How a Great Book Cover Gets Made

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, CoverBrina Williamson is the freelance artist who has made the book cover for my novel Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, a book I am planning to self-publish in the next month and have been documenting the experience of via this blog.

On her website, Brina has written an article detailing her process around creating this great eye-catching cover. It’s a fascinating insight into another side of a book’s design that a writer might not consider and I recommend my fellow writers check it out.

You can read her article here.

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My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Back Covers, Conversions and Timeframe

The final cover by Brina Williamson, http://brinawilliamson.com/

The final cover by Brina Williamson, http://brinawilliamson.com/

An author is always more than an author.

An author creates worlds, gives birth, administers death; in some works many, many times over. They are the judge, the jury, and the attorneys arguing both sides in a case. They are the royalty deciding mercy and the peasants pleading for it. They can be everything for their characters (making all their dreams come true), or more harshly nothing at all. They are the beginning and the end.

But beyond these awesome “god-like” powers, for me, I am also an actor.

An actor?

Well, no not really. I can’t really act at all, but whenever I am in the wonderful position of “locking down” a novel I read the entire work out loud. It’s my secret “hat” I like to wear. Scott the one-man show, and in the performance I “ feel” each character, each line, and each description. For if the voice is right throughout, I know it will feel that way for the reader as well. It is a practice I highly recommend to all writers.

That is where I am right now with the book I am self-publishing, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare.

Watch out Sir Laurence Olivier! Continue reading

The Mistakes of the Newbie Novelist

Sometimes when I work with new novelists or self-published writers, I wonder (and this is awful to say) if they even really like books.

Why is it that people are drawn to wanting to be writers?  Is the image too glamorized in books, TV, and movies? Is it for the bragging right, so they can say “Yes, I have written a book? It is right there.” Is it because it seems simple to do since we all know how to form a sentence thanks to public education? Has self-publishing companies done too good a job ruining the myth that writing is a skilled craft? What is it that draws people to take on this art, resulting in a congested market and thousands of badly written books finding their way onto amazon each year with badly made covers on photoshop?

I wish I had an answer to all of my questions, because sometimes I want to give new novelists interventions. In other words, sit them down and ask at the beginning of the process, “Do you really want to do this? Really? Why?”

The thing I am the most surprised about when working with a first-time novelist is how many rookie mistakes get made. Yet, they still come up again, and again, and, over time, I have begun to sound like a broken record. Here are four obvious errors that drive me crazy with some helpful recommendations for the newbies out there: Continue reading

Writer’s Corner: A Query Letter for Jane Austen

I always seem to be overtaken by a feeling of apprehension whenever I begin to consider the idea of contacting agents and publishers again. To begin with, it’s not like I feel like I am “selling out” myself or my books, but I am definitely doing something that makes me feel a little dirty.

See, when you are writing a book you have all of the best intentions. You want to tell a great story, maybe do something groundbreaking or new in your artform; but when you start to contact agents and publishers you have to forget all of that. The best intentions are fine for writing tables; agents and publishers, typically, want to know the bottom line.

Could this book sell?

More established authors have their name to help sell a new work, but when you are unknown you are a member of the ever-growing faceless mass. And by that I mean, the daily struggling army of want-to-be authors that fight in query letters and e-mails for attention for their work. And that army is growing each year as more and more people graduate from English programs and writing programs, or simply decide they want to write a book… growing and growing… Continue reading

This Writer’s New Year Resolutions

1. To be more up-front about my writing and experiences in my blog, but not to come off as whiney or as if I deserve anything from anyone.  The market is far too-congested with writers and luck and “who you know” plays a greater role than anything else on finding success as a writer.

2. To accept being a number three and hope someday to be a number 2… OK, I need to explain this one.

-BREAK FOR EXPLANATION-

In my opinion there are four levels of being a writer in today’s world:

  • Number 1 are those that have a relationship with a big publisher and can actually survive as a writer without needing an additional job.
  • Number 2 are those that have been published once or twice by a big house, but still need to have a day job
  • Number 3 are the small, artistic, indie writers who get published by small, artistic, indie presses, find some small critical success but don’t make much money (if any).
  • Number 4 are the clique of the self-published writers’ world. And yes, it is a clique. Some find success, most don’t… a large majority don’t.

3. Not to look down on the world of the Number 4 anymore. I do it, and even though my first book is out there via iuniverse, I still scorn the idea of being self-published. Sometimes all a writer wants is for their book to be published and at least this is an avenue for that. I need to be more understanding of that, but it can be hard for me to take a work like that as seriously as something from Putnam, for example. I know a lot of educated writers have the same mountain as me to climb about this; so this is me acknowledging the mountain. “Yes, I see the mountain, damn it!”

4. Find some inspiration this year, but not enough to take me away from being a good parent (I have two little ones and I don’t want them to come in second behind a project). I wrote an editorial on Green Spot Blue about this a while ago called “Mush.” Here is the link- http://www.greenspotblue.com/lifenestbabytoy/2010/12/21/mush.html

Hmmm…. It seems a lot of these deal with just be accepting of who I am and not getting down on myself about things.

So what are my hopes for the new year?

Well, I hope to find a publisher for A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM. The reaction for it appearing online was very good, and some publishers were initially interested, but everything has been silent since then. I did have one publisher replied and said that it needed to sound more “contemporary” if you can believe it. So a book that was mirroring Jane’s voice sounded too much like Jane, I’m not sure whether to be insulted or happy by that. While I would love a big house, I would be happy with a small press and the capability of it be in ebook format.

Ipublish Press which published MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN said they are trying to get the ebooks out on Google Ebooks this year. I really want that to happen… Which is funny since I have no desire to own a kindle or read an ebook. I actually had a friend since me a copy of her book as an ebook a while ag0 and I have guiltly yet to look at it ( I’m really sorry, Emlyn Chand. I will read FARSIGHTED soon, I swear).  Is it an anti Kindle/ebook thing? I don’t know.  It’s just reading a book on a screen takes something away for me.

And then there are the screenplays… I still dream of them being made, but the days of wanting to be the next Woody Allen are long gone. I have three scripts I really want to see made- CHRISTMAS DREAMING, THE SISTER MOON, and my adaptation of HAMLET (Which is always a debate for me whether it is the best thing I will ever do, or just one of them). But I do have others (4 others to be honest)… And there is a part of me that would like to write a new screenplay, but like with my books it is hard to be inspired when you think a work might join the pile of material sitting in my chest at the end of my bed. I need to feel like it will breath later. I have quite a few works already to feel guilty about just sitting around…. But seeing one of them that I wrote on the screen would be a dream…

Finally, I hope to survive the Mayan Death Day…

… Ok, that last one was a joke.

Hopefully.

Definitely, I mean nothing bad is going to happen.

Of course, if it does and I don’t plan, I’m going to regret it.

Argh.