How would this strike you in a bookstore?

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PastyAlien

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Curse his covers all you like. He's #159 in the Kindle store overall. Whatever he's doing, he's moving copies.
Wow. But those covers tho. 😬 I wonder how he's doing it? Does he pump out books like crazy? Are they really good, despite the covers? Has anyone here read his books?
 

lizmonster

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Wow. But those covers tho. 😬 I wonder how he's doing it? Does he pump out books like crazy? Are they really good, despite the covers? Has anyone here read his books?
He appears to have a long-running series. There are a lot of ways he can be making this work. It's unclear what he's doing behind the scenes, or how much he's spending on marketing. I'm honestly not clear how Amazon counts KU downloads when it comes to bestsellers.

If you self-pub a series and go Amazon exclusive, there are some nice marketing things you can take advantage of. Even with those, though, it's all a matter of finding an audience and getting repeat buyers. That usually involves some kind of inve$tment.

TL;DR: He may not be clearing a lot of cash on all this, although with that many books I suspect he's doing all right.
 
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Meg Wilson

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I apologize for what I'm about to do, which is off-topic, pedantic, and a buzz-kill.
A veterinarian, an accountant, and a furious sign-language-fluent gorilla are coming for them.
As an academic familiar with this topic, I can't not say it: there is no such thing as a sign-language-fluent gorilla.

This isn't just me going "hey, you put something that isn't literally true into your science fiction." I think it's actively problematic, for two reasons. The first is that it's a debunked myth that came from a scientific hoax, and it drives scientists crazy that it's still being thrown around. The second is that it is offensive to the Deaf community because it exoticizes and trivializes signed languages.

It sounds like you've already written the book, so I'm being super unhelpful (and, oh dear, I'm detecting a theme in my recent critiques), but I feel it's important for this to at least be put on the table.

The rest of this post is just me backing up my claims, for anyone who is interested.



A bit of background: In the 1960's and '70's there was big excitement around the idea that our closest relatives, chimpanzees, might be capable of human language. Lots of carefully designed studies were conducted that failed. The consensus is that language (with its very particular structural properties that enable it to do things that other types of communication just can't) is something that human brains are wired for. Trying to teach a non-human ape to use language is like trying to teach a penguin to fly. If penguins were biologically capable of flying, don't you think they'd be doing it already?

But if chimps are our closest relatives and the best candidate for language, why did the idea of a signing gorilla capture the popular imagination? Because a grad student named Penny Patterson got in on the fad by starting a project with Koko the gorilla. Patterson used sloppy methods, exaggerated her results, and courted the popular press. Koko made the cover of National Geographic, while scientists were uncovering the fact that Koko was doing nothing different from your typical intelligent dog.

All of this distracted from much more interesting questions about animal cognition—learning about what other animals do do, rather than trying to measure them by a human yardstick. It has since been found that non-human primates are tool-users, inventors, passers-down of cultural innovations within their social group. Fascinating stuff in its own right. They just don't do language, which is a peculiarly human evolutionary novelty.

So that's point number one. The myth of the signing gorilla is a scientific fraud.

Point number two has to do with the exoticization of sign language. The Koko hoax would not have been swallowed so easily if Patterson had claimed that Koko spoke, say, Swedish. "You don't speak Swedish so you can't judge for yourself, but trust us, she's speaking Swedish." Too implausible, too easily disproved.

But the public is willing to believe the outrageous idea of a talking gorilla because it is wrapped in the mystical, mysterious idea of sign language. In this respect it resembles the claim that Inuit peoples ("Eskimos") have 100 words for snow, and this means they perceive reality differently than the rest of us. Nobody would be impressed if the claim were that farmers have more words for dirt than other people. It is the exoticization of "Eskimos" that is doing the heavy lifting.

There is also, I think, an element of being willing to believe that non-human apes could do sign language because sign language isn't really as complex as real language, is it? I mean, it might be okay for communicating day-to-day stuff, but surely it's not as complex and expressive as, say, English? Actually, it is. The implicit message seems to be "Apes might not be able to do our kind of language, but they can do sign language, and even that is pretty darned impressive for an ape!" This is a serious insult to the Deaf signing community.

