Tag Archives: book covers

Writing: Can a writer be too nice?

I live in the Midwest.  Last Monday, my husband and I drove to Shipshewana, Indiana to look for  a calendar.  I know.  A long drive to find one, right?  But we take our calendars seriously.  You have to look at the picture above the numbered boxes, counting down days, for an entire month.  We’d rather look at something we like.  Last year, my daughter, who doesn’t shop ahead like we do, ended up with a calendar of birds of prey.  I cringed every time I turned my head and accidentally saw talons, ready for a kill.  Besides, Monday was an absolutely beautiful day.  Sunlight gleamed on golden, crimson, and orange leaves. Farmers were working in their fields.   Best of all, Shipshewana is Amish territory.  We drove through Topeka and saw Amish laundry drying on clotheslines, stretched in side yards.  Horses grazed in pastures.  We had a wonderful day.

It was sunny enough that I needed my sunglasses.  I viewed the world through amber, not rose-colored glasses.  But the amber made everything brighter, more striking and dramatic.  That’s sort of the way I see the world when I write.  Everything’s amplified.  One of my friends teases me and tells me that I’m never mean enough to my characters.  That I’m too nice to them.  It’s possible, but I don’t need suffering and tragedy to keep me turning pages.   I just need enough tension and conflict to make me root for the protagonist to find the solutions he needs, characters that I care about, and a plot that twists and turns enough to hold my interest.

I thought about that as I worked on plot points for the Babet and Prosper that I’m writing on my webpage (I put up chapter 3, if you’re interested).  I started with a hook that wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote the damn thing.  I kept seeing Hatchet chaining his vampire/wife to the wall of his basement.  Hatchet’s devoted to Colleen, and she’s devoted to him.  So why in the world would he lock her in silver chains?  And then the answer came to me.  To help her.  Happy day!  I liked my hook.  And I liked my villains.  Worthy antagonists make for good stories.

Now, I’ve read over and over again that most authors state the book’s “big question,” on the first page, if not the first paragraph or even the first sentence.  Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I don’t, but it needs to be somewhere in the first chapter.  So I needed to decide what the big conflict in the book would be–what would the protagonists struggle with for the rest of the entire novel?  Once I had that, I concentrated on pacing, how I wanted to up the tension chapter by chapter.  And I was lucky enough to stumble upon K.M. Weiland’s seriously deep blog about the inciting incident and the first fourths of books.  She said–especially well–what I usually do (in a not so clear pattern).  She must divide her books into fourths, like I do.  Only she’s even better at it.  Take a read: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/your-books-inciting-event-its-not-what-you-think-it-is/

While plotting away, my wonderful editor–John Scognamiglio at Kensington–sent me the book cover for my very first romance novel that will come out next April.  I’m pretty excited about it, but April feels like it’s FOREVER away.  Some of my writer friends do awesome cover reveals, which I’ve never tried, so I’m trying to decide how to go about it.  No brilliant ideas yet:)  Anyway, last week was busy enough for me.  I wish you a Happy Halloween and a spectacular November!

Happy writing!

My webpage:  (chapter 3):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/chapter-3.html

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

Catch me on twitter: @judypost

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Writing: Titles & Covers

I’ve sloughed off a bit on writing, tweeting, and connecting this week.  Tyler came home from Bloomington & took over the upstairs from Monday night to Friday night before he had to head back to I.U.  We don’t get to see him that often, so everything got jostled out of his way.  Holly and Nate came to see him a lot.  (Holly’s my daughter, but she has a small, two bedroom apartment, so Ty stays here and lets his mom and brother come to us.  It works for everyone).  There was a lot of cooking, eating, laughing, and visiting.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  The business of writing got pushed aside.  But when I finally got back to my writing table, I found a note from one of my critique buddies at the top of the manuscript she looked at for me.  “How attached are you to this title?  Maybe change?”

