The Importance of Branding

I’m on my fourth set of book covers!

Life Story of a bookWhen I first began self-publishing some five years ago, I uploaded three titles onto Kindle sporting the obligatory homemade covers. Actually, looking back – they weren’t too bad! But over time, it occurred to me that Kindle was not only a mostly American market but I was going to have to try much harder for visibility as the number of available titles seemed to increase on a daily basis. I set about finding a good designer to produce a bold, professional-looking brand. And as most authors are aware, unless you have a famous pen name, then your covers are going to have to do the majority of the marketing for you. I knew this, even then, but I wasn’t looking objectively at my potential reader base. I was too close to the material, and too inexperienced with market trends.

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At this stage, I still had just three titles and no plans of writing sequels to any of them, but despite the simplicity of this, I struggled to reflect my material. Romance is one of the biggest selling genres in fiction – according to Amazon. And yet if you admit to writing about relationships, it attracts an element of disdain. As with most styles, the extremes are always easy to identify. If it’s a Fifty Shades book, then it will be a ripped torso and some handcuffs. Chick lit? Easy… shoes, handbags, cakes and cartoons. Happy smiling couples? That’s Christian Romance, or Mills and Boon. But what about the rest of it? There are literally thousands of romance titles out there which these successful, albeit cliched images, don’t reflect.
More on this current trend here: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/choc-lit-335396
What I did get right, in principle, was the human element as I think the reader needs to identify with the protagonist in character-driven fiction as opposed to plot-driven fiction such as crime. The problems began when I started to write more books, some of them sequels, some of them with a slightly different feel. The essential genre of the books became fuzzy, as did the concept of the original designs, and it became increasingly difficult to work with as a form of branding.

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Then along came the traditional publishing deal and I fell into the trap of thinking that they’d have more experience in this department then me. I’d had communications with agents and publishers in the dark and distant past as followers of this blog know all too well, and one of the major stumbling blocks had always been the in-between genre problem – which probably represents a huge majority of independent authors. I think it still has the traditional publishing industry throwing up their hands in despair. “We’ll never sell this, it’s time-slip-historical-paranormal. What would we put on the cover?” I used to scoff that they lacked imagination. They probably do… but that’s not the whole picture, they lack time, money and inclination more.
Silver RainOf all the marketing I’d tried, the move to a small publisher had to be the worst decision ever, for me. And I’m partly to blame when I stated initially that maybe I didn’t want characters on the cover anymore. The result was something so bland and plain that any indication of content and what to expect – was non-existent. I was rather hoping they’d know exactly what they were doing but I guess if it isn’t chick lit or erotica, we’re back to the same puzzle. What do they put on the cover of these books? There are romantic elements but the characters are way, way too old for chick lit and there’s not always a neat, happy ending. These novels are peppered with manslaughter, arson, domestic abuse, judicial use of a swear word or two, and here’s the quirky bit which throws everyone: a lot of British humour. They’re not ‘easy’ reads but they’re not especially literary or demanding either. I’ve always sought to entertain and engage rather than try and dazzle readers with the use of long words.
Silver Rain Cover MEDIUM WEBBecause I feared the chick lit syndrome, I opted for Family Saga and Women’s Fiction as a means of general description. Neither of these woolly titles did me any favours. The worst element – according to my Welsh publisher was that they’re set in Wales! Books set in Wales don’t sell, they said… you need to set them in Cornwall, or have the men in kilts. I did spit feathers over this, but wait… this isn’t as nonsensical as you might think. The reason their mainstream genre books sell well is that they are clearly signposted by their cover design, and most importantly, the reader understands exactly what they’re getting. They don’t have to wade through the entire sample or spend precious time trying to decide if it’s for them. Simple, standard genre motivated cover art means a lot less work for the publisher too…
Leaving the traditional publishers behind due to a chronic lack of sales also meant I had to forfeit my US rights on three titles, but this went to reinforce what I should have done from the outset with regard to my images. I needed to make a definite shift into a specific genre. Maybe I had to grit my teeth and start calling them Contemporary Romance and embrace the fact that they’re so British. Whilst ruminating the errors of my ways I spotted a book on Amazon with a new cover –a book I knew well – a book which I’d read and loved some years ago, and I knew it was pretty close to my own material in terms of genre, age, location, and content. My decision to re-brand was formed there and then. I set about sharing my ideas with J.D. Smith Design and the process began in earnest.

