Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rusty Nail, Street Dates, Jacket Copy & Book Covers

I've gotten reports from several sources that Rusty Nail is appearing on the shelves at various bookstores.

The street date is July 5. A street date for a book serves two purposes:


  1. It allows for an even playing field when booksellers begin to sell the book. Shipping con sometimes be delayed, which means one store might have copies a week or even two before other stores. With a street date, everyone (theoretically) begins to sell it at the same time, so no one can get a jump on anyone else.
  2. To make it on the bestseller lists, you need a lot of books sold in a short amount of time. If different booksellers begin to sell your book at staggered times, the initial launch is scattered, and not as dramatic. (you sell 5000 books over two weeks rather than two days)

That said, I'm not a big enough fish to warrant a hard street date (or at least to enforce a hard street date.) So I encourage everyone reading this to run out and buy as many copies of Rusty Nail as you can afford.

If you're a fan of thrillers, or even if you hate thrillers but find this blog helpful, put me in your karma debt and hop on over to your local bookseller and demand my book. I'd appreciate it, big time.

What is Rusty Nail about? Here's what the jacket says:

--------------------------------------------

Front cover:

"Thrills, chills, and laugh-out-loud hilarity...Konrath expertly pours on both shivers and fun." --Tess Gerritsen, author of Vanish

Anthony, Macavity, and Gumshoe Finalist for Whiskey Sour

Front inside flap:

"Konrath creates the perfect blend of pulse-pounding thrills and side-splitting humor." - David Ellis, author of In the Company of Liars.

Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels of the Chicago Police Department is back, and once again she's up to her Armani in murder.

Someone is sending Jack snuff videos. The victims are people she knows, and they share a common trait--each was involved in one of Jack's previous cases. With her stalwart partner, Herb, hospitalized and unable to help, Jack follows a trail of death throughout the Midwest, on a collision course with the smartest and deadliest adversary she has ever known.

During the chase, Jack jeopardizes her career, her love life, and the lives of her closest friends. She also comes to a startling realization--serial killers have families, and blood runs thick.

Rusty Nail features more of the laugh-out-loud humor and crazy characters that saturated Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, without sacrificing the nail-biting thrills. This is Lt. Jack Daniels' third, and most exciting, adventure yet.

Back inside flap:

"Jack Daniels is a detective for the new millennium: sharply witty, deftly wry, and unabashedly clever." - James Rollins, author of Black Order.

(graphic of rocks glass and skull in rifle crosshairs)

A native of Chicago, J.A. Konrath is the author of the thrillers Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary. If you'd like to see revealing photos of J.A., read free Jack Daniels short stories, and enter cool contests, visit www.JAKonrath.com

(graphics of Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary)

Back cover:

Praise for Rusty Nail

"Tougher than Kay Scarpetta, smarter than Stephanie Plum, Jacqueline Daniels rocks." -- Alex Kava, author of A Necessary Evil

"A heady mixture of chills and chuckles. You'll drain this libation in a single sitting!" -- Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of To Darkness and to Death

"Finely honed characters and a plot blessed with more twists than a drunk on a bender, J.A. Konrath has stirred up another addictive suspense novel that will leave readers salivating for more--and more." -- Gayle Lynds, author of The Coil

"Rusty Nail is twisted and violent, creepy and clever, fast, frightening, and funny. This is not your granny's thriller." -- Anne Fraiser, author of Before I Wake

(graphic of rocks glass and skull)

Praise for J.A. Konrath's previous novels:

"Excellent smart-mouth thrills. My advice...take a long sip." -- Lee Child, author of One Shot

"Snappy dialogue. Powerful action. A fabulous character to spend time with." -- David Morrell, author of Creepers

"Tough, gritty, and surprisingly touching." -- M.J. Rose, author of The Delilah Complex

--------------------------------------

Covers are important. Some booksellers believe they are the single most important element when it comes to book sales. I agree. A good cover arouses interest and provokes sales. It is what makes a browser take a closer look.

A cover needs to do several things all at once:

  1. It has to be eye catching, to stand out among the other books.
  2. It has to portray the theme/tone/genre of the book.
  3. It has to establish a brand.
  4. It has to inform.
  5. It has to make the buying decision simple.

I have a lot of input on my covers. Not on the art, but on the text. The art is all my publisher's call, and I think they're doing a good job because they're meeting the first three requirements I just mentioned. My covers are bright, attractive, and convey both my genre and my brand.

Once the cover makes a customer pick up the book, the words are what will ultimately hook them.

I like having these things on my covers:

  1. Blurbs by bestselling authors. I solicit my own blurbs (one of the benefits of networking) and I try to get blurbers whose audience I share. On the previous two books, I had almost all men, so for Rusty Nail I went with mostly women. I'm banking on the fact that readers care more about what Tess Gerritsen says than what Publisher's Weekly says, so I don't use a lot of reviews.

    The blubs pretty much reiterate the point I make in my jacket copy: the books are funny and scary. They also tell the reader that if they like Tess, Alex, Julia, Gayle, Anne, David, Jim, Lee, or MJ, it's a safe bet they'll like me too.

  2. Jacket copy. Because my series is still pretty new and relatively unknown, I can't assume a potential reader is aware of my first two novels. I want the ad copy to hint at the main conflict, emphasize the book has both thrills and laughs, and give a bit of info about the protagonist, but not reveal too much in the way of plot. This is the sizzle, not the steak. A scent, not a taste. If they want a taste, they can begin to read it.

  3. Bio. I like my bio to be super brief and to subtly lure folks to my website. A picture isn't going to help me sell books, so we don't use a picture, which frees up space for more blurbs.

  4. Series. I believe that readers are looking for long-term relationships with authors. A series is a good way to establish a commitment between writer and fan. I make sure my cover emphasizes that there are other Jack books, because it tells readers I won't just be a one night stand.

Though there's a lot of text on my covers, they aren't crammed full of it. The words are in a large, easy to read font, with plenty of graphics and negative space to break them up.

The goal of the cover is to give the customer something they recognize, even if you're a new author to them. People buy what is familiar and comfortable. They are brand loyal. If they have a good experience, they seek out the same experience again and again.

I like my covers, because I feel as if they're doing what they're supposed to. it will be interesting to see if the public feels the same way.

17 comments:

anne frasier said...

thanks for the amazon link, joe!

personally i hate when bookstores don't honor street dates. I actually think they're paid extra to make sure the book is shelved on the correct day. if your book is already showing up -- that means you could have a month spread in there. grrr.

Millenia Black said...

Just ordered a copy with a gift card I've been meaning to use.

It better be good, Joe! I was planning to get Grisham. ;-)

Barry said...

Joe, great post on an important and oddly neglected topic. If you don't understand the principles behind what makes an effective package for a book, you'll have little chance of persuading your publisher to change course if they're making a mistake with yours...

I had some thoughts on this on MJ Rose's Buzz Balls and Hype sometime back; for anyone who's curious, here's a link:

http://www.barryeisler.com/writers_marketing4.php

Remember, your books are your business -- decisions can and must be delegated to your publisher and other partners, but you're ultimately responsible for everything (if your books die, your careers dies, while your publisher will continue along without you). I wish I knew when the Rain books were first published what I know today; it would have given me more influence in the choice of packaging.

Not that I have strong opinions about such matters...

Aimless Writer said...

I already ordered your book from my local B & N. Haven't recieved a call that its in yet but I might take a ride over and look for myself!
Note on your graphic; I like them because they are bright and easy to read. And if you look close you see more then the first glance.
When is your Rusty Nail 500 bringing you to New Jersey????

Richard said...

Oh, too much to think about! First steps first--how do I get an agent that knows how to sell? Wait--I'll go search the archives. I'm such a newbie!

Ellen said...

LOVE that cover! Hope it does well for you, Joe.

Barbara W. Klaser said...

Fantastic cover. I love that term "street date." Not sure why. It sounds a little like something a "working girl" would do (blushes as she leaves the room).

Thorne said...

Great cover... And thanks for such a great blog...

Jeri said...

Love the cover.

Do publishers put as much thought into the spine design, since that's the only part of most books a browsing customer will see?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Book covers. The art dept. at St. Martin's is currently working on mine. I'm curious to see what they'll come up with. My contract allows me approval, but what the hell do I know?

I know what I like, that's about it. Fingers crossed.

JA Konrath said...

Rob--

Approval means that you're able to say "Yes I like the cover" and that's about it. In other words, you'll be stuk approving whatever they show you.

You have a little bit of power when it comes to tweaking, or if the cover 100% stinks you can have your agent go to battle for you, but YOU MUST PICK YOUR BATTLES.

Praising a cover you don't completely love will win you friends withoin your house. You'll be considered enthusiastic, easy going, and open.

Damning a cover will get you labeled as egotistical, stubborn, and demanding.

Tread lightly, my friend.

Thanks for the kind words, all.

Jeri-- my publisher does care about spine art, because for Bloody Mary it changed from ARC to hardcover. Why? I dunno. But they thought it important enough to redesign it (the ARC spine was originally light green, now it is blood red)

An unrelated topic, I've been troubled that the paperback version of WHISKEY SOUR has been tough to find lately, and many warehouses are out of it. I just heard it is going into a second printing.

Woo hoo!

Carl Graves said...

CONGRATS my friend! Everyone I know will be alerted to Rusty Nails' release. And also congrats on the second printing of Whiskey Sour. Sweet.

Jude Hardin said...

I think all your covers are awesome, Joe. They really stand out in the crowd.

Congrats on WS going to second printing in PB! Maybe a lot of those fans will run out in a couple weeks to get Rusty Nail.

Good luck on the big tour!

Abe Munder said...

Heading out to Borders, Joe...

I like your covers. They are lively and fit the snappy storytelling inside.

It's got to be a sickening feeling to be stuck with an ugly one. Some of these I see... well, what do I know? Honestly, I just shrug looking at them. I'm looking forward to reading Mr. Eisler's thoughts on this.

Then again, maybe all parents love their ugly children. Maybe most authors love the feeling of their completed book in their hands, despite how the cover looks. Maybe I'll experience that too one day.

Elizabeth said...

LOVE the cover design! The dramatic lettering, bright green colors and the inviting cocktail peeking through - very cool!

I often pick books, wine and CDs by their packaging. My theory is that a company creative enough to support great design, and willing to put the time and money into producing it, likely put the same kind of creativity and energy into the content.

Besides, a good cover design has not once led me astray.

Good luck with your book, I'll keep my eye out for it!

Jeri said...

Maybe most authors love the feeling of their completed book in their hands, despite how the cover looks.

As someone who's had a lame cover (distant past) and a phenomenal cover (present), I can say it makes a huge difference psychologically. It comes through in how enthusiastically you promote it.

Re: cover approval. If you think something needs to be tweaked, make sure you wrap that bit of criticism in a heaping gob of enthusiasm. And thank the artist and production editor in your acknowledgments. If you don't know their names, ask your editor to find out. The PE's job is excruciatingly tough, and they don't get enough recognition.

Citizen Keen said...

I'm going to go get a copy as soon as it hits Powells. Not so much for the thrill, as I am not a huge fan of thrillers, but more for the karma. I'll be back with comments when I publish a book, and I'll expect reciprocity.