Tag Archives: book covers

About how my cover designer is awesomesauce

It was brought to my attention by Miss @rebeccaberto, that someone has come out with a book cover using the same image as the one I used for Hush Money. Hey, it happens. There’s only so much stock photography to go around, as Kait talked about a while back. The book, I’ll Tell You Mine, by Pip Harry, released this week by The University of Queensland Press, doesn’t appear to be available around here yet, but it looks interesting. And part of what’s interesting is the coincidence of how much the character described seems like my Joss.

But actually, I was writing a post about it to say this. Check out these covers, side by side:

It’s very happy making to see how Robin Ludwig’s work holds it own–and then some, but I’m biased.

See the original stock photo here. Just don’t everybody start using it for book covers. You’re diluting the brand. 🙂 (I’m actually sitting here in a Talent Chronicles Joss t-shirt from Zazzle that I haven’t shown you yet because I feel dorky + I haven’t been pretty enough for a picture since I got it.)

Anyway, the lesson here is that if you’re looking for a cover designer, Robin’s your girl. And she has a new website!

/pimpage for Robin

Thanks again, Rebecca, for noticing this cover and thinking of me.

 

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Filed under books

Formatting for Print on Demand

Ok, so last week I started talking to you about getting started with CreateSpace. We talked about some things you can do and think about before you really dig into formatting. The last step we talked about was doing one last, careful, super final pass to make sure that text is completely typo-free and just the way you want it.

I should preface the rest of this by saying that there’s actually a lot you can do with interior layout, and if you want to be fancy, you’ll want to find references beyond what I’m going to talk about. This post is about get it done, get it out there, and quit being held back by fear or perfectionism. What I’m going for is a nice, clean, legible read, because I really believe it’s your story that matters. But if you want to dive into the fancy stuff on your first time out, go for it. One book I’ve seen recommended may times is Aaron Shepard’s Perfect Pages. That book deals a lot more with the ins and outs of making Word do what you want it to than it does about design type things. I’m sure there are tons of books and blog posts out there if you poke around long enough.

Hopefully you’ve been looking through some books to see what the insides look like, and to think about what kinds of extra information you’ll add. This is your space. As long as you don’t wind up costing your customer too much money, you can add promo for your other works, the works of your peers, a bio, etc. You should definitely leave a little room to tell the reader where to find you online so they’ll know where to go for more info about your future work.

A quick word about margins, which we didn’t get into the other day. I used equal margins on each side, partly because I had read somewhere that just in case the printing got a little off, it seemed a safe thing to do. In retrospect, I think I might have a wider inside (gutter) margin next time around. If you want to do that, in Word, you’ll go to File, Page Setup, Gutter Position Left, set the Gutter amount that you want (1/4″?), for Multiple Pages select “Mirror Margins.” Don’t be surprised if you page count has changed.

You’ll want to go through that section at the beginning of the book before the story actually starts, the “front matter.” Use Insert, Break, Section Break Next Page to make each page a new section. Use this method for any blank pages you want to add to make text fall on odd or even pages.  For example, the title page is on the right-hand side, or an odd page. The copyright info is usually on an even numbered page. Page 1, the way CreateSpace is counting, is the first page of your document. You can’t print anything on the inside cover (save it for your autograph).

When you start Chapter 1, make sure that’s the start of a new section. All Chapters should be the beginning of a new section (meaning there should be a section break, not a page break.) Continue to scroll through your document. Now you’re looking to make sure each chapter starts on an odd page, and if it doesn’t you’ll add extra section breaks as above. Remember to always work from beginning to end of your document. Each blank page should be its own section, and each new chapter should be the start of a new section. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole thing. This is about page numbering, which we’ll get to later.

Once you’ve added all your blank pages and you’re SURE about your page count, you can go back to CreateSpace to make the cover template. That’s as easy as entering your book size and number of pages and downloading a zip file. What you do with this, I don’t know. I sent mine to Robin and she sent me back a cover. (I ❤ Robin.) CreateSpace has some kind of cover creator thing for you DIYers. Remember to look at some books on your shelf to see what goes on a cover. You’ll probably at least want a short blurb for the back. CreateSpace will take care of your barcode, and the blank spot you leave for that is on your template.

