Kindle and print books. Photo credit:

Happy RaEW!

Kindle and print books. Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I was having trouble coming up with a catchy title for this post, so I decided to be cryptic. RaEW stands for “Read an Ebook Week”. Seeing how Smashwords crashed this morning from a deluge of hits, I’d say it’s off to an enthusiastic start!

In honor of “Read an Ebook Week”, I’ve made my dark paranormal romance Strange Little Band half off on Smashwords this week. Use coupon code CT43G to download SLB for a mere $1.50!

Anti-valentine. Photo credit:

Valentine’s antidote

Anti-valentine. Photo credit:

Photo credit:

If you’re weary of lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day mushiness, you may want to give Addison’s and Shane’s lusty, love/hate relationship in Strange Little Band a try. Here’s a taste.

Shane stared idly at the few stars not blocked by the arboretum’s canopy. For once he didn’t wonder which his father had come from. With Addison laying on top of him he didn’t care. His hands wandered over her smooth, toned body, completely sated and fighting off sleep. They needed to leave before a guard found them.

“Come to my quarters,” he blurted.

Harris lifted her head long enough to scowl at him. “Prat,” she muttered, letting her head drop to his chest. ~You couldn’t keep your mouth shut, could you?~

Although part of him said to do just that, Shane’s pride spoke up. ~You seemed to be enjoying my mouth earlier.~

Harris growled, then rolled off him. Shane happily ogled her as she stood and slipped into her dress. Then her mind disappeared behind her shields. “Our ‘coitus meeting’ is over,” she informed him, “so I’m free to tell you that you’re the most insufferable, arrogant bastard I’ve ever met.”

All together now: awwww! 😉

Download the Strange Little Band ebook for FREE today only with coupon code AR62P at Smashwords!

Jawbreaker. Photo credit:

Worth a Thousand Words: Book Cover Design 101

Jawbreaker. Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This was originally published on Zoe Winters’ blog as a guest post. Thanks again, Zoe!

So you’ve written a book. Your imagination has flowed out your fingers into a computer or through a pen to paper. Now it’s time to create a billboard for your story. A good cover tells potential readers volumes about your tale, whether it’s an ebook or in print.

This post is an overview of the design process for non-artists. It would take thousands of words to convey the principles I use when I create cover art. This primer will get you started in creating attractive, informative book covers without breaking the bank. I’ll use the cover of my dark paranormal romance Strange Little Band as an example.

What You’ll Need

  • The interwebs
  • A graphics program (Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, PaintShop Pro, etc.)
  • Your book’s title
  • The trim size of your book

If you’re scratching your head about trim sizes, don’t worry. Print-on-demand services like CreateSpace and Lightning Source list standard book trim sizes. Even if you plan to publish electronically only, I recommend choosing an industry-standard size and designing a print-resolution cover. A printed version of the cover could come in handy for promotion.

Strange Little Band front cover artExample: I chose a trim size of 6 x 9 inches (15.24 x 22.86 cm) for Strange Little Band.

Ponder Design Elements

Before you rev up Photoshop, think about your book in general. What is its tone? Is there a theme? Think about the genre, and search Amazon for books similar to yours. See what kind of covers those books have. You don’t have to copy other books’ styles, but checking out the competition could spark ideas.

Imagine you’re a reader browsing a brick-and-mortar or online bookstore searching for a book like yours. What element(s) in your novel would catch your eye? It could be a face, a striking landscape, an object key to your story, or a combination. Write all of them down. You’ll revisit this list later.

Example: Strange Little Band is an unconventional sci-fi/romance with antihero protagonists. I wanted to feature the main characters and their love/hate relationship. No smoochies, roses, and hearts on this cover!

Hunt Stock Photos and Illustrations

Several stock photography and artwork sites have excellent search engines to help you find images of just about anything. If your budget is tight, try Flickr and Morgue File. Be sure to note each image’s license. If an image is copyrighted with all rights reserved, you must contact the photographer/artist to negotiate a license to use his or her work. But if the image has been released with a Creative Commons license, you can use the image for free if you meet the license’s requirements. Learn more about the different Creative Commons licenses.

Flickr’s advanced search makes it easy-peasy to find CC-licensed works. Here’s a search for CC-licensed “tiger lily” images.

If you can afford $10 to $50 for stock photos/artwork, check out iStockPhoto. iStock’s search interface is outstanding, which is a good thing considering the size of their image archive! I’ve yet to be disappointed by them.

