Sunday, May 03, 2015


This isn’t really a useful blog post of any kind. It’s just an interesting observation I had one day while at work.

I was organizing some books in the romance section when a particular cover caught my eye. I realized I’d seen this cover – not exact, but with the same concept – in other places. When I brought it up to a fellow co-worker, she pointed out another book I hadn’t seen. It, too, had the same concept. So then I wondered –

How many of these books are out there with this cover design and why is it a thing?

The concept I speak of is the exploding flower.

That’s really all it is. The flower can be any type or any color, but they all seem to have be dipped into liquid nitrogen and then shattered. Having one or multiple flowers on a book's cover isn't a new idea - you'll see that everywhere any day of the week. But a flower in the middle of breaking apart? How did this become a go-to image for publishers? Does it even represent the book in any way?

I wrote down as many books as I could remember with that image. I came up with several. Then I poked around online and found a few I’d forgotten and a few I’d never heard of before. How many did I get?

Nine. Nine books with flowers shattering on them. That’s…kind of a lot for such an image one would first think to be unique. Clearly it’s not, and for whatever reason it’s being used in all genres. Fiction. Romance. Teen. So I figured I would share them with you and you can go, “Huh.” with me as we boggle at the strangely common use of the shattered flower.


Interesting how almost all of them are some variation of pink, with just I Belong to You using a white flower (although to be honest, it looks like it's been photoshopped to be monochrome), Also, Dark Song is kind of a stretch since I got a better look at it - more liquid than anything. But still falling apart.

I don't know if publishers have noticed this, but if they have I suppose they don't much care. At the very least each flower appears to be different. So luckily they're not all using the same flower image.

Do you have any thoughts on this odd little trend?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What You May (or May Not) Know About Book Signings

We don’t have a Community Business Development Manager at my store – aka someone who handles relationships with all the schools, businesses, authors, and more. So while of the managers tackle it, I’m the one who works with all the authors. And, after only being a manager for a year and working with several, I've quickly realized something.

A lot of authors assume book signings mean magical book sales.

This is absolutely not true.

I’m going to lay this out for you in blunt fashion, so get ready. Unless you’re already popular like Jim Butcher or James Patterson or Nora Roberts, no one cares about your book. I know, it sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Now, on my end I can put your event into the website, order in flyers, order a big fat sign to put in the window, and make sure you appear on our Event Calendar that we hand out, but for the most part, people will see an author they don’t know with a book they've never heard of, and they don’t care. Just because you have a big sign in the window does not mean people will get all giddy about seeing an author and getting a book signed by you and you’ll have a line out the door. This is not how it works. Likewise, if you sit at your table like a bump on a log and wait for people to magically come up to you, you’re going to sell jack. So what can you do?

If you haven’t done your research yet about anything relating to the book business, it’s really time to get on that. If you haven’t yet thought about your work as a business, you really need to shift gears. You've created a product, right? Now you need to get out there and sell that product. Yes, I know. It’s scary and weird and not something a lot of us really like to do because that’s not exactly something we do on a regular basis, but it’s extremely important – especially if you plan on doing a book signing.

You can always see if the community relations person you’re working with has some kind of media list (I do, anyway) that provides you with as many different radio stations, TV stations, and various local publications as possible. They might not have one. In which case, it’s time to get to work. The more you get your name out there into the eyes and ears of the people you’re trying to sell your book to, the better. Consider this large scale example – Eckhart Tolle was around for years (first book in 1997), but the second he showed up on Oprah in 2009 people went on a buying spree.

Still, I get people coming into the store all the time saying, “I heard about this book on the radio,” or “I saw this book on the morning show,” or they’ll hand me a clipping from a newspaper or a magazine with the book in it. You need to get your name out there. This is what will bring people into the store to pick up your book. I've had one author who did none of these things and just sat there with high expectations and sold 1 book. Another author, T.J. Wagoner, did a ton of marketing for his book, Discover the Unseen, had a talk at the store, and sold 30 books.

Also, as I've mentioned, don’t just sit there. Say hello to customers. Think of a way to engage them so they’ll at least take a peek if they’re not there for your book specifically (and most of them won’t be). Maria V. Snyder, the author of Poison Study (Study Series), will hand out little pieces of chocolate because her protagonist is a poison taster (also, theobromine. HA.) Most recently, Dan Killeen, a children’s author, sat right in front by the doors and every time someone with a child walked in he called them over, talked about his book, and did adorable drawings for them of dinosaurs and other things. I’d ordered 16 copies of his books – we sold out.

So suck it up. Market. Call radio stations. Send releases and announcements to magazines and newspapers. Contact local news stations to see if they’ll do a quick piece about you. Talk to customers when you’re there. Be engaging. Smile. Anything. Everything. You have to be the one to make your book signing a success. Because if you don’t care enough about your book to talk about it, who will?

