Which Cover? I Simply Can’t Decide …

Well … Renu has done it again.  And, I’m hopelessly confused.  Each cover is beautiful in its own right.  So, help a writer out … which cover would you like to see IN THE AFTER published with?  If your vote goes towards the winning cover, your name will appear in the gratitude portion of the novel!

 

Book Cover Number One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Three

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please feel free to leave comments explaining your choice if you’re so inclined …

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Streetlight Graphics … An Enlightening Experience

One of my favorite things about being a writer while simultaneously running a blog is being able to connect others like myself with really amazing industry professionals.  If I had been a true DIY author I wouldn’t have had the time to blog nearly as often as I do … or, worse yet, start this blog at all.  It’s been a true win/win for me … and now, I get the chance to offer up another amazing recommendation.

Formatting is for some (maybe most) the hardest part of the process.   When you consider how many separate formats you need for each individual platform, plus the specifications of a print book … it’s no wonder this no-small-feat has had some pulling their hair out by the root.  And I was almost that girl …

Then, I met Glendon Haddix.

Mr. Haddix came with glowing recommendations from other authors, those that worked with him in the past and those who had yet to use him — his reputation in the writer community is stellar.  He is a trusted, respected resource — one that every indie should know.

Haddix owns Streetlight Graphics  a true soup-to-nuts shop for the indie author looking to simplify the process of publishing a book.  In his own words,“Our primary mission is to provide an affordable, customer service oriented, one stop shop for authors to get all the independent publishing services they need so they can spend their time doing what they love…WRITE!” 

How nice is that?  The ability to just write?  After all, that’s what we want to do … but it’s all the other things that simply get in the way of that craft.

Streetlight Graphics was born from a true need … the ability to be a trusted partner in the process of publishing for the fledgling or seasoned writer.  With the company, an author can commission not only formatting services for print and multiple eBook platforms, but cover art, banner ads, logos … just about anything your little indie heart could desire.

My personal experience goes like this …

I knew nothing about formatting, only that I couldn’t do it myself.  Having considered using a big box company like CreateSpace, I was pushed (and not so gently) towards Streetlight Graphics. “Get a quote!” some authors said … while others couldn’t believe I’d spend $300+ when I could easily accomplish the same thing with a private small business for a lower price.

It was on their advice, I reached out.  From the first e-mail exchange Glendon was wonderful.  His kindness and patience were evident from the amount of time he took to answer my questions and address my concerns.  But, it went far further than the commissioned work of formatting, he became a sounding board of sorts for other matters that arose.  If I forgot something … he’d remind me.  He went over my manuscript again as as sort of “oops detector” and sent it back to me with a few small changes.  Every step of the process was painless and professional and easy … working with him was truly a pleasure.

Then panic struck.  I had an issue with my cover … not only did Glendon take his time, without asking for a single cent more, to create a new templet for my cover artist … he patiently walked me through understanding the process so that I could not only forward the information on, I could resource it myself.  That, right there, is the measure of someone who views your success as his own.  That is someone willing to go the extra mile for a client … and that is why I’m sure we’ll work together again in the future.

It may sound simple-minded, but it’s true … the people you surround yourself with matter.  Your options, as an independent, are as deep as they are wide.  There are times when it seems like everyone and their brother are peddling promises and services.  But to find that one person who really understands you and the process in the same breath, it matters and it’s rare.

So, I’m shamelessly plugging Streetlight Graphics … If you’re looking for a cover artist, or a formatter or maybe you need a banner or logo … reach out Glendon, I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Interview With Cover Artist Renu Sharma

Today is ultra-special because I’m able to introduce you all to the über talented Renu Sharma, digital artist extraordinaire.   As with all of recommendations, Renu is someone I worked with on THE MILESTONE TAPES revised cover.  She and I worked through e-mails to capture the vibe and essence of my book–which she nailed with limited instruction and her unmatched skill.  She has a way with pictures–the ability to capture the light and dark of an image and bring it to life.  She has a true gift.

She was so good, I couldn’t keep her to myself…

****

Tell us about you (where you live, what your interests are, do you have hobbies…etc…):

I was born and raised in Noida, India. Being a part of the NCR(National Capital Region) the proximity to cultural and artistic events is a blessing.  After art, my second love would be music, especially rock and metal music from bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle and so on. Love watching movies, favorite genres would be fantasy, comedy and drama; but any genre would do till the time it is nicely made.

