Site Images and Genre for Once Giants

@LeeCarlon


Hey Lee, I was trying to find a way to PM you, but can't seem to find anyway other than through here. I wanted to ask a couple of questions about your review from way back. You stated:-



This has become of interest to me now, because I'm in the agonizing process of trying to determine the market for my fiction, as well as the right cover to attract the right people to it. So would you do me a solid and tell me what impression the art gave you exactly? And also why it turned you off as a reader initially?


I'm still yet to figure all this out so I'm not sure if the art is even pulling in the right people.


And to anyone else who is reading this and who might want to help, let me know your thoughts as well if you have time for a quick read. The market I think Once Giants falls into is somewhere between Sci-fi, cyberpunk and Superhero, but I'm not sure it delivers fully on any of those.


Any feedback would be appreciated.


Thanks in advance!


TC


Hey @TeamContract. If I might say, I think your art could be falling into the Uncanny Valley, unfortunately. Most writers avoid showing their character's faces in the art as well, it keeps people from forming the most appealing mental image they will. If you're thinking about cover art, I personally would go with something more stylistic. Maybe Size Queen sitting in the dark Favela getting rained on. I'm not sure.


Best of luck!


> And to anyone else who is reading this and who might want to help, let me know your thoughts as well if you have time for a quick read. The market I think Once Giants falls into is somewhere between Sci-fi, cyberpunk and Superhero, but I'm not sure it delivers fully on any of those.


Uh. Well. Okay. At a glance? My first thought was "Oh, huh. Giantess fetish stories."


The visual sexualization of the women in the art, both in costume and in airbrushed-glossiness, just entirely screams fetishization.


Now, if that's your target market, boy, do you have that nailed. >_>;


... The art looks very, very 80s. There is no other way to describe it. It's retro, it has the big hair thing going on, plus dude in a trench coat. Cheesy, over-the-top and clearly not taking seriously at all. It does sound like pretty much the perfect foot forward for a story involving superhuman former professional wrestlers who are now mercenaries. If that's what your story's going for, it's perfect.


If going for dark and gritty, you may want to change things. A lot. Or you're promising silver-age Superman and delivering Iron Age Batman.


Also, with that cover you'll have to deal with the fact that a lot of people from the anti-fun brigade in science fiction and fantasy these days, looking for excuses to get offended, so be aware that that's a thing.


Your art looks like the cover of a book of cartoon erotica, and whilst I now know your story isn't that, it kinda put me of for a while. It's waaaaaayyyy too fetishezed, and just looks, to me at least, creepy and incongrous with the story. Maybe tone down the fetishizm a tad?


Going by the art, I see scantly clad women alongside what looks like a Nineties hacker dude in a trench coat, wielding a katana. That screams "power fantasy for men with an Amazon* fetish" to me.


*By which I mean the female warrior tribe, not morally dubious internet shopping company.


Thanks for your feedback everyone. It's interesting to see the various impressions the art gave. My writing partner and I both come from a comic background so the representation is perhaps too literal to translate to novels.


We originally promoted on Deviant Art and while it did draw the attention of the "fetish" crowd, the story treats the giantess concept ironically so it never made many readers of them, if they even read at all.


@TanaNari I think your impression hit perhaps closest to what the material actually is and what we were going for. While it has very real characters, it's definitely supposed to be a fun, over the top ride, like a cheesy 80s action flick. (Did I mention I'm stuck in the 80s?) Anyway, certainly not dark and gritty.


I think the anti-fun brigade might be where we are stuck at the moment. I mean... A giant female wrestler called Size Queen? It's clearly supposed to be ironic and a hoot, but that's obviously not coming across very well and people are seeing it too literally. i.e. "this looks like giantess porn" and people never give it a try. Which is what we don't want.


However, if we play up the tongue-in-cheek nature, I fear it might come off as too comedic and while there is humor, it's certainly not comedy. On the flip side, if we make it too serious, I fear the story will not match the reader expectation in the end.


Such a tight rope!


Anyway, thanks again all for this feedback. It has been great. It's given us a lot to think about when we consider how to find the right audience for this stuff and how to market it to them.


Cheers


TC


Thanks. I was surprised at how many people didn't get it, actually.


The representation is fine, and "comics logic" works fine in literature. Just look at the old James Bond novels and tell me they are *not* essentially comic books.


Really, it's the webfiction medium that's going to be the biggest obstacle. Online fiction, especially, is going to cater to the PC crowd, because that's the main audience, and where that type of writer goes. So it's become where the readers go... a self feeding cycle, as these things usually are.


I look at it this way... the people who can't handle a cover this innocent aren't going to be your audience to begin with. Stay with your artistic vision... or if you're going to sell out, at least do it with a strategy that actually works. Nobody has *ever* become successful pandering to the morality police.


So... I'd say put your efforts into appealing to the more mature (nonsexual meaning, thanks) audience. If you figure out how to find them, let me know... I'm still working on that, myself.


