Saturday, April 7, 2012

I can play art director, too!

by Lorna Barrett / Lorraine Bartlett / L.L. Bartlett

I've been an "indie" author for a little over two years now.  Indie as in independent of traditional publishing.  Make no mistake, my bread and butter is still writing cozy mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin USA), but let's face it, it's pretty hard to live on two paychecks a year.  So, I became an independent author publishing my backlist, as well as new material.

Of course, I don't have all the same assets of traditional publishing at my fingertips, either.  Namely an art department (or marketing, for that matter).  So I've had to stumble along in that regard.

Take book covers, for instance.  I had to come up with my own.  I paid to have the covers made for my Jeff Resnick Mysteries, and I love them.  But for my short stories ... I didn't know if they would pay for themselves (they did eventually ... but for the ones that don't sell well, it was a very L-O-N-G wait).

This week, it was time to give my covers a push.  To make them look more a part of the book series.  To give them a brand all their own.  So ... that's what I set out to do.


Here's the old cover for Cold Case.  The truth be told, I never liked the picture.  It wasn't exactly the same as the trike described in the story, but I couldn't find anything better at the time.  And apparently it didn't matter; this is my second best selling short story (which is also the basis of the 4th book in the series).

Back when we did the original covers, most people were using the same tricks.  A stock photo with a block of color and type.  Eighteen months later, that doesn't cut it anymore.  The whole e book explosion has a lot of people paying BIG BUCKS for professional looking covers, and this doesn't look the part anymore.  How do you like the new cover (below)?

Note I'm using the same stock photo, but now I'm also using the identical look for the author name as it appears on the rest of the Jeff Resnick mysteries.  I've also darkened the photo so that it doesn't look so cheerful.  The subject matter is mystery, after all--and the subject of the story is a missing child, hence the abandoned trike.  The feeling I hope to convey when a reader sees the cover is that something is amiss, and I think (hope) this new cover will convey that.

Meanwhile, I've tried several covers for my humorous short story We're So Sorry, Uncle Albert, and they all missed.  But I wasn't sure what to do with it.  Since it's a holiday and holiday candy is involved, I thought of using chocolate on the cover.  Unfortunately, while the photo is as sharp as a tack, when reduced to thumbnail size, it's difficult to tell exactly what it is. (And I won't elaborate on what it has been suggested it might be.)  But even the font (as well as the colors)  is all wrong.  This is called experimentation.

So I sat down to think about the true essence of the story.  And what it is about is murder.  Therefore, why be coy?  We're going to go for a similar look with the author name/font when we get around (hopefully this weekend) to updating the rest of my covers.  But don't you agree that the new cover is at least a teensy bit more enticing?

Thanks to the generosity of other authors (and artists), I've learned a lot about cover design in the last year (heck, the last week).  Here's hoping it does some good.

What do you think of the changes in these covers?  Would they entice you to at least read the story blurbs?