Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Revamping book covers


Most authors would prefer that 1 in every 10 potential customers bought their book. The thought of the ratio being 1 in 10,000 gives them the shivers.

So how can they help themselves? The cover is the first hook to get that customer to buy.

Did you know a book title can be a hook? I didn’t, so I listed the main hooks to remind myself next time I am busy revamping some of my own covers:

1) a catchy title

2) the genre must be explicit

3) keywords in the title, subtitle, or series should be *genre* relevant. (that word was transposed into gender by my pc, but I caught it in time!)

4) Always remember that in fiction, shorter titles sell better.

The cover offers opportunity for more hooks than you might think. Perhaps the most important is being able to tell in a 3 second glance what the book is about. Colours, font and making keywords stand out in a thumbnail ~ it all matters. I shall never look at a cover in such a simple way ever again.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

That Cover!


What thoughts run through your head when you look at a book cover?


Some covers you like, some you don’t. But do you ever stop to analyse why? Probably not. I know my first cover was a blurry photograph of a beautiful beach.

It could be that it was a nice picture, but it didn’t tell you what the book was about.

Maybe the image was inappropriate for the story.


Nowadays I think much more carefully about a cover. You could say I am eagle-eyed now!

If a model is used, I ask ifs the expression implies the right mood? Is the costume correct for the time period of the novel?

Does it look amateurish?


Some things look plain wrong. The perspective might be incorrect, with sunlight coming from the wrong place or, worse, two places at once. Red-eye can easily be corrected these days, but not blurriness - better to choose another image.


I try to avoid a run-of-the-mill image that bores the observer.

Too many competing images are distracting for the reader and there may be technical issues due to untrained use of software that are spoiling the result.

Sometimes the image may become skewed or distorted.

A cover can be too sexy for its target audience, colours may clash and there may be too much text on the cover. A spelling mistake is a disaster. Fortunately, I never made the mistake of using the word “by” followed by the author’s name. If I have, my memory has air-brushed it out of my mind!


I try to remember its always easier when one main image with a clear message is used.

Monday, 29 March 2021

That all important Font


Whether designing a book or just the book cover, the choice of font is important. Think of it as a design element that will help attract the audience you want. 

Of course, if you find a font you love, you may then find that graphic artists come out of the internet woodwork and say it is overused and passé. To them it probably is, but I doubt it will be to the general reader. But it might be wise to get a feel for how used it is before you decide. Some of the overused fonts might be Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, or Algerian, for example. 

There are many fonts out there. I tried Google fonts recently and grew dizzy checking them all but I was glad I looked. Sometimes I found it hard to differentiate between one font and another - they looked so alike to my untrained eye. There are lots of other sites, too. Type  Free fonts in your search box and check them all to get an overall impression of what you could use. 

Some will be suited to a particular genre and to misuse a Sci-fi font on a Romance book would be a disaster. If you are new to this game, then the only way to get a feel for the genre type fonts is to study the market and since we might soon be allowed out into bookshops again, that is a delightful way of working. Until that happy day, online is the way to go. Good hunting! You might find me there, searching for that elusive, just-right font!

PS The moody seascape has nothing to do with fonts!

Sunday, 21 March 2021

The all-important Blurb


"Better to perfect the blurb before you publish." 

I wish I had read that sentence years ago! 

But I’m finally learning something of the trade, so I have been browsing top-selling books in genres similar to mine. I used to think the blurb should tell what the book is about, but now I know it is to reveal the genre/subject without confusing or contradicting the title or the cover. And, of course, it should make the reader want to read the book.

Bookshop browsers have, for many reasons, a short attention span and the bottom line is that the blurb needs to be concise. Don’t add anything that is unnecessary. Arouse the curiosity of the potential reader and make them look inside the book. Do it by creating questions.

