Thursday, April 28, 2011


I’ll share more about my cover designer, and how the design came into being next week (5/5).
Your Turn: What do you think? Can it compete with New York covers?
                    Record your answer in the poll below.

**Please note, starting 5/1 this blog will post every Thursday and the first Friday of the month**
Thursday 5/5 – My Cover uncovered, plus my self-pub learnings and TO DO list
First Love Friday 5/6 – HAVEN author, Kristi Cook shares her tale of teenage love

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Cover is a Promise

It’s no secret that beautiful covers drive purchases. Book lovers love to browse. They impulse buy. An eye-catching cover followed by a compelling blurb makes the sale. Heck, I’ve bought second and third copies of classic literature I own because the covers were so “pretty” or unique. And I cannot walk through a bookstore without purchasing something that’s grabbed my attention.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about book covers. For me, good covers combine art and text into an overall concept that evokes an intellectual/emotional response. Together, the cover elements create a theme while the individual components hint at important details. A good cover draws the reader in with the promise of a certain type of story and entices him/her to read the descriptive blurb.
What makes a good cover good?
A good cover sets an expectation. It indicates to the reader what kind of story he/she will encounter: simple, complex, vibrant, romantic, secretive, paranormal, edgy, contemporary, historical, fantasy, etc. It conveys what settings and concepts will be encountered.
A good cover sets a mood. Is it dark? Light? Playful? Angsty? Sweet? Mysterious? Bereft? Stark? Powerful? Scary? Spiritual?
A good cover is a riddle. A good cover makes the reader ask himself/herself questions: Who are these people and why are they so happy? What’s the secret he’s keeping? Why is she so sad? What’s so important about the object on the cover? What does the symbolism stand for?
A good cover entices the reader to action: It makes them want more information about the story. They have questions that need to be answered and hopes that the story will deliver on its promise. They have to turn the book over and read what it’s about.
A good cover is the reader’s first opportunity to bond with your story. Author endorsements, bestselling claims, and stylistic designs are intended to appeal to a certain type of reader. These elements build trust with the reader before they’ve even opened the book.
Here are some of my favorite covers:

Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones: Who is this hot guy existing in Technicolor above the world we know? Oooh, Holly Black likes it—it must be good! Other thoughts: fantasy elements, complex world building, urban, gritty and beautiful.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: (we’ll skip the movie tie-in version and go to the original cover). Whimsical with an air of mystery. Vibrant. To me the boots covey power and an element of being untouchable but the story centers around someone watching from the outside. I’m intrigued. Love the curve of the word “ELEPHANTS.” It feels more majestic than the rest of the text, like a beast with a mind of its own. The NY Times bestseller claim reassures me the story will be worth reading.

Lisa McMann’s Wake: Dark. Cold. Distorted. Disturbed. Nightmares. Stark.The reflection of the text makes me think the bad dreams bleed over into waking. I want to know who’s having the nightmares and why.

Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely: the beauty of the flowers contrasted by the distorted beauty of the holder. Darkness lurks around the edges. The font is lovely (for me, this sets expectations for beautiful prose—and Melissa delivers).

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Militaristic. Austere. Symbols hint at sci-fi/futuristic. The bird is important—why? The unique block font makes me think rigid, asymmetric, unfamiliar—maybe dystopian.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles: Dark love story. Edgy. Definitely contemporary. Title font makes me think blurring social lines—shaking things up a bit.
Conclusion: If I am self-publishing, I need a top-notch cover design that conveys my book’s theme and makes promises my story will deliver.
Mood: Excited about tomorrow’s big cover reveal—and kind of sickish about it, too!
Your Turn: What are some of your favorite covers and why?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ineffectual Risk-taker Conundrum (which leads to my self-publishing PROS and CONS list)

