Talk Tuesday: What Book Cover Really Stands Out In Your Memory?

I saw this cover in the New York Public Library one day while meandering. I spent a lot of my childhood in the library. For some reason it called out to me. I pulled it off the shelf and was immediately sucked in:  In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit. It’s pretty amazing that this Tolkein guy managed to compress three movies into one book!

I was thrilled when I saw there were three more books!

Another book cover that comes to mind is Hyperion. I was in Davis-Kidd in Nashville, meandering, and saw this mass market paperback. Something about it– the creature I learned was the Shrike– the imagery. I made an impulse buy and have since read all the books in the Dan Simmons’ series. So many great ideas in the Hyperion universe. I also like the story of how Dan Simmons was “discovered” by Harlan Ellison at a workshop.

I saw an announcement last year where Syfy is making Hyperion into a mini-series but have heard nothing more. I’d say with the success of The Expanse and the ability of CGI now, it should be a lock.

What book cover stands out for you?

Cool Gus says: Why did people move those big stones and put them in a circle at Stonehenge?

People do the strangest things. Dogs tend to just watch and sigh, and then take a nap.

Gus often naps near my desk while I work.

Cool Gus could understand moving those stones if bacon was the reward. Piece of cake. Well, wait. Cake?

But otherwise? Why did they do that?

Since Cool Gus is an English Labrador (with the big head full of big thoughts) he’s heard some Dog Tails about why humans moved those stones.

Here are some:

Talk Tuesday: What TV Show Had The Most Ridiculous Premise, Yet Succeeded?

Gilligan’s Island comes to mind right away. Talk about limiting your story options.

Trivia– Mister Howell was the voice of Mister Magoo. And Mrs. Howell only agreed to do the pilot because it was being filmed in Hawaii. She, too, thought the premise wouldn’t work.

How did they manage to keep coming up with stories with just seven characters stuck on an island? And they didn’t seem to be suffering too much there. That boat sure carried a lot in it. And of course, it birth the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” BTW, Racquel Welch also auditioned for that role. Which is kind of hard to believe. And polls consistently go: Mary Ann.

Then there are some others. Bosom Buddies. Yes, Tom Hanks was in it. Seriously– people believed they were women?

The Greatest American Hero didn’t make much sense but the theme song was a hit.

There’s always The Flying Nun. Didn’t her neck hurt?

Notice I’m not covering any recent TV, but there have been some really terrible ideas put out there. Time will tell what succeeds.

Got any to add?

Should eBook covers be the same as print covers?

I don’t think so.

We’re used to print covers, the standard 2 to 3 ratio, and for the cover to stand alone, hopefully facing out in a book store (although that only happens for the big-name authors—or after an author visits a book store and turns their own books out—come on, you do it; you know you do).

I’ve been going through my covers and updating them. The vast majority of my sales are eBook. My print sales are also via an electronic platforms, so the covers are viewed the same way, on screen, in thumbnail.

Besides the thumbnail aspect, here is something else that is different:

A print cover for hardcover has information inside, on the cover flap and some on the back.

A trade or mass market paperback has information on the back.

An eBook cover has information next to it on the screen. So the two are connected.

The bottom line is that a cover must invite the reader to want to know more. For a physical book, that means picking it up, looking at the flap or back copy. Reading the first few pages (some sick individuals read the last few).

For an eBook the goal is to get them to stay on the page and shift over and read the information that is there. Or to read inside the book, and only the first pages, which requires them to click on the cover—which also enlarges it.

I’ve been researching and there are a lot of good ideas out there.

For series, have some similarity. So I’ve done that.

Have a central image that grabs.

The cover should give the reader an idea what genre the book is. The cover should also give the reader an idea what the book is about. This one is hard, especially when you have a book that isn’t easily defined. My Atlantis books were hard for Berkley books and they’ve been hard for me in terms of cover.

They say don’t use a white background, but I like the way the Shadow Warriors book pop.

I’ve added blurbs to some of my books from legitimate reviews. While hard to read, they become clear if the cover is expanded. One goal in this day of hundreds of thousands of eBooks being uploaded yearly, is to get readers to know that your book is professional. This means using my Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc review blurbs. Of course, do readers care?

I use the classic NY Times Bestseller, but also, in some cases sales numbers, especially if they’ve gone into 7 figures such as the Area 51 and Atlantis series. In some other cases I’ve added my overall sales, saying Over 4 Million Sold, although I think I’m over 5 now—just haven’t crunched the numbers. Essentially an attempt to distinguish the books.

I’ve used some effects from Affinity Designer. In particular, I’ve used ‘emboss’ to give a 3D effect on some of the covers. In some ways it makes the cover look more like a button on the screen than a flat cover. I don’t know if that attracts or is a turn off to the reader.

Do contrasts. Things that don’t belong together. How does a crystal skull connect to Custer’s Last Stand? How does an Osprey over Pickett’s charge go together? The answer is in the stories, but I also have the concern on these two that in thumbnail there are too crowded. Thinking about it.

All of this will take time to tell if it has any effect. I’ll give it a couple of months and compare sales figures.

As important, my next phase is a complete do-over of Key Words and Categories. I need to research this area and then go through all 71 (or more) books.

Then, of course, when in doubt, use a dog. Especially a dog as distinguished as Cool Gus. After all, he’s more popular than I am.





Cool Gus Says: Don’t Send the Nuclear Launch Codes Out With the Laundry, stupid human

Seriously. That’s so much worse than peeing on the rug.

But it happened. Because there wasn’t a dog there standing watch.

And much stranger things have happened with the nuclear launch codes in our history.

Let’s hope nothing strange happens in the future.

Cool Gus thinks if we elected dogs, all would be well.

But here is some real history passed down through Dog Tails:

Talk Tuesday: Best Book Series?

Writing a series is hard. After Area 51, I swore I’d never do another series where there was an arc bigger than one book. Ha! So much for promises to myself.

Lord of the Rings comes to mind. 3 books, a lot of big stories culminating into one.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series was great.

There are series where the story line didn’t necessarily arc, but the characters did. Colin Dexter’s Morse for example.

What series have you enjoyed? Was it a story arc series or one where the same character kept going on?



“Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James?”

“Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?”

Woody Guthrie wrote these words in 1942 in his song about the USS Reuben James. The first American warship sunk in World War II; even before we were officially at war and five week before Pearl Harbor.

It was torpedoed in the North Atlantic while on convoy escort duty. The ship was sunk on 31 October, 1941– Hallows Eve and is one of the six missions in that book coming out this fall.

“Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names?”

That’s the refrain in the song. Guthrie wanted to list all the names of those lost with the ship in the song; but with over 100 men going down with her, it wasn’t practical.

He’s pictured to the left with his guitar and his infamous logo.

The captain of the Reuben James, Tex Edwards, was a 1926 Naval Academy graduate who’d wrestled in the 1928 Olympics, coming in fourth.

While the sinking caused outrage in the United States, we did not declare war on Germany. It took the disaster at Pearl Harbor to thrust the country into World War II.

I’m always amazed at the history I learn while researching. One of the great perks of being a writer!

Here’s to the good men of the Reuben James. As long as their names are remembered, a part of them lives on!

Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
But tonight she’s in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?
What were their names, tell me, what were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James

Well, a hundred men went down in that dark watery grave
When that good ship went down only forty-four were saved.
‘Twas the last day of October we saved the forty-four
From the cold ocean waters and the cold icy shore.

It was there in the dark of that uncertain night
That we watched for the U-boats and waited for a fight.
Then a whine and a rock and a great explosion roared
And they laid the Reuben James on that cold ocean floor.

Now tonight there are lights in our country so bright
In the farms and in the cities they’re telling of the fight.
And now our mighty battleships will steam the bounding main
And remember the name of that good Reuben James.