For me, titles are a slippery slope.  Not so easy to summon.  I tend to think of them as metaphors for the story I’m telling.  When that fails, I try to think of something evocative that hints at the subject and tone of the novel.  Or if I’m desperate, I simply state what the story’s about.  Fallen Angels tells the story of two angels cast from heaven–Caleb because he wanted to join Lucifer, Enoch because he wrestled Caleb to the ground and wouldn’t let him.  I admire those writers who can think of a gimmick to make their book titles click with readers.  Sue Grafton used the alphabet–A is for Alibi, C is for Corpse, etc.  Martha Grimes named her novels after British pubs.  Lillian Jackson Braun started her titles with “The Cat Who…..”   Some authors use one, recurring word, like Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series:  Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, etc.  The minute a reader sees their titles, they think of their series.  Clever.  I didn’t think that far ahead.

My same writer friend recently redid all of her book covers, and her novels started selling better.  Just like my book titles, I like my covers to give a sense and tone of the stories they represent, but I recently read a blog post from Book Bub, http://unbound.bookbub.com/ , which listed the 8 best things to have on covers to sell books.  Number one was a cute animal, especially dogs.  Okay, I wouldn’t have guessed that.  Seasonal themes and shirtless men ranked high on the list, too.   Shirtless men I suspected, since cover after cover feature them on the romance and fantasy shelves.  A lot of urban fantasy covers display a woman who looks like she could kick ass.  Some wear tattoos.  A lot of them wear black leather.  There’s usually some skin involved.  Sometimes a weapon or a motorcycle.  I should have done more research.  I failed at those too:)

It takes a lot of time to write a good book, and sometimes, we choose our titles and covers as extensions of the mood, tone, or language of our stories.  But we should also stop and think of them as marketing tools.  Does your book title imply the type of genre you write?  Have you glanced at the types of covers most authors use in your genre?  Do covers with dark backgrounds seem to sell better than light colors?  It’s all worth thinking about.

Do you have some favorite titles?  Some favorite covers?  What drew you to them?  Both are sells tools.  Choose wisely.

 

 

Writing: Celebrate each victory

cover_mockup_30_thumb cover_mockup_28_thumb cover_mockup_29a_thumbThis post is about celebrating.  I’ve been writing for more years than I want to count, and it takes a thick hide to learn from critiques and rejections.  But a writer needs successes, too, to help her hang in there.  And I’ve learned that successes come in all shapes and sizes.  My husband took me out to dinner the first time one of my stories was accepted for a “pays in copies” anthology.  I took him out for hot dogs at Coney Island downtown when I got a check for a whopping $35.  When I sold my first mystery short story to Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery magazine, I took the whole family out to eat.  Sometimes, celebrations are scaled back to fit the occasion.  When I got my first “good” rejection for a novel I was pedaling, it was a raised glass of wine.  When I got more “close, but no cigar” rejections, it was a box of candy.  And yes, I counted the rejections as victories, not defeats.  After all, an editor had taken the time to write a personal note on them, something uplifting, not a standard copy of “thanks, but no thanks.”  They were a step forward, even if it was only a baby step.

When I get a speed bump in my writing–a rejection that especially hurts or a campaign that falls flat–I give myself a day to grieve and get it out of my system.  So it’s only fair that when I finish a novel or I get a glowing review or if more people download a book than I expected to, I give myself time to enjoy the victory, regardless of its size.  You should, too.  Take time to savor the good moments.  Wherever you are in your writing, enjoy each step along the way.  Give proper importance to each tiny victory that moves you forward.  Celebrate the journey.

At the moment, I’m celebrating my two, new novella bundles that just went online.  I love the covers Michael Prete made for them, one for each collection and two for the new novellas inside Collection II.  I bragged about Michael’s work last week, but I felt the need to brag one more time.  I shared the first cover in my last blog.  Here are the covers for the second collection.  The voodoo priest is on the creepy side, but he’s not very nice, so it suits him.  This blog is my joyous moment before I hit rewrites on Monday and return to my everyday life of fingers on keys, striving for the right words, the right flow.  But today, I’m going to play and push writing thoughts away.  Today’s for fun.  Enjoy your moments, too.

