Oh, My, Things Are Getting Interesting

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a hodge-podge because several things caught my eye. So grab your morning cuppa, buckle up and prepare for a ride that will take you from upheavals in traditional publishing to cover art to the latest in my going-wide adventure. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Let’s start with the upheaval in publishing. Well, upheaval might be a bit of an oversell, but it is going to be controversial and something to keep an eye on. In June, Scholastic appointed  Iole Lucchese to take over as chair for Dick Robinson after Robinson’s death. Lucchese is a long-term Scholastic employee. On paper, she looks more than capable to take over running the company, a company that has basically been controlled by the Robinson family for years.

And here’s the rub. It seems Lucchese is more than a long-term employee, one well-qualified for her new role. According to reports, she was also Robinson’s long-time lover. In a will executed by Robinson in 2018, he not only left her his Class-A shares in the company but also “control of his personal possessions”. In doing so, he cut out his ex-wife and other family members.

From the PW article, it is clear (if you read between the lines) that the family isn’t happy. It is very possible that we’ll see this end up in court before it is all said and done. That’s something Scholastic as a company and publishing as an industry really doesn’t need. The interruption of business as usual could have a ripple effect that can impact not only Scholastic but their employees, contractors and even down to the bookstore level. Keep your eyes on this as it plays out.

Next up, book covers. You’ve seen a number of posts here on MGC about the importance of covers. You’ve probably heard traditionally published authors faced with possibly going indie lamenting that they can’t afford to have good covers made for them. Once upon a time, that was a valid point. But that’s no necessarily the case any longer. Take, for example, these covers shown over on Publishers Weekly. These are indie/independent press publications. Some of the covers are eye-catching and some are not.

covers 1

Here are PW’s top 5 from their best seller’s list:

best seller covers

These covers are attractive but not something you should expect to pay thousands of dollars for. The first two are atmospheric covers. It is the color scheme and the fonts that draw the eye as much, if not more, than the actual cover image. All of them can be made with a little time, a little talent–nothing great needed–and patience as you do the tweaks. Most of the time would be in finding images and backgrounds you want that will convey the “feel” of the book. So, yes, it is something you can do or someone you know who has experience with Photoshop or something similar.

For example, the following is a cover I whipped up in less than half an hour. It is very rough. It is also the combination of elements from three different sources. I used Affinity Photo to do so. Even in its rough stage, I’d put it up against a lot of the covers out there right now, traditionally published and indie. But I will clean it up and fix shadows, etc., before the book goes live.

Recogning from Ashes

And the blue line across the middle isn’t something I did–or didn’t do. It is in the image. And it is something I will edit some before the cover goes live.

But the point is that indies can afford to have good looking covers. All tolled, the above cover cost me less than $10. That’s only because I licensed one of the images.

Finally, the latest in my adventures in going wide.

It’s been a wild ride. I have all but four (?) novels wide now. Looking at the estimates from the main outlets, I sold approximately 13% more on BN, Kobo and Apple than I did on Amazon. That is more than enough to make up for the loss of KU reads. Now, that is one full month only and I am not going to call the experiment a success until I’ve seen at least six months of returns and see how new releases fare on these other outlets.

I’ve decided to put three of the remaining books–Hunted, Tracked, and Prey–out in a staggered release. Hunted will be first. I’ll follow that with Tracked in 10 days or so and then Prey. The only remaining book will be Wedding Bell Blues. As I noted in my blog Sunday, I’m not sure about taking that one wide. I’m afraid of what sort of crazy ideas Myrtle the Evil Muse might get if I open the book to start formatting it for a wide release and I don’t need another book I hadn’t planned on writing suddenly taking up residence in my brain. Hell’s bells, I hadn’t planned on the one with the cover above until I started finishing up Victory from Ashes and realized it was either going to be a book weighing in around 200k words or more or I needed another book to finish the current story arc.

Anyway, it’s time to find my third mug of coffee for the day–I’ve been up 2 1/2 hours how–and get to work. Until next week!

Featured Image by JL G from Pixabay

19 comments

  1. So… the guy in charge of a KIDS’ PUBLISHER was going at it, long-term, with someone else WHO WORKED FOR HIM at a KIDS’ PUBLISHER. Seriously? Seriously???

    I also saw the Passive Voice post linking to Michelle West/Michelle Sagara’s post about how DAW isn’t going to publish any more of her “main” epic fantasy series, partly because Random Penguin decided they didn’t want to distribute said series in any number. And then, she had this weird thing where she apparently thinks that people want to buy hardbacks, and she’ll have to self-publish in hardbacks, and ebooks apparently don’t exist.

    I like the Michelle West doorstops… but other than the pretty covers, it’s obviously more practical to read her books as ebooks. She should be happy to be set free from the confines of print, honestly.

    1. I had a few things to say about the Michelle West story and one other–without naming names–yesterday on my blog. I think PG had some good advice for her, if she’d listen. But, let’s be honest. We’ve seen other trad published authors expressing the same misconceptions over the years. That’s part of why I did the bit about covers. So many think they have to hire an artist, get exclusive rights, pay thousands of dollars for a cover because they just know their Big 5 publisher is doing that for their books now.

      I get being afraid and going through the “what will I do now that I’ve been fired?” mind set. But that’s when you sit down and look at your options, learning all you can about what’s out there instead of falling back on the misconceptions you’ve been fed by your keepers (publishers) for so long.

      1. Yeah, I feel sorry for her, because she’s been in the echo chamber — but good answers are literally a keystroke away.

        That said, if I worked at Amazon, I’d be scooping her up. Her Sagara books must have freaking incredible sales figures, both as books and audio, and there’s no reason her West books couldn’t be doing better. Especially in a Game of Thrones world that was crying out for epic fantasy. I mean, she _finished_ her epic fantasy plotlines.

