Redesigning My Old Covers


This decision didn’t happen in a void. You might actually want to start reading about the [original prototype covers for It Began with a Dream] since that blog post goes into detail about what led into this decision. I’d rather use this post to go into the actual process of redesigning my old covers.

Once I decided to redesign them, I had to figure out how to go about it. The easiest way to do it was to find a cover artist. I reached out to a couple of options I found online (mostly via other author’s social media or blog posts). I also debated using [Vistaprint]’s cover design option since I’d have more designs to choose from. Ultimately, I decided against Vistaprint due to the cost factor. (I have a limited budget.)

I was in contact with Vistaprint via email. They gave me the option of working directly with the same artist for later projects (i.e. the other covers). That was actually something I’d decided to look for from the start: the ability to use the same artist. It’s an easy way to get a similar (for lack of a better wording) design throughline between my books. The artist would be familiar with earlier designs (for having made them) and would likely have stylistic quirks that match up in later designs.

I’m not going to list out other options I was in contact with or that I considered. Instead, I’m going to jump directly to the one I decided to go with: RL Design of []. If you go check out their site, you’ll notice the premade covers option. By this point, I was running against the clock for [IBwaD]’s publication. I therefore reasoned that I needed a cover more quickly. When I browsed the available premades, one actually really caught my eye for [Domes].

(I’m not ready to reveal it yet. Otherwise, I’d put the cover here.)

I reached out to RL Design and ordered both covers: IBwaD’s and Dome’s. The process was nicely simple and professional. Admittedly, we were in contact during an abnormally stressful time in my life. (I might have nitpicked a couple of things as an unintentional stress response – sorry about that.) Overall, I was grateful for the easy process. RL Design still displays the sold covers, but with a mark over them:

(By the way, here’s quick tangent: if the invoice numbers are any indication, Robin does a good amount of business. The speed / level of turnaround is impressive. She clearly has a good system going. And I don’t seem to get email responses on weekends. As someone who is still learning how to create a better work-life balance, I can appreciate that schedule boundary.)

I did find a premade sci-fi cover that I liked, but it didn’t seem fitting enough for Will to Speak. I ended up using RL Design’s custom cover option. This involves filling out a basic form (I think it’s about three pages in a word document), then selecting stock photos. I had a really hard time picking stock photos, so I initially submitted it without them. Whoops. This was a bad idea. I got an email back with (kind of) a design option, but mostly a polite request to pick some stock photos first.

So, yeah, I had to redo it. I actually sent over stock photos the second time. The process still worked out very well. Robin was nicely patient when I sometimes stepped back for a few days to think about the designs. Ultimately, we emailed back and forth several times and I selected the final design. Into the Unknown was a lot easier. I picked out A LOT of stock photos in an effort to simplify the process. I loved the first design that was sent over, so I just had to email back a couple of tweaks. Victim was more difficult (and almost needed a second redesign with different stock options), but I’m satisfied with the design I decided on for my weird little sci-fi horror.

Ultimately, I decided not to do the paperback design option with RL Design. Why? Because I already have a template for the paperbacks. And because I wanted to personally play around with my paperback options. I have the original stock photos plus my fanart experience, so it’s been relatively easy to expand a front cover image around the ebook design to fill a bleed zone. I also wanted to stabilize my template for future paperbacks. Here’s a jpg version of what my template currently looks like:

Organized chaos? Not really. Each raster layer has markers for distance from the front or back edges (plus the top or bottom, depending on location). I basically just fill in the information, recolor it, and resize it over a separate template that looks like this:

(Wondering where I got that background template? It’s actually from Amazon’s [cover design] sizing tool. The main thing I change is actually the spine width. Also, to my knowledge, this does not run afoul of RL Design’s policies. If it does for whatever reason, then I’m sure we can work it out.)

It was actually really easy to upload the new ebook covers to Amazon. They updated both Will to Speak and Into the Unknown in about 24 hours. Victim’s new cover is still being finalized, but it should also be updated within the week. Goodreads, on the other hand, has proven to be a problem. I can’t update the cover directly because of how their site works. So, I reached out to their librarians and accidentally created a bigger issue:

(I can’t seem to make that screenshot any clearer. That link, by the way, goes to the [alternative cover] page. I can’t figure out how to reach that page otherwise.)

The first librarian linked the old and new versions (without my consent) so that I was listed as a co-author on my own books. Whoops. That’s because of the time I changed my writing name. Last time I reached out through that Contact Us link the second librarian suggested, they never bothered to respond to me. I had no reason to expect this time to be different. However, I wasn’t about to leave my books stuck in this organization fiasco. So, I reached out anyways. In just a few days, I actually got a response:

(No, I can’t seem to make this one any clearer either.)

That was a pleasant surprise. They actually have exceptions in place for LGBT authors who do things like change their pen names. My old pen name was very gendered (my current one is not). As a non-binary author, I think their perspective in this response is very validating. I really appreciate that.