Now you’re going to add headers. Go to File, Page Setup, Layout tab, and under Headers and footers check the box for Different odd and even. Also check the box for Different first page. In your document, skip to the Chapter 1 page. Select View, Header and Footer. A menu bar pops up and so does a text box where your header should be. Page down to the header of the next page. Use your regular old alignment buttons to center the text and type your name. Page down to the third page of your book, center the text and type your title. Now page through the rest of the section. You should have your book title on the odd pages and your name on the even pages.

Hover over the buttons on that little menu bar until you find the one that says Link to Previous. When that button is live, the section that you’re in takes the information from the section before it. Go through and click that button for every section. Go back to Chapter 1 and make sure that what you have is

  • your title on odd pages
  • your name on even pages
  • no headers on blank pages or “Chapter” pages

All of the headers and footers in the “front matter” section should be blank (but only if you’re doing it my way–you can actually do whatever you want). If they’re not, check those link to previous buttons and make sure they’re not activated.

Next step is to add page numbers. Go to the first page of your story, Chapter 1. If you’ve lost your footer box and menu, go to View, Header and Footer to get it back. Click in the footer and click the button for Format Page Number. Select Starts at and put in 1 so that this is where you start counting pages (story pages, for the reader, not actual pages for the printer). If you find there’s a 1 in the footer box in your document, delete it.  Go to the next page’s footer. This time, click the Insert Page Number button. Use the alignment buttons to center the number. Check page 3 and see if there’s a page number.

Page through your document. You should have no page numbers on blank and “Chapter” pages (because those are all the first page of a section). All other pages should have consecutive numbers. If this is not the case, play with it.

If you want page numbers on your “Chapter” pages (I have them, because the convention of not having them annoys me as a reader, but it is more common not to have them), that’s doable. You just have to unlink your sections and insert page numbers on the “Chapter” pages. It’s a pain in the butt.

Double check your front matter section and make sure all headers and footers are blank. Double check that all your headers and footers on blank and “Chapter” pages are empty. Double check, again, that all blank pages fall on the left, or even, and that all new chapters start on right or odd pages. And when you’re done checking, check again.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is your curly quotes and apostrophes. When characters interrupt each other, as they often do, Word has a habit of making the end quote turn the wrong way. (“Hey, wait a min–“) Additionally, make sure any apostrophes at the beginnings of words are turned properly. When you type a word like ’cause, Word always puts the apostrophe the wrong way. These are things I now fix as I type, but had to go back through and fix when formatting for epublishing and print for Book 1. Make sure your double hyphens became em-dashes (the long, unbroken ones). There are probably other common things to look out for, but these are the ones I can think of and you probably worked a lot of this out when formatting for e anyway.

Once you’re all done, you should be able to Print to PDF. If you don’t have a program installed that allows you to do this, you might try something like PDF Creator or other free program. Google is your friend. Then you’re in for another round or two of just get your eyeballs on it and make sure it’s perfect before uploading.

We’re running long, but if you’re actually doing this, I know you just want me to finish it out.

Once you upload your PDF and your cover, it takes a day or few for CreateSpace to look it over and make sure it’s not going to be crappy in some way. Basically they’re checking to make sure you’ve followed the submission requirements, that all your text is in the printable area, stuff like that. Once it’s been accepted by them, you’ll order your proof.

What you pay for your proof is the cost you were quoted based on the page count. You’ll probably pay about the same for shipping via media mail. This should take about 7-10 days depending on how the mail is, although the site quotes longer. Once you get your book, after you’re done oohing, ahhing, stroking it, taking pictures of it, etc., you’ll want to actually crack it open and make sure everything turned out ok.

Go back to CreateSpace and approve your book. Make sure you’ve got your price set the way you want and that you’ve enrolled in ProPlan if you want (you can go free right now and add that later if you choose), and that you’ve opted into the Expanded Distribution Channel if you choose and have done ProPlan. Your book should show up on Amazon within a few days. If you entered your title exactly as your DTP title, your Kindle and paperback versions should link up automatically. If your page finishes building and they don’t, contact DTP customer service and let them know.

