Create a book readers want to read, through design

#13 Writing Tip: Create a book readers want to read, through design—Step 1

You walk through a book store. Shelf upon shelf of books surround you. Something on a cover makes you stop and pick up a volume.
Or…
You search online for a book to read. You click through to a genre you like and scroll down the listings. Something catches your eye, and you click to learn more.

What made you stop and look? The book cover design, of course. So, would your book meet the reader-catching test? The next few blogs entries will deal with this topic, starting today with cover design.

I created my own back cover for Rhythms & Muse using Photoshop and a photo editing software.

I created my own back cover for Rhythms & Muse using Photoshop and a photo editing software.

For my front cover, I did my research and asked contest-site designers for a specific look including certain elements. I chose this one from among more than 25 designs.

For Rhythms & Muse, I did my research and asked contest-site designers for a specific look with certain elements. I chose this one from among 25+ front-cover designs.

Book cover art involves both art and science. Not all designers—let alone authors—know the secrets to what draws a buyer’s attention. If you want an enticing design, you must do your research, considering:

  • Image elements
  • Mood
  • Color
  • Impact of photos vs. illustration
  • Font choice
  • Composition
  • Much more

Are you clear on these areas, and how your choices can influence your book design’s success? If not, you need to hire a designer. Now, I’m not saying you have to pay the big bucks for a graphic designer who specializes in book design, although that may just be the ideal solution. Today’s accessible information and technology provide a number of options:

  • Hire a professional book designer ($$$)
  • Pay for support services from print-on-demand publisher, like CreateSpace ($$)
  • Research book design online, learn the ins-and-outs, and ask for on-spec designs from a contest site like ($)
  • Research online, learn the ins-and-outs, and do it yourself using design software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or even Word, although the latter has limitations (minimal cost)

Your first step for eye-catching book design involves choosing one of the above options.

If you would like additional resources, tried and true, per my own experience, please contact me.

P.S. Can you recommend an additional resource for other writers? Do you have a book design secret to share? Feel free to comment below.

…………………..

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Six Key Steps to Produce a Book

Writing Tip #12:
Six key steps to jump-start the production of your self-published book

Image

Don’t wait until the 11th hour to take care of book production details!
Photo: iStockphoto.com

So, you wrote your book, a professional edited it, and you’re ready to start the self-publishing process. But where do you start? What should you include? How do you cover yourself legally?

I self-published my first book Rhythms & Muse through CreateSpace (an Amazon company), but it took me years of research—online searches; conference attendance; and asking questions of other writers, editors and book consultants—to narrow down everything needed to actually get the book into printed form. I’m sharing my research here to make it easier for you, so you don’t have to spend all that time. I wish someone had done it for me, so I’m paying it forward.

To jump-start you, follow these six critical steps in the publishing process, and use the resources I provide as a starting point:

  1. Choose a virtual author’s assistant, if you want help
  2. Obtain an ISBN number
  3. Obtain a bar code
  4. Obtain a Library of Congress card number
  5. Find out if your content is legal
  6. Decide if you want to copyright your work

1. Decide if you want support from a virtual author’s assistant so you don’t have to do everything yourself.

This is someone who will do the legwork for the following few steps, and more. From my experience, you should expect to pay at least $65/hour for the services of a VAA. Because my novel included so much research on song permissions and royalties for lyrics, my quote from a VAA amounted to about $3,500. Standard novels without much legal research would probably cost much less.

A great resource to learn more about this: Jan B. King’s VAA Web site.

2. Obtain an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).*

The Bowker company sells ISBNs. A unique ISBN is required for each book format you use (hardcover, softcover, e-book, audio book, etc.)  One costs about $125. You may also buy blocks of 10 numbers for $250, a great value if you’re planning to produce your book in more than one format.*

3. Obtain a bar code.*

Bar codes are required, and are produced along with the ISBN number you purchase from Bowker. This small image encrypts the cost (which you’ll need to provide), ISBN, and other information about each individual book. Bowker will provide both an ISBN-10 and an ISBN-13 number. (An ISBN-13 is based on the ISBN-10, but with the prefix 978.)