In fact, the first whistle-blowers on the Koko scandal were Deaf signers of American Sign Language, who were hired as research assistants to work with Koko (so at least Patterson started with good intentions). These Deaf people were very clear that what they were seeing from Koko did not remotely resemble fluent language, but their input was quietly ignored. Because, what did they know?
 
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Tazlima

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For the people suggesting I look at existing covers, thank you! I have. I've gone through many versions in an attempt to find something that conveys "These main characters are mad at the bad guys" in an entertaining sci-fi way. No right answer yet, but a lot of wrong ones:

52372238995_9087eb211e_c.jpg
I have basically zero knowledge of graphic design beyond the occasional "make this look nice" assignment at work, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I think the top row, 2nd from the right, has potential. If you kept the mantis and replace the faces in the doorway with classic "cartoon angry/scary eyes in the dark" trope, where it's a solid black panel with just the eyes visible in white or yellow, it would look more balanced and have a bit of a "bug Nancy Drew" feel to it.

It wouldn't necessarily say "science fiction" to me, but I would probably pick it up and read the back.

Also not sure what the mantis is supposed to be holding there. A gun? A flashlight? A sex toy? A vape? May want to go with something a bit more recognizable.
 
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MarlynnOfMany

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I apologize for what I'm about to do, which is off-topic, pedantic, and a buzz-kill.

As an academic familiar with this topic, I can't not say it: there is no such thing as a sign-language-fluent gorilla.

This isn't just me going "hey, you put something that isn't literally true into your science fiction." I think it's actively problematic, for two reasons. The first is that it's a debunked myth that came from a scientific hoax, and it drives scientists crazy that it's still being thrown around. The second is that it is offensive to the Deaf community because it exoticizes and trivializes signed languages.

It sounds like you've already written the book, so I'm being super unhelpful (and, oh dear, I'm detecting a theme in my recent critiques), but I feel it's important for this to at least be put on the table.

The rest of this post is just me backing up my claims, for anyone who is interested.



A bit of background: In the 1960's and '70's there was big excitement around the idea that our closest relatives, chimpanzees, might be capable of human language. Lots of carefully designed studies were conducted that failed. The consensus is that language (with its very particular structural properties that enable it to do things that other types of communication just can't) is something that human brains are wired for. Trying to teach a non-human ape to use language is like trying to teach a penguin to fly. If penguins were biologically capable of flying, don't you think they'd be doing it already?

But if chimps are our closest relatives and the best candidate for language, why did the idea of a signing gorilla capture the popular imagination? Because a grad student named Penny Patterson got in on the fad by starting a project with Koko the gorilla. Patterson used sloppy methods, exaggerated her results, and courted the popular press. Koko made the cover of National Geographic, while scientists were uncovering the fact that Koko was doing nothing different from your typical intelligent dog.

All of this distracted from much more interesting questions about animal cognition—learning about what other animals do do, rather than trying to measure them by a human yardstick. It has since been found that non-human primates are tool-users, inventors, passers-down of cultural innovations within their social group. Fascinating stuff in its own right. They just don't do language, which is a peculiarly human evolutionary novelty.

So that's point number one. The myth of the signing gorilla is a scientific fraud.

Point number two has to do with the exoticization of sign language. The Koko hoax would not have been swallowed so easily if Patterson had claimed that Koko spoke, say, Swedish. "You don't speak Swedish so you can't judge for yourself, but trust us, she's speaking Swedish." Too implausible, too easily disproved.

But the public is willing to believe the outrageous idea of a talking gorilla because it is wrapped in the mystical, mysterious idea of sign language. In this respect it resembles the claim that Inuit peoples ("Eskimos") have 100 words for snow, and this means they perceive reality differently than the rest of us. Nobody would be impressed if the claim were that farmers have more words for dirt than other people. It is the exoticization of "Eskimos" that is doing the heavy lifting.

