Let’s Get Under The Covers Together

cover
this mock up has been making you think it’s the cover. it’s not

Under the covers, into the covers, however you want to say it, as you near the end of your story, you want to start thinking about how it’s going to be represented visually on its book cover.

Oh, you thought I meant something else?

Using my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section, where I’ve added a few other thoughts on storytelling.

BOOK COVERS

You have enough information now to give some input on what this book’s cover should look like, so read the chapters and let’s discuss it below.


Chapter 44 “FINAL”

 

Two large room service trays lay empty on the floor of our hotel room, along with several empty packages of goldfish crackers.

Sophie and Tyree, all clean and wrapped in their plush white Peachtree Hotel robes, watched cartoons on the TV. Mallory, perched on the large bed in her robe, worked the phone to pursue a rental car for us. Everyone looked safe, warm, and happy.

It was my turn to get cleaned up before saying goodnight to Tyree and sending him to his own suite next door. I went into the bathroom and got in the shower, letting the warm water bring my body temperature back up to normal. Steam rose over the bath curtain and drifted along the low bathroom ceiling.

I leaned against the tile wall expecting to feel different, to look different somehow, from all that had transpired.

And I was different, but I was also the same.

We used to play a game when I was a kid. A game that me and my friend created. We made it up, and gave it a name.

But you would not kill Hitler.

Even if a person could get away with it and nobody would ever know it happened, people wouldn’t do it. Most folks wouldn’t even talk back to their boss. They could never commit murder.

Our game was a naïve pastime for little boys who wanted to play at being brave. And there is a cruel irony in knowing what needs to be done and not being able to do it.

Jimmy was right. I couldn’t kill Hitler. If an act were to occur that no one witnessed, that no one else would ever know about, it exists only in the minds—only in the personal realities—of the people involved. Dreams exist there, and everyone knows that dreams aren’t real.

Besides, Hitler had to be killed before he became Hitler, before he became the powerful dictator that sent millions of people to their deaths. Because if you wait, you have failed. If you have the power to act, to do avert a monstrous thing, you act.

And if you do . . .

If you act in a way to save five million people, the ones who do not die will never know they had been saved. It’s only if the millions perish it would ever be known that you failed them. No, you must act before Hitler becomes Hitler, and save them all.

And therefore, you aren’t really killing Hitler, are you?

Not the Hitler the world has come to know and despise. You have killed a clerk or a small time political hopeful, before he came to prominence.

A nobody.

You would not be a hero, you’d be a madman raving about how in the future blah, blah, blah . . . who would listen to such a person?

I wouldn’t.

If some guy were to start blathering on about “needing” to kill someone so that a future horrific event wouldn’t happen, why, they’d lock him up. And I’d be the first one to agree that he should be locked up.

A smart guy would do what needed to be done, and then if there were no witnesses, he’d shut up about it. That would be the smart thing to do.

In a faraway field, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, a guy does what needs to be done. Whatever it was that he did, if anybody saw, they’d be keeping quiet. That’s almost the same as if nobody saw. And if nobody saw . . . can we say it even happened? Why, once things get back to normal at home, it would all seem like a big crazy dream.

Who’s to say it wasn’t?

So I did not kill Hitler. And I can live with myself about that.


Chapter 44

Two room big room service trays lay empty on the floor of our hotel room, along with several empty packages of goldfish crackers.

Savvy and Tyree, all clean and wrapped in their plush white Peachtree Hotel robes, watched cartoons on the TV. Michele, perched on the large bed in her robe, worked the phone to pursue a rental car for us. Everyone looked safe, warm, and happy.

It was my turn to shower, before saying goodnight to Tyree and sending him to his own suite next door.

I walked into bathroom and looked in the mirror, expecting myself to look different somehow, from all that’s transpired.

And I do look different, but I also look the same.

We used to play a game when I was a kid. A game that me and my friend created. We made it up, and gave it a name…

But you would not kill Hitler.

