Book Cover Design Process

When designing a book cover, a number of items need to be considered. What is the genre? The mood of the story? The background setting? What type of “look” do you want to get across? Is this best done with photography or illustration? Do you like people on the cover? Can you describe a particular scene you envision, or images that might work?

When I contacted Patty G. Henderson from http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com about doing my cover for a revised edition of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2), I gave her a basic summary of the plot. Hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for Taste of the World, a fund-raiser to benefit a coastal preservation society. Someone is sabotaging the chefs involved in this gala event set in South Florida. I wanted to blend elements of the tropical setting with the food theme and also give a hint about the murder mystery.

I mentioned Bonnet House to Patty. This Fort Lauderdale historic attraction served as the model for cousin Cynthia’s estate in the story. Photos on their website could provide inspiration. After a while, Patty sent me these two mock-up covers for my initial inspection. What did I like or dislike about them? What should we change?

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I was awestruck at how Patty instinctively understood my brand as an author and the genre in which I write. Since I write humorous cozies, I’ve noticed these covers are mostly illustrations rather than photographic portrayals. Readers like me want to be able to tell the genre at a glance. I had sent her a list of covers on Amazon that appealed to me as a reader. This mockup got the concept just right.

Patty covered the murder mystery aspect perfectly with the bloody scissors. She got the chef part of the plot correct with the serving dish. And she got the seaside location fine. However, Florida doesn’t have mountains. So that hill behind the building had to go. I’m also not fond of pastels. I like sharp, bright colors representative of the tropics. But I did like the green, coral, beige, and turquoise tones. However, they needed to be sharpened and made darker.

On proof number one, the cover on the above left, the title font is cute and appropriate to a humorous mystery. But it’s too light. So is my name. And from far away, you can’t see the series title at all.

On proof number two, I don’t care for the series logo either. We need a different symbol than the shears because Five Star uses them on my new titles. And this wave design would have to be carried through on subsequent books in the series. I liked the one on the left but that wording doesn’t show up. So let’s get rid of the wave altogether and work on a series title that’s more visible.

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These are better with brighter colors and sharper wording. Looking at proof number 3 on the left, I note the mountain is gone. I like my name at the top in dark green. The top of Hair Raiser, though, is hard to see because of the busy background elements. And I’m not crazy about the three combs. They’re cute but show no element of mystery.

Number 4 on the right is better. But oops, the mountain is back. I like the title font, color and placement. I like my name where it is but more to the right, so it’s all in the turquoise section. And I like the crossed teasing combs for the series logo but not dividing up the wording. What if we move the series logo above my name? That might work.

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“Is this the winner?” Patty asked. “Oh, yes,” I replied. ”It’s perfect.” Finally, we had our cover! I do love it, the images, the fonts, the colors—everything.

But were we done? Not yet! Next came the paperback edition. What did I want on the back side? A solid color or some of the front image? Did I want the book title at the top of the back or the series title? What do we want on the spine? And so here is the final result of this process:

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It requires a lot of patience between both parties to get things done just right. But the results are definitely worth the thrill you get when everything falls into place.

To contact Patty G. Henderson, go to http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com/

Join my book launch party on Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 6:00 – 8:00pm EST at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty for Fun and Giveaways!

HAIR RAISER Buy Links:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hair-raiser-nancy-cohen/1017599109?ean=2940149980222
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406

Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

 

Writing Goals for 2015

Usually I split my career goals into two paths, the creative end and the business of writing. So here are my upcoming objectives for 2015.

WRITING GOALS

Finish and Submit Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Revise backlist mystery titles, including Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, and Body Wave.
Commence audio book process starting with Permed to Death.
Hire editor for two standalone mysteries and consider bundling them as a box set.
Begin plotting #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Consider timeline for writing books #4-6 in the Drift Lords Series.

BUSINESS GOALS

Hold launch party for each backlist title as the revised Author’s Edition is published.
Plan promo campaign for Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out in October.
Enter books in writing contests.
Keep up with quarterly newsletter, blogs and social networking sites.

And what do you hope to accomplish this year?

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There’s still time! Vote for Hanging by a Hair under Mystery Novels in the Annual Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelmys.shtml

Today begins the next Booklover’s Bench contest. Visit our site and enter now: http://bookloversbench.com. I’ll be giving away a first edition signed copy of Moonlight Rhapsody, one of my earlier sci-fi romances.

