Monday, March 30, 2015

Behind every good author is a...

Don’t tell my human, but this post is coming to you by me.

It’s hard to take a good selfie without opposable thumbs, so don’t judge. I’ll try to only use photos my human has already taken from now on.

My human, who normally writes these posts, is busy. She’s been babbling about not knowing how she was going to get this post done with spring break and other things that mean nothing to me except an annoying interruption to my sleep schedule. However, since she fed me regularly this week, and even cleaned my water bowl, I decided to give her a break.

I help her a lot while she’s on the computer. It’s how I learned to type. It’s also how I know there are lots of posts floating around that highlight all the hard work a self-published author does each time they complete another book. To my dismay, none of these tell you what the cat does.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Behind every good author is a purrfect cat.”

Allow me to enlighten you of the cat’s roll in the book publishing process. While this tells you what I do, I can assure you that it’s the same for all other cats.

You know that voice authors sometimes say they hear in their head? The crazy ones think it’s their characters speaking to them. Sorry, no—it’s the cat. I guide my human to make sure she keeps her characters on track. I purr and show my belly when she gets it right. If it’s wrong, then I poke her in the face until she understands.

Another important role I have is distraction blocking. I watch—from all angles—and am prepared to jump into action the moment something tries to pull my human’s attention away from writing. Some think that squirrels are the largest threat, but really it’s the leaves. They blow around outside the windows from all directions, causing my human to glance up repeatedly. That’s when I pounce, and bring her focus back where it needs to be.

After what the human calls a manuscript is done, I do what my human calls editing. I read this manuscript, and point out the areas where she missed the mark. With all the poking during the typing process, I’m not sure how there are always so many mistakes. But she is only human after all.

Another thing I do for my human author is shipment inspection. No human knows boxes better than cats. Once my human has removed all the books from the box, it is my job to go in and perform the quality check. I ensure the box is free of tears, can hold the proper temperature, and has the appropriate level of concealment. Once the box inspection is complete, I move to the packing paper. This is tested to make sure it has the appropriate ‘crunching’ sound. Humans are too dense to understand why these factors are important to the overall success of book production, so I won’t even attempt to explain.

Finally, I make sure that the all important author throne is held to a comfortable temperature. Humans take for granted the way a properly heated rear end helps sharpen one’s focus. Cats know this. We understand the critical role heat plays in everyday function.

There are many, many more ways the cat keeps their human author on track. But it is now time for my nap, so I must end after one final thought:

If you’ve ever read a book that you didn’t enjoy, then that human author has a dog. 

~The Cat.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One More Chapter Syndrome

I'm going to talk to you today about a very serious affliction. This affliction strikes suddenly and there's no cure for it. It will cause you to not care about the current state of your home, make excuses to justify your actions (or lack thereof), delay the feeding of your household, and lose sleep. Most people also boast a rapid rate of word digestion and forget to shower.

I've recently been self-diagnosed with this affliction. One More Chapter Syndrome is real. And when it hits, it hits HARD.
It started on Thursday. I picked up my book--Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins--while at an appointment and started reading. I was fine at first. I read a little here and a little there, but I didn't stay up terribly late reading like I usually would. By Saturday morning, I figured I'd just read while eating breakfast. But then the chapter ended and I shrugged before continuing. And then that chapter ended and I did the same thing.

Before I knew it, a couple hours had passed and my family was waiting on me to get ready to run errands. I narrowly escaped them confiscating my book altogether. I made it through errands, but I resumed reading as soon as we arrived home. Late Saturday night, I finished my book.

Upon waking Sunday morning, I promptly reserved the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, figuring I'd find something short to read in the meantime. And I did. I read a bit more of Fables Vol. 4 and I actually read Kimberly G. Giarratano's new short story, One Night Is All You Need, which she mentioned here. I'd recommend it! But I was itching to read Lola. I cracked and ended up buying the Kindle version and, of course, started reading it immediately.

