SubStack, Marketing Lamentations, and Cover Design Refreshes

There’s a new publishing platform out there called SubStack. I heard about it on Twitter. It looks cool, it’s free to use, and it’s got a bunch of features like MailChimp that cost extra on WordPress (the number of things this blog doesn’t have because I don’t feel like shelling out for a WordPress business account would stagger the imagination. The stumbling block is huge. It’s why I podcast on Spreaker). I thought it might be a good place to put some content that isn’t really for UJ or, some stuff I’d like to showcase.

The idea is similar to Patreon: get subscribers in the door, and they pay you for content. Visually, it looks a lot like Medium. I have had a hard time with both, and I don’t really know why. I can publish the stuff, but no one reads it. I’m not one of the big names SubStack boasts of. I have, at present time, no name at all, despite damn near 20 years doing various kinds of blogging. For some reason, I’m just not getting it.

Perhaps I’m just too esoteric. Perhaps I haven’t managed Marketing. Certainly when I try to read about SEO, my eyes glaze over. Everything that’s not conceptually obvious seems out of my reach. There’s a trick that I’m missing, some step beyond. I look at the names of people who have tens of thousands of subscribers at $15/month and I don’t know who any of them are. They all seem boring or the same Connected Elect as already write for big publications. I’m sitting in the middle of the Information Superhighway, watching the same Mack Trucks run me over, bragging about how light and nimble they are.

The curse of this age is that anyone can get their stuff made, but only a curated few get their stuff seen. Everybody has a way to put video on the internet, but only Superhero tentpole movies, featuring characters decades old, made by international megacorporations, seem to matter. Having a blog today is like having a UHF station back in the 70’s: Yeah, you’re doing it, but no one cares.

The practical upshot of all this is that until I figure out how to grow an audience, expansion into anything else is absurd. And there I confront the reality that the kind of art and story I like, that interests me, is not the sort of thing that jumps out of the Internet and screams “Pay Attention to Me!” Screaming “Pay Attention to Me!” is necessary but also stupid. And that would put me in the camp of the Intellectuals, except I hate them even more, because they don’t merit the title. They all write like ad-men and Buzzfeed interns.

And that’s why the place is called Content Blues, in case you should be wondering. I create Content, and I have the Blues about it.

But that sort of defeatist groaning only takes you so far. This isn’t an online suicide. I’m not done.

Click image to buy on Amazon.

What’s this? Something that’s been published since 2018, the Year of the Three Novellas. A good novella, eight chapters, clean narrative, third-person focused. It starts with a reference to Blade Runner and it uses an Alien encounter story to explore the Philsophical problem of the Ship of Theseus. It’s not as erudite as The Devil Left Him, or as creative as The Party At the Last Tomorrow, but I might like it best.. Like a lot of my work, it’s pro-human, as despite my well-documented moral cyncism as regards the capacity of my species, I am and always have been firmly on its side. I am human; I prefer human to other forms of life, and am unbearably wearied by those who do not.

Why am I talking about it now? Simple: I made an elementary change in the cover: I improved the font.

Orignal cover on the left.

The book bills itself as an “Existential Sci-Fi Monster Tale”, and the original font just did not suit that theme. It looks too comic, too chunky. A void is a place of emptiness, therefore having the letters fill up so much space feels wrong. I went through scores of cover designs during and after the writing and editing of it. What I went to press with had the right image, and so I probably didn’t want last-minute self-doubt rabbits gnawing at my purpose.

The beauty is, I can revisit these decisions. Will the new cover excite any interest? I’ll do a price-reduction on Amazon next week and see. Hope is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.

Updating a Classic: Giving Solar System Blues a Cover it Deserves

I like to call Solar System Blues my first novel. Certainly it was my first serious attempt at self-publishing, and my first serious review. Because of this, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted for the cover, and just kind of used the templates that CreateSpace and KDP offered.

That has changed.

Ssb2

Self-Publishing Review had this to say on it:

The world building is subtle and the author avoids too much information dumping on the whole. This book is a quick read and is only 140 pages. While the action and mystery come at the reader fast, after you get past the first few pages, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

In honor of the new cover, I’m doing a Kindle Countdown Deal starting July 2. That means between July 2 and July 5, you can get the ebook for the low low price of $0.99, and between July 5 and July 9, for the low price of $1.99.

Honestly, what do you have to lose? Click here to buy.

How to Compose Cover Art

This post from On a Wing and a Whim, via Mad Genius Club, is old (2014!), but the principles behind it are older, and that makes them, to my mind, trustworthy.

OK, now for ebook cover design, we’re going to focus on two layouts. They call them “The Z Layout” and “Perspectives Layout” in that handout, but I’m going to use the terms I was taught instead: The Hourglass, and The Triangle.

Why “The Hourglass” instead of “The Z”? Well, because it’s much easier for me to look at a cover, draw an X across it, and see what size font and image makes the whole thing feel balanced – the further away from the focal point, the larger the font needs to be. (Also, because I learned that term first.)

Important takeaway: your author name and your title should to be similar in size and the overall effect should be balanced from top to bottom. This is a rule of thumb, not a commandment, but it gives an idea of what’s pleasing to the eye, which is your primary directive.

For my part, I’ve been designing my covers with Adobe Spark lately. I like them, but might be I could use to absorb some design principles.

Always so much to learn.