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2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Marketing to Bloggers

At a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers, we heard Ana Ivies speak about Marketing, Blogs and Reader Events. She runs http://wickedbookevents.com and http://anasattic.com which cater to readers.

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For those who use affiliate links on their blogs, Ana says blog revenues have decreased since Kindle Unlimited got started. KU “has changed the landscape of reading.” Many bloggers won’t promote KU books. Ana sells books from her sites and puts up free and $.99 book specials there too. She advises authors that KU may be better for backlist titles. Bloggers want to promote new releases. Don’t undervalue your book to $.99 unless it’s a novella. When the third or fourth book in a series comes out, put book one on sale.

Advice For Approaching Bloggers

Find bloggers who review books similar to yours.
Research the site before querying to see if a blogger will promote your book.
Review their submission requirements. Ana says Net Galley is a good way to reach bloggers. Make sure you grammar check your query.
Follow the blogger on social media.
Address the blogger by name. Say, “Hi, I’d like to introduce myself…”
Give your name, book title, and a link to your book on Amazon. When asking to sign at an event, provide all of your links.
Support other authors.
Interact; don’t only promote.
Include all of your social media links in your email signature.
Put your Amazon author link on your FB page.
If a blogger gives you a positive review, comment on it and share it. Express your gratitude. “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book.”
If you do a blog tour, go over and thank the host for being part of your event. A tour-wide giveaway draws readers in but don’t give away the ebook the blogger is promoting.

What Not To Do

Do not post your book or buy links on a blogger’s Facebook page. It’s okay to comment on a blogger’s FB posts and share their links.
Don’t tag a blogger in a promo post.
Don’t have your street team hijack a thread on her site and flood it with comments. One of two of your fans replying to a post is enough.
Don’t have your virtual assistant pose as you.
Don’t compare one blogger to another.
Don’t sign up a blogger for your email list without asking.
Don’t make fun of 1 star reviews.
Deal with drama privately, not online.

“When you write a book, it’s thirty percent writing and seventy percent promotion.”

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Final Words from #Ninc14

Final Advice for Writers from #Ninc14
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

To summarize the concluding talks from #Ninc14, here are the final points.

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If you have a lifeboat or collaborative team, specify your goals. Is it to increase sales or readership, or to reach bestseller status?

Series or related books sell the best. Make the first one $.99 so it can be called a bestseller as opposed to free.

Check to see if you have some rights back if not all, i.e. Do you have the rights for non-US territories, audio, translation rights?

Hire translators from the United States and not from other countries. If you hire somebody from outside the US, you will have to pay them royalties.

Don’t get discouraged. Just get more material out there. It’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. Once you’re making money, hire people to do everything.

It’s the technology age and you have to do social media, whether or not it’s in your comfort zone.

Ask your readers what they prefer in how they buy books. Do they pre-order?

Don’t just dip your toes in the brave new world of self-publishing. Jump in naked.

Don’t make decisions based on fear. Make it based on your intuition. Know what you are good at and what you need help with. What does success mean to you?

Get your titles out there. They don’t all have to be full-length novels.

Ask your publishing partners these questions: What can you do better than anyone else? What do you think I do well? How could I do better? What skills can you contribute? What market intelligence do you have that we can use together? What information do I have that you need, and for what purpose? What’s the best way we can add value for each other?

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Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

 

iBooks Tips for Writers

Working with iBooks
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

iBooks

Representatives from iBooks spoke at the Ninc conference. They said their readers like free ebooks, so Apple offers the first free in series promotion. Their readers are also willing to pay more for a book so don’t be afraid to price higher.

Pre-orders count double toward your sales ranking—when a pre-order comes in and when the book releases. You can do pre-orders up to one year before the book’s release. You can offer a sample of the story when the book is in pre-order. So Step One is to set the pre-order date, which is when the book is available for ordering. Step Two is to set the sales start date, when the book can be sent out.

iBook sales count on the USA Today list. iBooks are only allowed on five devices for one person. You should put your iBook links on your websites, Twitter, newsletter and elsewhere. For Twitter, use the hash tag #iBooks, not #iTunes.

It takes time to build readers on this platform. They recommend you have three books minimum in your series when you offer the first one free. In the back material, make sure you include links along with covers for your other books.

