Sunday, 12 May 2013

Kindle Romance Covers of the Week - 12th May 2013

Okay, here we go! I've done my wander through a week of written Romance, and pulled out what I think is the best and beautiful in Kindle Romance Covers. And yes, I took a week off, partly due to busyness but also due to there being a strange lull in good covers. I found a few reasonable ones, but not enough to write home about. Of course, this week I found more than you can shake a stick at, and I'm up to the brim with loverly-coverly goodness!

Before I get started, some words for anyone joining the party for the first time. I review covers of Kindle eBooks published in the past week on Amazon UK  categorised as 'Romance'. I have no affiliation with Amazon or Kindle, nor do they line my (empty) pockets in any way. It's just an easy way for me to gather a manageable number of covers and pick out my favourites!

And for my usual, secondary disclaimer: I have no idea if the writing IN these books is any good. I will read the blurbs to see how the cover art ties into the story/genre, but that's IT. Any judgement of writing quality is up to YOU, fair reader. I just look for prettiness!

Before I get to the runners-up, I have a few things to note:

OOPS, YOU DID IT AGAIN

That's right. Now that I've started to spot trends in repeated images used in cover art, I am obsessed with spotting Wore-The-Same-Dress-To-The-Ball incidences. Here's your dose of duplication for this week - and YES, they were both releases in the SAME WEEK.

To be entirely fair to authors, cover designers and publishers alike, how would you know that someone else is going to pick the exact, same image from a database and release those precise books in the same week? You don't. But it's an unfortunate mishap for these two authors. I will say, I much prefer the cover of 'Beyond a Doubt' by Felicia Rogers - the text on 'Lady Catherine Brandon's Leap Day Adventure' is almost entirely unreadable! 

TREND SPOTTING: SUN'S OUT, GUNS OUT

Sorry. I heard that phrase for the first time this week and can't get it out of my head. The Urban Dictionary tells me it has something to do with muscly young men wanting to get their kit off and wear short sleeves the moment the temperature goes above 15C to show off their 'guns' (a.k.a. arms/biceps). But I'm talking about LADIES with guns. Real ones. Noticed a number of covers with strong women and their not-so-concealed-carrying.
And for the first of this week's runners up...

CUDDLY COUPLES

I'm usually really NOT into the clutchy-couples thing on romance covers, but this week showed up a little crop of rather decent ones! For me, if you going to show both protagonists on the cover, it's got to be more than just a way of indicating whether it's a Scottish historical (KILTS! SWORDS! BOSOMS!) or a vampire fantasy (NECKS! FANGS! BLOOD!). I want to see emotion in the interaction between the couple, not just pretty bodies.

Title: Forces of Nature
Author: Cheris Hodges
Publisher: Kensington Books
Cover Artist: n/a
Genre: Contemporary Romance

This upside-down-backwards-Spidey-kiss pose seems incredibly popular these days, don't you think? But this cover does work, and the fact that our couple are canoodling on the grass (something I always found more romantic in one's mind than in reality. Grass itch. Ants. Dog walkers. Say no more.), is a nice change. What pulled me to this cover was the palpable tenderness between the couple. I'm all about a cover expressing something, particularly emotion. The font and title are nicely spaced, contrast well, and don't interfere with the main image. The fact that the story revolves around a farm (nature), and they're rolling around in the grass (nature!), ties right into the title. The pose may seem relaxed, but you could stretch this a little and say that they are still at cross-purposes with each other, just a little, which adds a nice tension.

Title: Lost in You
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
Publisher: Mad Beak Publishing
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen - Okay Creations
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Maybe it's thoughts of moving to Texas someday, but I have a fascination with the way a southern girl can put together a dainty dress and a pair of boots and it just looks darn-tootin' good. (I should stop talking like that. Okay. I will stop talking like that). Not sure I have the calves  for it, but I might try it someday. [FOCUS, BEATRICE.] Yes, so...the cover!

I've decided that I often prefer it when the models on covers have their heads cropped out of the image. Sounds brutal, I know ("OFF with their heads!!"), but while I want to get a FEEL for who the characters are from the cover, I want my imagination free to roam when I start reading. I don't want to be trapped into one impression of some actual, real people who are not actually the characters in the story, no matter how well their hair colour or chin-cleft matches their descriptions. So I'm a fan of this one - I can tell something instantly about our gal (well dressed, confident), and our guy is a little more down-to-earth, boy-next-door. That, and he has her a little bit backed into a corner, so to speak. The blurb backs this up, so I'm giving this one a thumbs up. Oh, and the colours are verrry pretty!

