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message 1: by Alan (last edited Mar 07, 2016 08:47AM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Hi

Just found and joined this group, it seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I'm new to GoodReads (as well as social media in general, believe it or not).

I recently finished writing an action adventure scifi novel that I have been working on for many years. I never really expected it to finish and was writing it really only for own enjoyment.

Anyway when I finished it, I was a bit surprised. I subsequently asked a few people if they would be interested in reading it, and was even more surprised when the feedback seemed much more positive than I expected.

So I decided to have a go at self publishing. But its all very new to me.

I've realised the book cover and blurb are more important than I thought. But in hindsight, it's fairly obvious why that is.

I don't have the budget to get this done professionally, so here is my best personal effort on both to date.

I've tested these with a few people and got reasonable responses.

I would appreciate any thoughts from this more experienced audience. Would this attract or repel you? Would you be interested enough to read the first few paragraphs?

I don't expect either to be exceptional, as long as they are "good enough" and not actually bad, I'll be satisfied at this point, given the limited time and money avialable.



"Frank Anderson is just an ordinary mechanical engineer specialising in renewable energy systems.

But after a strange midnight call requesting his presence urgently in Europe, he finds that the very future of mankind is at risk—and time has almost run out.

He is asked to attempt something that has never been done before. It’s a desperate last ditch mission to avert complete disaster. But nobody is really sure if it's even survivable. And Frank’s small team of diverse individuals will be far from any outside help. They must do, or die, alone."


message 2: by J C (new)

J C Steel (jcsteel) Hi Alan,

Just initial feeling - the cover is a bit flat. I totally do understand the technical challenges trying to wrangle images yourself, but flat gray background would put me off picking this up. There are a few spots you can pick up some pretty apocalyptic images for free (that are licensed for commercial use) - I like Pixabay as a starting point.

Maybe hunt around for downloadable fonts as well to try out. Checking out other covers in your genre might be helpful too, just in terms of layouts and ideas.

Good luck and happy publishing!

JC


message 3: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Well, you got me with your title already, so that's good.

The blurb is intriguing, although it's a bit hard to tell what they'll need to do and Armageddon comes to mind. If that's your goal, then ok, if not, maybe adding a bit more details will clarify it.

As JC said though, the grey (or...darn is it gray? I can never tell) is a bit off-putting. I think if the background would be black instead it would already be an improvement for me.

If you're looking for stock images that don't cost an arm, I would recommend
http://www.canstockphoto.com
And if you buy credits, you'll be amaze of how many more you can get. (For example, the cheapest package of 15 credits cost 9$ and most pictures you'll need are about 4 credits each.) They also have free images.


message 4: by Abhik (new)

Abhik Chatterjee (abhik_chatters) | 27 comments Hi Alan,

Congratulations on finishing your book.

I would agree with J.C. The cover does look a bit flat.
Sometimes, the best option is to go white and let fly with a burst of colour. Looking for free to use stock images and fonts is also an excellent idea. Tweak away until you look at it and are satisfied.

As for the blurb, my personal opinion is that it can be better. It covers the plot well, but can definitely do with more of a suspense barb at the end...

These are my two cents :)

All the best !

Cheers...

A.C


message 5: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Perhaps you could find one of the NASA pictures of another planet in our solar system, and then shift the hue to something more alien? Maybe Mars, as it isn't terribly distinctive.

It would help this from looking as flat since there would be a space background already, and the NASA pictures are free for everyone. Check the rights for the photo, and the use. They may vary as to how you can use it!


message 6: by Alan (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:55AM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Wow, thanks for the fast feedback guys, please keep it coming - the more the better.

Just a few thoughts from my side:

I originally tried a white background, but that was too bland. I then tried black but it was very harsh, I found myself squinting at it and disliking it. I thought the dark grey gave an almost 3D effect to the planet, which is why I went with that. But I'm an engineer, not a graphic designer.

I also was trying for something simple, to keep the impact high.

But it looks like it needs more work maybe?

As far as the blurb goes I tried not give the plot away. Feedback from happy readers about various blurbs I tried, was that one of things they enjoyed about the story was not knowing what was going to happen next and finding out gradually (things start off normal but rapidly unravel as it were). So their feedback was to not give too much away when I bounced it off them.