There’s a lot more that can be learned on the subject than what I’ve told you, which is mainly the highlights of what I remember having to learn when I did this, only once, about six months ago. But I hope it helps move you toward getting a print edition out there.

My book uses 12pt Times New Roman with 1/2″ margins, no gutter. Headings, headers, and footers are done in Engravers MT. I did no kerning of the text at all. The text is left-justified. If you’d like to see how that came out, you can Look Inside the Book on Amazon.

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Filed under self-publishing

Beginning Steps in Print

I don’t know why I’m so all-fired motivated to get you guys to put out print books, but yeah, here’s another post about it. I wrote this before I went on break, but while I’ve been away I’ve read yet again that it’s Soooooo hard to format for print. For CreateSpace even! Arg. It’s enough to make a girl come back and schedule some posts.

This is going to be some more nuts and bolts type first steps, and is going to be about CreateSpace. That’s what I used, I liked it, I recommend it. If you want to do something else, that’s cool, and this post may or may not be helpful to you. Welcome to the crap-shoot that is my blog.

Stuff you can easily do today, so get off your ass.

Ok, possibly unnecessary, but if you’ve been dithering or otherwise dragging your feet on this (like I did), for whatever reason, here’s a little kick in the pants.

Today, just go create an account. You don’t have to do anything with it, you’re not obligated to use it, but it’s a good first step. It’s just your basic username/password, email addy, and they’d like to know what you’re planning to publish (book, DVD, etc.) While you’re there, go find the places where you enter payment info. You’ll need to put a credit card on file for when you buy stuff, like ordering your proof copy, or later when you order your copies at cost for giveaways and reviewers. Also, find the place where you enter your payee info. Because they’re gonna need to know where to send your big fat royalties.

A good next step would be to choose your book size. You don’t have to do anything or commit to anything here, I’m just saying figure it out in your head, so you know. My method for choosing my book size was very scientific. I IMed Zoe and asked, “What size did you go with for Blood Lust?” She said 5.5″ x 8.5″. I went back to CreateSpace and double-checked that that would be a good size with the Expanded Distribution Channel and all that, and it was all good. So if you don’t have a preference, you can also go with 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the simple reason that we did. Decision made.

Can you handle another to-do today? Assuming you have a completed manuscript, open it up, do a Save As, and then in the new copy change the page size to whatever you chose for your book size. See how many pages you’ve got. Go back to CreateSpace and play with the calculators. If you can’t find them, try the Publish tab, click the Books on Demand link, then the Pricing tab. The other calculator is under Sales & Royalties. Between the two of these, you can start to get an idea of what this book is going to cost and how you can price it. You can go back to your document and play with margins, fonts and font sizes, extra content, etc, and more or less decide on a number of pages. (You can find recommended margins based on number of pages under the Submission Requirements tab.)

Do NOT finalize your cover or send a CreateSpace template to your cover designer until you are certain about the number of pages. Changing the page count will affect the cover template.

Now that you know how many final pages you’re shooting for, you can start your formatting. The biggest part of this will be the most thorough proof-reading ever. Be certain you’ve got as many bugs out of this manuscript as humanly possible because once this is done, you will be charged a fee to make changes in the future.

Set a goal for this proof-reading pass, and schedule proofing a set number of pages per day to reach your goal. Because proof-reading is boring. To avoid being caught up in the wonderful awesomeness of your story, I very much recommend starting from the end. Read each page from top to bottom so that you’ll still understand the context, but turn the pages from right to left instead of left to right. If you’re like me, working this way will help you catch a lot more of the missed word/incorrect word typos that your brain typically fills in automatically. If you’re not good at this, consider shipping this off to a professional copy-editor.

That should keep you busy for a little while. Next week I’m going to talk about things like headers and footers, page numbering, blank pages, etc., and how I handled those. It’s easier to do that stuff AFTER the rest of the text is perfected. Trust me.

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Filed under self-publishing, writing

Karma points, what should I spend them on?