Actually, in looking at it again, what your art can really use is something that takes the cheesy 80s stuff past the totally obvious and into "frying pan to the face" impossible to ignore.


Since your blurb makes me think there's space travel in this, maybe art of the ship in the background. Or if all else fails, throw an American flag in there, or pyramids, or some sort of cyberpunk building or something. I dunno, it's your story, you tell me... but what you have going on right now is at once too plain to be interesting, and too busy to be utilitarian. Totally ineffective at sending any sort of message, and it takes up more than half of the total screen space.


http://www.shauntmax30.com/1061068-photo-for-desktop-ghost-in-the-shell.html


Take that GitS wallpaper... The Major's costume is just as over the top as what you've got, but standing next to the battle damaged Tachikoma and carrying a gun, with the backdrop of the city. Batou being there doesn't really add anything, but doesn't detract and is better than leaving an empty spot, at least. The only people who can look at that and think "it's porn" are the horniest teenagers and the most sexually repressed adults.


That is the power of an effective frame around the characters.


@Team Contract, it seems you've already have received a lot of good advice, but I'll throw this out there for feedback purposes. Perhaps to try and illustrate a different viewpoint.


I've been keeping track of and getting occasionally updated (reading) your fiction since I first saw it here on WFG. My first reaction was that if you were doing any kind of fetishization it was as tongue-in-cheek. I got a cyberpunk/augpunk version of Xena kind of vibe. Perhaps that's not the best analogy, but I think the basics come across. I felt you were using tropes as contrast. I thought it added to the depth of the story, to be honest. Playing at first impressions, while also providing a deeper story. Yet, still being firmly in an 80's retro mystique. It kind of puts the reader in the frame of mind of your central protagonists. They were celebrities and the world has this superficial view of them, but they are real people dealing with larger-than-normal problems. These aren't fetish-amazons, they're 'real' (fictional) people. Now that the glam and the fame have run their course, they have to fight and prove who they are.


I don't have a problem with that one bit. I can see the depth just fine. I love having expectations pulled out from under me. The only thing that detracted from it for me (for a moment) was the wrestling angle. That's just because I'm not big into that (I'm a book-dork more than a wrestle-nerd).


I think @TanaNari said it best above... Don't lose sight of your artistic vision. Make the story what you want it to be. Keep putting your work out there with as many outlets as you can and those that are drawn to your story will arrive. Those that aren't, won't. Any detractors you get, ignore them. Well, listen to criticism, of course.


Thank you to @Shaeor above. I've never heard the term "Uncanny Valley" before. You've allowed me to learn something new today. I'm definitely going to try exploiting that with my writing and artwork now. You're to blame for the pseudo-humanoid abominations I'm about to unleash. =P


I know what it's like having a niche fiction that often gets superficially judged by art choice, genre, or whatever else. I'm writing a story in the swords & sorcery genre. The -actual- swords & sorcery genre, meaning taking cues from Robert E. Howard, Marion Zimmer, Michael Moorcock, Leigh Brackett, Fritz Lieber, C.L. Moore, Andre Norton, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Jordan and others. I'm trying to morph the genre into my own interpretation. Leather-clad, post-apoc, ancient lich sorcerers, dead-world, morally ambiguous, semi-high fantasy. Yet, I keep getting swept under the rug as a "Conan" story. Despite the fact I'm doing my best to remove my work from that trope. I get railed at by a lot of younger male-identified readers for having a lot of female lead characters, some strong, some still trying to find their way. I get railed at by a small few of female-identified readers for writing in a male-fantasy-dominated genre, when I keep saying "read it, please, it's not what you think it is." Worse yet, I'm doing kind of the same thing you're doing by mashing different genres together to make something unique. The story I'm working on is a mixture of tragedy, fantasy, romance (more coming later), a little science-fiction (later on), a little horror (for later on), and slight dashes of dark comedy here and there.


It seems that lately, people don't like having their expectations turned around. They don't like multiple genres in works. They certainly don't like trying things outside of their well-worn, thread-bare, easily-categorized comfort-zones. Maybe they've just gotten used to their point-and-click, judge-by-its-cover, Amazon clicking. The store, not the female warriors of ancient Etrusca.


All rambling aside... You can always write another story in another genre, later on. This story that you're working on right now, is what you're working on right now. Make the most of it. Make it awesome. Keep it up until you're satisfied with how it is. Don't let someone else tell you to stop. That's your choice to stop, no one else's. Please don't give up on a unique idea just because it's not the flavor-of-the-week. A lot of us are becoming tired of the Worm-clones, the Wattpad-fare, and the YA Slice-of-Life fics. No offense meant to them, it just never hurts to have something different now and then. Strawberry cheesecake ice cream is the best (for me anyway), but if that's all I eat, I'm going to get mad at it. Sometimes you just have to dig out the vanilla, or go nuts with the dulce de leche.


