Friday, December 27, 2013

Go ahead - judge that book by its cover!

[Another solo post by Kym]

We recently attended a community-wide signing, where a number of authors displayed their books along a row of tables. Writers, of course, sat behind the tables, waiting for potential buyers to approach and pull out their wallets. Since Mark and I write as a team, I left the entrepreneurial details to him and wandered around browsing the merchandise. Didn’t take me long to realize whose covers were successful by the reaction of the customers. Finally, I sauntered over to our corner of the building just in time to observe a young father reaching for one of our books, Little Greed Men. He studied the intrusive and slightly caustic alien face monopolizing the cover. Then he turned it over and read the reviews.

“I like this. It’s funny.”

Success! Our potential buyer had grasped the meaning immediately – that our novel consisted of an irreverent comedy. He looked at the cover, walked away and, as we were getting up to leave, he returned to pick it up and read the back cover more closely. With two toddlers in tow, he told me he was going to go get his wife's wallet and come back to buy it – hopefully he did after we left, but who knows?

At another signing/reading, a woman purchased the second book of our series, one graced with an “in your face” chicken against a lovely mountain backdrop. I asked why she chose book two instead of book one. Her answer: “I don’t know. The cover just grabbed me.”

What pleased me about these two recent incidents was the attention the covers garnered. Each caught the eye, and both left no mistake about the contents of the pages. It’s what I strived to do when I created them – hinting at the essence without trying to tell too much of the story in images.

This becomes particularly vital if you intend to market your book to e-readers. Keep in mind, what might look good on a full-size paperback could be completely lost on the tiny thumbnails posted on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Simple and strong images offer insight and texture to the story and will help readers recognize the genre they are about to buy. 

Not long ago, I created a cover for a historical biography. With the topic already familiar, my gut instinctgravitated toward sepia colors and torn wallpaper, but the publisher envisioned different elements. His idea turned out lovely, but to me, the cover just didn’t represent the contents. I sent him a second option – sepia colors and torn wallpaper. In the end, we compromised on our two ideas until we were both happy with the results.

Choosing a design for your book jacket may not be an option if you’ve sold your work to a publishing house, although some may be open to your ideas. For those who choose to self-publish, shop around for a designer who not only has experience in the field, but also someone you can work with comfortably when making revisions. For me, reading a synopsis helps me to “feel” the heart of the story, which in turn, translates into a narrative image.

For you, ending up with a great cover design translates into sales. Forget that your grandma told you not to judge a book by its cover. She was wrong when it comes to the literary world.

Feel free to stop by our website,, to see a few sample covers.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dressing for Success -- choosing the right cover design for your book

[A solo post by Kym]

Whether you like it or not, strangers judge you all the time by your outward appearance. But does the same hold true for your book?

Apparently so. 

Let’s look at some of the numbers published from a 2010 survey. Verso Advertising found that 28 percent of Americans average more than five hours a week reading. More than half of those are females. About 62.4 million of us are considered “avid” readers who each buy more than ten books a year. Nearly one-fourth of those base their purchases on cover alone. 

Get the message? No matter what kind of dazzling words fill your pages, it’s essential your novel be dressed for success, whether you target print or e-reader audiences. Particularly if you’re a new author and find yourself short on spectacular reviews. Since our brains almost instantly process images and assign them meaning, the art on your jacket is the first impetus to picking it up and scanning the teaser blurb.

And you want that jacket to scream, “Pick me!”

Your cover makes a first impression on a reader. It not only conveys content, but also your style of writing. In a bookstore (real or online), customers have a huge selection of books to choose from. It helps if yours stands out from the crowd. The better the design, the more credibility you have as a writer. That said, you might take a psychological approach before you decide on its appearance. What type of audience will you try to reach? If it’s young adult, go with a jacket appealing to that market share. If you hope to target romance readers, well, you know the type of hunky guys and fem fatales who attract that kind of attention.

Give font some consideration, too. It should mesh with the overall design and your story. When I worked with author Bob Puglisi for his novel Railway Avenue, he explained that his story involves a murder but also leaves the reader with a sense of nostalgia. We hammered back and forth with possible design elements to tie them together. We finally settled on an old torn photograph and blood splatters. I chose Tosca Zero as the font because it complemented the theme and looked like scratched-in words against a concrete wall background.

Spines generally use the same font as the title on the cover. A nice touch is bleeding the art from the front of the book around on the spine and, if possible onto the back. Sometimes reviews, story summary and author bio prevent that if the art won’t allow easy visibility. In those cases, most designers will choose something that carries through with the theme, or they will simply use a solid color.