Its quite difficult to keep a balance between hooking new readers without blowing the suspense of the actual story.

But please keep the feedback coming because its so useful to hear more experienced people's opinions.


message 7: by Abhik (new)

Abhik Chatterjee (abhik_chatters) | 27 comments Alan wrote: "Wow, thanks for the fast feedback guys, please keep it coming - the more the better.

Just a few thoughts from my side:

I originally tried a white background, but that was too bland. I then tried ..."


Here is an example of a white cover working well :
Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories

And an example of a black cover setting a book apart with a theme similar to yours:
http://www.addesign-scifi.com/book-co...

About the blurb: as long as you think it goes, it goes :-)


message 8: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Hmm, maybe I should try that black again because I liked the black option you linked to Abhik,

Mine just seemed way more jarring?


message 9: by G.G. (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:07AM) (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Maybe if you add some kind of three-D-ish effect to your title?

Edited: I'm not a designer either.


message 10: by Abhik (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:10AM) (new)

Abhik Chatterjee (abhik_chatters) | 27 comments Alan wrote: "Hmm, maybe I should try that black again because I liked the black option you linked to Abhik,

Mine just seemed way more jarring?"


Yeah, the dark grey sort of gave it a text-book feel which I am sure you are not aiming for. Set your Google Image search filter to show images that are not copyrighted. That is another treasure trove.


message 11: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments C.B. wrote: "Perhaps you could find one of the NASA pictures of another planet in our solar system, and then shift the hue to something more alien? Maybe Mars, as it isn't terribly distinctive.

It would help t..."


Hi C.B.

That is actually a NASA photo :^), which I paid for, to ensure I had the correct rights/licence etc. It needs to be Earth due to the plot.

I fiddled with the colours to get a suitable effect. Given my budget I think I'm going to have to stick with that, but maybe do something about the back ground as suggested?


message 12: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments G.G. wrote: "Maybe if you add some kind of three-D-ish effect to your title?

Edited: I'm not a designer either."


Not a bad idea either, thanks.


message 13: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Oh. It is Earth.
I can see that now that I look closer. Okay... well then... you did what I suggested already. Neat.

Okay, time for more suggestions that may or may not already be implemented.

Fonts: Impact Font was once a great font. All of its... impact... has been completely destroyed by Internet Memes. Many people can no longer take impact font seriously anymore due to it constantly being associated with cheezburgrs. I think you should remove that font and use... nothing that comes standard with your computer. Those fonts are often overused and are not terribly distinct from a branding standpoint.

http://www.dafont.com/ or http://www.fontsquirrel.com/

Look there for a font that is suitable to your book, try many, make sure they are 100% free. Avoid fonts that are on the most popular lists, 1,000,000s of downloads is not going to look 'original' anymore.

Move the title up, and the subtitle down. They are crowding your planet, it needs to breath.

Your author name should be in a different font than the title. This gives you 2 fonts total on the cover. Any more and it will look font overdone.
Pick a font that is distinct from your title font. You can get away with a nice normal font, even right from the computer here. The title will probably be bulky and sans serif, so make your name think and with serifs. If you take your name and kern it wide (space between letters) so that it fits across the entire bottom while remaining smaller, it will create an epic feel to your name, like a movie poster.

Background Get a space picture with stars is my suggestion. The gray, the white, the black, it is all flat. The earth is real and it shouldn't be on a flat background. It is in peril so it needs to look in peril. Take that earth that looks all sickly and give it an 'outer glow' of some other sick colour. It will irradiate energy, like the Earth is glowing with the festering bile that it is!

You might even zoom out a tad, give Earth a bit more room to breathe.

Earth is really really sick. I couldn't tell it was Earth until you told me. Maybe tone back the sick on it so it is more obviously Earth?

Colours White text is a bit stark. SInce the background will be darker go for something lighter, but not stark white. Something that contrasts Earth. Maybe a light purple or blue.

Hope that helps! :)


message 14: by Alan (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:54AM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Thanks C.B.

A real wealth of good ideas!

Really appreciate it. I think I'm going to try most of those.

Bit of work to do...


message 15: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Alan wrote: "Really appreciate it."

Not a problem! Good luck! Show us the result.


message 16: by M.L. (last edited Mar 07, 2016 02:28PM) (new)

M.L. | 1103 comments I like it. The gray background feels technical, adding to the SF (especially if it is hard SF). If it was a glossy paperback it would look really cool. (The smaller thumbnail is not as clear due to size of course).
I also like the thick and somewhat crowded font - it feels claustrophobic - and a task force working against the clock would feel the pressure closing in on them. It also feels authoritative: this is it: extinction. The way it is set up, I have to keep coming back to that Earth, there is no getting around it.
The Earth looks weird, sick, dying, something definitely wrong. The contrast of hot and cold is nice, and that green spot definitely curious.
For the blurb, it is interesting, but I need more of a reason (encourage me as prospective reader:)) - i.e., did he work on a special project no one knew about. You don't need to tell me what it was but (this is all subjective!) without that little extra telling me that yes, the author knows exactly why they need Frank, then I'm thinking maybe he doesn't know either! :-) Hope that makes sense!


message 17: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments M.L. wrote: "I like it. The gray background feels technical, adding to the SF (especially if it is hard SF). If it was a glossy paperback it would look really cool. (The smaller thumbnail is not as clear due to..."

Hey M.L. You pretty much nailed what I hoped the cover would convey. And being an engineer this is more "hard" scifi, (with a few glaring exceptions).

Your point about the blurb is good.

Frank doesn't know why he's needed for quite some time, finding that out is one of the things the readers said they enjoyed, so I don't know how to hook the browser without giving that suspense away?


message 18: by Safa (new)

Safa Shaqsy (safashaqsy) | 54 comments about the cover, you can change the background to dark blue if possible.


message 19: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Safa wrote: "about the cover, you can change the background to dark blue if possible."

Actually this is not a bad option maybe?

What do you think?




message 20: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1103 comments Nice! I like it.


message 21: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments OK here's another version, please tell me what you think.

Which is the best do you think?




message 22: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Maguire | 35 comments I like the blue cover with the earth between the text. Way better than the grey. It's not amazing, but it's not the worst cover I've seen. The blurb could use some work. You might want to eliminate unnecessary words like really and very. Here's an article on the subject you might find interesting http://writetodone.com/three-words-yo...


message 23: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Thanks for your opinion Shannon.

How does this blurb sound, any better? Its so hard not give the details away while trying hook a prospective reader.

"Frank Anderson is an ordinary engineer specialising in renewable energy systems.

But after a strange midnight call requesting his presence urgently in Europe, he finds that mankind is facing the imminent possibility of extinction—and time has almost run out.

He is asked to attempt something that has never been done before. It’s a desperate last ditch mission to avert complete disaster. Nobody is sure if its even survivable. And Frank’s small team of diverse individuals will be far from any outside help. They must do, or die, alone."


message 24: by Susan (new)

Susan (susanrayeditor) | 6 comments Alan wrote: "Hi

Just found and joined this group, it seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I'm new to GoodReads (as well as social media in general, believe it or not).

I recently finished writing an ac..."


Alan,
Congrats on your book! Here's my take. First, don't forget the colon after Extinction. (I'm always editing in my head! But I think that's how you have it on the book page.) Extinction: Task Team. I like the title better with the colon.

I would consider choosing a different bold font and make the entire title the same size. Your name can be same font, smaller size, not bold.

Susan


message 25: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Maguire | 35 comments Getting better, but it could still use some work. I noticed you're missing an apostrophe on it's where you say "its survivable". You could try using questions to mix things up like "Can one ordinary man save the world from the brink of disaster?"


message 26: by E.A. (new)

E.A. Turley (eaturley) | 70 comments Alan wrote: "OK here's another version, please tell me what you think.

Which is the best do you think?