Monday and Tuesday were busy days for me, so I managed to get a few of the necessary things done. Now, at this point, I thought I was recovering. But then yesterday I figured I'd start the day easy and read through breakfast. I did. And then I made myself get up to clean for a bit. But, hey, I needed a snack. Might as well enjoy a few pages, right? A few chapters later, I got back to work. And then it was time for lunch. I cleared another few chapters and made myself work again, trying to ignore the book that was taunting me from my desk. But coffee break! Needless to say, I finished that book last night. Or I guess it was technically this morning.

Today we made a trip to the library so I could collect the next companion novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After. I swear I'm not petting it at this very moment. Really, I'm not. OK. I am. But that's because I have sewing to do and children to teach and a kitchen to clean and... Well, just one chapter should be fine, right?

See what I mean? It's a very serious affliction.

Before I ditch all my duties and lose myself in Paris--again--have you suffered from One More Chapter Syndrome? With what book(s)?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Back Jacket Hack-Job #2: JAWS

A Post By Jonathan

So there’s this shark, right… and he really likes messing with people... and by messing with people, I mean eating them. He usually just goes for hot chicks in bikinis, but he’ll eat just about anyone or anything you put in front of him, including entire boats (gonna need a bigger one!), Killer Whales, and the occasional meddling Martha's Vineyard police chief. 

Jaws --that's the shark's name, really original Momma Shark!!!-- wasn't always this way... He used to be one of those nice, vegetarian sharks, who would smile his pearly white smile at any sea turtle or fisherman passing by. Then one day, while he is on his way to a family reunion in the land down under, he takes a wrong turn at Martha's Vineyard. There he comes across something thrashing in the water. Always the helpful shark, Jaws goes to investigate. That's when he discovers that the something thrashing in the water is a girl who seems to be drowning.

Doing what any nice, vegetarian shark would do, Jaws tries to save her, or at least keep her afloat until the Coast Guard arrives (love those guys!). But then something horrible happens. Somehow, the girl gets her foot caught on one of Jaws's pearly white teeth. He tries to tell her to calm down or she'll hurt herself, but unfortunately sharks can't talk-- especially not with bikini-clad women in their mouths. He tries to let go, but she's thrashing around so much that she eventually cuts her femoral artery and bleeds out right before Jaws's dark, tear-filled eyes.

He is so devastated that he tries to turn himself in, but everyone he tries to tell seems to fall clumsily into his open maw. Before he knows it, he has got a kill sheet longer than Jack the Ripper's. By the time he meets up with Chief Brody and his hunting party, no amount of explanation will get Jaws out of this mess. Now he has no choice but to abandon his vegetarian ways, and try and eat his way out of this horrible place called Martha's Vineyard, if he still hopes to make it to the family reunion on time.

For the story behind Back Jacket Hack-Job, see the first installment here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seasons of Writing

I don't know about where you are, but it's still pretty cold here in New York. That being said, with Daylight Saving time, I FEEL spring is here.

I also noticed that I go through a writing change per season. Winter and summer are my least productive seasons. In summer I'm out a lot, and in winter I'm moping because I can't be out a lot (though I do love a good snowstorm.)

Fall is a perfect writing time for me, since I hate that time of year with a fiery passion (I know I'm probably the only person on earth, judging by all the fall-lovers in my Twitter/Facebook newsfeeds.) But I really do dislike the season. To me, early fall is the most depressing, since all it signifies to me is summer's end. I was brought up on this belief, after all:
Plus I feel left out because I hate fall activities. I'm allergic to hay, and I think pumpkin flavored drinks are gross. So, I hole up in my room, while everyone's planning Halloween costumes and apple picking, and I write (for the record, I do love November, since it's too pretty not to love.)

But then spring comes and it's a whole new story. I have these bursts of energy to create, and renewed hope for my works' success. Maybe it's because of the all extra sunshine.

Or maybe it's just the way I roll.

What season are you most productive in?? Or is it just easier for you to write in a specific season???

xoxo Beth

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Of Blood and Sorrow

Author Christine Rains has stopped by to answer a few questions about her most recent release, OF BLOOD AND SORROW!

