The author will award gifts of swag (including a canvas tote bag, a mouse pad, a pen, book thong, bookmark, can cooler, magnet, and key chain — US/Canada only) to randomly drawn commenters from this tour and her Virtual Book Tour, and a grand prize of one $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter from this tour and her Super Book Blast.
Thanks for having me on your blog today.
I was asked to blog about something writing related and decided to talk about the three most important parts of a book, once the edits are done and the manuscript is ready to go to print.
These three things can make or break a book and must be given a great deal of consideration by the author and the publisher. An author puts months and sometimes years into creating their book so you want to give it the best chance for success right from the start.
There is an old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover” but in truth, a cover can make or break a book.
The first thing a prospective reader sees when they are shopping for a book is the cover. They may start out by searching by author name, but if you have yet established your brand, you best have a great cover that will catch their attention. People are visual by nature so a cover that is crisp, vibrant and easy to read is a bonus. The cover should immediately give the reader an idea of what the book is about. The Title and author should stand out so they don’t forget you. Personally, if I am reading a romance, I prefer to see a couple on the cover or something that says this is about two people who are meant to be together. Perhaps the most important thing about a good cover is that the picture on the cover matches the characters in the book. Cover vs. content is a pet peeve of mine. Too often I am reading a book about a dark haired warrior and his red-haired lover, only to look at the cover and see a blond hero and a brunette heroin. Or even worst, the picture on the cover has nothing to do with what the book is about. It might sound picky, but many readers go back to the cover and want to see the same people that fill the pages of the book.
If your book is put out by a publishing company, you might not have as much say in your cover as you like. Hopefully your editor will ask your opinion and based on their knowledge of your book and any cover art forms you may be asked to fill out, will work with you and the cover artist to find the perfect cover to grace your new release.
Title is equally important. You want it to be memorable and to reflect the content of the book. Choosing the right title can be easy for some books and for others very challenging.
Most books start out with a ‘working title’, that being subject to change by the author as the book takes on a life or by the editor in the final stages of the publishing process.
In most genres key words in a title often get the reader’s attention. Since I write historical romance, we will use that as an example. For those who love books set in Scotland using the word Highland or Highlander in you title tends to get more attention than those that don’t. Those words tell the reader what to expect when they purchase a book. Each genre has key words that generate sales. Do your research. Look at the books in you genre and see what kind of titles are on the best seller lists. If possible, incorporate similar wording in your title, while keeping it unique to your work. Check popular book sites like Amazon and key in the title you are considering. If a dozen books with the same title pop up, you might want to consider another one. While there are many books with the same or similar titles, you want yours to stand out. The more unique your title the better chance you have of being noticed.
Be sure your title is relevant to your story. You don’t want to deceive your readers. Again we will use historical romance as an example. If your book is entitled Highland Legacy, you better have a story about a Highlander. Otherwise you lose credibility with your readers and won’t get the best reviews either.
Short titles seem to work best. Too long and the reader gets lost or bored. If you need a longer title to get your message across, more than three or four words, try using the key words as the main title and in smaller letters finish it.
The third thing an author must consider is the book blurb—those few lines on the back of the book that give the reader a glimpse of your story and leave them wanting more. Again, this can be easier said than done.
Think of your book blurb as if it were a pitch to an editor or agent. You want to showcase your talent as a writer, dazzle them with your words, and hook them in a few short sentences. Three is common for a pitch. There is no difference between pitching to an editor or a reader. The end result is the same. You want them to contract/buy your book. If you get too wordy, include unnecessary details, colorful metaphors and bog it down with information that might be important in the book, but not the blurb, you will lose the reader in the first few lines.
Writing a pitch/blurb takes practice. Jot down the key events in your story as they occur, details that give the reader some insight as to the internal and external conflicts facing the hero and heroine. Incorporate an introduction to your hero and heroine in the information. Stick to the important details, avoid repetition and be sure to end with a hook. I can’t express enough that giving away the entire plot will lessen your chances of a sale.