I am a risk taker, an entrepreneur, and a visionary. In the corporate world, I earn my living by making things happen. I ensure billion dollar businesses continue to move forward. And yet, in my writing career, I felt stagnant and helpless. When it came to getting my stories into readers’ hands, I was ineffectual.
So why did it take me so long to leap in this direction?
Honestly, there is a mismatch between digital publishing and core YA readership. Teens still want physical books they can hold in their hands, and after reading, place on a shelf in their bedroom. In part, their books define who they are. Although some kids are using eReaders, the majority are not. In YA, bonding with a story = hardcopy = for keeps.
For a YA story, not being in bookstores in a HUGE CON.
Fortunately, YA now has a lot of older, cross-over readership who do have kindles and nooks and iPads—oh, my! If I was going to self-pub, I needed to adjust my core demographic to this market. Because I have a passion for connecting with teenagers, it took me a long time to realign my target reader. Not that I don’t LOVE the cross-over YA readers (or Yougers as I like to lovingly call grown women, like myself, addicted to YA), but self-publishing meant accepting that this story would never be housed next to Cassandra Clare and Suzanne Collins at my local Barnes and Noble. L No eager bookseller would grab my book, thrust it into the hands of some wide-eyed teenager, and say, “You have to read this one!”
I had many CONS rolling around in my brain but it took some work to create a PROS list.
·         Missing core part of the YA reader demographic –teens
·         No stumbling upon my book at my local bookstore L
·         Self-pub still has some "vanity press" stigma
·         LOTS OF WORK
·         Readers have been burned by poor quality, self-pubbed material
·         My story will most likely get lost in the deluge of eBooks
·         No publisher sponsored big book release (Did I really think I’d get that going the traditional route?)
·         No advance (But if I’m in this for the money, I’m probably in for a rude awakening!)
·         My story would get read! YA lovers would have an opportunity to read it (Whether 2 readers or 200, this story would exist in the digital universe for readers to find and hopefully love.)
·         With POD (print on demand), hardcopies could be available to order
·         Agility/Complete control over a release date (no 1-3 year wait)
·         Cover control
·         Could call myself an “indie” author and my book “indie” published (We’ll debate the semantics of indie vs. self-pubbed another time.)
·         Very low overhead; set my own, affordable purchase price for eBooks
·         I could move to the next step in my career
·         Get back some creative control
·         I could finally start on a sequel
Conclusion: When I laid it out, my PROS were more compelling than my CONS. Time to leap!
Mood: Frenetic (just got line edits back)
Related topics: Agent Natalie Fischer has a great post from the opposite side of the coin entitled, “Why I’m Scared (to self-publish)”
Great post by Amanda Brice about her journey as an indie-author: here
Your turn: When it comes to self-publishing, what are some of your PROS and CONS?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Many Roads to Oz

If you’re familiar with L. Frank Baum’s books you might know more than one road leads to Oz. There’s even more than one Yellow Brick Road (Dorothy Gale, supposedly, took the harder of the two). Assuming all roads lead to Oz, how could I figure out which road was right for me as an author?
Trial and error?
I did that. I tried traditional, had some moderate success in breaking through, and then the path began to crumble under my feet. As I started contemplating other roads, I came to a realization—I was not the traveller.
The traveller is my story—my manuscript or series—and just like each project has its own voice, each story has its own path. This revelation enabled me to choose multiple roads at the same time. One project is sitting in agent slush piles in hopes of going the traditional route to publication.

For THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN, I was on the outside of the trend looking in. The big six (publishers) jumped all over angels and have since moved on. More than two years ago, I was at a book signing when an author—a big NY Times best-selling author—asked me about this recently finished project. Her response, “Oooh, angels are so hot right now. You should try to sell it asap.” Great. I’ll get right on it. By the time it got some serious attention—and praise, even—from agents and editors, angels were over. I could shelve the project and wait for angels to cycle through again, or I could choose another way.
The thinking on my literary fiction story is a little different. It touches on subject matter that is about to explode in film, TV and publishing. The agility of self-publishing, in this case, gets me ahead of the trend. I’ll explore this in greater detail as I get closer to the August release of this project.
Conclusion: Publishing is no longer a world of either/or and the diverse or “multi-pronged” approach is a sound strategy.
Mood: Energized and a bit overwhelmed. ;)
Related topics: Multi-published author Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) has a great post about her multi-pronged business plan and how one of her “homeless” projects found its way into reader’s hearts through self-publishing. Read it here.