Ah, yeah, genre-blurring. Love how people these days hate that.


I made the possible mistake of blending Superhero and Supernatural Horror, myself. I think it's a lot like Spawn, but without the religious overtones and literally godlike power levels.


@TanaNari Wow, thanks so much for that encouragement to stick to the vision and for the great advice on how to improve the message the artwork is sending too. I think you're right. It's showing a lot without really saying too much. And funny you should use GitS as an example. One of my huge inspirations. :D


@Sovereign Thank you also for your kind words of encouragement. It's really heartening to know that there are people out there who really "get it" as you have. And it's nice to know that I'm not the only one struggling with genre identity for making something that's a bit off the beaten path.


And I'm actually not a big fan of wrestling either, to be honest :) I was looking for something that mirrors superheroes in real life and that would also have the lack of ethics to actually create giant women, and the wrestling industry fit the bill. Watching an episode of Total Divas sealed the deal for me lol.


I'm really encouraged after reading both your posts this morning. Thank you so much!


TC


The thing with the Amazon marketing advice Chrysalis was on about is that it's based around high concept stories. If you don't write high concept fiction, it doesn't really apply.


The whole point of high concept is that it conveys everything to the audience in a simple pitch. If the cover/title tells the reader everything they need to know, the story is a high concept one. If you can't convey that information, you're lower down the proverbial concept spectrum. Snakes on a Plane is high concept, War and Peace is not.


High concept stuff sells better to mainstream audiences. More often than not they are fast-paced and action-driven, with simple, archetypal characters. On the other hand, low concept stories don't sell well to a wide audience, and generally focus on character development and world building.


Genre lends itself well to high concept stories, because genre is ultimately just a marketing gimmick (if you like X, you'll love Y!). When you start mixing genres, you drop down the concept spectrum. Literature, by its very nature, tends towards the low end.


If you want to sell lots, you have to write for the market. You'll have to write high concept. If you want to do your own thing, you'll have to forgo mainstream success.


Just to mention, getting the more professional artwork was probably in your favour, not to mention asking for advice. (For me, your images weren't a draw, as I suppose I'm not into wrestling or the 80s, but it didn't detract either.) I say this since I grew into the habit of illustrating my own stories after personified math. In one of my peak depression moments I made a post here wondering about my T&T site, and a few people said "that amateur artwork is really detracting" - the first remark about it ever - and so I stopped doing it. In another thread in the forums I think you said you had 4 subscribers... in the first year of my site, I only got 3.


You may not be doing as bad as you think. Genre deconstructions are tricky.


@Dary: Super true.


@ Dary you haven't read my serial, have you? It's definitely not high concept. It's one of the most genre-bending storytelling experiments on Amazon. Even the narrative structure is unusual; there's nothing like it on Amazon. But if I want to sell books, I have to attract people somehow. And the 'rules of attraction' are the same no matter what you upload on Amazon. The algorithms work the same, too. The algos don't care if your story is high concept or not.


There is plenty of non-mainstream stuff that does well on Amazon. Like... dinosaur porn. I wish I was kidding! Virtual reality fiction like the Gam3 was non-mainstream at some point and kind of still is. And Game of Thrones was very much non-mainstream when it was first published. It created a new mainstream of its own. It will be harder to find your audience, but there's an audience for everything.


And yes, my advice applies to all stories. How much time have you spent researching the market? I did it for years. Feel free to ignore my advice, but please don't dismiss it on a public forum unless you've done your research.


Sorry about the derail.


Actually, I could tell your serial wasn't particularly high concept from the trouble you had with your blurb earlier in the year :p


My advice is based on everything I learned during my degree, as well as research I did into publishing at the time - which is what drove me to do this while internet serial thing, rather than go the traditional route of sending manuscripts to publishers.


Academic degrees don't teach you anything about how Amazon works. :P Not even most Amazon employees know how the algos work. The only way to learn that stuff is to experiment, observe, and talk to / cooperate with authors who've been successful there. And keep doing this for years. Because the rules change. The 'zon loves to change them on a whim. 2 years from now I'll probably have to write a whole new post.


I've found the marketing classes I took during my studies to be 95% useless in regards to ebook publishing.


I'm not dismissing anything you said, though. What I'm saying is that those methods are the very basis of high concept fiction - something the audience can understand from a title and cover alone.


And trying to sell something as something it's not is only going to result in disappointed readers.


Each and every story more or less fits into at least one genre. The issue usually arises when too many genres are mixed - for instance, humor + romance + horror. The more genres you add the more people will be put off by something or other. But you still have to market yourself as something, or else you'll find no readers at all.


If I had to market War and Peace, for instance, I'd put it under historical fiction.


And you'd be surprised how easy it is to market dinosaur porn... XD ((not that I have any experience marketing dinosaur porn. Honest.))