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Guest Post: Gail Z Martin – Why Book Covers Still Matter

Morning! 🙂

I’m honoured to have Gail Z Martin -author of Chronicles of the Necromancer (Solaris), The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit), The Ascendant Kingdoms Cycle (Orbit), Deadly Curiosities (Solaris) and numerous shorter tales-  back on the blog with another guest post. This time she’s  talking about a topic very close to both reader’s and writer’s hearts – book covers. Over to Gail!

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Back when the only place to get books was in bookstores, browsing the shelves for new and interesting covers could be a pleasant Saturday afternoon pastime. Even before bookstores added coffee shops, it was easy to while away several hours just perusing the covers of books, looking for a hidden gem, a new adventure, or a tempting tome.

Now, much of our book buying has moved online, either to purchase paper books via Internet booksellers, or to download ebooks. It’s gotten harder to leisurely browse, in part because there are fewer brick-and-mortar bookstores than there used to be, and in part because those physical stores that do exist have often cut back on their range of books in order to feature profitable extras like gifts, music, movies and coffee.

So in an age when shoppers may only see the cover as the size of a webpage thumbnail, do covers really matter?

I believe they do. I know that some people lament the death of book covers in the same way they lament the passing of music album covers in the age of CDs and iTunes. And I agree that books do face some of the same threats that music has faced, although there are significant differences. All the same, I think that the reports of the death of book covers, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

We’ve often been exhorted to not judge a book by its cover, yet covers are often the first connection an author makes with a reader. This is especially true if the author has not yet reached the superstar ranks of name recognition, or if the reader has never read anything by the particular author in the past.

It does appear true that the better known an author is, the less effort goes into their covers. Make it to the pinnacle of success, and covers often feature only the author’s name and the book title with a solid color background. But for most books, the cover signals the reader that this book is part of a particular genre, like other books the reader has enjoyed, and begins the job of shaping expectations before the book even gets lifted off the shelf.

A good cover–one that accurately signals the reader as to the genre and type of story–plays a major role in attracting an audience for the book. The quality of illustration and bookbinding also tells a reader something about the book, as many small press and self-published authors will attest. Watch readers move through a book festival or the vendor room at a genre convention, and notice which books get handled more often, and which ones never get picked up. Good covers make a difference.

What makes a good cover? It’s a complex mix of elements that starts with a professional quality illustration. Poor art is a stumbling block few books can overcome. Appropriate illustration is the next hurdle. Readers understand the visual shorthand that signals mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, epic fantasy and other genres. Send a miscue, and you’ll lose many potential readers while disappointing those who buy expecting a different sort of book.

Type font, placement and color matter, just as it matters to have a catchy title for the book. I’m not a graphic artist, but I can tell when the placement of the words on a book cover doesn’t look professional. Traditionally published authors don’t have to think about these things, but it’s a detail that many small press and self-pubbed authors struggle with as they strive to gain legitimacy in the reader’s eyes.

The back cover matters, too. I have my books face up on the table at signings to attract readers, but when I engage prospects in conversation, I’ll hand the book to them back cover up, encouraging the person to read the book summary and endorsement quotes. A gripping teaser of a recap goes a long way toward pulling in a reader and building a hunger to read the rest. If the reader has never read a book by a particular author, endorsement quotes by familiar authors or publications decreases perceived risk. While not every reader is swayed by blurbs, those quotes matter a lot for a certain type of book purchaser, and as an author, we want to send good cues on as many different levels as possible.

Authors like to believe that it’s the words between the covers that really matter, and they do. But without a cover that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them pick up the book, those words never get read. I can’t count the number of times a reader has told me, “Your cover made me buy your book.” I make sure to profusely thank my cover artists, and I work as closely with them as possible to provide the details necessary to do justice to the story inside. Covers matter!

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About the Author: Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com. She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, The Final Death, is available free on Wattpad here.

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Massive thanks to Gail for this excellent guest post, and to Anna Gregson for arranging it! 🙂

Wishing you all a kickass weekend!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Guest Post

 

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Gail Z Martin’s ‘Days of the Dead’ Blog Tour – Guest Post

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Hey Girls and Guys, I’m back with a guest post by an author whose work you’ve been following for years, and who continues to impress – not only with the quality of her work, but also the quantity, since she’s one of the most prolific storytellers working in Epic Fantasy today. 🙂

Ladies and Gents, here’s Gail. 🙂

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Found Families

By Gail Z. Martin

“I’m a great believer in found families, and I’m not a great believer in blood.”—Joss Whedon.