    2. Oh, and lest we forget, Scholastic has gotten very very woke over the last twenty years or so. (Not that it wasn’t liberal-leaning before, but now it’s life-threateningly woke.) So apparently the ethically-challenged have once again been defining morality for everyone else.

      1. Once you’re woke, you’re virtuous enough and so don’t have to worry about those little details.

    3. Yeah.

      Issue one, you don’t actually know about competence if there is a personal incentive to screw with the records.

      Issue two, in a business where the head has slept with subordinates, we can’t really say anything about how badly it has been hurt by the invisible costs of that relationship. What about the attention and support not spent developing other subordinates?

      Issue three, when a male boss sleeps with a female subordinate, is there even a possibility that the people doing this are entirely good, and not harming themselves or each other? I certainly cannot mathematically prove that it is impossible. However, it seems like there are some women who would participate, tell themselves that they are fine, but be really angry on the inside, and spend later portions of their life looking for people to take it out on.

      Or, if they work in fiction, especially editing, putting a lot of effort into pushing narratives that feel more pleasant, and censoring narratives that do not make them feel pleasant. Which where they personally are concerned might be a band-aid on a wound needing more serious treatment. Where others are concerned, it definitely can be as bad as grooming readers to make the same mistakes they did.

      1. One of the wisest things about office romances that a friend of mine said was, “Never, ever dip your quill in your company’s ink. Often, you’ll be the one paying for it in the end.” It doesn’t help that most of the women that are rumored-or actually have-slept their way to the top tend to be extremely bitter in ways that is dangerous to a company’s bottom line.

    4. I saw that too. I write huge books (235,000 word doorstops) and they’re available as trade paperbacks and not for $35 either. We could even make our trade editions thinner, going down one point size on the font and reduce the page count except that I want legible for everyone.

      Mouse print makes ME crazy so I refuse to do it to anyone else.

      There are a lot of things a good layout person can do to reduce page count and thus size of book: font size, font type, amount of white space in margins, size of headers and footers, blank pages at ends of chapter so new chapter always starts on the right hand side, quantity of ancillary material where Author thanks everyone they ever met, etc..

      It’s not impossible or even incredibly difficult. It just takes time.

      1. Aaak! I forgot trim size; bigger pages = fewer pages. Within limits, of course.

    1. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a learning curve to covers. One I’ve discovered varies from genre to genre. Which is part of the problem with a lot of the cover artists you find on Fivr and elsewhere. They might be great for one genre but lousy for another. this isn’t a knock at yours. Just something I’ve seen for myself. I’ve also had long discussions with another author about their cover artist–one who is award winning for one type of romance novel cover but who is sadly lacking in understanding another popular sub-genre this writer works in.

      That said, there are writers out there who should never be allowed near a photo manipulation program.

  2. That line across the image looks like file corruption from a disk error. Usually garbage gets added rather than replacing existing data. In which case the cleanest way to get rid of it is to load the virgin image into a hex editor (I like Frhed), then look for a segment that’s all the same character, and delete it. The bad spot will be some multiple of 512 bytes.

    [Friend’s 200k+ photo archive was eggbeatered by RAID-gone-wrong. Data recovery got back most of ’em, but a lot were mangled. Me and Fhred rebuilt 14,000 JPGs, some from scattered pieces.]

    1. Actually, it is a “contrail” (for lack of a better word) from a space ship cutting across the image. The ship has been cut out of this image because the base image is much larger than I needed and this section of it fit what I want from the cover better. But thanks for the info. I’ll check other images to make sure I don’t have any such problems — and I have in the past.

  3. I think what is desperately needed is a sort of publishing co-op, a gathering of skill sets with editors, graphic artists, people with marketing skills and industry savvy. A writer with a finished manuscript could buy themselves an independent final scrub, submit an executive summary and possibly sketch for an artist to create a cover, a digital pass to format for upload, and a marketing wonk to determine the best tags and genre associations. All told probably a few hundred bucks and the budding author can keep generating new product.
    If I were only 20 years younger, sigh.

    1. Bonus points if they made sure to be decentralized (as the book market in Texas is very different from the Seattle one) and to also have a decent pool of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to make sure nothing egregiously stupid went past them.

      I think I suggested something like this in the past and if I knew enough about publishing to make it work, I’d be setting it up. There’s a lot of stuff on Amazon that isn’t bad…it just needs polish, real polish.

  4. Oh dear.

    Scholastic is basically the last non-indy publisher I give a second look at for my kids’ stuff; I can think of a few situations (boil down to common law marriage due to crazy family members) where this isn’t Incredibly Troubling, but that’s pretty unlikely.

  5. Amanda, all I can say is congratulations on your muse still driving you to write.

    Although that Thin Blue Line artifact through the cover image would go really well on a police story cover.

  6. Welp… I just saw a bunch of DAW paperbacks and hardbacks at Dollar Tree. For a dollar. They were books from 2016 and 2018, and this is 2021. Given that Randy Penguin/DAW gets taxed for having copies in the warehouse, what the heck are they doing, taking this long to distribute?

    And don’t say it’s COVID, because it’s been pretty standard for years for dollar stores to be selling books that are “new” from five years ago. But it’s usually downscale publishers, not DAW or Baen or anybody like that. You might have seen those book lots in bookstores or Half Price Books, but not in dollar stores.

    Methinks that a lot of DAW authors have distribution problems with Randy Penguin. Like C.J. Cherryh, who had hardbacks in the Dollar Tree.

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