If you have read The Eight of Swords ebook, have a go at the quiz on Goodreads.
Look out for the sequel….coming soon!
I recently listened to a Barnes & Noble One on One Author interview with Chip Kidd who is the associate art director at Knopf an imprint of Random House. In the first half of the interview he talks about a book he has written and later on he talks about cover design and advertising.
I had never heard of Chip Kidd before this interview. When seeking out author interviews I have to admit I was at first curious because he shares my surname. Upon finding out he is a well-respected cover designer my interest was piqued further.
Always having had an interest in art and design, I particularly appreciate a fine cover when I see one. The whole marketing process fascinates me and cover design is an integral part of that.
The obvious question was asked during the interview ‘does cover design sell a book?’ This is a question I was asking myself not so long ago as I published my first Ebook The Eight of Swords. The temptation was to launch into designing the cover myself. I am more than happy to browse photo libraries for hours to find the right image for my blog so why would it be any different for my book cover? As luck would have it a designer offered to do it for me. In fact he relished the opportunity and I was delighted by his enthusiasm. If I had done it myself I might well have spent a long time agonising over images and working out how to create the finished product in a professional looking manner. In truth, I doubt I would have had any more satisfaction doing it myself than letting him do it for me. Also the time I spent trying to do it could be spent writing!
The finished cover design for my Ebook was far different to anything I imagined and far exceeded my expectations. It perfectly fits with the story – dramatic and mysterious. Also it looks great as a thumbnail image, which can be quite a challenge.
Back to the question ‘does cover design sell a book?’ Well Chip’s answer pretty much came as I expected, in the negative. He believed as I do, it’s the subject matter, the blurb on the back and the reviews that sell the book. I only believe this based on how I buy books. I do like to see a stylish cover in ‘come and get me’ colours with an intriguing image and cool font design but when browsing a bookshelf or Amazon it’s the author credentials and story that sell me the book. I will check out the reviews and if they are well above average on the low stars I may well pass it by but I don’t take too much stock of them because hey, everyone is an individual and even more so when it comes to being attracted by reading material.
Having said all that, a poorly designed cover can be a real turn off. Psychologically we want to be attracted and feel that we are valued enough for someone to make an effort to draw us in. I know that if one of my favourite authors published a book with a tacky cover I would be disappointed and to be perfectly honest really quite shocked. However, being one of my favoured authors, if I liked the sound of the story I would disregard the cover.
In truth when I am browsing for books and see an author I don’t know with a cover design that looks pretty atrocious it is very off putting to say the least. If they didn’t make the effort with the cover design, how much effort did they put into the story? It’s superficial but it is hard not to make assumptions. Us humans usually judge first on appearance whether it is right or wrong.
As with my business, I am a great believer in display and making an effort for the customer. After all without the customer there would be no business and it’s the same with readers, I want them to feel they are getting something great on the outside and within, a totally finished product.
Check out Chip Kidd’s podcast at Barnes & Noble here.
And his cover designs here:
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Does the gender of an author influence your book buying decisions?
Or more directly…
Do men make a conscious decision not to buy books by women? And vice versa.
Recently having published an ebook this is a question that occurred to me as I looked at ways to market my work. My ebook has so far been read and enjoyed by men as well as women but I have no way of working out from the statistics Amazon Kindle provide of the percentage of male/female readers who actually buy the book other than if they leave a review. Even then the nickname they use to leave a review may not necessarily be gender specific.
I understand from searches I have carried out on the Internet that statistically women read more books than men but it is difficult to find out the reasons behind this more accurately without doing a much wider survey.
The men I know tend to read factual books, biographies and detective novels. I asked a good friend of mine if he would be willing to proof read my short story, he is a retired English teacher and I thought it might amuse him to do so. His immediate reaction was ‘I would find it difficult not to assess the content and compare it to the works of say John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway.’ Now, forgetting that the comment might be construed or misconstrued as outright snobbery, what interested me most was that he immediately mentioned two male authors. I have lent him books by male authors I enjoy which he also enjoyed but I must further quiz him further on which female authors he has read and admired and whether he might have any prejudice with regard to gender in literature.
Of course if I ask him outright, I am sure he will fervently deny any such prejudice, and to be fair I very much doubt he would have realised it even if he had. However, I will further probe in a subtle way and see what the real answer might be.
