Monday, June 6, 2016

Cover Capers with Kate Pavelle

Cryselle: I’ve invited author Kate Pavelle to chat with us regarding some aspects of being the publisher. Anyone who ever ran a business knows that business plans don’t survive contact with reality, that's partly what happened to her protagonist Theo in Lucky Starflowers, which I will be reviewing shortly. [Loved it!]  So what is an author with a really good novel to do? (disclaimer, I’ve been reading the Steel City series, and they just keep getting better. Lucky Starflowers stands alone, but it’s so fun to meet familiar faces in cameo roles. Reviews for the others here  here and here.)

Kate, tell us about this adventure.

Kate: Hi everyone, I’m Kate Pavelle and I wrote “Lucky Starflowers.” There’s a blurb below, and I won’t go into it other than to say that it’s a gay romance adventure with a happy ending and without any inconvenient cliff-hangers.

Today I’d like to lift the curtain and let you have a peek at the Self-Publishing Witch. The SPW (pronounced “spew”) is wont to promise books and stories to her readers, but she’s horrible at sticking to deadlines. This isn’t because of any kind of a writer’s block or lack of inspiration – nah, writing’s the relatively smooth part of the process. The snags come in form of beta reads, getting around to processing edits while already writing something else, arranging for a reliable proof-reader, launching blog-tours for existing releases, and making book covers.

Today is mostly about book covers. I’ve read that a book cover can either make or break a book, and I sort of got that, but I didn’t grok it until I had experienced my own screw-up. See, I took an online course on how to make basic book covers in InDesign, and how to brand them to the appropriate genre. It gave me a good start. Then I learned some Photoshop, and I got cocky. With manipulating layers and using the eraser and the liquify tool, you can do so much, right? Well... you can do a LOT, but you also need to have the aesthetic sensitivity to pull off a good graphic design. That takes experience and talent and an eye for proportion. Which I sadly lack. But I don’t lack enthusiasm and the willingness to try something new, so here is my first book cover for “Lucky Starflowers:”

I figured the italics, together with the keywords, would indicate the genre, but... no cigar. Sales were so low I won’t even tell you how low. By now, however, I’d put the book out on Audible. Within two days I received an audition recording by Kevin Chandler, and he worked his magic on “Lucky Starflowers,” and now we have a wonderful audiobook. And I thought, “Since we are splitting the royalties, I have to make sure the sales are high enough so he comes out of this on top, too. Which means I have to make a better book cover!”

Cryselle: **eyes that cover**   Wait, a narrator? There’s an audiobook?

Kate: Yes! ~happy dance~

Cryselle: What was the hardest part about producing an audiobook?

Kate: I didn’t know this until I started receiving other audition recordings, but I really struck gold by meeting Kevin. Finding the right narrator is hard, and I got lucky. Other than that, waiting to get the new chapters uploaded was an exercise in patience. I really loved listening to them and see how they came across!

After doing some reading, I figured out that M/M romance books which feature two guys on the cover do a lot better than “concept designs.” I resigned myself to having two guys on the cover, something I almost never allow, but I wanted the new design to tie in with the old one. Which might’ve been a mistake, but whatever... After learning more about how hard it is to find a suitable stock photo model when you need one, and after I bit my lip and conceded that they’ll have to be half-naked because everyone else is staring right into the camera, I came up with this:

Don’t you just love those guys? Don’t you love their hair? And the flowers make it so romantic.

Cryselle: Haven’t I seen that dude around? So? Did it work?

Kate: Well, sort of. The cover told people what to expect, and the sales went up. However, when I shared the cover with Kevin, he responded by, very politely, commending me on my effort. And he proposed a cover of his own:

Cryselle: Oh, my. That belt buckle. Does that say ‘I’m from Montana’ or what? For the record, there are no characters from Montana in Lucky Starflowers.

Kevin: Well…

Kate: Yeah, seriously. I’d love to know exactly what his thoughts have been when he saw my cover at first!