Title: Connected
Author: Kim Karr
Publisher: Penguin
Cover Artist: Unknown - re-released with Penguin
Genre: Contemporary Romance

I actually worry about how fascinated I get by design amendments and alterations. Befores and Afters. Version 1s and Version 2s. Here's a great example of what the most subtle changes can do for a cover. I picked Kim Karr's Connected out of the line-up this week, not knowing that there was a first version from her self-published (assuming - correct me if I'm wrong!) edition of the book (Version #1 below, in black & white). The version I spotted was Version #2, in colour.

Maybe it's my imagination, but just the colour change alone changes the mood entirely. From dark and brooding in greyscale, the colour version is much warmer, sexier and approachable. The photograph is identical in composition, but just the change in colouring and contrast and the new position of the title mean we can see that her arms are actually wrapped around his waist. This means he goes from looking slightly more overpowering in V#1 to her almost holding his hands behind his back in V#2. Hey presto, you have a complete change in relationship dynamic. We're very attuned to body language, and what you show vs what you reveal is incredibly important.

The colour version has a much clearer version of the title, but I love that they've kept the pink/grey mirroring of the word. Symbolism in a title and in the text is a big winner for me, and to have mirroring/ying-yang/feminine-masculine all tied into a word like 'Connected' is perfect. I'm voting for Version #2 (fingers crossed it's actually the current one!).
Version #1
Version #2


ALL THE SINGLE LADIES

Okay, so my secret's out. I'm not generally a big fan or follower of pop music, but I've always thought Beyonce was pretty incredible. Though I did get in trouble thanks to her 'Single Ladies' song at a party once. Apparently the birthday girl was celebrating her recent split with her ex, and specifically wanted to celebrate with all the OTHER single ladies. I just liked the song, so got up and did my thing (in other words, I swayed to the music and shuffled my feet a bit. A dancer I am NOT). That was until I was firmly chastised by the birthday girl for dancing to a song about 'single ladies' when I was, in fact, a MARRIED WOMAN. Shock. Horror. \Tail between my legs, I scuttled back to my table. Won't be making THAT mistake again. But if I ever need cheering up, there's nothing like that video of the baby busting a move to Beyonce to do the trick!

Title: Breathe
Author: Ani San
Publisher: Amazon/Self-published
Cover Artist: Ani San
Genre: Contemporary Romance

What's not to like? Clean, clear design. The font style works beautifully with the wavy lines of her hair. It's all about contrast and leaving room for that all-important (and in this case, literal) 'white space'. Simple, and lovely.


Title: In My Own Shadow
Author: Susan A. Royal
Publisher: Museit Up Publishing
Cover Artist: Marion Sipe
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal ROmance

In contrast, this cover has a whole lot going on, but then again, so does the plot. There's time-travel, a Book of Secrets, telepaths, and alternate universes. What grabbed me particularly is the girl, her face, and again...the emotion. Lost, but strong, you want to find out what she's about to go through. The actual echo/shadow on the word, Shadow, is very clever, and pulls the title together with the fact our protagonist has an alternate in this alternate dimension. Careful placement of the elements keeps this from being what could be a very busy cover.

Title: Cursed
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Cover Artist: n/a
Genre: Young (or New?) Adult/Fantasy/Romance

More lying down in grass! Okay, so maybe we all do a whole lot more of this since Bella and Edward went daisy-swimming and we met the sparkly people. But I do like this cover, and with the story appearing to be about/for a younger audience, I think it's fitting. I like the fact she's posed upside down, which gives us some idea that things have gotten rather topsy-turvy (do people even SAY that any more?!) in her world. Simple, but evocative.


Title: Pieces of You
Author: Cassia Leo
Publisher: Amazon/Self-published
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen - Okay Creations
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Could it be? Am I a new-found fan of Sarah Hansen's cover designs? Have a lookey up at our cowgirl cover. That's right, Sarah is listed as the designer for Lost In You as well! Someone's been busy. This time we have only one of our characters on the cover but we've also got an expression and emotion that we have ALL felt at some point at some time. More lying-upon-the-ground (sensing a theme here), but it indicates to us a lowness - of mood, of spirit, you name it. Rock bottom emotions. The perception of depth in the image makes us want to get closer to her. The title, and presumably those things about him that are Pieces of You, appear to weigh on her and press her down. Gorgeous, soft colours.


PICK OF THE WEEK

Title: Reclaim My Heart
Author: Donna Fasano
Publisher: Hard Knocks Books
Cover Artist: Najla Qambar (Updated - thanks for Najla's info, Donna!)
Genre: Contemporary Romance

I love this cover more every time I look at it. It has contrast, dark and light, green and red. A perfect example of how on a very basic level you can make complementary colour schemes work for you (green in the background, red in the figures and the title). It gives the whole image a 'buzz' and unconventional harmony like nothing else.

