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, authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

3 brainstorming techniques that can help you capture the best ideas for your book

One of the keys to writing a good book is making sure your manuscript contains the best of ideas or story you want to brainstorm ideaconvey. That means you need to make sure you include all the main ideas and supporting concepts for a nonfiction book and all the key plot points and characters in a fiction book.

Brainstorming before you begin writing can help you capture scattered thoughts and explore new ones you might not have considered. You can brainstorm about your book in general to get started, or you can brainstorm something more specific, such as a particular character, the setting of your story, or a chapter. There are several brainstorming techniques that are useful for writers. Here are a few to try that could help make your book even better.

Ask Questions

Instead of focusing on the answers and what you know, think about questions you could ask about your topic or plot or a character. “What if” is a great place to start. What if the character was from another planet? What if no one spoke the same language? What if you wrote a workbook to accompany your non-fiction book? “What if” can lead to a number of new ideas.

Another way to approach this technique is create a sheet that has six categories: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then start writing down questions that need to be answered. Who are the antagonist’s allies? What is the one thing the main character cannot live without? Where will the story unfold? Give yourself a time frame, and write down as many questions as you can. At the end of the brainstorming session, dig deeper into some of the interesting questions that arose.

Create a Mind Map

Mind mapping can help you explore new directions and new ideas for your book.

Mind mapping can help you explore new directions and new ideas for your book.

To expand your basic idea, try the technique known as mind mapping. Mind mapping is a technique used to organize your brainstorming ideas. Start with a circle in the center of a blank page (use a large sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or even a sidewalk and chalk). In the middle of that circle, write your main idea or initial thought, and then branch off from there. Draw other circles branching from the first one, filling them in with related ideas or subplots. Continue expanding on each subsidiary idea and then on ideas subsidiary to the first sub-idea. Continue quickly, creating more branches and associations. At the end, your page will be filled with a mind map of ideas that will help you develop your story.

Make a List

The first two brainstorming ideas are intended to create a breadth of ideas around a topic, but making a list will help you explore the depth of a topic. To start set a number as your goal for your list. It could be ten, or 20 or 50. The number doesn’t matter as much as the commitment to create the list. Then write a statement or idea at the top of the page. For example, at the end of the book, the main character will ______________. Then start making a list of all the possible things that could happen to the main character. Most of the ideas on the list won’t be viable, but the goal is to just open up your thinking to find that one really killer idea on the list. Don’t worry about the quality or order of the items you are listing, just get them out onto the page. Then go back and review your list when you are done. You will probably be surprised at some of what you listed, but look for that one idea that can make your book really special.

Have you used brainstorming techniques?

I trust these three simple ideas are helpful to you, but perhaps there are other techniques you have used in your writing process. If so, please share those in the comment section and I will post for the other readers to see.

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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, Editing, writing

Can outlining make your writing even better? Here are 3 methods to use and find out.

I have to admit I was not a fan of outlining and have heard multiple debates among writers about whether an outline is needed. Some see it as essential before they start the writing process. Others see it as too restrictive and something that limits creativity. I probably would have fallen more in the latter category, but over the last few years, I have come to really see the value of establishing an outline before writing.

No matter what method you use, an outline could improve your writing.

No matter what method you use, an outline could improve your writing. 

Having a good outline is like having a good map. GPS on our phones has made maps old school, but not that long ago, having a map was critical before embarking on a journey. For me an outline simply serves as a map. It establishes where you are starting and what your final destination will be and some of the key milestones you will pass on your journey. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a slightly different route once you begin your journey or add a stop or two. It just simply gives you a path to follow as you write. Too often, first time authors, write to get down on paper the essence of what they want to say, but don’t make it easy for others to follow along. An outline can help avoid that problem.

Three options for you to create an outline.  Over the years, three different methods for outlining have become the predominant options for authors. There is no ranking of one, two and three. Rather, they present choices for you to find which method works best for you. The following list will touch on the basics of popular methods.

Classic Outline

This classic outline includes Roman numerals, letters, and numbers for headings and subheadings. It is the most highly organized form of outlining and relies heavily on sequential thinking. It is often uses most for nonfiction works. The goal of the classical outline is to create a blueprint that effectively divides main ideas and subordinating ones, while at the same time coordinating ideas into a cohesive whole. Most of us learned this method in school at some point

Summary Outline

In a summary outline, you start by sequentially listing plot events. Then write a short summary of each chapter. Clearly define goals for each chapter and discuss the characters, settings, and chapter timelines. This kind of outline is linear in nature. It can be used in conjunction with a classic outline to create an even more detailed blueprint for your book. It is also most often used for a fiction book.

Storyboarding

This form of outlining is popular because it allows for constant reorganization of ideas. It is a great technique for when you

Using Post-It notes can be an effective way to storyboard.

Using Post-It notes can be an effective way to storyboard.

want to get all your ideas down and then begin to play with options for how the book or story could flow.  You can use index cards or sticky notes and write down all the key events or points you want to make. Then on a wall or table, begin to layout the order you want the ideas or events to appear. This method is really helpful if you are a visual person and need to see the flow. It also helps you see where you may have holes in the story or a weak transition.

Have you used a outline when you write? If so, what method? Have you found it helpful. Use the comment section to let me know what you think.

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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, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing

3 statements I hear from first-time authors that make me cringe.

Over the years, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors and there are three phrases I sometimes hear that give me pause.Quote marrks

“The audience for my book is every man, woman and child on the planet”

Identifying your audience is one of the keys to creating an effective marketing plan for your book. If your target is too broad, it will be difficult if not impossible to be successful.  Plus, you set unrealistic expectations that will only lead to disappointment.  Instead you should:

  • Describe who you think will most likely read your book in terms of gender, age, occupation if relevant.
  • Write a simple statement as to why you think they will want to read your book
  • Identify where you think your audience looks for information. If they are engaged on social media, be specific about which platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Consider what events do they attend and can you have a presence there as an exhibitor or speaker
  • Think of anywhere locally where your target audience might congregate?

“My daughter is an artist”

Your book cover is first marketing decision, so having an appropriate and eye-catching cover is very important. Unfortunately, too often first-time authors make decisions based on personal preference or to be provocative. Knowing someone who can draw or who is a graphic designer is not the same as working with a cover designer. Cover design is a particular skill so you will want to make sure you work with someone or a team who has experience specifically designing book covers. You can find more information about good cover design in the post I did titled, Six tips from wicked good book cover designers,

“My job was to write the book. Someone else can promote it.”

Book Marketing sign postOne of the great myths among first time authors is that if they get published by a traditional publisher, then someone else will do the marketing for their book. The reality is no matter how you publish, you still need to be involved in the promotion of your book.  One of the key ways is to use social media to connect with and cultivate an audience. In fact, one the criteria most traditional publishers consider when acquiring a title is the platform of the author.  If you want to learn more about how to develop your marketing acumen, you might want to consider reading this post, Confused about how to do book marketing? Here is a simple way to build an effective marketing plan.

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