Erin Driscol works the perfect job consoling fellow demons by feeding off their grief at Putzkammer & Sons Funeral Home.

When fledgling vampire Nicolas Reese comes to Erin for help, she learns the truth behind the legends and hides him from his sire and the vampire hunters who seek him. But when the Putzkammers begin to die one by one, Erin is caught between her act of kindness and the need to save her adopted family. Only by facing her own personal demons can she stop the slaughter and still rescue Nicolas from his dark fate.

1. What was your first thought when you saw your cover?

I was blown away. I had no idea what I wanted for my cover when I hired my cover artist, Erin Dameron-Hill. I only knew what I didn't want. I answered a detailed questionnaire and chatted a little with her, and then she came up with the concept. She knew what I needed even when I didn't. I'm still in awe whenever I look at the cover.

2. Why a funeral home setting (which is super intriguing!)?

Thank you! I wanted the story to take place somewhere different, but yet a place that was present in our every day world. I had the idea for my protagonist first, and since she's a sorrow phage, I wanted her to be where she could survive in a modern day setting without attracting attention to herself.

3. Did you know Erin's name right away, or did it take some searching?

I didn't know Erin's name right away. In fact, I went for a while without a name for her. Sometimes characters come to me with names, but Erin didn't want to draw attention to herself. That meant finding the right name for her a difficult task. Her full name is Erinys Driscol, but I shortened it to Erin as I didn't want a name that sounded too fantasy-like in a modern day tale.

About the author:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She's married to her best friend and fellow geek living in south-central Indiana. They have one son who is too smart for his parents' own good and loves to pretend he's Batman. Christine has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not reading or writing, she's going on adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. (South Central Indiana Fiction Interface). She has several short stories and novellas published. The Dice & Debauchery series is her first contemporary erotic romance.

Please visit her website and blog.

You can also find Christine on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My First Shot At Travel Writing

Here I am in Tubigen, Germany

A Post By Jonathan

I've been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in my life, but for some reason I've never written about it. I don't know why, exactly. Maybe it's because I never thought anyone would find my trips that interesting. I mean, it's not like I've been hacking my way through the Amazon or anything (would love to hack my way to the top of the Amazon bestseller's list someday though... *wink, wink*). I have been to some pretty cool countries, but many a traveler has seen the same wonders I have --Big Ben, The Great Wall, The Taj Mahal included-- so I guess I just felt like I never had anything new to add.

But now that I'm a member of this awesome blog (shout out to my fellow Boarders!), I figured it was high time I take my first shot at travel writing. So here goes!

Just a little over a week ago, I had the awesome opportunity to visit Germany. Deutschland! The land of my ancestors, where the beer flows like a river and the bratwursts grow on trees. Although work was the main impetus (warning: impetus will auto-correct to impotence if you're not careful...) for my trip --I led a group of college students on a study abroad-- I had some time to do a little sightseeing on my own. And holy shiest was I looking forward to it.

While the city where I did all of my business (no, not that kind of business...) didn't turn out to be the most interesting place in the world, I had been sent on a bit of a genealogical mission by my father-in-law to locate the village of Wachendorf (population 1,220), where his great grandfather, also my two month old son's namesake, lived before immigrating to the US in the 1800's. So while my students headed off to typical sightseeing destinations like Prague and Heidelberg, I jumped on two trains and a bus to find some random village in the middle of the Swabian Alps. Sounds pretty cool doesn't it? Hey, this travel writing stuff is easy!

Mission Accomplished!
I had done a little reading online before heading off to Wachendorf, and the only thing the place seemed to be famous for was something called a "sports complex." At first I wondered if that was a Dennis Rodman type of thing (get it, sports complex? *crickets* okay, moving on...), but when the bus dropped me off in front of a place with a bunch of tennis courts and soccer fields (known as "football fields" in Europe, I would later learn...) I knew it was an actual place. Not knowing anyone in town, and not having a clue where I was going, I saw a sign for beer and walked into what turned out to be a mini sports bar in the middle of podunkville, Germany. Imagine my luck!

