Monday, June 29, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Cover Reveal!!!

I have two books coming soon! I talked about Devortus Reigns before- the book with dragons. It's now called The Marked Hosts. I finished designing the cover. Getting it right was frustrating. I didn't know what I wanted it to say. I wasn't finding images that worked. 

Firstly, I'm noticing well over half my readership are women. In the past, I tried to design gender neutral covers because my books aren't for one gender more than the other.

For The Marked Hosts, I was torn about whether I should design a cover directed towards a female audience. I talked to my publisher about it and she said I should go for it- try something different.

When designing a cover, or any book image, you need to have a clear audience in mid. 

Since The Marked Hosts has dragons in it, I started searching Shutterstock for dragon stock images. I fell in love with this one and downloaded it right away.

Big mistake. It's a nice image. I didn't know what I'd do with it. I don't create covers with a single unedited image because there's a chance someone else will have my cover.

The Marked Hosts has dragons. They don't show up until well into act 2. If I come across a book with a dragon as the cover's focus, I expect dragons to be in act 1.

I could not for the life of me figure out what to do with that image.

Meh. 

My dragons are nice, but they're fierce. They would never have such an adorable expression.

It was tough giving up on that dragon image. I love it so much. I'll find some use for it. 

Next. 

I went in another direction. I needed an image of a tough female. I was impressed with Shutterstock. They have a good selection of fully-clothed warrior women.

I learned my lesson. I test drove the images before I paid for them.

Test drive any images before you download. Shutterstock lets you right click them to save the images with a watermark. 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock



Image Source: Shutterstock
The first two are beautiful but the main character, Contessa Torain, is perpetually grumpy. She would never make those expressions. Besides, her hair is short. The third image is way more like her. The next hurdle. Contessa has brown skin. 

I tried finding more images like the two above- fierce brown skinned females. 
Image Source: Shutterstock
This one is cool. I don't know how to cut hair in Photoshop and I wasn't interested in learning. The image is close but it still doesn't say Contessa. I'll save it for later. The image is powerful. 

It would be better if the person on the cover was in shadow. I searched for female warriors in silhouette. I found some good images. They weren't Contessa. 

I'm reluctant to have a brown skinned person on a cover because I don't want the story to be labeled as an African American book. All my stories have characters with skin tones ranging from fair to deep brown. This is important to me. I want my casts to be diverse.  

I kept looking for images. The pink haired image was close. Too much of person's face is showing. I'm not sold on how she's holding the sword. 


Awesome sword, great expression, partially concealed face, nice shadows. Okay!!! This, I can work with. The image isn't perfect. I don't like the background or the necklace. So, I removed them.

I test drove it on Instragam.

Things were looking good. Now what? I needed to do something with this image.

I tried putting her entirely in shadow. It didn't work out. She's in enough shadow that the focus will be on her eye and the sword.

A dragon needs to be involved somehow and the eye color needs to be different, brighter.

 Now, we're getting somewhere. Dragons in The Marked Hosts are energy beings. One dragon turns part of itself into sword that Contessa carries for the rest of the book.

Tweaked the image a little more and... here's the cover!


This is different from my other covers. Designing it was a little nerve-wrecking. Because it's so different, I stepped back from this project for a couple of days. Every now and then, I looked at the cover to see if I still like it. My feelings never changed.

Here's a draft of the blurb:

She should've let him to die.

Contessa Torain's job was simple. Talk humans out of blowing up her world because of a few rogue Brevia. A moment of pure insanity leads her to save a child. The brat follows her home. He smells like her kind, only different. His existence creates a mystery she it's her responsibility to solve..

She should've let his soul get eaten. The brat is an aggravation. All she wants is a quiet life.

More Brevia invade the human world, feeding off the residents. Contessa and her band of misfits escape to their homeland, Devortus, in another world.

Devortus is empty. Her family is missing. The Sencil, dragon-like guardians of the land, are dying. Contessa only wants to find her family. The Sencil care only about getting another body.

Worse, the child makes her feel things. He clings to her like it's his right to. His existence leads her and her band into a trouble they aren't prepared for, a plot far above her level of care.

The new enemy took something from her. No one stole from Contessa Torain.

