Everything you ALWAYS wanted to know about book cover creation

At the March 11, 2021, Zoom gathering of the Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS), our established authors shared a roundtable discussion about creating compelling book covers. I want to share with you some highlights from our discussion.

Thank you Humayun Ahmed. “A photo collage of book covers.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humayun_Ahmed

Absolutes:

  • Use large, readable type, especially for the title and author name. The words must be visible and stand out in thumbnail size, which is how most readers will first see your book.
  • Make sure the cover art/photo fits your genre. Just a visit to a section of a bookstore or Amazon page with your genre will give you the idea of what to strive for.
  • One strong image attracts the eye more than several small ones.
  • Use colors that mimic the mood of your book contents.
  • If you use a photo of your characters on the cover, they must match the characters descriptions in the book.
  • Here is a blog I found from “Creative Indie” Derek Murphy describing eight traditional publishers’ cover design tips.

Ideas:

  • Use author/creative writing professor Deborah Chester’s “Story Question” as starting point for your back-cover book blurb. These two sentences cover all the main points in your story: 
    WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?
  • End your blurb with one word having to do with death, enlightenment, or love.
  • You can update your covers any time you want. You might even try testing a “split” cover, giving readers two options, to see which image sells the book better.

Logistics and resources:

If you have ideas or resources to share, please include them in the comments below.

………..

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish

P.S. Learn more about my novels on my Amazon Author Central page.

Find me elsewhere online.

A secret tool to create a catchy book blurb

First, a few points about book blurbs:

  • You have only a few seconds to intrigue a reader when they look at the back of your book. If you give them a lengthy synopsis (a plot-point by plot-point description), you can easily lose them in the detail. Synopses are for agents, editors, and publishers who want to know each step of the storyline, including the ending. A synopsis is an informative piece.
  • Blurbs need to be relatively short—just a couple of paragraphs, if possible—hitting the compelling highlights of the characters’ and the story’s arcs, but not giving away the ending. It serves as a teaser to interest readers enough to open the book to learn more, or to buy it. A book blurb is a marketing piece.
  • “Real estate” on the back of a book is valuable. It needs to include compelling words to entice readers to look inside and buy. That includes the blurb, testimonials, perhaps a tagline, maybe some author info/photo; not to mention the business and purchasing items like the publishing info and barcode. A long blurb takes up too much space to allow easy readability of the other detail on the back cover.
  • Authors almost always use the book blurb on their Amazon book page listing, too. Readers don’t spend a lot of time checking out a book online. Here’s how it goes…
    • If a reader likes the thumbnail, they click to see the details.
    • If they like the cover, up-close, they scroll down to the description.
    • If the description is too long, or doesn’t have an immediate hook, they leave your page and start searching for something else and you’ve lost them.
    • If the description grabs them quickly, they scroll back up to the “Look Inside” feature to learn more.
    • If they like what they see inside, they buy.
    • Readers holding a physical book follow the same process (obviously, without all the clicking and scrolling). 🙂

So, with all of that said, a short and punchy blurb works best. Hook the reader with compelling highlights without telling them everything that happens in the story. What you need instead of a short synopsis with too much detail, is a quick hook to entice a reader to want to know more about the story… an enticing marketing blurb.

And now my secret for writing the best blurbs ever…
Deborah Chester’s/Jim Butcher’s STORY QUESTION

WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?

This is a two-sentence description which can serve as the perfect foundation for your book blurb. Of course, you’ll probably want to embellish with some details within and around the story question, but it will start you off in fine shape.

When I read the first book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, it hit me as so powerful I had to go figure out his process for great storytelling. The Story Question is one of the tools I discovered he uses, taught to him by his mentor, Deborah Chester.

Maybe using color coding for some of the phrases, below, will help you see how this works?

When something happensyour protagonist pursues a goal. But, will they succeed when the antagonist provides opposition?

The story question gives you the main points in your book:

  • Inciting incident
  • Main good character
  • The story’s overall goal
  • Villain/opposing character
  • The conflict

Example: Harry Potter, book 1

When he finds out he’s a wizardHarry Potter moves to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn about magic and his mysterious past. But, will he succeed when the dark Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents, returns to retrieve an immortality stone so he can destroy the young student?

An imaginary nonfiction inspirational book example:

Growing up in a cloud of fear and self-doubtSusan goes on a spiritual quest to find herselfFloundering to develop self-worth while unemployed and in the midst of a divorce with her unfaithful husband, will she be able to use her mind and will to overcome the hardships and forge a path to joy and fulfillment? Or will spirit intervene?