* Note: Steps 2 and 3 are available for free when publishing through CreateSpace, and some other print on demand publishers. I know many authors who happily use CreateSpace, which enables do-it-yourself or with-help production and print-on-demand for books, CDs, DVDs, MP3 files, video, and more). Plus, they offer a very affordable broad distribution system.]

4. Obtain a Preassigned Control Number (PCN).

This is a unique number assigned to each Library of Congress catalog record (book). You need only acquire a PCN if you want your book available in libraries. PCNs are free, but you must apply for one, which takes about two weeks. For more details on applying, visit the Library of Congress PCN FAQ.

5. Obtain legal permissions, and licenses (for which you’ll pay royalties).

If you plan to use others’ works in your book—like quotes, lyrics, excerpts, and such—you must do three things to avoid legal issues:

  1. Identify if something is currently in the public domain
  2. Ask permission
  3. Pay the creator

I highly recommend talking with a copyright lawyer like Kevin Keener at Keener McPhail, LLC to make sure you’re in the clear using someone else’s words, images or other creative works.

6. Decide if you want to officially copyright your work.

This is optional, as anything you create is technically your copyrighted material already. But, if you’re paranoid about ownership, you can officially copyright the work through the U.S. Copyright Office. Just note that this can cost you a pretty penny.

These six steps serve as a good starting points. For my next blog entry, I plan to blog talk about design options for book production.

In the meantime, any other tips you’d care to share with other authors about the production of their books?

…………………..

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Authors, generate outrageous readership-building ideas, ALWAYS

Celestial Seasonings tea bags create this dress and its accessories. If you wore this, would people talk about it? Duh. So, what creative idea can you come up with to get people talking about your book? We'll brainstorm ideas together at our next ALWAYS authors lunch. Photo: ©2013 ANVidean

Celestial Seasonings tea bags create this dress and its accessories. If you wore this, would people talk about it? Duh. So, what creative idea can you come up with to get people talking about your book? We’ll brainstorm ideas together at our next ALWAYS authors lunch. Photo: ©2013 ANVidean

Topic for our gathering:
“Marketing Outside The Book: Outrageous Ideas to Build Readership:” a brainstorming session

At our next authors’ Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering in Tempe, AZ, I’ll lead a mini brainstorm to generate unique ideas to entice readers to buy your book. I’ve conducted thousands of hours of marketing strategy sessions with entrepreneurs and authors to generate “out-of-the-circle” ideas to make people want to chat you up. I assure you, you’ll leave the meeting with at least one powerful idea to use immediately.
– Ann

When:
Thurs., Sept. 12, 2013
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
(Due to a concentration of writers’ meetings the last week of each month, ALWAYS will meet now on second Thursdays.)

Where:
Tea Infusion
2000 E Rio Salado Pkwy # 1064
Tempe, AZ 85281-4927
(480) 967-1141
(I am taking suggestions for another meeting place at or near Tempe Marketplace.)

Cost:
A writing tip, and your own lunch.

RSVP:
PLEASE show the consideration of reserving your spot at the table by:
• RSVPing through the “Join” link on our Facebook Event page
or
• Contacting Ann Videan, avidean@videanunlimited.com

If you’ve RSVP’d, please SHOW UP. If you run into a conflict, please let me know BEFORE the event so I can make the necessary adjustments for the group meeting. Cheers!

…………………………………………………………….
ABOUT ALWAYS
• Need contacts to help your writing?
• Want advice about your writing?
• Like to hang with other cool writers?
The Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) is an informal group of established fiction and nonfiction writers in the Phoenix area who want to support each other’s work, share ideas and best practices, and just discuss writing topics. I’ve led this group since 2006.
Any established writer can connect with us online through our ALWAYS Facebook page, get listed in our directory of writers on our ALWAYS LinkedIn page, or you can meet with us in person at a lunch meeting. We’d love to have any experienced writer join us at our next meeting … anyone who spends a significant part of his/her week writing, and wants to rub elbows with other writers.

