More Cover Fun

As I have said before, WMG Publishing is going through all the backlist I put up early and redoing everything, from covers to blurbs to uploads.  And proofing the stories as well. I have been doing many of my own, and over the last day or so, I’ve gone back and found what I thought what was one of the ugliest covers we had yet to fix.

Now understand, I did all these really ugly covers two-plus years ago as all this indie stuff was getting started. And I just never bothered to get around to fixing them. My attitude then was to get them up. They didn’t have to be good covers or blurbs, they had to be up. (Wow have things changed since the indie publishing has started to mature.)

That attitude built WMG Publishing Inc. But now we are really working hard to clean out the old stuff to give WMG Publishing a completely professional look.

So I picked (as the ugliest cover left) one of my short stories “The Yellow of the Flickering Past.” It’s a goofy, funny ghost story that was in Wizards Fantastic originally out of Daw Books and edited by Martin H. Greenberg. The story has now been proofed, reformatted, new cover, new blurb, and loaded into the electronic sites and will be out in stand-alone trade paperback in a couple of days. (More than likely the electronic old stuff hasn’t changed out yet either. That takes a number of days, so don’t go trying to buy it yet or you’ll get the old book. Trust me, you don’t want that edition. (grin))

In other words, I tossed everything away and just started over with this story, as I have had to do with almost all of my early stories from that first year. And yes, I did both covers myself.

Notice on the new one I put this in the branding style I have been doing with all the short stories that are going into paperback.

I thought you might like to see the two covers. The old one and the new one. For a laugh.

Old on the left. (Duh)

New on the right.

In a few days that old one will be gone forever.

Thankfully. (grin)


Here is the full wrap-around for the trade paper. This story is about 4,000 words, so it will be about 34 pages.


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23 Responses to More Cover Fun

  1. xdpaul says:

    I like the old one way better. I’m going to buy it while I still can as an investment. You just know that the collectable e-book market is in its infancy.


    Seriously, I’m not sure that the original cover would even be readable in my b&w reader.

    A wonderful contrast.

  2. Don’t count on it being gone forever. I notice some of the vendors seem to hold on to a lot of old material.

    This is especially true if you are distributing though Smashwords. What I notice is that many vendors will put up the new cover on the site, but the embedded cover inside the file (or in the online sample) will keep the old. (And yes, I have noticed this even at Amazon and even with major publisher titles.)

    Which reminds me, I need to go get after Smashwords to get after some of their vendors again….

  3. Leah Cutter says:

    Dean–I’ve been doing the same, redoing all the covers, making them fit the genre they’re in, rewriting the blurbs, actually putting the stories in the right genre categories (!!!) etc. It takes time, but I like the look of them so much better now. Hopefully, at some point, the new covers will lead to more sales.

  4. R. L. Copple says:

    Good update. I’ve taken your advice myself and updated the cover on my first self-published book to look much more professional, in conjunction with its sequel so there is some branding. Thank you for all the info on that in past posts. Really helpful.

  5. Ed Teja says:

    I love the old one! Quirky and represents the story you describe much better than the new. I see it as a cool takeoff on Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Lovely. The new one is so dull.

    For me this is taking “branding” a step too far. Bear in mind that when ranchers brand their cattle it is to identify them at close range, not from across the pasture,

    • dwsmith says:

      Seriously, Ed? The old one looks like a really bad indie press cover. No blurb, no sales tools for the author, horrid shadows, horrid font, horrid spacing, and a stunningly ugly picture and let me not mention the color (grin). If you like that one, I would hire a professional to do your book covers and then trust him or her. (grin)

      • Ed Teja says:

        Oh I am not saying it looks fantastic, just that it has a sense of humor about it that means something. The new cover makes it look like all your other books and your comment was that it was a different ind of story. Some things do better when they are horrid. Color it campy, not awful.
        While branding is useful, there is something to be said against too much sameness. When I see four identical Ken Follet covers in different colors (for the same book) and all his other books looking the same at the airport, it makes me want to puke. Nothing against the stories, but it makes me look for something more interesting. Murakami’s AFTER THE QUAKE (Vintage) is an example of something intriguing. There is a sales quote, the title, author name and a b&w caligraphic pattern and it says “I am different.” Sometimes marketing principles get carried far too far. Remember, you said these books sold with the old covers too. There is an audience that appreciates treating each of your babies as a unique effort.