*Please note I've skipped over mentioning social media entirely. You can use it if you like, but 1.) your signing will be local so your Twitter followers in Australia won't care and 2.) Delilah Dawson pretty much hits it on the head.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

So I'm Trying Something...

So. I'm doing a thing. Won't lie - I feel weird about it. Then again, I guess life is about being weird and taking risks so...yeah.

I was hesitant to do this at first, because the vast majority of the people are on there are putting out comics, music, or YouTube videos. So what do I have to offer? Book chapters. As I write them. Initially I thought, “That’s not much,” but then I thought about it some more.
Why do we writers always seem to rag on our own work so much? Why does it seem like people – ourselves included – devalue what we do when compared to other artists? It’s not easy to just smash out a chapter of a book, just as it’s not easy to create a comic book page. It takes thought and effort. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with offering up a chapter or two every month for those that want to be a patron of my work. It would be like a serialization in a magazine. And it’s not like people have to keep subscribing. They can cancel any time they want. So if they want to offer up just $1 and get one or two chapters out of it (I’m doing other things as well to make it more interesting) and that’s all, cool. I still feel kind of weird about doing this, but I refuse to feel bad about offering up my work for money on a monthly basis. I’d rather give something back than nothing at all.
This is my official site:
So we'll see how it goes. Until then, keep writing!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Importance of a Good Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s the old saying we’ve heard over and over again. And it’s right. We really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Just because weird things are happening on the outside doesn’t mean there isn’t a really good story on the inside.

But let’s face it – we judge books by their covers all the time. Humans are visual creatures. We see clothing that we like, we buy it. We see an attractive person, we want to go talk to them. So it’s only natural that a quality cover is going to entice us more. Even if there isn’t actual judging going on, it’s the cover that’s going to catch your eye first. It’s what will draw you in to read the back of the book or take a peek on the inside. So despite the old saying, a cover is important.

And judging does happen whether we like it or not. Though to be honest, it sometimes doesn’t come as a surprise. Whether you work at a bookstore or just happen to be moseying through one, when you see a bad cover you think, “Wow. What were they thinking?” which may be followed up by something along the lines of, “If they didn’t care too much about how the cover looked, how much work did they put into the book itself?” This is actually something I’ve seen from publishers of all sizes – including big ones. Once and a while a book will arrive in the store and I’ll just have a head-scratching moment. Did they not care enough to spend the money to make this book look good? Did they think this cover was good enough? Or do they actually think this cover is good?

In fact, we’ve all seen those sudden gear shifts a publisher makes with covers. I like Sarah J. Maas’s books as a good example.

This is the first cover. I’m not saying it’s bad at all. It’s pretty good as far as covers go, but personally it didn’t really catch my eye when it first came out and sales were less than stellar (actually, if I remember right, I don’t think we sold any at all).

This is the second cover. I believe it was the UK version as well (and remember thinking, “Why didn’t they use that one here? It’s awesome.”), and when Maas’s books went to the paperback, this is what we got. I found this to be way more intriguing and we actually sold the books this time. I’m not saying the purchases were due to the cover – for all I know people didn’t want to pay the money for the hardcover but were more willing to shell out for the paperback (which is often the case for many books – there are still people waiting for Insurgent to come out in paperback).  In Sarah’s case the publishers were smart and kept going with this design with subsequent books, all of which are selling – including the hardcover versions.

Unfortunately if you get picked up by a publisher, you have very little say in how the covers come out. You’d think that by now publishers would listen to what authors have to say about covers – particularly when it comes to accuracy – but that isn’t the case. Which is why we still get “Wtf?” covers appearing on shelves from time to time.

If you’re going to self publish, this is why it’s extremely important to take time to find a good cover artist who will do what you ask and for a reasonable price. While this post isn’t a plug for my cover artist, Regina Wamba, I will say that she’s pretty damn good at what she does. (The opposite is truer; if I were smart I’d keep my mouth shut about her. Why? Because popularity may not only mean the occasional price increase, but also longer wait times for kickass covers.)

The proof is in the pudding. My first book was only an ebook and sold at just $3.99. With a 70% royalty rate, that meant I earned about $2.79 for each book sold. That cover cost me just under $400. My goal, since that was my first ebook let out into the wild, was to simply make back that money. She did the cover twice until it was how I wanted it. And yes, I made back the cover cost and added a little extra cake to the pan. Did the cover help? I’d like to think it did. The book itself was released during the final edge of the heyday that was paranormal romance. Granted, that genre is still popular, but not like it was when Twilight was in full swing and publishers everywhere were scrabbling for paranormal romance books (both teen and adult). That’s also precisely why I requested dark blue colors. That was simply the style that you would see. The Teen Paranormal Romance section of Barnes & Noble (which has since changed to just Teen Romance) was essentially a wall of black and other dark colored book spines.

