Faith Hunter — Release Week

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Hi all. This is my second week on MagicalWords.net, under the new system. If you have been away from MW this year, and this is your first time back, you are seeing something new. MW has entered a new format, one with more guest speakers and some new emphases—on readers and the business of writing and the life of being a writer, as much as on writing tips, writing toolbox, and methodology.

One of the most important parts in the life of a writer—traditionally published or self-published—is release week. Jan. 7, Tuesday of last week, was release day for BLACK ARTS.

I have to tell you, this feels weird, but I’m game. After some thought, (and two false starts) I decided to make this a post about the business of writing, as much as a PR post about release week, weaving in book blurbs and art and working with the professionals in the field, those people who make a book cover pop, who make a book and a character look and sound interesting enough for the casual store (or e-store) browser to pick up (or click on) and read.

When my editor and I talk about cover art and book blurbs, I always get a chance to offer suggestions, but I never know what to expect, because I almost always defer to the art department and the marketing staff. They know more than I do about selling books than I do.

The blurb for BLACK ARTS, number seven in the Skinwalker series:

Jane Yellowrock is a shape-shifting skinwalker who always takes care of her own—no matter the cost….

When Evan Trueblood blows into town looking for his wife, Molly, he’s convinced that she came to see her best friend, Jane. But it seems like the witch made it to New Orleans and then disappeared without a trace.

Jane is ready to do whatever it takes to find her friend. Her desperate search leads her deep into a web of black magic and betrayal and into the dark history between vampires and witches. But the closer she draws to Molly, the closer she draws to a new enemy—one who is stranger and more powerful than any she has ever faced.

By book seven, it gets difficult to come up with new and badder bad guys, but so far, so good. And sometimes, a bad guy who is different is enough, letting more bad and more powerful take a backseat. This is a PI series with paranormal cast of characters in a human world, so I can use mystery to make the bad guy stand out.

The original cover blurb was longer and made Molly the central element of the book, which … SPOILER ALERT: was sorta true, but I wanted that kept secret. My editor let me play with the wording until it was less spoiler-y.

Cover:  For BLACK ARTS, I was asked:
1. What color cover are you thinking about? (Black, silver {foil, maybe?}, white, gray.)

2. What new weapons is Jane using? (Nothing new, but I can write in most anything for the last scene. Got any suggestions?)

3. What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? (Same-ol’/same-ol’.)

4. What do you want on the cover? (Beast. Finally, I want Beast.) I had been begging for Beast on every cover and I finally got it! WHOOT! Here’s the result of my input and the art department’s final reality.

 1609060191_9780451465245_medium_Black_Arts

The art department department had good reasons for the choices and good reasons for ignoring some of my suggestions. Really good reasons, that go back to me not being in marketing and me not knowing a lot about the web.

1. What color cover are you thinking about? (Black, silver {foil, maybe?}, white, gray) 
First, color pops. Black and white, while sharp and intensely contrasting, do not grab the eye. Nor does silver foil (or any color foil) show up on an Internet page. Ahhhh. I did not think about that. So all the visual impact of the shiny silver foil I wanted was nonexistent on the web. Previous covers have been: 2 in buff and browns, 1 in purples, 1 in blues, 1 in greens. Pink, especially the dark, bold pink, with blood-colored author’s name, was new.

2. What new weapons is Jane using? (Nothing new, but I can write in most anything for the last scene. Got any suggestions?) The came up with chains, which usually make terrible weapons, but I was able to write a scene where they worked. Yes, this time the story followed the art. Interesting, yes?

3. What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? (Same-ol’/same-ol’.)  So they didn’t draw in a building or a particular scene, just sticks that might be swampy trees. It worked for two reasons: a). they have been going for a comic-book-type cover all along, and b). they added Beast. 

4. What do you want on the cover? (Beast. Finally, I want Beast.) And I got Beast, if only in silhouette.

The cover matches the style of previous titles, with the lacy-look down along the side, and the angle and font of the title. Am I happy? Yes. If I had gotten my way, the cover would have looked dull and bland online.

A writer has to work with her editor and with the marketing department. A writer has to be flexible and willing to let the unimportant things we want go. It can be hard.

