Business Musings: The Branding Surprise

I’ve had a fascinating week, filled with realizations and surprises on the business side of things. I just made notes for three future blog posts, so I won’t try to cram all those realizations here. And I still haven’t found the time to read the music industry study in depth, like I mentioned I would last week, but I plan to, along with the copyright controversy that blew up right after it all.

Every week, Dean and I meet with the publisher of WMG Publishing, Allyson Longueira. Allyson has a long background in graphic design, as well as in publishing. She started in newspapers, but she’s worked in book publishing for several years now, and has a firm grasp, not just on where the industry is, but where it’s going.

She mentioned at last week’s meeting that she’s having some serious trouble with a rebranding project scheduled for this week.

A little background: we could easily call July Rebranding Month. With the help of comic book writer, Lee Allred, Allyson and Dean redesigned the covers for Dean’s Poker Boy series. I’ll let them premiere that when they’re ready, but suffice to say, these covers are brilliant.

I can’t wait to show them to you.

I won’t say they were easy to rebrand, but, conceptually, they weren’t hard. We knew we wanted to do something different for Poker Boy, something that suggested superhero. And the design the three of them came up with isn’t something that can be done in two hours by someone who lacks design experience. It requires a lot of work and finesse, and tweaking of programs and things I don’t entirely understand, because I’m not in any way shape or form a designer.

But I do understand branding and cover design. In fact, I discuss them at length in my book Discoverability. Those chapters are also free here on the website. (The entire book is free, but out of order here on the site, since I wrote the book out of order.)

Tiffany Tumbles And one thing we had talked about for more than a year now has been a redesign of my Kristine Grayson books. We decided we needed a redesign because the initial design was looking tired. The books had to be updated on the interior as well, since they were among the first ever published by WMG, and the standards of the company have changed.

Crystal Caves The interiors are also missing a lot of information—other books in the series, information on the newsletter(s), the first chapters of related books, and some other promotional items.

If anything, the redesign—and rebrand—were long overdue.

Brittany Bends Initially we decided to hold off on the redesign until I finished the Interim Fates series. Well, I finished the third (and final) book in that loosely connected series in May.

Allyson knew immediately what look she was going for with that series. WMG is marketing the books as YA fantasy, because the protagonists are teens, dealing with young adult issues. But in many way, those books are just straight fantasy novels—unlike the other Kristine Grayson books, which are romances as well as fantasy novels. (I’ve 572381-1scattered Allyson’s new Interim Fates covers at the beginning of this piece.)

The Grayson romances have had a series of different covers from different publishers. From the comic to the weird to the magical covers, none of them captured the essence of the books, which is romance.

9781402248511_p0_v1_s192x300When the first Grayson novel hit print fifteen years ago, the book was part of a brand-new subgenre called paranormal romance. Paranormals in the year 2000 were often lighthearted, and always focused on something magical. The books might have vampires or werewolves, but they might also have witches and ghosts.

Absolutely Captivated WMGThey also had pretty clear covers. The lighthearted ones had comic covers, like mine. The darker ones had something a little magical on the cover, along with a romantic pose. Or they might show a rather spooky landscape. But their paranormal element was clear, as was the romantic element.

In the last decade, the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance got blurred. One writer described the difference on a panel at a science fiction convention I was at by saying this, “The only difference is that a paranormal romance has a happy ending.”

Not quite true—a paranormal romance has to be focused on the romance first, the paranormal elements second—but true-ish, especially since so much urban fantasy also features a romance. In urban fantasy, though, the fantasy (and urban settings) are more important than any romance and, indeed, sometimes the twists and teases of a romance novel get spread throughout an urban fantasy series.

But in marketing—and that’s what we’re discussing here—the covers started to blur. Many of them had those strong muscular women in tank tops, showing their tattooed backs to the reader, while holding a sword or a gun or a stave. Sometimes, in the distance, a wolf howled from a rooftop. Sometimes a bat swooped between buildings. But those women became the focal point.

Then, four years ago, Fifty Shades of Gray became the hottest thing on the market (pun intended) and erotica got mixed in with both genres. Both urban fantasy and paranormal romance always had subgenres within the subgenres that swung toward erotica, but in the last four years, erotica has become a larger and larger share of those markets.

And the covers got even blurrier.

