Fallen

Fallen, an urban fantasy romance by Claire Delacroix

Fallen, the first of my Prometheus Project series of urban fantasy romances (set in a dystopian future and featuring fallen angel heroes) has gone off to be formatted. Phew! it’s also formatted for print now, and the print edition is waiting on its cover.

Having these books re-edited has proven to be quite the adventure. My editor found far more than I anticipated, so we’ve been working on the entire trilogy at once. On the upside, though, I’m much happier with the book. There have been some changes and corrections, plus there’s bonus content in this edition. I should be able to give you buy links for Fallen soon.

And tomorrow, I’ll work on finalizing Guardian!

Update!

It’s hot and humid here this week, but the construction frustrations of last winter are paying off – the new air conditioning is truly wonderful. Usually in hot weather, I get nothing done, but this week, I’m zipping along. Yay!

So, I thought I’d update you on the status of various projects.

The Highlander's Curse by NYT Bestselling author Claire Delacroix, #2 in her True Love Brides series of medieval romances.

I’m doing the final final FINAL read through of The Highlander’s Curse. It’ll go to the formatter tonight or tomorrow, so I should have it back Wednesday to upload it to various portals. It’ll go live most quickly at Smashwords and All Romance eBooks (in EPUB and MOBI at both portals) but should be available from Amazon on Thursday. (Fingers crossed.) B&N and KOBO should post it Thursday or Friday, and I hear Apple is taking about a week to process and post new book files – count on seeing it in the iTunes store by the end of next week.

My monthly newsletter will go out Thursday or Friday, depending when the Amazon link is live.

Kiss of Destiny, #3 of the Dragon Legion novellas in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances, by Deborah Cooke

Next, I’ll write the last couple of scenes in Thad and Aura’s story, Kiss of Destiny. That’s #3 in the Dragon Legion novellas, which together are Dragonfire #9. I’ll send it off to my editor by the end of this week, and she’ll do her thing while I’m at RWA National in Atlanta next week. I’ll publish the digital novella when I return (i.e. two weeks from now), and it’ll appear on the various portals with the same kind of speed as mentioned for THC above.

The Dragon Legion Collection by Deborah Cooke

Once Kiss of Destiny is done, I’ll format the Dragon Legion Collection and publish it, initially in the trade paperback print edition. It’ll be available from Createspace and Amazon early in August (maybe very early in August) then will perk out to be listed on other portals. The timing on that distribution is hard to predict.

Abyss, an urban fantasy romance by Claire Delacroix

In August, I’ll be heading back to the Republic. I’ll be finalizing files for Fallen, Guardian and Rebel, plus doing edits for Abyss. The goal is to publish the books in order, with Abyss going on sale at the end of October.

Phew! After that, it’s Thorolf’s turn and I’ll dig in to his story. After Thorolf comes Malcolm, then Sloane, then Elizabeth.

That’s where we’re at. Now you know – and now I’m getting back to work. Stay cool, everyone!

July Reviewer Contest

Here we go again – another month means another reviewer contest here on the blog.

Remember, I’ve added two new prizes: the trade paperback editions of THE HIGHLANDER’S CURSE and THE DRAGON LEGION COLLECTION. Woo HOO!

Here’s how it works:

There are two monthly contests here on the blog. This is the contest for people who post online reviews of my books. The idea is that if you read one of my books and like it, then post a review somewhere out there on the Internet, you can comment on this post to be eligible to win a signed book from me.

What you need to do to enter:

1. Read one of my books and like it. :-)
2. Write a review of the book and post it online – you can do that at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, Smashwords, Sony, KOBO, Apple, Goodreads or Shelfari. (If I missed a place where you can post reviews, let me know!) Just a word to the wise, here: Amazon has been removing reviews. I’m not sure why, but you might want to post your review on Goodreads or Shelfari so it sticks.
3. Add a comment to this post, saying which book you reviewed. Your comment will be your contest entry.

N.B. Your email address will not be displayed to the world, just to me, and it needs to be right if I’m going to be able to contact you. Also, if you add a link to the book page in question, that’s okay but your comment will go to moderation. Your comment won’t appear immediately, but will be waiting on me. Once I approve it, it’ll be there for all to see. All comments with links go to moderation on this blog.

Please only enter once for each review. If you review multiple books in a month, you are welcome to enter multiple times. The contest is open to international winners.

The Prizes

The winner can choose a print book from the following list of my books – I’ll sign it and mail it to the winner. I do have some gaps in my collection, so here are the choices:

Claire Cross/Delacroix time travels – new trade paperback editions.

