24 January 2016

DIY Erotica E-Book Cover Basics

I get a lot of compliments on my book covers. I will humbly say they're not too shabby. I have something many writers don't: a background and experience in design and in using photo and image-editing software. However, I also have a background in teaching and in writing instructional material, so hopefully I can help you make better covers for your books. Please note this is for ebooks which do not require a spine or a back cover.

One thing you need to understand is what's acceptable by Amazon for erotica and romance covers. Check out this post by Alana Melos on what's allowed.

You see great book covers all the time as you browse books on Amazon or whatever. You see their pristine, flawless examples staring you in the face every day. And then you go to make your own cover and it looks like a toddler ate crayons and then shat on your screen. Or, worse, you think it looks great but in fact it looks like a toddler ate crayons and then shat on your screen.

So here are the broad brushstroke basics you need to know in order to make your own covers that look good.

Pixel Dimensions


Amazon wants your cover to be 1200 pixels wide and 1800 pixels tall. Pixels are the teeny-tiny dots of light on your screen. When it comes to screen resolution, the more pixels you can jam into the same amount of physical screen space, the higher quality your screen is. When it comes to works of digital art, pixels are of finite measurement like centimeters or inches.

Digital media can be created at a larger pixel size and scaled down (downsampled) to a smaller pixel size just fine. Pixels are discarded when this happens.  However, if you try to make a small digital image larger (upsampled), it looks terrible. This is because your software has to add pixels where none existed before and despite all our amazing technology, it's not that good at it. Your image suffers quality loss as if you made a xerox copy of a xerox copy of a xerox copy.

Basically:

  • 1200px wide by 1800px tall
  • Downsampling is cool, upsampling is usually Satan with a cat dick and should be avoided.

Image Sourcing


Alice K. Wayne's excellent book covers
Many erotica writers get their photos from Deposit Photos because of their sensible usage guidelines. For any service, make sure you check their guidelines. Some are okay with it as long as the pictures you use are tagged as erotic or sexy. In some cases, you can't show anything identifiable about the model.

There are models you can hire yourself if you have the money. What's weird about erotica is that you don't hire a photographer, who then finds you a model and performs a shoot. You hire the model, who then uses his or her own photographer to conduct the shoot.

But if you're new and/or cheap, you need to get creative. I had a friend who was a photographer kindly offer to shoot her own daughter for the cover of Enthralled. For my forthcoming book, Revenant, I put out the call to my readers to see if anyone fit the bill as a model. I was very lucky to have someone who was not only the perfect Musette, but she had a friend who was a photographer and who could produce quality images. I got the idea for this after hearing that my writer friend Alice K. Wayne used her own friends as models for her book covers.

What Should the Picture be of?


The image should cover several criteria:
  • It should of course comply with Amazon's guidelines (see above).
  • The cover image should be of a sexy person that appeals to the gender/orientation for whom you're writing, or a couple. In other words, if you write mainly for heterosexual women, then your cover should feature a sexy man.
  • People like to imagine themselves as the main character and they have their own ideas about what's attractive. This is why you often don't see all of the model's face on erotica covers. Mystery breeds arousal. This is not of course a requirement, it's merely a reasonable suggestion.
  • The image should not have anything too detailed or important where you'll want to put the text. Generally this would be the top and bottom thirds of the cover area.
  • The picture does NOT have to match anything exactly about your story. Also, the weirder the stuff you write, the harder this is to accomplish. You have any idea what most stock photos look like when I try to search for "sexy demon?" Like a chick in a fucking halloween costume.
  • If you're writing a series, all the cover images should have enough similarity or continuity between them so that all the books look like they belong together in a series. 
  • The image should be discernable as a small thumbnail, because that's exactly how most people are going to first see it. This is why a simple closeup of some sweaty pecs & and abs is better than seeing an entire man standing against a fence in front of a landscape.

Good Cover Text 


Good cover text is where most DIYers sin most egregiously. Cover text must be easy to read on a small thumbnail. Secondary to that is the style of the lettering. Most people fuck up both of these. Here are some tips:
  • Use Pixlr to create your covers. Even the "express" version can make nice covers, and because you have to pick from their fonts, you're less likely to pick a bad one.
  • Pixlr also has a more robust web application ("Editor" vs. "Express") that lets you use your own fonts, as do many image editing programs like Photoshop or GIMP.
  • The fonts that come with your computer are shit. Get new ones. 1001 Free Fonts is a good resource to get new fonts. Learn how to install fonts, it's not hard at all.
  • Two fonts you should never use are Comic Sans MS and Papyrus. Those horses died a long time ago, for fuck's sake, stop beating them. 
  • Avoid Arial/Helvetica and Times New Roman as well, as they're so common and plain they have no life or soul to offer your title.
  • Good cover text should be readable at thumbnail size. This means it needs to be big enough and stand out enough against the background.

Examples

I'll use my own covers as examples to illustrate my points.

Enthralled

The cover for Enthralled follows everything I said above. You don't see the model's entire face, and the text is large, stylish, and high-contrast. The image was photographed by a friend of mine. Using both the Editor and Express versions of Pixlr, I was able to create this cover. The one thing that would have improved it would be to make the title text white instead of red so that it stood out more.