There is also, I think, an element of being willing to believe that non-human apes could do sign language because sign language isn't really as complex as real language, is it? I mean, it might be okay for communicating day-to-day stuff, but surely it's not as complex and expressive as, say, English? Actually, it is. The implicit message seems to be "Apes might not be able to do our kind of language, but they can do sign language, and even that is pretty darned impressive for an ape!" This is a serious insult to the Deaf signing community.

In fact, the first whistle-blowers on the Koko scandal were Deaf signers of American Sign Language, who were hired as research assistants to work with Koko (so at least Patterson started with good intentions). These Deaf people were very clear that what they were seeing from Koko did not remotely resemble fluent language, but their input was quietly ignored. Because, what did they know?

Thank you for letting me know; I'm surprised that I hadn't heard anything about this. A good friend of mine used to work with Koko before she died, and I know other people who've met her. The friend was my sensitivity reader of sorts to make sure I got the gorilla scenes right. But it didn't occur to me that Deaf people might be bothered by it.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that gorillas aren't that much smarter than a smart dog -- dogs and several other animals tend to be smarter than many people think. But it looks like the big issue is the impression of sign language as lesser, something simple enough that a mere animal could learn it. I definitely don't want to perpetuate any insults.

The gorilla in this book is a person in his own right, and is treated as such by the humans. The worldbuilding that I've set up for this future involves legal personhood for gorillas and several other animals. The story takes place far from Earth, but it's made clear by every Earthling that gorillas should be respected and sign language is valued. (They're not the same degree of person, driving cars and working jobs alongside everyone else, but they are included in civilization, with food and medical care etc available.)

I like to think that I haven't put forth anything harmful in this book, though I can see how the concept might not make an ideal impression on certain audiences. I'm glad to be hearing about this now instead of after publication.
 

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(They're not the same degree of person, driving cars and working jobs alongside everyone else, but they are included in civilization, with food and medical care etc available.)
Don't know if you need or want this suggestion, but if a gorilla wanted a job, bet they'd be good at construction work, or loading/unloading small loads from trucks, etc.
And punching people who make 'jokes' like 'Monkey work for banana?' Hmmm, maybe that's why they don't have jobs.
 

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A week and a half later, I have a totally different design that I hope will be the last one. Thanks @PastyAlien for the suggestion to look at Scalzi's covers -- most of the ones that came up were big-text FamousAuthor Plus Title things, but the one for The Kaiju Preservation Society has a version with the title on a nametag fallen to the ground, somewhat bloodied, with definite Jurassic Park vibes. It conveys a lot of information at a glance.

With that as inspiration, here's the direction I went (in mockup book form, so I could get an idea of what it would look like as a final product):

52392440877_17384a8fef.jpg


(Here's the image flat, so you can read the tiny print details.)

52392440857_4436305992_z.jpg


*braces for feedback* Please tell me this works.
 

Introversion

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FWIW, that would inspire me to pick it up in a bookstore, look at the back cover, read the first pages, etc. Looks professional to me.
 

PastyAlien

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A week and a half later, I have a totally different design that I hope will be the last one. Thanks @PastyAlien for the suggestion to look at Scalzi's covers -- most of the ones that came up were big-text FamousAuthor Plus Title things, but the one for The Kaiju Preservation Society has a version with the title on a nametag fallen to the ground, somewhat bloodied, with definite Jurassic Park vibes. It conveys a lot of information at a glance.

With that as inspiration, here's the direction I went (in mockup book form, so I could get an idea of what it would look like as a final product):

52392440877_17384a8fef.jpg


(Here's the image flat, so you can read the tiny print details.)

52392440857_4436305992_z.jpg


*braces for feedback* Please tell me this works.
So I think this is a big improvement. I love the concept of a veterinarian prescription pad with a bite taken out of it. Well done! BUT the cover isn't there yet, IMO. It still looks like a cut-and-paste job, especially the pen. And the composition needs work.

