Cover Art Discussion – Big Post Time

Folks, if you go to the post before this one and read the comments, there is a discussion going on about cover art.  One of the drawbacks is that this system won’t let me post media examples in the reply boxes.  So this here subject can be caught up on by reading those comments, then coming here.  ^_^

Wildscar is an artist, and a guy whom I consider a friend.  Three and a half years ago, he did a book cover for me for my novel, Defenders of Valinthia.  Here is his work, which I personally like.

Defenders of Valinthia Cover

This is the cover that is in place to this day.  With this cover, I am happy with it.  However, I have gotten some feedback on the cover art… not the accuracy, but the style.  Amy Safeunderdark has pointed out that this level of work isn’t easily done and takes time, talent and tons of practice.  She’s right.  Overall, Wildscar (the cover artist) gave me exactly what I asked for.

Three and a half years ago, this is the example I sent to him, demonstrating what I was looking for.


I have to say, the cover artist is a superior designer over my own skills… as I’ve mentioned… three and a half years ago.

Investing the time into my own skills, learning the principles of photography, lighting and shadows, graphics design… none of those are lumped up into one budget friendly course, not to mention the tremendous amount of practice that it all goes into.

Also mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t want to start making ‘stock photo’ based covers, because of accidental repeats, such as this one:

The true issue here isn’t about who is a skilled artist, or who isn’t.  Wildscar’s and Amy’s skills are unique and well-developed.  What I am dealing with is two levels of professionalism.  One is based on customer perception, the other on an age-old industry that has been selling books for hundreds of years.  Both have standards, and we have best seller novels when they both can agree on one thing.  What makes a book into a best-selling novel.

Have you ever heard of the ancient axiom to never judge a book by its cover?  It exists because this is exactly what 98% of the population does when shopping for a novel.  They judge it by the cover first.  The content comes next, but they have to get to that point through the cover.  You, my dear friends, may be the few who doesn’t truly judge a book by its cover, and that is all to the good.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t operate as well-intended as you do.

So, where does Daniel’s (me) skills stand today?  Let us take a look at a few covers I designed myself.  First up, photostock and layout style, Chronicles of Valinthia.

This is the paperback cover, where the front is on the right, the spine in the middle and the back on the left.  The ebook version only uses the front cover.  Check out the ebook here.  You can check out the paperback version here.

This one was recently produced, not more than a month ago, the whole trilogy under one cover.  Don’t holler at me for not announcing it, this is a ‘test’ run for one year, with no marketing.  I’m looking to see just how well this type of cover will work for it.

Now what if I used some of those ‘artsy’ skills I developed over the last three and a half years?  Let us say, for the moment, that I’ve been told that my sales for Defenders of Valinthia is tanking out, and there hasn’t been a single download in months.  That I would need a new cover for a re-launch.  Using public domain elements and royalty free websites, I can assemble something that looks like this:

Keep in mind, this is only an example run.  This is not the future cover.  This design isn’t based on high photo realistic accuracy, and it focuses on the discovery of Valinthia, the solar system with a rare blue sun.  The text art works, the scene works, but as always, since this came from a public domain repository, this can be duplicated.

So what if I did my own digital rendering?  Like Wildscar and Amy can do?  I can conjure up a unique, nobody will ever duplicate type of cover, like this one:

This cover is 100% CGI.  Yes, I did it.  Because of the mostly ‘Fantasy’ style cover, I went ahead and used a futuristic typeset for the title work to show there is something unique about this blending of Science Fiction and Fantasy in one novel.

While I personally see nothing wrong with either of these covers, one is under threat of a possible duplication, the other is under the scrutiny of public perception that it’s a ‘fast and cheap’ cover making process.  Believe me, it’s not, but most people don’t know that.

So, what if I merely combined the elements of them both?  I could come up with something like this:

This is what it looks like to have two different styles colliding on one cover.  Because of the free-space change, the Graphics layout has to use the title work differently, so the novel’s title go on the bottom, with the author across the top, which is perfectly allowed, as far as title work goes.

Now I have three covers, but I can’t tell what works better than the other.  Why?  I’m too close to the subject.  This is a novel I created, a universe I know inside and out.  Would I personally pick up a novel with any of these titles if I saw them on a shelf?  Sure I would. Then again, I’m twisted like that.

So I am once again, depending on my readers for input.  I know what the traditional side of publishing would say… stay away from CGI and use photostock.  And around and around and around we go!

So what about you, my dear reader?  Would you pick the covers with the more realism, or would you go ‘layout artsy’, or would you nod with acceptance at the CGI side of things?  Feel free to comment either way below.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I do answer back.  ^_^

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Design Dangers – Photostock Nightmares

One of the reasons why I took to using CGI art in the very beginning of my publishing career was to avoid the problems associated with using photostock and photo manipulation to make better looking covers. Yes, the cover of a book is super-important in earning sales, but Houston, we do have a problem.

Some readers avoid the CGI based covers. They want an expensive looking cover, as it’s important for them to buy a book they feel the author/publisher is investing time and effort with in making it look more realistic. So we have a trade-off. Use CGI and get unique, one of a kind designs, or run into the issue of having two different authors, two different publishers (or more) end up using the same photostock from the photo sites that sell the images.

Don’t think it doesn’t happen, or that it’s a rare issue, if at all? Using my photographic memory, I went book cover hunting. How many repeat issues did I find in two hours? Well, way too many, but here are some of the examples I am talking about. Two different authors, two different books, using the same photostock without realizing it.

I can only imagine the look on the author’s face when they find out that this happened.  No matter how much you manipulate the image, it still makes an author like me wince.  Here, let’s peek at one more accidental duplicate cover.

I don’t want this happening to any of my readers!  Yet, because I used photostock for my Darya trilogy, down the road in the near or far future, some other may pick the same images and end up with covers that resemble my own.

All of which I wish to avoid.  One side of the publishing-industry fence is telling me to stay away from CGI, another side is telling me it makes little to no difference.  Do I want the above issue to happen to any of my titles?  Heck no.  Do I want any CGI covers complained about?  Heck no.  I have gotten complaints about the CGI in some of my novel covers, but then, time will only tell if somebody accidentally copies my photostock cover art.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.  Which way should I lean? Photo, or unique CGI Art?

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Update For The Darya Series: Links

The title of this post says it all.  I collected all of the current retailer links for both Ebook and Paperbacks on one page.  I’m going to share direct links to those selection areas via title.  You can select your favorite retailer and pick up a copy.

Please note!  On Amazon, if you buy the paperback, I’ve enrolled their Ebook counter-parts into the Matchbook Price program.  All are accepted.  This means if you buy the paperback, the Kindle edition will be free.  Not $1.99.  Not even 99 cents.  Free.

You can hold the physical book in your hands for a nice couch by the lamp reading session, and if you have to go on a lengthy trip and you take your Kindle, you can still enjoy the story at no extra price.  How’s that for a deal?  :)

Time for the link to the page where you can select your favorite retailers.

Darya Rising:  Click Here

Darya the Pirate:  Click Here

Darya: Queen of the Galaxy:  Click Here

I hope you enjoy the series, this was a lot of fun to write, and a lot of work to make it all available to you through various retailers and formats.

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Darya Series To Become Paperbacks

I waited a long time to do this. Initially, I wasn’t going to make these ebooks into paperbacks unless there was enough interest in them. However, the book loving nutcase living inside of my body decided now would be a good time to change that tune. Here are the covers I submitted for paperback distribution. If you want to see the larger version, just click the photo and it will enlarge in your browser window.

All three have been submitted at the same time.  The moment they go live, I’ll share the links to their relative sales pages.

What you see in today’s post is only a fraction of the work I’ve been doing in the past month.  My blog posts slowed down, but not from inactivity.  I’ve been working my fingers to the bone to produce more adventures for you all to enjoy.

Please note that some of my sales links will also go temporarily unavailable.  There will be a one week delay starting today, in getting them re-done and re-submitted to the retailers. When those links are also repaired, I’ll report it here.

Stay safe folks.  The galaxy can be a hostile place these days.

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4 Years and 4 Months

As of this post, this very blog has been alive for 4 years and 4 months.  I’ve published my fiction starting in 2009.  That is six years ago.

Six years ago, everybody who was popular in novel sales, all swore up and down that social media was the ticket to improved discovery.  After all, if people don’t know I exist, how can they discover my fiction, right?

Well, the great experiment is over.  Those who sang songs over social media, well, it was all nothing but a song.  There was no advantage over being discovered.

My best year for freebie downloads was 2012.  My best year for sales was 2011.  Does any of that sound recent?

Yesterday, I was managing 3 websites, including two blogs.  I managed a Facebook page on top of that, with a handful of other promotional pages.  I even started an Internet radio station.  I have a presence on 3 different forums, including Goodreads.  Among all of these, I was spreading myself mighty thin… and for all of that work, I earned less that $300 so far this year.

I’m cleaning up my web exposure.  I will still have my main website and this blog, and that is it.  No more Facebook, no more Twitter, no more extra blogs, no more radio station… because none of it is helping me with my writing in the least.  My attention is divided, and when I’m writing novels with big goals, I need to be better focused.

By reducing my responsibilities to just a few web pages, I can focus my attention where it belongs, produce some excellent novels and make my call for Beta readers on my blog, and release my novels once I have them as polished as I can make them.  That was my original goal, and that hasn’t changed since I started this blog in April of 2011.