The place, which looked like it was frozen in the 70's, was empty except for the barkeep. He couldn't speak a lick of English, but he definitely spoke my language when he poured me a pint of golden suds. I sat at a table by myself for a while, when all of a sudden in walked practically the entire village. Apparently a televised "football game" was starting in a few minutes, and I was there at prime gathering time. Man, did someone slip some Felix Felicis in one of my beers or something?

Before I knew it, I was surrounded by a host of local Wachendorfians, and boy could they drink! After a few rounds of beer and questioning, it turned out that the guy sitting next to me was related through marriage to one of my father-in-law's distant cousins! Feel free to hang up the Mission Accomplished banner now... All I had left to do was take some pictures of the local sights and be on my merry way. One of the younger guys, who was also one of the few English-speakers in town, was nice enough to drive me around so I didn't have to walk.

Here's a picture of my drinking buddies. The guy who I'm blocking out is the distant relation and the guy all the way to the left is my driver friend/guide. This is a selfie, by the way... With an arm like mine, who needs a selfie stick?
I even got an invite to come back the next day to watch a real life "football game" at the Wachendorf Sports Complex. I agreed, and that visit was just as fun.

I had a number of other adventures while in Germany, which included a visit to a Prussian-era castle (did you know Germany has over 20,000 castles?) and a stop over in Tubigen, which has a lot of old German architecture. But I guess, with my visit to Wachendorf, I got a taste of local culture that few others have a chance to experience. And that, my friends, is something to write about!

To close it out, here's a picture of Burg Hohenzollern, the Prussian Castle I went to!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

7 Batshit Things Authors Actually Say

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Authors are a funny bunch.  Every child likes to play make-believe, but for most people that sort of behavior just won’t stand past your first discovery of the fine periodicals of Larry Flynt.  For the author, though, playing make-believe doesn’t just continue well into adulthood, it is codified and concretized, and in some cases even rewarded with the exchange of very small sums of currency.  As a result, authors naturally tend to be an odd bunch, but for no clear reason some truly insane statements have gained credence in the writing world, and you will hear actual people make claims like:

1.  “My characters talk to me.  It’s like they’re real people and they’re just stuck in my head.”

What with the alcoholism and the public note-taking and the stalking of reviewers, authors are a pretty strange bunch.  But some authors seem to feel the need to take this to a whole new level of lunacy and claim that their characters literally have a will of their own and “talk” to them.  Likely this started as a metaphor, along the lines of the whole ancient Greek muse thing, which suggested that there were nine literal goddesses who whispered into people’s ears about just what sorts of objects Oedipus should or should not stick in his eyes at the end of any given play.  But some modern-day authors have taken to genuinely claiming that their characters are more real than real, and, in fact, make literal demands of them and tell them what they wish to say in the next chapter.  Sadly, if this is the actual case for you then you should seek help not behind the cathartic clacking of a keyboard, but rather at a reputable mental hospital, because you suffer from auditory hallucinations, one of many possible symptoms of schizophrenia.

2.   “Writing is like air to me. If I didn’t write I would literally just fall over and die.”
It takes an unusual, perhaps extraordinary mind to be an author.  That point is rarely in contention.  But it can lead to authors believing that, like the Jedi and the Starfighters before them, they are a race apart, an unusual sub-species of the human animal.  (Really, this whole list boils down to authors glomming onto pieces of minutia and exaggerating them all out of proportion.)  And just as it would be acceptable to say, “If you really think your characters are talking to you, you should probably seek help for paranoid schizophrenia” it’s also acceptable to say, “If you really think you’re suffering physically from not writing, you probably have some kind of undiagnosed diabetes or something and should see a doctor.”

3.  “I have absolute power and create whole words.  Ah ha ha ha!”