(If you or someone you know needs a cover, I’ll list Michael’s link one more time.  He’s wonderful to work with and reasonable.  You can contact him through his business site for web pages:  http://vertex10.com/).

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

 

 

Writing–Before Your Book Goes Online

I’m mostly an indie author.  Not exactly, because I have an agent, who’s wonderful.  And an agency, which is awesome.  So I get to skip some of the steps that 100% indie authors do.  Which is fine by me.  So I can’t tell you how to format, because Sharon–who’s an e-book wizard–does it for me.  And I can’t tell you about working with a publisher, if you have a book coming out in hardback or paperback, because I’ve never done that.  All I can share with you is what I know or what I’ve tried.  But here are the steps I go through to get a novel/novella online:

1.  People keep saying it, but they’re right.  Write the best book you possibly can, because there are a LOT of books out there–some good, some bad, but you want yours to be the best it can be.  So don’t slap words on a hard drive and share them with the world.  Edit them.  Have a few beta readers (who don’t tell you you’re wonderful and shouldn’t change a word) critique them for you.  Then decide what you could do better and fix it.  Now, I’ve had several friends who would be happy to NEVER send their book out into the cold, cruel world because they’re never going to be satisfied with it.  They can always see one more thing to fix, one more thing that will make it shine.  You have to find a happy medium here.  But don’t rush your book either.  When you send it out, make sure it’s good.

2.  Have someone who knows his/her stuff copy edit your work.  I notice misspellings, bad grammar, and the “sprinkle method” of adding commas.  (I had a friend once who told me that she didn’t understand commas, so she just “sprinkled” them on the page so that they looked good).  Aaargh.  Grammar and spelling are the basic tools of writing, but none of us finish writing a manuscript with no mistakes.  And we can’t always see our own mess-ups.  Make sure your manuscript is clean before you offer it to the world.  (My biggest weakness is hyphens.  Hope one belongs in mess-up???)

3.  Once your manuscript is ready to go, it’s time to format it for whatever site you’re going to load it on.  Most of my writer friends pay someone to do this for them.  A few take the time and effort to do it themselves.  I’m lucky.  (And I know it).  Sharon does it for me.

4.  Books need a cover.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with Michael Prete.  I love the covers he’s created for my novels and novellas.  (And for the first time, he’s told me he’d like to do more covers, so I can share his name and web page: http://vertex10.com/.  He usually designs web pages, so his site only shows his professional work as a web designer, but if you like any of the covers on my work, he’s done all of them, and his prices are reasonable!!).  He’s also been kind enough to let me find images that I think fit the story/tone that I’m trying to create.  Sometimes, I only use one image for a cover.  Sometimes, I combine them.  I just copy the links of what I like and send them to him, and he works his magic.  But whatever you decide to do, your book cover is what makes people notice your novel.  Don’t kid yourself.  People DO judge books by their covers.  Here are my two favorite sites to find images for Michael to work with: http://www.canstockphoto.com/  and  http://www.shutterstock.com/.  Be warned, though, once you start flipping through all of the images, you can lose a few hours without noticing.