Ever have points from some promotion or other, and get really uptight over actually spending them? Because you need to find just the perfect, best thing, because it takes a lot of time to save up this many points, and you don’t want to waste them… (This makes me think of games like The Sims and saving up weeks of wages for a new +10 Comfort bed, and then not wanting to spend it because there’s always something else. Thank goodness for the money cheat!)

Does Karma work like that? Or does even asking for stuff negate one’s whole ability to cash in on any mystical positivity they’ve built up because the point of doing good is to do it with no desire or expectation of having it returned? Meh, I guess I’ve more of a Magnificent Obsession mindset.

Anyway, this is called babbling.

I’ve gotten a few of these emails from Goodreads lately, to vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards in various categories. Today was the first time I saw my title in the list of answers in the email, though, in the Debut Author category. I guess my title hasn’t gotten enough votes to actually show up in the covers.

If you really liked Hush Money and it was, by chance, your fave amongst books by debut authors you read this year, I’d love it if you’d go over there and drop me a write-in vote, in the Debut Author category, or in Young Adult Fiction or Fantasy, Cover Art…wherever you think appropriate. Who know what might come of it.

Speaking of Karma, in our last episode I directed you to Andrew Mocete’s blog on which he had posted about some writers in need this holiday season. His most recent post is about the fantastic response he got for that post as a new blogger. So for any of you who went by and checked that out, took steps, promoted those causes in some way, thank you. And it’s not too late to do it now, nor to do it again.

I’m on vacation. My daughter is off from school and will be into the second week of the year. I’m trying to rest up and get rid of some of the serial illness that has bogged me down lately, and generally trying to clear cobwebs for a reboot. I actually read a freakin’ book all the way through, watched all my Netflix discs which included Camp Rock and Letters to Juliet and I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Style Savvy for DS. When did working retail get fun?? I’m completely addicted to this freakin’ thing, and Dominic’s totally interested in me, I can tell.

So…posty things I can think of that are probably coming up:

  • I’m going to be talking about ROW80, my goals for that and how it’s going to completely change my life (or else)
  • Probably going to be giving you my impressions of the first few episodes of Buffy Season Eight, as well as some thoughts on comics in general (No, giving them to you. Not doing impressions. Do I look like I’ve got the energy to start doing impressions?)
  • There will have to be a year-end wrap-up on how this indie author thing has gone (preview because I suck at waiting: I’ve passed 5k copies of my one little title)

Oh, and one more link. Thirteen-year-old Corey of CoreyReads posted a nice review of Hush Money. If that’s your thing, maybe you’d drop by there, compliment his excellent taste, and encourage this next generation book blogger?

I hope you’re all having wonderful holidays. I have to go now and pick out cute clothes for anime girls with way too much money who are ALWAYS polite.

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Filed under Laws of the Universe, writing

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

This, That, Stuff, and Things

I used to have this social studies teacher who absolutely hated “stuff and things.” Use either of those words in an essay question at your peril. So now I often say them, just to say them, because I’m just ornery like that.

I’m also constantly behind. Everything’s just late, crazy, and overdue.

Take the 1000 Sales Giveaway. I was supposed to draw that on Monday. Just did it now.

It has been such a week. Sales started a random upswing over the weekend and then just exploded. It was all very exciting, finally slowing back down again, but I’ve been so obnoxious this week that I’m lucky I have any friends left at all, and you’re all lucky I forgot to blog.

So I’m not going to bore you with a play by play, but I’ll just record that my highest rank in the Kindle store was #327, and at B&N, where there is less competition right now, I think the highest I got was #140. Don’t know how that happened, and I think I’m pretty much going to have to retire from trying to figure this stuff out because I haven’t got a clue.

Ok, I know, tell us the winner already. I’m just messing with you. The winner of the signed paperback of Hush Money is Marta! Because Random.org thought to itself: which number feels like international postage?? Hahaha. That’s awesome, though, and Marta, I am very excited to send this to you.

Speaking of contests, I think Robin and I have settled on a cover concept and images for Heroes ‘Til Curfew. Last night I sent her a bunch of spew, descriptions of Dylan, some recurrent themes and imagery from the new book, that kind of crap. What she came up with is pretty awesome on the first try.