Even if you could get away with it and nobody would ever know you did it, you wouldn’t do it. Most people would be too afraid. Most people wouldn’t even talk back to their boss; they could never commit murder. It was a naïve game for little boys who want to play at being brave. And there is an irony in knowing what needs to be done and not being able to do it…

Jimmy was right. I could not kill Hitler. If an act were to occur that no one witnessed, that no one else would ever know about, it exists only in the minds, only in the personal realities of the people involved. Dreams exist there, and everyone knows that dreams aren’t real. The same can be said for this; it could be said that it did not happen. How could you ever prove otherwise?

Besides, you can only kill Hitler before he becomes Hitler; before he becomes the powerful dictator that send millions of people to their deaths. Because if you wait, you have failed. You save three million but you let one million die? What kind of fool’s bargain is that? How can you let a million innocent people die? By being able to act and save an additional million people, and not do so, is almost the same as killing them yourself. If you have the power to act, to do avert a monstrous thing, you act. And you act in a way to save all five million. The ones who do not die will never know they had been saved, but the million who die will know that you failed them. No, you must act before Hitler becomes Hitler, and save them all.

And therefore, you aren’t really killing Hitler, are you?

Not the Hitler the world has come to know and despise. You have killed a clerk or a small time political hopeful, before he came to prominence.

A nobody.

So you would not be a hero; you’d be a madman, raving about how in the future blah, blah, blah… who would listen to such a person? I wouldn’t. If that guy were to start blathering on about “needing” to kill someone so that a future horrific event wouldn’t happen, why, they’d lock him up. And I’d be the first one to agree that he should be locked up.

A smart guy would do what needed to be done, and then if there were no witnesses, he’d shut up about it. That would be the smart thing to do.

So, in a field, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, I did what needed to be done. Whatever it was that I did, if anybody saw, they’ll be keeping quiet. That’s almost the same as if nobody saw. And if nobody saw… can we say it even happened? Why, once things get back to normal at home, this will all seem like a big crazy dream. Who’s to say it wasn’t?

So I did not kill Hitler. And I can live with myself about that.


ANALYSIS

Again, we can question whether we need this chapter, short as it is. I like it because it ties up a few things, but some readers will hate it.

IF it stays its own chapter, there’ll be more ability for readers to say it wasn’t needed. If it becomes part of the next chapter and/or the prior one, the potential for readers not liking it lessens. I’m not a big fan of three encores in a book. I say, put your ending as close to your climax (after it, I guess) as possible. Making readers think there are three more chapters might be a mistake. Doing some sort of combination will, in the end, feel completely smooth – almost no matter which way we go – but three short chapters after the climax? That’s probably too much.

 

Okay, COVERS:

You must, must, MUST have a good cover. We’ve talked about this in my blog before. The book cover is a mini billboard ad for your book.

  1. Your book cover MUST make people want to look further – as in, read the blurb.
  2. The blurb is not a mini story, it is AD COPY, a small advertisement for your product, the story.

The cover should be

  • PROFESSIONAL IN APPEARANCE – do not do your own cover unless you are a graphic designer, and even then probably don’t. You “do it yourselfers” with Photoshop, just say no. People will not pay money to read what looks like a hobby.
  • eye catching
  • visible in a small image
  • a nice color
  • either representative of the story somehow or intriguing otherwise – like the title
  • other stuff, as needed (for example, a biography of a famous civil war general might need his image on the cover)

Let’s delve into these pesky critters.

Eye catching.

Naked works for me. Skin will catch my eye every time. It will catch the eye of most people – as far as getting their attention. But unless you are writing romance or soft core porn, it may not be the right way to go. Angel should not have naked on its cover, but whatever I go with should be eye catching somehow.

coverI can’t say the mockup cover we’ve been using for the blog post series is all that great, but it was made by a friend and it did a fine job of letting everyone quickly and easily see we were still in this series when they saw it. Black and white work well here. The green, or turquoise, probably does not. More on that in a second.

Visible

Your cover has to look good large on a book, and small as an unclicked image online where it’s being sold. That’s hard to do, to look good in both formats. I always want a hundred pictures in a grand collage, but they don’t show up.

