Working with a New Cover Artist

Hello lovelies, today, I deliver my experience working with a new cover artist.

I worked with a cover artist when I first published Catching the Rose in high school (far left). It’s a sweet cover, however, it was too pink and it didn’t feel very modern. Plus, I changed my author brand and wanted to resubmit under the name Belinda Kroll.

When I republished Catching the Rose (middle), I did the new cover work. I also did the original cover for Haunting Miss Trentwood (right). At the time, I thought I was catering to women who preferred sweet romances… Not that you could tell by the covers I created! The original for Catching the Rose was more accurate, but I didn’t have rights to the image for re-publication, unfortunately.

Haunting Miss Trentwood

I’ve known for some time that the covers I created wasn’t getting to my desired audience. I knew this because the Amazon “Customers who bought this item also bought” did not match my expectations. Readers seem to get the gothic part, but not the comedy or light-heartedness of what could have been a very sad, morbid tale.

So here are my tips regarding cover artists…

Know What You Want

Find Examples

Seriously. Don’t commission a cover artist until you have a solid understanding of your genre and audience. Read a lot of books. Collect covers of the books you want to emulate or compete against. I had a secret Pinterest board just for cover art.

Write Good Content

Know how to write compelling back cover copy. I scoured Amazon looking for good descriptions that made me want to read the book. I keep a file of good descriptions. I spent an entire afternoon picking the structure apart so I could replicate the recipe.

Determine Your Distribution

Know where you want to publish your book. If you’re working with print, Amazon’s CreateSpace has different standards than Lightning Source’s IngramSpark. If you’re working with eBook only, that is an important distinction as well.

Find a Cover Artist

Believe it or not, I found my cover artist by looking on the back cover of a book released by a newer member of my writer’s group. I visited her website and looked at every cover she had created. I confirmed she followed the young adult historical trend, but not in a derivative way. I confirmed she understood the genre, young adult historical comedic gothic (say that three times fast). I confirmed she had an online presence (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, any would have worked for me) so I could determine her responsiveness.

Plus, I read in her bio that she lives in my city. I love that! I was so excited to support a local artist. Things you should keep in mind when choosing your cover artist:

  1. Are they design savvy?
  2. Do they understand your genre?
  3. Do they understand your audience?
  4. Are they responsive?
  5. Are they in your budget?

Contact/Commission a Cover Artist

Once I was convinced, I contacted her through her website. This was her preferred method of communication. For the love of all that is efficient, don’t contact your desired cover artist through your preferred contact method. You’ll never get a response and you’ll lose the opportunity. This is a time for the two of you to interview one another. You’re looking for a solid professional relationship, where both parties can commit to a timeline and have explicit expectations about what is required to complete the task.

A professional cover artist, no matter how much they charge for their services, will have a design brief/form for you to fill out. On this form, you will (should) be required to provide:

  • Title / subtitle
  • Author name
  • Tagline
  • Back cover copy
  • Author bio

My cover artist also asked for content ideas. She wanted to know the theme of the story, who the main characters were with generic physical descriptions, any important scenery details*, and any important relationships.

* Haunting Miss Trentwood is an English manor story; we don’t leave the house so it became a feature of the cover.

A professional cover artist will also have a contract for you to sign. This should include all the details of your agreement, including:

  • Deposit/retainer for services
  • Estimated total fee
  • Timeline
  • Who covers cost for stock art
  • How many design hours are included in the base price
  • How many revisions are included
  • What happens if a change request occurs (what constitutes a change request? are there fees associated?)
  • What are the final file formats
  • When/How are the files delivered

Collaborate with Your Cover Artist i.e. Let Them Do Their Job

Now, my cover artist was super fun to work with. I had this idea in my head, and I felt pretty strongly about it. However, I’m a software designer by trade and I know when my client thinks they know what is best… they usually don’t. So I gave her exactly what I thought I wanted, I gave details about wanting silhouettes, a bright cover, a bit of mystery, and some color suggestions. I gave her access to my secret Pinterest board. And then I sat back and waited. Anxiously, like a kid at Christmas told not to touch any of the presents.

She blew me away with her collaboration skills. I approved all silhouettes before they were composed together in the final cover art. I approved the fonts. I approved the color scheme. Then I sat back and waited again for the first draft composition. I basically went with her design with minor tweaks.

The back cover was easier since it’s simpler. I submitted my publisher logo (Bright Bird Press), my author bio and author photo. I like to include my author photo because I write under a pen name and it’s nice to confirm with family and friends that I did, in fact, just publish a book.