So…back to my story. Allyson had set aside this week to rebrand Kristine Grayson’s adult romance novels. These novels are sweet romances (little or no sex), with a lot of banter (think the banter from 1940s films like His Girl Friday or The Philadelphia Story) and a totally magically weird (and funny) plotline. Voice heavy, character focused, and strange.

Nothing like the scary-gothic-vampire-love stuff that has branded so much of paranormal romance.

We had conversations about this all spring, because genres change, and definitions change, and we weren’t sure what, exactly, to call the Graysons any more. We left the decision until the beginning of this month, just because we had other projects (like the Retrieval Artist and Poker Boy and, and, and…)

Then Allyson drops a bomb at last week’s meeting. She can’t figure out how to brand the Grayson romances. She can’t find any good genre examples in the real world.

Allyson saying she can’t figure out how to brand a cover is like Kobe Bryant saying he can’t figure out how to shoot a basketball. It’s stunning and startling. Clearly the problem here isn’t Allyson: she knows her business, like Kobe knows his. She’s an amazing designer, and she knows how to brand things.

She asked for help figuring out what we can do. We did some searching on online retail sites last week, starting with Amazon, and I’ll be honest: at that moment, I understood why Amazon changed the Kindle Unlimited rules.

I am a romance reader and I saw nothing I wanted to read. Moreover, much of what I saw were serialized books, chopped up to take advantage of the K.U. algorithm that existed before July 1. So, I figured this was an Amazon issue, and went to the most traditional publishing friendly website I could think of which was Barnes & Noble. There I looked at the paperback romances, not the ebook ones, thinking that I would see traditionally published books.

And found very little that screamed “Romance.” Not under the paranormal label. Either the books looked like they were urban fantasy (and boy, am I sick of that back to the camera wearing a tank top, showing off the tattoos and weapons pose). Or I saw books that looked like—I don’t know—a cookbook or a travelogue, something that showed a lovely garden or a house blurred against a brown background.

Nothing exciting.

Every now and then, I catch myself thinking about publishing like its 1999. And, in my head, I’m not-so-subconsciously blaming indies for the bad covers. Because there are a lot of self-produced bad covers. Dean and Allyson teach an online covers workshop for WMG, trying to help writers improve their covers.

But this Barnes & Noble thing: it tings at me. There aren’t a lot of indies with paperback versions of their books. (Although, happily, there are more now than there were.)

Over the weekend, I headed to traditional publishers’ websites and look at their paranormal romance covers only to discover…that the damn books are branded like urban fantasy or like an E.L. James knockoff or like a cookbook or travelogue.

The indies, bless them, have been copying the traditional covers. Or maybe traditional copied indie—which is very possible, given the massive, massive success of indie published romance titles.

All of this points out a huge problem in the paranormal romance genre. There’s nothing that screams modern paranormal romance. Believe me when I tell you that readers look for such things.

I can tell you when I look at the cover of a historical romance what type of historical I’m looking at. If the woman’s in a flowing gown, holding a fan, chances are I’m looking at a Regency.

If her gown is coarser, and her hair is down, and she’s standing outside, then I’m probably looking at a medieval romance. Romantic suspense has become large titles with large author names and active colors—red, dark blue, orange—to mimic thriller covers.

But paranormal romance? It has gotten lost in the urban fantasy/erotica craze.

A few authors have ventured out. Kristen Painter and Michele Bardsley went for cartoon covers—very ten years ago, but with witty titles. Galen Foley’s Paladin’s Prize caught my eye because the cover is reminiscent of 1980s fantasy covers—sweeping, romantic artwork, not photographs—and when I first looked at the cover, I wondered how old the book was.

But it stood out from all the buff heroes and the bronzed heroines. And in fact, it —of all the books I looked at this past week—was one of the few that whispered Buy me right now!

I became concerned about genre branding as I went through all of this, so I scanned other genres outside of romance. Science fiction, fantasy (not urban), mystery, thriller, and found real obvious genre branding, and branding by author.

It’s clear what type of book the reader is going to get from the covers.

Not so in paranormal romance. The genre seems to have fallen apart.

The bulk of the reason for that is traditional publishing. About two years ago, it decreed that urban fantasy novels don’t sell. I couldn’t figure out why—especially when indie urban fantasy books and stories sell like crazy.

But as I looked at this genre branding stuff, I began to understand. To sell at the numbers that sustain a traditional publisher’s bank account, urban fantasies have to reach stratospheric heights not possible in a crowded market. The books have been purchased and published into this branding mess.

Is the book urban fantasy, with an ongoing mythology, lots of scary magic, and creatures that might or might not be friendly? With a strong female character and lots of combat? Like Ilona Andrews writes novels? Or something written by Patricia Briggs? Remember, in urban fantasy, the magic takes precedence.

Or is the book erotica with werewolves? Books that are about the sexual experience instead of the magical one? Because in erotica, the sexual contact is the most important thing. The rest is window-dressing.

Or is the book an actual paranormal romance? Does the couple meet cute, then run into obstacles, only to have a happily ever after? Some paranormals have great world-building, and some use the magical environment as window-dressing. Some do put the sexual relationship front and center, but combine it with the romance for that happy-ever-after.

Readers can’t judge a book by its cover, and so readers, like me, are stepping back. After my genre-branding experience, I looked at the paper books on my to-be-read stack, and saw only five romances. Believe me, that’s down from my usual reading. And all of those five books are from favorite authors. Four are regency (including one indie [waves at Anthea Lawson]), and one is contemporary. I’m always looking for good romantic suspense, but I haven’t found much of that lately. And I completely stopped reading paranormals, except by indie friends, about two years ago.

I hadn’t realized it until I looked at that table. And I felt sad.

I remember twenty-five years ago when the same thing happened to the horror genre. All the books started to get the garish covers pioneered on John Saul books—black background with one creepy image (maybe a broken doll) and a two-word title such as The Lake or The Babysitter. The titles became so ubiquitous that Kevin J. Anderson started calling all of the books in that subgenre The Barfing, and from that moment on, I couldn’t look at those books without giggling.

That genre imploded, and while horror didn’t go away, the marketing category went away for some time. Just like paranormal romance seems to be going away as a unique category of romance.

All of that realization is great for nonfiction blogging and not-so-good for helping Allyson figure out covers for my Grayson novels.

At that meeting last week, Dean and Allyson discussed a fallback design, something romantic that suggested the Interim Fates’ series covers, but which branded the books in three ways:

Way the first: the covers had to be romantic. They needed a couple, not a woman by herself or a man by himself.

Way the second: the covers needed a suggestion of magic. Maybe a little fairy dust, maybe a magic wand, maybe some kind of something. (This’s where cover design gets into mystical arty talk, at least for me.)

Way the third: the books had to look like part of a series, and they had to brand to WMG’s Grayson design. They needed something to suggest the Interim Fates, but to be different from them. They needed something to suggest that the books were tied together, but one book (Completely Smitten) isn’t part of a series that WMG is publishing in full, so it needed to look slightly different.

Allyson and I e-mailed a lot on Monday about covers, and then we spoke the phone on Tuesday, after she nearly worked herself blind trying to find the right art to blend into the design concept she had come up with. She says she went through more that 1,000 images, trying to find the right ones.

I believe it.

Simply Irresitible Here’s what she came up with. I think the covers are truly creative and spectacular. There’s a reason she’s won a lot of awards as a graphic designer, and for the first time, she’s really had free reign. She’s not trying to fit into a genre brand. She’s truly creating her own brand.

(And wait until you see Poker Boy. Yowza.)

Absolutely Captivated ebook cover rebrand webAnyway, I think these covers tick all the boxes we wanted ticked. They are clearly related to the Interim Fates covers. The romance covers brand to series. They brand to each other. They scream romance. And they have magical elements.

Totally Spellbound Allyson also did something I didn’t expect. These books deal with Greek mythology. The Fates are part of Greek myth, and they’re at the center of these books. So she put in columns that suggest Greece. Truly well done.

Completely Smitten ebook cover rebrand webI have no idea how well these covers will sell. I hope they sell well. I certainly like them better than any Grayson cover I’ve had before. (Note: the books with the new covers won’t be available until next week.)

We put a lot of time and attention into the redesign of Grayson. It sounds like Allyson did it in a week, but that doesn’t count the decision to rebrand, the discussion of how we want to use the branding on future books, what we want to do with the various series, and how everything relates.

There will be new promotion on the Grayson titles as well, starting in the fall. The whole promotion thing led to another realization which I will discuss in future weeks. It’s time to put some of the plans I mentioned in Discoverability to use on Grayson.

