Author Solutions, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

Over the past year, I have gotten to know, Adam Hall, who is a book designer for indie authors. His website, www.aroundthepages.com  is a showcase for his work, but Adam also does design for a variety of diverse projects and audiences. He has worked with both first-time and experienced authors on one book or a series. I asked him to share some of his insights recently about designing for books. His answers to my questions follow below.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

How did you start designing book covers? 

I got my start by doing a favor for a friend, Ernie Lindsey. He is an indie writer who has made the USA Today Bestseller list with his series, Sara’s Game. A few years ago he needed some help tweaking a cover. Ernie and I have now collaborated on about 10+ projects. Through his, and other’s encouragement, I decided to make it my focus in my design career.

“……a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”

 From your experience what are the keys to making a book cover design work really well?

The cover needs to convey the genre, and give a clue into the story. It doesn’t need to tell the whole story, but create enough intrigue to catch the readers’ eye. Focus on typography as much as the images. If the art is brilliant, but the title text is all wrong, the whole piece falls flat. The art and typography have to work together.

How does book cover design differ from other design projects you do?

In addition to book covers, I work with musicians and bands on artwork and websites. With music design you are basically marketing the individual or group. With book covers you are telling a story. It is fun to find that nugget in the story that you can use in artwork to capture that the idea in the book in one image. That makes book cover design more challenging than doing design for music, but that’s part of what makes it fun.

The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

What design mistakes do you see most often on book covers?

One common mistake is not considering all formats when doing the cover design. You have to make sure the cover looks great in thumbnail size AND full size. You only have a split second to catch a potential reader’s eye as they’re searching out that next book. The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

What tips would you give to first time authors?

I think two of the most important people an author can find are a good editor and designer. You have to trust both to make your work the best it can be.

When it comes to working with a designer, do your due diligence and look at a designer’s previous work. A friend of mine has said “a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”. I thought that was a brilliant point. Find a designer who can help make your cover one that motivate readers to buy your book.

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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Essential info on how to work with an illustrator: An interview with Jamie Cosley

Recently I had a conversation with Jamie Cosley, who makes his living as an illustrator. While Jamie’s web site show cases a wide range of illustrations, his portfolio features work for a number of children’s books. Given the number of aspiring authors I speak with who are writing a children’s book, I thought it would be helpful to hear from an experienced illustrator like Jamie to know what to expect when working with an illustrator to make your book as good as it can be. What follows are Jamie’s answers to some questions I posed to him.

Illustrator Jamie Cosley shares tips on what to expect from working with an illustrator.

Illustrator Jamie Cosley shares tips on what to expect from working with an illustrator.

How did you start doing illustrations for books?  My first picture book was Poppy’s Planet by author Russ Brown.  He was looking for an illustrator on Twitter. I found his initial post and sent him a link to my website.  We’ve also worked on two other books since then. I like being able to work with first time authors and self publishers.  Most of my connections at first were made through Twitter, but now a lot of projects come from referrals.

“It’s real easy to crowd a page. You need to make sure that everything the reader will see on the page is necessary to the story.”

What advice would you give on the best way to work with an illustrator?    I would just like everyone to know that it is a lot of hard work!   Illustrating a picture book (depending on the amount of detail the story requires) can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to complete.

Make sure you don't crowd the page. Everything on the page should be essential to the story.

Make sure you don’t crowd the page. Everything on the page should be essential to the story.

How do illustrations for a book differ from other illustration projects?  The main difference is consistency.  You have to learn to draw certain characters over and over again without changing their size or appearance.  If you have a little girl with a bow in her hair and it’s on the left side of her face, you need to remember that throughout those 32 pages.  That can be very tricky so I think it’s important to develop a model//character sheet that shows your characters from all different angles before you even begin.  If you do a lot of prep work up front it will be easier on you in the long run.  When you do a spot illustration for a magazine or newspaper article you will probably only have to draw it once :)  It’s a lot different.

“There is nothing like holding that finished product in your hand….”