You can tell from the before and after that hiring a cover designer is definitely worth it…

If you’ve been on the fence about hiring a cover artist, I encourage you to do your research. Hire someone you can trust. Someone you can collaborate with. Someone who makes you dance with joy when you receive your new cover art!

Requesting Beta Readers for The Rebel’s Touch

Dear Reader,

Goodness gracious I’ve been busy, but not on The Rebel’s Touch.

Requesting Beta Readers for The Rebel’s Touch

I don’t know why, I’m just so horribly stuck with that book. I’ve put it aside, so very frustrated and wondering what to do with it. Perhaps send it to a beta reader or two? If you’re interested, let me know! I’d love your thoughts and, most importantly, questions, so I know what to answer as the book goes forward. Leave a comment or contact me via Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or the contact form on my website to let me know if you’d like a sneak peek to the first couple chapters to provide feedback.

What’s up with Mad Maxine?

In the meantime, I keep tweaking my short story, Mad Maxine. I’ve never liked the cover for it and finally, on Monday night while sipping a nice red blend with How I Met Your Mother in the background, I redesigned the cover and uploaded it to my distributors. See below for all the different covers and the final (fingers crossed) selection.

First cover Second attempt Third attempt

Whatever happened to Loving, Longing, Leaving?

Remember that anthology I was going to pull together last year? Well, I’ve rejuvenated the project. I even created a cover for it, to provide some sort of accountability on my part. I’m compiling my old poetry and short stories and will be sending it to my editor for her input fairly soon. It’s called Atlanta & the Lion, and Other Tales.

The collection is quirky, kind of weird, and everything is set in some undetermined time and place including characters concerned with a man on an epic journey to reclaim his lost mustache, a woman whose boyfriend is a lion, and a grieving woman who thinks if she hugs enough people, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles might become a better place, and more. Sounds fun, right?

I like this cover because it’s starting to show how my non-Victorian or historical pieces will all have a particular visual theme. The kind of mid-century “I’m typing on a keyboard but I’m influenced by the past” sort of feel. Me likey lots.

Buy Haunting Miss Trentwood direct!

I finally set it up so you can purchase Haunting Miss Trentwood directly from me. I have a Kindle and ePub version available, as well as the first ten chapters of the audiobook available as a teaser. The full audiobook will be direct for purchase in the coming months.

But you keep disappearing!

I know, I know. I pop into the blog to say, “Hi! I’m still alive! I promise I’m still working on things!” And then you don’t hear from me for too long. I post things at Tumblr more frequently, images and quotes and the like, and I’m working on a way to automatically import those posts into this blog because I think it would be nice to spice things up a bit. So look for that. You’ll know if it works because I’ll be posting more often.

So yes. That is the skinny on Belinda’s writing world right now. I have a dance lesson tonight, a dance tomorrow and Saturday night, and Father’s day on Sunday. Busy busy busy!

Promising to keep working,

Belinda

Smashwords Gifts and Underground Railroad Stealth

Dear Reader,

I sit here at my desk eating a McDonald’s McGriddle and pondering the odd combination of a sandwich that uses pancakes for bread. The rain is pouring though it is the middle of January in Ohio. The world is an odd place.

Last night, I decided I would redesign the cover for my short story, Mad Maxine. The first cover was, admittedly, thrown together. I thought I needed a photo-realistic cover for whatever reason, and that it needed to match my historical fiction covers.

Fact is, Mad Maxine is a contemporary short story that is so different from my historical fiction, I’m certain I was confusing readers. Maxine is a smoker, she’s just lost her husband and the story location is at his grave site. The original cover showed none of that.

So on Sunday, I pulled out my sketchbook and began drawing.  I scanned it in, did some Photoshop magic, and uploaded it to Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

Should be live on all those sites and propagated across Kobo, Sony, etc, over the coming days.

Smashwords Gifts

While at Smashwords, I noticed they have a beta “gift a book” option. The way it works is when you purchase the book, you submit the recipient’s email and they get an automatic email with instruction to get their copy.

This is a great option not only for readers giving gifts to readers, but also for authors who are holding contests! I hate the fact that when I want to give a free book to a reader, I usually have to send them this email stating “here is a 100% coupon for you to download the book.” Now, it seems Smashwords takes care of it for me. Huzzah!

Underground Railroad Stealth

In terms of my research for The Rebel’s Touch, I hit a gold mine while reading John P. Parker’s autobiography. Parker was an escaped slave who became a very successful businessman in the Cincinnati and Ripley, OH areas. He also happened to be a primary operator for the Underground Railroad. First off, this book reads like you are sitting at an old southern man’s kitchen table, listening to him tell his story. It is FANTASTIC! I often find myself reading a passage out loud, slowing down my natural rhythm, trying to hear how he would have said that particular sentence.