The first was the importance of finding the proper brand. We’ve done that—as best we can, considering several of the Grayson novels are still in print traditionally. We’ll see how this all works.

One last thing on branding. In Discoverability, I mention that you’ll need to update your covers every five years or so. The first WMG romance title was Completely Smitten in 2011. So we’re right on schedule for the redesign.

If the redesign sells well, then five years from now there might not be any reason to do another redesign. Or there might be, if trends go far afield from where we are.

It’s our job as writers and publishers to keep abreast of cover trends so that we can let readers know what our books are at a glance. That’s difficult—especially in a genre in flux, like paranormal romance—but speaking as a reader first, it’s essential.

The thing I love the most about the publishing industry these days is that it is changing quickly. That means there’s always something to learn, and always something that surprises me. The lack of branding on paranormal romances surprised me. The solution Allyson came up with pleased me.

And all of it lead to some thoughts that you’ll see over the next few weeks, as this blog continues.

So many of you support the blog with sharing on social media and by commenting here. Thank you! And thanks to all of you who support the blog financially. That enables me to spend the hours every week that I could be working on something else writing nonfiction and thinking about the industry. Thanks for that as well.

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“Business Musings: The Branding Surprise,” copyright © 2015 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.




27 responses to “Business Musings: The Branding Surprise”

  1. Gaelen Foley says:

    Hi Kris! I just dropped by because I love your blog (and your books!) and nearly fell off my chair to see your mention of my Paladin’s Prize cover! 🙂 Wow, I have to send this link to my wonderful artist, Isis Sousa. She really is extraordinarily talented. It’s kind of funny that you mentioned them looking 80’s-ish. I was in middle school then, so it’s all new to me, and, I suspect to my readership and the audience I’m trying to connect with. I wanted it to look rich and dramatic and slightly magical, and I knew that for a medieval fantasy romance, there’s no way photos would possibly work to express the story. (Anyone who’s curious can see the Paladin’s Prize cover on my website at http://www.gaelenfoley.com.)

    I got spoiled by working with illustrators on our middle grade novels, so it was an easy choice to go for it and I’ve never been afraid to try Something Completely Different. 🙂

    Little did I know, by the way, that armor is apparently one of the hardest things for an artist to portray because of the nuances of light reflecting off metal. The poor woman worked on that thing for weeks! g I think the results are just too damned cool. g

    But I wanted to say I love your new covers! I would love to read more funny/sweet paranormals. I’m sick to death of the dark ones and have no interest in the usual topics or the super sexy ones. So, I’m just the kind of reader your Fates books and covers will appeal to. I think they’re gorgeous, I especially love the soft, girly colors and the couple.

    As to cliches in cover, man, I really worry that my usual genre of Regency is going to die, die, die if they don’t start varying the covers there. You can’t tell one book from the other, let alone one author from the next. Nearly every one has a girl in a swirly dress, and the publishers rarely distinguish even by tone whether it’s a dark, sexy, suspenseful type or a light, frothy romp type of Regency.

    I do love Karen Hawkins’ covers and the one they just put on Tessa Dare’s new one, because the heroine is actually smiling on those covers and looks like a person, not a generic Model.

    My Regency series upcoming is indie and has a different approach to covers, too. Kim Killion designed.

    Anyway – thanks for the honorable mention. You made my day – and I hope you recover quickly from your run-in with the rental car. Best to Dean and all the cats. 🙂

    Gaelen
    http://www.gaelenfoley.com
    http://www.egfoley.com

    • Thanks, Gaelen. I love that new cover, and can’t wait to read the book! I agree about Regency. I’m worried too. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do. 🙂

      I’ll let Allyson know how much you like the covers. (I do too.)

      Glad you dropped by!

  2. Jami Gold says:

    I write paranormal romance (of the contemporary fantasy-mythology type), and I struggled to come up with a cover design that would work across my series as well. Unlike most paranormal romances, which feature a human heroine and a paranormal hero, my Mythos Legacy series switches back and forth–some of my couples are a human hero and a paranormal heroine. So the stereotypical cover of a bare chest wouldn’t work for me, as half the time, the hero is a “plain” human, where there would be no opportunity to hint at the paranormal aspect.

    The other stereotype of a couple on the cover wouldn’t work, as many of my couples are interracial (or interracial-looking), and the stock photo options for multicultural models (especially in couples poses) are abysmal. My cover designer and I finally came up with a close-up on the face of the paranormal character (whether male or female) and emphasizing their inhuman eyes.