Then there is another male friend, who is an ardent fan of detective novels, spy thrillers, biographies and such like. So far he has enjoyed all the stories I have written, apart from one. The question is however, would he have picked them out if he didn’t know the author personally? And this query goes for all the other male friends I have too. A couple of them would only ever consider picking up a technical manual or if really pushed a Jeffrey Archer novel.
Of course my small circle is hardly enough to make a wider assumption that men are put off by reading female authors. But it does beg the question why exactly did J K Rowling and undoubtedly many other women writers decided to choose not to reveal their feminine first name? Or why did they write under a masculine pseudonym? If more women than men buy books why would they feel the need to?
Is it really a problem if men don’t want to read books by women and vice versa?
Both sides would be missing out on a great deal if they decided what books to buy based on gender.
I decided to examine my own preferred reading over the years and felt a little bit surprised to note that most of the authors I have chosen to read have been male. I don’t think this necessarily would have been because statistically there are more male than female authors.
I didn’t consciously choose male authors for any other reason than that the subject matter or culture appealed. Perhaps reading is more about personal choice in relation to content than the sex of the author who wrote the book.
If you are interested to read further on this topic, here are a couple of links you may find of interest.
Whether you are a reader or a writer, I would be very interested to receive your comments with your opinions or own personal experience regarding the above.
In the distant past, when I was a mere child out on Saturday afternoon trips in the back of my parents’ car I often had moments of déjà vu. If you haven’t experienced déjà vu or don’t know what it means, literally it means ‘already seen.’ We’d pass buildings or a street and I’d feel a strong sense that I knew that place well even though I didn’t and hadn’t seen it before in my short life.
In adulthood I don’t get that feeling about places any more, but sometimes I do get the feeling of recognition when meeting someone for the first time. There are some fascinating theories on why people experience déjà vu, click on the link and you will see some more detailed explanations.
All through my life I have experienced vivid dreams, sometimes for long periods. Then I can go for a long time with not particularly memorable dreams. This is something most people experience I would imagine but how many people actually have dreams that turn out to be a premonition? I have had a few and unfortunately they were not always ones that turned out to be good. I pondered for a long time over these dreams and why I had them especially when I couldn’t apparently change fate by having had them. The premonitions were about strangers, people I couldn’t warn or help. It is bizarre and most unsettling but here have been good ones too, thankfully they aren’t all bad.
It has been a long-term fascination to me how the mind works via the subconscious and particularly when writing. Over the past few months I have been reading quite a few interviews with authors and time and again (not all but many) when asked if they plan or outline their stories they say no, or not to any great detail. They say their characters lead the plot for them or the story develops naturally. This indeed has been my experience. I sometimes joke that probably my granddad (a long time deceased and sadly who I never met), a writer himself pops into my brain, takes over and develops the story how he thinks it should go. It certainly feels like someone else has taken control at times.
Having just written The Eight of Swords, I guess I realise my other fascination is certainly with how we worry about the future and look for ways to predict it. This also crops up in Fish, a novel I am currently rewriting. The heroine in both these stories consults the Tarot. Jayne Patchett in the The Eight of Swords is told to have her Tarot read, she could refuse but after years of pretty much sleep walking through life it makes her hungry to know what her options might be. So although she has previously discarded it as something she wouldn’t normally seek out, when confronted with the cards she becomes intrigued. Usually people make a conscious decision to go to a fortune-teller but in her case the teller comes to her and in a rather unexpected way.
I have read some of Osho’s teachings, a guru who believes we must live totally in the present moment to truly be happy and I suppose to be at peace with ourselves. He makes some good points about how we worry too much about what has gone before and what the future might hold. I do agree with this. However, it is difficult to stop human nature and it seems to be very much a part of it to examine our lives and be eager to see what lies around the corner. Writing stories is a way to examine life and analyse our reactions to situations, and hopefully enjoy the process. In mine I like to explore the past, the present and the future.
The Eight of Swords is available now via Amazon Kindle.
Fish is in progress!
Copyright © Petra Kidd 2012 This post may not be reproduced in full or in part with out the written expression of the owner/creator Petra Kidd.
Really enjoyed the beautiful descriptions in this book of both feelings and surroundings. An unusual subject and brilliantly portrayed and happily unpredictable at the end. I have yet to read a Japanese author who hasn’t enchanted me from start to finish!