“Found families” are the ones we make for ourselves, not the ones into which we’re born.  I think that sci-fi and fantasy may resonate quite so strongly with those of us who are fans because we know what it means to create and inhabit found families of our own.

The members of the Fellowship of the Ring were a found family. So were the bridge crew of the Enterprise, and the crew of the Serenity, the team at Torchwood, the companions and The Doctor, and so many more. Often, the members of a found family might not have come together as a unit under ordinary circumstances, but isolated and fighting for their lives, strong bonds can be formed among the most unlikely people.

If you’re very lucky, you like the people to whom you’re related by accident of birth.  For some people, that works out okay.  For the rest of us, with a few exceptions, we go through life believing that we must have been switched at birth. To survive, we begin creating found families of our own.

My characters, not so coincidentally, all know something about found families.  In my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle series, Tris Drayke creates a found family of his own when he is forced to flee for his life.  Three friends accompany him, but along the way, their group picks up additional people and the bonds connecting them grow stronger.  Fierce bonds of loyalty are forged under fire.

In the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, Blaine McFadden forfeits his birth family when he is exiled for murder and sent to a brutal arctic prison colony.  In order to survive, Blaine builds a “family” of friends as a prisoner and later as a colonist in a harsh environment where someone’s got to have your back. As the series moves forward, this group of convict friends bring their unique skills to the post-apocalyptic ruin of the kingdom they left behind, in order to restore the magic upon which their civilization depended.

And in my upcoming urban fantasy book, Deadly Curiosities, Cassidy Kincaide has created a found family among the circle of close friends who know about her gift as a psychometric and are willing to risk their lives to aid in the quest to remove dangerous magical items from circulation.

I suspect that I’m a sucker for journey-quest stories because they almost always involve the building of found families.  I tend to favor ensemble casts for the same reason.  I don’t buy into the lone hero theory, where one intrepid man (or woman) single-handedly saves the day because he (or she) is just so damn ruggedly awesome. I find the lone hero approach incredibly arrogant, and unbelievable more than once. The go-it-alone type may have lots of good reasons and plenty of scars that have made him (or her) a self-centered, commitment-phobic loner, but there’s a shallowness there that just doesn’t interest me.

I also find the lone wolf approach very myopic, because although he believes himself to be fighting all alone, the truth is, he is relying on others at every step, for his training, his weapons, his infrastructure, his intel, and his cover.  Usually, these types of “heroes” leave a wake of dead bodies, people who die because of them but are never acknowledged for their contribution because the lone wolf is too busy patting himself on the back for doing it alone.

For me as a writer, it’s a lot of fun developing not just a few main characters, but the bonds between those characters.  I learn more about my characters when they are interacting with each other, within the network of those found family bonds.  I think my readers learn more about my characters in that kind of a setting, too, where it’s not just about how well a hero can save the world, but how does he keep his word? How does he treat those around him? Can he be depended upon in matters that don’t require swords and explosions? Is he an honorable friend or lover?

Creating and nurturing found families requires commitment.  It not only requires showing up regularly, but being willing to allow others to depend on you, and permitting yourself to depend on them.  It requires trust, and honor. It means watching out for other people as well as yourself, and thinking about what’s good for the group.  Lone wolves need not apply.

Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour!   Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you’ll find brand new interviews, freebies and more — details at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash (Orbit Books, April 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread) from Orbit Books.  In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.  Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com.

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Amazon US, Amazon UK, Exclusive Books

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Hope you enjoyed that – I know I did. 🙂 That’s the thing about Fantasy authors – practically everything they have to say is interesting. 😉

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Blog Tour

 

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The Hawthorn Moon – Q & A with Gail Z Martin (Reign of Ash)

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Thanks to the awesomeness of Bradley Lutz at Jonathan Ball and Anna Gregson at Orbit, I’ve been included in the annual Hawthorn Moon event. 🙂

The Hawthorn Moon (named after a holiday in one of Gail’s novels) is an annual event, which takes place on many different blogs and websites, hosting brand-new excerpts, giveaways, Q & A’s and guest-posts. The scope is such that every title that is spotlighted in The Hawthorn Moon drums receives massive coverage, making sure that new readers and long-time fans have all the info they need about the novel – and this year’s event focuses on the sequel to ICE FORGED, Book 1 in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. (US / UK / Australia)

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Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead…

The sequel is REIGN OF ASH, and here’s some info about the title:

And here’s Gail herself, delving deeper into the magic and the characters of the world of the Ascendant Kingdoms – enjoy!

Q:  For readers who haven’t met you, tell us a little about your books.

