Release of “An Artful Seduction”

Happy Monday! Today is the release of An Artful Seduction, the first book in my new Infamous Somertons series. The next two books, The Art of Sinning and A Sinful Arrangement will be release in 2016-17.

AAS_1600 (1)

His lust for revenge will be his downfall…

London, 1815. Eliza Somerton has a dangerous secret. As the daughter of the infamous art forger who duped half the ton, she’s rebuilt her life under a new name. But when an old forgery goes up for auction, her father’s enemy, Grayson Montgomery, outbids her and presents her with an unimaginable choice: help him find her father or he’ll ruin her.

For years, Grayson, the Earl of Huntingdon and one of London’s top art critics, has sought justice. His well-laid plans finally come to fruition when he learns of his enemy’s beautiful daughter. But Eliza possesses a sensuality and independent spirit that weakens his resolve, and as the heat between them sizzles, what started as revenge soon blossoms into something sinful…

Read an excerpt here!

 Amazon  B&N  Kobo  iBooks

How a Major Publisher Took Over My Self-Published Book

Spy Fall_QuincyThis is release week for my latest Regency historical romance, Spy Fall. Or maybe I should say re-release week.

That’s because I originally self-published the story that begins with a daring parachutist spy landing on our drunken rake hero.

Under the working title, The Parachutist, the manuscript finaled in, or won, several contests for unpublished novels. The self-publishing world seemed like it was on fire and, after a few rejections, the time seemed right for me to venture out into the self-publishing jungle.

I quickly realized I didn’t want to wear that many hats. I don’t know enough about marketing — or have a wide-enough reach, like some uber-successful authors — to make a real success of self-publishing. I sold a few copies, but not near as many as I’d sold with my previous publisher.

When book two in the series sold to Loveswept, a romance imprint of Penguin Random House, I mentioned that I had a related book. The editors there were interested in seeing Spy Fall and I can’t tell you how excited I was when they decided to acquire it.

The series got a new name, Rebellious Brides, and the cover was tweaked just a little because they liked both. And we were off!

The world of publishing is in a constant state of flux and, while I’m not sorry I ventured outside my comfort zone to try something new, I’m so much happier to have a major publisher behind my books. I guess I like being on a team!

Here’s a little about Spy Fall:

Lovers of historical fiction could hardly do better than Diana Quincy’s Spy Fall,” proclaims Fresh Fiction. In this uniquely fresh and innovative Regency romance, a fearless French parachutist lands on top of a wicked rogue who endangers her mission—and her heart.
 
Mari Lamarre is gaining fame on both sides of the Channel for her daring aeronautic endeavors, but she hasn’t come to Dorset to showcase her talents. Rather, she’s been tasked with recovering sensitive information that may have fallen into the hands of the Marquess of Aldridge. It’s the riskiest adventure of her career—and it begins with a crash landing. Her fall is broken by the Marquess’s very own son, Cosmo, who’s clearly a rake and a drunk, not to mention a liability. So why does Mari find him so utterly alluring?
 
When he first spots the vision of loveliness in the sky, Lord Cosmo Dunsmore surmises he’s imbibed one drop too many, and an angel has come to fetch him. Little does he know that this female daredevil will make him feel more alive than ever before. But when their torrid affair takes a shocking turn, Cosmo must choose where his loyalties lie: with his respectable father—or with the captivating beauty whose fierce passion makes him feel like a new man.

You can pick up a copy here:

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

parachutistIn case you’re wondering, yes, there really were female parachutists in the early 1800s.

Mari, the heroine in Spy Fall, was loosely inspired by Elisa Garnerin, a real-life French balloonist and parachutist who made several jumps in the early 1800s. When I first learned about her, I realized I’d found the perfect inspiration for my next heroine.

Back then, parachutes had an attached basket and they’d ascend into the sky while secured to a hot air balloon. After cutting loose from the hot air balloon, they’d parachute down to safety.

Happy (almost) summer!

