Good Cover Design, Part 2

In Part 1 of Good Cover Design, I discussed Genre, Keeping it Simple, and Instant Readability. Here’s the link to that post if you missed it: https://thevioletfemmes.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/good-cover-design-part-1-2/. Today’s topics are: Clear Branding, Basic Design Principles, Trusting your Gut, and Working with a Professional Cover Designer.

[Please remember that I am not distinguishing here between self-pubbed examples and traditionally published ones in this post. I use the author’s name for simplicity, and my focus is simply Good Design. In some cases, yes, the design decisions were made by the authors, in others, kudos go to the publisher’s design (and perhaps marketing) departments.]

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Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister Series

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Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron Series

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Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil Series

Clear branding: Not only do you have to hit the genre correctly, it’s smart to develop an AUTHOR brand—a consistent treatment that speaks to your voice, your style, your genre—in other words, what a reader expects to find in a book written by YOU. The examples that always come to mind for me are Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series of historicals (same type treatment, a lone heroine, a jewel-colored dress, and muted wallpaper background), Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron contemporary romances (happy color, spring/summer scenes, simple type that speaks to contemporaries with humor), and Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil romantic suspense’s (clearly dark and dangerous, heavy hitting, and part of a series. How cool is that film strip with the number of the book in the series? And wow do those solid background colors leap out at you). You don’t have to write a series, however, to make your name/your brand, recognizable. Kristan Higgins’s other books have similar art, the same overall style, and always the size and treatment of her name. Do note, however, that in all cases, the author’s name is more prominent than the book title. The authors I mentioned in Part 1 are known for following this principle as well. Many argue that the author’s name is the single most important aspect of the cover. Another point that bears mentioning is to make it easy on yourself: don’t choose a design that’s going to be hard to implement as your series or brand marches on.

Basic design principles: you want a balanced, eye-catching design with a pleasing color scheme. Unless you are working around the art, your type shouldn’t hop around. Meaning sometimes the title is centered and the author name must be flush right where it’s readable. But if there’s room and a choice, keep it consistent for balance. As for color—go attractive but not obnoxious. Complimentary to the art you’ve chosen, contrasting enough to be easily visible. The reason those solid brights work for Debra Webb is because the film strip itself is understated and the type is all black. And certain colors denote holiday stories, others imply genre. Had we chosen red type for the grayscale Katharine Ashe cover (see last month’s post), we might have inadvertently leaned towards a typical treatment for erotica, so just be mindful of the choices you make.

Your gut: you have to like it, of course! If one design furthers your excitement over this book you slaved over and another leaves you cold? Well, there’s your answer.

Working with a Professional Cover Designer: There are loads of good cover designers out there, found by a quick web search, or via the databases of your writing groups. You can get quality, custom designs, for incredibly reasonable prices these days, and most every designer will do their best to please you. The biggest deciding factor, to my mind however, is to choose one whose design style you really love. That way, chances are good, you and your designer will be on the same page from the get go. After that, communication is key. It will help them to know exactly what you want (or don’t want), what you like, why something bothers you, etc. Most designers will welcome visual examples of books and treatments you love, as well. Much like getting general feedback on a manuscript with a rejection, a mushy “it’s missing something” or doesn’t further the process very well. So use the words and expression that are a writer’s gift, and respectfully explain.

Thanks for visiting The Violet Femmes today! Hope you found the Cover Design posts helpful!

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The Violet Femmes in 2013

Welcome to the annual recap!

This has been a huge year for the Violet Femmes. Our little blog has grown by leaps and bounds—and a few of our Femmes saw their careers take off this year.

The Stats

  • Our biggest month, visitor-wise, was July, followed very closely by November.
  • Four Femmes had DEBUT releases this year: Diana Quincy published SEDUCING CHARLOTTE in April; RoseAnn DeFranco published RETURN TO AUDUBON SPRINGS in September; Maria K. Alexander published UNTANGLE MY HEART in November; and Michele Mannon published KNOCK OUT in December.
  • One of the Femmes, Joanna Shupe, won RWA’s 2013 Golden Heart® for Best Historical Romance.
  • Most of you found us via a Google search. Of the social media sites, Facebook continued to be the strongest referrer.
  • We introduced a new feature, Femme Stalking, where we go fan girl on our favorite authors. Diana Quincy and Jenna Blue both stalked authors in 2013, and we look forward to more Femme Stalkings in 2014.

