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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ronnell Porter as a Cover Designer

I don't like to slam people and it really grieves me to do so now, but after my experience with this designer, I really feel obligated to warn other authors who may be taken in at first blush by Ronnell's quick email responses and apparent flexibility and helpfulness. He's very good at first, when money is on the line.

When I was looking for a designer the first time, I found Ronnell's website and I jumped right in. I should have checked him out better, but I didn't. Rookie mistake.

Here's the thing, Ronnell says on his website that he requires payment up front and I also asked him about it and he told me that's the way he works. So that's what I did. If you or anyone you know is looking for a cover and you choose to go with him despite the warnings everywhere from others, do not pay him up front. He even advises against this elsewhere, but I'll get to that more later.

In any case. I paid him and he did the cover, and he did it quick and did a decent job. I asked him to make one change and it took him two weeks to get back to me with it. During that time, I got worried that I was never going to hear from him again and did a more thorough search online about him and that's when I found some discussion threads relating to him stiffing people.

Most often, these customers had paid for the services beforehand and then they never heard from him again. In one thread, Ronnell speaks up and says he's handling it with the customer and then he gives the advice to never pay for the services in full up front, as though the problem isn't Ronnell, it's the trusting idiots who hire him.

I get what he's saying, because I agree, he's not to be trusted. But when you're new to the industry, it's easy to make the mistake of letting the person you hire run the show. That's what I did because I was naive and new. Luckily, this time, Ronnell pulled through.

Several months later, I was looking for a cover to a new book (Blue Hearts of Mars), so I contacted Ronnell. He responded right away that he had time. When money is on the line, I've learned, he usually responds fast. It was naive of me to go with him again, especially after the stuff I read on Kindleboards about him--but I hoped that if I didn't give him all the fee up front, that he'd do better.

At the time that I hired him again, as now, Ronnell was running a promotion where if you bought the eBook cover, you got the paperback cover as part of the deal. I noticed that after I'd hired him and he was working on the cover. When I asked if I could get that too, he responded that he'd include it but that he'd need the proper specs and trim sizes. Since I didn't have those at the time, I didn't send them to him.

But I had them a month later. I sent Ronnell a message asking if he could do the cover for me. No answer. I was ready to submit through Createspace to have the book available for print-on-demand, but I didn't have a cover. The next day, I emailed Ronnell again asking if he would let me have the Photoshop files (thinking that if he didn't want to do it, he could let me). His silence was unnerving. It made me anxious, which is the reason I asked for the Photoshop files, because without his cooperation, my project was stalled.

The first cover project Ronnell did for me was for World in Shadow, which is the first book in a series. His refusal to acknowledge my emails over the paperback cover for Blue Hearts of Mars was frustrating because now I was beginning to wonder what I'd do for the sequels. In a series, you want to have the same style of design, but would another designer be able to copy Ronnell's design? I don't know. Possibly. But do I even want a cover that's been done by him?

I sent Ronnell a few more emails, one asking if he'd be able to do the sequels to World in Shadow (at the time, I was slated to release it in March).

Crickets.

I was seriously beginning to wonder if he'd died. I found out today that he's still alive, just ignoring me. I guess Ronnell has a problem with people who ask for adjustments to the covers he does for them.

To illustrate, the first version of World in Shadow looked like this:


It was great! Except that the title is World in Shadow and the world through the portal is green and verdant with blue skies. Yes, there are shadows in the foreground, but the overall vibe of this cover is fantasy. World in Shadow is an adventure story with hints of sci-fi. I asked Ronnell to change the world through the portal and that was it. He changed it.


So, we were OK with one change because when I asked Ronnell to do my next book cover, he responded immediately. I must have asked for too many changes on this one. Here's the first version:


Ronnell actually sent me two versions of this cover. The other one has less detail around the heart. I loved this cover. But I felt like with the skin tone, it was TOO sexy, and too much like a grocery store romance novel (you know the kind). This book is for a YA audience and so I asked Ronnell to make the guy grayscale. An easy change. I know Photoshop and I know how easy it is to manipulate layers. I also requested that he change the red tones to an orange tone--the red, white, and blue was too patriotic.


