Wednesday, August 15, 2012


by Lois Winston

As those of you who read my post last month know, in addition to writing the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries for Midnight Ink, I've recently embarked on an indie publishing career, making available as ebooks some of my older romances and romantic suspense books under the pen name Emma Carlyle. My backlist will also be available shortly.

I'm lucky that I have a design background and a son who knows just about all there is to know when it comes to designing on the computer. Scott is an animator and does post-production work for TV and the movies. My skills were learned way before PhotoShop, Quark, Publisher and all those other programs were a glimmer in some geek's eye. They were honed back in the prehistoric age when we actually had to spec type the old-fashion way -- using {{shudder}} math formulas!

So what's this got to do with why I'm grateful I'm not a surgeon? I'm getting to that.

For the indie books and my backlist I need cover art. I've been coming up with the concepts and finding the perfect artwork and photos to incorporate. Scott has provided the technical skill to execute the covers. I've been very pleased with the way the covers have turned out.

However, some of the covers need to have Lois Winston as the author and others, Emma Carlyle. A couple of weeks ago Scott created the perfect cover for Lost in Manhattan, a romantic suspense where the heroine is suffering from amnesia after being hit by a taxi. I spent days searching through royalty free photo databases because I had a very specific image in mind. I needed a photo of a red-headed young woman with a French braid. I finally found the photo. Scott took a shot of the Manhattan skyline and merged the two images. The cover is exactly what I'd envisioned.

I spent a lot of time looking at that cover. I had to resize it for the various ebook platforms where I was uploading the book. I had to add it to my website. I pinned it on Pinterest. Copies started selling on Amazon and other places.

Then one night after the book had been available for several days and sold about a dozen copies, I received an email from Scott just as I was about to power down my computer for the night and go to bed. He had noticed that he put the wrong author name on the cover!

I couldn't believe it! I must have looked at that cover a hundred times and never noticed that Lois Winston is listed as the author and not Emma Carlyle! I'm trained as an artist. I'm supposed to have a critical eye when it comes to visual elements. I'm not supposed to miss something so blatantly wrong as this.

So I quickly uploaded a revised cover and waited several days for the various sites to refresh the image. Of course, during that time, the book kept selling with the wrong cover. I'm now waiting for the nasty reviews to arrive. Then again, maybe like me, no one will notice.

And that brings me to why I'm glad I'm not a surgeon. I screwed up because I was rushing and not paying as close attention as I should have. But my screw-up, in the greater scheme of things, is a pretty benign screw-up. No one got hurt. It may have been a devastating error for me, but in hindsight I can slap my head and laugh about it.

But it got me thinking about how a mistake made by someone else can have all sorts of horrible consequences for other, innocent people. At least I didn't leave a medical instrument inside a patient, and for that reason, I'm very grateful I'm not a surgeon.

And speaking of surgeons, this is the perfect segue into a topic near and dear to my heart -- breast cancer research. To celebrate the availability of the five Emma Carlyle books, instead of throwing a champagne and caviar party, I'm making a donation to breast cancer research. And guess what? You can determine how large a check I write. Throughout the month of August, I will donate $500 for every 1,000 Emma Carlyle books sold. You can find blurbs, excerpts and buy links on the Emma Carlyle website.

Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. Visit her at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Visit Lois's romance writing alter-ego Emma Carlyle at


Kathleen Kaska said...

I truly enjoyed reading your post today. Those mistakes can happen so easily. BTW, where did you find the image of the red head? I'm looking for one also, except this red head has long, curly hair.

Shannon Baker said...

Nice post, Lois, although it made my heart race a little. I am not a surgeon but work of a medical device company. What we design, manufacture, and sell does go into the human body. Thanks for reminding me of how much more risky my day job is than my writing job!

Lois Winston said...

Kathleen, I bought the image at one of the royalty free photo sites. Can't tell you which one because I'm not in front of my home computer at the moment. I did come across lots of curly red headed images during my search, but I needed one that showed the heroine mostly from the back.

Shannon, I'm so glad I don't have a risky day job! I'd probably lie awake worrying every night.

Beth Groundwater said...

Your post should make a lot of people stop in their tracks and think about their latest big decision, Lois. Believe it or not, my former career as a software engineer can be very risky. It's software that controls laser medical devices, the electrical grid, powerful trains, and even smart weapons. Lives are at stake. I remember when I was doing research in artificial intelligence (AI) and a muckety-muck in my company suggested that I look into AI control of nuclear weapons. No way, Jose!

The risk is why we have peer code reviews in the software business, so segueing into critique group review of manuscripts was easy for me. Maybe we should also be putting all of our promotional materials, including covers, in front of critique groups, too. Traditional publishers have in-house committee reviews of all that stuff, but when you're self-publishing, you need to create your own committees of other eyes to find those mistakes your own eyes keep passing over.

Deborah Sharp said...

Good post, Lois ... as a former reporter, I did plenty of stories about mistakes that cost lives or limb (including a surgery where the doc removed the wrong leg on a patient!!)
Good thing your mistake was caught before it went even longer.

Lois Winston said...

Beth, even traditional publishers have been known to make huge mistakes. About 10 - 15 years ago there was an historical romance cover that made it to store shelves with the heroine on the cover having three arms! She was reclining against the hero's chest, one arm raised over her head and two arms at her sides. Can you imagine how many eyes at the publishing house looked at that cover before it went to press? And no one noticed!

Lois Winston said...

Deborah, years ago when my husband's aunt had hip surgery, before she went to the hospital, she took a permanent marker and in huge letters wrote on one leg, "Wrong leg, idiot!" and on the other leg, "This one!" She wasn't taking any chances.

shelley Freydont said...

I always tell myself when i've screwed up, at least it isn't brain surgery. The patient didn't die.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Best wishes for both the new books and the fundraising, Lois! And I get so stressed over things like copyediting...I'd be in constant metldown if lives were at stake.

Kaye George said...

I've sure done similar things, and recently too. It's good to get a blog out of them, no? Glad you didn't take the wrong leg off someone!

Diane Kratz said...

aepupla 11I like it when people make mistakes because its proves they are humans beings. Even better when many, many people missed the same mistake!

It makes me feel better as a person because I make so many! Couldn't tell you how many times I've edited, and edited something only to find mistakes.

Loved the post Lois...I mean Emma!

See I'm human! And I'm so grateful I'm not a surgeon too!

Diane Kratz

Dru said...

good post and I'll help your donation by buying Lost in Manhattan.

Lois Winston said...

Thank you, Shelley, Kathleen, Kaye, and Diane! And Dru, thank you so very much! I hope you enjoy the book.

jeff7salter said...

Enjoyed the column (despite arriving sev. days late).
I'm fascinated by the concept of memory loss.
I started a story a couple of years ago which begins with that premise ... tho mine is set FAR from the big city.
One of these days I hope to finish it.

Lois Winston said...

Jeff, I experienced a trauma as a child and lost a week of memories. When my agent was submitting this book, one editor rejected it because she didn't believe in amnesia!

Lois Winston said...

Jeff, I experienced a trauma as a child and lost a week of memories. When my agent was submitting this book, one editor rejected it because she didn't believe in amnesia!