Happy 2014 to you and yours! We love our readers, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the fantastic support.

onjEdqO

Dirty Talk, Regency Style

CompromisingWillaThis week’s release of Compromising Willa, my third Regency romance, got me thinking about language and how we use it.

Working on edits for Compromising Willa probably triggered my current preoccupation with words because I was also writing my first contemporary romance at the same time. This meant I had to jump back and forth between historical and modern-day dialogue, making sure my 19th Century duke hero didn’t end up saying things like “dude” and “cool.”

Compromising Willa was the first book I ever wrote and I certainly made mistakes regarding historical accuracy along the way. In a critical scene where the hero meets the heroine for the first time, I had him strike a match to light his cheroot. It was a great scene except that the story takes place during the Regency period, well before matches were invented. Oops.

Since then, I have done my best to get the research right. Sometimes an author takes a little license to move the story forward, but in general I’ve tried to be as historically accurate as possible.  These days, when researching the proper language for historicals, I often turn to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Some of the crass terms crack me up, so  I thought I’d share a few:

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Read More For Less Money

I am a voracious reader. And I read fairly quickly, so I was a kid in a candy store when I started reading electronically. It’s so easy, I marveled. Just hit a button and the book downloads instantly to my phone! Technology is AWESOME!

mhGx4Vm Yes, technology is awesome. But the credit card bills I racked up in the first year of building my digital book library were definitely NOT awesome. Like most people, I’ve had to learn how to maximize my book-purchasing dollars.

So here are some tips and tricks learned over the past year or so.

Discount Offers

1) There are plenty of places to get discounted books on the Web. Authors and publishers frequently run .99 deals on the major retailing sites. This can be a great way to snatch up limited-time deals from your favorite authors (and ones you’ve wanted to try). Best place to find deals: Social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter.

bookbub 2) Another great service is BookBub. This site sends free and bargain deals right to your email each day, based on the reading preferences you’ve previously selected. What’s great is that the BookBub staff vets the books submitted for deals; You get higher-quality selections than just perusing the retailers yourself.

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Come on! Get Your Will Ferrell On

Deconstructing Sentences: The Will Ferrell Effect

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Imagine sitting in an auditorium and listening to a lecture on macroeconomics. The professor is going on and on about consumerism. How Americans buy more than they produce. On, and on, and on. The monotony of the professor’s voice sounds like a Maharishi’s mantra, lulling you toward a deep, blissful sleep. On, and on, and on. To the point where your numbed mind begins to wonder if investing money in this class–along with your 400 other fellow American, college student, consumer, investors . . . yep, the same ones nodding off next to you—was a bad idea.

Now, take this same scenario and pretend the professor is . . . Tom Hardy. (Sorry, I’m still in my dream state at the macroeconomics class.) Okay, I’m keeping Tommy for myself. How about . . . Will Ferrell?
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Creative Researching

Remember when you were in school, and you had to write a research paper? The boring, labor-intensive , and (now I’m showing my age) endless searching through the card catalog for resources for a non-fiction article, usually the day or two before the term paper was due? Yeah, me too.File:Copyright Card Catalog Files.jpg

What was it about those assignments that we hated? The stress? The solitude of researching, when all we wanted was to hang out with our friends? The fact that we had no interest in the subject matter, that it was a necessary evil, that someone was “making” us do it?
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Thirteen Writing Resources for 2013

The year 2013 is well under way. I’ve decided to repeat one of my most popular posts, pay it forward once again, and share with you a dozen plus one lessons and resources from my arsenal of tools. Hopefully, you’ll find something useful for your own writing.