So Ronnell did that, but he sent me back the version with the less detail around the heart (see the difference?). So I asked him to fix that (my email was clear, Ronnell just made a mistake, although in retrospect, I should have used the numbers rather than the words in my email "the one with more detail around the heart"). He fixed it and sent it back. By this time, I'd really decided that I didn't like the weird font choice--there's too much variation in the spacing, so I asked him to change it to something with more even spacing. He did.



By then it was perfect. But also by then I'd noticed a weird dot on the guys belly between the M and the A, and I asked him to delete it for me. He did and then I never heard from him again once I sent him final payment.

Maybe it was that freckle that really did it, that broke the camel's back. If I'd known that Ronnell had a threshold, would I have asked for that? I don't know.

He has the right to ignore me, yes, and at least I got my product (most of it) before he cut me off. But now I am crippled. I can't get him to acknowledge me and so when I needed the cover for the paperback, I had to improvise--incidentally, this cover looks great for an ebook, but not so much as a paperback.

If I want to use my cover to market my book, normally I would just email the designer and ask for some stuff and pay him. Uh, can't. Ronnell. Uh. He's ignoring me.

So I will have to pay a designer to come up with new artwork, because the version I have of my cover is jpeg, which means it's flattened, which means I can't get rid of the titles. If I want the paperback cover to look different, I may potentially have to get a new cover designed.

It might be worth it. Ronnell D. Porter isn't exactly the name I want associated with my books any longer. If you're a designer, you may be thinking, "Wow, I'd cut you off too. Those requests you made were totally unreasonable, you whiny jerk." Well, maybe they were. But I was paying for it, and if his cost structure doesn't have the extra time factored into it to make a client happy with a few small revisions, then that's his fault. Not mine.

I know how it is to work for people. I've worked in marketing and in production editing, so I know how it is to try to please a client. It can suck. My husband also works with clients on projects where they're constantly wanting to tweak things. He's an audio engineer and clients are often wanting to change a final mix. "Oh, bring the guitar up here, please," even though Stoker put the guitar down in the mix for a reason.

But Stoker doesn't ignore clients when they email him. Yes, sometimes it may take another email to catch his attention because as everyone with an email account knows, if you open an email on your phone (or even on your laptop) but can't respond right then, it goes to the bottom of the pile as more email comes flooding in. I gave Ronnell a chance to prove that this wasn't what was happening, and it's not.

If my story doesn't make you want to run screaming from this designer, consider these other stories:

Keith's experience
Sacha's experience

There have been more, but the threads have been deleted. Not sure why. If I find them, I'll update here.

5 comments:

Betsy True said...

I doubt that the threads you are talking about were deleted; my recollection is that we leave all threads of that nature in place as information for potential customers. Note that on March 7th, our domain name changed from www.kindleboards.com to www.kboards.com. If you had existing threads bookmarked from before that date, simply change the URL from www.kindleboards.com to www.kboards.com, leaving the rest the same. If you have problems, contact me on www.kboards.com--I see you have an account. --Betsy the Quilter.

N. Grotepas said...

Thanks Betsy! I haven't been able to find the threads. Maybe you can post them here?

fbbed1e4-1941-11e2-b81f-000bcdcb471e said...

I had the same experience! I was looking for places to write a review of Ronnell. I asked him to do an ebook cover for me. It took him almost 15 days to get something to me, even though it says you will receive a refund if it takes longer than 10 days. Each revision took him on average a week and oftentimes two weeks. He is VERY slow, or just takes long on purpose so you don't request revisions. I paid him up front (my mistake)and it's been a month and a half and he's ignored my emails for the final revision. Stay away from him. There are much more talented designers who will get the job done.

Donna Hockey, MPP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

Donna, I hope you deleted your comment because you heard back from Ronnell. I've worked with some great designers since this somewhat difficult experience with him. He eventually accepted my friend request on Facebook, so I'm not sure if we're on good terms now or not. I hope so. I hate having negative vibes with someone in a professional setting.