Right now the eye doesn't know where to go, because you've got three eye-catching elements. The prescription pad, the pen/cap, and the space background are all competing for attention. What you need, IMO, is to place the focus firmly on one item: the prescription pad. So I would get rid of the pen altogether. Not only is it distracting the eye away from your main focus, but the pen tip doesn't match the title, which looks as though it's written in big-ass sharpie. The pen nib doesn't even match the other items written on the pad, like your name and the check boxes, etc--it's too fine a point.

The space background is far too dominating and takes up too much space. The yellow colour, especially, really snatches the eye away from the pad. You want the space background to fade into the, well, background. So I would enlarge the prescription pad so it takes up most of the space on the cover, just as the name tag does on Scalzi's cover. He's got just a little bit of jungle edge surrounding the name tag.

So the other issue you have is I still can't tell what the book is about based on the cover. "Thorax" suggests insect to me,* yet the bite in the prescription pad looks like an animal bite (actually it kinda looks human). And a veterinarian doesn't deal with insects. You also need to tie in the space background to the prescription pad. Scalzi's cover works because his title (Preservation Society) makes me think of animal preservation and the name tag in the jungle makes me think that's where the setting is gonna be. He's also got a tail in the "A" that further makes me think of some kind of weird-ass animal. Whereas I can't tie together the insect-ish title "thorax" with the vet prescription pad or the space background. It's good that you have Veterinarian In Space checked off, along with the location and date, but I'm not gonna see that stuff at the thumbnail level. When people browse on Amazon, they need a clear idea of what the book is about at the thumbnail level, otherwise they're never gonna click on the book to see a bigger image of the cover.

Also I would get rid of Genre: Science Fiction on the pad. If people can't tell it's science fiction at a glance from the thumbnail, your cover isn't working!

Hope this isn't too overwhelming. It takes years for a graphic artist to develop the skills to create great covers, so don't be hard on yourself as you go through this process. You've made great progress, and are deffo going in the right direction!

Hope that helps. :)

*ETA: I realize animals also have a thorax, but so do humans, and "thorax" just makes me think "bug." So I'm not sure what kind of thorax is going to receive the swift kick. The title might also need a rethink... (sorry!). See what others say.
 
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frimble3

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A week and a half later, I have a totally different design that I hope will be the last one. Thanks @PastyAlien for the suggestion to look at Scalzi's covers -- most of the ones that came up were big-text FamousAuthor Plus Title things, but the one for The Kaiju Preservation Society has a version with the title on a nametag fallen to the ground, somewhat bloodied, with definite Jurassic Park vibes. It conveys a lot of information at a glance.

With that as inspiration, here's the direction I went (in mockup book form, so I could get an idea of what it would look like as a final product):

52392440877_17384a8fef.jpg


(Here's the image flat, so you can read the tiny print details.)

52392440857_4436305992_z.jpg


*braces for feedback* Please tell me this works.
Oh, I really like this! I don't really care for the pen, can you maybe drop the prescription pad a little lower instead? Other than that, eye-catching and informative! If I were just browsing, I'd certainly be interested.
 
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frimble3

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I think the pen would work better if moved onto the pad?
That might work, as though the vet had just laid it down. Now, the pen just looks like it's randomly sitting in space.
What I particularly like is that the title on the prescription pad looks like a suggested treatment for someone/something. Without that... ?
What that rather odd prescription is for is more intriguing than a random bit of violence.
 
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This is a lot better!

I agree that you may want to link the pen and the notebook visually so they don't look disconnected like that, or to remove the pen entirely.

There's a slight outline around the notebook, which you can remove manually by using the eraser very slowly or by shrinking the selection by 1px. I think it would also benefit from some color adjustment to match the background.
 

MarlynnOfMany

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Thank you for all the feedback! I’m glad this version is better.

The bug association is accurate: the villains who deserve a swift kick are in fact bug-like aliens. A lot of the minor questions that come up when looking at the cover should be answered by the blurb. As long as this catches people’s attention enough to entice them to read it, then I’d call it something of a success.

The pen is meant to be floating in space along with the pad, as if lost out the airlock or when a ship blew up. They’re both drifting, thus the odd angles since there’s no desk to sit on.

I shall do some pondering. Thank you!
 
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