Parker’s attention to detail and storytelling is the kind that gets passed down in storytelling families. I know, I’m in one of them. My father once told me a story about how a crocodile used to eat lying children that sounded so plausible, I really thought he lost a brother who lied to this super smart, Peter Pan-esque crocodile.

Anyway, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Ripley, OH during the Civil War years and those leading up to it. He gives names, describes where the houses were, and the terrain he had to cross when leading contraband (what the Union army called escaped slaves) across the Ohio River from Kentucky.

I have at least three more books I want to read about Ripley Ohio and John Parker. Because I live in Ohio, and Ripley is only a couple hours from me, I want to visit the town and get a feel for the landscape. Many of the original houses still stand, sentinels on the river. I need to write to the local historical society to get additional resources, and I plan to visit the Ohio Historical Society to see what else they can tell me.

I want to get The Rebel’s Touch out sooner rather than later. But I also want to do a good job of it; I commonly hear that Haunting Miss Trentwood felt a little rushed, and maybe it was.

So yes, with the new year comes lots of grand plans. I mean to enjoy this research process, though, and I hope to translate it into a great book.

Best,

Belinda

Going Like Gangbusters

Dear Reader,

This was a GOOD week for Round of Words. Not only did I copy over my entire plot for The Rebel’s Hero over from sticky notes into the computer (you can see it on my fan page), but I also wrote character bios for half of my characters, and wrote another 1667 words on top of that initial 750 words, thus completing the first drafts of chapters two and three!

And then yesterday, while working in a coffee shop, I realized something awful. The Rebel’s Hero continues to change and morph away from Catching the Rose. So much so that it feels weird using the same character names. So I changed all of the character names and have finally broken free from Catching the Rose. The Rebel’s Hero is still technically a rewrite, so there might be a similarity here and there, at least between character relationships… Anyway, I think this is for the best.

Oh. And I made the cover for The Rebel’s Hero and unveiled it Friday evening on my fan page. If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, you got a larger version in your inbox. As a bit of housekeeping, from now on I will be releasing book information first to the newsletter subscribers, then to Facebook fans, and then on the blog. That makes sense, right?

I updated the website home page, so if you haven’t visited in a while because you have an RSS reader, hop on over, if you please.

Now as you might have guessed, I’m exhausted. Because on top of all that, I worked full-time last week where I wrote a 32-page report that had a ton of diagrams (ok I’m cheating, I took two weeks to write that). And last night, I was swing dancing until midnight.

Belinda iz ded nao.

I’ll check in next week with a brushed up excerpt from chapter two, I think. Or maybe not. Not sure. My brain hurts.

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Re-releases an Old Book

Dear Reader,

You might wonder why I’m publishing a second edition of my first book while in the middle of writing my second book. You wouldn’t be alone in wondering this. My mother has asked why I bother in looking to the past when I’m also planning for the future.

It’s a good question, and one I thought I’d answer here at Worderella Writes. You see, Catching the Rose was my learning book. When I say that I mean this was the book I wrote in which I learned how to:

  1. write a novel.
  2. edit a novel.
  3. ensure my book was the only one with that particular title.
  4. look for a reputable vanity/subsidy publisher.
  5. deal with a vanity publisher.
  6. make a cover sketch so my cover designer would know what I’m looking for.
  7. twiddle my thumbs while I waited for the proof to arrive.
  8. scream with excitement as I held my book in my hands.
  9. gain local buzz for writing a 384 page novel as a high school student.
  10. set up a professional writing website.
  11. set up a professional writing blog.
  12. compare my cover to other covers in the genre.
  13. recognize my back cover copy was sadly lacking.
  14. recognize my marketing plan sucked, because I didn’t have one.
  15. accept compliments and criticisms with the same smile.
  16. swallow my pride.

I learned a great many more things, but there’s no need to list them all. The point is, I love Catching the Rose, and a great number of my readers do as well. Almost seven years later, I’m still hearing about how a friend of a friend of a friend of my mother picked up my book, and liked it so much that they asked my mother when my next one was coming out.

If you’ve ever had this happen to you, you know the quiet joy that spreads within your chest, blossoms in your heart, and makes your eyes shine.

So I’m releasing a second edition of this book, giving it a real chance this time because it deserves it. I know so much more now about the book industry, though I have a lot more to learn. I know how to do page layout and cover design; I did both for this second edition. I removed a number of my glaring rookie mistakes, such as

  1. spelling out accents (“Why how dayah you, Mistah Williams, foah speakin’ to me in such a mannah!”)
  2. allowing widows and orphans to mess up the visual harmony of the typographical page.
  3. adverbs run rampant.