        • dwsmith says:

          Oh, heavens. I just went back to check on this story and from my best records, which are sketchy because of the nature of tracking books. (We have fixed that since July.) I didn’t sell one single copy of that short story at 99 cents for over a year anywhere on the planet. (grin) I might have missed one or two, but that’s it. That has nothing to do with the story, because it’s a fine story that was published professionally before, but with the crappy cover that looks like a beginner did it (which I was), the lack of blurbs on the cover, the horrid, passive blurb I had on the sales line, and the bad formatting (we put it up word.doc on Kindle…had horrid spacing issues.) And it wasn’t proofed.

          Yeah, that’s going to sell a lot of copies. (grin)

          Luckily, I was smart enough to practice for about fifty books before Kris and I started putting up novels, so I had gotten past all this early problems and learned a ton. And I’m still learning. I’m not saying the new cover is perfect, just professional. We started making the money for WMG after those first 50 short stories were up. And that’s part of what we are working hard to change out. Those first 50 to 75 short stories. Trust me, I did some really ugly covers on some of Kris’s books as well that Allyson hasn’t gotten to yet either.

          As for me branding, I think you are missing the point of branding. Take a look three or four posts down at the Christmas books Allyson did of Kris’s stories. Those don’t all look the same, yet they are all clearly branded. We are branding to series, branding to genre, branding to author, and combinations of all that. When I set this challenge stuff, I set a branded style for the short stories and I’m holding to it, making them clearly Dean Wesley Smith short stories. The novels and my other pen names will all have a different brand look.

          • dwsmith says:

            And I know some of you discount-buying indie writers hate this, but I am selling a ton more of these stories at $2.99 than I ever did at 99 cents. More than likely the covers, the blurbs, the formatting, the proofing, but it also might be the price. And some are even selling at $4.99 in trade paper. Go figure.

            I added in the full wrap of the trade paper cover to show what that looks like as well. It’s 5 x 8 trim.

          • The learning curve is important, imho. I’m still working on the visual style of my brand (I do my own art), so my covers are all over the place. I think I’ve reached a critical mass where I can start a make-over. I’ll be starting with the short fiction this week.

            BTW, while I disagree with Ed on this specific case, he does have one point: the obvious indie cover can be a brand too, a kind of “new pulp.” But, as you have pointed out, that’ll be aimed at a particular audience — like discount books and pulps originally were.

  6. Ed Teja says:

    I can certainly understand that no (or not enough) proofing and bad formatting preclude sales. Working on that a lot myself (smacking myself for putting anything up that was shabby in the first place). And no argument with the pricing, either.

    • dwsmith says:

      In the beginning, it’s always better to have it up than have it perfect. Always. You can fix it later. For me, I finally reached “later.”

      • Desiree says:

        That looks great!
        I keep reminding myself of that it’s better to have it up than to have it perfect, even as I find new flaws in the presentation of the one story I have up. I wish I had started with something other than a novel, but it was what I had on hand, and it already spent two years on my laptop…
        As annoying as it is knowing that you have to go back and change things later, at least you CAN. Thanks for the reality check :)

  7. Wow, what an improvement! That second one looks like something one of the Big Six would put out. Just gorgeous…

  8. Cerys du Lys says:

    This is somewhat random, but I’d love if you’d do a blog post on author branding. I don’t really know how much there is to say on it, and I’ve read some of your previous posts mentioning things related to it, but it seems like it’d be a cool thing to read about.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, might give that a shot. It’s clear that a bunch of writers don’t flat understand it and readers will be interested for the perspective when they go into their local bookstore. So might give it a try.

  9. Kevin O. McLaughlin says:

    Nice job on the new cover! I remember when you posted that story as a freebie on your site – it’s a good story, maybe it’ll get some fresh legs with the facelift.