Diana

New Release! TYCOON: A Gilded Age Novella

tycoon_ebook

I am so excited to announce the release of TYCOON, a novella in my “Knickerbocker Club” series. The heroine, Clara, is a perfume counter girl and she crashes into the life of Ted, a financial tycoon. Clara is spunky and fun, a mix of innocence and brash independence that I think would’ve been common of girls at that time. And our hard-working hero has no idea what to do with her. 🙂

Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes the journey is more pleasurable than the destination . . .

Standing on the platform at Grand Central Station, Ted Harper is surprised by a fiery kiss from an undeniably gorgeous damsel in distress. He’s certain she’s a swindler who’s only after his money, but he’s never met a woman so passionate and sure of herself. Disarmed, he invites her to spend the journey to St. Louis in his private car—perhaps against his better judgment…

Clara Dawson has long known how to take care of herself, but the savvy shop girl is at a loss when she witnesses—and becomes entangled in—a terrible crime. Desperation propels her into a stranger’s arms at the train station, but she hadn’t expected Ted to offer her the protection she so badly needs—nor did she expect their chemistry to develop more steam than the engine of the train. He’s everything she never thought she could have, and she’s everything he didn’t know he wanted. But as her secrets begin to unfurl, their fledgling romance could be in danger of derailing before they arrive at the next station…

Want to read an excerpt? Or pop over to my Facebook page for all my writing-related details, giveaways, and general awesomesauce.

TYCOON is .99 at all e-retailers:

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo

xo

e-signature

My Book Trailer Experiment

Ever since my first book was published I’ve been wanted to try creating a book trailer. My motivation wasn’t because I thought it would increase my sales, because everything that I had read said it wouldn’t. But when I got my cover for my upcoming release of Forever in My Heart, I decided it would be a fun way to tell about the story and reveal the cover.

So I took an online course sponsored by RWA, and looked at trailers from fellow romance authors. Here are some key takeaways I learned.

  1. Script – start with your blurb, and create a script of approximately 20-25 short phrases.
    • Focus only on the main conflict between the hero and heroine
    • Capture the essence of their goals and the conflict that’s preventing them from achieving the goals
    • Write short and engaging phrases that will entice the reader to want your book
  2. Fonts – use the same font throughout the trailer. If you keep changing it, the viewer will start to focus on the changing fonts and not the words. Here are some sites I looked at for free fonts:

http://www.1001fonts.com/    – I like this site because I was able to look up fonts by category. It helped me narrow my focus.

http://www.fonts.com/FindFonts/freefonts.htm

http://www.dafont.com/

  1. Music – choose music that reflects the tone of your book. For me, I found this difficult since my story is a Contemporary with a Romantic Suspense element. Here are a few sites you can check out. There are lots of others if you do a Google search.

http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

http://vimeo.com/musicstore

http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/

  1. Photos – I really struggled with this because searching for photos takes time and often costs money. I opted to use clips from my book cover and slowly reveal the entire cover at the end. Not the most sophisticated approach, but my goal was (a) to share a version of my blurb and (b) reveal the cover. So I felt I’d accomplished this. Regardless of your approach, make sure you use photos that are of the highest quality (300 dpi or more). And in my opinion, more pictures aren’t necessarily better. Here are some sites you can look at for photos:

