First thing's first... My attempt at making the blog bi-weekly has gone about as well as all my well-laid plans (not well). But, I'm also sadly persistent in a regularly failing, always flailing kind of way, so here I am, posting after a month of no posts. I haven't talked about covers in a while, and I thought it'd be fun to explain the thought-process behind my most recent, very unusual cover. If you're reading this immediately after I publish the post, you may only be able to find my print book available right now, but the ebook should be live shortly. So what does the strange cover look like? Take a look...
Yep. If you'll look to the bottom of the cover you will see the banana in question. If you look above the banana you'll see text indicating who the banana belongs to...
If you're a sane, rational person, you're probably wondering what the hell I'm thinking launching a romance book with this cover. After all, the whole man-chest or at least man-face cover style is the industry standard for a reason. Want to read about gorgeous, sexy men? Then you're probably going to be drawn to books with said gorgeous, sexy men on the cover.
Still, I have a kind of long history of doing ill-advised things when it comes to my books, and when I look back on my career, those ill-advised decisions were some of my favorites. Of course, some of them have failed miserably for me, and I'm perfectly willing to accept that this cover may join the "failed-miserably" side of the equation.
My biggest fear is that it simply won't register as a romance book. People might skim right over it when they're searching for their next romance book. At the same time, I have a feeling that romance readers are more careful buyers and browsers than some authors like to give them credit for. Andddd I just want to believe that any romance reader would at least be curious enough to read the blurb after seeing this cover.
I've taken risks before with my launches. The first was when I threw handcuffs on the cover of my book cover for "Punished." Every established author in my group told me not to do it. They said it looked cheesy and was just too different. I'll never know if I found success despite the cuffs or in some way because of them, but I know I love that little detail on some of my covers, including the engagement ring on my fake marriage books. I also took a risk when I wrote a blurb without a huge somewhat meaningless "one-liner" to kick things off. When I first started, the industry standard was to start your blurb with something sort of like flavor text that might say... "Bend over, sweetheart." "She's mine. No matter what." "I want her. And I get what I want." You get the idea.
My gripe with this technique was 1): with hundreds of books being published a day, you quickly run out of 3-5 word combinations that are original, unique, and interesting. 2): These flavor lines often had nothing at all to do with the book and were simply there as kind of a cheap attention grab.
I hoped what I called a "five-liner" would be more appealing. On one hand, it meant that instead of seeing one huge line and sometimes only a bit of a sentence or two before hitting "read more" on a computer, you could see the entire 5-liner before you prompted to read more. I wanted to use it like a brief almost summary style hook of the blurb, and then the blurb itself would sometimes start over after that and explain things more slowly or sometimes build off it. Anyway, the point being that I took what felt like a big risk at the time. Doing anything outside the ordinary always feels terrifying when it comes to publishing a book. After all, you work your ass off writing it, coming to love it, and eventually you have something you're super proud of and want to succeed more than anything. It becomes more than just hoping the book makes money. It's personal. The book is part of you, and if it fails, it feels like you failed.
So the closer it gets to launch time, the harder it gets to hold to your guns when it comes to taking a risk. The overwhelming feeling is just... "maybe next time." After all, you know if your book fails, it's going to be impossible not to assume it was because of the risk you took.
Well, this is probably the biggest risk I've taken yet. For better or worse, romance books live and die by their covers. There are some big names out there who get some immunity to this rule, but even the biggest names will see pretty drastically different results if their covers are on point versus off the mark.
My plan to mitigate some of the potential for disaster here was to create a backup cover. I submitted my book for publishing on the 16th, which normally would've meant it'd be live by the evening of the 16th. Unfortunately, it's taking it's sweet time as of this writing and it's still going through review. My paid newsletter promotions don't start until the 18th and then roll through about the 22nd here and there. I was hoping to start running Facebook and AMS ads before my paid newsletters start hitting, which would give me an opportunity to upload the backup cover if sales looked dismal from the early Facebook results. The publishing delay is more or less starting to put me in an "all-in" situation, because cover changes can take as much as four days to fully go live on Amazon, by which time I'd probably be better off just living with the cover as it is.
If you're interested, this is the backup cover I made.
I spent quite a bit of time getting this one just the way I liked. If I end up never using it as a backup cover, I am planning on repurposing it for my next standalone cover. I may do a different style for the title block, but I'm really happy with the model and how he looks as well as the shadow I added in and the subtle touches like the blueish fade at the top and the reddish fade at the bottom (the red is almost impossible to see, but it's there!) While I was making this cover, I kept wondering if I could somehow combine the best of both worlds. Maybe throw a guy kind of faded in the background behind the banana, or squeeze a banana into the title block, etc. I gave some half-hearted attempts at this and realized the concept wasn't working (so these are not polished attempts, but just so you can kinda see what made me decide not to put serious time into trying it).
This was the most true "combination" of both covers. The model was originally black and white from the stock photo, but I colored him in for the backup cover. Here, I felt like the black and white would be less distracting. I also decided to slightly blur him. To be honest, I *kind of* like this concept, but it has some issues I just couldn't get my head around fixing. Primarily, it looks really cheesy to me having a full-sized banana like that and the model in the same cover. Without the shadow under the banana, it looks really fake to me. My next attempt tried to sort of rectify that, but created some other problems.
So here I faded out the model and let the banana + the shadow show through, which also meant I got to keep "Penelope bloom" in black, which I preferred. White was very hard to read, but black blended in over his legs. I don't hate this cover, either, but I ultimately decided it was taking away the power of a traditional male-centered cover like my final backup cover. It also lacked the boldness of the banana on white with no guy, which I've become really attached to.
Just for fun, this was a really early draft when I was trying to design the backup cover. I think it's just an interesting example of how a seemingly simple cover can be so much harder to design than you'd probably imagine. The originals are often messier, and the final revisions are just a process of cleaning out excessive design ideas.
While I still kind of like how the scratchy/paint-like texture and color looks, it's not always about whether something looks "cool" on its own when it comes to covers. I may be able to find a cover where I can work in that texture (and I plan to), but for me it just didn't feel like it worked with the overall design, so I ultimately decided simpler was better. I also moved away from using "his" vertically, because with thicker fonts it was bulky and ugly, but with thinner fonts it was too hard to read.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my wandering, didn't-exactly-have-a-point post. It has been a while since I posted, so I had a little bit of a mixture of things I wanted to talk about! His Banana should be live very soon, and I'll make sure to try to remember to come back here and update with a link when it does. Keep an eye out!