Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Evolution of a book cover: The Hall of the Wood

Everyone knows that a quality book cover is important. It's all too easy to tell the professional from the non-professional. While a "good" book cover isn't necessarily indicative of the quality within, it's at least a good starting point.

When I was first getting ready to self-publish my own novels, I explored the different options. Those options were:

  1. Don't use a cover
  2. Make my own
  3. Commission a professional

Ultimately, I decided to create my own cover. I think it's safe to say sales of The Hall of the Wood were not stellar. In some months, they were non-existent (more on sales in a near future post). Then, late last year, I decided to look into the possibility of option #3. I made inquiries with some artists who had their work showcased on deviantart.com, and quickly came to the conclusion that having a professionally done cover is not cheap. That's not to say prices were unreasonable, but the return on investment given my sales up to that point just wasn't there. I'd about given up when I came across a wonderfully perfect illustration by Simon Schmidt. A quick inquiry and some price discussion later and Simon had himself some money out of the blue and I had the illustration I should have used from the start.

This, then, is the new cover for The Hall of the Wood:

HOTW cover 1.0.7 - reduced

What you are looking at in the background is, of course, the Hall. It's uncanny how well this illustration fits the novel. It's got all the elements: forest, patroller's keep, a certain dreariness as if a gloom has settled on the woods. There's even a hint of age with the vine-covered pillar in the forefront.

The new cover went live on Amazon and other retailers at the beginning of December. About the same time, due to some price reductions I made at other retailers, Amazon dropped the price down to $0.00. The unfortunate thing is I can't tell at this point if it was the book cover or the price that caused sales (downloads, really) to soar. At its peak, The Hall of the Wood was getting 150 downloads per day (rough figure; I'm going to post exact numbers in a near future post).

It will be interesting to see how the book sells moving forward. It's no longer free, but it's gotten plenty of recommendations and a couple of reviews. Most important, perhaps, it's showing up on other novels' "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" lists.

I'll leave you with a look at the previous covers cooked up by yours truly. They're not much to look at, and perhaps a reminder why people like me should leave the artwork to the professionals.

hotw 200x300-old hotw-200x300 HOTW cover

An introspective on Borders' liquidation

In what can only be seen as a sign of the times, Borders is closing its remaining 399 stores. Last ditch talks that would have brought in additional financing have failed, leaving the company with no choice but to liquidate.

This news makes me neither sad nor happy. I'd always been more of a Barnes & Noble shopper, before Amazon came along anyway. In comparison with Barnes & Noble, Borders always seemed to have higher prices, and, for whatever reason, Barnes & Noble was always just more convenient for me. It helped that B&N from early on had an alliance with Starbucks, where Borders had… I don't know. Seattle's Best? (Seattle's Best is now owned by Starbucks.)

Borders' demise is without a doubt a result of the changing book landscape. There was some mismanagement as well, poor choices for store locations, etc., but much of this can be laid at the feet of eReaders and online shopping. Another blog posed the question of when was the last time you'd been inside a bookstore. I thought about it for some time, but had no idea. It's been that long for me. Before I bought my Kindle, I was already buying exclusively from Amazon. Now, even more so.

One has to wonder if this isn't a tipping of the scales in the other direction. The "big box" retailers such as Home Depot, Wal Mart, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and others have long been responsible for driving many smaller retailers out of business. Yet here we are now with one of those same large retailers taking a swallow of the same medicine. The market changed, and Borders couldn't change with it. It will be interesting to see if the void Borders leaves behind is filled by smaller players, gobbled up by their main rival, B&N, or if it will just remain a void that people, over time, forget is even there as we push further into the electronic world.

I'll leave you with the farewell letter sent by Borders to their Rewards Members.

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