What is branding, you ask. . .
Branding requires that your potential readers will be able to identify the genre of the series and will look for the other books in the series. In essence the series has developed a brand.
Writing a series is a whole level of magnitude beyond writing a book. Not only do you have a story to tell, with characters that change during the story, you hope, but you also have to grow a series arc that must change over the course of several books. One book allows growth for characters within a snapshot of time. A series gives you the potential to create a comprehensive world where the characters and their context should also grow, over an era of time. Hopefully the end result is a unique place where the reader can escape.
One of the most important part in creating the mood for a series is the Cover. I design my own covers. I’m happy that I can and probably spend way too much time and energy on it. I think about it, I agonize over how to depict the characters, the stylistic approach I would take, whether to use specific images or abstract suggestions of the story. It takes me forever.
Then I worry about whether my ‘target market’, those readers who want to read high fantasy with young protagonists, will relate to the image.
Just as the first book in the Sanctuary series has taken forever to complete, the cover has also gone through a long history of gestation. But a funny thing happened. As the story matured, the cover changed and when I got both of them to the place that felt right the next three books in the series have rushed to get out. I’m grabbing asphalt trying to keep up. And falling short.
The world I’m trying to create is taking over and I better hold on tight or get left behind. But it takes time.
The cover, above, was developed from a 3D model. I thought I wanted to do this because I hoped, still do, to create an interactive version of the story, with animations. Something that is doable if you are working with wire frames and animation. This cover was created by putting a “skin” over a wire frame base. The advantage to this is that the frame remains essentially the same even when you turn it , displace parts of it, your final result is recognizable as the same character. This is a realistic looking character but I finally I discarded the cover because I wanted something more “real”. I wanted a heroine that felt vulnerable, fey, wary and tough, like the character and I don’t have the skill to show that with CG. Finally, I didn’t think my reader would relate as strongly to a CG model as they would to a photo-model.
This cover was created to refer to an element in the book rather than a character. This cover appeals to me but it doesn’t suggest the genre/target I’m trying to reach as well as the close up of the main character. A cover image influences how the reader sees the character sometimes that isn’t a good thing. In this version I’d inserted images that suggested setting.
“Grace Notes” is the story of a girl with a secret. She has immense power but she is afraid to let anyone know. She is also hiding from the judgment of people who are uncomfortable with her strength.
In order to realize her potential the heroine will have to face her worst fear and question her most comfortable assumptions. The fact that these themes are revealed through a love story between characters of wildly different cultures that have been in historic opposition, existing amid prejudice and misunderstanding adds nice layers of richness, I think. And of course the motivation, besides heroine’s need for authenticity, peace of mind, and joy, is the driving force of first love.
Examples of my branded series:
Covers in progress for the next three titles in the Sanctuary series:
Book two, release Sept 15, 2015
Book three, Javelin, release date November 2015.
Book four, Cohort, release date December 2015.
Another factor of branding a series is by title, That’s why the final covers carry the title: The Fae Wars-Grace Notes, The Fae Wars- Cantata and so forth. The original titles, Grace Notes and Cantata meant nothing to the average reader, though hopefully the meaning became clear in the reading of the books.
Covers that are strongly branded for fantasy series:
the representational simplicity of the
Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher