Friday, September 27, 2013

AM101 Graphic Design Case Study

Morgan here with a quick case study on our Author Marketing 101 graphic design. Almost three years ago, Therese and I started meeting to chat about the publishing industry and book marketing. We certainly have come a loooonnnng way, since those initial meetings. 

I remember us preparing for our first big presentation as a marketing maven duo. We spent hours designing the graphic below using the basic drawing tools available in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Our original graphic created
in Microsoft PowerPoint.
Here are some of the thoughts that went into our graphic design:
  • We often say and write "PUSH, PULL, POP" in that order. But POP is at the top of our graphic, because POP is the top goal - the sale. Most of what authors do for promotion (bookmarks, giveaways, book signing set ups, etc) are specific for the point-of-purchase.
  • Former advice for authors on how to Push their books was to be "shameless" in their promotions and most authors cringed at being so crass. The marketing "shame" is Wrong! 
  • Pull marketing was misunderstood by most of our audience - and hard to explain even for those of us who understand the process.
  • The circles represent that POP, PUSH, and PULL are all balls to juggle and with some practice can be easy and fun to do.
  • PERSONA is truly the dynamic core of all your efforts. Your Persona ties your books and your career together, since YOU are the creative life force of both.
  • Your Banner is like any flag or pennant, so fly it proudly wherever you go online or in person, and put it on everything so it's easy to find you/your books in the crowd.
  • Your website is a Point-Of-Purchase and your home base to Push and Pull your career.
  • Social media allows you to Push out information and Pull readers to you.
  • The large circle represents "Seamless Self-Promotion."
  • I must admit, the color choices were kinda random. Therese is a water bound chica and I just love this hue of orange. Blue is cool and calm, Orange represents heat and flash. We each have loads of blue and orange in our respective closets - go figure!

The first version produced
by our graphic designer.
As we began to work with Gazebo Gardens Publishing on the cover design for our book, we asked the designer to jazz up our graphic. And, indeed, he really jazzed it up!

While fun, we thought this was a bit too much for our audience. PUSH and PULL both seemed overwhelmed by their icons and 'Banner' got lost in the shuffle. But, this initial reboot did get us thinking. Here's where all of our debates and planning for our initial design really came in handy. We were able to step back, think about our audience, and focus on how this graphic is a visual representation of a process that has many layers and flavors, but is all-inclusive.

Below is the final version of our newly revamped graphic.<Ta-daaa!> Now we have two different blues and orange to work with in any future collateral designs. {Notice that the blue in the outer ring is also the primary blue for our book cover and is now the background color for our new website / blog header. It is also the color for the font used on our navigation bar.}

Why so much thought? Well, we knew we were going to share this graphic for many years. So, we wanted to make sure it represents our process at First Glance. That's also part of our message - that First Glance is your chance to catch a readers attention. This graphic also has deeper layers. Notice that we purposely put an extra space between 'social' and 'media', since it is your socialization through a variety of media (online networks, TV, radio, print) that are your Push & Pull. This concept goes beyond what we narrowly define 'social media' to be, today.

The final version of our revamped graphic. Woo-Who!!

Now I know you are thinking, I write fiction, how does this topic pertain to me? 
I have one name for you: George R. R. Martin. HBO created a Join the Realm website to allow users to create their own Game of Thrones family symbol / banner. Okay - I know that we all don't have HBO's deep pockets to back us up on our world building. And I also know that we all don't write fantasy stories. Think outside the box for a second and consider the following:
  • Maybe your story features a group of women and/or men in some sort of club. Does that club have a symbol? or a pair of 'traveling pants'?
  • Maybe the small town that is the setting for your contemporary romance uses some sort of symbol to represent the town. (My claimed hometown of Portland, OR is also known as The Rose City.)
  • Perhaps there is a high school or boarding school in your book. (The Harry Potter Series has symbols / logos for each of their school houses.) Maybe a mascot or symbol could provide a hint about a character trait / flaw or plot twist. (Slytherin snakes or Gryffindor lions, anyone?)

Questions to Ponder:
  • Do you use any symbols, talisman, crests, or shields in your writing? If so, what do they mean? Have you added this information as extra content to your website?
  • Do your covers represent your stories well? Are there any hidden meanings layered into the design?
  • Does your website represent your writing and genre well?
  • Have you ever considered creating a logo, symbol, talisman, crest, or shield for the series of books you are writing?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cover Fonts: Terri Patrick Case Study

Therese was fortunate to get a variety of options to pick, from Soul Mate Publishing, regarding the cover of her novel. This couple in a clinch is a good representation of the characters and the flavor of the story, aside from his hair being too short, and hers is too long and blond.
Chosen image out of 9 Mock Ups

What can we tell about the story from these Mock Ups?
  • It's a contemporary romance novel. 
  • There are beautiful people. 
  • There's a windy beach. 
  • It's got a fun and sensual flavor. 
  • It's not a bare-skin-steamy or erotic story. 

Therese says: Some of the other Mock Up covers, by Ramona, had different people and poses which were easy to dismiss and I wanted my name on the bottom, instead of across my heroes head. After that, there were a few Fonts in various Sizes, Colors, and Placement, to consider. I like the chiseled from stone look because it feels both whimsical and enduring.