"


I like the second one better. The only thing I'd say is that I think the main title should be a little smaller, it tends to overwhelm the page a bit. Maybe enough to fit right over the subtitle.
And I agree with Susan about having the colon in
Larger title with colon and smaller font subtitle underneath. Oh, and try and get the whole planet in too. It gives more of a feeling of it being a global / planetary team then.

Liz


message 27: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Thanks for the suggestions guys!

Shannon, not sure how the second apostrophe went missing again! Keep fixing that same error :^)

But it still looks like the blurb needs work....

Regarding the cover.

I chose that size font because I noticed that when viewing the cover on Amazon thumbnails you cant read the title easily unless its that sort of size.

I left the colon off because it seemed to unbalance the title?

Last point on the blurb, I'm using a much shorter blurb on Amazon because, again they only show a very small amount of text (you need to click "more" to read further which no-one is going to do unless the first bit is interesting). I found that mine was cut off before it started to become interesting.

So I'm using this on Amazon instead (I just cut it down to the bone to get to the essentials):

"Frank Anderson is an ordinary engineer who responds to a strange call. It's a global crisis. But they are asking him to attempt the impossible. Nobody is sure if it's even survivable. It’s a desperate last ditch mission to avert complete disaster. And Frank’s team of diverse individuals will be far from any outside help. They must do, or die, alone. The future of mankind is at stake—and time has almost run out."


message 28: by E.A. (new)

E.A. Turley (eaturley) | 70 comments Hmm...Maybe you could say what kind of engineer he is rather than the word 'ordinary'. If you say callout instead of call it implies that he is ordinary anyway, rather than a specialized expert.

ie. "Frank Anderson is a solar power engineer that responds to a strange callout."

Personally, I would have mixed the 2nd and 3rd sentences together and put "and" instead of "but"

"It's a global crisis and they are asking him to attempt the impossible!"

Good luck with it, though.


message 29: by Alan (last edited Mar 10, 2016 10:49AM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Hmm

Liz, I think you have raised something quite useful. I've been wondering why people keep asking "what type of engineer?"

You actually raise an issue I wasn't thinking about. Nowadays everyone calls themselves an engineer. If you can hold the right end of a spanner you can call yourself an engineer, and many people do.

But Frank is a "proper" engineer who studied at university (a bit like me :^)

So I can see now why people keep asking that question ie was he an "ordinary engineer", or someone a bit more specialised, which has been puzzling me?

Which might be relevant to whether they want to read further? Maybe you aren't really interested in a story about a handy technician saving the world, (even though they probably do, every day)?

Thanks for making me think about that, need to maybe rephrase a few things.


message 30: by E.A. (new)

E.A. Turley (eaturley) | 70 comments You're welcome, happy to have been of some help to you!

I try to write two parts to my blurbs, the first part is about the situation and characters and the second are a few questions asking the readers What will happen if.. can they do...How will he stop ...Does he have the time.. etc and let the readers imagination flow for themselves and make up their own possible endings. Then they have to buy your book to see how it really ends! lol


message 31: by M.L. (last edited Mar 10, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

M.L. | 1103 comments Alan wrote: ". . . .

Which might be relevant to whether they want to read further? Maybe you aren't really interested in a story about a handy technician saving the world, (even though they probably do, every day)?


I think it's the opposite. People are interested. No less an authority than Stephen King said people are interested in people's work. In this case it's been mentioned up front in the blurb, so on the table, so to speak.

The first blurb has, ". . . mechanical engineer specialising in renewable energy systems."

One option would be to leave out "ordinary":

Frank is a mechanical engineering specializing in renewable energy. To him it's nothing special--he's done it for 10 years. All he wants on the first day of his new job is not to get fired by being late. He has every reason to slam the phone down on the 4 AM call. Not only did it wake him up too early, it was a hoax. After all, no one would call on him to save the world. Or would they? The person is convincing, and in twelve hours Frank has forgotten his new job and is on a flight to Nairobi.
Only much later will Frank regret his decision to set out with a group of strangers, a task team with an impossible assignment. There is no turning back. They must save the world--and the clock is ticking.

That's just a thought/sample - and with obvious placeholders:). Good luck!


message 32: by Alan (last edited Mar 10, 2016 04:47PM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Hey M.L. Like your counter argument as well.