Author Publishing Options: 2 Starting Points

Writing Tip #11:
Two high-level considerations about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing

This article provides two initial decisions you must make to decide the best way to introduce your book into the market.

First,  know your manuscript and research possible publishers. Be clear what kinds of material potential publishers print. Does your story fit? Will you need an agent? (Some publishers will not consider your manuscript without one.) They also require you to follow very specific guidelines when submitting manuscripts and otherwise dealing with them.

Luckily, you can find out everything you need to know about the writing marketplace — not only for traditional and other publishers, but for magazine articles, greeting card companies, and more —  in the Writer’s Market publications available online, at libraries and in book stores.

If you do decide to pursue an agent and traditional publishing, check out individual agents, their histories, success rates and more at Agent Query. Writer’s Market provides a guide specific to literary agents, as well.

I decided to self-publish my first novel partly because agents I approached didn't have a good system for incorporating its music "soundtrack."

I decided to self-publish my first novel partly because agents I approached didn’t have a good system for incorporating its music “soundtrack.”

Second, armed with the above information, decide if you want to publish traditionally or self-publish. Pros and cons:

  • Traditional:
    • You have a team so you don’t have to do it all yourself
    • Offers some financial support
    • Less ROI
    • Less control
    • You still do most of the marketing
  • Self:
    • You do it all yourself
    • Self-funded
    • More ROI
    • Nearly full control
    • You do all the marketing

    P.S. The decision to publish traditionally or by yourself involves a lot of nuances and choices. If you need additional input, ask a question in the comments below to see what others suggest.

    …………………..

  • Write on!
    Ann Narcisian Videan
    Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth

Secrets to choosing the perfect book marketing, ALWAYS

You’ve written and published your book. Now you must sell it. But how?

At the next authors’ Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering, we’ll discuss this overwhelming topic with best-selling author and publicity guru Raleigh Pinskey.

Standing in front of shelves lined with Celestial Seasonings teas is very similar to standing in front of shelves (or Web pages) filled with book publicity options. Which do you choose to get the best bang for your book? How do you make yours stand out? Publicity, is one answer. This topic will be addressed at our August 2013 authors' ALWAYS gathering. Photo: @2013 ANVidean

Standing in front of shelves lined with myriad Celestial Seasonings teas is very similar to standing in front of shelves (or Web pages) filled with book publicity options.
Which do you choose to get the best bang for your book?
Photo: @2013 ANVidean

When:
Thurs. Aug. 15, 2013
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

Where:
Tea Infusion
2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy.
Tempe, AZ 85281-4927
(480) 967-1141

Cost:
A writing tip, and your own lunch.

RSVP:
PLEASE show the consideration of reserving your spot at the table by RSVPing through the “Join” link on our Facebook page or contacting Ann Videan, avidean@videanunlimited.com.

If you’ve RSVP’d, PLEASE show up. If you run into a conflict later, please let me know before the event so I can make the necessary adjustments for the group. Cheers!
…………………………………………………………….

ABOUT ALWAYS
• Need contacts to help your writing?
• Want advice about your writing?
• Like to hang with other cool writers?
The Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) is an informal group of established fiction and nonfiction writers in the Phoenix area who want to support each other’s work, share ideas and best practices, and just discuss writing topics. I’ve led this group since 2006.
Any established writer can connect with us online through our ALWAYS Facebook page, get listed in our directory of writers on our ALWAYS LinkedIn page, or you can meet with us in person at a lunch meeting. We’d love to have any experienced writer join us at our next meeting … anyone who spends a significant part of his/her week writing, and wants to rub elbows with other writers.

Catchy writing requires a fresh reader who is not YOU

Writing tip #10:
Catchy writing requires a fresh reader who is not YOU

I don’t care if you wrote 27 books, publish multiple corporate newsletters every month, or even edit others’ words. You cannot edit your own writing.

NO EXCEPTIONS! (Yes, that’s me stepping up on my soapbox and yelling.)