Writing as Gwen Hunter, I got some really sucky covers over the years, especially the year the art department for the first publisher came up with the cover for Gwen’s novel DEADLY REMEDY. It looked like a nightmare of an old fashioned mental hospital on fire. Oy…. I had to live with it. 

So, here’s the question of the day. What do you want to see on the next cover? Seriously. It’s nearly time for cover discussions and my editor will want ideas.  Here’s what I have for the four questions: 

1. What color cover are you thinking about? (Something different. What do you think?)

2. What new weapons is Jane using? (I am open to suggestions.)

3. What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? (A two story house in the French Quarter of New Orleans. And the house looks like a tornado hit it.)

4. What do you want on the cover? (Jane. Other than that? No idea.)

Hit me with your best thoughts!
Faith Hunter
www.faithhunter.net
https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter
@hunterfaith

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30 comments to Faith Hunter — Release Week

  • sagablessed

    I’ll leave my ideas this afternoon, after work and contemplation. It deserves thought.

  • Saga, it does indeed. And frankly, except with words, I am not artistic. There are a lot of artistic people here at MW.

    I also have to wonder, if the artistic writers here at MW were describing their own cover, what would they do?

  • Ken

    Here goes:

    What color cover are you thinking about? Personally, I like teal followed by crimson.
    What new weapons is Jane using? I don’t think I’ve seen Jane with a sword.
    What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? Love the image of a wrecked house on the cover.
    What do you want on the cover? Beast. Even if it’s only her eyes.

    That weapon question sparked one of my own: You said that you were able to write a scene where the chains on the cover worked. I’d thought that by the time that cover art was being discussed the book was finished and waiting to be “Wrapped”. Is that not always the case? It sounds like writing that scene was (and I’m taking into account the speed at which publishing takes place) a “last minute” addition. Or, since this is a series and BA was probably sold prior to it being written completely (Was it? I can’t remember if you’d said…) did the scene with the chains come along more naturally as you were writing?

    Ok, so that was more than one question but, hey, ya opened the door :)

  • I would offer advice, but I totally suck at covers. I had an idea for the Thieftaker covers and thank GOD Tor ignored my suggestion. Because the art on the books has been perfect, and my idea, not so much . . . Hope all is going well with the release and that the next cover makes you squee.

  • Ken, *Thank you* for all the thoughts. I copying your comment and answering in text because it was so good. Truly thank you!

    >>What color cover are you thinking about? Personally, I like teal followed by crimson.>>
    I got an image of it when I read your suggestion — the idea of mixing the two colors? The teal maybe as background, crimson as text and font. What do you think? Too Christmas-y?

    >>What new weapons is Jane using? I don’t think I’ve seen Jane with a sword.>>
    This is sooo weird. Jane actually does pick up a flat sword in the next book.

    >>What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? Love the image of a wrecked house on the cover.>> Good. It may not fly with ROC but I thought it was different and intriguing.

    >>What do you want on the cover? Beast. Even if it’s only her eyes.>>
    I like the idea of the eyes in the distance.

    >>I’d thought that by the time that cover art was being discussed the book was finished and waiting to be “Wrapped”. Is that not always the case? >>
    I had a bad 2012. Sickness and accident in my elders and one death. By the time I wrote the last scene it was time for cover conference. When you do a book every 6 months to 9 months, everything overlaps. I’d love to get ahead, and be writing a book early, but that ain’t happening, sadly.

    >>It sounds like writing that scene was (and I’m taking into account the speed at which publishing takes place) a “last minute” addition. Or, since this is a series and BA was probably sold prior to it being written completely (Was it? I can’t remember if you’d said…) did the scene with the chains come along more naturally as you were writing?>>
    The scene was nearly ready to be written when I got the call for cover conference and I was closing in on a restructured, fast deadline. So it all came together. Except in the book, Jane is wearing a torn bra and bloody jeans, her shirt having been used as a bandage. I’m glad they didn’t know that. :)

  • David, I do too. Which is why I am asking the creative, artistic people here. MWers are a vastly underused resource!