Make sure your name is readable on a thumb-sized cover. For the URL, take out the specific country, and the URL will redirect to the country of the buyer.

i.e. Take out the U.S. part from this link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nancy-j.-cohen/id411505950?mt=11&uo=4&at=1l3vsrx

And it becomes this link that redirects to the buyer’s country. See if this works for you:
https://itunes.apple.com/artist/nancy-j.-cohen/id411505950?mt=11&uo=4&at=1l3vsrx

They can only link your series titles if the books are uploaded by the same publisher. So if the books come from different sources, they won’t be able to link the titles in a series. [NOTE This is no longer true. It doesn’t have to be the same publisher but be consistent with your series title in the Metadata for each book.]

You might want to join their Affiliate program so you can share in some of the revenue from sales.

iBooks is in 51 territories. The German market is huge. We need to think more globally. Apple has a strong worldwide presence. India will be an emerging market for ebooks.

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Save

Buy Books for Gifts

As you do your holiday shopping, consider supporting authors and booksellers by buying books for gifts. You can find something for everyone’s taste. Even your friends who don’t own an e-reader device can download free apps to their cell phones or tablets. So you can still gift them an ebook. If you have an indie bookstore in your area, stop by and make a purchase. We need to show our support for these stores that still exist. And now for the commercial. Here are some of my titles for you to consider:

For Your Hairdresser, Nail Tech, Beautician and/or Readers Who Love Mysteries

Give them a Bad Hair Day Mystery. The adventures of hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore will thrill them with murder, mayhem, humor and romance. If you want a brand new hardcover, start them off with the latest title, HANGING BY A HAIR.

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If you want a brand new paperback, order SHEAR MURDER from HQ Worldwide Mystery Library.

Shear Murder

Most of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries are available in digital copies. Look for them here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iBooks
Kobo

For the Armchair Traveler, History Buff, True-Life Memoirs or Adventure Travel Fan

Try my father’s 1929 cross-country hitchhiking adventure, THUMBS UP.

Thumbs Up

For the Writer

Whatever genre they write, they can use a copy of WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY. This instructional guidebook will take them step-by-step through the process of writing a winning whodunit.

Cozy

For the Romance Fan

For friends who like a hot, sexy read, give them a book from my Drift Lords series. These romantic adventure tales will sweep them away to a modern world mixed with myth and magic. WARRIOR PRINCE, WARRIOR ROGUE and WARRIOR LORD are available in print and digital formats.

WarriorPrince300 WarriorRogue300 WarriorLord_w8513_300

Contest Alert!
Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or 1/6 free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery Killer Knots, in our December contest:
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

HAPPY SHOPPING!

 

Pitching your Book to Hollywood

How to Attract Hollywood to your Book
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

Why does Hollywood keep doing sequels and remakes? The simple answer is fear. Studios are filled with people who have legitimate fears about their jobs.

Hollywood Ninc14

China is a huge market right now. A movie might not do as well in the United States as it does in the international market. Character dramas and romantic comedies do not travel globally. The failure rate for romantic comedies in the United States is high. They are under-performing in theaters, so they’ve migrated to television. Romance is alive on the big screen but in melodrama, not comedy. These films do well in English-speaking, Western European countries but not in Asia. Character driven stories do not perform as well as dialogue driven ones. Hollywood honchos have to consider the P&A Cost or Print and Advertising budget. A $100 million movie costs $200 million to market. Smaller movies do not work as well because of this factor, and they do not attract as much attention.

Movie Sequels

Television has a bigger audience, so character driven stories can work better here. Authors should point to their sales to convince filmmakers there is an audience for their work. Pitching in Hollywood is for seasoned writers-producers. These people create TV shows. The speaker said she does a preliminary pitch first and then a more formal pitch. Then they “clear the arena” to see who else is doing similar projects.

Tips for Authors

Understand Hollywood is looking for something different.
Boil your novel down to one sentence.
Don’t say “this meets that” to describe your work comparing movies.
Be open about casting.

Trends

Hollywood is making more features for the international markets.
African-American romantic comedy ensembles are finding audiences.
Low-budget Christian films are finding audiences.
There is a market for romantic melodramas in feature films.
TV is great for character driven stories. They can deliver bigger audiences than features.
Traditional romantic comedy has migrated to TV.

How to Approach a Writer-Producer

Have your agent submit your published novel. The writer-producer may request a “shopping agreement” which gives them one year to pitch your story with no payment. If interested, the studio or network will pay the author and the writer-producer separately.

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

ACX and Audible

ACX and Audible
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

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What Sells in Audio? Teen and YA Fiction, Romance, Scifi/Fantasy, Mysteries/Thrillers, Business and History.