Back to work for me.  I have a ton of writing to do, and with those other distractions now out of the way, I can probably get something done.  I will bring more of an update on that before this month is out.


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From The First To The Last Chapter – 5 Things To Keep In Mind

The ability to write a novel from start to finish doesn’t own any kind of magical formula. Like anything we try to accomplish in life, certain things can hinder the process.  Some of them can’t be avoided, like the condition of your own health.  If you’re coughing, wheezing, taking serious medication that can affect your judgment, I promise that most, if not all writing skills goes out of the window.

The things that can be avoided are usually the same standard problems faced by most writers.  Interruptions during a critical moment of writing.  Too much noise.  The music you listen to in between chapters while taking a break got left at a friend’s place.  Go and get it, your chapter is done for the day.

The inner spark that fires up has a different life span for every writer out there.  Some can write in the middle of a Burger King on their laptop, the crying kids and yapping adults blending in with the sounds of traffic.  Others may require absolute silence, where the drop of a pin is loud enough to echo, or that inner spark doesn’t flash as brightly as before.

Regardless of the type of writer you are, there are five thing to keep in mind when it comes time to start creating, be it your next novel or any type of wordsmithing.  This isn’t shill stuff, designed to tell you something you already know about yourself.  I hate those kinds of articles.  This is designed to help you in a most economic sense with the work you love to do.  Writing.

1.  Control Your Environment

do not disturbThis is number one for a darned good reason.  When I say to Control Your Environment, I don’t mean that you have to kick out your spouse/roommates/siblings/kids… though the idea of doing so may feel appealing to some of us.  Designate a work space, no matter how small or big. For me, one of our spare bedrooms became my ‘office’ for writing.  We all have a small personal space everywhere we live.  For a long time, it was me, my composition book and my bed with a dozen number two pencils, in a time where laptop computers of today was considered Science Fiction.

Once you have your work space figured out, you need to notify the people in your life.  Get a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, and politely let them know that it actually means what it says. Unless the house is on fire or there are armed intruders kicking down your door, you don’t want to hear about it until you take the do not disturb sign down.  Then the hardest thing you have ever done will eventually happen.  You’ll have to enforce it, so the sign has teeth in its message.  “Get out,” is pretty short, powerful all by itself, but can be spoken with a compassionate tone towards children who decides to test those boundaries.  Use good common sense though.  If your child is pleading for help with a bloody nose, that is an exception of course.  Just make sure the trivial stuff doesn’t invade, and get that assurance across to the rest of the family/staff/roomies to know this and respect it.

2.  Take Those Breaks Without Fail

This is also highly important.  If you do binge writing and editing way afterward, this is a hard thing to do at first.  When you see the positive results later on, you’re going to thank me for this.

Every hour to hour and a half, take a fifteen minute break.  Set a timer.  It’s a soft enforcement for your own level of self-control.  If that ninety minute mark lands and you’re in the thick of a creative spurt, by all means finish the idea, then take your break. The more often you do this, your brain will adjust, and you’ll find yourself enjoying those breaks.  Better yet, you’ll realize that your word count, your own personal production, will increase.

Think about it a moment.  When is the best time your creative insight comes out?  When you sit in front of the keyboard for the first time that day, refreshed and ready to get the fun written out!  Your fingers fly, your mind is on overdrive, cruising along a touch past the mental speed limit, enjoying the ride.  Almost two hours later, you’re pushing for more mental gas, and this is where you should park the imaginary car, get out and stretch those legs.

Leave your controlled environment during those fifteen minutes and do something else. Your family/roomies will notice those breaks, and they’ll actually time the daily junk that matters little to those breaks.  It will make it easier for them to leave you alone while in writing mode, and your mental theater will be refreshed by the time you sit back down at the keyboard again.

3.  Drinks, Snacks and a Garbage Can

We can’t neglect our smaller wants while writing.  We get thirsty, we feel the munchies and in the process of satisfying those while squinting at the paragraph we just created, we also generate a surprising amount of garbage.  So that 13 gallon office garbage can will get filled and emptied, which is a ton easier than cleaning up at the end of the day… or in some of our cases… by the end of the week.  You don’t want a new, extra huge chore mentally linked to your writing.

Having a supply of your favorite drinks and snacks is also important.  Remember those reading days, before becoming a writer?  When you curled up on the couch or your favorite overstuffed chair with a book, you sipped your favorite drinks and consumed your favorite snacks.  You love reading, which is what inspired you to write.  Cross those same habits over to your writing, and you’ll cross just about every drop and bite of the same levels of love.  This is important in not just building a routine, but keeping to your routine of finishing your next well-written novel.