  • Jo

    First, the cover for Black Arts was (ohh, should I say it? what the heck…) MAGICAL!! I loved it as soon as I saw it & YES BEAST WAS THERE!! :) So first, please, keep her on the cover! Second, Jane looked awesome! Better than prior covers, imo. & the chain to me was dual purpose, both the paranormal (?) chain that linked Beast & Leo and the weapon. Love that!
    Ken, teal & crimson I think could get a bit too Christmas-ie. But teal OR crimson I think would be great! I love teal, but would like to know the data on how it “pops” in real life & on screen. & a new weapon? Only thing I can think of isn’t really new. Sword! Can lend itself to many different poses along with the “just plain cool” factor. Mebbee something cursed/enchanted? I’d even throw in possibly sentient, but would the sword & Beast get along? Three’s a crowd? Just tossing ideas out there.
    But seriously, whoever made the BA decisions…keep ‘em & hug ‘em often!!
    Love ya!
    jo

  • Jo

    LOL, Faith, you snuck in on me!! & Ken, I apologize, I didn’t see that you already said sword!

  • Ken

    Thanks, Faith. I’m glad I could help. You’d want to run it past the pros to be sure, but might be that you can get a nice contrast-y pop with that combination while not stepping too closely into Christmas land. I think either one color or the other would make a good single background color too.

    Cool (and a bit weird) about the sword. I seriously wasn’t rooting around in your head for sneak-peeks :)

    And thanks for the additional nuts-n-bolts info on how books are built.

    Oh, and Jo: Great minds, right?

  • Jaymie

    I second your vote for MORE BEAST on the covers, but I always think of the beautiful greens of lush foliage when I think of the south. Something that brings out memoires of Beast prowling in the swampy jungle behind Aggie’s sweatlodge.

    And not to get too campy, but since Jane is exploring her past with Aggie, how about pulling on a traditional tribal weapon? I’d love to see some more integration of Jane’s heritage into the plotlines. I don’t think it should be cliché, but hey, even Rambo got to use a kickass collapsible bow with exploding warheads. Just sayin’!

    (and thanks for giving us a chance to maybe contribute and play in your sandbox, lol)

  • Ken and Jo, I like! I am still playing with the sword part as I wrap up the book. Having fun with it. And yeah, I think the right color of teal would work to avoid the holiday theme.

  • Jo

    Ken- Great minds? :) THANKS! I’ll take that compliment!

    I’m excited to see what the maybe sword might turn out to be! ;)
    Thanks for letting me chime in!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I like to think of myself as artistic so I’ll chime in!

    color of the cover: I second the above that teal and crimson make a great, pop-y color combination. My husband paints mini’s and he uses that set sometimes – some people complain that his stuff is too colorful, but I’ve never heard the complaint it’s Christmas-y. To visualize how *I* would go about using these colors: start with the cover of Mercy Blade, then add the crimson in sort of the way the red is added on top of the yellow for Blood Cross. I wouldn’t use as much red as on Blood Cross, just keep it subtle and glinty and the effect (I think) would be fabulously dark and creepy.

    like to see on the cover: I definitely second Ken’s suggestion of Beast’s eyes. If I could magically have *my* way, all of the covers would have a semi-transparent overlay of Beasts eyes across the upper middle of the cover (just below the title) like she’s looking over Jane’s shoulder.

    Thanks for letting us play with this!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Ooh,ooh, another surprisingly interesting color combination is violet and yellow-amber, but I would choose that for a more witchy-magic oriented book and keep the teal-and-crimson for something with more focus on vamps and weres and violence.

    Also, totally crazy, visually interesting weapon idea: something like a miniature scythe that she can hold in one hand like an extra-scary cat claw. Or battle axes, some designs for those actually have a scary long spike coming off the back end, and there’s enough heft there there’s room to add in etched runes if you want to.

  • mudepoz

    Knitting needles. All I got. Though I did notice that there are some handy knobs on the latest batch of stakes.

    Maybe? I don’t know? Silver knitting needles from an elderly lady that have wood bits :)

  • mudepoz

    Or…how about a dibble? Dibbles would be great. I bet NO vampire killer has EVER used a dibble.
    (Do you think there’s a reason there is no violence in my world?)

  • Hep, I’ve tried to get the Beast-eyes on the covers and maybe they’ll let me have it on book 8.
    And the idea of violet and amber might work well if they give me Beast-eyes, because the amber could be from the eyes. Hmmm. That said, you are right about that sounding witchy. And book 9 is a witchy book.