I didn’t catch everything, but like I said, I’m still learning. Catching the Rose is my baby. I spent six years writing it during the developmental stage of life. I poured in all of my teenage confusion and angst, edited out the worst of it, and made an entertaining and engaging read for women of all ages. And a few men, too.

Even as I was re-doing the page layout last night, I caught myself reading passages and chuckling at the characters, or wondering what was going to happen next. Isn’t that odd? I mean, I wrote the book. Shouldn’t I know what’s going to happen?

I do, because I did write the book. But for me, it’s always been about the journey. I’m that jerk who reads the end of the book before I read the entire thing, because I don’t want to read it if I won’t like the ending. That doesn’t mean I only like happy endings, because I don’t. I like well-written endings. And a well-written bittersweet ending is clutch.

So I’m re-releasing Catching the Rose because:

  1. It was, and still is, my learning book.
  2. As per #1, I’m learning how to truly self-publish so when I self-publish Haunting Miss Trentwood, I’ll have worked out the kinks.
  3. I love this book.
  4. I love the characters, and I love their issues.
  5. My readers ask me, years after reading the book, what happened to Veronica and Brad.
  6. While formatting the pages, I got lost in my own story.
  7. I am a writer, and I must write.
  8. I am a storyteller, and I must tell this story.

So what do you think? Am I being dumb? Am I being greedy? Or something else entirely?

Worderella Releases a Book Trailer

Dear Reader,

I’ve made a book trailer for Catching the Rose, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting. But oh so fun, if you know what you’re doing. I downloaded CamStudio to screen capture what I was doing, but for some reason, it didn’t take properly.

Which really annoys me, because I was looking forward to watching a time lapse of the three hours it took me to do the actual work, after hours of looking for the perfect images/music.

Anyway, I’m going to try to do it again. I’m going to replicate the process, and capture my actions on screen so you can see what goes into a book trailer. Or, at least a book trailer of my making.

In the meantime, enjoy my trailer, and let me know what you think about it. There are some sixty of you following this blog, and I’m getting a bit lonely!

Worderella Becomes Her Own Hero (i.e. Cover Designer)

So I’ve been meaning to release my first book, Catching the Rose, as in eBook format, but wasn’t sure where to begin. As always, I turned to my friend Zoe Winters to see what she’s done, because let’s face it, she has her hand in every pot when it comes to self-publishing.

Smashwords, it seemed, was my answer. Smashwords is an

ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.

The really cool thing about this is I can upload a Word document and they do all the formatting for me. My book is now, as far as I can tell, available to read in the following formats:

  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • Kindle
  • EPub
  • PDF
  • RTF
  • Sony Reader
  • Palm readers
  • Plain text

How crazy is that?? I’m pretty excited, I’d like to see what sort of sales I get this way. But again, just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it will sell. I should market the new format, right? Well, I have been meaning to update the branding of the book, and since this version is owned completely by me I felt funny using the cover provided by Aventine Press, the subsidy that originally printed my work.

Turns out stock art is an amazing thing, if you find exactly what you want. I searched through istockphoto.com, gettyimages.com, and fotolia.com, and decided that Fotolia was giving me the results I wanted. The image below is the one I chose for Catching the Rose.

There is a masquerade ball during the book, so the masks are absolutely perfect. I wanted to step away from the ultra-pink of the original book, so the blue background really pulled me in. Veronica, the main character, has blond hair, and Brad, the interest, has brown hair. I looked for an entire week at stock photography and my jaw dropped when I found photos by Andrey Kiselev. Just perfect!

But of course, an image isn’t enough to make a book cover. I played around during my break at work today with Pixlr, a great online alternative to Photoshop just to see what I could do with the image (see below). After an hour, I had something I was in love with, and I couldn’t wait to get home so I could buy the image and make the cover for real in Photoshop.

You see, I’d like to do a reprint of Catching the Rose, give it an updated look. So I need a decent-sized file that will print well, as well as make a cover design that will scale to a thumbnail nicely. Smashwords requires that you upload an image that is at least 600 pixels in height. I’m not sure why, perhaps to fit all the different eReader formats. So the final version is below.

What do you think? I’d love to get some feedback. To thank you ahead of time, I’d like to give you a discount if you’re interested in supporting me in my first self-publishing venture. To receive a discount on Catching the Rose (Smashwords edition), type SWS25 into the promotional field at checkout.