The point is, don’t sell yourself short on the cover. If you have a publisher that’s offered something ugly, you can always try to fight it – your agent should be more than willing to help you because they want the book to succeed, too. They’re working for you, and sometimes a bit of a fight can work. If you’re self-publishing, even if you’re on a budget, don’t go cheap. Take a good, long look at covers on the shelves of the bookstore and think to yourself what you like and what turns you off. Shoddy photoshop? A book you realize you read and the main character looks nothing like the person on the cover? Make sure to choose a cover artist that will provide you with a cover you want and approve. Don’t expect magical sales because the cover is, after all, just the skin. It’s what’s inside that counts (among many other factors in the book world) – but at the very least you’ll have something that will make people look.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Molten Form of Poetry

Since I rarely post anymore, for those of you still out there, I bring to you a guest post by the talented Ron Gavalik! If you love poetry (like I do...although I don't think I've ever posted about it), then this post is for you.

Reading poetry is one of life’s truly intimate joys. Unlike more social entertainment such as films, theater, and sporting events, experiencing poetry is an individual pursuit. When cracking open a book of verse, we shuck off the mortal coil while our minds delve into a cerebral adventure. We are fused to the author’s thoughts, desires, and passions, all within the confines of our minds.

That, my friend, is the most profound experience. Poetry gives us new perspectives to enlighten our minds. Poetry fuels the imagination. In its raw form, poetry is life.

As readers, most of us are drawn to what’s considered popular and well reviewed. We count on so-called professional to tell us what precisely is a good read. We equate commercial advertising and movie deals with the quality of a story or poem. But then there are times, when some of us ignore the noise of our popular culture and seek the independent works of those who truly enrich the soul.

Our choice to own and experience raw, experimental poetry symbolizes courage. Delving into avant-garde expression without the safety net of widespread acceptance requires a sense of adventure. Those of us who take these leaps of faith are a cut above the average reader. We are independent thinkers who thrive on discovering uncharted waters.

In the introduction of my MicroPoetry collection, Hot Metal Tonic, I discuss how experimental writers often shrug off the conformity of industry standards to force new perspectives into the minds of our readers. Every time I sit down at the typer, I transform into an American drifter who tramps through vistas of tall grass, rarely touched by everyday society.

Free-spirited individualism is my most pronounced characteristic.

I highly recommend finding your unique identifier, the one personality trait that makes you an individual among the masses. I doubt you'll have to meet with Himalayan monks to determine your distinct qualities, but there's nothing wrong with quiet contemplation over a few whiskeys. Once you've pinpointed that one special characteristic, take the time to revel in your individualism. It's quite a freeing sensation that brings balance to the mind and to the soul.

For my part, I thrive on reading and writing free verse poetry.

In the 1960s and 70s, Charles Bukowski's free verse style often fell under the blade of academic criticism. His work was considered inordinately blue-collar and plain spoken to be real poetry, which made it far more difficult for him to publish and find a secure audience.

It took him years, but a handful of small press publishers with broad vision finally decided to print his work. Once the public got hold of that drunken writer's written voice, a whole new segment of society became poetry fans, which made Bukowski the most read poet of the 20th Century.

Free verse is the most individualized form of expression; therefore, I naturally gravitate toward that broad style. The newer form of MicroPoetry (140 character poems) that's sprung up in recent years on social media outlets has further pushed the literary envelope.

Hot Metal Tonic is a semi-autobiographical collection of over 180 MicroPoems that contend with love, family, relationships, politics, career, and spirituality. While most of the poems stand alone in each chapter's theme, many are interconnected in much of the way small human events are strung together to connect our lives. The collection has been referred to as a gritty read, the molten form of my rough and tumble life…and whiskey-laced madness.

Thankfully, readers are pleased with my work.

Now, kick back, baby.
Open your mind
and allow the hot metal to flow
as soothing tonic.
Prepare yourself
to laugh and think,
cry and rejoice.
Indeed, you will be transformed
into a state of raw emotions.
You and I,
we’re about to start a quest,
a journey to memories unseen in years.
Don’t worry, it will only hurt so good.
Grasp my calloused hand
and we’ll help each other
stumble along this treacherous path

Ron Gavalik is a writer, living in Pittsburgh, PA. You can follow him on Twitter: @RonGavalik or read his blog at Hot Metal Tonic can be obtained through the usual retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other locations. Signed copies can be purchased at a discount (free shipping) direct from the publisher at

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Want a Free Book?

I realize it isn't fair to have my book on Amazon only for 90 days, and then within that time offer it for free for 5 days.

So if you have a Nook, Kobo, Sony, iPad, or other e-reader, here's your chance.

Head on over to Smashwords if you feel like reading a little romance-fantasy-fractured-fairytale-type story. Once you pop the book into the cart use the coupon code CP47X and the book will be free.  That's it! To get the book to your device, just follow the instructions that Smashwords gives you. Easy as pie. The coupon will be good until October 31st, so if you have friends and would like to share, feel free to do so.

Hope you enjoy and Happy Halloween!