What design mistakes do you see most often in books that have illustrations?  Composition is really tough.  It’s real easy to crowd a page. You need to make sure that everything the reader will see on the page is necessary to the story

What tips would you give to first time authors?  Be patient.   This is never easy.  When you start to see your dream take shape it’s easy to become impatient and want to speed things along.  Maybe even cut corners.  There is nothing like holding that finished product in your hand but take a deep breath and make certain that there aren’t any mistakes first.  Let more than a few eyes see it so you only have to print once!

Consistency in characters, tone of voice and reading level are key to a good children's book.

Consistency in characters, tone of voice and reading level are key to a good children’s book.

 Anything else you think would be helpful for readers to know.  It’s an exciting time to be a creative person.  You have sites like Kickstarter and Patreon where you can go out on your own and make things happen!  So do it!  Make things happen!  Don’t be afraid.  Dream big!

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Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

A web site to spark creativity and help young authors get published: Check out Scribblitt

Recently, I became aware of a cool site focused on cultivating creativity and writing in young people. The site is called Scribblitt and was founded by Andrea Bergstein. Andrea has a significant marketing background with Mattel Toys and developing brands such as Babar as marketing head for an animation studio. Recently,I spoke with Andrea to learn more about Scrbblitt and give you a new idea to share with young people and teachers who want to see a new generation of authors developed. Scribblitt website home page

In a few words explain what your Scribblitt does.

Scribblitt is a community for young writers designed to spark kids’ creativity with tools to help them write, illustrate and publish their own professional hardcover books. The site also acts as an Ed-Tech solution assisting Teachers with tools to help their students write and publish their own books. For every book published, we donate a book to a child in need through The Molina Foundation, a national non-profit focused on reducing disparities in health and education.

Scribblitt provides writing tools like Story Starters and a Planning Tool as well as a unique, pick and click illustration tool for professional images and the ability to scan and upload art or photos. The site is designed especially for kids appealing to their sense of style and also their need for social interaction. Registration is free so everyone has the opportunity to try Scribblitt, read Celebrity Author interviews, be a Featured Scribbler, participate in writing contests, share stories in our library, join in conversations on the blog, play word games and more.

“The site is designed especially for kids appealing to their sense of style and also their need for social interaction.”

What inspired you to create the site?

My oldest daughter wrote story after story and always asked me to help her get her stories published. We found writing contests to enter, but that really wasn’t what she had in mind. My younger daughter loved to draw and I had mounds of paper all over the place from stories started and drawings created, none of which I was allowed to throw out in case inspiration struck at any time to complete them. I loved that my kids were using their imaginations, expressing themselves and creating, in addition to honing their writing skills.

Scribblitt 2I could also see that teachers did not have the tools needed to help motivate and reward their students to write. Each teacher seemed to have a year end writing project to showcase the students’ work but used a plain white book to cut and paste the stories into, or simply stapled the pages with a construction paper cover.

I thought, “there has got to be a better way to do this”. With my background in Marketing kid’s brands, I decided, if it didn’t exist, I was going to build it.

What has been most surprising to you since you launched the site.

The biggest surprise has been the overwhelmingly positive feedback I have received from parents, teachers, and authors, not to mention the kids. There are many kids who have written in just to say thank you for giving them the tools to help them publish a book. There is such passion out there to help kids write. It is a wonderful feeling to have developed this community where young writers can flourish.

Why do you think a site like this is needed in the fast changing publishing landscape?

Everyone has a story to tell. With the availability of desktop publishing and the introduction of print-on-demand publishing, there is no reason why kids can’t be published authors too. Scribblitt allows kids to write directly into our template and save on the cloud for access anywhere.

Plus, Teachers need tools like Scribblitt to help them meet curriculum demands in a world of ever-changing, technology-based learning while engaging students who are so tech savvy at such a young age.

“Teachers need tools like Scribblitt to help them meet curriculum demands in a world of ever-changing, technology-based learning while engaging students who are so tech savvy at such a young age”.

What questions are you asked most often by users of the site.

The most frequently asked question by our Scribblers is “When will your comic book template be ready?”.
We are working on a comic book template which will provide an alternative to our book format, allowing for another creative way to keep kids engaged in writing.

