First of all, I should officially announce that Fate Captured, my upcoming contemporary romance, won an award! First place in the Contemporary category of the 2015 Heart to Heart contest, organized by the San Francisco Area chapter of RWA.
I submitted only part of my manuscript to the contest, and it took me a while to shape it the way I wanted, but it’s ready to pop out of the oven. I love the story, I’m head over heels in love with Trish and Markos, and I hope readers will love them, too. Again, I prepared two versions: a “clean” story (closed door bedroom scenes) and a Spicy one where nothing is insinuated. 😉
Fate Captured is Book One in the Greek Tycoons series. It’s a standalone contemporary romance, featuring a cocky Greek hero, a meddling heroine who’s set on fixing him … after she breaks him, a Greek island setting, hot conflicts, hotter makeups and an epic HEA.
The book will need a boost from early reviewers, so I’ve decided to send out Advance Reader’s Copies to readers who enjoy reading romance books. If you’re interested in receiving a complementary copy of Fate Captured before its official release on April 21 in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, please sign up, using the following form:
The beautiful covers for the two versions are credited to Alex of 187Designz.
And here is the blurb:
Can two wrongs win Mr. Right?
Trish Swan is living her dream. She gave up chilly Boston for a sunny Greek island to write her novel. But she likes hot crime between the pages, not before her eyes. Yet, she doesn’t think twice about turning in a video she captures of a cop roughing up a man–but maybe she should because fate throws her a curve ball she least expects.
The mind-numbingly hot Greek from the bar isn’t just a cocky bad boy in need of a little love. He’s a shipping heir wrongfully accused.
Career in ruins, Markos’ life is a hot mess, all thanks to one sexy do-gooder who keeps popping up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Touching her becomes addictive, so maybe he could forgive her for doing her civic duty. But when she dredges up ghosts from his past, messing with his sanity, she gets a real taste of what he’s capable of.
With a man’s life on the line, Trish prepares for a head-on collision that will push Markos over the edge. What does she stand to lose anyway? Her heart?
In case, you remember my previous release, Fate Accompli, this book has been pulled down from Amazon, I’ve thoroughly edited it and will relaunch it early summer as Fate Awakened, Book Two in the Greek Tycoons series.
Whether you sign up to get an ARC or not, thank you for visiting my online home! I should blog more, but this year I work full time, and it’s not easy to juggle everything. I promise I’ll try harder though. 🙂
I’ll start with a fact: I’m a cover junkie. Whenever I’m browsing Amazon, and my eyes fall on a great-looking cover, I find my forefinger’s pad tingling to tap the “Buy with 1-click” button. And then I have to force myself to consider my monthly book budget; if it’s the beginning of the month, I’m toast!
When I decided to go down the self-publishing route, I knew that one of the perks was that I got to decide what my cover would look like. No generic stockphoto images that screamed “hot romance” would do for me—an established practice for the majority of romance imprints. I needed the characters I created, nourished and came to love to find the perfect casting, and the Casting Director job would be mine and mine alone. Plus, having no big publisher promoting me, I needed the resulting cover to stand out even in thumbnail size. The fact that ebook covers are seen by the majority of readers in a very small size, obscuring details should be seriously factored in when designing your cover.
Now, what makes a cover truly stand out? In my opinion, it’s a mix of originality and branding, or rather originality in branding.
When branding a product, marketers say, the first thing you do is write down its keywords. Now, when we’re dealing with a genre-specific book, these keywords have to resonate the genre not the plot—think “small size”. For example, a major key concept of my novel is its location: Fate Accompli’s story has a Greek island backdrop so my keywords were “seascape”, “sunset”, “beach” and the general quality I went for was “stunning”—bold, striking colors.
Next step was to start browsing stockphoto sites, and, boy, there are a lot out there! You could try finding free images, and this is the best list of free image sources I’ve found, but I wanted a professional-looking cover, so I headed over to the pros. Here’s a list of the 18 top stock photo libraries which, however, does not include Depositphotos which, in the end, became my go-to site. (It offers a free photo or sometimes a free video to its subscribers every week!)
Tip Time: To save time, you can use Everystockphoto. It’s a search engine that will turn out both free and licensed images.
Stockphoto sites offer you different pricing plans: from daily or monthly subscriptions with varying downloading limits to pay-as-you-go credits or images on demand. Prices differ too. What’s common to all is the two types of licenses: standard and extended (or enhanced).
Tip Time: Any image used for a book cover requires a Standard License (the cheaper kind). Trust me, I got the info straight from the horse’s mouth.