They conveniently skipped over the “alternate cover page” and where to locate it (although, to be fair, that wasn’t the bigger problem). I don’t want to accidentally recreate the same issue with an unsuspecting librarian, so I’m just going to let goodreads be. Anyone who decides to be nosy can do a google search and easily find that those are the old covers. I don’t expect that to be an issue.

At this point, I’m almost ready to release the new paperback covers. They just need to be finalized and saved in the proper size format. This means that I’m also almost ready to release the paperback version of It Began with a Dream. (Months after the ebook, but I’m not perfect.) In the meantime. . .

This wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. However, after having been through the process, I appreciate having made this decision. I also appreciate having taken these steps in a way that feels right by my books. The old designs didn’t disappear – you can still find them on my site. In fact, they’re also the covers you will find on goodreads. And I’m looking forward to having an easy, reliable system for future cover designs. I might use some of the premade options again. Otherwise, I’ll pick stock photos and go through the custom design option. It ultimately makes the publication process a lot easier for me.

I’ll miss designing my own covers in the future, but I stand by my decision.

Sorting My Twitter Followers (Again)


(First post of 2022!)

This feels less weird the second time through. You can read about my reasoning in [this post] about last time I did this. For now, it’s time for another round of observations:

-Looking at a follow for a potential follow-back in the #writingcommunity. Third tweet is a negative review of an LGBT anthology. She thinks they shoehorned in too much sex positivity. Having never read the book, I can’t comment. But I have to wonder about potential biases since I don’t see anything else LGBT-related. I’m not accusing anyone of anything – it’s just an observation. I think I’ll let this one sit.

-There are a couple of “social media managers” who have followed me out of (I’m guessing) an attempt to grow their business. Good effort, maybe? But I’m not interested. I probably wouldn’t have even given it this much thought if not for the fact that they basically lined up in my followers.

-I’m picking up more LGBT followers. That’s actually really nice to see 🙂

-A programmer who posts in Japanese followed me. Why? I don’t know. Their bio just says “programmer”

-Hello again Felon Reviews. No, I’m still not following you. (And I can see you haven’t fixed your $30-50 mini bio.)

-CEO of (I’m going to leave out the name of the PR firm) followed me. I’m pretty sure this is the person who has been spamming my DMs in an effort to get my reviews.

-I have a follow from a follow from a minister with an odd Bible verse as one of his most recent tweets. It’s an original post (not a retweet) of text over what appears to be a stock image. “The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25). I think it’s about taking care of others (like “do unto others as you would have done unto you”), but I wonder about the word liberal. I googled that verse and got “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (NIV, biblegateway). I did some more digging and found that what the minister posted is actually the ASV version. It made be worth noting that I grew up with NIV. That being said, this led into a weird little internet rabbit hole of the varying translations. There’s a version that reads “He who gives blessings will be made fat, but the curser will himself be cursed” (BBE, from before the era when “fat” became villainized). I like “be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped” (GNT). The way I found myself questioning the word liberal says a lot about the political polarization we’ve been dealing with in the states. (I’m an independent, politically.)

-I have again found several people who unfollowed me after receiving a followback. They have now been unfollowed. I don’t get why people do that, but it feels disingenuous to me.

Following: 895. Followers: 679.

Sorting My Twitter Followers


Whelp, this is turning into a weird practice. But it’s all just part of learning social media, right?

This process arguably started with a comment under my [former post] on learning twitter. Here’s that comment I wrote:

“Update: 171 followers! And two new lessons I can add to my observations. First, I’ve had to comb through my followers due to some . . . I’m going to word that as weird interactions. I’ve set a date to comb through them again. Any profile that looks suspicious (like a private account with a two word bio) is getting blocked. Past experience from other places online says that I need to be ruthless. The other lesson? Misunderstandings abound. Non-absolutes are absolutes, and vice versa. Being on the internet is hard sometimes.”

I have also discovered that some people will follow me for a follow back, then unfollow in order to up their numbers. Increasing a follower count in general seems to increase visibility (beyond the obvious – I think it also increases it via the algorithm). But it’s disheartening to see people posting about monitoring their follower count or searching for people who drop them after a follow back.

That being said, I’ve also noticed A LOT of people who seem to seek out users to follow for the follow back for ONLY advertising purposes. And, yeah, social media is supposed to be part of our brand awareness / advertising campaign, but a twitter persona can still be more personable than a repetitive product page. I’ve opted not to follow back obvious advertisers. This leaves me in a bit of a weird dilemma.

Do I monitor my followers? What if someone follows me for a follow back but I lose them because the notification didn’t appear? (Yes, that really happens.) If it’s someone I might legitimately want to follow back, then I feel like I’m losing them in the shuffle of the algorithm. What about people who unfollow me after I follow them? How do I want to handle that practice? What if someone becomes an obvious advertiser, but they weren’t that when I followed them? And why do I keep getting weird interactions? Etc. Etc. Etc.

It’s VERY easy to overthink all this.