What tips would you give to first time authors?

Write about something you know well so that you can bring your story to life for the reader. Describe the detail including sights, smells, texture and use comparisons to help the reader picture your words like watching a movie.

Anything else you think would be helpful for readers to know.

Scribblitt offers an Educator’s Discount for Teachers who want to do a class publishing project to help students publish their stories. Teachers should register at http://www.scribblitt.com/teacherprojects.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

5 free webinars every aspiring author should watch

As part of my role with Author Solutions, I have the opportunity to give and participate in numerous webinars for writers and authors for The Author Learning Center, Hay House and iUniverse to name a few. I always enjoy the experience, but I have to tell you I think some of the best webinars available to authors are on the Archway Publishing website.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site

Full disclosure: I am always involved with approving the topics.and sometimes talk with the presenter to help shape the content, but each time I am always thoroughly impressed with the content and the topics that Simon and Schuster makes available to authors through Archway.

Here are the webinars that you can access for free to learn more about what it takes to publish a better book and market it more effectively.

  1. Secrets of an Acquisitions Editor – How To Get The Attention of a Traditional Publisher-Presenter: Michael Szezeran, Editor at Simon & Schuster
  2. Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make–Presenter: Abby Zidle, Senior Editor at Gallery Books and Pocket Books
    from Simon & Schuster
  3. Four Keys To A Killer Cover–Presenter:Jason Heuer, Associate Art Director at Simon & Schuster
  4. Best Practices For Authors on Facebook–Presenter: Susan B. Katz, Author & Strategic Manager at Facebook
  5. How To Capture Attention On Twitter–Presenter: Andrew Fitzgerald, Twitter Media Team
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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

4 takeaways from BEA (Book Expo America) that authors should know about.

Last week I attended the premier industry tradeshow, Book Expo America, also affectionately known as BEA. Here were some of my observations.

Book Expo America show floor

Lots of activity on the Book Expo America show floor (Book Expo America)

The death of publishing is greatly exaggerated.

While publishing has gone through significant changes the past year, the floor was still filled with lots of new books and authors. Then on the weekend, the doors were open to readers and the floor was filled with lots of eager fans ready to meet some of their literary stars.

Publishing is still a place for start-ups.

One of the more interesting sections for the trade show floor was dedicated to start-ups focused on the publishing industry. I did not get a chance to walk all the booths in Start-Up Alley, but judging by the amount of space they occupied, there were a number of new ideas trying to gain traction. Time will tell but it was encouraging to see investment in new ideas for readers and authors.

Using social media for discovery is a big topic.

As expected a hot topic was how to use social to promote discoverability. One of the most interesting new entrants is Bookgrabbr. According to their site, BookGrabbr is an App and web-based technology product designed to expand the brand and media platform of any author by creating and increasing visibility in the book community and securing new readers and customers for those authors’ books.

Smiling Archway authors packed the booth at BEA.

Smiling Archway authors packed the booth at BEA. One author even wore a Superman cape.

Archway Publishing authors were extremely happy.

At the end of the show, Archway Publishing hosted a reception for authors. As usual, the authors who attend BEA and the event, loved it. I heard two words consistently, “overwhelming and exciting”. That is how authors felt about the time at the Expo and at the reception. It is always a great way to close out the day.

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Author Solutions, authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 helpful tips on how to work with a ghostwriter

Not too long ago I featured two guest posts from Kathy Ide. Kathy is a ghostwriter, editor/mentor, writers’ conference speaker and author of a must-have book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors  She also founded and is the coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network(www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection(www.ChristianEditor.com).

Her previous posts LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading and 5 ways that mistakes in your manuscript can hurt your reputation as an author were very well-received so I thought I would offer some additional insights from her.

I had the privilege of interviewing Kathy at the West Coast Writer’s Conference on the topic of ghostwriting. She had some helpful tips if that is something you are considering.

Don’t just rely on interviews

When people think of ghostwriting, they often think they will just dictate the whole story. That may be because they don’t have the time, confidence or skills to write a manuscript.  Kathy suggests even though a ghostwriter will do interviews, it is very helpful for you to write down your thoughts. It could be key stories or people, but it will help the interviews be more productive.