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

http://www.pdphoto.org/

http://www.istockphoto.com/

http://www.depositphoto.com

http://www.dreamstime.com/

  1. Putting it together. I used Microsoft PowerPoint to build my initial slideshow. I put each phrase on a page using the font I’d purchased along with the pictures. I added transitions from slide-to-slide. When I was comfortable with this, I uploaded the slides to Windows Movie Maker and finished the editing.
    • Make sure there’s enough time on each slide to read the words. I set three seconds per slide. In some cases, I had to adjust the words on a slide because it couldn’t be read. Going through this exercise forces you to be concise!
    • Movie Maker has some different transitions that PowerPoint didn’t have and I experimented. But be careful to not have too much motion and jerky transitions.
    • Make sure you end with your book cover, your website, buy links (if available), or release date (or coming soon)
    • My trailer is just over 30 seconds. I’d suggest not going more than 90 seconds for fear of losing viewer attention.
  2. Get opinions. I showed draft versions of what I did and got feedback. This was especially helpful in understanding if it was going too fast.
  3. It’s a wrap! When I was finished, I created a channel on YouTube and uploaded it. Make sure you change the settings to public before you start sharing the link. Don’t forget to add it to your website and post a link on Facebook.

Here’s a link to my finished product. Let me know what you think.

Hopefully you got some helpful tips. Please share if you have other resources you found helpful.

Hugs and best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season!

Maria

Anatomy of a Romance Cover

Authors, who tend to have little control over how their books are packaged and presented to readers, often complain that the covers of historical romance novels tend to be too generic, neglecting to capture what’s unique about the content in the pages behind the cover.

I’ve been very lucky with the covers that have come from my publisher. I absolutely love the cover for Tempting Bella, my second book, which features a wedding dress.  And once I heard that naked man chest outsells other covers by a rate of 10 to 1, I asked to test out that theory for Engaging the Earl, my fourth book.  I also wanted Earl to have the same  look and feel as Bella and was pleased with the result.

Tempting Bella-Engaging the Earl

When I decided to self-publish my fifth title, the opportunity to have complete control over the book’s final look was both daunting and exciting. I turned to Carrie at Seductive Designs for guidance.

Since Spy Fall features a parachuting heroine who also pilots hot air balloons, I very much wanted Mari’s unique profession to feature prominently on the cover. I happily scoured stock photo sites for images of a cover couple and hot air balloon. I came up with the perfect images, which turned out not to be so perfect. In the end, I happily dumped my first choices for the photos Carrie suggested and the result is a cover I adore.

Spy Fall (final) 800 @ 72 dpi low res

But, getting to this final look took some work. And I’ve asked Carrie to tell us a little bit about what went into it.

Carrie: The look of Spy Fall started with Diana’s request to have a really great “S” for the word Spy.  That was the one thing that she knew she wanted to emphasize from the very start.  I think a lot of authors who haven’t had a cover designed for them before are surprised at how important the fonts of the text are to create a cover that gives the right impression. 
I initially chose the couple and background in the middle sample. But once I saw it laid out, I went for the look on the far right, which Carrie went on to refine.

Diana initially chose the couple and background in the middle sample. But once she saw it laid out, Diana went for the look on the far right, which Carrie went on to refine.

You can see from these initial samples that the text of the cover didn’t vary much from beginning to end. Which is actually pretty unusual, but I had a vision of how I wanted it to look overall and it worked (which doesn’t always happen).We didn’t really know what images we were going to use, but I had a pretty good idea of the fonts that I thought would work well for the title as well as for Diana’s name, and where we were going to place all of the text.

We finally decided on the couple in #3 because of the connection between the two models. It’s intimate and touching and the female model plays a very dominant role in the image. She seems strong, yet vulnerable and protected by her hero at the same time which was perfect for our lady Spy. I love that the couple plays such a strong role on the cover, and the beautiful blue greens of the sea that evoke the danger and turbulence that our heroine faces.

While the colors are vibrant we kept the color palette fairly simple so as not to overwhelm you with too much too look at. By keeping to blues, greens and yellows, it let’s you really focus on what’s important, the couple, the hot air balloon and the text. It doesn’t try to visually represent all aspects of the story, just the most important ones.