Example: After a lot of searching, I found two photos on Strange Little Band that look like the main characters and have appropriately pissy expressions. Meet Addison and Shane.

Got Images. Now What?

Now it’s time to get creative. Start up your graphics program and create a new document a little larger than the trim size of your book (to allow for bleed) and at 300 dpi. If you’re using a single image, you’re almost done. If you’re using multiple ones, it’s up to you to position and/or edit them together.

When deciding where to place elements in your design, keep in mind “z flow.” Westerners’ eyes move in a z pattern when scanning a page: top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right. Put important object somewhere on the z.

Example: I spent longer than I care to admit tweaking the two stock photos into one image. The color tones of the photos were vastly different, so I made Addison’s image more cyan and darker. I also positioned Shane’s head in the upper right corner and Addison in the lower left corner on purpose. Viewers’ eyes move from Shane’s face to Addison’s naturally.

Fonts, Text Size, and Text Placement

The fonts you use for the text on your cover are as important as the graphic behind them. Fonts have personality. Choose one or two that match the tone of your story. I say this with two caveats.

  1. Keep it simple and legible. It’s tempting to use ornate, decorative fonts. Make sure they’re easy to read!
  2. I strongly advise against using Comic Sans, Papyrus, Jokerman, and Curlz. They’re overused and cliched.

If you’re looking for more fonts, try There are more than you’ve ever imagined.

Text size indicates the relative importance of the message. If you’re a new or not (yet!) well known author, there’s no need to make your name the largest text on the cover. Your name won’t help sell your book. Your title might. I recommend making the title the most prominent text on your design.

As for where to put your book’s title and your name, you can’t go wrong with the top and bottom of the design. Those positions fit the z pattern that viewers’ eyes follow. Elsewhere on the z works as well.

Example: I’m not entirely happy with the text on SLB’s cover. The title design is based on an offbeat sans-serif font, which I think matches the tone of the book. It and my and my co-author’s names are positioned at the top left corner, which viewers can’t possibly miss. I don’t think there’s enough contrast between the title and the background. It doesn’t pop as much as it could, in part because the background is a little busy. The end result is a compromise. I had to draw the line somewhere.

That’s book cover design in a nutshell. The process is time consuming, but worth it in my opinion. Once you have a good cover design, you can reuse it for bookmarks, postcards, posters, and other promotional material. Good luck!

Four-star squirrel Photo credit:

WANTED: Three sentences

Four-star squirrel Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Not just any three sentences. I’m on the prowl for three sentences about Strange Little Band.

Reviews are a key element in promoting any book. Since I don’t have the marketing arm of a big publisher behind me, obtaining reviews of Strange Little Band is essential. Neutral and positive book reviews are forms of social proof. They persuade a potential reader to give the book a try because other people already have read it and like it. They’re a vital way to make one novel in a sea of printed and electronic books stand out.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Strange Little Band, please write a three sentence review of the book. (If you go longer, I won’t complain. 😉 ) Here’s an example that was posted on Smashwords by Lisa M.

The plot is filled with lust twists and turns that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat. It can’t compare to a book half its size with double the amount of action and intrigue. A nail-biter that is not for the weak at heart! Worth every penny that you pay.

Okay, that was four sentences, but you get my point. A review doesn’t have to be the excruciating grade school experience of writing book reports. It should only take a few minutes.

I’ve written my review. How do I share it with the world?

Thanks to the intertubes, that’s easy. It depends on the edition of SLB you have.

Additionally, if you have a Goodreads account, please please please post your review here as well. Goodreads is the best thing since sliced bread for book promotion. (Not that sliced bread helps promote books… er. Moving on.)

To those of you who’ve already taken the time to review SLB, *MWAH* You rock my world. :)


Strange Little Loot

Strange Little Band chibis - Lawful evil never looked so cute

A few weeks ago Strange Little Band reader Happy suggested that I put some of the SLB loot on eBay. This fits perfectly with my overall book promotion strategy: throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. :)

So I’ve listed five items: three paperback copies of SLB (currently $6, and I’m happy to inscribe them) and two hooded sweatshirts. One of the hoodies features the chibi illustration, which I’ve posted above. Charissa Cotrill’s (@charnanigans) mad art skillz made SLB’s antiheroes and outright villain downright adorable. The other hoodie bears Triptych’s dubious logo, which I designed.

Triptych - Looking to the future of innovaton... in bed

It makes me giggle. :)

Both sweatshirts are $20 at the moment. So bid or not, and maybe tell a friend. I’m trying to bring Strange Little Band‘s bad behavior to the masses!