As an author, you have to be prepared to learn every single day of your career. Nothing ever stays the same and nor should it. It's a world of revolving rules, etiquette and creativity.
I'm not someone who writes to the latest crazy genre, but I do like to keep my writing as varied and as up to date as I can make it. That's why I brand myself a 'romantic at heart', because I will always write romance novels, but sometimes those romance novels will be in the guise of a contemporary or historical setting, or a science fiction alternative world, or be full of supernatural/paranormal creatures. Either way, romance will always be at the heart of my stories and that's why I can write such a variety of sub-genres, because they all fit into what I discovered as my niche: romance. I've tried and failed to write other genres without a romantic setting and I learned why it failed and how I could fix those stories to be used at a later date. It all revolved around learning who I was as an author.
But, just because I write a particular genre doesn't mean that I can't learn or adapt to write a new one. I used to only write paranormal/supernatural stories. Then I drifted into Contemporary and, because of my passion for reading them, attempted my first ever fantasy novel. It didn't work, but I kept the story and waited, then I eventually figured out why. In the time I'd been away from that story - nearly two years - my writing had evolved, my storytelling ability had evolved and I had learned how to better focus my words on what was important. I had learned enough to give it a second shot and it turned out brilliantly, if I do say so myself. I did the same with science fiction, eventually finding that I had a real freedom of creativity within those worlds.
With my writing ability, my creativity grew. Not just for the writing itself, but also in how I wanted to market and brand and portray those stories. I found a 'voice' I never knew I had for visually effective marketing and branding. But even that is constantly evolving. Over time, I realised that a look I loved a year or two ago is no longer who I am as an 'artist' (though I would never deign to use that label on myself, it's the only appropriate word for this explanation.)
I learned so much about effective branding and marketing from my publishing house, CHBB Publishing, and the wonderful people there. They have a handful of experts who can look at my posters and help me hone in on what I'm trying to say or show an dhow I can go about doing it. This post, really, is to celebrate that evolution, where they helped me grow from naive little me into someone confident enough to rebrand every book I've ever written, just because I know myself and the books better now. In a few years, when I've grown even more, I may look back on this new progression and think 'oh how naive I was, even then', but that's the whole fun of being an author. Everything is in constant flux.
In the end, these posters I'm going to share with you are a representation of me and my work, as well as the book's themes/brand. I want to portray them the best I can, to show what the books are about, what they mean and what the 'tone' might be. It took me a long time to find my "brand" for each series/solo novel, but I'm happy with what I have now. I've chosen something that, for each theme/brand, has a lot of scope but is instantly recognisable at a glance. So people see chess or invitational elegance and they think The Royal Series. If they see colourful, bright and playful, they think The Trade. Broody and dark with a specific model is The One That Got Away; art deco is The Cellist; and Forged in Fire is all about personal, intimate portraits of life. You can see all of that here. And, in reality, that is what their brands have always been; I've just found a better way of showing them off to their full potential.
In reality, I have scrapped over 100 posters for multiple books in the last two years, as I swapped from my old iffy branding to what I have now. I don't regret it for a second, because it works. But it took trial and error, seeing what my readers thought of the posters and how they reacted, e.g. comments and sales. I had to learn that if sales weren't happening or if I felt I needed to change my brand, I shouldn't be afraid to do it. As long as I'm not changing it every other week, but sticking to something that will last for years, then I'm still growing, still changing and adapting to my 'author' life. Look at JK Rowling, George R.R. Martin etc; they changed the branding and book covers of their books until they found the ones that fit. And, even after that, they still know that offering their readers alternatives and variety is key to good branding.
So, here's a look at my evolution. From the first poster ever made for a book to the eventual 2017 edition:
(Top Row: R-L: New, Old
Bottom Rows: R-L Top: Old, Bottom: New)
(Left: Old. Right: New)
And it's not just posters. I've reinvented the way I make mock-covers, too. I use these for myself or Wattpad only, not for the final product, so it allows me to re-make them as often as I want, to really play around with effects and looks until I find whatever works best. For me, I use the covers to inspire me to write the story and keep writing until it's done. I even attach it to the finished story, convert it into a mobi file using Calibre and put it onto my Kindle to read, as a reader, so that I can edit it. It's also a great way for me to 'test' a potential image for publication. If I hate it after only seeing it a few times, it's not going to be the published book cover, so I know to look for something else and test that until I find one I'm happy with.
(From Top to Bottom: New to Old)
And just for kicks, here are a few mock-covers (the first) of novels that were later published. Obviously, there is NO comparison. :P
Not only are the new versions more visually appealing, but the text, font use and image choice is clearer, to the point and epitomises the story so much better. And I'm sure that, after seeing the mess of my old work, you can see the benefit of my growth, right? Without it, I'd still be just slapping stuff together and hoping that it worked, instead of properly checking, rechecking, considering image, colour, composition and so much more.
I've learned a lot since I was first thrust into this author world and I hope I never stop learning.