Friday, January 22, 2016

New year, new art!

One of the advantages Indie writers have over traditional publishers is our ability to turn on a dime. If a book has errors, we can correct them. If it's not selling, we can tweak the blurb and cover art and see if that helps. Sometimes, we don't change a book because of a problem, but just because it could be better. Today, I'm talking about The Clockwork God. 

I really like the original cover and I plan on leaving it as-is on the paperback, at least for now. But one of the difficulties with publishing in this new paradigm is to design a cover that still works at 3/4 of an inch high. That's harder than it sounds. I talk about this in my "Cover Secrets" page. The idea is to keep a cover simple and use high-contrast colors in order to draw the eye. This is supposed to make the art stand out on the page when it's lined up with dozens of other books. In some genres, like mystery & thriller, this isn't too hard to do. It's common to use very simple artwork in these genres. Just enough to draw the eye, but leaving much to the imagination. And then you have fantasy and science-fiction...

Sci-fi and fantasy covers are often quite elaborate, depicting scenes with multiple characters, weapons, armor, even magical creatures and larger-than-life backdrops. Unfortunately, what looks great on the cover of a paperback sometimes turns into a blob when you shrink that image down to thumbnail size.

So, even though Clockwork is now FREE, and even though downloads have been pretty spectacular, I still thought I should take my own advice and tweak it a little, bringing out the strengths of the artwork and minimizing the distracting busyness of the rest. Here's the original alongside the new version I came up with:

What do you think?

As you can see, I pulled in, making River not only the focal point, but essentially the entire cover. I increased the size of the Iron Horse in the backdrop, dulled the colors, and intentionally blurred it out. I hated to do this because I put a LOT of time and work into the model I used for the Iron Horse, but unfortunately it just became noise at thumbnail size. Now, it's practically invisible until you really start looking at the image. However,  the overall effect is a cleaner, even clearer image. To a certain extent, I would even say the new version seems to have more depth than the old one. My wife commented on this, saying that in comparison, the older one looked more like a cut and paste job, while the new version really looks like my character is standing before a massive locomotive.

Ironically, the opposite is true. The original image is 3D render of the train and River all in one scene, with just enough forced perspective to give the reader a good look at the Iron Horse. Ironically, the new version is a cut and paste of two different images rendered separately. This allowed me to do my photo effects on the train and River separately, which ends up giving the image a heightened realism. I think I could even tone down the background saturation more, and brighten up River, but I wanted to stop tweaking the image before I went too far. If I make any more changes, I'll save them for my next update.

So for now, this is the new e-book cover for Clockwork. I haven't tweaked any of my other covers yet, but I do have a few ideas I want to experiment with. If I go ahead, I'll do another post about the changes I've made. As always, if you prefer the new cover, you can delete the file from your Kindle and download the new version (there is no cost for this because it's free, AND because you already have it in your Kindle library, which is stored on Amazon). 

Monday, January 11, 2016

R.I.P. David Bowie

"David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning. No other details were provided.
Mr. Bowie had been treated for cancer for the last 18 months, according to a statement on his social-media accounts. “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read." -New York Times

A sad day for music lovers. Bowie was one of a kind: one of the first big stars to blend theater and music, always testing the boundaries, trying things others didn't have the insight or courage to try. Growing up in the eighties, I became aware of Bowie's psychedelic pop-rock in my early teens. Although hugely talented, I always found his music elusive, lulling me in with almost-too-precious pop sounds that quickly evolved into distorted guitar riffs, bluesy rhythms, and outer-space sound effects. On first listen, I found myself latching onto the music and thinking "I know where this is going" only to find out a moment later that I had no idea. Bowie's music didn't just evolve over decades, it evolved with every passing second. Despite his curious songwriting style, Bowie is responsible for some of the most memorable songs of his generation. He had an indescribable talent for melodies and an all too rare understanding that sometimes one note is better than a dozen.  Not only that, he was a talented actor as well. My wife and I have always loved Labyrinth, and my children have grown up with that film. Rest in Peace David Bowie.