 

What made you interested in doing book covers:

Ever since I began to create art, I’ve always been more interested in the creating part than trying to sell it off.  I sold my first book cover about a year back. Recently, another writer stumbled upon my work and contacted me. She turned out to be an angel and told me about kindleboardsforum and insisted that I could do really great as a book cover artist, so here I am!

Have you ever done any book covers for publishing houses, or do you work strictly with Indie Authors?  What other mediums for your art (print, magazines, etc…) 

So far, I have only worked with Indie authors but am open to working with publishing houses as well. As a graphic designer, I’ve designed websites, brochures, ads, social media pages and so on .And, if I ever get around to it I’d love to work for musicians as well for album art and such someday.

 

Your art is amazing!  Can you explain the process to us?

I do both traditional drawings on paper and digital artwork. Some of the digital art is painted with a pen tablet from scratch till finish, while most of the recent work including all the book covers is through photo manipulation.  When creating an artwork that is not commissioned, I look around stock pictures to see something that inspires me, and then work on them on photoshop, also taking the aid of a pen tablet to create the artwork that you see in my gallery.

 

What is the length of time from raw photograph to finished piece?

That mainly depends on the detailing involved in the artwork but it usually do it in about 5-7 hours.

 

How many covers have you done?

So far, I have sold 8 covers including 2 commissions.

 

Do you do this work full-time or do you have another job?

After realising this is what I want to do, I do this full-time now.

 

Is there a wait list?

None as of yet.

 

You have a portfolio of work that doesn’t have an Author behind it, which is where I purchased my cover image….can you explain how that works?  What is the pricing of those almost-finished pieces?

Apart from the pieces on sale which are for $120.00, the prices vary from $250.00 to $550.00 depending on the amount of time an artwork has consumed.

 

What does that price include?  (amount of revisions, font, alterations to the image–if any)

The price includes the artwork at the highest resolution available, a component for doing the fonts and resizing of the work if required in 2-3 different dimensions. I don’t mind doing minor alterations and revisions for up to 2-3 times because I want the client to be happy about it.

You also do commissioned work–which is totally custom–once an Author commissions you, generally speaking, how long does it take to receive the finished proof?

So far In case of the commissions I have already done, after the initial payment has been made and both the author and I have agreed upon the stock images to be used, I request for a time-frame of bout a week, and have always been able to deliver within it .

 

What is the price of something like that? (please be totally descriptive)

The price of the completed artwork is based on the number of stock images used, the amount of overpainting it is going to take to get the desired effect, the kind of fonts to be used and how much of styling they need. The price ranges from $250.00 to $550.00 again.

 

What does that price include? (amount of revisions, font, alterations to the image, brainstorming sessions?)

That price includes everything that a pre-made artwork includes. In addition to that, it includes finding and selecting just the pictures that fit the author’s description of the character to be on the cover. I also ask for an overview of the story and character description so I can come up with ideas of my own to suggest to the author for the cover. After the idea gets a go ahead, I start working on it.

 

Sometimes you run specials….how often do you do that and what is a “normal” special for you?

The specials running right now are the ones I did quite a while ago, more like practice artworks So I don’t mind selling them for a lesser price because they aren’t as detailed and time-consuming as are the more recent ones. I will certainly run specials in future as well for artworks which are ‘quickies’ but still turn out to be good enough.

 

Have you ever worked with an Author that was simply impossibly (no names)?  What do you do when you come across conflicting ideas?

Luckily, all the authors I have worked with so far have been really nice and very co-operative to work with like yourself.

 

I’ve read your contract, but for those who haven’t, can you explain what you ask of an Author before starting their cover?

In case of a commission, I ask for at least 50% of the payment upfront so I can start working on the artwork. Once it is complete and we’re both happy with it, I send a signed agreement to the author and ask for a signed and scanned copy back. The agreement includes the rights to use the artwork for all kinds of promotion related to that particular book. It also is exclusively sold to that author so I cannot sell it to anybody else for commercial purpose. For right now, my art is royalty free to be used. In case of pre-made artworks, first and foremost we go with the agreement. Once done with that, follows the payment from the client’s part and the completed book cover from my end.