Of course there is nothing wrong with a story about say a plumber saving the world, and that may very well be a better story, its just not what I wrote, and I've been wondering why people kept asking about what Frank does.

But as you point out, its just people trying to position the main character and find out who he is. And as you say, what a character does is interesting to readers.

I suppose it all comes down to the hook that draws people into the story.

Initial readers all responded along the lines that they enjoyed not knowing at all why Frank was called, what he had to do, and what the situation was. Finding all that out was what they all seemed to like about the story.

My initial blurb was very weak and vague.

Now in order to rectify that, its difficult not to give the game away.

BTW did you read my first few chapters? Because your suggested blurb is quite insightful?

It has some nice ideas. Thanks a lot.


message 33: by M.L. (last edited Mar 10, 2016 05:32PM) (new)

M.L. | 1103 comments Hi Alan,

For me it's not the blurb, but the "look inside" so I can get a feel for the author's voice.

I skimmed your first maybe page or so. It's funny about me putting Nairobi (I know someone who was there last month). I thought of putting Azores or Madagascar, but settled on Nairobi because of the previous connection, so I just looked again. :-)

Anyway, by all means, go with your readers who have read the book. It's only that you seemed to be mulling things over, so I offered that. Thanks!


message 34: by Alan (last edited Mar 11, 2016 04:09AM) (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Hi M.L. I agree with you on the "look inside" which is probably why I'm making such heavy weather of the blurb, it struck me that I don't think I really pay much attention to that when selecting a new book.

Herewith my latest offering:

"Frank Anderson is an ordinary mechanical engineer. Or so he thinks. But after a strange midnight call requesting his presence urgently in Europe, he finds that mankind is facing the imminent possibility of extinction—and time has almost run out. They are asking him to attempt something that has never been done before. It’s a desperate last ditch mission to avert complete disaster. Nobody is sure if it’s even survivable.

And Frank’s small team of diverse individuals will be far from any outside help. They must do—or die—alone. They will be in a very alien environment; completely dependent on each other. But can they trust each other? And how will those different individuals react when their own survival becomes threatened?"


message 35: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Oh I like that new one. The last paragraph got me.


message 36: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Thanks G.G.

I think its finally converging.

BTW someone suggested adding a bit of a fade to the background of the cover. What do you think of this?




message 37: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I like the subtle change. The lighter greenish color on each side of the planet. Makes the globe more real.


message 38: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Thanks!

It helps to get objective opinions.

Hopefully I can settle on this now.

Must admit I'm learning all sorts of other little skills I never expected to on this little project!

Now I just need to find 10,000 odd customers :^)


message 39: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor I'm coming late to the conversation, so it might be late to offer some ideas since the latest cover is interesting.

The dark blue background is a step in the right direction, but personally I would try it even darker just to see how it looks. My last series, I skewed the background toward the blue, then darkened it to a point where you can barely tell it's not black - subtle, but your eye catches it if you switch it to a pure black. Then stars...Since the image of Earth has been altered, I'm not sure I would use a picture of a starfield as it might seem out of place. All you need is a few tiny points of white to simulate stars.

One thing I've experimented with that I've come to like is to stretch and skew the font. Nothing says it has to look like it does as soon as you type it. You might want to try increasing height by 110%, 125%, or 150% so it doesn't look so standard. And I'm not sure how this would work out, but try the title in all caps. Online it's the equivalent of screaming, but with a title as short and bold as "Extinction" maybe you want to scream it to the audience.

Again, play around with it, and don't take my word for any of it. I'm just offering some things to think about, and in the end, they might not work with your book or what you're trying to accomplish with the image.


message 40: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments Just a quick word to those who might have bought the book. I have been very lucky to find someone who is currently editing it.

If you would like a revised version when its ready, please contact me (info[at]extinction.co.za).


message 41: by Alan (new)

Alan Bolton | 27 comments J.J. wrote: "I'm coming late to the conversation, so it might be late to offer some ideas since the latest cover is interesting.

The dark blue background is a step in the right direction, but personally I woul..."


Thanks J.J. some nice ideas.


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