“Worldbuilding” refers to the process by which speculative fiction authors create the aliens or monsters, technology or magic systems, history, and geography of their made-up worlds.  The process of worldbuilding can be as in-depth as George R.R. Martin coming up with 77 actual dishes for the wedding of a single character or as cursory as George R.R. Lucas saying, “Make the space milk blue ‘cause it’s in space or whatever.”  And while worldbuilding is fun and empowering as a brainstorming exercise, before you run off making claims to be the demiurge may I recommend you step back and try to get a little perspective.  You didn’t design the Hoover Dam.  Hell, you didn’t even give birth to and raise a human child.  You made up a bunch of funny names with too many apostrophes for flowers and a reason why silver is more valuable than gold in a fictional city.  And unless you’re J.K. Rowling it’s not like you even invented some universally beloved fantasyland like Hogwarts or Narnia or something.  When your fictional world has a dedicated space at an Orlando amusement park because people want to be there, then feel free to boast about what unlimited power you, as a writer, are possessed of.

4.  “I’m a total sadist.  I love to make my characters suffer.  Ah ha ha ha!”

Someone who was almost certainly not Mark Twain once said the best way to develop characters is to chase them up a tree and throw rocks at them.  Over the years the disciples of the Keith Moon school of moderation have taken this advice to mean, “Torture your characters needlessly and constantly” and its natural corollary, “If you’re not constantly kicking your characters in the ribcage, you’re not a good author.”  While it is true that conflict is what makes a book interesting to read, constant conflict is a little excessive.  Characters need moments of navel-gazing to think and breathe, reflect and develop.  But more importantly, going back to the point that characters are not real, you’re not really torturing anyone, you’re crafting a story.  Unless you think people like Seanbaby who do cruel things to their Sims should be charged with real crimes...?

5.  “Oh yeah?  Well, I’ve always thought I might do a brain surgery if I could find the time!”

In answer to the presumably ubiquitous statement, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, if only I had the time” comes this gem, which authors of all stripes seem to consider the epitome of wit.  Ideally, the statement would come from a highly experienced, highly skilled professional like a neurosurgeon so that the retort would prove that writing is something that requires skill and experience.  Except that…it doesn’t.  Basically everybody can write.  And basically anybody can write a novel.  And while it’s true that to hone your skills and get published can take years and years, I wouldn’t discount the ability of someone who survived eight years of higher education when it comes to arranging a few paragraphs into chapters that more or less can sell.  Not to mention that Dr. McSteamy probably has some great stories from his ER days which would make his book better than anything you could sit around and make up after some googling.  But, yeah, no, stellar takedown on that neurosurgeon, Hemingway.  Original, too.

6.  “Actually, it’s pronounced ‘sher-bay.’”

If there’s one thing that everyone probably already knows, it’s that “Mexico” is really pronounced “Me-hi-co” and “Paris” is really pronounced “Par-ee.”  But, for the most part we don’t walk around decrying the antics of Par-ee Hil-tone for two important reasons: a) no one cares and 2) correcting people is just damn rude.  Unless, of course, you are an author, in which case the rules become 1) your interpretation of debatable, descriptivist grammar rules become immutable law and b) you have total carte blanche to laugh at the “normals.”  Bonus points if you regularly share memes about oxford commas, semicolon usage, and their-there-they’re confusion.

7.  “I don’t care about my reviews.  In fact, I don’t even read them.”

Much like arcade game aficionado Billy Mitchell, who was somehow able to both never see the documentary about his life and still decry it as obviously full of shit, some authors will actually claim not to read reviews of their own work.  In the case of, say, Stephen King, whose most recent novel had nearly 700 Amazon reviews within two weeks of publication, there may be a literal inability to physically read the opinion of every Tom, Dick, and Pennywise.  But for the ≈ 100% of authors who are not Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, or J.K. Rowling, it beggars the imagination to believe that they are not reading and/or crying late at night into a bowl of Americone Dream over their reviews.  The basics of human interaction, let alone online interaction, call this fictitious practice into question.  Unless, of course, you also don’t read the comments on your Facebook posts.