Thirteen may just prove to be the luckiest year yet—if you’re a believer, like me. I’m certainly wishing you a wonderful, belated 2013.

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Thirteen Writing Resources for 2013

Critique partners unite 

Ever feel like you are so caught up in revising your story that you can’t hear your characters anymore?

There are so many advantages to collaborating with critique partners who understand your voice and let you fly, but give you honest feedback when you’ve gotten into writer-gone-wild mode. Yes, it’s helpful when someone points out poor word choice or incomplete sentences but set your expectations higher when working with someone else’s manuscript and visa versa. The real challenge is in making your story sing, both beautifully and loud enough to draw attention to it. And, when your characters world gets murky and their voices sound flat, the value of good critique partners is immeasurable.
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Discovering Local Flavor

Earlier this week, a photo album of rare color photographs from early 1900’s Paris circulated around Facebook. You read that right…COLOR photos from the early 1900’s. Here is the link: http://curiouseggs.com/extremely-rare-color-photography-of-early-1900s-paris/.

These photos got me thinking…we all have, thanks to the media, news, and marketing, distinct impressions of what makes a place unique. Wisconsin has dairy farms, Texas has cattle ranchers, California has Rodeo Drive, and New Jersey has the shore. Florida has orange groves and Washington has apples.

When I pitched my short contemporary romance set in Vermont, almost every agent and editor I pitched it to stressed the importance of setting taking on the role of a character in the story. In other words, evoke the setting in the prose. If the story is set in a place, make sure there’s a reason the story is set there. Your story should only be able to take place there, and nowhere else, if the setting is strong enough. If you’re setting a story in Vermont, for example, it seems like it should have a few key things…mountains, ski resorts, maple sugar and fall foliage.
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The Violet Femmes in 2012

Hi everyone! I thought I would do a quick recap post on how our blog did in 2012. Why?

Well, I could say that it’s that time of year. (It is.) I could also say that I find this sort of information interesting and just wanted to share. (I do, and I do.)

I could also just tell the truth. Part 5 of Glitter Girl isn’t ready.

I know, I know. You’re dying to read it. Well, I’m dying to write it. Unfortunately for me, the Golden Heart deadline is really screwing up my last week of December. So, you’ll get the last installment of Glitter Girl on Wednesday. Until then, enjoy The Violet Femmes 2012 Year in Review.
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Risky Business

Be sure to stop by the Violet Femmes blog each week this month and comment to be entered in our contest. This month you’ll be entered to win two novels, Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins and Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas. Come back every week and leave a comment to increase your chance of winning!


I am many things. A mom. Wife. Sports fan. History buff. Shoe lover. One thing I’m not, by nature, is a risk taker. I like my little comfortable bubble where I don’t have to talk to people I don’t know or eat things I’ve never heard of. I tend to hang out on the fringes of a party, and knee-high water is about the deepest I’m willing to venture out into the ocean.

So now that I’ve shared WAAAAAY more information about myself than any of you ever wanted to know, we can talk about risk and how it relates to writing. Do you take risks as a writer? Do you push yourself to be more, to be better, to be different? Because while our comfort zone is, well, comforting, you never know what you will discover when you step outside it.

“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.”
            —Francis Ford Coppola, Director, Producer, Wine Maker

Dare to be Different

We frequently see examples of risk in movies and television, such as when an actor takes on an unexpected role. Or the business world, with entrepreneurs who strike out on their own with nothing more than a few bucks and a wacky idea. With writing, it can feel as if everything we do is a risk. You’re putting your thoughts on the page and then sending them out into the cold, cruel world for everyone to rip apart. Isn’t that enough, universe?! Well, no. It’s not. Just because you can string a few sentences together and know where to stick the commas doesn’t mean you’re going to get noticed.

Unpublished authors frequently hear you need a “great hook” to sell a book these days. Stellar writer and character development will only get you so far. The competition is fierce, and your story premise better sound like nothing anyone’s ever heard before. Sounds daunting, right? As if we don’t have enough pressure with the darn commas!