The Marked Hosts in July!
Update: The Marked Hosts is now available.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Week In Links 6/26/15 Spider-Man, Comic Book Movies, J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter


Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi
Lights Out Headed For The Big Screen
Constructive Storytelling: Why Horror is Good For You, Part Two
Telling Stories About Magic In A World Of Science
Come With Me If You Want To See Some Insane Terminator Concept Art!
J.K. Rowling Reveals Why the Dursleys Don’t Like Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling on the Symbolism Behind Dumbledore and Hagrid’s Names
See the boy who lived, live in new play 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'
A Discussion of Horror?
AuthorBuzz Founder M.J. Rose’s Best Practices for Marketing
What to Write About To Get The Audience You’ve Dreamed Of
Q&A On Writing, Self Publishing And Book Marketing
10 Things I Know for Sure About Book Marketing
New Research: The Best Time to Tweet for Clicks, Retweets, and Replies

You probably noticed a new tab at the top of the page. I compiled links from previous Book Marketing and Branding sections and put them on the Book Marketing/Promo page. I'll continue adding links to that page.

Also, if you want to write a guest post or have your fantasy or horror book featured on this blog, email me at audendjohnson (at) gmail (dot) com!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Facebook Groups


Recently, I've been hearing a lot about Facebook Groups. I came across them before but never thought they were a thing. Is this something we, authors, should look into?

What are Facebook Groups? 
They're like Goodreads and Google+ Groups, just on Facebook.
"Groups... are intended as a way to discuss shared interests and encourage conversation among members. For this reason, groups can be an extremely powerful way to connect with your audience and drive traffic to your site."  (How To Use Facebook Groups To Increase Traffic And Engagement)

Why should authors care when we have Goodreads?
It seems groups are a way to give your posts more visibility on Facebook.

How to Network With Facebook Groups
"One of the biggest reasons to join Facebook groups is the visibility and networking they offer. On any given day that I look in my news feed, I see many posts from groups that I’m active in, but fewer from pages that I like."

6 Clever Ways to Use Facebook Groups for Marketing Your Business
"Create a group to reward your customers & make them feel special -- for example, a group exclusively for people who have purchased your product. Include a link on your sales page or send emails inviting customers to join. Use the group to follow up with customers or help them if they have questions."
Do Book Posts in Facebook Groups Work as Marketing?
"What I found was that results were inconsistent. Some days I got sales after a post, other days I didn’t. Some days I got a sale following a post, but not a sale for the book I posted about. About midway through I hypothesized I was doing better by posting in larger groups (those with 10,000 or more members), but when I went back and looked at the data over the course of the whole experiment, that didn’t appear to hold true."

I think groups may be more effective if Facebook is a big part of your book marketing strategy. I'm on Twitter and Instagram more than Facebook. I might consider being a part of or creating a Facebook group when I start my business.

Anyone have experience with Facebook Groups?

More Resources
60+ Facebook Groups for Authors – Promote Your Books, Blogs, and More
How Authors Can Use Facebook Groups (even if they don’t allow ads)
Facebook Groups Are Underrated, Here's How to Make Them Awesome

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Motivation

 

There may come a time, or several times, in an author's life where they become overwhelmed with all the work they have to do. Work that often produces no results. I had that moment last week which opened me for a negative thought assault. Followed by the "I don't feel like it" and the "Why am I doing this?" bomb. This is where photography comes in. I went to the park to take pictures and returned home ready, and willing, to tackle my next project. Nature is not only inspiring, it's calming, energizing.

It's all right to question why you published your book(s) in the first place. Just don't build a home in that hole.
"Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine. "Jack Ma


"The reason most people never achieve their dreams is because they simply give up. Life was never meant to be easy – its a constant struggle, with extreme lows and extreme highs. Remember that the times when its most important to persevere are the times that you will be most tested."- Unknown 

"Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer." – Ray Bradbury



"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." —George Orwell



"People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it." – Harlan Ellison

"There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be."—Doris Lessing

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Week in Links 6/19/15 E3, Jurassic World Impressions, A Book's Worth, Snape, Gambit


Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror
Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last
MIND MELD: Judging a Book by Its Cover
Video Games and The Girl at Midnight- "video games were my best teacher"
In Self-Publishing, The Gatekeepers Are Dead. Long Live The Gatekeepers!
Channing Tatum confirms Gambit won't be in X-Men: Apocalypse I love Gambit. I really can't picture Channing Tatum doing him justice. I don't have a problem with Tatum as an actor. I just can't see it. 
The top 5 video games at E3 2015
30 Ultimately Effective Social Media Tools For Writers


On the Charleston Church Shooting. Well said Jon Stewart.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Is Email Marketing Worth it for Authors?

