Are you a writer? Would you like a few more people to find out about you and your books…for FREE? I’d love to interview you for my Wednesday Author Interview series. Just email me at email@example.com, and I’ll give you the full details. It’s easy and fun, and you might pick up a few more readers, too. And I have an opening tomorrow! Act fast and it could be YOURS.
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I took great care in selecting the books for this box set. I wanted to present the very…
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Quick (and great) tips for those of you who are ready to clean up your work before submitting it to your editor.
There are a lot of hurdles to writing great fiction, which is why it’s always important to keep reading and writing. We only get better by DOING. Today we’re going to talk about some self-editing tips to help you clean up your book before you hire an editor.
When I worked as an editor, I found it frustrating when I couldn’t even GET to the story because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.
There are many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing blunders you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.
#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes
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By Ned Hickson
We’ve all heard the adage about not judging a book by it’s cover. And while that’s a terrific sentiment when it comes to people, let’s be honest in admitting the cover of a book is the first thing we judge. There’s a reason the heroine on a romance novel looks like a hair products model and not someone from an anti-drug campaign. Taking it a step further, from a woman’s perspective, would you want to thumb through the latest issue of Playgirl if Pee Wee Herman was on the cover?
OK, fine. Two of you would. Obviously, choosing a book is the least of your problems.
However, after conducting a random poll of 10 women in our office, they unanimously agreed, given a choice, they would rather see ME than Pee Wee Herman — which doesn’t really say as much about my masculinity as it does about our need for better vision coverage. Regardless, I will claim that as a victory.
Getting back to book covers… I was going to be on one last October. I’d like to tell you it was on a Harlequin Romance novel because they said they were looking for the next Fabio, “except without all the rugged good looks and muscles that distract from a book’s title. If less is more, Ned Hickson gives us more than we imagined possible.”
That’s what I’d like to tell you. But the fact is it’s MY book and, because it’s humorous, the publisher felt my face would be the perfect selling point. For obvious reasons, I was concerned that my anti-Fabio-ness would indeed prove so compelling that no one would notice the title. Or the book, for that matter. Kind of like those really funny commercials during the Super Bowl that no one remembers what was being advertised.
“I saw a book with this guy on the cover. MAN did he look funny!”
“That sounds great! What was the book?”
Because of this, I think we can all agree deciding on a book cover design is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make as an author, right along with your book’s title, what photo to use for the author bio, and whether to wear socks with your Penny Loafers during book readings. (For the record, as an Oregonian, I wear hiking boots 90 percent of the time. The rest of the time I am sleeping. However, I keep my hiking boots next to the bed just in case I sleepwalk.)
Obviously, the objective of any book cover is to catch the eye and distinguish itself from the hundreds of titles on the same shelf or eBook scroll bar. In the end, it really comes down to two main decisions:
While there are literally a bazillion different kids of fonts out there (seriously, I counted them), they boil down to six main categories. The basic rules with fonts are 1) never use more than one font from the same category, and 2) always use two different fonts on your cover. This will ensure clear distinction between the title and the author’s name or tag line. Using three different font styles begins to look confusing. Especially when translated into Chinese; particularly if you don’t read Chinese.
Choose fonts that capture the feel of your book but that also compliment each other by distinguishing themselves from each other. In short, when picking font styles, you’re looking for the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West of the font world.
Next comes deciding between an illustration or photo image for your book cover. Again, it really depends on the feel or “mood” you are trying to evoke. Romance covers tend to look dreamy with handwritten-type fonts from the Script and Old Style families. Images are generally graphic illustrations that leave something to the imagination of the reader. Young adult designs are edgier, with stark color contrasts and crisp font styles from the Decorative or Modern families. The main focus of YA covers leans toward a strong female image. This is opposed to Romance covers, which almost always feature a muscular, shirtless male looking as though he just found a woman while making the bed.
In my case, I have decided against going shirtless on the cover. Nor was I going be holding a woman wrapped in any kind of lacy robe or bed sheet. Given that the title is Humor At the Speed of Life, we originally decided to go with a photo, taken at a local speedway, where I was poised to race a pair of dragsters with my mini van. Probably while pushing it. That pretty much sums up the top speed of my life.
Would that be eye-catching enough? Would it stand out from the other books out there? I can’t say for sure because we changed the cover to this:
Because we eventually decided the kid with the goofy expression was not only more eye catching than me, but is probably going to grow up to be better looking. It’s actually a photo I took several years ago of my son’s friend while they were at the carnival. That’s the back of my son’s head in the foreground. He gets asked for autographs all the time now from people standing behind him in line. Another reason we went with that cover design is because it’s the same image that’s on my blog header, which hopefully readers would recognize if they saw it in a store, online or passing by their prison cell on a library cart. We also changed the font a bit to make it more clean, as well as changed the color scheme to match those in the photo.
The end result is a more vibrant, clean cover with an image that never fails to make people chuckle or even laugh out loud. Not that my being shirtless wouldn’t have the same effect.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can get Fabio to help push start my van…
Do you love them? I do! Even though I read a lot of books on my Kindle, I always check out the covers, and sometimes, I buy a print copy of the book, just to display it on my shelves. I am crazy for good covers, in a wide variety of styles. If you love them, too, check out this article on Penguin’s “Drop Cap” series. I love the article, not only because it displays large pictures of each book in the series (all 26 alphabet letters), but it also includes comments from the artist, and her favorite quotes from each book. But wait! There’s more!