Once you have written your pitch/blurb go over it again and eliminate things that are not needed. Then do it again. Your ultimate goal is a short concise description of your book and a hook to catch the reader’s attention. See if you can do it in three lines, four lines at most.
Hope you find this helpful.
No longer content in the shadows of his older brothers and on a quest to find his destiny, Bryce Fraser’s chosen path is fraught with danger, passion, and decisions. Can his unspoken love for spirited, beguiling Fallon be triumphant in a time of war and uncertainty, or will they both fall prey to the devious plans of a traitorous laird from a rival clan?
Loch Ryan Scotland, 1307
“Wa . . . water,” Bryce mumbled, but there was no one there to listen.
His throat was parched and he ran his tongue over dry, cracked lips, but his action offered no relief. An entire loch lay only a few feet away, but he couldn’t muster the strength to drag himself to the bank and quench his thirst.
“Cold . . . so cold.”
Despite the sun beating down on him, he’d swear he was encased in ice. His life’s blood seeped from his wounds, soaking the ground beneath him. He tried to raise his head, but the excruciating pain radiating across his chest stole his breath away.
Was this what it felt like to die? If so, he prayed the Almighty would be merciful and take him now.
Bryce moaned, a shift in his position bringing on another nauseating wave of agony. He sucked in a short, sharp, gulp of air and stretched his arm out as far as he could, his fingers grappling in the dirt.
If only I could reach my sword.
Beads of perspiration dampened his brow. As the strength slowly drained from his body, drawing a simple breath became more difficult. The end grew near. No time to make amends for sins of the past, and he had committed his share.
Regrets? He had those, too. “Fallon.” He whispered her name then heaved a ragged sigh.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
With a passion for historical romance, history in general, and anything Celtic, B.J. always has an exciting work in progress. Each story offers a blend of romance, adventure, suspense, and, where appropriate, a dab of comic relief. Carefully researched historical facts are woven into each manuscript, providing a backdrop from which steamy romance, gripping plots, and vivid characters—dashing alpha heroes and resourceful, beguiling heroines you can’t help but admire—spring to life. A member of RWA, World Romance Writers, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, and Savvy Authors, B.J. also writes contemporary, paranormal, time travel, and romantic suspense.
C.S. Lewis first captivated B. J.’s imagination in the fourth grade, and her desire to write sprang from there. Following a career in nursing and child and youth work, B.J. married her knight-in-shining-armor, and he whisked her away to his castle by the sea. In reality, they share their century-old home in a small Canadian town on the shore of Lake Erie with three dogs and a cat. When she is not working at her childcare job, on her small business, or writing, you will find her reading, camping, or antique hunting.
Soul Mate Publishing http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/highland-quest/
Note: The author will be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. See below for details.
When an insecure, bi-racial woman begins a cloak-and-dagger love affair with a Japanese American man, she is intent on keeping her bigoted family in the dark—albeit with devastating consequences. On the night of her brother’s murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32. After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through the hood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief. Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her white mother killed her black father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge her fast-growing love for Takumi. And had he never made love to her that way, in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could’ve done the same. But love’s a devil that way. So, their game begins. One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone. And Tak understands this—for now. After all, Deena’s career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss, his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step
Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had. And away from him.
“I wish that I didn’t want my family’s love so bad. I wish I could be one of those people who wore leather jackets and didn’t give a damned.”
Tak shot her a look. “You’d be musty if you wore a leather jacket in this heat.”
Deena grinned. “You know what I mean.”
He shrugged. “Who doesn’t want a decent family, Dee? It’s not much to ask for.”
Tak paused to pluck a seashell from the sand. Chipped and polished by time, it shone under the glint of a fast setting sun. “I don’t know the answers,” he said. “But they seem to be in things like this,” he held up the shell.
She frowned. “I don’t follow.”
He shrugged. “Well think about it. What’s a shell? It’s just a—a hard, protective outer layer.” He hurled it in the ocean. “The same is true with family. They’re an outer layer, a protection from the world. At least that’s what they’re supposed to be.” He paused. “Think about what happens when you screw with an animal that has one of those hard shells. What does he do?”