P1000845

@2011 CEVidean

Fresh eyes, peeps. That’s what it’s all about.

When you write, your brain repeatedly works through  messages the same way, and tends to gloss over words, phrases and ideas already “set” in your mind. It’s a subjective process. Someone else — and, preferably, a number of someone elses — can take a look at those same words, phrases and ideas and see something completely different. They provide a fresh, objective viewpoint.

Two quick examples:

• Writing a 68-page, four color, tabloid RealTime news magazine for computer resellers every two weeks required at least five sets of eyes on our team. Invariably, the designers would see mistakes the writer/editors missed, and vice versa.

• The professional editor of my initial Rhythms & Muse manuscript pointed out that I did not include any current-day scenes with my hero anywhere in the first half of the book. What? I couldn’t belief my oversight. Her input contributed to creating a much more complete, seamless, self-published novel, and helped make it interesting enough to rate almost all 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Sources of “other eyes,” though your #1 choice should always involve a professional editor:

  • A co-worker in your marketing department
  • Several fellow authors or editors (beta readers)
  • A critique partner or group
  • NOT solely your mother or good friends, even if they are avid readers.

OK, so did I make my point? You are not your own best editor!!!
Thank you. (I can step down off my soapbox now.]

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth

P.S.  How do you get input on your writing?

#9 Writing Tip: 3 easy solutions to find time to write

If you’re a writer, at some time in your career you undoubtedly wondered, “How can I possibly make the time to write this book?” Since most writers I know hold another job to support their writing and have busy family lives, they find it difficult to find the energy and time to put words on paper (or, more likely, type words into a computer).

One way I inspire myself to write, is to schedule writing time with other writers... my brother, for example.

Another way I inspire myself to write, is to schedule writing time with other writers… my brother, for example.

Typically, I hear about three main obstacles:

  1. Inclination
  2. Blocks
  3. Priority

Obstacle 1
Inclination.
You’re tired. You don’t know what to write. Your other obligations pull you away. When you’re not inspired to write, it’s hard to sit down and make it happen.

One solution
Set aside just 15 minutes a day to move forward with your writing (perhaps as soon as you get up, on your lunch hour, an hour before you normally go to be). Put it on your calendar and try to do it every day. Often, you’ll find if you just commit those 15 minutes, it expands into more time, and you make good progress every week. Plus, writing every day—even a little—keeps the momentum going, and helps your writing flow more easily.

Obstacle 2
Blocked.
You sit in front of your keyboard and think. No ideas come to you. You consider this direction or that direction, but nothing feels right. You just can’t get the words down.

One solution
Just start writing. Simply do a stream-of-consciousness mind dump. Start with anything that’s in your mind and let it flow out on paper or into your computer. Don’t worry about what it says, you can always delete the weedy “chaff” later. After a while, you’ll find your mind drifting toward what you want to write and tasty “wheat” ideas will pop forth. This always works for me.

Obstacle 3
Priority. You think, “I should write, but I’m tired… or, I need to do laundry… or, I have something more important to do.”

One solution
Make a “spiritual” decision to make your writing an absolute priority. We all know, if something is important enough to us, we will make time for it, no matter what. So, you need to look inside yourself and find what is most important. If that actually is your book, you will get up earlier, watch one less TV show, find someone else to do a chore you dislike, or find other means to make time for writing.

My strongest suggestion is to schedule a specific time for writing, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. Treat it like an unbreakable appointment. By considering my book as one of my clients, setting aside time every day to work on it, I was able to finish the final fourth of my first novel (Rhythms & Muse) in six months. And I’d been working on it for almost a decade already!

No excuses, writers. Which of the solutions above will you start using today to overcome your writing obstacles? What other techniques have been successful for you?

#8 Writing Tip: Why authors should research the rules, then ignore them

You could follow every rule. Or, you could generate a little anarchy in your writing. Angel or “V,” which will you choose?
[My son portrays “V for Vendetta” with an unphased, visiting Halloween angel. @2007 ANVidean]

So many writing resources. So many how-to books. So many style manuals. As a writer, you could spend an entire life reading and studying, intimidating yourself so with everyone else’s ideas and rules that you never actually sit down to write anything from your heart.