If the reader cannot guess the genre, then the blurb has failed. Check that it is punchy, flows well and check for errors. Match language to target audience, do your homework and your research. Make sure your best point is in the first line, because Amazon will truncate much of the blurb. If your book isn’t selling as much as you’d like, then take a long look at your cover, the title, the blurb and the story idea.

The blurb is the easiest thing to change, so start with that.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Gardens & the promise of Summer

 Two days of wonderful sunshine and gardening has been done. The hands and knees kind, trowel in hand and weeds ripped out of the damp ground. I spent £38 on plants and have positioned and planted the less tender plants already. Bill thinks I've done it too early. "We aren't out of the woods yet. One sharp frost and they'll die and you'll have to buy more."

This is the first time in ages the garden is getting any real attention. With us spending five or six weeks in France during June and July, the garden usually runs wild very quickly. But last year we didn't get out of the country due to Covid, and this year it looks much the same. If we do go, it will probably be autumn rathe than summer.

 At least we are prepared. I have renewed my passport in the last week, and Tim is up to date with his inoculations. When we do go, he'll need a 9 page document from the vet which will cost me another £120 or thereabouts, all to prove that he is healthy and rabies free. Those mad Brexiteers didn't know what they were doing. 

Of course it isn't only this country's restrictions and lockdowns to consider. France may close her borders and we have no answer to that. Just today I saw a report that claimed one third of the councils in this country recorded a rise in new Covid illnesses this week. That is after they've been going down for two or three weeks. I can see the restrictions going on for ever.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Spring Clean

 Currently doing a spring clean on my computer. I may lose a few URLs but its worth it because things change so rapidly in the electronic world. I have blog addresses from 2012  and some of the bloggers have set up newer blogs elsewhere since then. 

I'm writing - or should I say re-writing?  part 2 of my Scots Queen trilogy. I've learned such a lot and it gives me pleasure to get rid of clunky sentences and add in what I now feel are important bits of characterisation. There's a new cover, too. As for paperbacks I think they are a waste of time for me. They take so much more effort, particularly for the cover, and the number I have sold is minimal. Sometimes they don't look as expected no matter how carefully checked they were. The first excitement of having my very own paperback in my hands was wonderful, but I'm over that now, so I think it will be e-books only in the future.

Most attention is on Amazon Ads which I began January 12th. I began with ads in the US. Recently I have put a few ads to show in the UK which operates a little differently to the US system. So far I have no great insights to share, but then I'm still learning the ropes and I was told right at the beginning that it would take perhaps 3 months for real results to show. I am keeping careful track of what I'm doing and what results I get. 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Dabbling in Amazon ADs.

 Dabbling in Amazon ADs. 

Discovered that campaigning in the US is relatively easy, but doing the same thing in the UK is difficult.

I have sent one AD off to be verified, and I shall let it run for a few days while keeping a close eye on it. So far my experience is with the US, where I got almost 40k impressions (ie, when the AD is presented somewhere) and under 40 clicks (which is when someone clicks on the Ad) and a great big resounding 0 on sales. Not that it cost a great deal. I don't think I got to $4. Now, if I had the courage of my convictions I might have entered a great many more ADs and had more success. I'll never know, will I?

Friday, 19 February 2021

A spark of an idea

 In this quiet time  it can't hurt to revise some of the generally accepted rules of writing good fiction. The tips I have gleaned over the last decade are not intended as Rules To Be Obeyed by any means. Sometimes I need a refresher and to remember that a story may start with no more than a spark of an idea and a living character. Though characters rarely come fully formed,  they can be built. What is needed?

History, hang ups and goals
Relationship to career/house/city/weather/ traffic and of course
Relationships past and present to family, friends, lovers and pets.
An attitude to love and marriage.

If you have all those fixed in your mind, then what does the story need?

A plot goal and an opening conflict or problem
Obstacles between the characters and their goals
A setting - and, of course, the character's attitude to that setting.

