Recently I’ve spent a fair amount of time redoing book covers blurbs for my books. When I started self publishing, I also started learning cover design. My design skills probably lag the other required skills by a considerable amount. But that’s okay, as I am learning.
Initially, I was trying to make what I thought of as intriguing covers. I will admit right out that I detest covers that use those poser characters, especially in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use the software in an elegant manner. They look, to me, cartoonish. I have an unreasonable dislike of mixing cartoons with other things. There ought to be some religious group that refuses to mix cartoons and books, just are there are those that won’t mix cheese and meat. But that is my prejudice.
Subsequently, I revisited my covers and decided that while some might be nice, they didn’t say “erotic” in large enough letters. Readers could zip by mine in favor of another that was more sexually alluring, before they even considered reading a sample.
So I redid all my covers. On the right of this page, the cover for BECKY’S HUNGER changed from a rather nice, but innocuous shot to something more provocative. There is a new cover for AN EROTIC FOURSOME as well and I will update that here soon.
Redoing the covers proved interesting because it required thinking about the stories that sit behind them and trying to find a way to suggest the theme, the action and the erotic content all at once. Here is an example of how I went about that process.(You get to decide if my execution was worth the effort, but I think the process was correct.)
I have a story called THE EROTIC POET AND THE NUDE PHOTOGRAPHER. Now having a title like that is a challenge right out of the box. Sure it says “erotic” and “nude” right in the title, but it doesn’t imply any action, the way other writers do. And the story itself is more erotic than just sex. It really is about an erotic poet working with a nude photographer to produce, gasp!, art. Of course, there is a fair amount of sex too, so how to portray that?
My first cut (on the left) didn’t bother to portray it at all, except to be arty. It looked like this. The intent was to capture the idea of artistic erotica. The painting was done on silk by a wonderful artist named Dagny Sellorin.
But I think it confused people. It certainly didn’t achieve the sales I thought it should.
Ultimately, I paid for the right to use what seemed like the perfect photo, and went with an almost noir look shown on the right. The idea is to make it sexier, use an actual nude photograph and hope it works.
But the upgrade didn’t stop there. The cover attracts, but the brand (For the record, I hate that word. It makes it sound like some mechanistic process, not anything human.) an author projects depends on the writing and the quality of the editing as well.
As I reformatted the story, I was horrified to find a number of typos and flat out mistakes in the text. I have made my living as an editor for many years… how could this be? Well, as every editor knows, even if writers don’t, being your own editor is akin to being your own lawyer or doctor — you have no objectivity.
When I googled for freelance editors, most of the ones who mentioned erotica had a big “except for” in front of the word. Okay, they don’t want to get turned on in the office, I get that. As a member of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association (see the link on the right) I was able to send out a cry for help and found a number of good candidates. I engaged one to do an edit. When I saw the first pass I was, to be honest, embarrassed by some of the things she found. Sloppy, Blair, sloppy. In addition, she made several good suggestions that when I worked through them I found strengthened the story. It didn’t change significantly, just got improved. She provided objectivity. After all, she didn’t know it was the greatest prose to come down the pike since Gutenberg and therefore could see flaws that I was far too impressed with Blair’s writing to see.
So from now on I will be using an outside editor as a matter of course. (If anyone needs a good editor, send me a message and I will be glad to make a referral). Ultimately, as I get more books out, I will be getting someone to do covers as well. I rather enjoy doing them, but I am certain that a pro would move things up a notch and that would give me more time to do what I do best — write dirty books.