Three Quick Tips for Writing Mystery, Suspense and Thriller Novels

Double Take, a mystery thriller set on the Big Island of Hawaii is loosely defined by a love triangle that devolves wickedly into a red-hot flow of despair, frustration and anger.

Let’s (including me) spend less time dreaming about writing our books and more time constructing and writing them. We all know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Why not craft a well-thought out stew of emotions, chocked full of juicy motivation and lip-smacking conflict and topped with a generous dollop of intrigue with just a twist of red herring, the maelstrom of flavors melded in such a way that readers pant for more?

I am nearing completion of my first draft on Double Take, an action adventure set on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is loosely defined by a love triangle that devolves wickedly into a red-hot flow of despair, frustration and anger.

Point of View: What captivating character in each scene has the most to gain or lose? For several scenes, I chose a third-person narrator, a travel writer cum-detective, who happens to be on-island researching a magazine article and is sucked into the sides of the triangle unwittingly.

Sparks: What would intrigue a reader about this story? For Double Take, a tragedy that occurs early in the novel lights a fire and ratchets up the suspense while a romance between the narrator and a single, (both literally and one not in a relationship) family member of two sides of the triangle kindles, yet muddies and sustains it as the story unfolds. And still later, as loose ends are stitched up, and all is right with the world, oh $#$@ …I hope that you read to find out.

Setting: Be it the musty library where mustachioed Colonel Mustard did the deed with a well-polished candlestick or maybe, a spider-webbed graveyard backlit by a full moon of terror, settings must be cohesive with, drive and enforce the characters, conflict and suspense, as well as provide fertile ground for them to flourish. Yes, a tall order indeed, but instead of being just mere descriptions, settings are used to up the ante on the story, to bring it to center stage, to showcase what matters most to the character who is describing the scene. Double Take takes place on several actual, mostly, well-visited places on the Big Island and the character’s verbal descriptions are buttressed by photos and fast facts in a quick and entertaining style.

By the way, I will be looking for Beta Readers once Double Take has completed the Final Draft stage, so if you are interested in being part of my creative writing journey, please write me at Info@IndieAuthorCounsel.com and visit http://www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Writing!

Sincerely,

R. R. Harris

Why Self-Publish?

Kris Wampler, author of Love Train, interviewed Becca Chopra on why she chose to self-publish. Kris is an author and provides an e-conversion service, E-Literate. Here’s what appeared on her blog: http://kriswampler.wordpress.com:

Becca Chopra chose self-publishing rather than bother with sending out query letters to traditional publishers.  Find out which vendor she recommends for her marketing materials and learn about a website with free advice for indies.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Chakra Secrets is a memoir and more.  Follow me on my path from aspiring actress to yoga teacher and chakra healer.  Navigating betrayals and loss, tormented by guilt, I explore kundalini, tantric sex, past-life regression and mind-body tools as I earn my credentials as an energy healer and finally find love and light.  You’ll not only learn my personal secrets, but the “instant” healing tool I learned in Hawaii that you can use anytime, anywhere to eliminate pain, stress and clear the path for healing on all levels.

 

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I didn’t have the patience to send out query letters to agents.  Rather, I decided to self-publish and save myself a lot of time.

3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?

No.  I haven’t tried – but I won’t turn down a traditional publisher if they approach me.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

There was a learning curve, of course, to make sure my books looked professional, but I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten from my editors, book cover designers and CreateSpace publishing.

5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?

While my books are dramatic stories, they weave in chakra and yoga wisdom.  And I find most of my audience is interested in just that – being entertained while learning how to balance their lives.  So, I’ve offered free chakra meditations for download on my website and offer lots of useful information on both my website and blogs – resulting in a list of people interested in my next offering.  Also, using KDP Select to offer free books has helped my Amazon rankings and word of mouth about my books, increased customer reviews, and resulted in more sales.

6. Which services or vendors do you recommend for the marketing methods you used?

For giveaways, such as yoga tote bags, note cards, T-shirts and calendars with the cover of my book on them, you can’t beat the prices at Vistaprint.com.

7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

That you have to find your niche and continually interact with it.  You need to set aside time for social networking and marketing efforts as they are just as important as writing a great book.