When a big event happens in the world, people usually remember what they were doing, where they were, who they were with, how old they were when it happened. For many years to come, they will say, “oh yes, when the planes hit the towers, I had just arrived in Cuba for my first holiday in two years,” or “when the Queen Mother’s death was announced, the entire family were here for lunch, including Aunty Martha who we hadn’t seen since Uncle Stephen passed away.” All the little details of the moment they heard something terrible or significant happened come flooding into their mind.
It is the same with more personal events. Happenings, that in a single moment of now then permeate our thoughts and memories forever after. The day I came home to find my key wouldn’t turn in the lock, my head was full of how one of my colleagues had committed suicide, messily, under a tube train during rush hour. I can’t tell you that I had any gut feeling or intuition that day would become such a significant turning point in my life. It started like any other, my alarm went off, I pressed the ten minute snooze option, shut my eyes tight and hoped each minute would become an hour in real time. Of course this is impossible but when you hate your work, every little delay in getting there becomes a mini freedom.
I can even remember the dream I had before I woke up. It involved a tea party in the middle of a field with buttercups and dandelions, a voice said ‘don’t pick the dandelions or you will wee in your bed.’ I often wonder if that somehow signalled the events of the day and why if it did, did I get such a pointless and unhelpful warning?
I stood on the doorstep for a full ten minutes before my poor befuddled brain would take in the fact my key no longer fitted this lock. Stepping back I inspected the house to make sure that in my confused and distracted state I hadn’t mistaken someone else’s house for my own but no, the door remained red with a brass knocker in the shape of a mermaid, weeds had grown over the air vent, and rain dripped in a reluctant waterfall from the guttering. No, this was definitely my abode of the past eight years, the place I bought after my second divorce vowing I would never again share my home, my heart, my possessions with another person.
Stepping back I glanced at my watch, I don’t know why. Every evening I walked home from work, setting out from my office around sixish whatever the weather, regardless of time of year. I trudged through snow, battled wind, rain and hail, slid around on ice, squinted through fog and wore a ridiculously large hat to keep the rarely sighted sun of recent summers off my pale skinned face. Somehow, I seemed to think the time might give me the answer as to why my key wouldn’t fit the lock. Then I caught sight out of the corner of my eye, the curtain twitch open a second. It fell back again instantly.
Did I imagine that? I thought, standing there stupidly as rainwater soaked my shoulders. I leant over and tapped on the window. Nothing happened. The curtain didn’t move again. It occurred to me at this point that perhaps I should try using my back door key. I fumbled to pick it out among all the other keys on the ring: keys to my desk drawers at work, the shed key, my elderly neighbour’s key, a bicycle lock key I had ceased to use many moons ago. I began to walk round the right side of the house, across the tiny front garden, through the side gate and along the muddy path to the back door. Again I inserted the key into the lock, tried to turn it and it did not budge. I managed to stop myself from hammering on the frosted glass window of the door. How ridiculous would that be? Knocking on my own door to be let into the house where only I lived. On examination the lock looked shinier than my normal rusty edged lock, brand new in fact. My heart jigged a little, in a downward way, my legs weakened and my stomach did a back flip, panic had finally set in.
I put the keys in my coat pocket and walked slowly back to the front of the house, pondering the situation. Back at the front door I reached up and grasped the mermaid knocker firmly and thumped brass against brass three times. Nothing happened. I inspected the lock; again it appeared to be shiny and new. A couple of deep scratches and a dent I didn’t recognise were next to it. Someone had changed the locks.
I simply didn’t know what to do. Bizarrely the thought ran through my mind that somehow my colleague had faked his death, come round, broken into my house and locked me out. Why would he do that? We hadn’t been particularly friendly, or not friendly. For the past year of his appointment to my team we exchanged personal pleasantries on an irregular basis, shared a filing cabinet, made each other the odd cup of tea and displayed only cursory interest in one another beyond our work. A burglar wouldn’t have changed the locks. I had no family who would create such a prank. My parents lived abroad. My brother, a well off stockbroker lived happily in Surrey with his wife and two children. Extended family included only a very elderly aunt and a spinster cousin in Australia. My friends and acquaintances were not of the type to do this either, they were for the most part professionals, reasonably well off, fully encompassed in their own complicated lives, far too busy and harassed to decide to break into my house, change the locks and then refuse to open the door. They weren’t the kind of people who would think such an elaborate prank funny.
Available to buy to download via Amazon Kindle.
To read on, click here The Eight of Swords
A short story of circa 13k words
Copyright © 2012 Petra Kidd
What would you do if you came home to find strangers sitting in your home as if it were their own?
It’s not such a silly question.
Usually it is landlords that have problems with squatters when a property has been left empty awhile. If someone gains entry without actually breaking an entry or causing damage it’s not an easy task to get them to leave and you would have to apply for a court order. This can take quite a number of weeks, if not months in some cases.
Terrible when you think about it, especially if it is your actual home. Some more wealthy people are having to hire security guards to make sure their homes don’t get invaded while they are away.
So how would you react if you came home and found strangers occupying your space?
I had a small taster of what this would feel like many years ago. I was in my late teens enjoying a holiday in France with my best friend. We’d found a lovely youth hostel in La Rochelle and a couple of days into the holiday we hit the beach happy to lie around on it all morning without a care in the world.
Around lunchtime we decided to head back to our room to get changed. When I tried to open the door to our room I found it locked. Suddenly the door opened and a very tall German lad stood grinning at me. I checked up and down the corridor, this was definitely our room so I told him so. Luckily he understood English. He laughed “oh no, it is our room!”
I persisted arguing with him in a nonsensical way until he invited me in to see for myself that our belongings had totally vanished and in their place were rucksacks etc belonging to him and his friends. His friends sat grinning at us, highly amused.
We weren’t amused at all, and somewhat confused we headed to reception and I let forth my best French swear words at the person behind the counter. Immediately we were led to a cupboard where our belongings had been unceremoniously dumped! Apparently they were going to move us to a smaller room but hadn’t expected us back so early.
So I can identify a little with my main character Jayne Patchett in The Eight of Swords when she returns home to find her key won’t turn in the lock. She lives alone so she knows something is seriously wrong when she can’t get in to her own house. I remembered my confusion and exasperation well when I was writing about hers. Of course her situation is far worse than mine was.
Probably the most amusing thing to come out of my brief experience of having my room invaded by strangers was my friend’s reaction to my sudden ability to swear so eloquently in French! She was very impressed.
Jayne Patchett in The Eight of Swords has a much more interesting and difficult experience than mine and it goes to show you can’t always know how you will react in such a bizarre situation.
The Eight of Swords is available now on Amazon Kindle, it’s a short story.
Click on the link below to buy. If you don’t have a Kindle you can still download the ebook to your pc or another device.
I decided a couple of weeks ago that although I had written The Eight of Swords in 2011 it would be a great start to 2012 to publish it on New Year’s Day.
Although I have been writing in various forms for the past 10 years on and off, it wasn’t until 2011 that my creative brain really kicked in again and I got to rekindle my passion for writing. Life has been busy, business got in the way of writing, then family health problems took up a few years so it is probable that being on a more even keel once again gave me the brain space to create stories.
Another change has been ebook publishing. 10 years ago this didn’t exist so I wrote a couple of long manuscripts, sent them off to a few agents, got nowhere, gave up. Instead I focused on my business. The business I set up with the idea I would do that for a few days a week and write the rest of the time! How naive was I? Soon that took up all my time and wore me out into the bargain.
Finally I seem to have achieved some kind of balance and am coping with both. Winter is a good time for writing so right now I am trying to cram in as much as possible.
Another amazing thing to happen in 2011 was that I joined NorRaceChicks, a feisty group of people who wanted to run the Race for Life. The group formed via Twitter and went on to do lots of other events throughout the year. We have all become great friends and all support each other in whatever challenges we face, personal or business. The reason I mention this is that when I wrote The Tweet Up and posted it on my blog, suddenly I had readers. This made all the difference, a bit of pressure does you good!
Feedback from my new group of friends really spurred me on, the NorRaceChicks push me to write more, I want to entertain them and the wider world now. It really shows how such wonderful support and encouragement can change your life.
When I clicked ‘publish’ on Amazon yesterday, the confidence to do it came through the encouragement of the best family and friends anyone could wish for.
Ebook publishing appealed to me because it meant I had total control over the cover design and could write without being asked to tailor the story to publisher demand. It means I have to take charge of my own editing and proof reading, and formatting. I love to learn new things and this has been a real lesson. Another thing I have to do is market the ebook, again this is a huge learning curve. It will be a challenge but I think it could be the next most satisfying thing I have achieved next to my business.
This doesn’t mean to say I won’t go the traditional route again in the future. As much as I love all the new technology and freedom it gives, I love real life paper books too. They will always be special.
As 2012 progresses I will update here how my new venture into ebook publishing goes.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2012 is the year you get to achieve your dreams too.. be brave