Then there is Motivation

The Hero/Heroine should have one major motivation driving them (The Prime Motivating Force)
It is often linked to a dramatic incident in their past and goes without saying that for a Romance and possibly every other genre the Hero/Heroine need conflicting goals

I often need to remind myself that one thing should not overpower everything else. For example, I have been reading a thriller set in Rome and I found myself getting very irritated - or perhaps bored is a better word - by the amount of words devoted to Rome itself. Since I have never been, the names of streets or buildings mean nothing to me and I felt the author had let his love of setting overpower the

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Too much gore?

 I have just discovered Val McDermid. 

I know she's been writing for years, but I haven't been into thrillers at all until recently. And I especially like psychological thrillers. I always veered toward historical/historical romances and ignored the rest. OK, I read Ian Rankin for his Rebus stories. And then I discovered Peter May and his Lewis and Enzo stories. But slowly over the last couple of years - partly because I couldn't find a decent historical I hadn't read, because thrillers they are so easy to get on Kindle and there are so many of them  - I started looking at thriller titles.

I'm still picky. I tried and abandoned some of the younger thriller writers who have shot to the top of the Kindle sales charts. Characters I don't like, settings I find depressing, poor language and some that are very readable but instantly forgotten - I worked my way through them and have finally found a writer I like. Chilling, perhaps, but that is to be expected in murder stories so I can't really complain about that. But too much gore I will avoid. I have a good imagination, and don't need blood and guts splashed across every page. A threat, a darkened room, a stealthy sound.... my muscles tense and I glance over my shoulder.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Veterinary Blues

 45 minutes to get to Hexham this morning on very snowy roads so that Tim could have his scan. There was good news - no sign of stones forming, so the allopurinol can be reduced. Another scan in March just to check that the lower dosage is not allowing stones to form and then perhaps we'll be in the clear. Or rather, Tim will be.

While we waited for him we walked around Hexham. Hardly anywhere open, so no coffee and scones at Mrs Miggins Tea Room to while away the time. I was wearing wellies and due to two or three inches of snow my feet were freezing when we got back to the car, so I opted to go down the hill to Tesco. At least it would be warm there, and sure enough, after ten minutes my feet were back to normal. Even Tesco was quiet, the car park  mostly untrodden snow. Hardly got in there before the phone was ringing to say come and pick up your dog. (He howls once the sedation wears off, so they don't keep him long! Our Tim is a bit of a diva, if that term can be applied to a male dog.) 

Snow may look attractive but it plays havoc with getting anywhere in this country.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Second edition of Abduction

 Two young Englishmen plan to abduct the infant Scots Queen from Stirling Castle. The executioner's scaffold awaits them if they fail. The times are dangerous. Scotland is unstable, heretic England fears invasion from Catholic Europe. Headstrong Meg Douglas offers help but secretly works to secure her own reward. Minor characters are beautifully portrayed in this romantic adventure; the anxious Dowager Queen of Scotland, fearful for her child's safety and a subtle negotiator in a man’s world; Lord Lennox, keen to make the best marriage he can amidst changing allegiances and ambitious nobles; and that bull of a man, Archie Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, desperate for a son from his pregnant, teenage wife. Best of all is Matho, the likeable, rather diffident young Englishman who meets the love of his life on his first important mission.

I have completely revised and edited the story I published in 2014 as Abduction of the Scots Queen.  Now it is shorter, sharper and so much better for the pruning. The cover pleases me more than the old ones, though I thought they were fine at the time. The truth is I have learned how to do more with Photoshop! 

Now I shall start work on the second and third stories in the series.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

A right or a priviledge?

We didn't have a holiday in France last year. In spite of Covid we managed a week in Scotland in October just before Nicola closed everything down. We'd had that booked since March, and it was touch and go all year as to whether we would make it!