8. Indie authors face the challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie just starting out?

Read all the free advice online from other indie authors.  For instance, download the free book marketing checklist from IndieAuthorCounsel.com.  Even most traditionally published authors have to do their own marketing these days.  So we all need to be experts at writing press releases as well as books.

9. What are you currently working on?

Now that I’ve published Balance Your Chakras, Balance Your Life on Kindle to expand on the self-healing technique I describe in Part II of my memoir, Chakra Secrets, I’m producing a DVD which will take viewers step-by-step through the process.

10. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

Balance your chakras, balance your life!

THANKS FOR THE GREAT ADVICE,

Roger Harris

info@IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Is It Time to Have your Book Edited?

Dear IAC, I’ve finished my first draft and would like to have my novel edited. And I don’t want to miss your summer sale. Should I send you my manuscript now or wait till I’ve revised it as well as I can myself?
Confused at the Computer

Dear Confused, It’s always better to refine your script as much as possible before forwarding it to an editor. Then, they can offer a fresh eye on your plot and characters if you’re writing fiction, or the organization of your information if you’re writing non-fiction.

Here’s an excerpt from Joanna Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn, in which she interviews editor Matt Garland, that explains this further.

“If you want to be a successful independent author, I believe that editing is one of the top things you can do to set yourself apart from the pack.

There’s only so far you can go with self-editing, and critique groups sometimes don’t quite hit the mark. In today’s interview, I talk with Matt Gartland from WinningEdits about his tips for editing.

What should you do before engaging an editor?

  • A certain amount of editing should be done by the author before it is handed over to an editor. A good editor still can’t save a bad book, or bad writing. But a book after editing should have more ‘weight’ to it in terms of the characters for fiction, or the content for non-fiction. A professional approach to maturing the concepts as well as the language of the text is part of the editing process. But we sometimes lose perspective when we try to continue editing on our own. We fall into patterns that sometimes it takes someone else to see.
  • First drafts vs. what you give to an editor. Matt quotes Neil Gaiman – first drafts don’t matter but it is a continuous struggle to think this. We naturally want to self-edit as we write that first draft material. But take what’s in your head and as a non-sequential, creative process, just get it on the page. Worry about refining later. The first draft is just about getting something down so you can work it in the subsequent drafts. I talk about struggling with my own first drafts in terms of getting the stuff from my head onto the page. But no one is going to see this draft so we should stop worrying so much. 
  • It is important to only engage an editor when the book can’t go any further in your own hands. You need to mature your ideas on your own. Then pay someone to take it further. This will mean you get the best service and the editor can do the best job.
  • Try using beta readers, lovers of your genre who will read and critique the book which will help improve it before using an editor. Matt recommends friends and family but I think it must be people who enjoy your genre first. They read for free and often, finding authors in your genre to swap books with will help. They give feedback from a reader perspective e.g. plot points, characters, what they liked, what they skippedThen you can revise from there.”

Check out The Creative Penn – Joanna inspires us all to reach for success as Indie Authors. And be sure to create a market for your work as you pen your masterpiece. Download our Free BOOK MARKETING CHECKLIST and other useful info, available when you join our Indie Author Council FaceBook community.

Happy writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Inspirational Quotes from Terribly Write

Quotations About Writing and Editing

We all need inspiration to keep our butts in our seats, writing, especially when it’s a sunny day out, like we experience most days in Hawaii, where we live. And we all need inspiration to write even better. Thanks to blogger Terribly Write for compiling this great collection of quotes about writing, editing and wordsmithing. Here we share her favorites…

Everyone needs an editor. ~ Tim Foote

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain

The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. ~ August Wilson

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. ~ Orson Scott Card

A metaphor is like a simile. ~ Author Unknown

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain

There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers. ~ H. L. Mencken

Many writers profess great exactness in punctuation who never yet made a point. ~ George Dennison Prentice

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. ~ Steve Martin

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. ~ Richard Back

One gains universal applause who mingles the useful with the agreeable, at once delighting and instructing the reader. ~ Horace

If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing. ~ Kingsley Amis

There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together. ~ Josh Billings

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~ Thomas Jefferson.

Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~ Baltasar Gracian

The first draft of anything is shit. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Rereading reveals rubbish and redundance. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

Always avoid alliteration. ~ Author Unknown

The time to begin an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~ Mark Twain

Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too. ~  Blake Morrison

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. ~ John Ruskin

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~  Gene Fowler

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~  Joseph Heller

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~  Arthur Plotnik

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason. ~ Richard C. Trench

If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know? ~ Steve Wright

You become a good writer just as you become a good joiner: by planing down your sentences. ~  Anatole France

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~ Author Unknown

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener

Rewriting ripens what you’ve written. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend. ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~ Elmore Leonard

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~ Samuel Johnson

Our admiration of fine writing will always be in proportion to its real difficulty and its apparent ease. ~ Charles Caleb Colton

Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs. ~  John Osborne

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators. ~ Albert Camus

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. ~ T. S. Eliot

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~ Thomas Mann

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~ Robert Benchley

I write to teach myself what I already know. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research. ~ Wilson Mizner

For I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me. ~ Winnie the Pooh

Pithy sentences are like sharp nails driving truth into our memory. ~ Diderot

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Never be so brief as to become obscure. ~ Tryon Edwards

There is no artifice as good and desirable as simplicity. ~ St. Francis de Sales

As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. ~ Mark Twain

I do not like to write — I like to have written. ~ Gloria Steinem

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~ Robert Southey

Here’s to writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Commas, Commas, Commas – How To Use Them Correctly

When editing a manuscript, the use of commas is so different among different writers, and even different style books, that I’m always either inserting them or deleting them.

Let’s all agree on proper comma usage, to help our readers, and to lessen the stress on our editors! Here’s a great explanation of the best use of commas from EzineArticles.com:

Commas Help Separate You from the Cannibals

What’s so great about the comma? It clears away ambiguity, confusion, and on occasion steers us away from cannibalism. For example:

Martha finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.
Martha finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.

There are many, many rules for comma usage …

So many that we’re going to break it down to the most common grammatical errors involving the comma.

Prevent confusion and uphold your credibility by using these comma tips:

To Use or Not to Use the Oxford Comma

Commas are used to separate elements in a series. Some authors choose to use the Oxford Comma (a.k.a. the serial comma) and some don’t. The argument for not using the Oxford Comma generally revolves around printed publications, like newspapers, to save on space.

While considered perfectly acceptable in either case, the Oxford Comma is used before a concluding conjunction in a simple series and offers that extra edge of clarity for complex sentences with internal conjunctions. In addition to the example involving Martha above, without the Oxford Comma:

Today’s menu includes eggs and toast, peanut butter and jelly and fish.

In this example, is it [peanut butter and jelly] and [fish] or is it [peanut butter] and [jelly and fish]? The Oxford Comma clears that right up:

Today’s menu includes eggs and toast, peanut butter and jelly, and fish.

Commas in a Series of Equal Adjectives

Equal adjectives (a.k.a. coordinate adjectives) occur when two or more adjectives of a similar nature modify or describe a noun. Commas are used to separate a series of equal adjectives. If the adjectives could be separated by ‘and’ without changing the meaning, the adjectives are considered equal.

Avoid walking down a dark, dangerous street alone.
Avoid walking down a dark and dangerous street alone.

If the last adjective alters the meaning of the noun (a.k.a. cumulative adjective) and creates a noun phrase (e.g. denim pants, red eye, etc.), then no comma is necessary.

The cheap wooden chair exploded when my Great Aunt Sue sat in it.

Commas in Nonrestrictive Clauses

Both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses give additional information about a word or phrase in a sentence. What’s the difference? A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of a sentence and its intention is straightforward. A nonrestrictive clause can be eliminated from a sentence without changing the sentence’s basic meaning. It all depends on the intention.

Restrictive: The bus driver who was in the accident usually drives my bus.
Nonrestrictive: The bus, which normally arrives on time, is behind schedule.

Don’t Force the Comma Where it Does Not Belong

We’ve heard this farce time and time again: “A good rule of thumb is to use a comma when you feel the sentence needs a pause.” This is far from the truth. One common error is joining two (related) complete sentences, otherwise known as a splice. Here’s an example of this scenario: “I went to the store with Frank, I bought milk.” Ugly, isn’t it? Here are a few fixes for this situation:

  • Period: I went to the store with Frank. I bought milk.
  • Semicolon: I went to the store with Frank; I bought milk.
  • Conjunction: I went to the store with Frank, and I bought milk.