 

What is your favorite genre to work with?  Do you have a preference?

I’d have to say that I love fantasy, dark themed work will come a close second, all in all any art that includes people . These would be my preferences but I do not mind taking other kinds of works either like dragons, zombies, landscapes etc.

 

What are some of the high challenges that come with working with clients over the internet as opposed to face to face or via phone?

The biggest challenge is to not be able to get a prompt response from the client sometimes. It takes a few days at times  to get simplest of things further.

 

Closing remarks…anything you want to just say or tell us….now’s the time!!

I just want to say that it is really amazing to be able to collaborate with other artists (writers) to bring the magic of imagination to the world. I hope my art on your cover grabs a lot more of people’s attention so you have a lot many readers. I am really looking forward to doing a lot of book covers! Art is the best thing to ever have happened to me. My all time favorite quote which goes to all the artists and writers:

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. – Twyla Tharp.

Thank you for doing this interview Ashley, cheers!

(You can reach Renu Sharma at renu.artist@gmail.com or view her work portfolio and images for sale on her Facebook page :))

****

I feel this is the perfect opportunity to show you what Renu can do.  I’m officially releasing the rekindled cover THE MILESTONE TAPES.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is written in a series of months rather than chapters, giving the reader the sensation of time and what the passing of it means. The season of fall plays a key role in the story.  As we all know, when autumn comes the leaves fall, the nights get longer, the air grows a little colder and life changes.  For both Mia and Jenna, fall means the end of life as they know it and the beginning of a new reality.   With Renu’s image and skill, she was able to bring that to life for me–and hopefully–for my readers as well.

Artist Credit: Renu Sharma

A Change…

We’re back on covers, folks.  (Does publishing ever feel like a never ending merry-go-round?  I’m totally on board right now–spinning, spinning, spinning–two steps forward, five back)

Let me begin with this: The 11th hour change was as unexpected and surprising to me as it will be for you.  We all know how much effort and energy I poured into it making the original cover “just so”…now, the change that is coming…while exciting, as anything creative naturally is, it’s also equally surprising…

I like my first cover and I was initially thrilled with it.  It fell snuggling within my budget (hooray!) and the artist, Christine, came highly recommended (double hooray!!).  It was a wonderful experience working with her and she did capture my self-imagined image perfectly.  I cannot recommend her enough to anyone looking for an artist to make cover magic happen…and I cannot find fault with her on anything, whatsoever, this is all me–100%.

But…because there is always a but…

A couple of things happened…

1. Christine is highly sought after.  Her business blooms constantly and a wait-list developed rather quickly.

This created sort of a kink in the armor, shall we say.  I plan to have THE MILESTONE TAPES available for both print-on-demand (POD publishing) and electronically.  I always knew this was the agenda for the book, but–for whatever reason–I failed to commission a spine and back design at the time I commissioned the cover. My bad. Christine made a public announcement saying she was booked solid for a good and long time. Ergo, if I stay the corse, I’ll be putting off publishing for an undetermined amount of time simply because Christine is so popular–good for her, bad for me.

2. The more the original stared at me from the screen of my computer, the more I wasn’t sure.  I need to be sure-sure.

When you’re going it alone, like I obviously am, everything from editing to a cover matters a whole lot.  And the entire onus of your product, your brand is on you–you and you alone.  What you put out, you need to love–you should love it with every fiber of your being, that’s sort of the point of keeping your spoon in the pot for the whole process.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you get ONE CHANCE with your book to make the biggest splash possible.  Without a marketing machine behind you, your responsible for your own ship.

Once I started to think it over seriously…look at it through the eyes of the reader…I wasn’t sure if it had the pop I originally believed it did.  Again, this isn’t about anyone but me.  I’m most critical of my own creations, that should be fairly obvious by now, and my critical side was giving me the “hmmm” voice.

3. While the “rights” to use the image for my cover are mine–whereas, promotional usage is limited.  I cannot create book marks or magnets or any other swag with its likeness.

That, right there, is a big flippin’ deal.  Again, something I didn’t know, but am smarter for figuring out now as opposed to later.

This is a good thing for us all to think about, really: If you’re ever going to use the image for anything other than the cover, you’re SOL unless you’re willing to shell out serious cash for all the rights.  And let’s face it, if you’re an Indie Author and you’re beating feet traveling to book fairs and pub clubs and panels, you need to offer something to your public, funds be damned really.  You, as the author, need the trinkets that say to someone “buy my book!”.  Have you ever been at an Expo and saw a product that was great but you wanted to think about it, only, you forgot to get the card?  That’s what this whole thing equates too.  It’s the deal sealer, the final offering…it’s you’re appeal of: please, take this book mark and remember me.

So, that changed things.

Again, I was out there looking for someone to do something amazing….

I discovered an artist, Renu Sharma, who does original work.  She is extremely creative and her digital art is some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t afford her.

Renu works as a commission artist.  That simply means, she hires models, takes their pictures, digitally changes the image to reflect an otherworldly theme and makes magic happen.  They are sincerely original–from the model to the finished piece.  That comes with an equivalent price tag.

I originally contacted Renu to work with me on my second cover.  But, she launched a fall sale on pre-done, noncommissioned work.  The process is all the same…original model, original piece, only, the ones on sale were homeless.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is a character driven piece of literature.  It pings into the lives of imaginary people with all the gusto of real life.  Since I write women’s fiction or literary fiction, the world is real while the people are not.  But, it all needs to stay grounded in the “it could be real” realm of writing, it should all feel real–the characters should be interchangeable with people you know.

Have you ever been haunted by something?  That one thing you should have bought because it would have been perfect?

Welcome to feeling that inspired the change.

While cruising the “sale section” of Renu’s portfolio I discovered the most magical, beautiful, haunting image of this little girl.  She had dark chestnut hair and ethereal blue eyes with the sweetest pouty lips.  She was my Mia.  Okay, not literally Mia…but as the author, I can tell you, that is Mia.  The highlights of dark and light and the innocence of the face, my guttural reaction was–that’s my girl. Oh my God, the moment itself was surreal, it was as though I looking at a picture of my character.  It was seeing her…which tripped me out…but also inspired me to rethink my stance on covers at large.

When I wrote Mia, it was after I had written Gabe and Jenna.  I knew what they looked liked, I had fleshed them out so clearly and I mashed them up to create their child; his eyes, her hair, his nose, her smile.  So seeing a photo that so entirely caught that image and held it–it was more like seeing them all stare back at me from the screen of my computer.  How do you walk away from that moment?  The answer is, you don’t.

I quickly took a screen shot and sent it to the only other person who has read my book cover to cover.  She loved it.  Her exact response was  “Mia?” and all I had to say was… “Mia.”

While it’s more literal than the first cover, it’s still falls way short of spelling out the context of the book.  I am not generally a fan of characters on covers.  I feel like there are times when “spelling it out” steals an experience from the reader, the chance they have to–in their own mind–create the character in the image of which the writing inspires.  But, I can’t help myself.  This girl needs to be on my cover.

So…change, it is a coming.

Soon THE MILESTONE TAPES will have a new beautiful face lift…and I will be the real owner of it, free to use it for any and all promotional plugs I desire.  I will probably still use the original cover in some fashion or another–a special release or paper back edition–but I am so drawn to the new cover, I can’t make promises.

What We’re Up Against

Lately I’ve been reading about these amazing flukes of luck in Indie Author Land–multi-book deals, movie options, agents querying the author.  It’s all very motivational and it feels so hopeful.  These stories are a portal to the realization that, without doing anything other than being the best author you can be, beautiful things can happen to you all the time, at any given moment.

But there is a darker side to being an Indie Author.  Some may call them haters…others may associate the hate speech with the guillotine that hangs above every Indie Published book and the reputation that proceeds each new title…I would say it’s a pinch of both…but still…it’s darn good to know what we’re up against so we can arm ourselves accordingly

Amazon offers “Kindle Forums”…where real Kindle readers cluster to discuss.  I don’t frequent it often, but in passing I noticed a thread entitled—How To Avoid Indie Authors (ouch, that hurts!).  Yet, I decided not just run from the topic–but to consider their “take” as a master class on the isolated opinions that would polarize me from my dream.  Frankly, I’m always eager to learn from the ignorance or experience of others…to design what I do to prove them wrong–so wrong it hurts.