A:  I write the Chronicles of the Necromancer series for Solaris Books and the Fallen Kings Cycle and Ascendant Kingdoms Saga for Orbit Books.  I’ve also been in a variety of US and UK anthologies, and I publish two series of short stories on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventure.  My most recent book is Ice Forged, the first book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the next book, Reign of Ash, will come out in April, 2014.

Q:  Ice Forged started a new series for you, with a different world and all-new characters from what you’ve written before.  What made you decide to write a different series instead of continuing with your other characters?

A:  I still have plans to write more stories in the Chronicles world, but I had reached a good place to take a break and do something different for a while.  There’s a natural break in the plot line after The Dread that makes a logical resting point.  So while my characters are taking a much-deserved vacation, I had the opportunity to write some new stories that had been banging around in my head.

Q:  In Ice Forged, the plot hinges on a war going terribly wrong and mages on both sides launching a doomsday strike that not only rains down fire from the sky but also cause magic to stop working. Why is the failure of magic so important?

A: In Blaine McFadden’s world, magic is the convenient short-cut.  It’s like our power grid.  Sure, you can wash clothes without electric appliances, but it takes more work and nowadays, does anyone remember how?  It’s the same way in Blaine’s world.  The old ways of doing things without magic have been forgotten, and people have come to rely on magic for as a quick fix.  Imagine what a shoddy workman could do with a little bit of magic, things like propping up a poorly built wall or shoring up a sagging fence.  When the magic fails, so do those fixes, and things literally begin to fall apart.  Then there are the bigger magics, like keeping the sea from flooding the shoreline or using magic to heal.  When magic doesn’t work anymore, how do you heal the sick or keep back the tide?  Donderath has a really big problem on its hands.

Q:  Where did the genesis of the Ice Forged’s main character, Blaine “Mick” McFadden, begin?

I really started with the idea of exile, and what would it have been like if England had sent its prisoners north to somewhere like Iceland or Greenland instead of to Australia.  (Obviously Russia had Siberia, but that’s different, in part because there was no sea voyage.)  Then I started to think about why a character would be exiled, and murder was a good reason.  But it had to be a murder the reader would agree with (so many readers have commented that Ian McFadden “had it coming”).  Where Tris, in my first series, was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, I wanted Blaine to be unrepentant about a crime he did commit.

Q: The setting of Velant is a really interesting place, because you’ve combined elements of post-apocalyptic with the classical idea of northern wastes we often see in fantasy, but this setting really affects the characters, doesn’t it?

A: Being sent into exile in an arctic prison colony is bad enough, but having the magic fail is like losing the power grid—it takes away an important factor for survival.  I had focused on really big magic in my first books, and in Ice Forged, I wanted to look at what it would mean to lose the little magics that people used in their everyday lives.  Food spoils, herds die, crops fail, magical repairs to buildings and ships fall apart, and things people used magic to do as a short cut now needed to be done the old fashioned way, which few remember.

Velant is the same distance as a sea journey from Donderath that Australia was from England, in good weather.  The weather is dramatically different, harsh and inhospitable.  It gets the arctic 6-months of day and night.  The prison itself is run by a commander who was a “useful monster” during a war, but too feral to bring home, so they exiled him by putting him in command of a prison no one else wanted to run.  The guards are likewise exiled because they were unsuitable for normal military life and civilized society.  While many of the convicts were exiled for real crimes, many more were sent away for petty infractions, political reasons, or just being poor.

It’s not the kind of place anyone wants to live in, but it’s amazing what the human spirit will endure!  Prisoners who earn their “ticket of leave” become colonists, and manage to make Edgeland their home.

Q:  What’s next for you?

A:  Good question!  I’ve just signed on with Orbit for another two books in the Ascendant Kingdoms world, so I’m working on the sequel to Reign of Ashes (it’s weird how you’re working two books out from what anyone else has read).  I’m also committed to bringing out a new short story every month, so that’s actually turning out to be a lot of fun.  And I’ve got some different directions I’d like to explore in addition to epic fantasy, so I might just surprise you and turn up with something completely different one of these days!

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The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 21 awesome partner sites around the globe.  For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

@GailZMartin Book Giveaway on Twitter—Every day from June 21 – June 28 I’ll be choosing someone at random from my Twitter followers to win a free signed book.  Invite your friends to follow me—for every new 200 followers I gain between 6/21 – 6/28, I’ll give away an additional book, up to 20 books!

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series.  Her books are available in bookstores worldwide and on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Find her online at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Many thanks to Gail, Bradley and Anna for this!
Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Interviews, Spotlight

 

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