Remember when those crackers ran out, or that tea-cup was drained?  You went and replaced them, and then finished reading the novel.  By keeping those same habits in practice, because you used them to finish your task, it will help you finish writing your novel as well.  Worried about your weight?  Hey, I didn’t say potato chips!  Any snack and drink will do, and today there are plenty of healthy options to choose from.  The important thing here is consistency with what you’ve done before, compared to what you’re doing now.

If you never snacked or drank anything while reading, congrats, you’re a rare breed out there.  At least have a hydrating drink nearby while writing.  Keeping your body comfortable is important, and those 15 minute breaks will be easier to do if it also means a potty run!

4.  Aroma Therapy

Because I work in my office as long as 8 hours per day, just like a regular job, I tend to fart in the same space as well, more often than I care for.  That’s not quite the Aroma Therapy I was talking about though.

Odors from the garbage can, from your own sweet butt music, and the occasional slice of garlic laced pizza you mostly gobbled down but is still sitting there a few days later, those odors can truly affect your writing.

There are many diffusers out there at various levels of pricing.  This is not the same thing as steam.  Here is an example.  Once purchased, next you need some essential oils to diffuse into your working space.  My favorite is three drops of Lavender Oil, and Three drops of Peppermint Oil, and the diffuser works very well for up to five hours before turning itself off.  It’s not overpowering, but gentle enough to keep me from wrinkling my nose too often, no matter how loud my gas attacks get.  Because it isn’t based on steam, the room/work area doesn’t get humid or balmy.  It smells really nice and it does its job quite well.

Besides my silly reasons, the Aroma Therapy does help my creative process, or I wouldn’t have mentioned it here.  I got the idea for it because if it helps my adult autistic daughter focus, it should help me focus too.  It does, it works, and more of us should experience it. Look into it, try it just once, and the prices of the diffuser and oils won’t make you wince anymore.  As for me, it was the best investment ever when it comes to my writing process.

5.  Set The Average Work Day

This is no joke here.  I know you’re the boss of your own schedule.  If you wake up at 4am with that chapter looking to bust out, by all means, run to your computer/laptop/composition notebook and get it written out.  If your brain-bladder full of ideas needs to take a pee, go do your business.  I am not arguing against that.

Setting a routine writing schedule is more about endurance than anything else.  Your creative flow can be trained to work harder for you, as long as it knows when you’re ready to work with it.  Seriously.  Many writers take their creative center for granted.  Like any other part of the body, there is a reward for consistency.

Lifting those 25 pound hand weights 10 times, for three sessions every day will feel like a waste of time at first, but as it becomes easier to do, your muscles get firmer and that leads to overall better health.

Creative Writing will respond in the same manner, as long as you keep the routine for a long enough time.  Set your schedule and stick with it.  If you must alter it, then do so, but remain steady in your work flow.  If you have a 40 hour job and writing is your relaxation and hobby, by all means, keep that hobby on a reasonable schedule.  It is possible.  Once you have a nice dose of mental strength, your creativity will match your writing productivity, and that’s when the magic happens.

The day you finish a novel and that surprises you as to how much easier it was this time around, is the day when you realize these five things have some level of merit.  You’ll have an increase of not just productivity, but of quality as well.  Go ahead, give it a try.  At least you’ll impress your editor, and if you stick with it, that Best Selling Novel you know is in line will eventually get written, and that is what this is all about, is it not?

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Ultrawave Radio – Dan’s Own Radio Station

Ultrawave Radio

I think it’s time for the reveal tonight, though the programming is still slightly rough around the edges.  I introduce you all to my next venture, to listen to while I’m writing my next novel, my very own radio station…


The link above is set to open a new tab.  On the right side, top of the list, it will play the station without loading up anything else.  If the advertisement video plays, just hit pause so you can listen to the music I personally enjoy.

As of right now, the distribution for my channel is only one service big at Radionomy. Give me a few weeks to a month, I’ll have it on iTunes, ShoutCast and pretty much any other streaming site I can affiliate with.

Please tell your friends.  Tell your enemies, but let folks know that Dan the crazy one has started his own radio station.  In time, I’ll have content coming up, like a live broadcast, a few shout-outs for friends and family, just some cool stuff.

I have it set to play my own advertisements for my novels every two hours, twenty four hours a day, and I used my own announcing/stage voice skills to produce them as professionally as I could.

Also, if you note on the right hand side of my blog, the link will always be there, even after this post is long buried in time.  Listen and enjoy!  Chances are running high that I’m listening to it at the same time, writing up another universe full of adventures for my readers to enjoy.


UPDATE 6/20/2015 – There was a minor issue with some songs repeating every hour yesterday.  That has been resolved.  I have over 65 tracks from popular 80’s songs, stretching more than four hours back to back.  The issue was in the timing spread in the code, which I fixed.  Now we have a bit more diversity from one hour to the next.  :)

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