Here are a few sample quotes…

When Amazon opened up self-publishing for the kindle, everyone and their dog has suddenly become an “author,” and every rejected manuscript resurrected as a kindle “book.” I have no problem with amateurs posting their stuff to share online in a writer’s forum, but must their writings be intermingled with real books in the kindle store? Is there some way to hide them or weed them out when browsing and searching. It’s annoying to have to wade through all that garbage which has multiplied like a rat infestation in the Kindle store. courtesy of : Greg

Dear Greg,

I wrote a “book”.  It’s 100k words, and I wrote it in 4 months.  It was long process and it required every inch of self-control, dedication and deep love that a traditionally published book requires.  It’s real, and despite what you may believe to be a universal truth–it is, very much, a book, no quotations required.  You are under no obligation to purchase it–and I’d probably prefer if you didn’t.  No sense in subjecting you to my literary “garbage”.  I believe my feelings are probably shared by the others you harbor so much contempt for as well.

Greg, we do what we love.  We share what we love.  We pour over the words and characters and world we create with enthusiasm and joy–sometimes with heartbreak and frustration.  We intend the book to be enjoyed…so if you can’t or won’t simply because we’re not “traditional”…then it’s genuinely your loss–and for that, you have my sincere condolences.

Kindle and Nook ought to flag books that are self-published. At least then we think to check the book out a bit more closely. For me its the copy editing that makes me gnash my teeth and use words my mother would not approve of! courtesy of : KesterGayle

Dear KesterGayle,

It’s good to always check a book out–you might find something you’d enjoy.

I agree that the covers are a major clue. Indie book artwork and graphics are usually abysmal. But an even better clue is the absence of professional reviews. If all you see is a product description and/or quotes from anonymous sources you know it’s an indie. courtesy of : Danica

Dear Danica,

Since artwork and graphics tend to be one in the same…can you really take issue with both?  Or, did you mean font but simply fell victim to your own bad, confusing writing?  Maybe? If so, welcome to the party–writing what you mean to say can be a tricky skill to master. But, all of that aside, yes, I’ll agree with your point, covers are important.  Did you realize most covers–Indie or Traditional–are purchased from similar places?

I suggest we petition the federal government of the United States to create an Independent Author Advisory Board to decide for us what books can be published. This will weed out all the “undesirable” content from being sold. We need to censor all this garbage. Think of it like exterminators for infestation of freedom of press. courtesy of : New Girl!!

Dear New Girl!!

Your ideals fascinate me for the simple ignorance of them.  Amazon is an American owned and operated company…and in America, dear New Girl, we have this wonderful thing called Freedom Of Press–which, thankyouverymuch, doesn’t practice extermination.  Obviously you’re new…but look it up, girlfriend 🙂

Even calling them ‘authors’ is pushing it. Yes, wipe them out. 🙂 courtesy of : Greg (again)

Oh Greg,

It saddens me to see that–despite how simple it seems–you’re unfamiliar with the definition of an author…here, let me help you Greg.  An Author is defined by someone who has written a book, article or report.  Indie is simply a catch term given and used…but, it’s all the same…an author is an author is an author.  Cheers to all the wordsmiths out there!

Psst: You may want to buff up on the proper use of quotations–you use them in all the wrong places.

**names removed for privacy of the innocent** … Stop the self promotion please. That is the problem with indie . They just cannot help but promote their more often than not unreadable/boring work. Either use their friends or gang up together to self-promote covertly passing as unbiased readers. courtesy of : athenadsb

Dearest athenadsb,

Per chance you don’t understand that promotion–in many forms–is part of the job?  Even traditionally published authors promote their work, day in and out.  Your favorite author?  I’m sure has trudged the path of self promotion.  And, on a side note, I didn’t realize our friends weren’t allowed to enjoy our books?  News to me…but I’ll make sure to promote that in the future.

Indie writers: stop being so pathetic, even that Norwegian neo-Nazi killer had the decency of not publishing his 1500 + mein-kampf-ish jibber jabber to Amazon Kindle, learn to be as decent as him, that’s not too much to ask, or you’re just tooo needy and want to poison us with your venom. courtesy of : Brandenberg

Dearest Brandenberg,

Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” (the title should be capitalized, by the way) in 1925 with a second edition published in 1926.  Amazon.com was founded in 1994 and went live in 1995.  Obviously, as you can see, there was no cross over.  However–I believe had Hitler been given the chance…he’d pushed that hate speech out at every turn–he was nothing if not self indulgent.