One overarching fact crystalized in my head over years of writing/editing millions of words in business content and numerous novels — sometimes the best way to communicate an idea involves blasting away the rules and conventions with a creative blow torch. Creative license makes writing fresh… and, well… yours.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to research and read when you’re a writer. You need to know the rules—at least the basics, so you can keep your audience intrigued. But, you also need to know when to bend or ignore those rules to best serve your own writing voice. (More on this in my #9 Writing Tip, coming soon.)

So, where to start? Here are a few of my favorite resources for learning writing basics:

For business:

For authors:

  • My favorite book for character development: Goal Motivation Conflict, Debra Dixon
  • My favorite book for plot development: The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler
  • My favorite book on writing. Yes, it’s called On Writing, and it’s by Stephen King (of all people)
  • Books in the genre you’re writing. I’ve been studying Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, and other young-adult novels.
  • Books not in your genre. What cool writing techniques, words, or ideas, can you glean from other authors and stories? New ideas formulate “outside the box.”

There you have it. A couple of great starting places. Now, go forth and create your  masterpiece… I’m eager to read it in your very own voice.

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth

P.S.  What writing resources are your favorites? Please comment below.

#7 Writing Tip: Is your written content legal?

That quote you pulled from the Internet to use in your marketing, or your book…can you legally use it?

I can use this shot of my daughter in a high school production of "Clue," because I took it. The play title is royalty free, but if I quoted any of her lines here, I'd need to pay royalties, since someone else wrote the words.     @2013 ANVidean

I can use this shot of my daughter Codi (the “Police Chief” in her high school production of “Clue”), because I took it. The play title is royalty free, but if I quoted any of her lines here, I’d need to pay royalties, since someone else wrote the words. @2013 ANVidean

Do you think if you simply provide a source, you’re covered? It’s likely you’re not. You may need to ask permission, or even pay royalties to use it.

When I wrote my novel, Rhythms & Muse, I included famous advertising quotes, celebrity names, song titles, even some lyrics. Not wanting to borrow trouble later, I sought out the advice of a copyright attorney to see what I needed to do to use these snippets of other people’s material. I used Etherton Law Group, but can also recommend Kevin Keener an intellectual property attorney at Keener, McPhail, Salles, LLC.

Advertising quotes

The lawyer informed me I could not use ad quotes, no matter how much people banter them about in common conversation. I had to find a way around it, like in this excerpt from the novel.

      “You mean like, that anti-stomach acid commercial with the Italian guy sitting on the bed saying he can’t believe he ate…’” Alex started.
      Suzanne continued, “Yeah, yeah. …the entire bowl of spaghetti.” She laughed. “Something like that.”
            “Well, I can’t believe I dreamed this whole thing about Matt.”


Celebrity names

Since it is against the CreateSpace Terms of Agreement, I ended up not using celebrity names at all. This forced me—in a fun, creative way—to allude to recognizable characteristics:

“Great. Now, if your local studio doesn’t work out for some reason, we’ll make arrangements to do all recording at our LA studios. I’m hoping for ‘Frankies’ place, though,” Mr. Grandberg said, his unexpected smile lighting up behind the cigar. “Recording at the home studio of my all-time favorite crooner – rest his soul – would be a rare privilege, not to mention the great PR it would make for the single.”

I also used recognizable nicknames, as in this excerpt:

      “Hey, Lex, I have great news!”
      “You mean, the King of Rock and Roll really does live?”
      Suzanne laughed. “No. I’ve patched things up with Kathy.”

I found out Priscilla Presley owns the rights to her late husband’s name, and she requires you to get permission or pay to state his name, depending on how you use it. (Can you say “amass a fortune?”)