I've actually seen these figures before, photoshopped differently, on another cover. But I much prefer this full-length version of them, and the additions that have been made to personalise the characters. The male character in this story belongs to the Delaware Tribe/Nation, something we may be asked to pick up on immediately from the tattoo on his arm.

Whatever stock image was used originally, the treatment of it here has imbued the couple with a vulnerability, a delicacy of emotion, a poignancy and a threat of darkness which is both beautiful and intriguing.



I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Let me know what your favourites were, or if you thought I missed the GEM of the week!

But before we go, would I let you get away without...

ABS OF THE WEEK AWARD!

That's right. can't live without a little dose of manly perfection (KILTS! SWORDS! BOSOMS!). Okay, maybe man-bosoms in this case. 

See you next time!



Top background image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos (with a few little amendments by moi)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Sextuplets! Or, How to Avoid Embarrassing Book Cover Doppelgangers

Fingerprints. Snowflakes. DNA. That's how unique you want your book's cover image to be, right? Why would you want to copy anyone else? Why would you want your book mistaken for someone else's?

In the wonderful world of indie-press and self-pub, low-budget and home-made covers abound. Some are shockingly bad, but as I've discovered during my weekly Kindle Romance Cover reviews, I have to admit the quality is rapidly improving.

But quality aside, the way the indie-press/self-pub world goes about gleaning images from the internet at large appears to be creating a slightly bigger problem. Let me explain.


This had me wondering. If the exact same image could crop up on two books within a week, how many other times had the same image been used?

The answer (from what I could find, just digging through Google Images), was a little startling.

SEXTUPLETS!

That's right. Here are six separate book covers, all published at some point using the EXACT, same image.








(Granted, at least one of these titles is now published using a different image - maybe they caught on?)

SO WHAT?

Okay, you think, So what? So what if other books have the same cover? But... what if that's not the only place your lovely book cover image has been used on the internet? Again, a simple Google search shows that the above image can be found illustrating:

And just in case we haven't caught onto the theme here, we have the image with 'Sex Addiction' plastered all over it. Nice.


So yeah.  Now your 'smexy romance' is associated with sex addiction articles. Not quite so smart, and not so sexy after all?

AVOID

So, how to avoid the Wore The Same Dress to the Ball mistake?

There are no guarantees, mistakes can always creep in. With the proliferation of images on the internet there is no way to ensure that no one uses your cover image ever ever

But a few things to try, and will at least ensure your use of the image is unique:
  • Enlist a reputable cover artist who does original work and uses exclusive images
  • Ask for exclusive rights on the photograph used for your cover
  • Design your own, don't use stock images
  • Please, use that little Google image search, lovely people, and check before you use a picture. It might save you a little embarrassment. And perhaps a few copyright lawsuits!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 10th May 2013
One week on, and you guessed it. I found ANOTHER ONE...Seven and counting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 17th June 2013
Just spotted yet another hapless author who's got which picture on their cover? You guessed it...



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 18th June 2013
Did another image search just for kicks (when did this turn into my latest hobby?!) and found...a few more. ELEVEN and counting, folks! 





As well the image used in a few other places:

An album cover:

...and a 'Christian Sexuality' video:



Stay tuned...you can bet there will be more!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 24 June 2013
That's right folks...it just never ends. SEVENTEEN books, people. -={ 17 }=-


(Okay, have listed this book already above, but it is a different design!)





And in other languages...





Are there NO more pictures in the ENTIRE WORLD?

But this might explain at least one of these covers. YOURS (and many others')...for only $25:



o_O


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 24 June 2013
Now, this is technically a series, so not sure if it's fair to count these as three separate books, but by golly they ARE and I WILL. That's now TWENTY books, people. -={ 20 }=-


Tilting the image a bit to change the body language? Interesting...


Done a little photoshopping to change the heights, have we? So sneaky...


And even here they've changed it just a little to make her more level with him. SAME PICTURE, folks!
('Everything' except a unique cover photo, it seems...)

Keep your eyes peeled for more - you just know this won't stop here, don't you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE - 22 January 2017 
Thought it was about time to (gently) scour the interwebs for any recent editions to my hall of shame.

Ah, here's one...(nice use of barbed wire)


Surely there aren't more...oh, I tell a lie...



Oops, and one more...


And another (oh, the irony..."first sight"..)


This one's making me a little blue...


And a foreign book...thank you Harper Collins, for this original image. 