5.  And last, but not least, once your book is ready to go, how are you going to market/promote it?  What have you got in place to help people find it?  I’ve already shared a few great marketing sites in previous blogs.  A good one is http://www.lindsayburoker.com/.  Another is https://twitter.com/BadRedheadMedia.  I had great luck with Book Bub ($90), but it’s getting harder and harder to get your book listed there.  I had okay luck with http://www.ebookbooster.com/ ($40).  By okay, I mean I had over 3,000 downloads of my free book with ebookbooster.  Not bad, but nothing compared to the 18,000+ downloads I got from Book Bub.  Later this month, I’m going to try out the parajunkee site to see how that works for the release of my 2 new novella bundles.  I’m experimenting, looking for a mix of sites that help readers discover my work.  I’ve been lucky enough to have several bloggers feature my books.  I still haven’t been brave enough to try a blog tour.  Twitter makes a difference when I tweet about a new release.  So does Goodreads when I self-promote in Making Connections or Nexus.  But an occasional paid ad has proven pretty effective, worth the money, (but only because I have more than one book online).  All that I’m saying is that not many people are going to stumble on your book amid the thousands or millions of novels on amazon and Nook unless you help them find it.  You can twitter (but do it right.  Don’t just list your book over and over again.  People stop reading your tweets).  You can join Goodreads or Facebook.  Or start a blog.  But whatever you do, do something!

P.S.  Just because I LOVE this cover and I mentioned Michael, this is the cover he created for the first Babet/Prosper bundle that’s going online Sept. 23–and this one happens to be FREE when it goes up.

cover_27_thumb

My facebook page (but it’s mostly the blogs you’ve already read): https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing–where do you get your ideas?

My good news is that my Death & Loralei novellas bundle went online last week, and I think it’s beautiful to behold.  The cover shows all FOUR covers for the four novellas inside the collection.  I’m biased, because I searched through lots of images before I found ones that felt right.  And then Michael took them and made them wonderful.  Thanks, Michael!

The bad news?  I finished drafts for three more novellas to post off and on for the rest of the year while I work on a novel.  I have them “in waiting.”  And since they’re written, that gave me an excuse to do another massive cover search, scrolling through hundreds of images, to find ones that spoke to me.  I’m beginning to worry that I’m an image junkie.  And the thing is, I don’t just save the ones that might work for the stories I have ready.  I find ones that inspire other ideas for other stories, so I save those, too, with notes for what I might do with them.  More ideas for stories than I’ll probably ever be able to write.

One of my friends gets ideas for stories when she reads news articles.  She writes mysteries, so when she reads about a unique crime, she cuts out the article and then plays with the idea.  What if someone else committed the murder for a different reason?  What would motivate him to stab Mr. X fifteen times?  What was the backstory that led to the fury?  And when she’s done, the crime is the same, but the story’s completely unique.   A friend of mine who writes romance asks herself what could make a really wonderful girl and an absolutely terrific guy meet, have instant chemistry, and then do everything in their power to run away from each other?  What traits would pull them together AND push them apart?

I get inspired by lots of things.  I might want a small character I used in one novella to have a bigger role in the next one.  So I ask myself, what is there about this character that could bring her grief?  It’s almost always in her backstory–which the reader might only get glimpses of, it’s only important to me–and then I do what I can to make her life miserable until she resolves her conflicts (inner and outer).   BUT the other thing that inspires me is an awesome image.

I found– cover_mockup_17 — this image when I was searching through ideas for covers one day.  And the mood of the image made me think of all sorts of story ideas.  The moon and girl suggested a witch story.  But the girl’s not on a broomstick, so what if people just THOUGHT she was a witch?  And for some reason, the colors and shadows made me think bittersweet, a tragedy of some sort.  There’s a tree.  People used to hang witches, didn’t they?  The birds made me think of Death’s ravens, that travel with him.  So I decided to make it a Death & Loralei novella.  My imagination took off from there.

Inspiration comes from all sorts of tidbits and places.  One of my friends uses music to inspire her.  Another reads a novel that she loves and asks herself What could I do with the book’s big question that would be completely different?  How could I take that character flaw and go in a totally different direction?  Another friend loves research and Regencies, so asked herself what kind of Regency romance she’d like to read, and then wrote it.  A newspaper article, a stray conversation–ideas for stories are everywhere.   May you find your inspiration, and may the Muse fill in the rest…with lots of elbow grease from you.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/series-of-novellas.html