Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Love historicals? Ever wonder what would happen if those two went into the writer blender? Well, you get a really cool series by the Playground's newest friend, Colleen Gleason.
Please give a big Playground welcome to Colleen and make her feel at home. With her first book coming out in January, we're tickled she's taking the time to come blog with us.
I’m very excited to be guesting here at Writing Playground! This seems like a great place to hang out and meet new people, as well as talk about some of my favorite subjects: books and writing. Thank you so much for having me, and I’ll be delighted to answer any questions about my book or my road to publication…or anything else!
I wrote nine books before selling to a major New York publisher (New American Library, which is a division of The Penguin Group), and worked with a reputable, well-known agent for more than two years before she called to tell me that NAL wanted to buy the first two books in my historical vampire slayer series.
It was a dream come true—something I’d strived for off and on for more than a decade—and the culmination of lots of hard work.
But the fun—and education—was just beginning. I got the phone call in September 2005, and my book, The Rest Falls Away, is just being released on January 2, 2007. Fifteen months later!
I did a lot during those fifteen months, including writing the second book, but one of the most interesting things that happened during that time is the epiphany I had in relation to book covers.
As an author, I have a certain idea of what I think the cover of my book should look like, based on personal preference and the type of book it is.
Colleen’s Personal Criteria for Her Book Cover(s):
- The design should be eye-catching
- The characters should be depicted accurately
- The scene portrayed should actually have occurred in the book
- It shouldn’t be cliché, and I’m not fond of clinch covers (especially since my books aren’t strictly romance)
- I’m not crazy about cartoon covers either
I couldn’t, of course, give this list to my editor; and even if I had, she wouldn’t have passed it on to the art/marketing department. Besides, NAL’s Signet Eclipse line has, in my opinion, some of the best covers I’ve ever seen.
Thus, I was blessed (and I do mean blessed) with a fabulous cover for The Rest Falls Away. I really couldn’t have asked for anything fresher, more unique or more eye-catching. It fit all of my criteria, and then some.
So…I was very excited to see what NAL was going to do with the second cover in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles series. The book Rises the Night will be released in June, and it’s a continuation of the story of Victoria Gardella Grantworth, who learns that she is the next in a long family line of vampire hunters.
And here’s where I really began to understand book covers.
When I got the cover for Rises the Night, I wasn’t nearly as crazy about it as I was for cover of The Rest Falls Away. Oh, it’s very striking and beautiful in its own way, but there were things about it that weren’t “right”—in my naïve, inexperienced opinion.
First, there was a man with a bare chest on the front cover. (I’m not fond of covers with clinches, as I mentioned above…nor am I particularly fond of bare chests on them either.) (Not that this bare chest wasn’t lovely to look at…it is! It definitely is!)
Secondly, the man depicted, who was supposed to be Max—a prominent character in the series—looked too young, and his hair was wrong, and the expression on his face wasn’t quite right.
Plus the cover has a sort of manga look to it, which, although it’s different, I did realize isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As you can imagine, I was a little disappointed. After all, based on my criteria, despite the bold color and that fabulous stake he’s holding, it just didn’t fit.
And that was when I had my Cover Epiphany.
That was when I realized that I was only the author of the book (and I don’t mean “only” in a derogatory sense). Although I have a background in art and design, and I also spent eighteen years in sales and marketing, I’m not an expert in this area. I’m really not. I can write the book, I know who the characters are and what’d going to happen and boy, can I put words on paper…but as for positioning it and marketing it on a global basis…my experience is limited.
Once I recognized that, I relaxed.
The art and marketing personnel at NAL do this for a living. The sales reps and my editor and my publisher all know much better than I do what makes a cover pop off the shelves, draw attention, and what sets it apart.
And isn’t that, ultimately, what we want? The absolutely most important thing a cover needs to do is to draw attention. It needs to make the person pick it up.
Pick it up.
Because once someone has picked it up, or seen the cover image somewhere and wanted to find out more…we’ve taken the first step toward that all-important sale.
And these are facts:
Covers with bare-chested men sell really well
Covers with dark-haired men on the cover sell really well
Covers with bold colors sell really well
Also, manga is becoming so popular, especially with the younger edge of my target market, that having a cover with a bit of that feel to it can only help in catching the attention of those fans.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter so much whether the cover accurately portrays the book, characters, or events within…it’s most important that the cover attract attention and give the potential buyer a feel for what the book is about.
After all, how many times have you picked up a book (because of its cover) and, after reading the book, stared at the cover and said, “But that didn’t happen in the book!” or “Well, I don’t think he looks like so-and-so!”?
I know I don’t. If I like the book, I like the book, and the cover has little to do with it once I’ve made the purchase decision. But the cover has a whole lot to do with whether I pick it up in the first place!
And that, my dear readers, is what I learned in my Cover Epiphany: as the author, I expect the cover to show exactly what’s going on in the book, what the characters look like, and what happens.
But it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is get someone to pick up the book. The rest of it—whether the book holds their attention, whether the characters are well-drawn and the plot tight and interesting—is up to me.
Colleen will be giving away a copy of her debut book to one lucky blog commenter today. The Rest Falls Away is the first book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, which is about a family legacy of vampire hunters.
In an era where women are meant only to marry, in a time where they cannot even speak to a man unless they are properly introduced and couldn’t even dream of being out and about alone (let alone at night), Victoria has to figure out how she’s going to hunt vampires on midnight streets, how she’s going to carry her stake, and how she’s going to slip out of a ball in order to stake a vampire…all the while juggling the demands of her beaux and her match-making mama.
The book straddles the tenets of most genre fiction. It’s not a horror novel, it’s not a romance, it’s not historical fiction. It’s an amalgam of all three, with some suspense, humor, adventure and history all tossed in with a bit of a love story.
Tell me that's not a cool book. (The Playfriends are bummed 'cause we're not eligible to win.)