“He goes into it.”
“Right. He retreats.” He thumbed the shell thoughtfully. “Now imagine if you were to rip the shell off a turtle and expose him. What do you think you’d find?”
Deena cringed. “Something soft and hurting.
“And dead, if not close to it. So, our hypothetical turtle, who’s able to stand our shell transplant, needs another shell, another form of protection. And so do you.” Tak handed the grooved and sand-polished subject to Deena. She looked down at it.
“So, how’ve I been surviving all this time? What’s my shell?”
Tak grinned. “Tell you what. I’ll let you know when I crack it.”
Copyright by Shewanda Pugh
Follow on Twitter: @ShewandaP
The tour dates may be found here.
A Guest Post by Dan O’Brien
Life as a writer can be hard sometimes.
Success is elusive; fans shift as often as a summer wind.
Yet, we persevere, writing into the late hours of the night and waking in the early hours of the morning to log the hours and enter, for a time, the worlds we create. When I first started writing, more than a decade ago, it was because I loved the idea of immersing myself in a place where I could construct the narrative; walk through dense forests and to the tops of mountains. Over time the process became more about writing as a tool to move through emotions and languishing memories that required catharsis.
Writing takes on many forms, for many different writers, over the course of our lives.
For me, the process is the reward.
I love to write.
When I ask myself that silly question of what I would do if I had all the money in the world, the answer is always quite simple: write. Now more than a decade later, I have a renewed sense of purpose and have become quite adept at balancing the spinning plates of responsibility.
Recently, between being a full-time graduate student and writer, I joined Empirical magazine as an editor – among other responsibilities. A national magazine similar in spirit to Harper’s or The Atlantic, the magazine is firmly rooted in a West Coast sensibility. There is a little something for everyone, and honestly, the hope is that everyone will take a look. Contributors to the magazine come from around the globe and cover everything from politics to fiction.
Working at a magazine, especially at this point in its maturation, is a wonderful experience. There are so many moving parts that enliven your day. Sometimes I spend the day sorting through fiction and poetry submissions, searching for that piece of prose, or perhaps a stanza, that ensnares my imagination. Other days I am editing, constantly referring to the Chicago Manual of Style to ascertain the correct usage of an archaic sentence structure. As a writer, the prospect of editing and rummaging through the work of others might not sound exciting, but there are some wonderful consequences:
- You learn to become a better editor of your own work
- You begin to recognize redundant sentence structures and overused phrases
- Your grasp of language grows exponentially
However, the most important component for me is:
- You get to help others bring their work into a public forum
For many writers, and certainly for me early in my writing career, the notion of being picked up by a magazine or a small press was foremost in my mind. It was that distant promise of publication and everything that goes with it that pushed me forward. When I got rejection letters, most of which lacked a personal touch, I would get down on my writing, denigrate my ability.
The years passed, during which thousands of rejection letters amassed, and I realized that the pursuit of writing for a purely extrinsic reward was dooming myself to Vegas-style odds. I became clear to me that I needed to write because I loved it, and then find a way to share it with others – even if it was not through traditional routes. I found that I was more comfortable with my writing when I did it for the pure joy of it.
Now that I am on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I have noticed a few myths about submitting to paying publications that otherwise mystified and frustrated me prior to becoming an editor and being responsible for interacting with first-time and established authors.
I have decided to provide a humorous, but serious, collection of things you should do and things you shouldn’t do when submitting and entering into a discourse with a publication – sprinkled, of course, with some anecdotes. And without further ado (or perhaps slight ado if you count this sentence here):
Things You Should Do
- Read the publication you are submitting to before sending an email. This one sounds obvious, I know. However, it happens so often that it warrants mentioning. If you have written a brilliant piece of prose that is about zombies, it is quite likely that Popular Mechanics will not be that interested in it. Pick up an issue of the magazine you are interested in submitting to and familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories they publish. The next part is the hardest part: be honest. Does your piece fit with what they publish?
