Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

New Bone Flower Queen Cover

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bfqprelim7I’ve finally finished the revamp of the cover for The Bone Flower Queen, and I’m also almost done with the cover for The Bone Flower Goddess, but will hold off on revealing that one until it’s closer to release date. Right now the new covers are only on the ebook versions, but I’m getting ready to update the paperback covers on both books, so if you’re wanting to snag up copies with the old covers, now’s the time to do it.

It took me a really long time to come to the final concept for this particular book. It went through numerous iterations, and one of my early attempts will actually be the cover for The Bone Flower Goddess. I originally had an idea to do masks on the cover–seemingly easy to do and thematically relevant–but only one of the masks actually turned out looking good. Eventually I abandoned that concept and went back to the drawing board. I also messed around repeatedly with the cover for The Bone Flower Throne, until I had an overall look I really liked (I ended up really not liking the one I posted in the earlier blog post and decided to go even simpler.).

Bone Flower redo 3I still wasn’t sure about what my central object would be, but after several hours of false starts, I finally came up with the idea of the obsidian mirror. I was still wrangling with the jaguar issue though; everything I’d done so far looked a little too realistic and not necessarily “Aztec” or “Toltec”. Eventually I did a line drawing of an actual Aztec jaguar statue, and am pretty pleased with how it turned out. Aside from the smoke, all of the art on the cover is original, drawn in Gimp. I like getting to stretch my creative muscles like this. Self publishing has been very good for my internal artist, which I’d put away for so long….

I’d hoped to revamp the paperback’s sizing, convert it down to 5.25X8, but having discovered that it would require an entirely new ISBN for both books, I’ve decided I’m going to stick with the 6X9 format and just update the covers. I also have plans for a paperback omnibus edition that I’ll sell only at conventions, but CreateSpace’s page limits might make that impractical. We’ll see. At the very least, there will be an omnibus ebook version, which means a fourth cover (Yay!).

 

New Covers for Bone Flower

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BFT_ebookcovOne of the many advantages of being an indie author is that you can change strategies midstream, and do it rather easily and painlessly. If something isn’t working, you can reevaluate and make changes, and don’t have to convince a publisher to go along with you.

After much soul-searching and frustration, I’ve decided that things aren’t working with my Bone Flower books. Sales are poor, and even when I ran a .99 promo, I made very few sales, nowhere near enough to even recoup the costs of the promotion itself (and we’re not even talking BookBub size prices. We’re talking $5 at the cheapest, and $45 at the most expensive.). I don’t have a ton of reviews, but enough for me to feel confident that the story is not the issue. That leaves other factors to play around with. Maybe my blurb is all wrong (and yes, I’m toying around with a new blurb, but not seriously yet). Maybe my price-point is wrong (I already lowered both books by $2 in their ebook form, matching the pricing of similar books in my genre. Amazon still thinks I need to drop them another dollar, but I’m not convinced there yet). Or maybe my cover is giving the reader the wrong impression about my book (bingo!)

My editor at Panverse discussed this with me back when sales were struggling and we kept getting puzzling reviews from folks who thought the book was supposed to be young adult. We hadn’t advertised it as young adult; we advertised it as history fantasy and historical romance. I’ve been asked over and over what age group I would recommend the book to, and 99% of the time, it’s the parent of a 12 or 13 year old asking. We both pondered about where they were getting this impression, and eventually we started wondering if it was the cover.

Throne’s cover is absolutely gorgeous. I love it with all my heart, and I love the cover for Queen as well. They are beautiful pieces of art, and people always compliment them, but when I tell them that the book is in the vein of Game of Thrones when it comes to content, they are surprised. “Yeah, I didn’t get that impression at all from the cover.” I sold quite a few books at AnomalyCon a couple weeks ago, but I do wonder how many epic fantasy fans–my target audience–looked at the covers and moved on to the next table because they saw YA fantasy and said, “Not my thing.” And all but one of those sales went to women; the man who bought a copy was a new friend who’d spent all weekend listening to me talk about it on panels we were on together. Statically, men are the core audience when it comes to epic fantasy, and I’m having a really hard time reaching them.

