Last month, I kicked off a new blog series about relaunching my novel, and then never launched the next post in the series. The reason for this is simple: relaunching a novel is a huge pain in the ass.
But we’ll save the pain-in-the-ass stuff for later, because it has more to do with transferring a book from one publisher to another. If you’re an indie author who already published your own book and have been disappointed by the response, so you’re just wanting to give it an adrenaline shot, I imagine things would go much more smoothly. So let’s pretend for a moment that I’m in those shoes while I walk you through the process of assessing a novel for relaunch, as outlined in Chris Fox’s Relaunch Your Novel.
In the first post, we’ll cover his first three points: cover, title, and blurb (but not in that order).
In the next post, we’ll make a slight tweak to his plan and cover: genre (instead of branding), writing, and exposure.
I’ll state the obvious: My book is still called Chicken.
The seasoned indie authors who prescribed total relaunch suggested I change it, but honestly, that seemed like way more trouble than it would be worth. Chicken is two years old. It may not have made me famous, but it has its fans. Relaunching with a new title, blurb, and cover would run the serious risk of making those fans thinks I’d written a whole new book, and then alienating them when they realized they’d bought the same book. Plus, I would have to deal with the used copies still in circulation. The original book would have its own pages on Amazon and Goodreads for users who had those copies, and new readers could come across them and get confused. That all sounds potentially very messy. Pass.
Plus, I like the title. I know it will never hook readers with the ease of a flashier title, but it’s a double-edged reference to the internal and external obstacles the protagonist is facing, and I think it works.
This is a confusing term. Sometimes it refers to the little reviews you get from other authors to go on your cover, and sometimes it refers to the short synopsis used to selling the book. Today, it refers to the latter.
Indie authors are generally responsible for writing their own blurbs. This is hard work. I don’t know any authors who don’t hate it. I really, really hate it. And I’m not great at it. I know this because Chicken‘s original blurb sucked. But I didn’t know that until my seasoned author friends pointed it out. After that, the suckage could not be unseen.
Here’s the original:
Casper Quinn has a secret.
Brant Mitchell has two.
Hickory Ditch, Arkansas – July 2012
Popular fried chicken chain Wings of Glory is under attack from homosexual activists, and Harvest Mission Pentecostal Church is ready to fight back.
Caught in the crossfire of a culture war in which they never enlisted, Casper and Brant will each have to find his own answer to the age-old question: Are we really what we eat? Because if they could find the courage to tell each other their truths, they might discover there really is life after the Ditch.
CHICKEN is a Southern Gothic YA novel with an infusion of magical realism. It’s a raw, honest, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant look at falling in love in a place where angels and demons are believed in without question, but the human heart is always subject to suspicion.
Oh my god, this is terrible!!! Why didn’t anyone stop me??? It set the scene, and maybe a mood, but the only thing we learn about our hero and his love interest is their names! Judging from the demographics of people who leave reviews, it convinced some literary-minded adults, but not many teenagers. This makes me sad because I wrote this book for them, and it’s quite possible that this bland-ass description was turning them away.
This absolutely had to be fixed. So I spent the last month working on it, trying different things, mixing and matching sentences from different drafts, until finally I came up with something that I hope will do the trick. The good news is that, being self-published, I can change it anytime I want if I feel like it’s not doing its job.
Casper Quinn has a secret. Brant Mitchell has two.
For sixteen-year-old Casper Quinn, there’s only one good thing about attending a fire-and-brimstone Pentecostal church in Hickory Ditch, Arkansas, and that’s Brant Mitchell, the pot-smoking, worship-leading golden boy he’s gone and fallen in love with. But just as the sparks between them finally start to fly, a political firestorm erupts over everyone’s favorite fast food chicken chain, Wings of Glory. Caught in the middle of the cultural crossfire, Casper and Brant will do whatever it takes to protect their secret. But feelings aren’t the only thing Brant has been hiding in this magical Southern Gothic romance, and when the truth comes out, Casper’s faith in him will be put to an unimaginable test.
Fans of Jeff Zentner, John Corey Whaley, and Patrick Ness will devour this timely yet timeless tale of first love, fried chicken, and the things we give ourselves permission to believe in. CHICKEN will keep teens and adults alike swooning and swearing ’til the very last bite.
What do you think? There were a couple of things I wanted this blurb to do. 1. Give readers a sense of the, you know, story. 2. Reflect Casper’s narrative voice, which is one of the most loved parts of the novel. 3. Hint at something about Brant that I was previously trying to hide M. Night Shyamalan style until the big reveal. I’ll talk more about my decision to knock that off in the next post about genre and writing, but for now, suffice it to say, I made a really big mistake the first time around.
Also, let me just say, it feels silly to pick out authors to compare your own work to, but I think it needs to be done. My first version offered no point of reference for potential readers, no “if you liked that, you’ll like this.” This was most likely a mix of ignorance and arrogance, for which I now seek repentance.
Huge shout-out to David R. Bernstein, author of the Influence series, for his guidance in this area.
Chicken’s original cover was designed by Asymmetrical co-founder Colin Wright, and I absolutely adored it. It was and will always be a gorgeous piece of art, and I will treasure the way it was lovingly designed with the themes of my book in mind. A little known fact is that the cover was inspired by an early scene in the book, but I was inspired by the cover to create a bookend scene later on.
One of my favorite things about this cover was the eerie way it mimicked a poster that hung in my room throughout my early college years. It was a mountain lion leaping between two red rock cliffs, and the words “Courage is the ability to leap beyond the familiar.” This ain’t a memoir, so I won’t get into why those words were so important to me, but they came roaring back to life the moment I laid eyes on this cover. Everything was falling into place. It was perfect.
But unfortunately, as my seasoned author friends were quick to point out, it doesn’t tell potential readers much about the book. It makes sense after you’ve read the book, but when you’re scrolling the millions of books on Amazon? It doesn’t scream “gay teenage love story.” And the cartoonish style really didn’t go that well with the vague literary description. Was it a kid’s book? A grownup book? Is that stick figure falling? Jumping to his death? Yikes.
Letting go of this cover was really, really hard, but it had become an “Old Yeller” and I needed to shoot it. Trouble was, I did not have any money to invest in a new one. Seasoned author to the rescue!
I owe a tremendous debt to Jenetta Penner, author of the Configured trilogy, for coming up with the new concept and finding all of the stock photos that went into the final product, which was then polished to perfection for a whopping $25 by Fiverr artist Germancreative.
I was hoping to do a formal cover reveal on another blog, but due to the pain-in-the-ass issues I hinted at earlier, I’ve run out of time to get that arranged before the cover is used in promos for the December 8th episode of NPR’s Arts & Letters podcast–featuring a dramatization of several moments from the first chapter of Chicken.
So I present to you now, the gorgeous cover that will be available on all copies of Chicken starting December 19, 2017. Drumroll please!
And if you’re curious, here’s what the back and spine will look like:
Thanks for tuning in! I hope you’re getting as excited about this as I am. Remember, this cover will be available starting December 19, and to celebrate this new birth, you’ll find several deleted scenes and bonus content in the book itself! Until then, you can still buy the original version with the original cover, but trust me, you’re going to want to wait, because not only is the book getting a new look, it’s getting a new lower PRICE.
In the next post, we’ll talk about genre, writing, and exposure. I’ll be able to share a little more about why this cover felt so right in that post. You can subscribe to the RSS feed in the sidebar if you just want to stay up to date on posts, but you can also sign up for Night News to have updates, giveaways, and other fun stuff delivered straight to your inbox!