Let’s look at a few covers by friends that work for me.

aften 1Killer Potential – I love this cover. With a great image and two words, we get a sense of what’s in that story. (White covers are said to kind of get lost on the websites where the shopping happens, because they use a white background – so consider that.

51VX5LVUklL._UY250_

Savvy Stories. The little girl shoes immediately indicate this is a book about a little girl. The subtitle confirms it. The white cover was offset by a red border, but stay away from white if you can.

00 Al Macy 0 author pic yt

Yesterday’s Thief – this cover screams sci fi to me. I wish I’d used it for The Navigators. Also, the colors are very eye catching, and it’s not selling you something you aren’t getting inside. More on that in a sec.

cover

The Fourth Descendant – the color grabs your eye, the key is visible in large or small formats, and the dang title is intriguing. I hate it when others do stuff better than me, and this one does everything well. It went on to be a bestseller.

LOOK at the top sellers in your genre. See what the “rules” are.

 

Color

Some colors work better than others. White gets lost. Orange attracts the eye. Red might look good or bad in different genres. Color is a consideration in combination with other things. Allegedly, orange works well. Until I hear otherwise, I’m gonna try to work orange into every cover I use.

Represent The Story or Be Intriguing

This is kind of a biggie. In your cover and in your blurb, don’t sell what’s not inside. I know, I know: we all want every person in the whole world to buy our book. Yeah, but don’t lie about your story. If it’s not a fast paced adventure, don’t say it is.

hp-3

The simplistic nature of the artwork on the cover of Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets conveys kids book to me; the figure is a young boy, and the title says just enough to clinch the two and be mysterious.

A cover with a naked woman on it implies the story has something to do with a naked woman. Don’t put an image of a naked woman in a cowboy hat on your western if it’s not Lady Godiva In Dodge City or a story about a whorehouse, okay? Keep it relevant. Tailor the message to a specific audience.

Same with the title. If it can’t sum up what’s inside in a few words – The Astronaut’s Wife – then can it be mysterious – The Girl On The Train – see?

tgott

I immediately wonder what happened to the girl on the train. (Oh, and if your name sells a book, like Stephen King’s does, put it on there BIG; otherwise, let the billboard do its job and keep your name a little smaller until it’s a New York Times bestseller)

Picking A Cover Is Tricky!

I suggest asking your beta readers and your fans, and let the fans vote on whatever final choices you come up with. There are lots of sites that see premade covers, too, so searching under sci-fi may help you find a good idea for your sci-fi cover.

Yes, you ultimately get to decide. But getting input isn’t a bad thing. You’d be amazed at how much you’ll like a cover that ends up selling well.

Okay, so what should the cover for An Angel On Her Shoulder look like?

And what should its title be?

I used “an angel on her shoulder” because it was said about the girl when she was decided to have been lucky at the hospital. Later it comes to mean something else. So it works as far as being relevant, and it’s somewhat mysterious, but “angel” can get the attention of people wanting stories about, well, angels. This is not that, in the sense they consider it. We’ll stick with it for now; the cover images may help. I hope.

We accidentally wandered into a decent summary a little while ago that will serves as a basis for creating the blurb:

“As a family is plagued by a series of bizarre occurrences and begins to realize it’s all linked, they worry about whether they are crazy or possessed – until confronted by clues that can only lead to one horrific conclusion.”

That will help folks just joining us. The rest of you, let’s see what images convey our story.

SIDEBAR: BLURBS

Writing a blurb is hard. Your blurb is a short piece of ad copy that’s supposed to make people want to open the book and read it. It is also partly a story summary, but most writers find it’s easier to write an 80,000 word story than a 200 word blurb. Try to use the patterns established by other books in your genre, and keep your blurb short. 250 words, tops; 100 or so if you can. I know, that’s hard. I said it was.

What is the story about? Doug, but really his concern over his daughter. What’s a good way to represent the innocence of a child, and make it close to Sophie’s age?

img_2052

This image of a girl on a swing (above) was suggested. Maybe  it could be the bottom of the cover, with the title across the middle and another image on top, kinda how Navs was done.

itas-dan-2

See? it’s kind of a top-bottom thing, split by the title. (And it has some orange.)

IMG_2047.PNG

This premade cover from Damonza isn’t too bad. It conveys some other-worldliness, and has a girl (although she’s the wrong age) and also invokes the idea of the forest from the lion dream.

IMG_2050.PNG

This one would probably be fine, but… well, it has the angel thing, and a graveyard feel, AND ORANGE – but the blurry image feels cheap and homemade to me, as in not professionally done.But maybe something along these lines would work.

IMG_2057.PNG

This is a good example of going with a bold solid color. Red, it catches the eye. Using a black and white image, we’d have the visual we wanted, and maybe some eerie stuff, too, because we can do that top-bottom thing, split by the title again.

img_2055

I LOVE this image. It represents the lion dream, and if it were somehow placed above the girl on the swing and split by the title, while being immersed in a dark cloud, that could have some appeal. Maybe just the eyes…

cover

But let’s dwell on this one for a second. What’s good and bad here?

Good:

  • easy to see image
  • conveys angel
  • as a statue, it could also evoke graveyard, giving us an other worldiness effect
  • black background is a good contrast to a white online format
  • there’s a decent balance in the placement of the words on the cover. Angel is a longer title. How she arranged the words by stacking and offsetting them, while making ANGEL all caps was a nice touch. believe it or not, that can get tricky with more than two words in the title, or with your name!

Bad:

  • turquoise?
  • close up, the statue looks a little too cut-paste
  • black and white isn’t super eye catching
  • the fonts are kinda meh

Remedies:

Maybe red wording where the turquoise is, blood from the eyes of the statue, an eerie pair of eyes looming in the background over the statue, fewer words on the cover. Not sure “based on a true story” needs to be there; it can go in the blurb. And that phrase about innocents won’t be visible until somebody clicks, so it doesn’t need to stay, either.

That said, it kinda grew on me. I could easily stay with the mock up. I’ve been staring at it for a while now and it is what I expect to see when I look.

Which can be a problem, so objectivity is called for.

What do YOU think would be a better cover for Angel?


Now:

head shot
your humble host

Let me have your comments. The next chapters will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

Share and reblog these! Your friends need to know this stuff, too.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – $2.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Available in paperback and audio book, too!

 

 

12 thoughts on “Let’s Get Under The Covers Together

  1. If you were to stay with this cover, why not change the blue to a rusty golden. Based on a true story would call me to pick up this book sooner than a scary, bloody cover. I would completely disregard something that scared me before I even cracked the binding. Perhaps using an image of a little girl with Angel wings of her own, shot from nearly any perspective. Straight on to her Angelic face, from behind with the little girl turning her head to one side or even a full on face shot with the child’s head turned to one side and the eyes closed. I like the idea of incorporating the child on the cover but not in a threatening way. Adding wings would make me think there was something about the story that was connected to the “other side”. Good luck on the decision. As someone who DOES make her own covers, I appreciate the comments you made. Gives me something to seriously consider. TA!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of the forest but the girl would have to be younger and then the lion at the bottom but just the eyes. That would work in with the dream but also the darkness of the forest and the title Angel on Her shoulder would indicate that she is watched over. A simple font would work best.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that the problem with the current cover is that the picture doesn’t illustrate the menacing darkness here. It looks very innocent. Also, I might not mention the lion on the cover because C.S. Lewis already did supernatural lions in the back of the closet.

    I love the girl on the swing…but put a scary winged creature in the background. I’m thinking like one of the Dr. Who statues or something like an evil raven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The problem with the original cover was… it kind of met all the minimum thresholds. It did not look homemade and it did not look bad, but it did not necessarily look good nor did it necessarily capture the essence of what’s going on in the story.

      I will probably scroll through a bunch of premade book covers and see if there’s one I like for reasonable price; otherwise I might send one of my cover artists a few pictures like I did in the blog post and say “do something along these lines.” See what they come up with.

      Liked by 1 person

What do YOU think? Let me hear from ya.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s