    Lots to think about!

  • MUD, I had no idea that old ladies had wood bits. Not looking forward to that in my future. LOL
    And I have never heard of a dibble…
    What’s a dibble?

  • I am not the least bit artistic, so I have nothing to offer. I do like the idea of Beast’s eyes glowing in the background. (Now I’m seeing the cover of The Great Gatsby in my mind . . .) As for weapons, maybe a bow and arrows? Has she used that before?

  • mudepoz

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dibble

    http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/attachments/general-lawn-garden/318049d1368750938-not-bad-dibble-prod001281_lg.jpg
    I mean, how perfect! Death by dibble!

    And, I’m SURE there are old ladies with wood bits. I certainly have enough splinters to qualify.

  • mudepoz

    http://www.stuewe.com/products/art/supplies/dibble.jpg Not sure why the second link doesn’t work. Seriously!

  • sagablessed

    What color cover are you thinking about? Silver foil and blood red title, with a hint of black. Jane’s face shifting into Beast, a blood splatter on Jane’s clothing.

    What new weapons is Jane using? Wolfsangle. Old Medieval two-handed hook use to kill wolves and large predators.

    What new or different site/location/setting are you using in the book? Montana in summer.

    You did ask, lol.

  • knobren

    I love the colors that have been used for this series! I wish Beast had been on all of them. I was thrilled to finalky see her on BA! Jane never looks as clothed around the neck and shoulders as I think she should be when fighting vamps, but she looks sexy anyway. LOL

    I can picture Jane with a sword, especially having recently seen photos of Jane’s cosplayer holding a sword.

  • knobren

    I csn picture Jane grabbing some knitting needles as she flew past an elderly woman, Aggie’s mother, perhaps, when she didn’t have a weapon for some reason, like being in an elder’s house. I could picture some of the blood servants of both genders knitting, but I don’t see Jane being forced to resort to using their needles as weapons. :-)

    After Kicking It, I’m picturing a stiletto heel being used as a weapon, perhaps in a sidekick. LOL

  • Cindy

    If you have read Black Arts yet…..What are you waiting for.???!!! It’s great.
    I don’t think each bad guy needs to be badder than the one before if they are different.
    I think teal and crimson would be great or orange and black.
    I love the beast eyes idea and I would like to see a cover of Jane in one of the New Orleans graveyards. They are not the same in most of the country. Or maybe Jane and a Mardi Gras float. Then she must protect some clueless tourists.

  • Cindy

    Bad self editing. That was if you haven’t.

  • quillet

    I won’t venture to suggest colours (I’d probably pick too-reserved combinations that wouldn’t pop), but I will say this: Beast. More Beast. Front and centre showing her full-on attack face, with Jane in the background. Or Beast and Jane back to back or side by side, both poised to attack. Or the two of them morphing into each other in some cool illustrative/symbolic way. Or Beast’s eyes glowing behind Jane’s shoulder. Or something. But definitely more Beast.

    Oh, and I love the idea of Jane using some native weapons. As for Jane with a sword? Squeeeeee!

  • That’s really neat that you were able to write in the weapon based on the cover, Faith. I assumed that by the time the cover art was done, the story was finished and couldn’t be fixed. As for cover colours, other than a different shade of blue, what about orange? Are you going to build in those ancient canal ideas? If so, would something to reflect that be important? (Also, more Beast, but I’m sure that goes without saying.) :)

  • Sisi, I’ve never thought of Jane with bows, and I think it’s a little late for her to star, but it might work a book down the road.

    Mud. Oh Mud. (giggle)

    Saga, nice! I have to look up a wolfsangle. That sounds interesting.

  • Knobren, Yeah, Jane needs more clothes in all the cover. On the original cover of BloodCross, she was s naked and her boobs were so humongous, she would have popped out and given herself black eyes if she had run.

    Cindy, this is weird. I never thought about a graveyard. Doh. I like!

    Quillet, you have given me a great idea with the morphing. And yeah, the consensus seems to be more Beast!

    Laura, the canal idea if brilliant.

    Soooo many great ideas. Now to collate them put them out to the editor!