Kelly Hashway did a post today on email marketing. Talk about a coincidence. Check out her post!


I keep hearing over and over and over how the best way to reach readers is through email. I was all set to start my newsletter then, I started thinking. Is email marketing really effective or is it like Goodreads? Some brands sing its praise while others don't see its usefulness.

People can subscribe to this blog by email but I don't control that. I have no idea who subscribes. Blogger doesn't give me a list of emails.

I try not to jump on a marketing tool just because people say I should. Some have said you can't write a good story unless you outline. No one really knows what makes a bestseller.

It seems odd that email is still the best way to reach people. Clearly authors find it useful or there wouldn't be tons of articles on it.

On the other hand, I've subscribed to a lot of newsletters and I read less than half of them. I get most of my info from my Feedly, content agitators like Paper.li and social media. Generally, the only emails that get me to buy book are Bookbub and Amazon recommendations.

Funny enough, I find Goodreads blogs to be effective. Whenever I get that email from Goodreads, subject- New Updates from Authors You Follow, I always open it. If there's a post that sounds interesting, I read it.

Maybe I don't understand what email marketing really does for authors.

Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide
"While email lists have many uses (from selling your books to delivering paid subscription content), their most immediate use for freelance writers and authors is to keep readers and professional connections informed about what you’re doing."
I can see that. I'm starting my own business soon. (More on that in a later post!) Is social media as effective at keeping people updated. I still haven't found a way to get readers to buy my books. Something different is in order.

The article also said:
"Emails can’t be missed like a social media post that disappears in readers’ feeds as more posts follow it."
Emails can be missed if you get a lot of them a day. Although, with the way gmail is arranged, it is harder to miss an email.

During my blog tour, my Facebook likes and reach increased. I'm also getting more action on Twitter and Instagram.

Kick Ass Book Launch Tips (from Two Authors Who Really Know) 
"My most essential tools are my blog and my email list. At the end of every book is a link to “sign up for new titles”."
Really interesting article but I need a reason why an email list is an essential tool.

Email News and Strategy
"Collect these emails and then invest in email marketing software. With affordable, user-friendly email marketing software, you can send out emails promoting the release of your book-to readers as well as local media-and then send emails announcing any appearances you'll make to promote the book, such as signings and reading."
I learn about upcoming books through Goodreads and Amazon emails. I guess with your own email newsletter, you have more control over the content. What happens in the unlikely event that Goodreads and Amazon go away? So, email marketing is about the long run. Ok. I can get behind that.

However, it rarely occurs to me to sign up for an author's newsletter. I usually follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page or add their blog/website to Feedly.

How to build your email list: email marketing tips for authors
"Because countless studies have shown that a subscriber on your email list is FAR more likely to take a requested action than one of your social media followers."
If someone subscribes to your newsletter, that might mean they really want to keep up-to-date with your books and events.

However, I don't buy anything from an author's newsletter. The only emails that get me to spend money are ones from Mediabistro, Writer's Digest, (as mentioned before) Amazon and Bookbub.

I can go back and forth on this for days. I'm still not sold on a newsletter. People can subscribe to this blog by email. That's a newsletter just one I don't control.

I'll focus more on getting reviews and creating fun campaigns through social media.

I think the most effective way would be the non-traditional approach. Kelly mentioned this. Instead of starting your own newsletter, find out how you can get included in someone else's newsletter, someone with thousands of subscribers.

When I start my own business, I might start a newsletter. Don't know yet. Someone should come up with a new name for it. Newsletter brings to mind paper not digital.

As writers and readers, what do you think about email marketing?

7 Email Marketing Secrets Every Fiction Writer Should Know
Book Marketing the Old Way Versus the Way That Works Today—Part 2: Email Promotions
Email Marketing for Authors: How to Create an Effective Newsletter

Monday, June 15, 2015

Photoshop Project: Map Making Part 2

You probably thought I'd review Jurassic World today. My parents came in for the weekend so we didn't see it. I will be seeing it this weekend!

In the post Photoshop Project: Map Making, I showed you the fantasy map I was designing.
To recap, I usually make fairly flat maps. I love how they come out. As as experiment, I wanted to try making different terrains.

I needed to study other fantasy maps. To Pinterest!

Follow Auden's board World Building: Map Making Reference on Pinterest.

The forest gave me some trouble. I played with different greens to find one that didn't scream at you. Like mountains, trees are a brush tool. Laying down the trees in a way that looked good took some time.

Creating different terrains means creating a lot of layers. I select a portion of the land, copy it to create a new layer and leave it where it is. The green is not a part of the main landmass. It's on top of it.

Because it's on top of the land, we get a noticeable line. A bit too noticeable for my liking.

I used the blur tool to make the forest line flatter. This was a nitpicky thing because you can't see the above line from a distance.


 The maps I studied use different shades of green. Transparent gradients and textures were my friends. I played with gradients so the forest wouldn't be flat. I wanted some darker green in there. I wanted the actual trees to be more noticeable. 

This is a combination of changing the colors and playing with other Blending Options for the land and the tree layers. 

Something's still missing.

I wasn't sold on that hole in the middle. I added more trees. By accident, they came out brown. I really liked it. 
So, now what? It's done. We have a map.

To make this process even more fun, I added names. To go a step further, I turned this into a map for my upcoming novella Devortus Reigns. The land, Devortus, has some ice. The inhabits, Brevia, prefer the cold. The land needs some white.


This map is still just for fun. I guess it could be Devortus, but I didn't go into this project with that intention. I haven't made up my mind yet. It would be cool to have this with my novella since shorter books don't usually come with maps. Well, I've never come across a fantasy novella with a map.

This process was fun. I enjoy doing stuff like anyway. I'm really happy with the results. Devortus Reigns was missing some place names. The map made me assign names to those areas.

Since this map could go in a book, it needs to be grey. How does it look without color?

Not bad!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Week in Links 6/12/15 Virtual Reality, J.K. Rowling, Summer Games, Subversive Princess Stories

The final stops on my blog tour are Two End of the Pen and Paranormal Authors that Rock . The end of my first blog tour. *sigh* It's been amazing. 


Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror
Christopher Lee, 1922 – 2015
Comic Book Creators Share How Diversity Bleeds Into Their Work

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Photoshop Project: Map Making

Head over to BooksChatter where I was interviewed! Yesterday, I was over at Mythical Book where I talked What dark brings to Dark Fantasy. I had a lot of fun writing that post!

I'm taking a Photoshop class at NYU. Since I taught myself Photoshop, there's a lot of tools I don't use because I don't know what they do. I also wanted to learn why certain tools cause a certain effect. Photoshop has a keyboard shortcut for almost every function. I've always wanted to learn them.

Something similar to this came out of one of my classes.

I can make my own backgrounds for image quotes! That never occurred to me.

I created this in the last class.

This isn't a bunch of images put together. The only images are the spaceship and the moons. Everything else is me playing with gradients, filters, brush sizes/colors and other tools. Amazing what you can do with Photoshop. Outside of creating fantasy maps, I don't do a lot of this type of creation in Photoshop. I will now.

Speaking of fantasy maps... I saw this from An Ember in the Ashes.

 Suddenly, I wanted to make something like that. My maps usually look like this:
Not terrible. I'm really proud of this map. But, I wanted to try making something with texture to represent different terrains.

Just getting the land shape right was a pain. I searched Pinterest for maps to help me visualize my land.
This started as a massive blob. I used different erasers to shape the edges, making it look more like land.

Then, came the mountains.

I started with this:
And hated it.

Next

The texture is better at least. I played with blending options and added water to make the edges of the mountains a little less round.

Still needs some work. At least I'm getting somewhere. I don't care for parts of the mountain area.

Meh. This needs something. Map making, image creation in general, usually takes me days. When I reach a point where I'm not happy with it and I don't know why, I step back for a day. I usually figure out what's wrong with it. I like map better than my first try.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Remember, The Sciell Book 1 of The Merging Worlds Series is $2.99 for a limited time!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Movie Review: Insidious Chapter 3

Check out The Blog of C.R. Moss where I was interviewed!


The summer movie season seems to be filled with sequels, prequels and remakes. Some "original" movies are on the list. They just aren't on my to-watch list. Well, I don't know if I'd consider Ant-man as original. It's made from a comic book character.

Anyway.