Create a chronological outline

Along with writing down significant moments in preparation for the interviews, it is also very helpful to create a chronological outline of the story. Again it will help create order and make the interviews even more productive. In fact, you should probably provide it to the ghostwriter prior to the interview.

Be clear on your audience

This is a key no matter what book you are writing or publishing. I have written about this extensively, but it is perhaps the most important thing for any writer to keep in mind when they are publishing.

If you would like to hear Kathy elaborate on these topics, here interview is available below.

 

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authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Lisa Genova: From self-published author to being thanked on Oscar night.

Still Alice book cover

Still Alice started as self-published book and look where it ended up.

If you have read this blog before, you know I have mentioned Lisa Genova in previous posts.  She is a gifted author in her own right, but her own story is amazing. Recently Kevin Gray wrote about her journey on the Archway Publishing blog. I thought it was a great summation of the path she has traveled from being a first-time, self-published author to having Oscar winner, Julianne Moore, thank Lisa in her acceptance speech. As I have said many times when I speak to writers groups and at publishing conferences; “changes in publishing doesn’t mean everyone will be successful, but it means everyone has the opportunity to be successful”.  I can think of no better example of what that can mean for authors, than Lisa. Enjoy.

Still Alice” author Lisa Genova is living a dream. The night before the 87th Academy Awards, she posted a picture on her Facebook page all smiles, standing next to an ebullient Julianne Moore at a party hosted by Sony Entertainment. It’s an unusual setting for a Harvard-educated neuroscientist, to be sure, but perhaps an equally unlikely place to find a self-published author.

Long before Hollywood parties, celebrity meet and greets or a seat at the Academy Awards; Genova queried publishing’s gatekeepers, seeking a publisher for her novel, “Still Alice.” Agents and publishers alike told the unknown author the audience for a book about Alzheimer’s disease was too small. One agent even cautioned Genova that self-publishing her story would “kill her career.”

Despite that warning, Genova took the plunge and the book in 2007.

Fueled by her dedication to researching dementia and other neurological disorders, Genova tirelessly spread the word about her newly self-published work. Her diligence, and a little bit of luck, resulted in hitting the jackpot: a review in one of America’s top newspapers – The Boston Globe.

Beverley Beckham’s expectations for “Still Alice” were meager, but Alice’s story captured her: “It had arrived in the mail a week before; I’d promised to take a look and that’s all I was doing – just looking–but I couldn’t put it down,” Beckham wrote in her May 16, 2008 review for the Globe. Beckham led her piece with a ringing endorsement: “After I read ‘Still Alice’ I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, ‘You have to get this book.’

This blog post first appeared in the Archway Publishing blog.

This blog post first appeared in the Archway Publishing blog.

Fast forward to early 2009 – shortly after Beckham’s piece – a literary agent took another look and agreed to shop the novel and several publishers expressed interest. Simon & Schuster, owner of Archway Publishing, came to terms with Genova to acquire “Still Alice,” and to rerelease it through its Pocket Books imprint. Upon its 2009 rerelease, the book debuted high on the New York Times Bestseller List, where it would stay for more than 40 weeks.

In the ensuing years, Genova’s released two more bestsellers: “Left Neglected” and “Love Anthony,” becoming to novels about neurological disorders what John Grisham’s become to legal thrillers. The rise of Lisa Genova and “Still Alice” from self-publishing to silver screen feature film is not typical. Luck was part of the winning equation, but Genova did so much more to advance her book.

  • She wrote about a specific topic about which she had vast knowledge and a deep personal passion.
  • Despite warnings that her book’s appeal was too narrow, she developed and filled previously unrealized niche.
  • She believed in her work, ignored negativity, and took the self-publishing plunge rather than letting her manuscript gather dust on the shelf.
  • She was relentless. She networked, she spread the word. She convinced a reviewer from a prestigious outlet to glance at her book.

First and foremost though, Genova wrote an exceptional book; a book that is bringing attention and changing perceptions about a devastating condition.

And anyone who reads it will never, ever forget Alice.

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