The books represent the spectrum, starting with bright red, and working through orange, yellow, green and blue. Imagine the whole set displayed on your shelves! I’m going to try to collect them all. I might even READ some of them! 😀
Seriously, there are books in this set I have read, but many that I have not, and I love the variety of authors chosen. As you’ll see, each Drop Cap cover represents the author’s last initial, so they had 26 to choose from, ranging from Austen to Zafon, and including both classics and contemporary works. Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is “K,” and the beehive worked into her initial is wonderful.
But don’t take my word for it. Head on over and look at them yourself. If you click on the Penguin link at the bottom of the article, you can buy each book from several sources, including Amazon, of course, where they are a bit less than the listed price on the Penguin site.
Thank you, Caitlin, for sharing this link with me. I want them all. Want. Want, want, want.
…and I’ll be back to my normal routine. Sorry to be absent right now, but my daughter, son-in-law, and 18-month old grandbaby are here for the week, and every day has been filled to capacity with activities from tour boat rides on the St. Johns River to days at the zoo. I’m going to sleep for 24 hours straight, once they’re gone, but for now, I’m enjoying every minute.
Got some good ideas for posts and some new blogs/resources to share with you guys next week. In the meantime, play amongst yourselves! See you all soon!
Did you know that October is the biggest submission month of the year? From now until the end of the year agents and editors are stocking up on submissions. So it’s a great time of year to find an agent, if you are going traditional and don’t have one.
There are so many query contests and pitch parties happening now. I’m involved with Nightmare on Query Street. On Twitter the hashtags are: #NoQS and #NightmareSlush. I’ve never been involved with this contest before. So far, I’m loving it!
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Wednesday Author Interview on Bookin’ It
BI: Today, I’m very happy to welcome Children’s and Young Adult writer, Evelyne Holingue. Evelyne, so nice to have you here. Let’s get the ball rolling by you telling us a bit about how you became a writer. When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
EH: When I was a child I was very shy and was afraid to talk to people. Books gave me the friends I longed to have without having to ask for anything. I learned almost everything from a book. I think that most people who love to read write also. I wrote when I was a kid. Poems mostly but also a short novel for my sister, completely inspired by the Famous Five, my favorite books when I was really young. I lived in a small…
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By Ned Hickson
Whether you’re a novelist, columnist, poet or Subway sandwich artist, talking to yourself during the creative process is important. Admittedly, I can only speak with some authority on the first three; that last example is mostly an observation based on the two Subways in our area. Regardless, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I think every good writer needs a certain level of multiple personality disorder with a dash of schizophrenia. That’s because, as a writer, you need to have the ability to do more than simply observe and notate things about people and situations; you have to be able to inhabit them in the same way that, say… Justin Beiber inhabits his role as a skinny caucasian gangster.
Except unlike Justin Beiber, you must be believable.
To do this, you have to be willing — and able — to step outside yourself and literally experience things as someone else in order to formulate reactions and dialogue that ring true. Even as a columnist, I have a few individuals who make appearances from time to time because they allow me to approach a subject more effectively than through simple narrative.
One of these individuals is Ima Knowitall, the “self-proclaimed best selling author” behind the novel, Fifty Shades of Time-Traveling Vampire Love.
Confession time: I’m not actually a 30-something, pessimistic female writer who wants so much to believe in her own fame that she constantly projects a facade of celebrity to the point of ludicrousness.
If you need a moment to fully process this realization, I understand. My wife was pretty shaken by my big reveal as well, once we took the leap from Match.com to meeting for the first time seven years ago…
Welcome back! (Coincidentally, the same words I used at the beginning of our second date.)
As I was saying, Ima Knowitall is an individual I turn to when I feel that exploring an idea is better suited — and more engaging for readers — if they feel like an active participant in the conversation. That’s where multiple personality disorder comes into play. Even if what you’re writing is an over-the-top character or situation, readers will be willing to suspend their disbelief as long as there is an element of truth. Screenwriters for sci-fi, horror and action movies constantly rely on this element to convince viewers to go along for the ride.
And that element is the believability of your characters.
In order to make an individual like Ima Knowitall work, three things need to happen:
1) What she says and does must stay true to her character
2) My reactions and responses to her as the “interviewer” must embellish, not contradict her
3) Anyone else we “interact with” must do the same
To pull that off, you have to engage your MPD in order to shift your points of view convincingly from one individual to the next. For novelists, this is the first step in graduating from linear plot-driven writing to richer, character-driven stories.
Or in the case of a humor columnist, the first step toward a life of alcohol abuse.
Which brings me to the effectiveness of talking to yourself. First, let me clarify this shouldn’t occur in a room full of strangers or, for example, while making someone’s Cold Cut Combo at Subway. But when utilized as a tool in the privacy of your own home or office — or even during your morning commute if you pretend to have a Bluetooth — actually verbalizing dialogue is the best way to hear if it rings true. Not only will it identify phrasing that would be too difficult for someone to say (Note: This does not apply to characters written by Aaron Sorkin), it can also be an integral part of “inhabiting” that individual in the same way an actor verbally explores a script to understand delivery and motivation.
My fellow journalists in the newsroom have become accustomed to my mumblings on deadline days. Even if I’m in the break room making a sandwich…
Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Visit his blog at Ned’s Blog)