    The background design of each also subtly hints at their paranormal nature, and that was tricky as well. The stereotypical cover with a creature in the background assumes the paranormal character is a shapeshifter, but not all of my characters are shifters. So rather than a photo or illustration of their paranormal aspect, we went with a tattoo-style design tiled across the background color, which has been more flexible for our needs.

    So yeah, I empathize. 🙂 I feel like we had to reinvent the standards for my series as well. Good luck with your new covers and sales!

  3. Lisa Grace says:

    I think the concept of Greek arches is brilliant. I agree the models look too old for YA. Maybe you could consider using models that resemble current younger stars.
    Have you considered having a custom font made for your author name? Something that suggests sweet romance? With the arches, younger more hip models, and a custom font for your author name, I think you could re-define a sub genre.

    • Thanks, Lisa.

      To clarify: The books with the arches are not YA. They are fully adult romances. The YA books are the ones without the arches.

      And yes, we’re trying to redefine a subgenre for the adult romances or come up with a new one, since the old one no longer works for these books.

  4. D. Lettau says:

    The article was very interesting, thank you. The books fall into a genre I don’t read, so I can’t judge the covers on that basis (although your description of the actual books had me thinking I should read a sample).
    However I am confused by the idea that the columns suggest Greece. The ones receding into the background, possibly. But the foreground is solidly Romanesque, surely — which says medieval Europe.

  5. M.J. says:

    HI KKR and Allyson,

    I’ve been an avid reader of your columns for a while now, and I’m a professional cover designer. I’d love to offer some feedback here that might help make these covers stronger and more on-point for their genres. You’ve been really kind in helping indie authors find their feet, so it’d be nice to be able to give something back.

    If the interim fates covers are aimed at YA, then the models look much too old. They should be younger. And following the general trend, their faces should fill the cover. As it is they are quite too small. And the quotes being centered above their heads looks odd right now.
    If they’re YA Fantasy, then some additional fantastic elements would help convey this. Glancing at these covers, without knowing anything about them, I would never have guessed they were YA Fantasy. That’s the test I put all my covers through–and the one you allude to when discussing PNR covers.
    I design PNR covers for a living. There is very much a style associated with them–shirtless men, moonlit skies, a wolf or a bear or a lion. The bisected design is pretty common, but Milly Taiden’s covers or Viola Rivard’s or Terry Bolryder’s have become the de facto style that is instantly recognzable to the insatiable PNR reader.
    The Fates trilogy — the models are too small for the covers; the titles are difficult to read and could be much larger; the titles should be on two lines, ideally; the whited out effect on the lower half of the cover is much too intense without the font being larger and more impactful to compensate. And again, nothing about the covers suggests magic. They lack the emotionality and darkness one associates with PNR.
    I’m pretty sure that’s a Roman archway, in your Greek-myth inspired cover. Not a Greek one.

    Thanks again for your work here, and I hope these comments find you well.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, MJ.

      “They lack the emotionality and darkness one associates with PNR.”

      Then we succeeded. Because…um…these books are sweet magical romances, with humor. They’re not dark by any stretch. That’s why we’re trying to differentiate, and why we’re avoiding the cliche, which is what you’re describing. When cover branding becomes something that is not just recognizable, but has readers complaining that they can’t differentiate books from each other, then the branding has become cliche. I’ve been in publishing long enough to see this happen repeatedly. It’s a big, big, big problem in paranormal right now.

      Please remember that Allyson also designs covers professionally, and may simply have made choices you disagree with. Nonetheless, I’ll make sure she sees this and, if she thinks the covers need it, will tweak.

      Thanks so much for the time you spent on this.

  6. Interesting look at your cover re-design process. Love it! Best of luck with the new look (and thanks for the shout-out). ??

  7. patinagle1 says:

    Very interesting post, Kris – thanks! It got me thinking. I’ve got a sweet paranormal romance coming out later this year, and I’ve been wondering how to approach the cover. Your post gave me some ideas for starting points.

  8. A.Beth says:

    “Then, four years ago, Fifty Shades of Gray became the hottest thing on the market (pun intended) and erotica got mixed in with both genres.”