It’s not ready yet. I have to buy the stock images, she has to play with the color and make some adjustments, and I apologize for just teasing you like this with nothing to show. But I’m sure we’ll have it ready for you soon. I already feel so much pressure about this sequel that, to be honest, I’m sort of afraid of the cover reveal. Because I just think Robin’s work is so awesome it’s going to make a mob come to my house and chain me to this machine until I finish the story to go with it.

Which Kait suggested might not be a bad thing.

Smartass.

Anyway, I asked Robin if she was inspired by any of the responses in the Find My Dylan contest, and it seemed that her image selection came mainly from what I told her about the story. We agreed that it’s probably best to go with random selection on that too. So when we’re 100% on everything, and ready to reveal the cover, I’ll announce the winner on that as well. Thanks to everyone who helped look for Dylan.

In other news, my husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. I’ve now been married half my life. Whew.

NaNoWriMo is going pretty slowly. November is always a bear for me. Just in this week I had my attention sucked away by the awesome upswing of sales, our anniversary, election day means a day of no school, I should have had my knitting day but got sick, then doll club with my mom today, and tomorrow I have a bazillion errands and a social commitment I should honor. So that’s all interfering a bit with my whole BICHOK program, but most of what interferes with that program is me. I got 1230 words today of what is mainly note-form to be turned into proper prose later (well, as proper as we get in the Talent Chronicles), which brought me up just over 4100, I guess. I forget, but I updated it at the website, so it’s probably in the sidebar. The stats tell me I’m behind. Big surprise.

How is everyone else doing?

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Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, nano, NaNoWriMo, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, word count, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Cover Art and Your Website

Here we are at the end of the week (well, it’s the end of the week for you; for me it’s Tuesday, I think, and while you’re reading this I’m probably spending quality time with my mom and boring the crap out of her about stuff like kindle ranks and DRM and all that stuff she listens to with feigned interest), with what I think is the last post in this series. If you’re new, I introduced this topic last Saturday, yammering about cracking the Kindle top 1000.

(Also, if you’re new to my blog and commenting for the first time, I’d like to let you know that I’ve written this post ahead and scheduled it. I don’t plan to be online to moderate comments until late Saturday or Sunday, but if you’re moved to reply, please don’t let that stop you!)

Why Cover Art Is Important

Before releasing my book, I was definitely of the mindset that cover art was not a deal-breaker. I was in the process of getting professional cover art, because I seriously lack graphic design skillz, but I didn’t think it was such a big deal. After all, if people I trust tell me a book is great, I’m not going to care what the cover looks like, and that’s the biggest factor for me in reading new-to-me authors.

But I finished Hush Money, it was all edited and shined up, I was learning about formatting, and I was almost ready to go. It was time for me to start talking about the book, what I’d been doing, getting people interested in the release, and I had nothing to show. (At that point I ended up leaving the artist who wasn’t able to get the job done, and going to Robin Ludwig.)

While we do a LOT of reading words on the internet, it’s also very image-oriented. You see that, right? Think of one of your virtual friends, someone you chat with, a Twitter friend, maybe a blogger or a regular commenter to your blog. What image comes to mind? Their avatar. When I was very active on LJ, I had all these dear friends whom I really thought of as Star Trek alien girl, funny old man girl, and Joan Jett. And I’d be kinda shocked when people changed their long-standing avatar. When we think of people and things, we sort of need a visual placeholder.

I didn’t have that for Hush Money, or for me, as a writer. I think it helps to have that, and to have it as early as you can create it so you start building that graphic representation in the mind of your future reader. Of course, it helps to know what the book is going to end up being about before you run out and make the cover for it.

Thoughts That Went Into the Hush Money Cover

In my mind, cover art should be:

  • Professional quality
  • Genre-appropriate
  • Unique in some way
  • Related to the book
  • In some way intriguing to the reader
  • Able to tie into future books in some way to create a brand appearance

It’s not always going to be easy to do all these things, but they’re things that Robin and I were trying to keep in mind as we developed the cover together.