Bride Quest I (PRINCESS, DAMSEL, HEIRESS) – mass market copies of TD and TH only.

Bride Quest II (COUNTESS, BEAUTY, TEMPTRESS) – new trade paperback editions.

Rogues of Ravensmuir – new trade paperback editions. I have WARRIOR in mass market, too.

Jewels of Kinfairlie – new trade paperback editions. I have BEAUTY BRIDE in mass market, too.

The Renegade’s Heart – trade paperback edition.

The Highlander’s Curse – trade paperback edition.

The Prometheus Project – mass market paperback of GUARDIAN and REBEL.

Dragonfire – I have all titles in mass market, EXCEPT I have no way to give away the digital short story “Harmonia’s Kiss”. The Dragon Legion Collection in trade paperback is also available.

The Dragon Diaries – trade paperback edition, and UK trade of the first two titles.

The Coxwells – all in new trade paperback editions.

Of course, if you want something in French, Spanish or German, that’s a whole ‘nuther list!

As usual, for every 25 entries, I’ll draw for another prize.

Good luck, everyone!

Updated Publication Schedule

As those of you who follow my blog know, I had a lot of stuff going on this winter. As well as being ambitious in my scheduling, we’ve had some interruptions from real life which have kept me from writing as much as usual. As a result, I’m running about 6 weeks behind schedule.

I saw my editor this past weekend and we talked about my schedule. She wasn’t afraid to give me The Look and suggest we talk about “realistic publishing schedules”. Ahem. So, I’ve dutifully faced some facts this week and here’s an update on my publication schedule.

The Highlander's Curse by NYT Bestselling author Claire Delacroix, #2 in her True Love Brides series of medieval romances.

The Highlander’s Curse will be a June release.

Kiss of Destiny, a Dragon Legion Novella by Deborah Cooke

Kiss of Destiny will be a June release.

The Dragon Legion Collection will also be a June release.

And my goal going forward will be to ensure that when I give you a publication date, I make it. (No more renovations, ice storms, reformatting and re-uploading, illness or death allowed, okay?)

Skimming Along

One of the things that isn’t getting a lot of air time in the discussion about digital books is how reading on a screen instead of on a page changes our reading habits. I thought we’d talk about that today, since there are not only changes but implications from those changes.

I skim when I read on a screen. When I read from a printed book, I read every word. I thought for a long time that maybe I was just weird, but that’s clearly not the case. Readers tell me that they’ve read an entire trilogy of my books (those would be 100,000 words each) in a day, sometimes even in a night. Other writers tell me that they can’t proofread effectively digitally. So, I think that we all read faster, and most likely we do that by skimming.

First, let’s talk about the changes:

• Readers read books faster.
• We all read less accurately, because we are skimming.
• We all have shorter attention spans.
• The nature of digital readers means that those readers who use digital readers have more opportunity to abandon a book. Once upon a time, we would take one paperback on a plane, for example, and unless it was deeply awful, we would trudge our way through the whole thing. With e-readers, we can have an entire library at our fingertips, which means that we will read less of a book that doesn’t grab us from line one, page one before we turn to another.

None of these are bad things in themselves, but their implications are far-reaching. Here are a few that come to my mind:
1. Readers who have digital readers are buying great quantities of books. Because they may read less of a given book, or because they read it more quickly, and because it is virtual, their perceived value of individual books will likely be lower. This affects the pricing of digital books.

2. Readers who read work in digital format may read books in different order. This is interesting. I saw a review in which the reviewer complained that the book in question had no linked table of contents, so the only way to read it was to scroll through it from beginning to end. I didn’t really understand that, but clearly this reviewer and reader wanted to read the book out of order. I often have skipped to the end of a print book to confirm that everything works out, so that would be one example of reading out of order. Some people read the sex scenes first in a romance novel. This has implications for the linked table of contents – many readers expect now to have the chapters hotlinked from a table of contents. Will they soon expect to have certain scenes linked from there as well? Will they read the rest of the book, other than the bits they prefer to read?

3. Because we skim content in digital, authors must find new methods for proofreading their work. They might have more beta readers and proofreaders. They might print out the document for proofreading. They might go over it more times than was their previous habit. There must be some investment to compensate for the tendency to skim. On the other side of the coin, typographical errors may be less important than they were once, since so many readers skim – those who skim might not notice typos. That’s not an excuse for letting them ride, just an observation.