A recent article in The New York Times claims the biggest risks in literature right now are taking place in the young adult market. I don’t really read YA so I can’t say whether this is true or not, but the author wrote:

“Here are a few audacious books you won’t find in the adult section of the library. A Holocaust memoir narrated by Death. A novel written entirely in electronic messages. A historical novel in prose poems. A murder mystery in screenplay format.”

So if you have a story idea you want to try but are worried it’s too “out there” to be marketable…that kind of idea just may make you stand out from the crowd.

Or it may make you sound like a nut job.

The point is, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

“Growing as a writer means taking chances and pushing boundaries. Not that you necessarily want to try and sell all your writing exercises, but that doesn’t mean you [shouldn’t] practice and experiment.”
                        —Josh Lanyon, Author

Breaking Out

Risk means something different to everyone. For writers, maybe it’s attending a conference for the first time or taking a writing class. Submitting to an agent or an editor. Heck, maybe it’s just allowing someone other than your mom to read your work. Or, in the case of our own VF Michele, it might be trying your hand at writing in a completely different genre. She went from writing French historicals to contemporary sports-themed stories. (And guess what? She rocks both genres.)

Occasionally, I’ll hear an unpubbed author express the reluctance to “put themselves out there.” If you stay in a writing bubble by yourself, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to network and learn from others. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest aren’t there to SCARE you; they exist to help people connect with others, even other writers. Sites like WordPress and Blogger make it easy to set up your own blog.

At some point, you have to crawl out of your writer’s cave and start to build a name for yourself—whether you are published or not. If you don’t, how will anyone find out about you when you DO get published? The difference in the approach is huge: you’re either spamming people you don’t know to spread the word about a book they don’t care about, or you’re relying on your friends to help build word of mouth for your book. Which would you rather be on the receiving end of?

“Learn something, try something, do something else. FAIL. FAIL BIG and FAIL A LOT. Failure is always guarding the door to success.”
                        —Kristen Lamb, Author and Blogger

The Non-Traditional Route

While self-publishing is not for everyone, no one can deny it has changed the landscape. Not only does it allow writers to publish stories that might not otherwise get exposure, it also helps readers find a wide variety of non-traditional books.

Take Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which was first posted online as Twilight fan fiction. FSOG breaks many of the rules first-time authors are told to avoid. Don’t write a story in present tense. Don’t write a first-person narrative. Don’t have too many sex scenes. Don’t use British vernacular when your characters are American. (Okay, that last one is true.) James’ trilogy has become an international sensation, despite everything we may think she did wrong. Clearly, she’s done something RIGHT because readers can’t get enough.

(Of course, if you’re going to risk breaking the rules, you have to know what the rules are first.)

So, have an idea for a story but worry it won’t sell because it’s just too wacky? Having the option to self-publish may be the little mint on your pillow every night, comforting you just enough to take the risk and write the book you want to write—whether you end up self-publishing it or not.

“Fear of failure is the reason most often cited to explain why so many aspiring writers never realize their dreams. But I think it’s that same fear of failure that absolutely invigorates those who do push through—that is, the fear of not being heard.”
                        —Betsy Lerner, Editor and Author

Fear Factor

Are you clutching your laptop like a security blanket, even though you might suspect there might be a grain of truth in what I said? I get it. I understand because I wrote in a bubble for a few years, then finally took a chance and joined the New Jersey chapter of the RWA. I couldn’t get over how nice and supportive everyone was, and I lucked out in getting an amazing critique partner (VF Maria) that then led to meeting the rest of the Violet Femmes. Exhibit A of a small risk that worked out in spades for me. My writing improved by leaps and bounds, and my life improved just by having these inspiring and talented women in it.

Beyond that, I feel I’m still learning, still stretching my skills to make myself the best writer I can. Is it working? I don’t know yet, but I hope so. After I finish my current historical WIP, I’ve got an idea for a contemporary series that I’m going to run with. Who knows, right?

So tell us—what risks do you take in your writing?

Joanna

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