- Read and follow the submission instructions. Again, a no-brainer. If you are thinking that you don’t know where to find the submission instructions and you just have an email address, be prepared for disappointment. Your email might go to submission purgatory with a one-liner response about having received your correspondence – if you’re lucky.
- Address your submission to the appropriate person. If you are thinking that I am giving you the obvious pointers, then you are quite right. With that in mind, imagine that I still receive hundreds of emails a month that manage to ignore these simple suggestions. If you are writing a stunning expose on corporate greed, the poetry editor is probably not the best destination for your work.
- Edit your work. I tell this to students a lot, so I will mention it here as well: spell check in Microsoft Word is not sufficient. I am not saying that you need to be a copyeditor to submit to a magazine, but do yourself a favor and read it out loud. If it something sounds funny when you read it, you can only imagine how it will sound to an editor who is choosing among thousands of articles and stories to determine what goes to print.
- Be cognizant of turnarounds. By this I mean, the amount of time between when you sent in the work until you hear back from an editor about the status of your submission. Nothing will send your work to the bottom of a slush pile than to send a follow-up email the day after you submitted, wondering whether or not you are going to be in the magazine. Most publications will post how long it takes to hear back from them about the status of a submission, and an amount of time after which you should contact them if you haven’t heard from them.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
- Send an email telling an editor that they would be stupid not to publish your work. It always surprises me when I get an email telling me that I need to publish a story, poem, or piece of nonfiction because it is the next best thing. Top this off with letting me know that I would be a fool not to accept it, almost guarantees a trip to the trash can.
- Send a photocopy of your story by registered mail. If you want to have your story in a magazine, start by giving it to editors in a format that they can actually use. By sending a faded and blurry photocopy of your forty-word poem and declaring that it is a soul-searching masterpiece does not inspire as much confidence as you would think.
- Contact an editor on a frequent basis about the status of your submission. I have to sort through hundreds of emails a day, edit for the current issue, and work on editing an anthology; not to mention a thousand other intangibles. We posted a time table about getting back to you for a reason: read it.
- Be discouraged by a form rejection letter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many writers. They think the form rejection letter means that the editor didn’t read their work, or simply had things already planned and was stringing writers along. The reality is on any given month I send out hundreds upon hundreds of rejection letters. There is simply not enough time in the day to offer feedback to every single person. This not to say that I do not offer feedback, or that editors do not offer feedback in general, but instead the process is streamlined so writers can be responded to in a reasonable amount of time.
- Call the magazine to find out about your submission. This is subsumed by not contacting an editor about the status of your submission before enough time has passed, but I thought it warranted a special mention considering it is really going the extra mile in terms of being an irritation. If we haven’t gotten back to you yet, calling us is not going to suddenly make us more accessible.
- Send another email with corrections. Read twice, send once. If you don’t think what you sent is ready for publication, then please don’t send it. You get one chance at a first impression, and nothing speaks to being underprepared and unprofessional than sending a draft and immediately following up with another draft. If your piece needs work, note that in your submission, but don’t send a series of emails chronicling the different stages of the edits for that story. The exception, of course, is if you have already been accepted and you have been asked to make edits.
- Contact the magazine to air your frustrations about not being selected. I say this with all seriousness. It is very likely that you got rejected because the piece was not a good fit and not that the magazine has decided to order a hit on your writing career. Please don’t treat it that way. Lashing out at a publication for sending a form rejection letter, or passing on a piece you have written, reeks of a lack of professionalism and could impact your ability to publish elsewhere. Many editors are friends, especially in the digital age, and word spreads fast.
- Contact the magazine to ask if you think a story you are working on would be a good fit elsewhere. I can appreciate the sentiment. A lot of editors are writers themselves, and they love talking about the process and the product. I find myself building friendships with writers, those we publish and those we do not, and often I will give them suggestions about their work. However, if you don’t know me personally and have never been published or solicited in any way to use me as a sounding board, then do not contact me and ask if a poem or story would be a good fit at another magazine. If you think it is ready for publication, then submit it here. An obvious exception would be if the writer knew the story would not be a good fit and asked because they were uncertain in venturing into new territory.