And…since I can’t let this slide without saying something…

To liken an Indie Author to Hilter is disgusting, it’s wrong, it’s vile and you should be embarrassed.  Nothing you say; before, during or after, will ever be relevant again–it was a nonsensical baseless comparison.  What Hilter did was exactly the opposite of what we, as authors, do.  We sell stories–not hate.  We believe in freedom to say what you want and be who you are–clearly a different agenda then the above mentioned.

I’ll be waiting for that apology, Bradenberg.

***

I think we’ll close the quote portion of this entry with Brandenberg ranking us below Hilter on the decency scale–seems like a good place to me…you?

What I walk away with (after seventeen plus pages of that full on bashing) is that in every dismal compliant there is a spark of truth (save for Bradenberg–but he’s his own man).  And that spark of truth is how we crawl from under the stigma of “just Indie” to be taken seriously as contenders, as good writers and good people.  It’s what we learn from the bad comments that earn us the good comments–the one’s the are listed below the title of our books.  People don’t hand out gold stars and stickers on effort when you’re a grown up doing grown up things–you have to work for it, and if you put in the energy and the money and the balls-to-walls effort…then–and only then– do the accolades come in droves.

Let’s put their objections to good use…they are just readers after all…

-Book covers.  Apparently they matter–a lot.  The age-old saying of “don’t judge” needs to be trashed.  Our covers are judged, probably to higher standard.  Effort needs to be outgoing and the product needs to be outstanding.

-Editing.  Just do it.  Hire an editor, find a beta-buddy…pause yourself, cool your heels…take the time to make it right from jump street.  If you publish a error-ridden work, it’s just that–error ridden.  Stop expecting anyone to read through your clumsy phrasing, and mistakes…they won’t and you lose.  It’s of paramount importance.  Raise the bar–and then rise up to meet it.

-Promotion.  Do it where it should be done.  Put your energies towards the places where you’ll be rewarded.  Every author promotes–interviews, press releases…but bite your tongue at the times where you’d appear to be selling snake oil.  The best promotion is the one that allows your reap the benefits of it…everything else is just clutter.

-Quotes.  If you’re going use them, let them stand for something.  Find reviewers and capture the best phrase of praise and use it!  Be proud of what’s being said–give credit where credit is due.

It can all be done.  Like I said before–prove them wrong.

I’m going to hand off the blog clincher  to Doobie Doobie who will say it better than I ever could….

All of the following were self-published…recognize any of the names?

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
John Grisham, A Time to Kill
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics
Irma Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Richard Paul Evans, The Christmas Box
Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen,Chicken Soup for the Soul
James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy
Beatrix Potter, creator of the Peter Rabbit Classic Series

Also, here are some more self-published authors:
Thomas Paine – Edgar Allan Poe – T.S. Elliot – Carl Sandberg – Gertrude Stein – Deepak Chopra – Upton Sinclair – D.H. Lawrence – George Bernard Shaw – e.e. cummings – Henry David Thoreau – Virginia Woolf – Margaret Atwood – Tom Clancy – Stephen Crane

I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself!

First off, I’d like to thank Christine DiMaio at flipcitycovers.blogspot.com for my cover.  None of this would be reality without your hard work, diligent effort and commitment to my vision.  I appreciate you and your talent very, very much and look forward to working more with you in the future.  

I cannot recommend Christine enough to anyone looking for a beautiful cover.  If you’re stumbling along looking for an artist who will capture your ideals on a computer screen, who will put in the time and energy to make it work with constant communication, mock ups and professional input…GO TO HER!!  Run, don’t walk!

*****

Seeing the cover of my book for the first time without a water-mark, in high resolution was…oh…just pretty much amazing.  It challenges that euphoria of holding the first draft of my novel in my hands…it’s the bliss of creation.  The feeling that it’s all real, and it’s getting bigger with each day.

There are moments when writing a book feels like a dangerous, slippery slope.  It’s hard to navigate and hard to stay motivated when you’re hearing no, no, no, no, no, no.  Then there are also moments, like seeing your cover, that make it feel spectacular and you know it’s all really worth it–worth everything–all the stress and tears and frustration and self doubt, because you did this–this is yours.