Well, how about it, loyal blog readers?  Are you guilty of any of these crimes against my proclivity towards migraines?  Or do you have any other statements that you find even more egregious, and somehow, perhaps most egregious of all, I managed to leave out?  Or do you genuinely believe one or more of these crazy statements and hate my stupid face for being so stupid?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Design Your Own Covers or Not?

Hey everyone, I'm tossing up an idea here:

I took an online cover design class using Photoshop a few months ago, and since have been playing around with designing my own covers and marketing materials. Though doing marketing ads is fairly easy, I'm really nervous about taking the leap with covers, because I've always been a huge proponent of the importance of using a professional cover designer no matter what.

The first two covers in the picture below were designed by my fantastic cover artist. A Highland Knight's Desire was released last week by Amazon Kindle Scout, and Knight in Highland Armor in January. A Highland Knight to Remember on the right is a pro-forma cover I designed for a book due out at the end of May.
In comparing these three, which one pops the most? Is there too much man-skin in the third?

One big difference is that I made my name fit on one line because one of the criticisms I've had for my professionally designed covers is my name takes up too much of the picture:

I'd love to hear your honest opinion on what you like and don't like. Readers do judge a book by the cover, so it's not something to take lightly.

Do any of you design your own covers?

Do you have cover experiences to share? I'd love to hear them!

For a short time KNIGHT IN HIGHLAND ARMOR is on sale for $0.99. Click here for the deal on Amazon!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Watch out for that steep learning curve

Holy moly. I've just spent the entire morning trying to figure out how to format a short story for Kindle. Long story short story (haha), I did it. Well, I did it and then had help from a good soul on KBoards (hiya, Peter!) who reformatted it for me so I wouldn't embarrass myself. All this for a 5,000-word story. Could you imagine if I had to format a novel? Oh wait, I will soon.

Many months ago, I decided I was going to self-publish all future work. The level of control was too tempting to ignore. There's so much I wanted to write -- YA mystery series, adult cozies, historical fiction -- that the only foreseeable way to do it all was to publish it on my own. I was excited about the prospect. Energized. I can publish all the things! And I can, but damn, at this rate it's going to take me a lifetime.

So here I am trying to dip my toe into the self-publishing pool with a YA short story that received its final rejection ("Strong writing, but we don't publish YA") only a few days ago. So far, I've made a cover (I wouldn't normally do this, but I'm low on funds), paid for editing (this I do recommend), formatted the story (pain in the A$$, but it's done), and brainstormed a list of keywords (whole 'nother lesson) for Amazon. I'm going to enroll the story in Amazon KDP Select and hope I can get some borrows from the Kindle Unlimited program.

I don't know what the market is for short stories on Amazon. All I know is that I love this short story (titled One Night Is All You Need) and I want it to see the light of day. I think it shows off my writing style and it's another avenue for readers to discover my work. It's certainly not getting any love sitting here on my Macbook. Not only that but it's a mini lesson to prepare me for how to do the big stuff, like my novella that I hope to release this June.

Anyone who knows me knows I fear logistics. Writing is my thang, not formatting. But that comes with the self-publishing territory. So if you want to go indie, you have to learn to do it all or pay people to do it for you. Right now, I want to do it myself. I like building this unique skill set, even if it takes me all morning to learn to do something that's probably a five-minute task.

Who's swimming in the indie pool? How's the water? Any tips or tricks for this newbie?


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

First Impressions

It’s been said that you only have 7 seconds to make a strong first impression.  In this digital age of purchasing books, that means your cover has to do its job—because 7 seconds (or less) is about how long it will take a reader to decide if they are going to click through to your book description or if they will scroll on past.

Your cover has to effectively represent not only your author brand, but your story’s brand as well.