One more thought provoking post: Why Digital Self-publishing Frightens Some Authors by Michael A. Stackpole.

Next Steps: Figure out/set up my author presence & upcoming project on Amazon (maybe B&N)- decided to wait until after cover reveal; research POD (print on demand) providers & costs-in progress; finalize production schedule; decide whether or not to hire a line editor-in progress; schedule a guest blogger for 4/29 & 5/6 “First Love Fridays”-in progress; WRITE
Read before you buy at
Your turn: Where are you in your journey? Which road are you on?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A little like being naked—a lot like being liberated

The first time I thought about self-publishing as a viable next step in my career, I felt—as my seven-year-old would say—a little sickish. It’s a little like walking naked through the literary community with a sign on my back that says, “Pick me apart.” Did it mean I failed in traditional publishing? Would the writing community scoff at me? Shun me? Should I continue to target traditional publishers, start something new and just bury my current manuscripts? Why was I contemplating something still so often synonymous with “vanity press?”
As I often do when faced with a crossroads, I went into heavy research mode—a couple of months’ worth. The information available is abundant, and at times, overwhelming. But here’s my take on self-publishing.
What self-publishing is not:
Not a “F*%! You” to traditional publishing.
Not a way to validate my skills as a writer—this should be established way before contemplating this step.
Not a way to make a quick buck.
Not a way to get my name out there—although that is often a benefit being published, the focus needs to be on sharing a quality book.
Not a short cut to publication—there is more risk and work associated with self-publishing than traditional routes.
Not an alternative to skilled revision and editing—all writers should strive to grow in their craft and to publish the best manuscripts possible.
Not an indication that I’ve failed as a writer.
It’s not an either/or career decision. I can self-publish one manuscript or series and still shop other projects with agents and editors.
Not easy.

What self-publishing is:
A viable way to take a next step—a step I’m qualified to make—in my career.
A more agile timeline than traditional publishing houses. (I’ll elaborate on that in the future—when I focus on the rationale for my literary project release.)
A viable means of sharing quality books with readers.
Hard work! To be successful, I must wear lots of professional hats.

Biggest Fears:
Book not edited properly, polished enough or formatted correctly.
Not having the capacity to promote/market book as needed.
Getting in over my head.
Inadvertently alienating those in mainstream publishing.
Becoming “that writer” who does nothing but promote their projects.
Making very public mistakes.

So why do it?
Sometimes a manuscript (even a very good one) cannot find the right fit in traditional publishing.
Often it’s timing—a genre or subject has trended and is on the decline; the big publishers have bought up their projects, editors don’t want it, agents can’t sell it. It may be equally as good as or even better than similar books coming out, but the timing isn’t right. It’s too late.
I know I’m a good writer with a fantastic story to tell.
I have a strong corporate background in sales and marketing that I can leverage.
Most importantly, I have an AMAZING village behind me—a supportive writers’ group, my critique partners, past Golden Heart and RITA finalists, authors, bloggers, booksellers, friends and most importantly, my family. I am surrounded by people who believe not only in my stories, but my ability to take on the role of publisher. I am truly blessed. J
The conclusion: For different yet equally compelling reasons, self-publishing is perfect for two of my finished projects—my young adult supernatural series THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN (5/24) and my stand-alone literary fiction novel ECHOES OF NEVERLAND (8/9).
The more I contemplate the journey ahead of me, the more that sickish sensation dissipates. For the first time, I feel in control of my career and very excited!!! After all, I’m releasing my first novel on May 24, 2011.
As my good friend and fellow author, Erika O’Rourke, often reminds me, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  I will be blogging about my experience, and anyone who wants to ride the waves with me is most welcome.
Release date: eBook 5/24; trade paperback 6/21
The big cover reveal: Thursday 4/28.
Mood:             Excited and a little sickish

Next post: 4/25
Steps (for weekend 4/22-24): Figure out/set up my author presence & upcoming project on Amazon (maybe B&N); research POD (print on demand) providers & costs; finalize production schedule; decide whether or not to hire a line editor; schedule a guest blogger for 4/29 & 5/6 “First Love Fridays”
Read before you buy at

Your turn: What is self-publishing to you? What isn’t it?