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We concentrated on two vital elements. My Welsh landscapes are a fundamental part of the stories and almost a character in their own right, so this needed to be a clear statement on the cover: stone walls, wild ponies, mountains, heather, tumbledown farms… all of these elements underpin the books, and the romance genre after all, is about escapism. This background creates a romantic aspect in the blink of an eye – and sometimes, this is the exact amount of time we get to impress a reader. In the next second, the reader needs to identify with the story and the protagonist; so the characters needed to be modern against those sometimes historical looking backgrounds – and finally, they needed to appeal to readers generally above the age of 35.

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Working with J.D. Smith Design again I was able to give my work the bespoke service it deserved. Everything was carefully considered and time taken to make sure all the elements were correct, true to the material, inviting and engaging. The clever use of different fonts meant that my series sat together as they should. An interesting upward trend has developed with my equine series Midnight Sky, and Palomino Sky. Clear branding on these two books (horses, realistic characters and yes let’s be honest, a rugged outdoor guy is eye-catching. He doesn’t have to be cheesy or bare-chested!) have significantly increased sales in the US and Australia, where before they didn’t get a look in. This is interesting because back in the old days I had an agent who told me to ‘back-off with the horse stuff, it puts people off.’
If this exercise has taught me anything it’s to be true to the material. Not only have I given my books the very best in cover design with clear definitions, the overall re-branding has increased sales by at least 60%.
The importance of book cover design and careful branding cannot be underestimated!
More on design and branding here: https://goo.gl/VVx3du

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Strawberry Sky’ by @JanRuthAuthor #Amreading #Amreviewing

“It’s a satisfactory and realistic ending to the series, because there are no perfect endings; life goes on, we fall, we get up, we survive, we struggle…Especially for lovers of intense family drama, set in the stunning Welsh countryside.”

Rereading Jane Eyre

Today I’m posting my 5-Star review of Strawberry Sky, by Jan Ruth, a contemporary British family drama.

Reading Strawberry Sky was a pleasure. It was like meeting old friends once again. It is the third and final novel in the Midnight Sky series.

Strawberry Sky is more fast paced than Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and as I already had the background and setting, I was quickly involved, once again, in the two sisters, Laura and Maggie’s, complex lives.

The same engaging characters we’ve already met in books one and two, make their appearance once again with an important new addition, Enid, a motherless teenage girl, who applies for a job at their farm bringing both positive and negative consequences.

After a series of unfortunate mishaps and ups and downs, it would seem that James and Laura, are finally on the road to a ‘rosy future’ of marriage and children…

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Strawberry Sky (Midnight Sky #3) by @JanRuthAuthor Contemporary #Drama #TuesdayBookBlog

James and Laura continue to please!

BetweenTheLines

  • Author: Jan Ruth
  • Published: April 2017 by Celtic Connections
  • Category: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction

A rosy future seems certain but Laura has some tough decisions to make.

Maggie is devastated by her daughter’s plans, but Jess is determined to remove the past from her life no matter the upset it will cause. James is no longer running from his past, but a multitude of unresolved issues are set to catch up with Laura.

Although the Carneddau ponies have shared ancestry with the Welsh Section A pony, they exhibit genetic signatures demonstrating that the population has been isolated for at least several hundred years…

The third in the Midnight Sky trilogy, Strawberry Sky continues James and Laura’s story. Despite the terrible life changing accident James suffered several months previously, things are at last looking up for the two of them, despite Laura’s overwhelming desire to be a mother. Work is progressing on…

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In the Chair 79

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nWelcome, Gabrielle Mathieu

How would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Gabrielle: Brisk, suspenseful, seductive

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Gabrielle: I would love to get cozy with Tenzin, the tough but moral son of a Swiss missionary and a Bhutanese nurse. Tenzin is my heroine’s moral compass, a teacher, but yet, not without flaws himself. His greatest gift is his compassion, and his willingness to listen. He’s also hot!