A couple other elements worth noting are that I try to have the same formats and fonts for the author name on all my covers. This is so that they are more easily recognizable once you've seen one. I also try to put a quote at the very top above my name. The quote comes from a reviewer and is legit (why you want people reviewing your ARCs before you publish).

Futanari Loves Octogirl

For this series, I was able to follow my normal ideals for the first book's cover. For the second one, the character's eyes got in the way of placing the text where I wanted it. I couldn't do anything about the picture, so I moved the quote to above the title.

Creating these covers involved some advanced compositing where I combined several images together to get what I wanted. Although, the first book's cover wasn't that big of a deal: I combined a picture of a girl with a picture of octopus tentacles to imply an octogirl without showing such an impossible creature outright.

But notice how both covers have a similar look to them: both feature black and white photographs (for the most part) and the same fonts. The third book in this series will look similar to the first two.

If You Can't Be Bothered


I've been thinking about this a lot and I've decided to go ahead and do it. If you want me to design your covers for you, I will. The best way to contact me is to message me on Facebook. If we work together, you can pay me via Amazon gift card and each cover is $30 U.S. Get in touch with me and we'll discuss. 

09 January 2016

Write What You Want or Sell Books? Are These Desires Exclusive of Each Other?

As a niche, futanari is not the worst thing ever. It's popular enough that I can, less than a year after starting to write erotica, make enough money at it every month to pay a couple bills and have some "mad money." And I'm surprised and glad at the people I've introduced to it who'd never heard of it and ended up thinking it was really hot.

But I also get comments a lot to the effect of "it's really hot, but girls with giant cocks is not really my thing." That's understandable. Futanari is a weird niche because it attracts all kinds of people: straight, gay, lesbians, every point in between, and trans. The majority of futanari enthusiasts seem to be mostly straight males.

However, most erotica readers are straight women.

So you see the inherent conflict, here.

The question is: how do I write what I want to write and also sell books?

Could I write billionaire step-shifter MC BDSM stories? Yeah, sure. I could also KILL MYSELF.

Actually, I could write a story like that: as a parody. And then inevitably, some people wouldn't realize it's a parody and send me illiterate emails about how much they love it and then I'd have to kill myself, anyway.

My subconscious has been working on solutions to this dilemma. I only find out about this after receiving the product of that labor, usually known as a flash of inspiration. When I started on the second Futanari Vampires book, Revenant, I simply knew that the title character of that story would be male. My conscious mind and ego wanted to rebel against this. I strove to make this character futanari or even female. But no matter what I did, it just didn't feel right, because the character was "born" male in my subconscious.

So this means that Revenant will be full of male-on-futanari sex. For my female readers that are more or less straight, they'll have a chance to see how I write male characters. I hope y'all like it, because there's more coming in the future.

In the forthcoming steampunk sky pirate witch series, there will be all kinds of characters: futanari, male, female, and CATGIRLS (I may be a little excited about the catgirls). Futanari will still be there, but they won't be the main focus. They'll be part of a smoking hot erotic mix. This is something I want to write, very much, and it's also something I hope will sell well.



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04 January 2016

7 Cranky-Ass Random Thoughts about Writing, Social Media, and Life


  1. Kindness is not sexual interest or desire. If you're mistaking simple politeness for sexual interest, you need to back the fuck up and examine where you went wrong in life.
  2. Not liking something doesn't mean it's bad, wrong, evil, or immoral. It only means that your personal preference is otherwise. What you love can be (and probably is) just as wrong and stupid and bad to other people, so get over yourself. Keep your judgmental-ass mouth shut.
  3. Publicly expressing how desperate you are for love or sex will not get you the kind of attention you really want It will attract losers and users and dick pics (or if you're male, you'll just be ignored entirely). Everyone feels lonely and bereft at times. Have some good friends whose shoulders you can cry on and keep that shit off your public timeline. Especially if you're an author selling books about love and sex. 
  4. If you truly cared about something or felt strongly about something, I would think you could take a moment to compose your own thoughts and feelings about it in your own words instead of being a sheep and copy/pasting the same fucking status as everyone else. All that tells me is that you're lazy and that you just want to feel good about yourself for a moment. Especially if you're a writer. Jesus Christ, fucking write something, and do it well. As soon I figure out your status is a paste job, I stop reading. I don't even care what it's about. Maybe that's just me, and maybe I'm kind of a dick about it, but why follow the crowd when you can blaze trails for others instead.

  5. People are suckers for nice poetic phrases that for some reason always start with word "And," but ignore real wisdom or anything that requires true self-examination.
  6. Being an indie self-published author means you are a one-person publishing company.It means you have to do or hire out everything that publishers do. You may not like all those other aspects to it, but if you fail at them, you won't sell books. People make a big deal about writing, but I'm sorry: writing is only the first step. It's merely the price of entry now.
  7. Nearly everything you believe about the world is probably wrong. History is a lie. If you want to know the truth about anything, look at who's talking and how they get paid. Look at their agenda. Follow the money. If that's too much work for you then shut your mouth. Being informed is better than being opinionated. Snopes.com is your best friend. Ignore others' bloviating ignorance (if you had to look up bloviate, congratulations, it's an awesome word to have in your arsenal :) ).





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