Insidious Chapter 3 was really good. I was surprised. The second movie wasn't terrible. It also wasn't nearly as good as the first one. Chapter 3 doesn't add anything to the genre, but it did the first movie proud. It's a prequel. The events happened before Insidious.

I was a bit worried about this one. The trailer showed that Chapter 3 surrounded a teenage girl. There was clearly a love interest. I didn't want to sit through another teen movie like Silent Hill 2 or Ouija. I was kinda scarred by Ouija. The trailer looked so good. The movie was so bad. A horror movie about perfect rich kids who were all alike. Boring. Someone totally messed up Silent Hill with that sequel. I need a real horror movie not one made for kids. Insidious was both.

Some characters were simply there to move the plot along. They were so flat. The brother, he had no point except to bring in paranormal investigators. The "love interest" was only good for that one scene from the trailer with the main character's phone. Not uncommon for a horror movie. I didn't miss them. Insidious, you are forgiven for your flat characters. Everyone else had some depth.

I could relate to Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) and I usually can't relate to teenagers in movies. Not because they're younger than me but because their teenage experience seemed perfect, way different from mine. Quinn didn't have a boyfriend. She had a crush, but she was also focused on getting into the college of her dreams and going away from home.

I felt so bad for her. All she wanted to do was contact her dead mother and ended up getting haunted by some vicious demon. Halfway through the movie, she was in two leg casts and a neck brace. She was being tormented by a demon and she couldn't run from it.
She was alone in her torment. Like most haunted house movies, her father didn't believe her. Since Quinn was injured, she was alone in her room most of the time. I'm wondering where her father was while the demon was throwing her around. I doubt he wasn't in the apartment. Her father was kind of a douche but he wasn't that neglectful. He clearly loved his children.

The movies started with Quinn visiting Elise because she wanted to contact her mother. Elise knew about the demon after Quinn's visit but was too afraid to help her.

We learned more about Elise in Chapter 3. She wasn't just the person someone called when they needed an entity removed. She wasn't the powerhouse we've gotten used to. She became that way at the end of the movie.

At first, she was terrified of her gift because of a vengeful ghost and she was lonely because her husband died. It was heartbreaking every time she went to bed clutching her husband's sweater. She had some moments at the end of the movie that had the audience cheering. She was awesome.

The scares in Insidious Chapter 3 made even me jump. The movie was happy with the jump scares. They weren't overdone. The movie's pace was good. We had enough time to get to know the family and Elise, but not too much time. Each scare was well placed . Unlike Annabelle, Insidious Chapter 3 didn't have too many haunting moments. There was just enough to keep the story going. 

Those moments were intense. I have to hand it to Insidious. It knows how to be creepy.
At one point, I wondered if the movie was throwing in scares just for the sake of it. All the things happening to Quinn and Elise need to have a purpose other than making the audience jump. Since this is an Insidious movie, I decided to shelve that criticism. Good thing I did. All the scares had a purpose. Well played movie.

That demon was awesome. Kinda bad to say that since it's evil, but that thing was messed up. Since this is a horror movie, a messed up demon is good. It's first appearance was so wrong on so many levels. It looked like a normal man except it had this really awful smile and was waving it's arm like a pendulum. Half the body was in shadow. All we saw with that smile and that wave. It was weird. In a good way. 

When it was torturing Quinn and Elise, we say mostly it's oily footprints. Sometimes it appeared as a dark figure. The movie knew how to work that demon to maximize scares. It's full form was terrifying. 

Insidious Chapter 1 introduced us to The Further. Chapter 2 showed move of it. Chapter 3 took us deeper into The Further. It's like hell without all the fire and brimstone. Not everyone there was evil when they were alive. Some were brought there by demons. I really like the concept of The Further and how it's been handled in the movies. The name's beginning to grow on me. 

Elise is brave for going into the The Further to face that creepy demon because... hell no. I could not do it. I'd probably die from a heart attack.

Insidious Chapter 3 is like Else and co's. origin story, sort of.  I could never remember the names of her sidekicks but they're so silly and fun. It's hard to forget their personalities. Chapter 3 does some foreshadowing for Chapter 1. One was well played. Another wasn't needed, but didn't take away from the story.

I've been dying for a good horror movie and Insidious Chapter 3 delivered. 

I had to share this. Sinister 2 comes out in August and it looks amazing! I still can't watch the lawnmower scene from Sinister without completely freaking out.