Robin sent me a few mockups early in the process that I rejected on the basis of genre-appropriateness. They were great, very professional attempts. But they were not the kind of covers that I would expect to see when browsing Teen Paranormal. I was looking at a lot of vamp books:  Twilight, Vampire Academy, House of Night..dark covers, soft edges, attractive girls. I told Robin, “I don’t want another white-throated young female vamp cover, but something with similar elements.”

I think it helps when a book stands out without looking out of place. Two things help my cover in that way. One is the Talent Chronicles stripe. When I talked about elements I had seen and liked, I mentioned that I was sometimes drawn to covers with that colored band element with the author and/or title on it. I had also mentioned branding, that I’d like to have a way to tie the books in the series together. Robin’s red, vertical stripe gives me that way to brand going forward, but it’s also pretty eye-catching, isn’t it? The other thing that’s kind of unique is Joss’s “hush” gesture. You’re like wait, why do you want me to be quiet? or What’s the big secret? And the “hush” gesture relates to the title. And to thence to the book. So hopefully, that makes you want to know more, maybe enough to read the description.

So I hope that gives you some things to think about when developing covers, and gives you some ideas you can take to your artist. [cough]go to Robin[cough]

Because Robin is so full-service, she also made my website elements that match my book cover: background, header, avatar. They’re very pretty. I don’t actually know enough about web design to really talk about them beyond, ooh pretty, though. What I think is most important in the look of a website is: can I read it?

Some website Do Nots, IMHO

If you want me to hang out on your site, do not make it hard on my eyes. You may be 22, but I’m not.

  • Avoid putting lots of text on dark backgrounds, especially colored text.
  • Avoid like the plague putting text on a patterned background.
  • Don’t assume everyone’s running at your speed, you don’t need every widget ever made
  • On a related note, don’t assume everyone will wait for your pages to load
  • When choosing security/anti-spam features, remember that no one wants to fight to leave you a comment

Remember to include

  • Easy ways for me to subscribe. Give me choices. Do you know I don’t subscribe to most blogs at Blogspot because most don’t offer an email signup? (Of course, I’m also turned off a lot of Blogspot blogs because they have every widget known to man, so pages take forever to load, and leaving comments is often a struggle.)
  • All your information. Make it one-stop info shopping. Do you know I’ve visited author blogs, where the blog is not integrated with the website, and the blog doesn’t even have a link to the website? And the website is where the rest of the info is.
  • Descriptions of your works. I’m at your site, checking you out. I see three book covers with no descriptions or anything. I click the most interesting one, and it takes me to Amazon (and uses the same window!). Now I have left your site and am wandering Amazon. What if I never come back to check out those other books? One of them might have snagged me, but we’ll never know. It’s your website. It’s all about you. This is not the place to be shy about talking about yourself.
  • Tell visitors you’re a writer. No, really. You don’t know how they stumbled on your site. A while back, someone asked for opinions on a blog/website they had just set up. I went to look at it. A lot of work went into that thing, but nowhere on the landing page had this person made it clear to the visitor that the site was about a series of books he was writing.

Why the blog-centered website?

When I visit author websites, it’s usually because I want to know the reading order of books in the series because the geniuses at the publishing house listed the authors works freaking alphabetically at the front of the book. Destroying any chance that I would pick up that book while it was in my hand at the store, btw. Seriously, that kind of information is generally my only reason for looking up an author site.

When an author keeps a blog, there are two things going on. One is that the author is attempting to engage the audience between books, on another level, about different topics. The other is that the author is potentially being discovered by other citizens of the internet, some of whom may become readers. Changing content and varied topics, make it more likely that posts will get picked up by search engines, and bring in those new readers. Lots of them? Probably not, unless you’re a fab blogger like Mr. Konrath. And even for him, lots of us love his blog but don’t buy too many thriller novels. So becoming a fabulous blogger should not be the totality of anyone’s marketing plan. But every little bit helps, right?

Another reason is that developing at website, at least with WordPress.com, is really easy. I mean, really. You have your blog, but you can also make all kinds of static pages for whatever you want. You can make one of those static pages your landing page, just like a lot “regular” websites.

