Posts Tagged ‘Cover art’

The Price of Beauty

Our culture puts a premium on aesthetics. Sculpted figures, plucked eyebrows, laser depilliation, and cosmetic surgery. It’s a multi-billion dollar business and it makes a person wonder if it’s all worth it. The great news is, this post has NOTHING to do with any of that!

I’m a writer anxious to find any ethical means possible to sell my books. Part of that means having some outstanding cover art for them. By and large, I’ve surpassed that goal with everything I have. But sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. Exceptions that knock even my personal standards away… but more on that in a moment.

For my 50th title available for sale, I put together my fantasy series, Order of the Dragon. It consists of four books that continue the adventures of the characters in the Blades of Leander trilogy. This comes right after I put out a 4th book in my Wanted series, which meant my trilogy omnibus needed to be updated to a series. More cover art changes!

Willsin Rowe to the rescue! Not only did he make the minor changes to the text for Wanted, but he put into reality some work he’d been dabbling with for 3D style cover art. So now Wanted and the new Order of the Dragon boxed sets show some outstanding cover art! The only problem was the original Blades of Leander omnibus – how could we leave it plain and 2D? Willsin put his creative genius to work and a couple of days later he gave me my answer. A new 3D cover for all 3 of them!

But is a new cover art, no matter how amazing, reason enough to buy the book? Well, if you ask me and if it’s about my books – absolutely! But if not, then consider the great deal getting all of these top rated books at once is. How can you go wrong?

Wanted series boxed set, by Jason Halstead Blades of Leander trilogy, by Jason Halstead Order of the Dragon fantasy omnibus, by Jason Halstead

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at


Headaches and Parasites

January 10, 2012 2 comments

I got a call yesterday from my wife stating that she was going blind in one eye and the other one was blurry. Soon it was followed by black spots, flashing colors, and erratic eye movement when she tried to close her eyelids.

My first reaction was to assume it was a migraine. I’d had a few of them back in my senior year of high school. It’s terrifying, the first time especially. I wondered if it really was true that masturbation could make me go blind! Fortunately I haven’t had any sense. There was incident a few years ago regarding some temporary partial blindness, but that was caused by some aggressive (and wasteful) creatine loading without proper hydration.

Back to my wife – what really freaked me out was when her speech became slightly slurred on the phone and she had trouble remembering some key words. It was at that point I pulled some strings to get somebody to cover for me at work so I could get her to the doctor to be checked out. Some basic tests and a CT scan later showed that she was in perfect health. It really was just a migraine. Hearing that lowered my blood pressure as well!

Half an hour later after a shot of migraine-killing-stuff she felt good enough to suggest going to the gym for our regular Monday night workout. I put up a little resistance but I was proud of her determination. I did take it easy on her at the gym, but she made up for the lower intensity with higher volume. Attagirl!

Are their parasites involved? Little creatures chewing away at blood vessels and synapses causing debilitating headaches and blindness? No, there are not. Or at least not in the this case. The parasites I’m referring to involve creatures that are eaten in egg form and hatch inside the digestive tract of a host. As they mature (rapidly), they eat first the nutrients in the host’s digestive tract then later, as they grow, they begin to eat the host. Eventually they need to exit the host. At full size these creatures are perhaps the size of a small passenger car.

WTF am I talking about? Why it’s my new book I’m hoping to release in the very near future! Editing is done on Vitalis – Parasites. It’s the third book in the sci-fi series about the accidental discovery of a life-supporting hostile new planet outside of human controlled space. Editing is completed, now I’m onto the cover art stage. Vitalis – Parasites will also be available to Amazon Prime Members for free via the KDP Select program!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at


A New Look

December 14, 2011 1 comment

Voidhawk – The Elder Race, has a fresh face on it. The new cover art (by Willsin Rowe) continues the new look of Voidhawk and really spices things up. The original art, I’m not afraid to say, always bothered me. Quickly thrown together and mismatching, I was miffed but forced to accept it. The new stuff, on the other hand, is sharp, has some great contrast, and really pops off the stage.

Check it out yourself – and if you like it start with book 1, Voidhawk, which is only $.99 on Amazon!

Voidhawk, book 2, by Jason Halstead

Voidhawk - The Elder Race, on Amazon


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Cover Me, I’m Trying Something New!

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The “Cover” I’m talking about is new cover art! This time it’s Voidhawk, my first book with some fresh new art from Willsin Rowe (artist extraordinaire!). But wait, this isn’t just a simple collection of images joined together to make a cool looking cover, he had to create much of this from scratch. That, my friends, is the true mark of a craftsman! Go check his website out ( and feel free to hit him up if you’ve got some artwork you need done.

In the meantime, here’s the new cover for Voidhawk:

Voidhawk, by Jason Halstead


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Starting Over

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I emerged from my warm house this morning to find a blanket of heavy snow on the ground. I believe I may have said a bad word. Or five. I need new windshield wipers on my car and my windshield washer fluid is low. Oops, another bad word just slipped out. Yes, it’s November and yes, I live in northeastern Ohio. Suck it up, right?

Well not to worry, in spite of the inconvenience of cold hands and slow drivers, I remain positive. Very positive, in fact, because Willsin Rowe and I finished a great new cover for one of my books last night. The book is Dark Earth and it was supposed to be my attempt to enter the YA genre. It turns out I have a hard time telling a story from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl, so instead it launched my first foray into urban fantasy / paranormal.

Dark Earth follows Eric Baxter, a devoted single father who has not had the easiest life. His daughter, it turns out, is very special. So special that people want to kill her. It becomes Eric’s job to protect her, even if that puts the world as we know it in jeopardy. We all know the good of the many is supposed to outweigh the good of the few, but try telling that to a man who’s lost everything except his little girl.

In the process of keeping her safe Eric learns that part of what makes Jessica so special comes from him. He’s got a little something special inside him too, something that comes out when the moon is full.

Dark Earth also establishes my Dark Earth series. Already published in this series are The Lost Girls and Voices, with Traitor pending release in December of 2011 or possibly early in 2012.

Paranormal thriller Dark Earth

Dark Earth, by Jason Halstead


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Overcoming Random Writing Pitfalls

October 31, 2011 5 comments

It occurred to me that I’ve been blogging for a while now and the value of my blogs to my fellow writers might not have been as helpful as it has been in the past. Oh sure, I’m trying to share what I learn as I fight my way into the industry, but I’m contacted fairly regularly by people who are at the beginning phases and are desperate for help in trying to achieve their dreams.

First a disclaimer: I’m still reaching for my dreams, I’m not there yet. What are my dreams? Making writing my day job. I know some people who have reached that point though, and without exception they are stand up people that I’d be happy to spend time with. I’m working on it though and to that point I’ve made my way up to over 150 books sold a month, including some wonderful people in Europe. So take my advice as my opinions only. These tricks and tips work for me, but maybe the won’t for you. Even if they don’t I encourage you to read them with an open mind and see if maybe they might spawn some out of the box idea that will help you when you’re in a bind. With that said, on to the questions:

I want to write a book about such-and-such, but I don’t know how to start it!

This is an easy one for me. Make yourself the main character. Sure, it can be a little awkward if the main character is significantly different from yourself, but I’m not suggesting you dress like the character or anything. Just put yourself in that character’s shoes. Once you’ve accomplished that, figure out what the character is going to be doing at any given point and then start writing about it. Ideally your story should start with an explosion. Not necessarily a literal one, but some event or scene with instant excitement that has the reader hooked as quickly as possible. As an example, a book I’m editing right now (Traitor, the sequel to The Lost Girls) starts with my main character out shopping with a friend when she spots a suspicious couple. She trails them, convinced that the girl is under duress and the guy is going to do something particularly nasty to her. This is confirmed when she discovers they’ve slipped into a restricted section of the mall behind a locked door. Out comes the badge and the gun – my main character’s in her prime now, this is what she lives for.

I’ve been working on a story but I’m stuck!

This happens to me too. I deal with it in different ways. Some times I need to shelve the book for a little bit and work on something else. My subconscious keeps working on it though and at some point it forces its way back into the foreground and says, “Since you can’t figure this out, I did it for you – now write this!”

Other times I need to reread it and revise it. My original plans for Wanted involved a lot more happening in that first book. There was supposed to be one character running away from the others who then got “rescued” by a scary group of people. Convinced he needed to win their trust he’d try to become one of them and betray his former companions, all the while that former group would be searching for him. I got stuck though – it didn’t make sense and I couldn’t figure out a way around it. Rather than load it full of BS that I wouldn’t buy I took a step back and then realized I had the perfect solution. It required me blowing away over 8,000 words of the story, then rewriting it so that it ended a lot sooner than I’d first planned. It was a much better story at that point though. Readers agree – Wanted outsells every other book I have by at least a ratio of 4:1 and I regularly get feedback praising the book. In fact, I got so much positive feedback I was compelled to write a sequel called Ice Princess.

So my advice for this is to make sure you’re not forcing something that doesn’t work. Rather than trying to pound that square peg in a round hole see if maybe you should change things so that it fits better. It might not be what you wanted, but if you keep an open mind you’ll probably be a lot happier with the finished product.

I wrote a book, but it’s unpublished and I don’t know what to do with it!

It used to be that was the case of a lot of people with good stories to tell. These days publishing is changing. A lot. I’ve been trying to get people to read my stuff via the Internet since the early 90s – unfortunately I didn’t know how to write back then so it was a crap shoot at best for me. These days I’m a much better writer and there are all sorts of opportunities for people who are willing to publish both digitally and via print. A few print on demand companies exist that are affordable, if you feel you must see your book in print (Createspace, Lightning Source, Lulu, and others). I use Createspace myself, though I often get angry when doing so for a variety of reasons I won’t go into. To be honest, those reasons are likely to be my own quirks as much as they are problems with the company. Worth mentioning is that I only get the print version of the books for either giveaways or for gifts to those who aren’t interested in an e-reader.

Ebooks, on the other hand, are the way of the future. Print books will never go away, but they have been showing steady declines in sales compared to their digital counterparts. Likewise using a POD service will most likely not get you through the doors and into major bookstore retailers. With an ebook that is not the case! Amazon and Barnes and Nobles both have massive online presence catering to their ereaders. I prefer the Kindle myself, but that’s only because I haven’t played with the Nook. I have friends who prefer the Nook from Barnes and Noble. In either case, as a writer you can self-publish your work via Amazon’s KDP site or the Barnes and Noble PubIt website. Alternatively there’s Smashwords, another great epublishing site that will also reach out to both Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, as well as many other distribution channels. Only problem with Smashwords is the delay in getting royalties from the downstream e-tailers.

That’s all there is to it – just self-publish and watch the success come rolling in!

Or wait, maybe it’s not so simple. What about cover art for the book? Editing? Marketing and promotion? Yeah, it’s a lot more complicated than I’d ever realized. That’s one of the backbones of my blog, my exploration into the trials of publishing. It can be done on your own and it can be done at very low cost. Or if you want some help you can try to find one of the many publishing companies that have sprung up recently. I’ve got one too that I co-own with a friend and fellow writer. She’s also a wickedly good editor, with added emphasis on the “wicked”. She wields that red pen like a scythe some days. Anyhow, if you think you’ve got a good enough book and want to send it our way, stop by our website at and click on submissions. We focus on filling in the holes we experienced with other publishers – bad communication, poor business intelligence info, infrequent royalty payments, and a lack of marketing / promotion to say the least. Oh, and the author keeps 70% – 75% of the royalties. We’re here to help each other out, not to get rich off of someone else’s hard work.

Those are the three big questions I see the most – at least among questions not centered around me or my own work. And since this isn’t about me, there’s no reason to bother anyone with that Q & A. I’m happy to field more questions though! If you’ve got them post them as a comment or send me an email ( I love helping other writers out – it helps me out just as much.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Fresh on the Shelves – Ice Princess!

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay, it’s not on the shelves yet…a few more days, but I’ve got the finished draft of the cover art on hand and here’s a sneak peak of it!

Ice Princess, 2nd book in Wanted series, by Jason Halstead

Ice Princess, the second book in the Wanted series

Oh yeah, it’ll be on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords, Kobo, iBook, and anywhere else I can think to put it. Help a starving artist out and pick up your copy as soon as it’s available – a good day of sales can push it into one of Amazon’s top selling lists and that’ll help me save towards becoming eccentric in my old age!

By the way, the cover art is by A.J McLain, and every sale sends a little something his way too. Just think, for less than a cup of premium coffee you can help out two people AND be entertained longer than that cup of coffee would last you.

Okay, cheesy sales pitch over, pardon me for my excitement at seeing this book getting close to its release.

Writing the Book Blurb

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m an American. I hate to encourage any stereotypes but like many of my fellow countrymen (and women), I want to see results in a timely fashion. Oh sure, I accept that “right now!” is not realistic, but still, anything that slows down my progress is irritating.

Take, for example, a stretch of a few days where people don’t appear to be buying books. Okay, maybe it’s just my books, but I don’t like being an attention-whore. Anyhow, here I am doing my utmost to try and figure out the art of selling books, whether it’s price point, cover art, blog, reviews, or something involving a special dance, chanting, and optional chicken blood. And in the midst of what seems like slow and steady progress I run into a roadblock of no sales for a couple of days. Where did I err?

Looking back my most recent change was rewording multiple blurbs. This was after a conversation with someone on Twitter who reminded me of what often influences me when it comes to picking out a book. That and studying other, successful blurbs. Or wait, the blurbs of other successful books. Perhaps they are successful in spite of their blurbs? Regardless, my point is that I’ve been trying to refocus the blurb into something geared at selling the book(s), rather than a 300 character synopsis of the story. Among that reworking is special focus on how the main character(s) evolve, grow, and improve themselves (and the hardships they endure).

I read once that a story is about the characters and how they grow and improve. People identify with people, not plots or objects. I think some of my best books so far involve a lot of special characters. Take Wanted, my most successful book – it’s got some extreme characters in it that people really take a liking (or a hating) to. I’ve got another one I’m finishing up called The Lost Girls with a main character that is so damn believable, loveable, and messed up that I’m really expecting her to be a big hit. Er, by her I mean the book. I’d never make the mistake of getting too attached to my fictional characters…even if she did make me write three books about her back to back (to back).

So here are some of the new blurbs. Yes, it’s part shameless self-promotion but it serves two other purposes as well: 1) Considered whether this is decent or not (and feel free to comment on it) and 2) Another stepping stone towards future success for fledgeling writers seeking to spread their wings.

Or maybe my faithful blog-readers instead subscribe purely out of amusement at my attempts. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. 🙂

Dark Earth:

Eric Baxter’s dreams were shattered when his wife was taken from
him by a reckless driver on a snowy Alaskan road. All that remained was his
newborn daughter, Jessica. Uprooting to provide a safer life for his child,
Eric moved back home to northern Michigan.

Thirteen years later with Jessica raising the bar in
everything she does, darkness returns to the Baxter’s life in the form of a
crazed gunman. Surviving the assassin and seeking answers, Eric has to not only dig into
the secrets of his deceased wife’s past but also search for his own father that he never

The answers are beyond belief – until the next hunter shows
up with orders to kidnap Jessica and take her back to the world he came from.
In order to protect her Eric has to push past sanity and reason to embrace his
own dark legacy.


Too young and naïve to care about the tensions between
nations, Dexter Silverhawk considered himself the luckiest man alive when he
found a derelict voidship hidden amongst some asteroids. Making it void-worthy
and finding a crew to sail it seem like minor problems when he ends up in a
Federation prison.

Rotting in a communal cell, Dexter’s luck shows a fickle
side when a mysterious elven woman is thrust into into his life. Helping her
fend off an assault Dexter quickly learns that her mind and her tongue are weapons
against which he has little defense. Unable to resist, he hires her at the first

Surviving both politics, sorcery, and even ancient curses
will force the growing crew of the Voidhawk to put aside their differences and
work together. What remains for the young captain is the lessons of when to
heed his mind, and when to heed his heart.

Sex Sells:

People meet in the strangest places. Internet dating, smoky
bars, coffee shops, or while stalking a clueless woman in the hopes of violating
their privacy and capturing intimate footage to sell on the Internet.

Seeking revenge, Cindy blackmails Rodney into giving her a
cut of his profits. The more they’re forced to work together the more confused
Rodney’s mind and heart becomes. From forced partners to accidental witnesses in a
crime, Rodney and Cindy each face a decision – do they turn to each other or
away from each other?

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , ,

So What Really Sells a Book?

September 8, 2011 5 comments

I’ve reached some preliminary decisions regarding cover art. It’s a huge boon to have good cover art – I can’t find anyone who disagrees. But I still see books rated much higher than mine in the ranks on Amazon that have downright horrible covers. So what gives? Is it the blurbs? In most cases the blurb is inconclusive, at best. In some cases the blurbs are outright horrible and filled with errors, yet the sales are vastly superior. Back to WTF.