    I like the branding, too. Have to look at how I want to apply that myself. Right now, I have consistent branding for my urban fantasy series, novels and shorts both – similar covers, same font, pretty clear, I think, although it could perhaps be tighter. But my other books don’t carry the same sort of branding; they’re earlier shorts, the covers are a little meh, and the text doesn’t match the other stories. What do you think about different lines – brand them differently, say a SF series/univiverse with one cover brand, and the contemporary fantasy stuff with another? Or do different image branding for each, but keep text/font branding the same? I notice you and Kris seem to be aiming at the latter.

    Last question: wondering how the print short story experiment is going? You said you’re getting some sales… Which is good. Have you been able to track stats on sales increases of the ebooks? I remember you surmised that seeing the $4.99 print book might make the $2.99 short story ebooks seem like a deal to buyers.

    I haven’t done any print shorts yet – my shorts are about 3k each, and I don’t have similar ones to put two together yet, really. But I’m looking at doing so, and working on a short that should be 6k words or so that would be awesome as a debut print short. Planning to launch that at the $2.99/4.99 mix and boost the short novel(s) up to $4.99/$9.99 at the same time (the one up right now is $2.99 ebook, $7.99 print).

    • dwsmith says:

      Kevin, weird as it may seem, having the $4.99 paperback helps the $2.99 electronic sales. I never expected any sales at all through Amazon for the paper. I was just doing them for myself and to sell them as signed stories from our coming distribution web site. But surprising, they have sold some copies. But not enough to do them for sales. Even though there is no cost, it’s not worth the extra hour or two to lay the book out and do a wrap cover.

      But that said, I love them and it’s keeping me going and is going to really, really get me going when I really gear up challenge #2 to hit that 100 new stories by July 1st. (I’ve only counted two so far. Typical start for me. In never do anything in a sane fashion.)

      As for the branding, we are branding to genre and then to author inside of each genre. Fantasy has a font, science fiction has set fonts, romance has set fonts for WMG. Then inside each series or each genre, each author has a brand. Retrieval Artist has a science fiction font, but a Retrieval Artist brand look. That make sense?

      And I honestly don’t post books here to make sales. I honestly don’t care about that. I’m just learning and having fun and sometimes I want to show everyone.

  10. allynh says:

    Speaking of covers. Walter Mosley is doing the _Crosstown to Oblivion_ series as six short novels, published two at a time in “Double” format that are like the Ace Doubles; they even flipped the second story. I’ll have to figure out how to do that.

    Here’s the cover flat for the first double.

    Walter Mosley – The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin

    I haven’t found the cover flats for the other two books, but I have _Merge/Disciple_ in hand and it follows the classic “Double”, only they put the ISBN block in a non-standard place. I can see how to make the second cover fit the CreateSpace template and it would work better.

    Doubles are doable. HA!

  11. Oh, I’ve been waiting for a branding article, Dean. I can get what you’re saying, but it would be nice to have the information in one place. I’m going to start working on branding my short stories, and already have ideas for my series of novels (under a pen name), which would follow the first book’s look.

    And allynh, doing “doubles” sounds like a great idea! Wonder how to do it for CreateSpace? Flip the second half of the book file somehow? HMMMM

  12. Ed Teja says:

    Dean, I’ve done a lot of looking and thinking about why we disagreed about your cover (yes, covers are important enough to me to do things like that.) I came to no particular insight until your wife’s most recent business blog. She referred to a cover designer who approached her and made the following (out of context) remark.
    “…most are professional-quality designs, just not good book designs. There’s a difference.”
    Okay, enlightenment comes from strange quarters, but after reading that I looked at covers differently. Somehow, the way she said it resonated differently than the standard “look at the covers other people do that sell” advice. And as we know, it all depends on how you look at things, and even more how readers look at things.

    • dwsmith says:

      Actually, it was Kris saying that about his covers. He didn’t make that remark about Kris’s books. He just hated them and said he could do better, so she went to see if he could. And that’s when she said, “…most are professional-quality designs, just not good book designs. There’s a difference.” Just wanted to be clear there.

      A great design and beautiful book can be a horrid “book cover” for sales. A very hard concept to get across and see, I will admit.

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