A little updating
I've been recently informed by no fewer than two professionals in book marketing that several of my books' covers need improvement. This came as no surprise. Book covers, especially for genre fiction, have tropes. They have characteristic color schemes and styles. There are good and bad points to such standardization, the main "pro" being that potential readers know what kind of book your book is right off the bat. One of the cons is that it tends to stifle originality: covers within a genre tend toward boring monotony. Frankly, I get a bit tired of seeing bare male chests emblazoned on the covers of romance novels. The beefcake has become a bit too ubiquitous, rather like the Fabio-inspired covers of the 1980s and 1990s.
After an emotionally rough week, I found myself on Sunday afternoon revamping the book covers for Daughter of the Twin Moons and Ulfbehrt's Legacy.
For Daughter of the Twin Moons, I used the original background image, because I really like it. I think it gives off that fantasy vibe without shrieking "sword and sorcery." I have nothing against sword-and-sorcery fantasy--I like the fantasy genre and that aspect of it especially--but that wasn't the audience I'm aiming for in this story. The original cover was created by the "cover creator" in CreateSpace, which no longer exists. With little experience under my belt, that was the best I could do. I like to think I've gotten better.
For Ulfbehrt's Legacy, I also reused the original cover graphic and added more, a picture of a Norwegian Fjord pony and a modern Norwegian Navy warboat. The additional images relate to the story inside: our heroine, Zoe, gets a job caring for ponies and our hero, Lars, is an elite sailor in the Norwegian Navy. The back cover of the printed copy has a picture of one of Norway's many beautiful and dramatic fjords. I'm still not entirely happy with that cover, but it's better than the original.
I just love royalty free stock photography!
The Diamond Gate and Willow might be the next up for new covers.
Perhaps the next step in creative recovery might be updating and revising some of my older stories. We'll see. At this point, I'm making no promises. What I can promise is that the next story I write will be dedicated to my older son, Matthew. It won't be a story he would have read and it will likely be a story that would have greatly embarrassed him, if only because his mother wrote it and middle-aged moms aren't supposed to know about such things, much less write about them. But Matt's always on my mind and his memory infiltrates everything I do.
'Round and 'round we go
Every so often I post about unreasonable expectations held by potential clients who want to hire professional writers and editors for paltry wages. Their requirements differ, some more interested in quantity than quality; however, none offer what could even remotely be considered a professional wage commensurate with the professional service they demand.
You'll notice a theme here: the word professional.
Here's one I just found: "I would love a romance book 50,000 words, $48 budget, Deadline 5 Days. Only apply if you can complete this within the time and budget and kindly don't waste my time if you have a problem with the budget and deadline."
The buyer then provides a plot summary that I'm not going to comment on and ends with this: "If you can complete this properly I have 200 more stories to write and have to submit them by this year and I am not a story writer so I need someone's help to complete this. The budget will be double if your writing will be accepted by my boss."
As I've done before, let's break down the project to get a good understanding of what this will entail:
Now, assuming the writer does an incredible job and gets the contract to produce 200 more books at one per week, that's nearly four years of steady work at $38.40 per 40-hour week producing 1,250 words per hour eight hours every weekday. That works out to a 4-year salary of $7,680.
I enjoy long-term clients and projects as much as anyone, but this is insane and entirely unreasonable.
I bring this issue up, because it's not just outrageous bid requests like that which have me shaking my head in disgust. Many authors, especially new authors, fail to understand that professional services deserve and command professional fees. On Facebook, one author complained that she paid her editor $1,000 to edit her novel and the published book received criticism regarding errors.
There's a whole host of misunderstanding going into that, not the least of which are a mismatch between her expectations and the service received and the cost of editing. Sure, $1,000 is a tidy chunk of money, especially when you're thinking of plonking it down on a hope and prayer. However, your conviction that your story will be the next breakout despite a limited budget, bestselling novel doesn't justify stiffing a professional editor of fair compensation.
Most editors base their fees on two basic factors: the length (word count) of the manuscript and the depth of editing required. Longer length and deeper editing both require more of the editor's time. That's one reason why editors appreciate authors who do their very best to make their manuscripts as good as they can before submitting them for editing.
If you really want to get a good feel for what you should be paying when you hire a ghostwriter or editor, check out the rate guideline published by the Editorial Freelancers Association. Then start saving up, because professional service doesn't come cheaply, nor should you expect it to.
Learning to pitch
This has nothing to do with baseball or softball.
Major media companies don't assign articles and such to freelance writers: they expect writers to suggest topics for articles. These suggestions are called pitches.
I generally avoid them, because I don't usually know the publication or the business niche or the industry/field of interest well enough to suggest something original. That's one of the downsides of being a generalist rather than a specialist in content writing.
However, I am gradually learning to do this, because that's where the bigger recognition comes from and that's where the money is. Anyone on the internet can promise "exposure," and many sites do use exposure as a reason to offer paltry wages for content or even demand free contributions of content. However, many sites don't have the dedicated readership that justifies free or nearly free contributions of content. Writers have bills to pay, too. We also like to eat.
My first big-name coup was an article published by Newsweek just a few weeks after my son died in January. It was a cathartic exercise, a heart-wrenching article of grief and anger. Some readers were moved sufficiently to contact me privately, all but one of them offering their condolences. That one bitter reader's cruel commentary didn't deserve to be read.
My second big-name coup will soon be published by Hearst Communications. It's a lighter topic, a practical topic, not at all controversial. It's about litter box filler.
You see, I'm a cat litter connoisseur, having had cats for over 30 years and currently living with seven cats. Yes, seven cats. Yes, I am the crazy cat lady and, no, I don't care who calls me that. What's even more impressive is that all seven cats share one--just one--litter box. That heavy use makes me an expert on which cat litter performs well and is both readily available and affordable.
Here's the link: https://www.seattlepi.com/shopping/article/best-litter-for-multiple-cats-16087101.php.
The two articles haven't led to publishers seeking me out and begging me to write for them. (Hey, it could happen ... some day.) But I count them as small successes, gaining me valuable practice and credibility that can be used to pitch other publishers and perhaps command higher fees.
In the meantime, I'll continue what I've been doing. I'll spend more time with Teddy (the pony), the dogs (Selina and Moose), and the cats. We have chickens again, too.