    I think erotica started happing way further than four years ago. I think Paranormal Erotica/Urban Fantasy started merging when the Anita Blake books turned into auto-sellers, such that the Gentry books (which are totally “the hot fae guys and the girl who has all of them”) were greenlighted, too. (And I’m guilty for my part in encouraging that, as I have totally picked up the Next Installment In The Anita Blake Paranormal and Explicit Soap Opera, in hardcover, more than once. wry shrug)

    I’m sure it’s gotten more-so after 50 Shades, but the Anita Blake books are the turning point I’d identify.

    Maybe the genre you’re talking about is now Modern Fantasy Romance? That’s what I’d name the concept these days, personally.

    • athenagrayson says:

      It doesn’t help that PNR is where you have to slot your book if it’s anything from werewolves to space aliens. I write sci-fi romance, but if I want to get any traction in an ad venue, I have to classify as “paranormal romance.” PNR/UF are sort-of victims of their own success, in terms of cover branding. These are genres that hit a home run with finding the right combination of non-verbal/pre-verbal symbols that helped fans find the books with elements they wanted, but now, everyone uses those elements to capitalize on the appeal, resulting in a slew of books that may have very unique premises to them, but have all-but-interchangeable covers.

      For many indies who are languishing in obscurity, making the unique choice is not going to help them grow. You do your time looking like everyone else, until enough people give you a chance. Which makes it all the more important to keep revisiting your branding. 🙂

      • Good points, Athena. Although I disagree about the unique choice. If your book is significantly different from what’s being published in the genre, you have to point to that with your cover. If you don’t, readers will have the wrong expectations and be greatly disappointed with what they’ve bought. I know: rock/hard place. But the key is what I always say: just keep writing and publishing, and eventually people will discover the books.

        And yes, exactly. Revisiting branding is always, always important. 🙂

        Thanks for all your comments here.

  9. mmjustus says:

    I’ve had a similar problem branding, in my instance, what would be rural (as opposed to urban) fantasy with protagonists who are normal people dealing with the paranormal, instead of being intrinsically fantastical themselves. I just throw up my hands when people tell me to find other books in my genre and see what they do. I know there are other books in my genre (I’m not stupid enough to think I’m the only one writing this sort of thing), but I have no idea how to find them.

    I’m saying this after sixteen years as a reference librarian, too, so I don’t think it’s my Amazon-fu, either.

    I can sympathize with Allyson and the search for cover art, too. When you’re limited to stock art, that makes it even harder.

  10. Lurkertype says:

    I like Tiffany’s ‘fro!

    I too am tired of “butt of tattooed girl in leather with weapon”. And poor Jim Hines can only afford the chiropractor every so often. 😉 Ditto “six pack shaved torso with pec tat”. Honestly, it all makes one long for the days of Fabio.

    Plus, paranormal romance has just peaked IMO. This week, my hand to God, I saw a (fairly good) cover of an indie shifter romance. Was our alpha male a wolf? A bear? A tiger? Nope. He was an ibex.

    Yes, someone’s been driven to write a romance involving a WERE-GOAT.

    WERE-GOAT.

    • I know some shifter romance writers and sometimes they sort of… dare each other to write unusual shifters. I believe there’s a were-hedgehog that started this way. 😉

      Also, sometimes they create an unusual shifter as a side character and the author and/or readers like the character enough that they end up with their own book.

  11. Laura Kirwan says:

    I had a similar problem with genre branding for my urban fantasy series. (I only have two books out, so it’s not much of series yet.) My problem was that I have a fifty year old heroine who’s immune to magic. Not only was there the problem of how to convey a person with no magic in a magical setting, but there’s practically no covers featuring older women in any genre. Plus having a middle aged heroine dealing with mid-life issues while at the same time fighting magical adversaries doesn’t exactly fit neatly within the standard conventions of the genre as it currently exists.

    Fortunately, my cover designer figured it out, and now I have a solid brand to carry forward through the series. He’s not cheap, but he’s not extravagantly expensive either, and he’s worth it. I don’t understand authors who skimp on this. To me, good cover design is a necessary production cost, and if I can’t afford it, then I’m not ready to publish.

  12. KAries says:

    I loved the cartoony covers and was really sad when publishers stopped doing them. Is it too much to hope for the trend to come back someday?

    The new ones for your books look beautiful.