Writing a book–start to finish, dipping your toes into every step of the process…it’s hard, but it’s worth it.

I am so excited to share it with you all….I couldn’t keep it to myself!

With Much Thanks

An amazing thing happened.  A month ago I started a blog.  I expected nothing from it, honestly.  I’ve tried blogging before–it was not my flavor, disastrous results and never a single visitor.  But, when I started writing my book and decided to publish it, so many people were championing a blog as the best way to introduce myself and let potential readers in, I decided to try this whole thing on for size again.

It fit!

I want to start this post with a simple, yet huge, thank you.  So, so much thanks.  It’s one thing to write a blog, to share myself and my story with the internet at large, it’s another entirely to click on my dashboard and watch the ticker-tape of visitors climb with each day. I can’t really explain what it means to me to be read…but I can just say, it’s pure awesome.

I have this paradox of 28 in my life right now.  Good things happen on the 28th…it’s becoming my “lucky number”…

1. I started this blog on August 28th

2. My cover artist finished my cover on September 28th

3. My editor is taking my book on October 28th…and it will take her 28 days to edit it.

It sort of feels like magic.

Today is my one month anniversary of being a blogger…the day my cover was finished…and the day I realized good things come on 28’s.

Thank you all!!

I Literally Do Not Want To Be Literal

I hired my cover artist.  She is an amazing, truly gifted individual who is kindly putting up with my crazies without so much as a grumble.  As we’ve previously established, readers, I’m “nuts-over-this book”… so her ability to work with me…well, lets just say, that’s says a lot about her good will and tolerance.

When we first started bouncing our ideas around through e-mail, I was very literal.  My book is about tapes, so, naturally I was on board with “lets put a big honking tape on the cover.”  Actually, okay, that imagery was what I’d always imagined.  A tape, with the film threaded into a heart.  It is, after all, the basis and heart of my story.

Then we did…and I was…not loving it?

No.  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t feel like I was looking at the cover of my book.  It was pretty, it was close to what I wanted, basically–she nailed it (she’s very talented, by the way)…so, the blames all my own, my vision changed.  I did something called my research.

Covers, in my genre, are very rarely literal beings.

Take, for instance, the best selling novel, THE HELP.  The original cover  that first drew the crowds and accolades is a soft buttercream yellow with three birds resting peacefully on a fine wire laced across the page.  It doesn’t have a maid or a vacuum or  a book, even though those were things that constructed the crux of the story.  No, none of those things are pictured.  It sends a different message.  I read it as this: some little birdie told me and the fine line they’ll walk to tell the truth.  My mother sees it different than I do–something about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–but I wasn’t getting it her way.  My point is, Stockett didn’t spelled out, it’s not showing you a snap shot of the story…it’s engaging you, piquing your curiosity.

TWILIGHT (insert: groan and me asking if you’re tired of my obsession yet) isn’t about an apple per say, but the battle of temptation, the forbidden fruit, is a beautifully cryptic message.  That was Stephenie Meyer’s goal, she said so herself.  Visit her website to see some of the literal drafts she 86’d in favor of the epic one she decided on.

That brings us now to the newest book cover I’m mildly obsessed with is, THE TASTE OF SALT.  A stack of sugary sea glass resting on weathered driftwood planks.  It’s a lovely way to show affinity for the sea and is visually stunning as the glass variates from pale pink to aqua–a perfect compliment to the dried out boards they lay upon.  But, the book isn’t about sea glass or driftwood, it’s about addiction and family.  Yet, the book sings of the ocean–which is a component, the protagonists much loved career–only, the water is not the soul focus.

My book is set in the Olympic Peninsula.  A place full of trees and salt water, moss, and meadows of emerald grass–all visually stunning, all worthy of being put on a book cover celebrating the glory of natural beauty.  But, I decided I wanted lavender on my cover.  Which, by the way, was a total accident.  I was just puttering around Shutterstock.com trying to find something that would hone in on the story.  And it wasn’t really until I saw the picture that I felt it.

Do I talk about lavender in my book?  No.  Did Kathryn Stockett talk about birds?  No. Do Bella and Edward walk around picking apples all day ?  I don’t think so.  While I feel slightly…off…about abandoning ship and going in a totally different, unexpected direction…I have no doubts. (I should also add that I felt terrible guilt over putting my cover artist through the ringer–she is sweet and accommodating, I’m crazy and unsure but serious and dedicated.  Of course I felt awful about the bait and switch…poor girl).