Cramming in loads of imagery can backfire. Too much can give your reader expectations the book can never live up to. A well-crafted jacket only hints at story rather than tells the whole tale. 

Getting it right is a huge task, but more on this next time.

Feel free to stop by our website,, to see other sample covers.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Silverville's answer to the TARDIS, and IWSG

We have a two-part posting this time -- a bit of an homage to the 50th Anniversary for the BBC's Doctor Who series, and also our offering this month to the ongoing conversations in Cap'n Alex's marvelous "Insecure Writers Support Group" blog hop.

Silverville's Answer to the TARDIS

We couldn't help but notice this past week, when we watched the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, the uncanny resemblance of the TARDIS to our own Magicke Outhouse!

Both have roughly the same dimensions, both allow respective occupants to travel through space and time, and both result in a virtually endless array of unexpected encounters. From our side of the door, we suppose we shouldn't find these parallels all that surprising since the underlying principle of Silverville's world is synchonicitous meaningful coincidences. Might as well embrace it on and off the page.

What does surprise us is that, while we were immediately wary of avoiding parallels to the stateside early 90s television series, Quantum Leap, we hadn't noticed the obvious parallels of our mode of transport to The Doctor's -- and that's even allowing for the fact that we're devoted Whovians.

But guess we should clarify that last bold statement -- we've been fickle viewers of the show for years, but only devotees since Steven Moffat became showrunner/head writer. (We've been fans of his ever since his work on the earlier BBC rom-com series Couplings in the early 2000s.) Moffat's flair for story, character, and dialog are amazing, and his larger series story arcs are greenly enviable. Seldom predictable and often baffling for the first half of an episode, his Time Lord creations honor the traditions and mythologies of the earlier incarnations of the series while still offering decidedly 21st Century tales of his own.

And here's an awful confession that will likely risk the ire of most other Whovians: We never cared for the Daleks or the Cybermen. We know, we know -- artifacts of decades gone by (and perhaps earlier, cheaper budgets). But the more recent foes embodied in The Silence and (shudder) the Weeping Angels have been truly archetypal and creepy. Love them! And we love Doctor No. Eleven. Matt Smith's interpretation has been delightful, and his companions have added a dimension seldom (if ever?) rivaled by earlier versions of the series.

The one thing we have emulated from Moffat's Dr. Who of series five through seven (so far) -- albeit unconsciously, we hope -- for our own The Magicke Outhouse is that we didn't really want the story to be about time travel. That was only the premise to launch into a story in its own right. In our case, it's more about a group of entrepreneurs who try to capitalize on a technology they little understand rather than time travel per se. Big, big mistake on the part of our characters -- and a delight to us when we wrote the book.

We guess we've really been fans of the Eleventh Doctor's series, and we'll certainly give Moffat a chance next season, but we're already mourning the loss of Smith. But wow, what a marvelous three-series story arc.

Kudos, kudos.

The Other Side of the Mountain

To visit other IWSG postings, click here
Maybe we just weren't listening at the time, but we don't recall anybody telling us that the hardest part of being authors wasn't writing the book, and not even finding a publisher (which are both hard), but in promoting the thing once it hits the streets!
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But first, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop, hosted by our incomparable Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh (thanks, Cap'n!), postings shared on the first Wednesday of every month by a host of conspiratorial scribblers:

"Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

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We're in the middle of The Silverille Magicke Tour right now, offering a combination of ca. 20 real and virtual tour stops along the way between now and this spring. And our sponsors and hosts have and continue to be supportive and generous to us. (THANK YOU ALL!)

But the time commitment to keep our writing darlings on track -- sheesh! Don't get us wrong: This is a great problem to have, and we wish it on every aspiring and established author. But now that Write in the Thick of Things has six books on the ground and deadlines for two (maybe three...) on the way in the next couple of years, we've discovered that each book already on the shelves still clamors for its piece of the promotion pie ("Don't you love us anymore?" "When is it my turn?" etc.,  etc., etc., like baby birds with their mouths wide open and constantly screeching).

With bookings for readings and media kits and press releases and blog posts and Facebook updates and Twitter tweats and telephone queries and e-mail blasts and newsletters and, oh yeah, fulltime jobs -- Well! It's hard to find time to write something creative along the way. Okay, we suppose we did write 75,000 creative words last year, but we also wrote 25,000 promotional words.

The skinny: It's time consuming once a book gets into print. And not that we don't have a handle on time-management skills -- that's why we call our writing enterprise Write in the Thick of Things.

 Again, it's not that we're complaining about the success we've had, but it does seem a bit overwhelming at times.