5 Last Chance Quick Comma Tips

  • Name and Hometown: John Smith, Santa Barbara, and Hillary Baker, Ithaca, were called to the podium.
  • Name and Age: John Smith, 42, and Hillary Baker, 38, were called to the podium.
  • Name and Age and Hometown: John Smith, 42, Santa Barbara, was called to the podium.
  • Yes and No: Yes, I can come to the party. No, I will not.
  • In Address: Happy Birthday, Rufus! Let’s eat, Susan. Frank, could you take a look at this?

Use these comma tips to strengthen your writing skills, as well as maintain your credibility.

Happy writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

Info@IndieAuthorCounsel.com

P.S. Grammar got you down? Don’t sweat it. Indie Author Counsel is having a half-off summer sale on editing services. Check it out at IndieAuthorCounsel.com.

CHECKLIST FOR BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

Q: I’m writing a self-help guide; what marketing activities should I be starting now, before publication?

A: Building your author platform is the first step to find your readers. Here is a checklist of activities from our Free Book Marketing Checklist.

The goal is to create and launch a platform that quickly communicates your genre and entertainment value if you’re writing fiction, and your expertise and credibility if you’re writing non-fiction, such as your self-help guide.

  • Build your bio – Succinctly tell people about you and your work, including credentials, credits and awards. Turn it into a one-pager to use in your book, whenever you pitch your book, in your publicity package, on Amazon Author Central and on your website.
  • Author website – You need a hub, a place to connect with your audience, offer free information and excerpts of your book, and sell your book and other services. If you use a blog-based site, such as WordPress.org, which is easy to set up and use, you don’t need an expensive setup or a webmaster to update your site – you can get going immediately.
  • Author blog – Your blog could be separate or a page of your website. It’s an important place to connect, enlighten, entertain, and capture a following of readers interested in learning more about you, your topic and your books.
  • A signup list – Create a list of future readers by offering a free excerpt of your work, a newsletter, eBook, or video/audio product on your website/blog. This allows you to start building a list of people who are interested in your book or product. Check out Aweber or Mail Chimp to handle your lists, emails, autoresponders, and newsletters.
  • Follow other blogs – Stay up-to-date with the latest information in the industry and to leave comments that establish your platform.
  • Join professional associations – Seek out and join ones related to your topic, target audience or professional goals.
  • Establish your expert status – Teach through workshops, online webinars, podcasts and/or videos, in-person speaking engagements, articles using tips from your book to industry publications and other print and online media sources. This provides you the ability to establish yourself as an expert, and market your book in the author’s information box.

If you’ve started writing, it’s never too early to start building your Author Platform. Download your Free Book Marketing Checklist from Indie Author Counsel.

Happy Writing!

R.R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

SIX SUPER INGREDIENTS TO PUBLISHING SUCCESS

Into your literary cauldron, throw locally-grown talent (raw, fresh or seasoned in with the right dash of character traits and a generous dollop of opportunity, stir in a finely diced cast of characters or a paste of must-know, how-to. Cook over a carefully tended, dancing flame of desire until it’s “ready” and you’ve got a stew that may be the Brunswick or Irish Stew of books or…

1) TALENT

“Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

 

2) RESPONSIBILITY

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.” ~ William Faulkner

 

3) PERSONAL EVOLUTION

“The truly wise know that what is behind them could just as easily be in front of them. What successful people possess in abundance is the ability not only to survive adversity but to be transformed by it.” ~ Jeff Herman

 

4) PLANNING

Once I planned to write a poem entirely about the things in my pocket, but I found it would be too long and the age of epics is past.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

 

5) SHOWING UP

“Many writing books advise writers to figure out their most productive time of the day and to set out to write during that time or times. Experts also say to find the place you are most comfortable when writing and match time and place. Great. It does work for some. Not all.

“I do have a place where I write. It’s my local coffee shop. I write at different times during the day: morning, afternoon, evening. So, I do the conventional writing with time and place matched.

“But. Yes, there’s a ‘But.’ Many of my poems, and a short story recently, have been written in bed at two in the morning. I spring out of bed sometimes to write down an idea, or a rough draft of a poem or story. I keep a notepad with a pen resting on it near my bed. No coffee, no table, no laptop, and very little light.

“Some of the poems I’m most proud of have been written on the subway, in parks, in stairwells, and on my bed. No specific time, no specific place.

“Be flexible. Set your time and place, have no time and place, just write.