Research Other Covers
It’s easy to be tempted to skip this step, or at the least to do just a partial search. At first it’s fun to look at page after page of covers. Then it starts to get a little daunting, kind of boring, and next thing you know you stop after only looking at the top 100 books on the Amazon list. Don’t get me wrong—that’s a good place to start, however you’ll find some great information by looking a little further. You don’t want to spend days doing this kind of research, but make sure you have a really good feel for not only the general trend of covers in your genre, but also what you like and don’t like.

Decide Your Path
If you’ve done your due diligence in the research part, then you should have a pretty good idea of any trends for your genre. You then need to decide if it’s best for you to follow that same trend, or to blaze a new trail. There’s really no right or wrong answer here—just what works best for you and best represents your brand. For example, some say that romance covers need to have people on them (preferably half-naked, thank you very much). But there are some very successful romance novels that don’t follow this ‘standard’.  You can be successful with either path.

DIY or Professional
Another consideration you will have to make is if you want to design the cover yourself or pay someone to do it. Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this. I will say that if you design your own cover and it screams DIY, then you might want to consider hiring a professional if your intention is to sell a lot of books. Bottom line, if you are considering designing your own covers then you need to do your homework on what works and what doesn't. I'd recommend spending some time over on The Book Designer before you get started. If you go professional, again you need to do your research. Look at several designers (both in and out of your price range), check out their portfolio, and take the time to select the designer that's right for you (and your budget).

A Couple Watch-outs
When it comes to covers, there are two areas where I suggest you think before doing. I mean really think. And possibly ask some opinions of trusted fellow authors in your network, and possibly even some trusted readers.

One is ‘borrowing’ the brand of a popular author—or as I call it the bait and hook. One that comes to mind is Nicholas Sparks. His covers all have the same formula (unless it’s the movie tie-in): his name and book title in a box on an image. This is easy to replicate, and I’ve seen a lot of other authors do just that. The strategy is that on first glance, readers will think it’s a Nicholas Sparks book, so they will click on it to check it out and half your battle is over. I’m sure this works really well. The challenge is that it may irk some people and you could lose readers in the process. Some people don’t like to be deceived and they don’t like copycats. However, you might gain readers using this technique. My advice is to think about your brand, and decide if using a 'bait and hook' strategy will help or hinder the overall message you are trying to establish.

The other watch-out is using a popular image for your cover. I know it’s near impossible these days to ensure that no other book will use the same image you chose for your cover. And as with the previous watch-out, it’s clear that there are some instances where authors intentionally use an image (or the same models) as a popular book in their genre. The challenge is that it could be distracting for readers. Take the three covers below. When I saw the second book with that image I thought, “Wait, didn’t that book have a different title?” I searched and discovered it was two different books. Then when I saw the third cover with the image, it basically didn’t grab my attention other than a passing thought of, “Oh, it’s that image again.”

Now I want to end this post with what I consider a positive example—my fellow Across the Board author, Amy Jarecki. There are two primary reasons for this:

1) She does a good job of representing her brand in her covers (and in her promotions)


2) Today is the release day for her latest book, A HighlandKnight’s Desire, and we want to celebrate!

If you don’t already know, Amy writes Scottish historical romance novels. With this genre, Amy’s covers actually have to represent four specific brand messages:
  • Author Brand
  • Romance
  • Scottish Historical
  • Series Brand

I’ve copied below the first book in each of Amy’s novel series. You can see that while her name changes slightly for each series, it’s still has the same ‘feel’ to keep consistent with her brand. The font of the novel title for each series is also unique, yet they still complement each other. And of course, there is the bare-chested model in a kilt. This tells me in no uncertain terms that I’m looking at a Scottish historical romance cover! It’s not to say that all of Amy’s covers will have to follow this formula, but it’s clear she knows the importance of her covers representing her brand.

If you’re wondering why we didn’t have the same kind of party for Amy as we did for my release yesterday, well the answer is because Amy already has a fantastic party planned! If you want to see how amazing she is at carrying her brand through to her social media presence, RSVP to her A Highland Knight’s Desire Release Party! Really, you should check it out. She inspires me!

Congrats on your latest release, Amy!!

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