I’m still learning social media. And I have acknowledged on multiple occasions that, despite my age, I don’t really understand it. I don’t mind admitting that. I feel like I’m trying to create a twitter through one long, uncontrolled experiment that I barely know how to run. I clearly missed out on engineering an hypothesis and whatnot since, well, I keep trying different things without a clear agenda beyond learn the platform and connect with people / writers / readers / fellow sci-fi lovers. (And, yeah, anyone else who wants to connect, right? Within reason, I suppose. There’s a little note on this below at the end of the post.)

For now, I’ve decided to loosely sort through my followers (I think) about once every few months. I just want to see how I’m doing and how many people really do things like unfollow me after I follow back. I just went through it on my phone. Here’s a sampling of observations:

–I’m currently following about 200 people more than who follow me. Some of these are outside of the writing community (Sir Patrick Stewart, for example, is not going to follow me back). Following 856. Followers 658.

–Twitter seems to have missed notifying me about approximately a dozen followers since . . . whenever I looked through these last? This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, but I don’t recall a date.

–Felon Reviews? Really? Someone named their (fake) review service Felon Reviews. That’s not an advertisement. That’s a reminder that buying reviews is just another way of asking for the mighty hammer of Amazon to come crashing down on your books. Also, they’re way too expensive. The tagline (I think that’s what it’s called) lists them at $50-30 for review. Granted, that’s also not the order most people put those numbers in. I’m definitely not giving them a follow back.

–There’s an Indian guy who followed me who seems to tweet almost exclusively in hashtags. I decided to look at his page (turns out he’s an obvious advertiser). Almost every word is a hashtag! Even words like #the and #my

–There’s a private account that followed me that I don’t recognize. It’s set up to look like a gamer nerd, but I’ve learned to be weary of private accounts I don’t already know due to . . . well, um . . . some of those weird interactions I mentioned. I’m debating blocking it. It’s a French account, which is even weirder. Sure, I speak / read French, but I don’t really tweet in it. I think I’ve responded to a grand total of maybe two French tweets in French so far. That’s it. If I block this person, but it turns out that they know me, I wonder if they’ll tell me.

–“I am a ghostwriter and I identify as a ghost. WoOoOo/EeEeEm.” Really? Blocked.

–I’m no longer a student. Why did an obvious advertiser account for a HIGH SCHOOL TUTORING SERVICE (yes, it’s really in all caps) follow me? I’m not giving them a follow back.

–Why did a Korean book cover designer who tweets in KOREAN follow me? I think she’s looking for business, but I can’t read Korean. Also, I think she’s a cover designer? I may be wrong about that.

–A random guy followed me with the tagline #Minneapolis. He has a couple of standard anyone-could-have-said-it happiness snippets but ends it with just #Minneapolis. Why?

This has actually been more interesting to blog about than I thought it would be. I might do more posts like this in the future. (Note from the future: I did do this again [here].)

(By the way, I’m not following back anyone with political opinions that I consider problematic. I know, that sounds very closed off. I just got threatened in person the day before yesterday by an idiot in a Trump hat for . . . I don’t know, breathing? He was ranting about vaccines and waving around a court affidavit he’d written about how his own research debunked the CDC guidelines. Someone I know who witnessed this called him a whackjob. She had to intercede and ask him to leave since my repeated statements weren’t getting anywhere. I shouldn’t have to tell some idiot that I’m calling the cops if he really comes back with a gun. But, at this point, this is normal to me. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I’m not subjecting myself to that sh*t on social media too. In fact, I’ve been blocking those sorts of opinions. Anyone that expresses one gets a block. Because I refuse to deal with it on a platform that lets me block people.)

Original Prototype Covers for It Began with a Dream

I’ve enjoyed designing my own covers in the past. That being said, I’m well aware that my own designs look amateur. I think there’s still some charm in my own designs, but I also recognize that I am more than a little biased. Historically, I have received a mix of comments on my book covers, ranging from strong praise (“That’s genius!” “I love it!” “It makes me want to look closer”) to troll-worthy cynicism (“Oh, Pah-lease!” “Just get a professional to do it! Obviously you can’t”). When someone wants to bash one of my books, the cover usually gets hit first. For example:

(I’m well aware this review isn’t displaying well. I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to fix that for the time being.)

I’m to the point in my professional journey where I’m having to reassess too many of the choices that I’ve previously taken for granted. That’s a fancy way of saying that I’m redesigning aspects of my author brand, marketing materials, sales objectives, etc. And I’ve come to a harsh realization: my old designs are holding my books back. I’m a passable artist, but not a professional when it comes to book covers. (Anyone familiar with my twitter may recall that I paint as a hobby. But, it’s just that: a hobby. My books mean more to me from a professional perspective.)

This wasn’t an easy decision to make. But, ultimately, I decided to have the cover redesigned. I’ve kept the old ones around where they’re findable on the site, but all future marketed covers will be designed by someone other than me.

I made (I think) around six prototype covers for It Began with a Dream. When I tested them, I ran into a lot of ambivalence. Since I have a presence on twitter now, I also reached out for opinions on social media. Most of what I heard back online amounted to gentle pushes to hire an artist. Here are several of the prototypes I made:

I still appreciate having made them. I’ll miss designing my own covers in the future, but I stand by my decision. The cover I have now looks beautifully professional: