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GUEST POST: BJ Scott

January 20, 2013 23 comments

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.

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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.

Cover—Title—Blurb

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.

Happy writing!

Cover_HighlandQuestBLURB:

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?

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Excerpt

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.

https://www.facebook.com/authorbjscott

http://www.authorbjscott.com/

http://authorbjscott.wordpress.com/

 

Buy Links:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AQKYPU0

Soul Mate Publishing http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/highland-quest/

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/highland-quest-bj-scott/1114002946?ean=2940016110769&isbn=2940016110769

Kobo  http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Highland-Quest/book-3h45k9pPxkaA9JX__x0mRw/page1.html?s=W28tjCmTwESL-eKO_pW68A&r=1

Guest Post: Sheila Deeth

October 28, 2012 11 comments

I started trying to get published in 2004, after a few false starts earlier in life (in elementary school, junior high, college, when our oldest son went to elementary school…). I sent nicely printed sheets in flat brown envelopes with stamped self-addressed envelopes stowed inside, and I got form letters back that read “Thank you for your submission. If you enclosed a stamped addressed envelope we are returning it.”

A few years later I attended a writers’ conference and learned you’ll never get anywhere in writing without a platform. I even learned what a platform was, though the thought of writing a blog was way more scary than writing a novel. After all, a blog’s like real life, diary, journal… why would I imagine anyone wanted to read about my life? So…

I self-published. I picked the books I’d had the least success with at the conference, where agents said the market was overloaded. Putting them on Lulu, learning to edit, proof-read, format, use cover creators, set prices, choose titles etc. all furnished articles for my blog. But of course, no one was reading my blog so I chased the internet following strangers and making new friends. I sold ridiculously small numbers of books to neighbors at the Holiday Bazaar. And I wondered if I’d ever make enough money for Lulu to bother paying me. And then…

Then I spotted Gather.com’s first chapters competition and entered it. I entered Amazon’s breakthough novel award too, though neither led as far as I might have wished. I entered some short stories to e-magazines and anthologies too—no pay, but at least they gave me some publishing credits.

Meanwhile those new friends, many of whom were writers, started asking me to write reviews. It wasn’t something I’d ever imagined doing, but I love to read and I love to write, so I said I’d give it a go. Three hundred book reviews later I noticed I’d reviewed and enjoyed several ebooks from the same publisher. And the publisher was running a contest. And I rather liked the prompt.

My novelette (I’m still learning what qualifies as novel, novella and novelette) won the contest and I added my first professionally published ebook to my name. It didn’t have that “thump factor” of a real paperback of course and I couldn’t put it on my stall, but it’s a wonderful step on the path.

By now I’d learned to read like a reviewer, so I finally opened that long neglected novel on my computer and re-read it. I’m so glad it hadn’t been published. It was time to write like an editor.

Three ebooks later I checked the websites of print publishers I’d reviewed for. They’re not the big houses, just small presses—the sort of place that might maybe say “yes” to an unknown writer. And one of them did.

Actually, they sent me an email which started “Thank you for sending your submission…” I thought I knew the next line by heart, the one that starts “but…” Except this one said “We would like to offer you a contract.” I ran around the room, then demanded that everyone come and check the computer to make sure I’d not misread it. I printed out the email (and the contract) and read them again. And it was real.

So now my first real novel’s out in genuine thump-factor paperback—I thump it on the table every once in the while just to hear the sound. It’s even going to be stocked in my local Powells! I still want to make a name for myself, I’d love to have an agent, maybe get published by a big name too, or at least get sales as if I were, but my journey’s moving determinedly forwards and dreams are free.

My Ten Steps from Self-published to published:

  1. Make lots of friends on the internet. (Real-world friends help too!)
  2. Self-publish something you don’t mind not sending out to publishers.
  3. Say yes when your friends want to be guests on your blog or ask you to review their books. It’s called networking. It’s also called being a good friend.
  4. Research the publishers. Reading a lot, writing book reviews, and networking with writers can help you find them.
  5. Start small. A story in an e-magazine is a genuine step on the way, even if it doesn’t pay.
  6. Take baby-steps. The big publishers really aren’t likely to care, so try the small ones. Try an e-publisher. Find a niche and fit yourself in.
  7. Take those rejected pieces and work on them again. Get friends (and efriends) to read and comment on them. Read them yourself with your reviewer’s hat on and see which bits you skip and which bits you hate. Then edit them.
  8. Keep taking baby-steps. Send a submission to a print anthology. Maybe the publisher will remember you name later.
  9. Try matching your writing with the small presses you’ve researched, then take a deep breath and send that novel out again.
  10. Celebrate rejection with chocolate and coffee, ’til one day someone says “YES!”

Good luck, and enjoy the writing, the reading, and the making of new friends.

About Divide by Zero:

It takes a subdivision to raise a child, and a wealth of threads to weave a tapestry, until one breaks.

Troy, the garage mechanic’s son, loves Lydia, the rich man’s daughter. Amethyst has a remarkable cat and Andrea a curious accent. Old Abigail knows more than anyone else but doesn’t speak. And in Paradise Park a middle-aged man keeps watch while autistic Amelia keeps getting lost.

Pastor Bill, at the church of Paradise, tries to mend people. Peter mends cars. But when that fraying thread gives way it might take a child to raise the subdivision—or to mend it.

About the author:

Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States near Portland Oregon, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.

Divide by zero is free on Amazon kindle on October 28th: http://www.amazon.com/Divide-by-Zero-ebook/dp/B0090NFH56/, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Divide-by-Zero-ebook/dp/B0090NFH56/

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Divide-Zero-Sheila-Deeth/dp/1600763405/

Amazon.co.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/Divide-Zero-Sheila-Deeth/dp/1600763405/

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/divide-by-zero-sheila-deeth/1112782597

Powells http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9781600763403-0

Waterstones http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/sheila+deeth/divide+by+zero/9420931/