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

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Gabrielle: My third book, which will come out in the summer of 2018, is set in Munich and the Himalayas, in 1967.  I would have loved to see Kathmandu then. It must have been a paradise. I’m not that interested in the availability of marijuana in the sixties, but I would have liked to see the city before its current infestation of vehicular traffic and homeless, starving dogs.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

TenzinGabrielle: I’d host all the Oxford dons: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Philip Pullman. I’d just have to hope that being upper-class British, Pullman wouldn’t fight with the other two, since he does have issues with their story-telling. Of course Lewis and Tolkien were products of their times, just as we are products of ours. We would have to dine in one of those delightfully old restaurants in London’s Fitzrovia or Bloomsbury, where the tables are crowded together in a small room, in a narrow building with creaky wooden stairs and a ceiling blackened by smoke. I’m not one for meat and potatoes myself, but I guess with that crowd, we’d have to have a traditional meal, washed down with some nice red wine. It’s true I might find the fellows a mite stodgy, but they influenced my writing. And I couldn’t bear to have dinner with George R.R. Martin, though I think he’s a fantastic contemporary story teller. His tortures are just too vile.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Gabrielle: I have a related genre I’ll be returning to in my next series: epic fantasy. I like creating everything from scratch: the names, the customs, the rules of magic. (There better be rules. I don’t like it when all problems are solved by magic. That should be a last resort, because magic exacts a heavy toll.) It’s an interesting challenge to create a complex background, and then extract what’s necessary for the story.

What do you dislike the most about being an author? Gabrielle: I dislike having to compete with the flood of books on the market.

Favourite word?  Gabrielle: Imagine.

Gabrielle Mathieu was in the chair, author of: The Falcon Flies Alone

Web: http://gabriellemathieu.com/

Strawberry Sky by Jan Ruth #newlypublished #bookreview

Lizanne Lloyd reads and reviews STRAWBERRY SKY

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James & Laura

After the momentous events in Palomino Sky, the previous book of this heart-breaking trilogy, the opening paragraphs of Strawberry Sky promise contentment at last for Laura and James as they complete the improvements to their equestrian business and plan a happy life together. However, the continued disruption to their lives by Laura’s niece, Jess, and her erstwhile partner, Callum Armstrong, keeps them on an emotional roller coaster.

This time the story is told in turn from the point of view of Laura and her sister, Maggie. Maggie is in torment over Jess’s lack of affection for her daughter Kristle, and her anxiety over the success of the B & B she is running with her husband Pete, is causing her to neglect her younger daughter, Ellie. Meanwhile, Laura is anxiously hoping, each month, that she will become pregnant.

Rob, the local vet, has added a strawberry roan to the…

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Beddgelert

Beddgelert

 

Beddgelert stands in a valley at the confluence of the River Glaslyn and River Colwyn. Despite the presence of a raised mound in the village called Gelert’s Grave, the mound is ascribed to the activities of a late 18th-century landlord of the Goat Hotel in Beddgelert, David Pritchard, who connected the legend to the village in order to encourage tourism.

 

Celtic Connections ~ Literary Event at #Conwy Library @JanRuthAuthor @GillyHamer #Books #wwwblogs

BetweenTheLines

Conwy library recently hosted two local authors, Jan Ruth and Gillian Hamer.

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After an introduction by Tracey Mylechraine-Payne, head librarian in charge at Conwy, Jan and Gillian talked about their books, the inspirations and passions which motivate and compel them to write.

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Jan and Gillian’s books are set in North Wales and Anglesey but differ in subject matter. Jan’s books are contemporary and very much character driven with family and relationship issues, the landscape featuring vividly, while Gillian’s writing incorporates history, the paranormal and murder mysteries, again with beautiful backdrops.

Jan read passages from her books Silver Rain, a compelling family drama, and Dark Water, the second book in the Wild Water trilogy which features an element of crime and veers into the darker side of human nature.

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Gillian also read from her books Crimson Shore, the first story in The Gold Detectives series, and The Charter, a story based…

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