Reviews come to mind next. First my definitions:
Editorial Review – this is a review done by a reader or a blogger (or somebody at a reviewing firm). It is not necessarily attached to a book at a point of sale with a rating associated with it. Typically these are longer reviews with more thought and, potentially, spoilers attached to them.

Reader Review – these reviews are done at the various points of sale on the web and have a rating assigned to them. For exapmle, Wanted on the Kindle has two 4.0 rating reviews. There is often a brief bit of text associated with these as well.

When I launch Ice Princess, the sequel to Wanted, next month I’ve got a couple of editorial reviews ready to launch with it. This is a first for me – coordinating a book launch like that. We’ll see how it goes. Anyhow, the point is that I’ll have some data to assimilate at that point about launching a book with an editorial review. A few of my other books (Voidhawk, Human Nature, and Wanted) have editorial reviews as well and they get the most sales for me. So yeah, editorial reviews help a lot. New Beginnings, book 1 of my Vitalis series, has no reviews associated with it yet (some pending), and similarly I have no sales on the Kindle yet (Smashwords and Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, have seen some action).

Reader reviews give the book a rating on a scale (typically) of 1 to 5. The higher the number the better. Of course individual tastes may vary, but it stands to reason that the higher the rating and the more people that rate it, the better the book will be exposed and received. I believe this can sway a potential reader into buying the book. It’s reassuring to know that a few other people thought it looked good enough to buy – and if it’s not well then at least they weren’t the only one suckered into buying it!

Cover art?
Editorial Reviews?
Reader Reviews? Uh oh…

So how do we get reviews? Editorial is done by finding bloggers and people willing to do just that, then going out there and submitting your book to them for consideration. Typically there’s a wait involved. That’s okay, good things come to those who wait (or so my bottle of ketchup tells me).

As for reader reviews…that’s a bit trickier. Short of begging and pleading there’s not much we, as writers, can do to get our readers to take time out of their lives to click a button and jot down a few words. But for the readers out there reading this – support your favorite authors (or those who haven’t made your personal favorites list). Take that time to rate their stories you’ve read and let them know what you thought about it. Heck, “Good book, thanks!” is a great review if you don’t want to take time explaining why Shirley should have stabbed Brian after he slept with Tammy instead of asking to join them next time. Or just click the number of points / stars / whatever you think it’s worth. This helps the writer in many ways: it helps them by letting them know whether they did something right or not and it helps to potentially draw in more sales. A writer without feedback (and sales ARE a form of feedback) will lose interest sooner or later.

If you’ve got all of those (and they’re positive), but still not making sales then there’s not much left outside of shouting to the world that your book is out there and the said world should check it out.

In spite of the links and the preference for mentioning my own material, I’m not trying to drive anyone to buy my stuff (at least not any more than usual). I’m using it as examples of the data points I have, and how my barely modest success can be of use to others struggling to write and make a name for themselves. Oh – there is also no relation or involvement in any of my books to a Shirley, Brian, or Tammy, or at least none that I can recall.

More Cover Art Research

September 7, 2011 3 comments

As promised, my saga of cover art research continues. In this part I unveil the new cover for New Beginnings, Vitalis book 1. It’s a hell of a lot prettier than the original – but don’t believe me just because you should, believe me because I show you and prove it!

The old cover:

Book 1 of the Vitalis series, by Jason Halstead

Original Cover for New Beginnings

New Cover:

Vitalis Book 1 - New Beginnings

New cover for New Beginnings

The moral of the story? Well there isn’t one yet, but I’m willing to wager there’s not a soul reading this who won’t agree that I stand a far better chance of attracting interest and generating a sale. Plus it just makes you wonder what happened? Did she survive that crash? Did she cause that crash? Is that skinny girl really tough enough to do either? There may be a few other questions the picture prompts but I won’t cover them here. So my fellow writers, perfect your craft and edit your work until you’re sick of it, then spend just as much time on making sure you’re cover art is top shelf quality.

And now since I’ve proven myself right in this regard, clearly you should do everything I tell you – for example, Jason says go and buy his books then tell your friends, family, and the guy on the street to do the same.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at