………..

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth strategy

P.S. Learn more about my novels on my Amazon Author Central page.

Find me elsewhere online.

Three top writing tips to captivate a reader

While reviewing a blog I ran across at the Self-Publishing School site, I realized their points covered some of the main techniques I teach in my writing workshops to overcome these issues. Study the few tips below, and you’ll be amazed at how your words jump off the page!

  • Avoid passive voice, use active voice instead
    • Passive voice often uses inactive verbs followed by words ending in “-ed”
      or “-ing”
      • Passive voice = is cheering, are praying, have binged
      • Active voice = cheer, prays, binged
    • In active voice, you start your sentences with the subject and use an active verb to describe what the subject does. 
  • Don’t use weak verbs, use active verbs instead
    • Inactive/”to be” verbs = is, was, has, have, be, been
    • Active verbs create a mental picture: cheers, pray, binged, stumble, stared
  • Why use emotion explaining, when you can simply show physical reactions? 
    • Climb into a character’s skin and experience what they taste, feel, hear, smell, and do.
    • Beauty is in the details… describe how someone’s hands shake and lips quiver when they tremble in “fear.”

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth strategy

P.S. Learn more about my novels on my Amazon Author Central page.

Ann Videan’s Phoenix-area writing events this spring:

Ann with her books at the Tempe Public Library

You may benefit from these writing events…

Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors, and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS)

Meet in-person with the ALWAYS writers’ tribe of established authors to discuss writing and support one another. In March, we’re talking about the structure of the ALWAYS group and how to better interact with and support one another. I hope you can join us! (We meet the second Thursday of each month in Gilbert, except for the first Thursday of each quarter when we meet in Phoenix.)
Romeo’s Euro Cafe, downtown Gilbert, AZ
11:30 a.m., Thurs., March 14, 2019

My Words Jump Off The Page!
[A presentation at the Society of Southwestern Authors—Valley of the Sun Chapter.]

Authors, learn a handful of writing and editing techniques to help you discover ways to build visual imagery and emotion, and subconsciously compel readers into your story. I’ll share my thirty years of marketing experience to show you how to make your story “jump off the page” for readers and publishers. In this two-hour hands-on session, explore:

  • The edits I make most often as an editor
  •  What to look for when hiring an editor
  • Leveraging the scene question to develop a compelling plot line
  • Writing with active voice, and deep point-of-view
  • More effective editing tips using MS Word

Tempe Public Library
2:30–4:40 p.m., Sunday, April 28, 2019


Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth strategy

P.S. Learn more about my novels on my Amazon Author Central page.

 

Sticker Mule: “Merch” Made Easy

 

bronze finals - 01

Okay, it has no sticker, but it is a mule!  You’ll find Sticker Mule and much more info at the link provided.

Authors—or anyone marketing—are you looking for an awesome place to buy affordable printed “merch” for your books or products? You know… marketing merchandise, like stickers, buttons, labels, magnets, packaging, and such? Maybe something imprinted with the cover of your book?

Sticker Mule is your answer.

51CLcqldHIL._AC_US160_

Haley’s upcoming book release.

One of my author friends, Haley Rose, uses them with relish to raise awareness for her darling, educational children’s picture books.

Direct from Sticker Mule’s website, here’s what they’re about: “We relentlessly focus on making it fast and easy to order custom products. Order in seconds and get your products in days. Free proofs, free artwork help, free shipping, and fast turnaround are why people love us.”


Write on! Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth

New book debuts at conference for savvy women business owners

Book 3 in the Living Brave series debuts later this month at the “Voices of Success” conference.

You know how hearing just one comment, or reading a certain book can alter your life journey? Well, there’s such a moment coming up for you…

I had the honor to edit and produce the latest book in the Living Brave series by Dr. Hilda Villaverde and Mary Beth Stern: Living Brave… Women in Business: Compelling Stories of How ONE Can Make a Difference. It is filled with life-altering input from nearly fifty Arizona women thriving in business.

The book will be released in just a couple of weeks, but if you want to hear some of these women’s stories first-hand, you really should consider attending the authors’ “Voices of Success” conference, offering a day of inspiration. I highly recommend you invest in your future with this day-long session where you’ll learn how women just like you succeeded in business by using their skills, backgrounds, and sheer will to overcome whatever stood in their way.