Show Up: read, re-read, write, re-write, submit, publish, and do it all over again.”  ~ published by Blackcoffeepoet.com

 

6) PASSION & INNER ALCHEMY

“The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.” James Lee Burke

 

(Adapted from Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: http://amzn.to/L1px0G)

 

Happy Writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

 

 

Writing a Mystery or Suspense Novel – Suppose, What if and Why?

“Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.” Paula Danzinger

One of a writer’s most precious resources is the world that lives beyond the creaking gate, borne in a fog of ideas that seeks the low places. Here, sometimes in the din of dank recesses, other times in bright, golden light, march a legion of the hopelessly lost and unceasingly forlorn. They bang their dented tin cups so that we might notice them. Their tatters of spirit overpower and wrest control of the rules of engagement we have posted in our heads and tattooed indelibly across our common sense. Yet, we ensnare and assail them without conscience. The meat of their souls will sustain us until we have had our fill.

Pen and paper, recorders and our brains are the simple tools we have packed for this hunt. When we return from the fray victorious, our prey in hand, chafed but unharmed, the camp is pitched with sturdy folders, and staked in neat rows by organizational software. Lieutenant Scrivener cages our captures, tarping the rough edges with a well-stitched backstory, calming, nurturing, grooming them. No meal tonight, only a fortune cookie that teases, promising ultimate release into the light of day. Cynics among the group argue that this is largely hot air and not to be trusted.

Suppose they escape while we go about our daily affairs? It simply will not happen. Resolutely prepared for their struggles, we observe them unnoticed, peripherally, boldly, one eye to life’s knothole. They huddle as if to gain strength by association and we hear their whispers, indistinct and largely unintelligible. We bait them to be more forthcoming and revealing by releasing a few of them at a time. Wary of yet another trap, at first, they peek out with pinpoint pupils. Once they see the fire-breathing dragon is only papier-mache and has human feet with yellowed toenails, they rush out pell-mell, leaving behind a boneyard of dangling participles, split infinitives and tired cliches. Their fires of determination are stoked with dreams of literary stardom, their tickets punched on express trains to glory.

It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: “If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.” Stephen King, author of 11/22/63: A Novel

Need Marketing, Editing or Proofreading Services – Professional Quality, Quick Turnaround, Reasonable Prices? Doors open early at our May Madness Sale.

Happy Writing!

R. R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Building Your Author Platform – Part Two

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, most recent book by Barack Obama, with Loren Long

An Author Platform is a way to quickly communicate your genre and entertainment value if you’re writing fiction, and your expertise and credibility if you’re writing non-fiction. Here are additional suggestions on how to achieve an “Expert Author” status:

1) Grab a Partner or Two – Find a few friendly authors in your niche or social media circles and reach out to them. Find them by replying to commenters on your blog or those how have opted-in to your menu of scrumptious freebies. You can help each other by reviewing each other’s books, doing guests posts on each other’s blogs, and participating in each other’s promotional activities.

2) Invite Guests Over for Tea – List a series of questions being asked on forums and blogs. Then, entice media pros or top-selling authors to guest blog with their thread focusing on the interests of your list. Ask them to share in advance with their readers where they will be blogging that day. The advice they leave behind will not only set up your blog as a repository of memorable content in the reader’s mind but your work will be introduced to the guest’s following, hopefully luring some of them to join your ranks too.

3) Ask, Don’t Tell – Use a poll to get your readers involved by querying them for an answer to an obstacle you have faced, perhaps even one you have already solved. Publish a summary of their submissions, and include what worked best for you.

4) Wind the Clock – “Host” a contest on a regular basis with a writing prompt specific to your genre. Frame the contest rules with a firm time deadline and give away a prize related to your niche, or a book bag, workout shirt or coffee mug imprinted with the cover of your book. Ask the winner to send you a photo of them with the item and publish it to gain momentum for the next contest.

5) Get a Second Opinion – Use the free tools at www.grader.com to optimize your website, author ranking or SEO. For example, the analysis may conclude that your website/blog needs more content or inbound links or that your Twitter presence is weak.

6) Be a Gatherer, Not a Hunter – Compile a list of resources such as websites, free downloads, social media, publishing or marketing advice and share it. Ask your readers for their reviews and experiences.

7) Save Yourself – Know that building your platform will take time and effort so decide how much of both you are willing and able to expend, then create a schedule and stick to it. Being a successful Indie author is a marathon, so save some energy for Heartbreak Hill and your run to the finish line.

If you’ve started writing, it’s never too early to start building your Author Platform. Download your Free Book Marketing Checklist from Indie Author Counsel.

Happy Writing!

R.R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

 

BOOK COVER DESIGN BASICS

Cover created by Joy Sillesen

Joy Sillesen, our guest blogger today, is a publishing industry veteran who has designed everything from websites to event posters, but her real love is book cover design. At last count, she has designed over seventy-five covers, with no signs of stopping any time soon. She is also a multi-published author under the pseudonym Christine Pope. Visit www.indieauthorservices.com for more information and to view her portfolio.

Some Basic Cover Design Rules of Thumb

by Joy Sillesen

The indie publishing movement has empowered many people, giving them the opportunity to take the publishing process, from writing to editing to cover design, into their own hands. As exciting as this hands-on approach can be, it can also lead to covers that look downright amateurish. If you need a cover but can’t afford a cover designer…or just want an excuse to start playing with Photoshop…then there are a few basic rules you should keep in mind.

—Typography that’s easy to read

Although it can be tempting to plaster a bunch of fun fonts all over your cover, it’s not recommended. I know fonts are fun (I have tens of thousand of them in my own font library), but it’s generally recommended that you use at most two. Most of the time the title should be bigger than the author’s name, unless the author is a household name. The title should be the first element to help sell your book. If you choose a curly script font because your book is a historical romance, make sure it’s readable even at thumbnail size. A large number of people do their book buying online, and they’re confronted by rows of thumbnail-sized images of book covers. If your title is unreadable, there’s a good chance they’ll pass right over it.

—An image that’s recognizable at thumbnail size

Again, because people tend to browse online, the image on your book cover should be something that can be processed quickly. If people have to squint to figure out that that green shape is a dragon, then you have a problem. This is where learning the most effective way to crop an image becomes so important. You can be working with the most beautiful image in the world, but if it’s not placed so it creates the maximum impact, then it’s not going to do you any good.

—A professional image that’s appropriate for your genre

The images used on your cover can create a visual shorthand for a book’s genre. A woman in a big pink ball gown being embraced by a bare-chested hunk signals that you’re probably not looking at an espionage thriller. Most people these days use stock images, since the cost of custom art is so high, and there are many stock image websites out there that provide literally millions of images. However, make sure the image you select effectively conveys the essence of your book. In many cases, layering multiple images can help to customize the look of stock so it’s not immediately recognizable. Also, unless you’re a professional photographer, avoid the temptation to use your own images on a book cover. In general, snapshots can’t replace photographs taken under controlled studio conditions or by photographers with specialized equipment.

—A clean, uncluttered design

White space is your friend. A design needs those “empty” areas to give the eye a rest and also provide a cue as to where you should be focusing your attention. Avoid the temptation to put blurbs all over the cover or make the text so big that it overpowers the background image. For e-book covers especially, all those kudos from fellow authors or lengthy subheads are going to get lost at thumbnail size. Sometimes a subhead is necessary, but keep in mind that it probably won’t show up in a thumbnail. And while it’s great that someone thinks your book is Pulitzer material, save that verbiage for the book description or the “Editorial Reviews” section of your book’s product page on Amazon.

—Colors that complement one another

I’ve heard some people say that cool colors work better for e-book designs. I’m not going to be that narrow in my recommendations – after all, I wouldn’t give a book with a desert setting a cover done in greens and blues – but the colors chosen should work together. Also, certain genres tend to have predominant color palettes; black, red, and white for thrillers or mysteries, for example. Conversely, romances often have softer, warmer palettes in shades of pastels.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone is going to agree on what makes a great cover, since people’s taste varies so greatly. However, if you keep these simple rules in mind as you’re designing a cover, you’re much more likely to create something that works as an effective sales tool for your book. Also, don’t be afraid to look around for design inspiration – there are thousands of talented designers whose covers can help guide you as you determine what works best for your book. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure your book cover creates the impression you intended.

Thanks, Joy! I love the book cover Joy designed for my upcoming release, Chakra Secrets, and definitely recommend professional design as the first step to creating a best seller.

For more advice on marketing your book, download our free Book Marketing Checklist.

Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com