By my count that's now -={ 26 }=- books with this cover. *sigh*


Sunday, 5 May 2013

On 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', Spring, and the Need for Good Words - PART 1

So I'm taking a little break from my usual Kindle Romance Cover reviewing. It's been a busy week, but a good one, with unseasonably beautiful weather for England. The birds are in and out of the garden looking for bugs, the squirrels are desecrating our garden furniture with their courting exploits, and everywhere I look there's something blooming. Spring figures into my week in more than just the change of seasons, though, but I'll get to that later.

Several weeks ago I finally despaired. I sent yet another example of 'romantic fiction' back to the Kindle dustbin after reading barely a few pages. I hit the wall whenever I'm presented with that 'laundry list' of physical attributes that are given as a mean substitute for actual characterisation. Flowing auburn hair. Glowing green eyes. Blah blah.

So I gave up. I put my genre in the drawer. It was failing me.

Perhaps it was my mistake to think that in order to write love stories, I should be reading romantic fiction (and this isn't the first time I've struggled with it). Don't get me wrong, there are AMAZING romance writers out there, many of whom inspired me to head in this direction in the first place. But it's a high-consumption, swift-turnover genre, which means there is much (MUCH) chaff with the wheat. And the reality was, I was starving. Starving for real, quality writing. Hungry for good words, well written, competently expressed, intelligently inspired.

So, out with the processed food. In with the fine cuisine. On a whim, I started reading D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Why not? I hadn't done much in the way of literature studies in university, and I certainly wouldn't have been allowed to work it into my reading list as a teenager. So there it was, unread. The scandal-book of a generation. Scandal or not, I know the guy can write, so I had to check it out. And surely it couldn't just be about sex in a shed, right?

Well, of course it's not just about sex. To be honest, you could probably choose to read the book on any number of levels; socio-politically, morally, historically. As a statement of a woman's lot in life in aristocratic Britain between two World Wars. Or just as the story of a woman so lonely and in want of being whole that she looks for outside the walls of her prison of privilege for the hope of a small spark of life.

Again, I have to say here that I am in no way a literature scholar, but I've tried over the years not to let 'the classics' intimidate me. Most often if you just start reading them with a mind to be entertained, they will do so. They're not classics without reason! But if you also read with a mind open to other ideas, and with the knowledge that the best writers write in layer upon layer of meaning and nuance, it becomes a bit of a game to see if you can spot where they might be headed. And maybe with this particular book I will be taking Ksenia Anske's advice and read it again just as soon as I'm finished, so that I have the opportunity to gather up even more of the layers and meanings by starting from the beginning just after I've read the end.

But regardless of vast swaths of meaning and grand visions, it has been the WORDS that have excited me so much. I had no idea how starved I really was for someone who knew how to use words like D.H. Lawrence does. I was told that it wasn't a novel he was particularly proud of. Compared to some of the others he's written, this one strikes me as almost stream-of-consciousness, and I wonder if that is part of the reason why that's the case. There's a looseness about it I didn't feel in Sons and Lovers, but I have to say that I LIKE it. It's much easier to get lost in. And when the writing isn't all buttoned up you can see behind it a little easier and watch the writer play with the words. Just as with the sketch before the painting, a little more of the construction shows through. A little more of the thought process peeks out.

Why is it that we won't give ourselves permission to do things until we see someone else doing it first? I so often get down on myself for repeated words. Okay, so maybe my repeated words are accidental repeated words, but Lawrence repeats words CONSTANTLY. I feel liberated. If I want to say something twice but just a bit differently, I will. So there. Take that word analysis documents! And what about using words for things that they're really not meant for? Or in places you least expect them? 
"Little gusts of sunshine blew, strangely bright, and lit up the celandines at the wood's edge, under the hazel-rods, they spangled out bright and yellow."
How can sunshine 'gust'? How can something 'spangle out'? It just makes me want to break all the rules. To let whatever falls out of my head be OKAY.

The events of Lady Chatterley's Lover take place over the slow awakening of spring in England. Some of my very favourite lines are all about the clouds of blooming forget-me-nots and the bluebells, and baby pheasant chicks. That vital upsurge that every creature feels when winter loses its grip and the green starts flowing. That's what the book is all about, I think. It makes you question yourself, and feel for your own pulse and check to see if you, too, have life in you yet.

I have a lot more to say about it, and this will just have to be 'Part 1'. But soaking in such luscious, verdant words was exactly what I needed. I don't care what anyone says, good words, well-expressed are food for the soul. And I'm not feeling quite so parched and starving as I did.



Forget-me-nots image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos (with a few little amendments by moi)