If you want to have your own domain name, you register and pay for that through a separate company, like GoDaddy. Then you come back to your WordPress.com blog and you pay WordPress $10 a year to associate your content with that name. Not necessary, but also not hard.

This, by the way, totally covered in @kristenlambTX’s We Are Not Alone.

You can still decorate a WordPress-based website all pretty, with a header that establishes brand, and you can use lots of widgets in your sidebar (though there are a lot of widgets that don’t work, grr, but then see above about Blogspot blogs) to advertise and direct traffic elsewhere, etc. It’s always easy to add pages and make changes.

I have another website, fairly dormant at the moment, for my doll stuff (which I need get back to someday). That’s one I’ve built, with website design software (hopelessly outdated, but still), pay for monthly hosting, and it has a self-hosted blog attached to it. It’s not rocket science, but doing this site through WordPress.com has been a lot simpler, it looks more professional, and it leaves me time to write and stuff.

This was another one that probably could have been two posts, but hey, why wait? Now you can go get back to work. I hope this series has been helpful for you. Thanks for stopping by.

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Filed under blogs, books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, tools, writing

Contest: Help Me Find My Dylan- sticky

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for newer posts.

Know what part of cover design takes the longest? Finding the right images. Robin and I spent a long time combing through images before Kait (who loves browsing stock photos, btw, but you didn’t hear it from me) came up with the perfect one.

I would like Dylan to be on the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew if at all possible. I have lousy GoogleFu, and it’s a deficiency that carries across all searches. While spending time browsing photos of cute boys is tempting, I really should be spending time on other things–like writing the book.

So I was thinking that maybe some of you would like to hunt for Dylan. You’ve read Hush Money (right?), so you have a sense of who he is. My current Dylanish Muse is Hunter Parrish. Here are some pics. He plays the part of Silas, the older son, in Weeds. From the earlier seasons, the longer hair look is probably more what I’m thinking. Just to give you an idea what’s in my head.

Robin prefers to work with images from Shutterstock, and she has her reasons, so images from there would have a better chance of being chosen from a practicality standpoint. But we might possibly go elsewhere if the price and conditions are ok.

Please leave links to images in the comments to this post. Enter as often as you like. If I chose one of the images for the cover, the commenter who linked to it will receive Heroes ‘Til Curfew in paperback and ebook (when they become available), and get the bragging rights to say that they “discovered” Dylan.

This contest will run until I finalize a cover design. If none of the images is chosen, I will give one entry to each individual commenter and select a winner at random for the giveaway. Sound fair? Have fun.

(and feel free to hit the tweet button on your way home)

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Filed under books, characters, Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Talent Chronicles

Holding Pattern

The good news: I’m publishing today.

The not as good news: I’m not totally sure about being live today, and won’t be until I have it all buyable right in front of me.

I’m very anxious/hyper/nervous/excited today, so please bear with me.

Kait, who actually said the other day “I love Adobe Acrobat!”, offered to do the PDF and whatever headers and stuff I need to file for copyright. (Actually, she’s ranting today about how formatting is not hard. Check it out.) But she had real work to do this morning so I must wait until after lunch for her awesomeness to finish doing my work for me.

After that, it’s upload city, baby, and I get to see if it’s really as no hard as she says. So far, everything I’ve done is really…not that hard. I just have to wait to see if it all blows up before I can actually talk about it.

While we’re waiting, if you would consider liking my new Facebook author page, that would really help me look less losery, thanks so much.

I should be doing more productive stuff. I have a list, but I haven’t opened it today. I’ve been thinking about printing with Createspace, doing some reading on that, asking for some experiences and opinions and stuff. My biggest obstacle really is that I have to go back to Robin for the rest of the cover since I only bought a front. Her price for that is really reasonable, I just don’t have a lot of money right now. I wonder if she’d accept this slightly used puppy who ripped through two skeins of pricey yarn this morning… Likely not, and I couldn’t blame her.

Anyway, see, this is the thing with the hyper. I get really rambly. I’ve got to go do something while I wait. I’ll get those links out to you soon!

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Filed under books, Hush Money, knitting, links, me me me, progress update, rant, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing