March 15, 2017

Can You Judge a Book by its Cover?

I’ve joined a new blog team with monthly themes. This month #Inkripples is talking about book covers. Check out the other bloggers and what they have to say about book covers at Mary Waibel’s World at Katie Carroll Observation Desk and at Kai Strand’s blog.

Why? For one reason, we’re writers, not artists. How are we supposed to come up with a cover that tells our story? It’s hard enough to write a short blurb to describe a 300 page book. But, creating an image that tells it all keeps me up at night, tossing, turning and worrying.

What exactly is the book cover supposed to do?

  • Give the reader a glimpse of the story inside
  • Help identify the theme or genre of the book
  • Attract readers to the book and to want to read more
  • Create the “image” for the book

Need I say more? With all those jobs, finding that perfect book cover is indeed a challenge. With my first books which were nonfiction and published by a large publishing house, I had little to say about the cover. In fact, my first book cover was chosen by the publisher, and I could only okay it. My second book had two choices. By the third book, they gave me a bit more input and three choices, but I couldn’t tweak the choices. Notice, how little involvement the writer has!

With my fiction books and a smaller publisher, I had more input. I was assigned a cover artist. She asked me to identify the images that tell my books story. That was harder than having no choices! I struggled with that question. She also asked me what colors represented the theme of my book. Colors represent themes? Again, not being an artist all this was baffling. Nonetheless, she took my meager suggestions and created a magnificent cover. One that did everything I wanted. She did the same with my second book, which I thought would be much harder to depict. For my third book I worked with a different artist. Again, I had to share my meager observations about the book. From that she tweaked and worked till she came up with the perfect cover.

They know how to take pieces of information and turn them into just the right image. Writers are more verbal than visual. That’s another reason we have such trouble with the cover. Artists, however, can capture that visual with amazing skill. I bow down to them.

So what about you? Do you judge a book by its cover? Maybe now that you understand how hard it is to create the perfect cover, you’ll be less picky. Yes? Probably not…

BTW, here are some my favorite book covers. Two are mine. The rest are not. 

Twitter or Facebook–A Good Place for Writers to Hangout?

This is no easy task. It takes time and dedication. In the end, however, it’s worth the trouble.
Confused Business Man

One of the choices writers must make is to decide which social medium gives them the best visibility. In the past a writer need only get their book published. The publisher took care of getting the word out to the right audiences. The publisher sent the book out for reviews. Nowadays, the writer must do most of the work.

But, which medium offers the best bang for the buck. In other words, do you spend your precious time on Twitter or on Facebook or elsewhere? And how much time is enough?

Here are some tips for hanging out on Twitter.

  • Visit Twitter often. Post at least ten tweets a day. If you visit less often, you lose momentum.
  • Look at other people’s tweets. If you like what someone else is tweeting, retweet or like the tweet. This helps you connect with the other person.
  • Do not fall into the trap of buying followers. You want to attract followers who are interested in what you have to say. Just having a big number isn’t enough. You want quality followers. Otherwise you waste a lot of time tweeting to people who really don’t care about your books.
  • Build your following by looking at the suggested followers Twitter provides. Take a look at the person, how many followers do they have and how many people are they following? Does that person have similar tastes to yours? If the person has similar tastes but is following more people than follow them back, they are not a great choice. If, on the other hand, they follow fewer people but many are following them, they might be a better choice. Use your discretion here. People who have many followers but rarely follow back may also be a bad choice.
  • Interact with your following. Check out websites of those people who interest you and DM them. I personally do not like auto responders when I follow someone. It feels false. Instead, DM people personally when you see someone following you that piques your interest.

Tips for Hanging Out on Facebook.

  • Like Twitter, you must post on your Facebook author page at least ten times in a day. Unlike Twitter, you must include a photo.

    If you simply post a link, you may only get 10-12 views. Photos receive 50-100 views or more.

  • It’s harder to increase your following on Facebook than it is on Twitter. For some reason it takes much longer. Again, I do not recommend buying likes. Facebook frowns on doing this as well. You want to focus and target your audience. The more targeted you are, the more likely you’ll increase the number.
  • Try purchasing a Facebook ad for greater visibility. I wouldn’t do this often, but it’s not too costly to boost your more important posts on occasion.
  • Develop short posts. Whenever your post goes over one sentence, you lose readers. You can add a link. But, make the words compelling enough for people to want to click on that link.
  • Interact with your following. I don’t get nearly as many notifications on Facebook as I do on Twitter. But, I still try to pay attention to them by replying to their actions.

More people interact with me on Twitter. My following grows more readily. That doesn’t mean I ignore Facebook, it just means, I use it less.

What about you? Where do you get the most tractions? Twitter or Facebook? What tips do you have to help build interactions?

Take a look at this book trailer. It’s gotten over 400 views on YouTube.

My Interview with David Alan Binder–Full of Writing Tips

DSC_0003_4x6Joan Curtis interview with David Alan Binder

Joan’s Bio from her website (shortened):  Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 7 books and numerous stories. In her mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, we meet Janie Knox, a tormented young woman who escaped her home and family after a jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother. Her second mystery e-Murderer is the first in a series, starring Jenna Scali, a fairly normal young woman who happens to run into dead bodies. Again, this book captures the imagination of readers with all its twists and turns. The second in the Jenna Scali mystery series, Murder on Moonshine Hill, features Jenna and her friends at a quiet wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. All goes well until everything turns deadly with the discovery of a corpse.

Joan’s books have won awards. The Clock Strikes Midnight won FIRST PLACE in Royal Palm Literary awards for Mainstream/Literary fiction and the Silver Medal in the Global eBooks Awards for 2015. The e-Murderer won FIRST PLACE in the Malice Domestic Grants Competition for new writers and the GOLD for mystery in the Global eBook Awards for 2016.

http://joancurtis.com/ (website)

http://joancurtis.com/blog-radio-appearances/ (blog)

Goodreads Author’s page

Amazon Author’s page

Twitter page https://twitter.com/JoanCurtis

Facebook Author page  https://www.facebook.com/joanccurtisauthor/

MuseItUp Publishing Author page

1.  Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?

I live in Athens Georgia—A university town.

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

There is little that’s predictable. My stories unfold as I write them. The    publishing process changes daily. Writers must be flexible and persistent.

 3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk? 

My mind goes faster than my fingers on the keyboard. So, when I re-read what I’ve written, I’ve often left out words or written something that totally doesn’t make sense.

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

[Tweet “I appreciate the support of a publisher #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] In my view if you’ve written a book     that is worth publishing, you can find a publisher. It’s not easy and the big name publishers are very hard to break into as a new writer, but the small   publishers offer a good alternative. I would only suggest self-publishing if the purpose of your book is marketing a business. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they? My fiction publisher is MuseItUp Publishing, Pierrefonds, Que. Canada. My nonfiction publisher is Praeger Press, Santa Barbara, California

5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? 

All my fiction books came out first as e-books and were later published in print. My publisher holds the rights to do that. The problem with having just e-books is that they cannot be signed. Often I want to do giveaways of signed copies or book signings. Clearly print books are necessary. The problem with just having a print book and no e-book is the cost. Most people do not want to pay print book prices for an unknown author. Some people only read on print and others only by e-book. It’s best to have both!

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?   

The first bit of advice is something you’ll hear from many writers. [Tweet “Keep sending the book out even in the face of multiple rejections #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] That doesn’t mean writers do not pay attention to rejections and the comments made. Revising all the time is critical. But, we must continue to persevere in the face of rejection.

I also suggest going to the small publishers. Researching them and finding         one that fits your genre. Skip going to an agent. Agents are as difficult to     snare as the large publishing houses. And, in this day with the internet giving   writers access to so much information, agents are becoming less and less important.

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I don’t have an agent, and I really do not see the need for one. My publisher is very generous with her authors. I read the contract myself and understand the terms. Most intelligent writers can do that. If you happen to write a blockbuster, the agents will come looking for you.

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?  

. I give it away on my website for signing up. (http://www.joancurtis.com)

Generally, though, my first suggestion to new fiction writers is to finish the book. There is no use looking for publishers or agents until the book is finished. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you must write a very  complete book proposal before you explore publishers or agents. (Agents are really unnecessary for nonfiction writers).

My second suggestion is to spend a lot of time re-writing your book. Put together a group of Beta readers who can give you honest feedback (not your spouse or your kids). You may have to pay some of these readers. It’s worth it. Once you get the feedback, go back and re-write. The manuscript must be polished and honed as best you can get it before you send it out.

My third suggestion is once you get your book published, you must take responsibility for getting the word out. You cannot count on your agent or publisher to do that for you. If you can afford to hire a publicist, great, but most of us cannot. You must build a platform through blogging and tweeting   and then tell that platform about your books. I didn’t do that with my first          nonfiction book. I expected the publisher to market it for me. I needn’t tell you, it didn’t sell too many copies!

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

For nonfiction, I found the writing less inspiring. I wrote facts and conveyed information almost as if I were teaching a class. There was little opportunity for creativity—nonetheless I did create examples to spice up my books.

I’m what is called a pantser fiction writer. That means, I do not rely     heavily on an outline. I learned early on that if I let my mind go, almost in a trance-like state, characters will emerge, take on personalities and sometimes take over the story. This is quite surprising when it happens, but it’s also    wonderful. Writers cannot force this and some writers never experience this process. I am fortunate that I experienced it early in my writing.

10.  How many books have you written?

I have written and published 4 nonfiction books, all published by Praeger Press out of California. I have also written and published 3 mysteries. I have a new one that will go      to the publisher in January 2017. Each of these have been published by   MuseItUp Publishing.  I spend my time now writing fiction.

11.   Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)? 

Notice what you like to read and what works for you. The more you read the better writer you’ll become. But beyond this, writers must learn the craft of writing. Learn how to write dialogue. How to create scenes. How to develop a worldview. I have a number of tips and suggestions for writing suspense and mystery on my blog, http://www.joancurtis.com/blog. But, I also suggest that writers find blogs that help them improve their skills. There is much more to writing than simply putting a pen to paper.

12.    Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story? 

This is a very tough question. All my books have unique twists and turns. My best response to this question is to let your imagination go. Because I don’t write from an outline (in fiction writing), my characters will come up with interesting twists that even I hadn’t thought about. But, I do know that for me, the best thing is to put the book aside and to do something else. For example, with The Clock Strikes Midnight, I had reached a place that felt like a wall. Something had to happen but I didn’t know what. I put the book aside and went for a swim. While swimming, the answer came to me. Many times the answer comes at night while sleeping or on a walk. Getting away from the work is the best way to allow your subconscious to play with ideas and come up with amazing twists.

Let me add one caution. Don’t write twists just to write twists. Your twists must feel natural to the reader. Otherwise the reader feels betrayed. I recently read a book where it became clear to me the author simply        wanted to surprise the reader. As a reader, it felt contrived.

13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd? 

In The Clock Strikes Midnight (a stand alone mystery/suspense), the main characters are two sisters. Their interaction as well as their bond is what make the story different. Furthermore, there is a southern charm to the book that many readers have enjoyed.

The mystery series (e-Murderer and Murder on Moonshine Hill) debut two characters—Jenna, the main amateur sleuth, and her sidekick, Quentin. The two play off each other in a unique and fun way. Readers not only enjoy the suspense and the inherent mystery, but they also enjoy the humor and the realistic portrayal of these characters.

All my books are set in the south with southern speaking characters. This isn’t necessarily unique, but it adds a certain charm to the pages.

14.  What are some ways in which you promote your work? 

I have promoted my work through the social media in the following ways: 1) Blog tours where reviews and excerpts appear on blogs for a period of time 2) Tweeting daily about my books and about other books of a similar genre 3) Facebook groups and a Facebook author’s page.

I’ve entered contests and gone to conferences to receive rewards for my books. The Clock Strikes Midnight has won three major awards    including First place Royal Palm Literary Award and e-Murderer won the GOLD for the global e-book awards.

In more traditional ways, I’ve appeared at book festivals for book signings. The Decatur Book Festival is one of the largest in the country. I appeared there last year. I’ve also appeared in small bookstores for book signings.

15.  What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why? 

I spent a lot of money on promoting my first fiction release. I regret two things I did: Join NetGalley and hire a publicist. Both of these things cost a lot of money and were not worth the expense. NetGalley produced some reviews, but not enough to justify the cost. The publicist did a lot for my book, but not enough to make up for the cost.

Another place where I spent too much on the first book was the creation of a book trailer. I made the mistake to contract with real actors. The cost was extremely high even though I produced a very professional book trailer. For the second book I created a book trailer more cheaply, using standard images off the Web. Overall, I’m not sure readers look at book trailers, nor if     they have any impact on sales. For my third book, I decided not to create a  trailer.

Be careful to pick and chose how you spend money on promoting your   book. You will have to spend some (blog tours), but I learned that the less    spent the better.

16. What saying or mantra do you live by? 

If you set your mind to something, give it all you’ve got, concentrate on it and you will succeed!

17. Anything else you would like to say? 

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions. I hope my answers help some writers, and I hope some of your readers will join me on my blog and become part of my community.

Books on Amazon:

Fiction

Clock Strikes Midnight

e-Murderer: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 1

Murder on Moonshine Hill: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 2

Nonfiction

Hire Smart and Keep ‘em

The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media

Managing Sticky Situations at Work

Strategic Interviewing: Skills and Tactics for Savvy Interviewers

Share here.

Marketing My New Book–Do’s and Don’t Tips

As I begin the process of marketing the launch of my third book, I look at what I did right and wrong with the previous two launches.

To get your book out there before readers you must do it yourself. And this is a very daunting task. Worse than writing the book. Much worse. Many an author will tell you they enjoyed the process of creating their work of fiction. They will also tell you they dislike the selling and marketing. That goes against the nature of an artist.file4661306949432

Nonetheless we must bite the bullet and get our books before the audience. Here are some tips I learned from my first two efforts.

They do. But there are problems with getting reviews for your books. First, Amazon will not approve reviews if they think they’re from family or friends. I won’t go into how ridiculous that is but it’s an Amazon decision we authors must live with. Second, people will say they will review your books but they don’t. Begging and pleading won’t get more reviews. Third, if you use review services, you will send out many free books but only a handful of the people will review your book. Given all this, we must continue to ask for, beg and plead to get reviews any way we can.

It’s okay to have a Facebook author’s page, but all the groups where marketing is allowed are inundated with shout outs about new books. Most people delete them or never see them.

We did a Facebook Launch for my first book. We spent time, money and a lot of effort to launch the book with a lot of hoop-la on Facebook. Few people came and fewer still bought books. The good part of the experience was it was fun to do. But we decided against it for the second launch.

Much less chat. We tired it but again, it was a lot of time, effort and headaches for little result.

That’s a great way to keep the ball rolling. I’m not sure if it sells books, but at least it keeps your name out there. You should tweet 10 times minimum a day with only 2-3 tweets about your book. I schedule posts on four social sites throughout the work week. I can do them ahead of time. It’s a great way to stay in front of audiences and to create new audiences. Be sure to include LinkedIn because a number of people will see your updates there.

There are several types of blog tours. I’ve participated in a couple of tours with two different companies. The most basic blog tour is where bloggers promote your book or review your book or post an excerpt of your book. This is a good way to get different bloggers to see your work and broaden your audience. Be sure to check out the various book tour sites. It costs anywhere from $200 to $400 for a full-blown tour. I’ll share tips on blog tours in a later post.

This is another way to build your audience and also get reviews. You can get as many as 8 new reviews on a blog review tour. Again, there’s a fee to the company and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a good review.

This time I’m going to try a Cover Reveal tour with a tour company. My hope is to build interest in the second book in my mystery series. I wouldn’t recommend doing a Cover Reveal for a stand-alone book or the first book in a series. But, when you’ve got a second book, you can create interest and post links to the first book for readers to take immediate action.

Those are my current tips. As I learn more, I’ll post more.

BTW, I did invest in book trailers for both my books. Not sure I will on the third. I spent too much money on the first one, less on the second one. The reality is book trailers are nice but not worth the extra cost. Check out this one–the one that cost too much!