Kevin: Well I knew you’d put a lot of work into it so I didn’t want to crush your spirit, but I was confident that the cover appeared too outdated to appeal my friends. I could tell that you were including certain elements, but to be honest I thought the overexposed flowers and 90s haircuts/fashion made it rather terrible (plus I liked your original font better!).

Kate: I suppose you don’t remember the glory days of Fabio.

Cryselle: I don’t remember Fabio hugging on another guy.

Kevin: You know, I get him and Yanni mixed up all the time! :-D No, I’m afraid Fabio was before my time but I’m sure he was a hottie back then. Anyhow, I showed your cover to a gay friend of mine and told him I didn’t know what to do or how to bring it up to you without hurting your feelings. He said to just tell you exactly that…and so I did! I’m glad I did and I’m much happier with the new new cover! I think it has all the important elements and is very appealing!

Kate: Banter aside, I hate to admit to this, but I really love his cover. Of course I resented the fact that I liked his better than my own! I was downright envious. Which is not, you might notice, very constructive. So I bounced the story of two covers off P.D. Singer, who wasn’t going to say anything. But since I asked, she suggested I scrap both. And, also being constructive, she recommended a professional cover designer who won’t break the bank. (I love the way people in this genre help each other!)

The cover below is what you’ll see when you go on Amazon to buy either the book or the audiobook – designed by Emma at We are all happy with it, and she’s fast and easy to work with!

So there you have it. Book covers are the bane of my indie existence, and if you see a lousy one on one of my titles, you can bet I decided to flex my Photoshop muscle once again! Will I stop trying to design my own book covers? Probably not. It’s too much fun. However, from now on, I promise not to stress over a book cover and just “hire it done” if I’m having a hard time.

Cryselle: Aside from the cover story, who else contributed to this book?

Kate: My beta reader, Jackie Keswick, was the voice of reason and spotted more than just a thing or two. My friend Sardonicista Imperfecta, who commits fan fiction with me when she isn’t practicing medicine, advised me on the nature, treatment, and healing time of various injuries. Jonathan Penn was a fabulously meticulous and timely proof-reader.

Cryselle: So what’s next?

Go buy an audiobook! Audible has a nice special going, and you can get it free if you are a new Audible user. Here is the link.

The book is available wherever fine e-books are sold.

As for other books, I’m finishing the SwimBikeRun trilogy, where the boys are giving me a very hard time. I have enough material for at least two more books. I won’t be turning it into a quintology (or a sextology, and get your mind out of the gutter!), but there will be a few stand-alones tied to this world.

My glassmaker suspense/romance “Flux” is in editing, and the cover has been commissioned and paid for (See? I may be stubborn, but I’m not unreasonable.) As long as I can keep from launching into new and shiny projects, my publishing schedule should hum along just fine.

Newsletter alert: I publish a newsletter every so often. Every issue contains a free story, or a free book, plus news of my latest release. Come sign up at and join the fun!

“Lucky Starflowers” BLURB:

Theodore inherited Starflowers. The flower shop gives Theodore’s life meaning after a depressing breakup. Focusing on work is easy when he’s absolutely sure there’s no space for a man in his life. If he did allow for a boyfriend, it would be someone boring and everyday. Someone unlike the exotic Attila. He’d have a cubicle job, wear a cheap suit, and drive a Kia.

Sam Grey is a professional gambler who got caught counting cards one too many times, and consequences can be severe. He got beaten up, robbed, injured, and ends up homeless in Pittsburgh, living out of his Porsche. His temporary job helping with the Valentine’s Day craze makes him yearn not only for the perky florist, but for a slower, friendlier way of life. When the shop runs into financial trouble, Sam’s dangerous and exotic skills might be just the thing to help Theodore and show him he’s not just a deadbeat moocher who’s “just passing through.”

Cryselle: Just for the record, I read and LOVED Lucky Starflowers, review to follow shortly.

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