There are a lot of little things that make the design work, but I don’t think you want me to get into the minutiae…like how the slope of the coastline leads into the fall of her dress and how they are holding hands. Or that the line of their heads angle down to the hot air balloon parallel to the coastline. And that the “action” of the cover reads left to right. It starts high on the left and angles down to the right. That’s not a happy accident, it’s deliberate. Little things like that that you probably didn’t notice, but when you see it it’s pleasing to the eye. Your brain likes it, even if you don’t know why 🙂

In the end it’s a combination of aesthetics, color, finding and personalizing the right images to fit the story, and maybe one or two happy accidents in addition to careful planning and communication between Diana and myself. I’m just thrilled that the cover is being received well, and that Diana loves it and how it represents her story. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making a cover that readers will find appealing.

Diana: What makes a good cover?

Carrie: I think the best way to try to explain it is by giving you some comparisons. First, let’s take two different covers that were released within weeks of each other for the same author, Janice Kay Johnson, in the Romantic Suspense genre. Janice is a RITA-award winning author of more than 80 books, most of which are with Harlequin, and she’s now starting to self publish some of her books herself.

I created a cover for Janice’s new series, Shroud of Fog is the first, and another cover artist created a cover for another of her romantic suspense novels, Dangerous Waters. They were released within weeks of each other. Same genre, same author…totally different sales. I don’t know the full sales history of either book, but I do occasionally check books that I’ve created covers for to see how they are selling compared to an author’s other books, and against their competition.

Shroud of Fog was released Jan. 31, 2014 and is currently ranked 17,918 in Kindle sales. It’s seemed to have steady sales from the get to. Maybe not NYT bestseller list sales, but it has sold well for the author. Dangerous Waters was released Jan. 17, 2014 and is currently ranked 224,509 in Kindle sales. That’s a dramatic difference in sales for books by the same author in the same genre in the same time frame. True, not all books are received the same, but neither book has many reviews so I don’t know that you can say that one book is necessarily better than the other…at least not based on reviews. So you could say that the cover design might be driving sales up for one, and down for another (this is just a theory).

shroud of fog-dangerous waters copy
Let’s take a look at Dangerous Waters first. The book description describes a couple attracted to each other while on the run, desperate, and in danger. So a woman looking over her shoulder makes sense. It’s set in a small town where the heroine rescues the hero in a lake at twilight so the lake makes sense. I think where this cover goes wrong is that the heroine is made less important than the lake. She’s almost like a ghost in the water. And while the blues and oranges are bright colors the landscape isn’t appealing enough to have the most important role in the cover imagery. The cover artist used fonts that were easily readable, which is good, but dark letters on a dark background don’t stand out well when you are browsing titles at a small scale. We have three things that don’t really work well together. The woman is hard to see when the cover is small, the text is hard to read when the cover is too small, and the landscape picture that dominates the cover isn’t as appealing as it should be. These three things combined work against this book (at least IMO).

Now let’s take a look at Shroud of Fog. The book description describes a woman seeking refuge, a killer threatened to be exposed and a wounded hero trying to protect the woman that he’s come to love. It was important to both the author and me to find a couple that gave the impression of love and tenderness. With the woman resting her head on the man’s shoulder and his hand caressing her cheek, you are visually connected to the hero protecting the woman and their blossoming love. And since the author’s books aren’t explicit romances, neither is the image.

Next we wanted to portray that sense of danger, and what could be more creepy than a shadowy figure in the woods? The sense of danger is just as important as the love story since it’s a romantic suspense novel, so they occupy equal space and are given equal importance on the cover. The colors are deliberately muted so that it’s more about the imagery than about the color. Sometimes color can work for you, and sometimes it can work against you. In this instance, I think it gave it a more misty, scary quality that ties in with the title Shroud of Fog. The fonts are also bigger so that they can be more easily read at smaller scales.

It’s interesting to see a comparison like this for a well-seasoned author where you would think a cover wouldn’t matter as much, but clearly it does. I think a great cover will help tell the author’s story visually using the most compelling elements. Keep it simple, make sure it’s easily legible, and hopefully is the best version of the author’s vision for her story.

