: I accepted. (I rarely turn down free books unless I know there’s no chance I’ll read them.)

I recently wrote about cliffhangers and how indie lit readers seem to have an angry mob mentality about them as a literary device, despite irrefutable evidence of cliffhangers’ recurrent success in pop culture and classics – and in multiple media: TV, film, books, video games, et al. And I expressed fear that great indie writers, their work, and our collective ability to nurture future generations of critical thinkers are threatened by the current mob-minded trendiness of attacking cliffhanger-based books.

I was especially eager to read “Probability Chain” because I was so intrigued with Keeter’s risky format for his work. “Probability Chain” is a serial novel. Basically, you buy the novel in pieces. My review copy was eight chapters and 92 pages in hard copy format. Kindle downloads are 99 cents; hard copies are priced a bit higher.

I love the way Keeter’s serial model celebrates the cliffhanger. When I finished Part 1, I was invested and ready to read Part 2 (which isn’t available yet – Part 1 was just released in September). I say, “Great! Leave me hanging!” And I mean it!

In the world of indie lit, we’re all taking chances and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. I talked to Regan by phone, and he explained that his serial novel approach is an experiment. He’s trying to find the model that works in his own niche of indie lit. I think that’s brave and necessary. We’re all trying to find a silver bullet in this new age of indie publishing. Indie authors are pioneers! Continue reading

25 Independent Presses That Prove This Is the Golden Age of Indie Publishing

Flavorwire

Independent publishing — that is, publishing whatever an individual or small group think is worthy of dumping their time and money into — is nothing new. From Virginia and Leonard Woolf starting up Hogarth Press to the early days of Farrar, Straus and Giroux championing now-iconic authors that other publishers wouldn’t touch, DIY publishing has long been responsible for some of our best literature.

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