Another interesting and frustrating discovery: if you’re self-published, Disney won’t allow you to use any character name. Period. You can’t even pay to use it. [sigh] That led me to sections like this:

“Look, she’s surrounded by all her little dorks right over there. Anyone of them would be glad to have her in their little cottage cooking and cleaning for them. See?” She started pointing one by one to the jocks. “Doofy.  Dippy. Dweeby. Dullard…”


Music artists, song titles, and lyrics

You can use the name of musical artists and their song titles without sourcing or paying royalties. But, if you plan to use any portion of the lyrics, you must pay for their use. This involves contacting music rights management firms like ASCAP, BMI or Hal Leonard in writing, with detailed specifics about how the information will be used.

I ended up paying a few hundred dollars to use a few lines of lyrics from John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” as sung by Roberta Flack, and Tim Rice’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from the play/movie Jesus Christ Superstar.

Of course, I own full rights to my own original lyrics appearing in the book, and the book’s “soundtrack” of original tunes I wrote and recorded on CD.

Even quotes from famous people are often copyrighted, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you use anyone else’s materials in your writing, be sure to clarify its use with a qualified copyright lawyer. If someone else uses your work, you want them to source it or pay for it, now don’t you?

P.S. If you’re the first to comment, answering the following four questions correctly, I’ll send you a $10 gift certificate from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Can you guess:

  1. The name of the product I alluded to in the ad above?
  2. The name of the crooner who actually owned a home on Hayden Lake in Idaho? (It’s not Frank Sinatra, despite my using “Frankie’s place.”)
  3. The real name of the King of Rock and Roll?
  4. The Disney character I suggest who cooks and cleans house for her little guys?

#6 Writing Tip: Authors and readers profit from free book downloads

Authors and e-book readers, do you use Kindle Select (KS) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL)?

“Why would I,” you ask?

Two compelling reasons.

  • Readers receive free e-book borrows.
  • Authors gain enhanced visibility and potential sales.

Here’s how it works:

Readers, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow from a collection of more than 180,000 books in the KOLL. Besides my own novel, Rhythms & Muse [big cheesy grin], the library includes 100-plus current and former New York Times best sellers — to read for free — as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.

Watch this price drop to zero tomorrow for Amazon Prime members who want to borrow my book.

Watch this price drop to zero this weekend for Amazon Prime members who want to borrow my book.

Authors, simply give exclusive rights to Kindle for 90 days, enroll your titles, and promote free downloads to gain visibility. The best part, though, is you actually earn a share of the multimillion-dollar KDP Select Global Fund every time your book is borrowed from the KOLL on Amazon.

I’ve had several authors tell me their books get borrowed thousands of times over a couple of days through this program, and they can sell one book for every three borrowed. In the first Valentine’s Day 2012 promo I did the last weekend of January 2013, 994 readers downloaded Rhythms & Muse. [I’ll report later what happens, sales-wise.] Looks like we have everything to gain here, especially happy readers.

Authors… Readers… What are you waiting for?

If you have had an exceptional experience using KS or KOLL, the rest of us would like to hear about it in the comments below.

………………………….

P.S. Readers, in the spirit of letting you take advantage of this truly cool offering right away, I’ve scheduled my own KS promos. [Put this in the realm of “well-how-the-heck-will-you-know-about-it-if-I-don’t-tell-you” shameless promotion.] Yep, you can borrow my women’s fiction e-book this weekend — Fri., Feb. 1 through Sun., Feb. 3, 2013 — by searching for Rhythms & Muse at the KOLL.

Rhythms & Muse synopsis:

Alex, a Grammy-winning vocalist, lives the glamorous lifestyle, but hates it. Her dreams guide her life, but she doesn’t listen until one actually manifests. Will intuition, flashbacks to her 1970s high-school days in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and an ambitious current-day plan to reconnect with her former music partner and muse, help her find fulfillment?

Amazon review:

“Ann…has a gift for setting the scene and characters so that you feel like you have visited these places, and know these people in her book. I particularly liked the shift back and forth in time during the book — it reminds us that whichever paths we take in our lives, we are still the same person within. This book brought back memories of high school.”