Diana: Your second example involves a cover you revamped… 

Carrie:  It’s a cover for an author who wanted a book cover redesigned. One was designed by another cover artist, and then the author approached me about redesigning the cover using the same imagery. What kind of difference can there be if you use the same image on a cover? A LOT!

 
a measured risk
The hero in this book is a dominant male so the first thing I did was flip the image from having him on the right, to having him on the left. Visually the hero is going to seem more dominant subconsciously when on the left. The second thing I had to address were the details like her hair and dress. These were recolored to fit the story, but in the first version, all of the detail of her hair was lost when changing it from honey blond to black. Trust me when I say details like this can be tedious, time-consuming work, but when you get it wrong, you notice that it’s not right.
 
One of the best compliments that I can get is that you don’t notice all of the changes that have been made to stock images to personalize it to the author’s story. However, the biggest flaw in the previous version is the background. It overpowers the entire cover. The background has the same kind of visual importance as the main couple, in fact it fights for dominance…and when you have an alpha hero like the one in this story, that’s not what you want. We’ve got a beautiful male model to work with so why would we want to overpower his presence with a very busy background? It’s called a background/backdrop for a reason. It should compliment rather than distract.
 
Finally, I changed the fonts and the placement of the text. The author has a very long last name so placement can be tricky, and by placing her name in the center of the cover, which usually lends the name more importance, it actually kind of gets lost because of all of the visual busyness at the top. So even though her name is now at the bottom, and one of the last things you might see, it is more prominent. Using a different font, and emphasizing the work “Risk” (which carries through the rest of the series) for the title completed the new look. Same image, two totally different looks.

After the author switched out the cover image her sales immediately shot up to a level that she had never seen before (according to an email she sent me). I was very happy that the new cover did it’s job and helped readers find a lovely love story.

You can ask 10 different people and probably get 10 different answers. A good cover is somewhat subjective, but by keeping it simple, stunning and legible, you can never go wrong.

Diana: What covers are you loving right now?

Carrie: I personally tend to be drawn to a more artistic-looking cover that is both beautiful and striking. Some of my newest favorites are Grace Burrowes’ Captive Hearts series.  I love the colors, the flowing fabrics…everything about them speaks to the designer and romance reader in me. I think they are just STUNNING (and I’m sure cost a pretty penny, too). 

 captive_295w-274x450
 

Engaging the senses in your writing

I was talking with my eleven year old son the other day and he was explaining in great detail about these people who I later learned are from the fictional online gaming world of Wizard 101. This isn’t the first time he’s done it, either. Both my kids regularly refer to characters from TV shows or electronic games as though they’re real. It drives both me and my husband crazy.

But then I started thinking that isn’t this what writers look for when we craft our stories? We want the characters to feel so real to the reader that they could be someone you know—or would like to know. Or could imagine falling in love with. Who doesn’t want to get that little catch in your gut like the heroine does when the hero gives her a smoldering glance?

How do you write to fully engage your reader?

Here are some examples of how to use your five senses to bring your reader into the story. These excerpts are from the partially edited second book in my Tangled Hearts series, Forever In My Heart, which will be coming out soon.

Sight

Vicky bit into a forkful of baked ziti and reveled in the divine combination of garlic, basil, tomatoes, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses along with the slight bite of red pepper.

Taste

Back in the main room, Maggie poured his coffee, and he took it along with a cinnamon bun to his usual table by the window. Slathering the top with butter, he took a huge bite into a sticky explosion of brown sugar laced dough.

Sight and Smell

Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. A few strands escaped and curled against her neck. She smelled like berries, apples, and cinnamon and he had to fight the urge to reach out and see if she tasted as good.

Touch

He reached out and touched her arm. A spark jumped between them. She must have felt it, too, because she jolted. All these years and his blood still heated up being near her.

Sound

Surprised, she cried out and acted on pure instinct—or stupidity. She elbowed him in the gut. He grunted a moment before the gun clanked to the gun. She attempted to step aside, but her assailant grabbed her arm and punched her in the jaw. It wasn’t a strong punch, but it caused her to gasp for breath. Grabbing the cake carrier, she swiveled and smashed him in the head. He yelped and fell, swearing when he hit the hard ground.