That summer of 2020 we spent days in the garden because the weather was generally good. We did jobs that have been hanging around for ages. Yes, we missed the time in France, but I don't think we suffered. Yes, we are lucky we have a garden to lounge around in. I am aware that many don't have that. But on the other hand I can't recall my parents ever having more than one holiday during my lifetime. In the space of one generation, life has changed so much. Now we feel deprived if we don't spend two weeks somewhere other than home.

Dr Scott McCabe of Nottingham University has been exploring the impact of holidays on disadvantaged families and says one of the good things is that holidays strengthened family ties. They also recharged batteries and gave people time to think, relief from routine, work, and stress. The biggest benefit was time for fun and making happy memories for children, perhaps to experience something new and different. (I am sure some of you can recount tales of the holiday from hell, but that is a different  story!)

Well, I'm wondering if most, if not all of those good things can be achieved whilst staying at home. Many workers today don't get paid if they don't work. Perhaps what's needed is that they should have two weeks paid leave a year as used to happen in the sixties to do all those things cited by Dr McCabe. The thing is they don't need to be done in Spain or France; the garden or the local park can offer relaxation too. 

McCabe has questioned whether a holiday is a right or a privilege. “In France there is the chèques-vacances system — vouchers given out by employers and by the government which can only be spent on holidays. In Spain, the Imserso programme sends older people, who are often among the most socially-excluded in society, on holidays. In the UK, the work to get disadvantaged families on holiday is generally done by charities." 

He doesn’t discuss the modern mindset about holidays, but perhaps that is important too.  

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Free courses

 Doing one of the free courses that abound on the internet these days is not easy. 

I am required to work! At first I seemed to make no headway, but I persevered, and today the number of impressions has shot up to over 2 thousand. That means the ads were display over two thousand times. Not that anyone has bought anything yet, but it is progress in the right direction. I think it has cost me the grand total of 17 cents so far.

I shall persevere and see if things improve. After all, the goal is profit!

I am not doing any PR on Twitter or Facebook  right now, as any results I want to be able to see as due to Amazon.

We keep getting light snowfalls, but nothing  to worry about. It was -4 here overnight, and won't get warmer than 2 degrees all day today. It has been like this for a few days now and even Tim isn't keen to go out. 

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Brain work

 It's like being back at work!

Taking part in an online course on marketing and I have Homework! Some of the language is hard until someone deciphers it for me. It's rather like watching video tutorials on Layer Masks in Photoshop - some people may know their stuff but just cannot put it over in ways mere mortals can understand. Others have the knack. 

So, I don't have much time for just fooling about on Facebook, and my editing has been abandoned for a few days. Still, I have renewed the covers on my "Affair" series though they are not all loaded yet. I decided to make the titles and author the same font on each cover to give them that uniform look - and I also transferred Silver Season into the group. It seemed to belong there and  don't know why I didn't put there right away. It has a new cover.  I liked the dark cover, but it dawned on me that it didn't really convey the message "romance" and even though the story has a dark side, it is essentially a romance. So that cover may go up today. The stories have not changed; only the covers.

Oh, and Tim and I have been out already - in 3 inches of snow!

Friday, 8 January 2021

Getting to grips with the dark mornings

 Getting to grips with the dark mornings now. 

Because we have no need of alarm clocks, we sleep while it is dark, unless something intervenes to wake us. Some days we have been waking as late as nine thirty, which is not good for getting to sleep the following night. But finally, with the solstice, we seem to have turned a corner and we are now waking while it is still dark. Today, for example, I was up, dressed and at my computer by 9am. 

Not that I am rushing to go outside. The weather is having difficulty deciding what it wants to do. Is it raining, snowing or sleeting?  Or none of the three? 

Every time I look out of the window, it is doing something different, but whatever it is, the temperature is very low. Tim is curled up on his bed, and I think I agree with him - we'll wait until closer to midday before we go out for our hour's exercise. Meanwhile, it is a good opportunity to continue proof reading my second edition of Abduction. At least 12,000 words have been removed and the whole thing smartened up.