Here is a little known fact, something I’ve failed to mention and even left out of my book:

In the heart of the Olympic Peninsula, the Dungeness/Sequim area more specifically, there are plentiful family owned “you-pick” lavender farms.  Endless fields of sweet smelling purple florals. There are markets and festivals because of these luscious blooms that perfume the air every July.

July also happens to have deep significance in my book–but you won’t find any hand-feed spoilers here, folks.

So, long story short, it fit.  Rather perfectly.

But, even with all of that serendipity oozing off the open pages on my computer, I never drew the parallel until I read the word that sold me the vision.  Devotion. The lavender flower is a gift of devotion (thank you: research).

Click, Click, Click!  I had a moment!  I asked myself, ‘isn’t that’s what my story is about, the devotion a mother feels to her child…always?’  My answer: Yes, actually, it is.

Here I am…Saturday night, 28 years old with a good looking husband…and I’m buying fonts.  I spent the day trolling a bookstore, not to buy, just to look. I’m clicking away  e-mails on the microscopic keyboard of my iPhone to the cover artist, what about this and can we do that.  In a word, I’m devoted.

So, someday if you pass over the thumbnail of a lavender bunch on a vintage burlap sack, that may just be my story inviting you in.  Inside and out, you’ll find devotion.

A Book By It’s Cover

I’ll own it, I’ll put my name it…I do judge a book by its cover.  Yep, that’s right.  This girl, right here, is shallow enough to gauge her interest based firstly on a pretty picture.

But, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Books are sold with covers for a reason.

The first books we enjoy as children are picture books with few words and fat, cardboard pages. While we learn to master the skill of reading at large, we look for picture clues.  Books in book stores aren’t sold face down. Book covers are art.

Lets talk TWILIGHT (again) for a minute.  Those ghostly pale hands gently cradling an overly ripe red apple are trademarked, did you know that?   So for all you independent artists out there looking to make your own rendition–think twice, Summit will be all over that real quick.  That cover–more so than the rest–have come to stand for something–it is the image of the story.  Other YA authors have cashed in on the black/white/red trinity as well.  Don’t believe me?  Run to Barnes & Nobel…head straight to the YA section…count how many books you see that smack of the saga?

I believe it’s because, at first glance, it strikes a chord with readers looking for something new.  If you love, love, love Edward Cullen or Jacob Black Twilight then the sight of the color trifecta probably evokes a strong emotion in you, inspires you to pick the book up, run your fingers over the embossed, glossy cover, flip the thick novel over, glance-read the back.  That five seconds you spent with that book based on how those colors made you feel is a lot longer than other novels ever get.

So, guess what?  I’m taking this next step so, so seriously.  I’m pretty neurotic when it comes to my book in general (can you tell?!) and the cover is absolutely my non-negotiable.  I have a vision.  I probably first felt it bubble in my chest before I even finished the book.

I’ll be honest, again.  I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other covers.  And, I can sometimes tell an Indie Author from a Trad Author based on cover alone (put the pitch forks away, please).  I know, I know…but sometimes I just can.  The one’s I can spot tend to look…flat…even with dimension.  Sometimes they’re silly or underdone or overdone…and my eyes slide right past them.  I can’t help it.  I have a guttural reaction to covers.

Writing Women’s Fiction, in general, follows a certain recipe; a cup of this, a pinch of that.  And the covers of the books tend to be pretty, soft, feminine with a distinct flow.  I’m not departing from that, but the problem was–for a while–all I could find were…ummm…thing that weren’t my style.  Very bright, bold, dramatic covers better suited for action or horror or even erotica.  Definitely not my thing.

I found a few really great artists who I’ve had to ask to stretch.  But that’s okay, stretching is good–right?  I’m in no position to do it myself–I’m not savvy with graphics, sad but unfortunately true.  What I finally figured out, with the coaching from other published authors, was to look beyond the fantasy and see the skill.  If they can do all that…they should be able to do all this.

Right now I’m a kid on December 21st…days away from tearing into my big wishes…and anxious.  For a girl really driven by design, this is a HUGE mile marker for me…that little place where this dream becomes just a pinch more real.