Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Nicolette Pierce explores the Best selling mystery book cover

The Book Cover Mystery
by guest Nicolette Pierce


Don’t judge a book by its cover. You heard it, right? While I try not to, I do ninety percent of the time. And it’s a subject thing, isn’t it? What one person finds attractive could be hideous to someone else. We all have preferences and opinions. How can one cover please everyone? It can’t. But that’s not the mystery.

I stumbled upon a book. Just your average mystery book, I thought. Until I discovered the entire publication was a mystery within itself. The more I explored this book, the more befuddled I became. It shook me. You could have knocked me over with a well aimed jellybean. It led me to question not only covers, but if book blurbs even matter? And, do ratings count for nothing? So, let me tell you about this little book. By the time we’re done, you might be flinching at jellybeans too.

It was an average day, an iced tea in one hand and my iPad in the other. I sometimes check the top charts, particularly iTunes since that’s my media preference. One of my books (Deadly Dancing. You should download it. It’s free!) has been hovering in the Free Mystery/Thriller top chart for about six months now. I’ve watched as other books spike and fall. And yet, I linger at the bottom. Something I’m very thankful for. Now, you might be thinking, “This is a top chart for free books. It doesn’t mean anything.” Oh, but it does and there is a reason I’m heading down this winding path. I’m not just here to toot my own horn.

The free charts are cluttered with new and old authors, even famous are starting to list free titles. Some authors pour big money to get into the ranks only to be gunned down by the next release fueled by thicker pockets. This particular mystery book has been hovering with me. Sometimes it shoots past me and sometimes it falls a bit behind. But we are still together, orbiting around one another. So, what is this author doing different to stay on the list? (Because I sure the heck don’t know what I’ve been doing.) So, I clicked on the book and found myself with more questions than answers.

And here it is: Bound by Brittany Knight. Please review what I will call “Exhibit A.

This is a snap shot of the iTunes listing. It’s an eye catching book cover, right? Simple and effective. And the more I look at it, the more I think the author made it herself. Why? The title font is too simple. Looks like Arial or something similar. And, the author’s name is tiny and blends in with the picture. Not something your average designer would do. But it works! I have no doubt this book has been downloaded purely by the cover. It makes me want to know more. Who is this person with their hands bound? Will they survive?


Then, I notice the rating. Three stars. Not bad but we authors sometimes can be star hogs. We crave five stars and will tolerate four. But three is solid and good. I graciously accept three stars. And this author has 631 ratings. For comparison, I’ve been hovering with her and have 103. She’s beating the tar out of me. The date tells me this book has been around for nearly five years. Wow, this must be a great book, right? Not only is it in the top charts, has a gripping cover and a decent rating, but it’s been hanging around and people are still reading it. Mystery solved, right?

Wait! Oh, dear. Wait.

This is where I introduce Exhibit B. Now is the time to guard yourself from jellybeans or other flying objects, dust included.

It’s only 1 page!


Now, a one page book can still be great. But, it still made me stop and wonder. And did you read the book description? “A man who goes to an old manor that used to be in the family, while on a business trip who discovers secrets about the manor and its owner.” Okay, I’m not an editing or marketing genius, but I cringed when I read this blurb. Now, I’m not trying to slam this book. I’m trying to understand its success and Exhibit B wasn’t helping. So, off to the reviews I trot.

And here comes . . . you guessed it. Exhibit C. Oh, my.

Judging by the reviews, those who downloaded were as confused as I was. But what tossed me for a whirling loopity-loop is the bottom review.



Is this right? Did Brittany Knight review her own book and then only give herself one star? Then she defends the book, saying it was a draft and she was seeing how “the whole publishing thing worked.” I scratched my head. Judging by the review date, that was over four years ago. Wouldn’t the author take down the book if it was only a draft? Surely she’d want the world to judge her by her finished work, not a draft. Is it a hoax? Maybe there’s a marketing group or class tracking how many saps will download the work, ignoring the blurb and reviews, and to only focus on the cover.

So, for the sake of this article and the mystery, I do it. I download the one page book. I would offer an Exhibit D, but I don’t want to tread on copyright laws (even though this book didn’t bother with a copyright statement). What I notice right away is that it states “Bound [Preview],” and that it’s only four pages on my reading device. Okay, so it might just be a draft after all and she’s giving me warning, though I still question why she hasn’t taken it down yet. And then I begin reading. Without being overly critical, it’s definitely written by a novice still working out the kinks. There are some nuggets like, “The rain slowly began to stop so suddenly, which I found strange.” Or, “Meluna Ludwell was my great-great-Grandmother’s mother who passed away in the 1700s, who left this manor to my great-great grandmother, who didn’t want it.” There is no ending. We are left stranded.

But, hey, I’m still growing and learning. We are all novices in the beginning. Maybe Brittany has finished the book. Maybe there’s a better version out there and people are downloading the wrong version, causing the book to hover in the top charts. It’s possible, right?

Without being a total cyber-stalker, I explore the internet, trying my hardest to solve this mystery. Alas, I can’t find a website or fan page. No additional books were published under that name. I now face a sobering reality: I’m competing with an abandoned book. My theory: A young Brittany most likely uploaded a draft, eager to dip her feet into the publishing world and then fled from stinging reviews. I hope she wasn’t veered off course by them. They are a jagged pill to swallow. Whether or not she knows it, she has done something remarkable. While most of us are clawing to get to the charts, her forgotten book still lives and breathes and is hanging on by its cover. She struck gold with that simple design and walked away before the payout.

A little piece of me withered.