What do you need to get started? You need a published book on Amazon, audio rights, a manuscript, cover art and rights to the cover. There is no particular length requirement. Figure that 9300 words equals one finished hour of audio. In your profile when you apply to ACX, mention the main characters in your book, your awards and track record.

Options include paying the narrator upfront based on book length or sharing the earnings 50-50 and paying nothing up front. This latter term lasts seven years. Thereafter, you can renew each year or remove the audio book from distribution. A third option is to upload your own audio file.

Royalties are 40% for exclusive distribution and 25% if you go nonexclusive. For the former, you and the narrator split the royalty, meaning you’d each earn 20%. Distribution is to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Make sure you grant world rights for global reach.

You can earn a $50.00 bounty when someone joins Audible and purchases your book first. The person must stay in Audible for 30 days after the trial period.

The author gets 25 download codes for promotion but these don’t count toward your bounty. You can request more. How can you use these? Use them to generate reviews. Check out these sites: Audiofile, AudioGals, Books for Ears. Offer giveaways to your newsletter subscribers and social media fans. You can use Audible’s gift center to send a book to a fan.

If you already have an audio file, make sure it meets the requirements. It takes about three weeks after uploading to become active. Royalties are paid monthly via check or direct deposit.

Selecting your Narrator

Is she too fast? Too slow? Too cartoonish? Just right? Keep in mind that the listener can speed the audio with a tool in the app. You’ll want to give your narrator about three pages to read. These can be different paragraphs along with the context. In a series, continuity of narrator is important. A single voice is more popular than a multi-cast. Any additional material should come after the credits at the end.

One tip: use fewer dialogue tags. Various checkpoints occur in the process: the initial audition, and then a 15 minute sample which does not have to be the first pages of your work. You can request two rounds of revisions. Listen for the quality of sound during the longer samples. You can terminate the contract if you do not like the results. If approved, you can request three chapters at a time from your narrator.

Check the performance rating with each narrator, visit their website and note how many books they’ve done. You can click Like or Dislike to organize your selections. Narrators do not see this. You can send sample clips to friends for their opinions. Ask the narrator about her editing. Will she allow you to review the audio chapter by chapter, or at least three chapters at a time? You want somebody who’s easy to work with. If you are not happy with the narrator and reviews reflect your views, you can ask the narrator to re-record and upload. Do the first book slowly and thoughtfully. Do not rush the process.

The speaker from ACX at Ninc who nominates audio books for promotion said she looks at the book cover first. Next she’ll check out the number of reviews and what they say. She will check out your social media sites to see if you are promoting your audios. If you have a series, getting a promo boost for book one is important. Branding and packaging should carry over from other series titles.

How to Stand Out

Consider adding teasers for sequels after the credits. Coordinate promo efforts with your narrator. Leverage SoundCloud for audio clips. Make a dedicated space on your website for audio books. You can distribute up to 10% of your audio on a clip. This can be embedded on your website.

 

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

 

SleuthFest 2015 Crime Lab

News From SleuthFest 2015
February 26 – March 1, 2015, Deerfield Beach, FL
James Patterson, Dave Barry, James W. Hall, & Ric Gillespie
www.sleuthfest.com


Lab Lock Up

Lab & Lock Up Tour Special Pre-Conference Event
Wednesday February 25, 2015
Palm Beach County Detention Center & Crime Lab

Full tour and transportation $45
Sign up Now! Limit 25 People

***An insider’s look at a 2,156 bed high-security correctional facility housing high-risk, federal, & special medical/mental inmates.
***Then visit the Crime Lab, including the Forensic Toxicology, Chemistry, & Biology (DNA) Units, the Firearms & Forensic ID Units (Latent Prints), and the Evidence & Crime Scene support units.
***A chartered bus will take a group of 25 people from the DoubleTree by Hilton in Deerfield Beach
at 1 pm on Wednesday February 25, to the Palm Beach County Detention Center & Crime Lab in West Palm Beach, and return to the DoubleTree by 6 pm.

Available only to registered and paid SleuthFest attendees.
Sign up NOW!
At SleuthFestInfo@yahoo.com

Space is limited to 25 people only.
Email us at SleuthFestinfo@yahoo.com by November 15 to put your name in the hat.
Lucky participants will be notified by November 30.

Not registered for SleuthFest yet? Go to www.SleuthFest.com

And if you haven’t made your hotel reservations yet, you’d better get moving!
The DoubleTree is filling up fast, and we are already making arrangements for an overflow hotel.