  13. Jason M says:

    In the nicest possible way, Kris, I’d like to suggest that the Fates trilogy covers still seem a little flat. They don’t have much color, they’re too symmetrical, and that subhed (Book One of the Fates Trilogy) isn’t differentiated from the title font except in size.

    BTW, I took Dean’s online covers course, and I’ve worked for four years with a heavyweight professional designer on my own series (a former Random House senior designer), so I’m not exactly a newbie or a slouch. I’m actually surprised that Allyson made those font choices, since I learned a lot about font pairing from her in the videos. Is she trying to change some rules here? Or is that acceptable in paranormal romance?

    Love the Interim covers though… And looking forward to learning a lot of business from you during the weeklong master class this fall.

    • Jason, I thought I’d reply to your questions myself as Kris can’t necessarily speak to my thought process during the design phase. No, I’m not changing any rules. Font pairing is important if you’re going to use different fonts on a cover. But there’s also nothing wrong with using the same font. I never said you had to set off the subhed with a different font, I merely illustrated how one should go about doing that should one want to do so. It should be noted that the same treatment applies to the Interim Fates covers for the subheds that I used for the Fates covers. That’s part of the branding consistency. And given the elaborate nature of the scroll I used on the Interim Fates and the bug for “The Fates,” to add further font differentiation would have been distracting, imho. As to what’s acceptable in paranormal romance, I think Kris established that the genre doesn’t have many rules to follow. It’s all over the map. I hope that helps answer your questions.

      • athenagrayson says:

        Hi Allyson, I hope you don’t mind me chiming in. I’m no expert by any means, but when I first read Kris’s article on my phone, the covers (which are lovely, jewel-toned, and have gorgeous models on them!) popped, but the font was hard to read on the small screen. The gold one (Tiffany’s cover) was really hard to make out, given the color of the font sort of blended in with the overall color. I’ve checked on my full-size browser on my desktop and the font is readable at a larger size, but still blends in just enough to make me pause.

        I hope this helps, as it is meant to. I understand the frustrations with attempting to brand paranormal romance–it doesn’t help that between PNR/UF and erotica, these genres seem to most count on that non-verbal branding shorthand to attract readers, which makes even the most unique books seem like more of the same to the point of where I worry about the future of cows with so many leather-pants clad Chosen Ones needing clothes.

  14. Kate Pavelle says:

    One reason you see all those tattooed backs is because tattoos can be changed in Photoshop, and because showing the MC’s face is taking a chance. I find it can work against me as a reader when I know what the face is like, especially when I know the character from prior books. Do you find faces help or hurt? I wonder if this is my personal insecurity speaking.
    I love your new covers. Allyson did a great job!
    As for art covers, I’ve been tempted to just paint my own, actually. It would take the same 5 hours I’d spend on finding the right cover art, and it would be a lot more fun!

  15. Vera Soroka says:

    Lovely covers! Well done Allyson. I love paranormal but I haven’t read one in a while. I’m getting a little tired of the bare chested fellows with the tattoo. But, what I hear, a lot of readers want that. Not sure. I write paranormal erotic plus some contemporary . I wrote erotic before E L James. Besides the straight, I do a lot of bi/m/m erotic romances. This is a tough genre. To brand my pen name has been very challenging. I want to explore the erotic genre in all forms. I’m fascinated with the BDMS theme and would like to explore it a long with dark erotic which is not romance. I took up Dean’s challenge of short fiction and for the first time I did novelettes. I ventured into space opera. It has strong erotic romance elements. I have covers in mind but do I want to put these under my pen name that writes erotic romances? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.
    I came across another Indie writer by the name of Grace Draven who calls herself an epic fantasy romance writer. Her covers are art-very nice. I’m also a fan of Sherrilyn Kenyon. Some of her covers scream epic fantasy with dragons wrapped around swords. They put her in paranormal but I’m not sure. Some of those novels are huge.
    Anyway, trying to do covers and trying to define yourself is very hard.

  16. Ferran says:

    Interesting, in several ways…

    Two quirky points jump to my mind. One is that the titles of the young fates (T. Tumbles, C Caves and B. Bends) remind me a lot of the kind of titles I get when I visit smashwords with the adult filter off. It’s a tad weird. Not that many people are customers of Smashwords, these days, and other retailers seem to be more… modest.

    The other is… so, those genres are locked to male writers? Yes, yes, I know. But with all the ruckus these days, I couldn’t help but notice…

    Take care.

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