So, coming back to my cover, my heroine’s red hair pointed me to a dawn or sunset color palette. It didn’t take me really long to locate this image, and it took my breath away.
That image became Fate Accompli’s branding basis. I’ve created my Facebook and Twitter banners with that as a background as well as the header in my brand new YouTube channel.
Searching for characters
Monica is 24, holds an MBA, but she suffers from a type of emotional growth stunting. How else would you call the fact that the motive behind her determination to get an early degree with Honors stemmed from this crippling need to gain validation from a guy she barely knows? Her stepbrother’s (former) best friend? She hasn’t laid eyes on Alex in nine years, but he made such an impact on her in her teens, he became an omnipresent force in her life. And he doesn’t have a clue!
Monica is a redhead. Pleasant to look at but not a stunner. Young, fresh, likable, a young girl trying to find her identity while fighting traumas in a childhood that deprived her of her father and turned her mother into a trophy wife of a despot. The victim of incessant denigration, she’s naturally insecure but inherently optimistic. And strong.
It took me hours upon hours of browsing to locate the right Monica. What I got when entering the basic keywords (young woman, redhead, portrait) were heavily made up women with a sultry look. I did locate her, however, on Shutterstock. And bought her in Large (sorry about the object reference, but I am referring to the image right now). Wrong move. The exact same image was available on Depositphotos for a cheaper price (or rather a cheaper plan). But, although I had searched there for hours, the same keywords hadn’t turned up that image.
Super Tip Time: If you find an image on a stockphoto site, and you want to check if the same image is available on other sites, possibly cheaper, you can right-click on the image, choose ‘Search Google for this image’ and bingo! You get all available locations of the same image.
On the outside, Alex Argiros is king. He runs a successful natural stone giant, he’s good looking, fit, healthy, a player … and miserable. Alex wanted to become a doctor. He never cared for corner offices with a view. But his father’s dying wish was to turn the company around after his business partner’s betrayal. And Greeks don’t take their father’s dying wish lightly. Alex dropped out of a promising residency in a New York hospital and became a success in an area that left him cold. Needless to say that the driving force behind his success was to see Stavros Chrissos, his father’s nemesis, ruined. If he knew that the girl he hired as his PA was that man’s stepdaughter, he would have thrown her out on the curb, no questions asked. He ends up loving her. Until he finds out…
Alex gave me an even harder time to locate. My keywords were “handsome”, “male model”, “dark hair”, but “handsome” is, well, a very subjective notion. I found a lot of passable guys, so I made good use of the Lightbox solution offered by most stock photo sites.
Tip Time: If you’re registered on a stockphoto site, hovering over an image will give you the option of storing it in a ‘Lightbox’. Lightboxes are essentially folders you create to store your potential downloads. Very useful!
This guy was my favorite. I find him objectively handsome plus his thick brows and hair are just as I had described Alex—the blue eyes could easily darken to suit my stereotypically Greek male—so I went for him … so to speak. My initial idea was to have only his portrait in the Spicy version, with Monica on the Clean, but when I tried this model on that backdrop, the result screamed “gay romance”. So I opted for Monica on both covers (stronger branding) and Alex accompanying Monica on the Spicy.
Tip Time: Tin Eye is a ‘reverse’ images search engine. You upload an image or add its URL, and it tells you where it came from plus if other resolutions exist! Plus it has a browser plug-in. How awesome is that?
My Casting Director job was now done! I sent the three photos to, George Saliaris a graphic artist I had connected with on Facebook and whose portfolio I had liked, gave him my concept and asked how much he would charge to put the whole thing together. His price was 25 Euros ($31.5) for each cover when a professional cover designer would charge even ten times as much. Of course, the images’ rights had already been purchased by me, so the overall cost for one cover would amount to $40.00. The two covers I did cost cheaper as I used the same images on both.
The Clean and Spicy stamps used to further separate the two versions (Clean & Spicy) was an awesome suggestion by Nicholas Rossis, author of the epic fantasy series, Pearseus. They are barely discernible in the thumbnail size, but I have used the terms on the Amazon book title as well, so I think the distinction is clearly displayed on each book’s Amazon page.
And … voilà!
I think my goal to create a simple but visually attracting romance book cover that references summer (a subtle notion of a Greek island setting) was achieved.
And today those covers are out for the world to see, and have on their tablet, phone or Kindle! Along with the book, of course!
If this article enhanced your knowledge on cover creation or working with stockphoto sites, I’d appreciate something in return:
A cover reveal of an exciting, fresh and sporty New Adult romance brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours. Check the cover out. Perfect branding! I also loved the Author Bio. Original and very readable!