 

In case you can’t tell, there are lots of food references in Forever In My Heart. I leveraged my Italian background in my story and enjoyed creating what I hope are scenes that make the reader imagine being inside Vicky’s café or at least make you crave something decadent. 🙂

Cinnamon buns anyone?

While writing this post, I did realize I shy away describing sounds in my story. It’s given me a renewed energy look for ways to go into more depth as I continue with my edits.

What tips do you have to engage your reader in the story?

Maria

The Standing Desk: What’s Old is New Again

When I started using a standing desk at the day job, I thought I was onto something new.

Turns out I was wrong.

In fact, standing desks have been used for much of human history. The elevated surfaces were built so that people could stand and write on a slanted surface. Tall stools were often nearby for when people needed to sit for a bit.

Members of the Doctors Commons, a society of lawyers, stand while working. (circa 1857)

Members of the Doctors Commons, a society of lawyers, stand while working. (circa 1857)

Thomas Jefferson was among the first on record to adopt the standing desk; he designed his own in the 1700s.

The nation’s third president came up with an adjustable desk that allowed him to stand (maybe while writing the Declaration of Independence?) or to bring it down to a level where he could sit  on a stool.

The six-legged desk also had an adjustable work surface that slanted upward.

The standing desk designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The standing desk designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens were also known to use standing desks.

Woolf’s nephew, Quentin Bell, wrote that she “had a desk standing about three feet six inches high with a sloping top; it was so high that she had to stand at her work.”

I’m not sure why they all worked on their feet, but I was motivated by health concerns and the impact of sitting for too many hours each day–first at the day job and then at home while writing my novels.

Multiple studies suggest people who sit for extended periods of time run an increased risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, leg disorders, soft bones…not to mention a sore backside.

Way back in 1883, Popular Science magazine also cited health reasons when encouraging readers to use standing desks.

“At the first symptoms of indigestion, book-keepers, entry-clerks, authors, and editors should get a telescope-desk. Literary occupations need not necessarily involve sedentary habits, though, as the alternative of a standing-desk, I should prefer a Turkish writing-tablet and a square yard of carpet-cloth to squat upon.”

Illustration for an adjustable standing desk from an 1899 book, "School Hygiene," by Dr. Ludwig Wilhelm Johannes Kotelmann, John A. Bergström and Edward Conradi.

Illustration for an adjustable standing desk from an 1899 book, “School Hygiene,” by Dr. Ludwig Wilhelm Johannes Kotelmann, John A. Bergström and Edward Conradi.

A man stands while he works in this painting from 1829.

A man stands while he works in this painting from 1829.

Ernest Hemingway always stood while he worked, according to a 1958 Paris Review article:

“A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu — the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

Ernest Hemingway types at his standing desk.

Ernest Hemingway types at his standing desk.

In the book, Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, AE Hotchner describes Hemingway’s set-up at his home in Havana:

“He never worked at the desk. Instead, he used a stand up work place he had fashioned out of a bookcase near his bed. His portable typewriter was snugged in there and papers were spread along the top of the bookcase on either side of it. He used a reading board for longhand writing.”

In Engaging the Earl, war hero Edward Stanhope returns home on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

In Engaging the Earl, war hero Edward Stanhope returns home on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

People have asked me if the creative juices flow while I’m standing up.

I was on my feet for much of the time while completing my latest book, Engaging the Earl, which is out today. (Shameless Plug Alert: $.99 for a limited time!)

I’ll admit writing was a challenge at first, but now I don’t even think about it. In fact, I’m more comfortable standing for four or five hours each day.

All in all, I feel much better, my body isn’t as stiff, my bottom doesn’t get sore, and I rarely get those aches across the back of my shoulders that I feel after sitting for long periods of time.