If this image was the only "Final" - I would have been THRILLED.

But! There were Four "Final" versions with different font colors. There were TWO choices that were perfect covers! Which to choose? I'd hate to choose one then regret I didn't choose the other. So here's what I did. I copied my two favorites into a file and emailed them to my sisters and two friends. My friends instantly chose the one above with a whole list of reasons.

Available Now!
Here's the actual cover - and why:
  • While waiting to hear from my sisters, who were not as responsive as my friends, I asked my husband his opinion and he liked the red title as he's a bit color blind. 
  • I also shrunk both images to Thumbnail Size, and the blue title blended into the background. It didn't stand out at all! 
  • My sisters, and their (color challenged) husbands, also liked the red title, and the subtitle in white, instead of both in the same color.
Now, months later, and having reviewed all my options, I'm still thrilled with this cover. I really like this font for my name and title! I tried to replicate it on my business cards - but that's another story.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Raw Photo to Finished Cover: Delilah Marvelle Case Study

Morgan here with a mini cover design workshop and case study. Today, we will examine Delilah Marvelle's cover for Lady of Pleasure. Not only is Ms. Marvelle an amazing historical fiction author, she is also an incredibly supportive friend. (I swear, whenever we ask her for help, she says, "Yes" before we can finish asking the question!)

Lady of Pleasure is the third book in her five book School of Gallantry Series.  The first two books in the series were traditionally published. She is now in the process of self-pubbing the last three books. (Note: She does plan on redoing the covers for the first two books to bring them inline with the last three cover designs.)

Ms. Marvelle worked with Jenn LeBlanc at Illustrated Romance for the raw photo. In fact, she paid for the rights to use the stock photo below exclusively.  For the images for Night of Pleasure and Master of Pleasure, Ms. Marvelle was on site for the photo shoot to help stage the exact poses she wanted.

After procuring the raw photo, the final cover design was completed by Seductive Designs.

Raw photo and finished cover
Cover Design Notes - Take a moment to examine the two images above and note the following:
  • 'Delilah Marvelle' is in a traditional footed font. The font color really pops due to the contrasting color chosen.
  • The book title is centered and in a loopy font that works well for historical audiences.
  • The raw photo uses cool colors and tones, while the finished cover uses a warm color palette.
  • The heroes hair color and style were changed.
  • A red, textured curtain was added to the background.
  • A ruby earring was added to the heroine.
  • The entire cover screams historical! The reader knows, even at first glance, the story genre and the type of story they are purchasing.
Overall Comments:
  • Notice that it is the details that really help the cover come together - a tweak here and there can help you customize a stock image for your books.
  • Titles don't always have to be centered and the font choices should be made with your genre and subject matter in mind.
  • Your author name should be clear and easy to read!

Ms. Marvelle approaches all of her projects with a clear idea of how she wants the finished product to look. Not everyone has an artistic eye for design - which is why there are professionals who can help guide you through the design process. When working with designers, it is always good to take a moment to contemplate and write down your thoughts on images, colors, and feelings you want your cover to convey. Before approving the finished design, look at it in full size, thumbnail, and black & white. 

Whether on the shelf or online, your cover is what PULLs your potential reader to your book at the Point-of-Purchase (POP) with the goal of creating a SALE!

Therese says: Delilah's been exploring all different types of media promotions and has a few book trailers. My favorite is the one where my friend Andy is the narrator.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cover Design Advice and Examples

Given our recent adventures with our Author Marketing 101 Guide & Journal cover art, we decided to dedicate all of our September posts to the art and theory of cover design. To introduce this topic, please find informative links and tips below.

Per Deborah Cooke/Claire Delacroix from Take It or Leave It posted July 25, 2013
"The cover is part of the marketing and promotion budget for a book, and may consume all of that budget for a midlist or debut release.
Traditionally, the cover is the one thing that every potential reader sees. They might not see ads in magazines or hear radio ads. They might miss reviews and endcap displays or blog tours. But they all see the cover of the book before they purchase it, so the cover is the most important piece of marketing that exists for any given book. A publishing house will always spend money on creating a cover for a book, and often will use the entire marketing budget on it. The cover is even more critical to building sales in digital, because the cover has to communicate the tone of the book, the sensuality, the genre and subgenre, and be consistent with the author’s branding – and it has to do all that when it’s two inches high in thumbnail."

Deborah has additional advice regarding the Author Name on her post: What's In A Name? August 1, 2013

Delle Jacobs is a veteran and queen of the Indie Publishing World, for years, and even designs her own covers. These are screen shots taken from her blog/website. 

Take note of the following:
  • Ms. Jacobs website banner is in line with the tone and themes of her books.
  • Notice that her name is prominent and clear on each cover - even if you'r not able to read the book title in a cover thumbnail image, "Delle Jacobs" can be clearly read.
  • For the most part, there is a high contrast between the background colors and the title / author name font colors
  • Crisp, footed fonts can be easier to read than swirly fonts in tiny thumbnails
  • Each covers feature images related to the story tone and content <yes, some people miss the mark on this point>

Now that you know all there is about making an awesome cover for your novel - review How To Make A Cover Designer Cry.

For more great information, check out the blog for the Scarlet Ruger's Book Design Agency. Her '4 steps to making a bad book cover design look good' is loaded with solid info.