There never was a mystery, was there? We all know you can’t judge a book by its cover and we also know that great covers drive book sales. The proof is here in an abandoned book.


Nicolette Pierce is the author of the popular Nadia Wolf and Mars Cannon series, as well as upcoming books.
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Monday, June 29, 2015

8 Really Stupid Reasons To Be a Writer



The last time I posted here I wrote about ten compelling attributes of a writer, and as promised, this time I'm going to write about 8 Really Stupid Reasons To Be a Writer. Let's get started.

1.  Your sole writing credential is that your first name is Tom, John, or Stephen. Or your last name is Clancy, Grisham, or King. You wouldn't like it if they wrote books just because their names were similar to yours, now would you? Having the same name as Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or Stephen King (or even Tom Grisham, John King, or Stephen Clancy--makes no difference), does not mean you should be a writer (although I'm sure many great writers do have either those first or last names). It doesn't guarantee NY Times bestseller status, though. Believe me, if sharing a name with a famous author would help, instead of Deborah Dee Harper, I'd be writing under Harper Dee.


 On the other hand, don't let it stop you if you happen to have those first, last, or convoluted variations of famous authors' names if you can write. Nobody has a lock on certain names, but as a courtesy to famous authors everywhere and to avoid a lawsuit, I'd avoid using the same names if for no other reason than you don't want them mooching off your fame and fortune! And let's face it, if you can truly write and your name is the same as, or similar to, another writer's name, just make sure readers know which one you are when they buy, glance at, or borrow your book. It's common courtesy. Readers will thank you, the famous authors will thank you, and your attorney will thank you.

2.  Your mother/father/wife/husband/child thinks you can write. If my mother thought I could fly an airplane or perform brain surgery and I knew darned well I couldn't, but did it anyway, would you hitch a ride through the friendly skies with me or lend me your brain for eight to ten hours? (Hint: The answer is "Are you nuts?".) So if you can't write (and you know it), don't. Your strengths lie elsewhere and the world is missing a great pilot or brain surgeon because of it. Don't rob the world.



Turns out dolphins aren't the only slippery creatures in the sea. I used to think I could do what these sea lions do--relax on the rocks, look all blubbery, and doze in the sun. But then I watched some of them fall off their sunny spots in their sleepy, slick-as-a-whistle stupor. Seems that some sea lions (famous sea lions that shall remain nameless) don't want you coming back up onto the rocks once you've taken the plunge and knock you back into the cold ocean.
Don't let that happen to you.
3. Your guidance counselor in tenth grade suggested you should write books for a living based on an essay you wrote in fourth grade on why dolphins are slippery. But let's face it: some guidance counselors will tell kids anything they can to either 1.) get them out of their office, 2.) get through the day, 3.) not hurt their feelings, 4.) not tee-off their dad who's on the school board, or 5.) gain tenure. And let's face it. Some of us are one-hit wonders. I painted a mural on a big slab of cardboard in fourth grade featuring a raccoon family. It wasn't bad for a fourth grader
using an old box as a canvas, even though it looked more like a family of a heretofore undiscovered masked mammal species. But it wasn't enough for me to take up fine art. My fleeting fame lasted through the end of that week when we needed to tape up the box to store Christmas decorations, and I haven't painted anything since. (Side note: my younger sister, Shelley Newman Stevens (www.goldenapplestudio.comis a fine artist. I've often wondered if she just hitched a ride on my raccoon coattails. Hey, Shelley! You owe me... something.)

4.  You enjoy reading and occasionally think to yourself, "I could do that!" Maybe you could. But I've looked at famous gardens and thought the same thing until I tried to do it. It's not just the hard work of preparing the soil and drawing up plans and buying, planting, and taking care of the plants. It's not even the buying up of hundreds of acres of land on which to plant your garden or deciding which gardening boots (the flowered or striped) you need or what color designer gardening trowels and other sharp things you'll need to... do whatever. It's that my heart wouldn't be in it and it would show. My strength in gardening lies in my ability to look at beautiful gardens, not create them. Sometimes our strength lies not in writing books, but rather in buying and enjoying them, then telling others how good or bad they were.

5.  That said, if you read my last post on compelling reasons to be a writer, you'll recall I mentioned that great writers are great readers. So yes, great writers do read. But great readers do not always write. I love to read the Bible, but I wasn't chosen write His Word. Stick to those things at which you excel.


6.  You'd like to wallow in wealth. Let's examine this for a moment. Yes, there are authors who are rich. Very rich. Very, very stinkin' rich. (See #1 for some prime examples.) I should know. I once received a royalty statement that showed I'd made seventeen cents ($.17) in just one three-month period. Yes, you read that right. Seventeen cents. Now I don't tell you this to brag. I know not everyone can haul in that kind of money every three months. It takes long years of study and hard work. But if you do study, work hard, submit, edit, and rewrite for most of your adult life and on into your retirement and up until the day you take your last, labored, gasping breath, sacrificing everything else along the way, perhaps you, too, can achieve this level of recognition and monetary gain.

7. This one is important, so pay attention. I simply don't need the competition. Every single time I walk into a Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million or even the Walmart magazine/book aisle, I realize there are just too darned many books out there. But here's the problem. I want to add my books to that unbelievably huge pile of already-published books. So I figure (being the genius I am) that the only way to stop other authors from taking up precious shelf space is to discourage them from ever writing in the first place, thereby saving them the hassle and giving me a break.

8. And finally, to end this on a friendly note, be assured that if I had any secrets to just how I made that seventeen cents, I'd share them with you. Alas, I don't. I can only assume it was talent, skill, and the fact that I wrote under the name of Harper Dee.




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