I’m such a fan that I am ready to get rid of my makeshift standing desk at home to splurge on the real thing.

After all, Hemingway, Woolf, Carroll and the rest of them must have been onto something!

And before I leave you…

5 Interesting Reasons to Read ENGAGING THE EARL

1. The hero returns from years at war on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

2. Edward suffers from nostalgia…which is known today as Post Traumatic Stress (The U.S. military has stopped referring to this condition as a disorder–dropping the D from PTSD–to remove the stigma associated with it.)

3. The heroine’s dog helps Edward cope with his attacks. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helps him manage his PTS.

4. Edward is loosely inspired by Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who wasn’t allowed to marry an earl’s daughter because he was a second son with no prospects. Ten years later, after gaining a dukedom for his war service, Wellington returned to marry the woman he left behind.

5. Engaging the Earl is only $.99 for a limited time. And who doesn’t love a good bargain?

Amazon ~ B&N ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ GoogleBooks

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.]

Image

Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister Series

Image

Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron Series

Image

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!

Good Cover Design—Part 1

example Katharine Ashe's My Lady, My Lord

example Katharine Ashe’s My Lady, My Lord

Given the surge of self-publishing in recent years, more and more authors are taking their covers into their own hands. Whether you purchase a graphics program and learn the skills to do it yourself, or hire a professional book designer like me, the fact is, the author has far more control than ever before. With that control, however, also comes the burden of getting it right. Never fear, by keeping in mind a few basic principles, you, or you in conjunction with your designer, will be able to create a cover that helps you sell. Today’s post will focus on Genre, Keeping it Simple, and Instant Readability.

[Before we get started, please note 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.]

Genre: Reader’s don’t just need a HEA in a romance, first they’ve got to know it IS a romance, and better yet, what sub-genre of romance it is. Just like it’s okay to try something a little different to garner attention (see the cover I did with Katharine Ashe for My Lady, My Lord with it’s unusual grayscale image)—at the same time you must give readers what they expect. Typical in historicals, we used an embracing couple, added more hair, period clothing, and of course, some swashy type. Your setting is a big key to depicting genre. Think Marie Force’s The Fatal Series. She fades a nighttime cityscape and a couple together, with a dark feel: obviously a romantic suspense. Bella Andre uses a couple and setting in a similar way in The Sullivans series—yet through color and choice of art, the feel is completely different. Voila, a contemporary romance. Small town contemporaries, often show a couple posed on quaint main street or square, likewise, the backdrop for a western will use lush fields, a charming barn, or a dusty landscape. Likely, you know what the conventions and expectations of your genre are—but if you need a visual reminder go to an online book retailer and pull up a specific genre via keywords or the authors you are most similar to for comparison.
(more…)

Housekeeping and Editing…Two Challenging Tasks!

I admit I’m not much of a housekeeper. I know mothers that excel at having a well-kept home. I’ve stopped by to drop my kids off at scheduled play dates or even unexpectedly to sell Girl Scout cookies and have been invited into homes that are often tidy and beautiful. I do clean, but more often than not, there are toys strewn about, and my office/playroom is well…just plain messy.

MessyDesk

One rainy afternoon, I was mumbling under my breath while cleaning out closets when my hubby walked in and said, “What’s the big deal? Think of it as cleaning up your manuscript after the first draft.” I dropped the trash bag stuffed with kids’ clothes intended for Goodwill, and looked up at him in shock. As an engineer and introvert, he’s definitely on the quiet side, but sometimes he blurts out very helpful and insightful things. I started thinking and came to the conclusion he was totally on point.

So what do cleaning the house and editing your book really have in common? It turns out to be a whole lot.

Read the entire manuscript in one sitting

Get the feel for the story. Resist marking the pages and making notes in the margins. Just read for the content. This will reveal overwriting, sections that need more explanation, or unfinished plot points. It’s similar to walking through the house and noting what needs to be cleaned, which closets need to be organized, and how big of a task you have ahead of you.
(more…)