Please join Hilda and Mary Beth for the  “Voices of Success” conference:
Sat. Oct. 27, 2018
8 a.m.– 5p.m.

Scottsdale Hilton Resort
6333 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

You will find all the details here, including how to register.


Write on! Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth strategy

 

Five huge reasons to leverage ebook preorders

Mikk Stone by John Taylor

Delfaerune Rhapsody antagonist Mikk Stone, will play a major role in book 2 of my series: Beat of the Pakiri.  Illustration by John Taylor.

One of the greatest tips I picked up today from the Desert Dreams Romance Writers Association conference: the amazing benefits of setting up new book preorders. Jim Azevedo from Smashwords, gave an hour presentation on the topic, including the following compelling reasons to do it. (See Jim’s full article.)

Five Benefits of Ebook Preorders as a Book Launch Marketing Tool

  1. Preorders enable more effective advanced marketing.
  2. Preorders signal commitment.
  3. Simultaneous release at multiple retailers.
  4. Preorders can lead to better reviews.
  5. Fast track to bestseller lists.

I am definitely going to try this for Beat of the Pakiri, if for no better reason than to have a spike of sales on the first day the book is available when those early purchases officially post. Plus, it might actually make me set a schedule to finish the book by a specific release date! 🙂

Note: Making your ebook available on Smashwords, or other ebooks outlets, will negate any exclusive standing with Kindle Select on Amazon, so you will not be able to participate in Kindle Select ebook promotions.


Write on! Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth

P.S. Learn more about my novels on Google+.

Fourth annual Write On! workshop

A free book writing seminar (win #1) from four established local experts (win #2, all members of the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers. You have everything to gain (win #3) from the time you invest.

Nothing should keep you from RSVPing… right now. Just sayin’.

write on flyer 2017

Build readership through Wattpad critiques – ALWAYS

Wattpad_Logo_Orange

I have just discovered Wattpad, thanks to our ALWAYS tribe’s “resident expert” on everything book-related, Karen Mueller Bryson.

The Toronto-based company offers a Web site “connecting a community of more than 45 million people around the world through serialized stories about the things they love.”  Basically, authors can upload books-in-progress, and receive feedback as they write. You can also read others’ books and provide feedback. The audience is young-ish, so young adult and new-adult works do especially well in Wattpad.

Here are the steps they recommend to get readers to notice your books on the site:

  1. Update your stories regularly, at least once a week.
  2. Make your stories stand out through use of keywords, visuals, and other media.
  3. Talk to your readers.
  4. Follow other writers.
  5. Share stories on social media.
  6. Challenge your writing by entering a Wattpad writing contest.
  7. Learn from other Wattpad writers.

And, here’s another helpful article “How to Get More Out of Wattpad: 6 Authors Share Their Best Practices,” which I found particularly informative.

I’m going to give Wattpad a shot, and will keep you apprised of my experience as I go along.

Have you used Wattpad? What did you like best? What would you change?

Five book events to rock your world

img_1798

Sculpture in a public library in Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Your inner storyteller wants you to indulge in one or all of these upcoming events… for the sake of the book you’re writing.

Listen to that little voice, it will not steer you wrong!

Th., Oct. 13: Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS)

Meet in-person with other established authors to discuss writing “voice” with Susan Pohlman, at the next gathering of the ALWAYS writers’ tribe: in Phoenix, AZ, on Thurs., Oct. 13, 2016, at 11:30 a.m.

Sa. Oct. 8 and F., Oct. 14: Rock The Drop

Young adult writers, learn from YA authors at the 5th Annual Rock The Drop Kick-Off Event on Sa., Oct. 8.

Then, join the Readergirlz (and guyz!) as they “drop” YA books with identifying bookmarks all over town on Friday, October 14, for other teens to find.

Learn more.

Sa., Oct. 15 and W., Oct. 19: “Key Editing Tips to Wow A Publisher”
My presentation explaining how to avoid the key writing issues I consistently change in manuscripts I edit. 

  • 12 p.m.-2 p.m., Sat., Oct. 15, 2016, at the Phoenix Writers Club,
    Bluewater Grill, 1720 E. Camelback, Phoenix, AZ

What other event do you know of, coming up? Please comment.


Write on! Ann Narcisian Videan, Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Publish • Word-of-mouth

P.S. Learn more about my novels on Google+.