BOOK & AUTHOR INFO
Game Changer by Collette West
Publication date: July 25th 2014
Genres: New Adult, Romance
Young, rich, and unaware of how seriously hot he is, Brooks Davison is tearing it up as the latest shortstop for the New York Kings, despite his tendency to blush whenever girls scream his name.
When a health scare forces his best friend, Kyle Roberts, off the team, no one can stomach the thought of replacing him, especially so close to the playoffs.
Until Kyle’s sister, Sasha, steps in, convincing management to let her take his place. The idea of signing the first female player in Major League history proves too tempting for the Kings to resist.
Nevertheless, Brooks doesn’t want any part of it. Sasha is Kyle’s little sister, not some sideshow.
Yet when Kyle takes a turn for the worse, Brooks promises to do everything in his power to help Sasha win a championship for him. Because there’s no way he’s letting either of them down. Not now, not ever.
Collette West grew up as somewhat of a jock-nerd hybrid. Entering the world three weeks premature, her dad nearly missed her birth because he had seats behind the dugout for a sold-out, highly-anticipated match-up between two of baseball’s biggest rivals. Not to be outdone, her book-loving mom taught her how to read by the time she was three. A love of the game coupled with an appreciation for the written word were instilled in Collette’s impressionable brain from a young age. No wonder her characters believe in the philosophy: sports + romance = a little slice of heaven.
Splitting her time between the Pocono Mountains and Manhattan, Collette indulges her inner fangirl by going to as many games as she can from hockey to baseball and downloading every sports romance novel in existence onto her iPad. When she’s not clicking away on her laptop, she enjoys walking her dog in Central Park, satisfying her caffeine craving at the Starbucks on Broadway and keeping an eye out for Mr. Right. But above all, she loves dishing with her readers. Email her at email@example.com.
If you comment with your critique, please feel free to enter this week’s Rafflecopter giveaway. One lucky person will win a $10 Amazon gift card, an eCopy of It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller, and an eCopy of Guarding Angel by S. L. Saboviec.
Vampire aficionados (not necessarily of the sparkly kind) this one is for you! Brought to you by the fabulous Wendy Ewurum of Fabulosity Reads, this collection of early works casts a new light (or shadow) over how it all started…
Long before Dracula, vampires stalked the literary scene.
These early literary vampires are sometimes terrifying, at times melodramatic, and occasionally ridiculous, but they are always out for blood—and their vampiric descendants continue to fascinate and captivate us.
Beyond the Count is a collection of vampire stories, plays, and poems from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This collection gives students, scholars, and vampire aficionados the opportunity to examine works often long out of print and to contextualize the development of vampire legend beyond that most famous of literary Counts.
About the Editor
Margo Bond Collins holds a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature and is a professor of English, and is also the author of a number of novels, including Taming the Country Star, Legally Undead, Waking Up Dead, and Fairy, Texas. After a decade of moving all around the country (Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta are a few of the places she’s lived), she has settled in her native Texas. Margo lives near Fort Worth with her husband, her daughter, and several very spoiled cats, and she spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, monsters, cowboys, and villains. You can learn more about her writing at http://www.MargoBondCollins.net
“Struggles of the Women Folk” is based on fictional characters created from stories my grandma shared with me when I was child. It is the story of Georgie, a young Black girl in the South during the 1940s. I hope that you can appreciate her pain, suffering and betrayal as you travel with her on highs and lows you won’t anticipate. This is the story of the power of a woman’s courage, love, strength and faith that exists within each and every one us, whether we know it or not..
Sissy knew she wasn’t pretty, cuz erbody told her so! She had all dem black features that erbody thought was ugly: dark skin, short nappy hair, big eyes, big lips, huge breast and a big butt. None of that mattered to me, cuz she was not just my cousin; she was my best friend.
Her momma and mine couldn’t stand each other, but we didn’t care.
We’d been friends for as long as I could remember. Every day, we walked the five miles to the little shack we called skool, carrying our books and lunch pails. Momma would always have something special in my pail. There would be bread, cheese, jelly and sometimes even a slice of homemade cake. Sissy never had anything good. Most times, she only had a piece of bread or some leftover salt pork.
“Ain’t got no money to be spending on some ugly thang like you,” her momma would say. Her momma hated her. Folks say it was because she didn’t know who Sissy’s daddy was. Her momma was walking home one night when some men jumped her in the woods and made her ‘with child’. That’s what the folks called it in 1944. No one used words like pregnant, at least, not the good girls.
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