So as much as it pains me to set aside the beautiful covers, I have to think about marketing and genre, otherwise I’m going to continue to languish in sales obscurity. I need covers that shout “Epic fantasy!”, so that I can at least make epic fantasy readers pick up the book and turn it over to read the blurb, or see the cover in search results on Amazon and decide to click it and read the blurb and reviews. And that means new covers. *sniffle*

Bone Flower redo 1After examining quite a few covers on Amazon, I decided the easiest style was an object focus, like GoT or Lord of the Rings. I’m already considerably in the hole on both books, so I needed to do this on the cheap, and those were styles I felt confident I could mimic with my own skills in Gimp. I’ve been working on it for several weeks, toying with different concepts, and abandoning some, but I think I’ve finally nailed down the basic overall look. I might do some more tweaking in the future (going to a textured background rather than a stylized image, for example) but for now I’m testing out the new cover style with Throne, and will run some promos in the near future, to see if there’s any improvement in sales. If the new cover is working, I’ll go through the process of revamping the paperbacks as well.

I’m still in the process of figuring out the covers for both Queen and the final book (which I’m just over 50k into), so I’m holding off on those until I see how things go with Throne over the next month or so as I do promotion.

The Anatomy of a Piece of Art

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On Wednesday, I finished my first large digital art project, using Gimp. For those who don’t know, Gimp is a free open-source Photoshop-like application. I’ve used Gimp in the past for photo manipulation and creating web art for my previous website. It’s got a steep learning curve, but there are tons of videos out on YouTube that can help the beginning user get comfortable with it. Up until now though, I’d never used it for art (though I also wasn’t doing any art until recently), and seeing some videos on how to draw and paint with it got me motivated to give it a try.

I did some messing around with custom brushes to create some starry backgrounds, with plans of eventually doing an illustration of my short story “Night Bird Soaring”, but without a graphic tablet, I felt good quality work was out of my reach. So I bought a graphic tablet, and while I was waiting for it to arrive, I decided to do some just straight-up painting, to get a feel for using the brushes and stuff.

I took a photograph of my dog Lily and decided I wanted to make a painting out of it. She’s got a diverse coloration, and I love this particular photo of her and had been making drawings off of it.

Lily

I didn’t like any of my drawings of it though, so I decided to scrap those and work directly off the photograph. It was large and of good enough quality to do so. I cropped it down so then did some photo manipulation on it; basically I followed the instructions on a video I found about how to make a photo look like a drawing, and I ended up with this:

Manipulated Photo

As part of the process, I made it transparent as well, so I could put whatever color background I wanted behind it (a necessity given that I was going to be working on large portions of white.). After that I started adding layers to it, one for each major body color then ones for the different facial features; eyes, mouth, tongue, nose, and the collar. I later also added an extra layer for the white shading part, since it became clear right after starting on the white portions that it would be easier to have a base white layer and a separate shading layer.

To get proper coloration, I used the color dropper feature, to let Gimp pick the closest approximation of the actual colors of the photograph. I started off using the blending tool, to get a fading into other color, but scrapped that idea after doing the tongue in a purely block-color fashion; I liked the look that the hard edges between the colors gave, sort of like paint by numbers. So I went back and deleted the bit of work I’d done using the blending tool and started over again, keeping to the block style this time.

I started the project back on September 30th and I spent a couple hours each night working on it, one layer at a time. I finally finished it this last Wednesday, October 12th, after spending about 6 hours that day to get it wrapped up. I opted not to do a painted background on it because I thought it would be too busy if I did it, and so decided to do a transparent gradient background with the light coming from the same direction as the light in the photo was coming from. Below you can see the various layers I used to create the finished product:

The different layers

Click for better detail

And here is the completed project:

Portrait of Lily

I do want to note that I did all this with the mouse, none with the tablet. After experimenting with the tablet, I found it would be difficult to get the colors consistent due to the pressure sensativity, so I opted for finishing it up with the mouse even though the mouse is less precise. The tablet pen will be good for doing a different kind of painting than what I was doing here. I’m looking forward to see what I can do with it.