I could probably keep listing things you shouldn’t do, but I will wrap it up there. I encourage you to keep trying and keep writing. Things only get better with time, and time is all we really have. I love to hear from other writers and potential readers, so please stop by and say hello.
Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, Deviance of Time, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, The Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He also works as an editor at Empirical, a national magazine with a strong West Coast vibe. Find out more about the magazine at www.empiricalmagazine.com.
Check out Dan’s project on kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/630515511/one-novel-one-project-one-dream
College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
By Jann M. Contento & Jeffrey Ross (Rogue Phoenix Press, 2011)
“On the Joys of Co-Authoring and Collaboration”
Jeff: Jann and I have written several op-eds and quasi-academic articles together over the years. We have been kindred spirits, I suppose, in many respects. I think early on I asked him to help me do some research for an article I was working on about community college purpose. That experience proved successful, and I continued to rely on him for help. Pretty soon, we worked together more collaboratively on a piece—I think it was “Hudson Heroes, Potomac Pundits, and Leadership in America “(Academic Leader, 209)—that more or less cemented our working relationship as writers.
Concerning our current novel, The Philip Dolly Affair—Jann had the original idea to develop the text. I had written a short story, “Call Me Phil”, which was published on Insidehighered.com back in 2008—about a recently “fired” community college president. Jann thought we could take that original story, add characters and plot, and provide an in depth analysis of community college culture – in a satiric manner. We decided we could cover legions of community college issues using fiction as our medium—and give our story an ethnographic or case study-like quality even while providing a comic read.
We share a belief that satire is instructional—and we are united in our belief that it is very difficult to affect change in community college policy and culture within the culture itself. [Change, we sense, is resisted. But this can be said for most of corporate America now—most of us have become good corporate citizens on one level or another]
I suppose I could lay claim to many of the character “sketches” in the book—and Jann did most of the research and work on the Argentina-focused middle section—but the truth is, we were both involved in nearly every page and machination. I looked “in” my computer the other day and found hundreds and hundreds and hundred of novel-related sketches, rewrites, alternate endings— Thank goodness for computers and word processing.
Certainly we are both comfortable with drafting, editing, and revising. [Thanks to some very good advice from our publisher/editor, Christine Young, we were able to re-mix the conclusion and bring a nicely satisfactory closure to a few of the romantic relationships and plot lines]. We are both interested in non-traditional fiction—and like the idea of mixing narrative, poetry, song lyrics, and theatre-like dialogue in the same text.
I think a significant “collaborative” concept we developed together involves the Argentine politically-charged Shadow World which constitutes the middle of The Phil Dolly Affair. During many early morning discussions, we worked out the idea of using a different culture, a different education system, yes even a different historical period, to provide a “foil” for many of the situational events flourishing at 21st century American community colleges. Once this section was orchestrated successfully, we could easily move in the comic denouement of the third section—an absurd Marxist interpretation of Dr. Dolly’s rapid decline.
While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …
The authors will be giving away a novel-companion e-form [PDF] “chapbook” of poetry “voiced” by one of the novel’s characters, Spanish Professor Jack Frost, to one randomly drawn commenter, as well as to the host with the most comments.) and encourage your readers to follow the tour and comment; the more they comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2011/12/virtual-book-tour-philip-dolly-affair.html.
Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture.
Jeffrey Ross, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and son, is a writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four “Views” pieces published on InsidehigherEd.com since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News higher education satire website.
Online Presence and Social Media Links
Face book Info Page
Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blog
Twitter Account @SalinasChick
Jeffrey Ross Creative Efforts Home Page on Web Eden (Music and More) http://jeffreyross.webeden.co.uk/
Jeffrey Ross Open Salon Blog—other poetry and essays http://open.salon.com/blog/slipdoc/popularity