4. Because we all skim, this also affects submissions to editors. My agent complained years ago that editors gave submitted works less of a chance, because they were reviewing submissions digitally. Once upon a time, an editor would take two or three print submissions home to review while commuting. The editor would read a good chunk of the submitted manuscript, because he or she had already committed to carrying it. With digital submissions, an editor can take home a thousand of them on one reader. That means that the editor, too, will reject a submission that doesn’t grab his or her attention very quickly. Authors need to ensure that the very first page of their manuscript is exactly right before it is submitted. This has always been the objective, but previously editors read a dozen pages before deciding. Not any more.

5. The other thing I’m noticing is that some people who read a great deal in digital will buy duplicates of books – if they really like a book they’ve read in digital, they buy the same title again in print, in order to have a “keeper”. This makes me glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of publishing a print-on-demand edition of each of my indie-published books, more or less simultaneous to the digital release. The interesting thing is that when I make a title free, the POD sales for that title always jump. That means people are finding a keeper through the free promotion, and that’s good. Over time, I think we’ll see better solutions, in that there will be options available for books to have mass market print runs. Somehow they will have to be defined as “keepers” – maybe by POD sales reaching a certain level, digital sales reaching a certain level, reviews being at a certain level, or some other criterion. This is another factor changing the publication pattern of books – yes, I believe that we are all moving to a digital-first world in which only certain proven titles and authors are distributed in print.

6. This rapid reading has a ripple effect on publication schedules. Whereas once I would hear from readers several weeks after a book was released that they were looking forward to the next one, now I hear from them the same day as the book is released. The ones reading me in digital might contact me on the morning of publication – because their pre-ordered book was delivered at one second after midnight. Can authors write faster? How long can a readers’ attention be held? Will we release linked books as they’re written? Or will we stockpile them, so we can release them in a flurry once they’re all complete? Already we’re seeing authors publish digital novellas in between books that are simultaneous print and digital, in order to keep the reader engaged. I think we’re going to see a lot more experimentation over the next year or two, in search of the best answer (and the “best answer” might be one that keeps changing.)

7. I’m curious as to how all of this will affect the length of works published digitally. Should they be shorter, so that we read the whole thing? Or should they be longer, because we’re going to skim through it the first time? There will be implications of the format on the work – just as the mass market paperback settled in as a cost effective format at 90,000 to 100,000 words, there will be an ideal length for digital work. What do you think it will be?

How about you? Do you read differently in digital than in print? How do your reading habits mesh with what I’ve outlined above – and how do they differ?

The Future of Dragonfire

As promised, here are the details of how the Dragonfire series gets completed. I do have plenty of spin-off ideas, but want to get the main series finished before we venture into new territory.

So, here’s the plan.

First off, we need to catch up with Drake and his Dragon Teeth Warriors. They collected the darkfire crystal from Lorenzo in FLASHFIRE and have been scarce ever since. As you might expect, the darkfire crystal has been taking them to some strange and unlikely locations, but in pursuit of a greater good. There will be three novellas following Drake and his men, each one of which will be a paranormal romance in itself. These will be digital-first releases. They will then be gathered into an anthology which will be published in simultaneous digital and print. (It’ll be a trade paperback print on demand book.) This bit of Dragonfire’s future looks like this:

KISS OF DANGER – February 2013

KISS OF DARKNESS – March 2013

KISS OF DESTINY- April 2013

The DRAGON LEGION Anthology – print and digital – will follow. This will be Dragonfire #9.

There will be a new page on my website for this suite of novellas. I’ll let you know when it’s live.

I am waffling about Drake himself. His story will be told, but there are two options for doing it: his could be the third novella in another trilogy of novellas featuring the Dragon’s Teeth Warriors, or he could get his own book. I’ll decide after finishing this trilogy and let you know then.

As for Dragonfire novels, Dragonfire #10 will be Thorolf’s book, and I’m aiming for a summer release. Whatever happens with Drake will be the subsequent release, Dragonfire #11, and it will be a winter release. Finally Dragonfire #12 will be Sloane’s book and the culmination of the series – the Apothecary has to heal the world, after all. I’m aiming for spring 2014. I’ll firm up the dates as they get closer.

After that, well, we’ll venture off the edges of our map – where there be dragons!

Cover Art in the New Wild West

Last week on Wild West Thursday, we talked about the changing roles and expectations of cover artists. This week, we’re going to talk about the changes to cover art design in recent years. This is primarily due to the transition from buying physical books in brick-and-mortar bookstores, to shopping online, either for a digital edition or a print edition of a given book.

Traditionally, the cover was considered to be part of the marketing budget for a book. (For some publication slots, the entire marketing budget might be consumed by the cover.) This makes a kind of sense, because in the world of physical books, the cover was the one thing that each and every potential customer would see.

There is a graphical language to cover art, which attempts to portray graphically to the potential reader what kind of book this is. For example, in the romance section, covers with a couple in a romantic embrace tend to be more sensual. The more naked the people are, the more sexually explicit the book is. A “candy box” cover – one with hearts and flowers or other doodads – is often chosen for a sweeter read. A cover with the heroine standing alone is a heroine-focused story. One with the hero alone is a hero-focused story. The darker the color of the cover, the darker the tone of the book. (Black, navy and purple are popular choices for paranormal romance.) We can go on and on, but you get the idea.

In addition, there may be special effects used on the cover. Once upon a time, historical romances often had step-backs. Essentially, this is a second cover. There’d be a candy box cover on the outside, then on the first inside page there would be another glossy cover page, usually a clinch. This developed out of historical romance readers wanting both kinds of covers, but preferring that the whole world didn’t see that they were reading a book with a clinch. Because the market was robust, it supported the additional cost of the second cover. Many of these step-back covers had custom die cuts, which is to say that they weren’t square. They could have a frilly edge, or a peekaboo window through to the stepback. These custom cuts required the making of a die and another step in the finishing process, so added to the cost. Part of the reason that step-backs are less common is because of the production costs associated with them. The other part is that they are very susceptible to damage, particularly when die cut – we’ve all seen them jammed into the racks so that the outer cover is bent. People don’t buy the bent ones, so they get returned and they can’t be shipped from the warehouse to new clients. Waste rates are higher on books with these kinds of packages.

In addition, covers on print books can have foil stamping and embossing – that means the type (usually the title) appears to be gold or metallic, and is 3-D instead of flat. They can also have varnish – it’s very common on YA books to use a spot varnish or a gloss varnish on a matte cover – or tinted overlays. The idea behind all of these treatments is to make the book cover catch the consumer’s eye.

Finally, there are production choices made to ensure that the physical book is as attractive as possible. Most printing that we see in the world is four colour lithography – this method has constraints because it creates images out of dots in subtractive primaries (yellow, magenta, cyan plus black). Some colours are composed of different ratios of a number of these primaries. For example, the cherry red of the Coca Cola logo is 100% yellow and 100% magenta. It reproduces very nicely in four colour litho, because the two solid blocks of colour overlap each other. As long as the colours are “in register”, it will look great. (You sometimes see 4 colour litho “out of register” in the weekend comics section.) A purple, though, might be 100% magenta, 60% yellow and 20% cyan. We could make it darker by adding 10% black. If that purple were to be used in type – like the title of the book, for example – it’s very likely that the production manager would choose to run a custom ink colour, rather than trying to get all those screens to line up nicely. (Even if they did line up perfectly, the purple might look mottled, and the fine lines of the type – like the points of the serifs – might not hold.) Similarly, certain patterns get goofy in the screen process and create a distracting moire pattern. If such a pattern were in the image, say as a pastel background, the production manager might choose to run that part of the image in a custom ink colour, too. This is all intended to make the final book look better.

But design constraints and needs change when we shop for books online. In that little thumbnail of the cover that displays on most online book retailer sites, we can’t see the foil stamping or the embossing or the varnishes. The cover illustration is smaller, so we don’t see all the detail in the image. In order for us to be able to read the title and the author name, that type often needs to be bigger. Contrast needs to be more emphatic between the type and the background. We may not be able to read a tagline or a quote, and we probably won’t see the spine or the back cover before we make the decision whether or not to buy.

In addition, when books are printed by Print On Demand (POD) technology, there are additional technical concerns. All POD covers through Createspace, for example, are given a gloss coating. It is not possible to replicate a spot varnish, a matte finish, foil stamping or embossing, much less a step-back or die cut cover. You cannot provide copy for the inside of the cover, which is often where review quotes or author bios are printed on traditional books. I’ve written previously about the darkening of cover images in POD and the difficulties in ensuring that fine lines hold, as well as the inability to run a custom ink color. POD is a different technology, and while it has benefits in terms of time, it does also offer constraints in terms of design.

And so, you’re seeing covers change. In some ways, they’re getting simpler. In other ways, it’s more complicated to ensure that a cover stands out from the crowd, given these technical changes.

What do you think about covers? Have you noticed a change in the last year or so? Which kinds of covers do you like better, old or new? Does that depend upon genre or subgenre?