Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quick Tip: BE aware of what one word can help you do

This is kind of a Bonus Blog entry. I just got The Observers – A Science Fiction Odyssey, back from my Editor, Joe, at KoehlerBooks. Before I jump into this "almost final edit" of that book, which will be released in December of this year, I thought I pass on a few thoughts about the editing process.
After reading through the proof copy of RIFTS – A Science Fiction Thriller, I was doing my final edit. I remembered reading something I wanted to change, but hadn’t marked it. That’s not a good idea. I think that’s one major reason God created sticky notes.
I really didn’t want to skim the whole second section of the book. I did remember that the word be was associated with the paragraph I was looking for—I have no idea why.
So, I did a search for the word be. I was careful to put a space in front of the b and another space after the e because I wanted only the word be, not belong, because, amber, adobe, or any other iteration of a word with be in it.
What I got was.
1.     A long list.
     But, also
2.   A way to find other oddities in the text that required editing.
I found out that by reading the text around the word be provided me with a completely unbiased view of the text. That brought typos, comma use errors, and grammatical faux pas into literally immediate focus because I wasn’t reading the story then.
Did I catch all the glitches in the manuscript by this stroke of genius luck?
Nope. But the manuscript that was printed as RIFTS is the most error free of any of the books I’ve published or had published.
Be daring. Try it. You’ll like it. Because it works!
I have one more most excellent editing tip to share. But, I'd like some more. Any tips I receive from my readers in an email from my website by MIDNIGHT THURSDAY AUGUST 21, will be tested by me during my editing next week. The best of up to 9 of those will be included in a future blog titled, 10 More Editing Ideas to Make Your Revisions Less Revolting.
Those suggestions included in MY list will be posted with the sender’s initials.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a professional editor/proofreader, I have a strong recommendation. Her name is Shelley Greene. She provides feedback (good/bad) and suggestions as well as helping with wording, grammar, and typos.
Shelley’s email is: evergreene91@gmail.com. She is also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shelley.greene.566. She doesn’t work for free, but her rates are VERY competitive. You will be glad you contacted her.
Next Blog: It Takes a Strong Back and Spine To Be a Winning Cover
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Closing the Cover

In my last blog, I described the process I followed for the two books I have that are currently for sale. In this blog we’ll look at two other possibilities: 1) Book under contract; 2) All your own cover work.
If you are looking for a contract with an established publisher, you probably won’t have the option of auditioning an artist or an idea for your cover. You might, but the odds are not in favor of those options. My second book with Koehlerbooks, TheObservers – A Science Fiction Odyssey, will be released December 2014. Koehlerbooks has a unique approach to many of their covers—they offer two options and visitors to their website can vote on the option they like the best. 

Here are the choices in the voting for the cover of The Observers.

And the winner is…

I think potential readers did a fine job. The cover that was not selected is intriguing (there is a solar system on the iris of the eyeball, and the neurons at the top relate to the story), but it doesn’t have a “wow” factor. The winning cover captures the essence of the book without giving away anything significant in the plot. It also includes the visual drama of the faded alien eye (observing!) with the flash of an unknown sun as it rises over the horizon of an unnamed planet.
If you want to start from scratch and make your own cover, here are three things to keep in mind.
1.    CreatSpace/Kindle have very specific requirements for a cover.
Here’s a screen shot of the custom template Amazon provides once you know the number of pages in your book. This template is for 300 pages using white paper.

A.   Where is says to “Turn off guidelines…” they mean erase/delete the Background (that’s all the stuff you see here.)
B.   You need to be sure your front cover photo runs all the way to the edge of the paper, not just to the trim line. Amazon’s print parameters allow for some “slippage,” so run the front cover photo to the edge of the page.
C.   Make sure all your text is at least 0.5 inches from the trim line.
  1. You will need software that a) allows you to manipulate pictures, text, boxes, etc., all in one file; 2) that will save your cover as a PDF file.
  2. These files take a lot of your TIME and your computer’s MEMORY—insufficient quantities of either will leave you frustrated and probably unsuccessful.
I subscribe to Adobe Cloud’s suite of programs—in part for Photoshop and the full-blown version of Acrobat, but also for Muse, which I use to manage my websites. There are many other programs, but those are the three I use most.
If you have another reasonably high-end program for photo manipulation, and you don’t need to do website design/maintenance, then the complete version of Acrobat may service your needs. I really can’t say that with 100% certainty, but I think that option has at least a reasonable chance of success because Amazon provides a PNG version of the template along with the PDF version. However, you have to submit a PDF file to CreateSpace/Kindle for your cover.
Here are my current ideas for the two covers I’m working on for two Mystery Novels in my queue. These are both “all me.” The photo of The Detective, is on both covers to indicate the books are part of a series.

These need work. But I did them without anyone physically helping me. I’ve been using Photoshop for under a year, so I think I’m doing pretty well.
Of course, we still have one more aspect of covers to cover. My next blog will be TWO weeks from today..
Next Blog: It Takes a Strong Back and Spine To Be a Winning Cover.
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

You can’t tell a book by its cover, but the cover can convince you to buy it!

You can’t tell a book by its cover, but the cover can convince you to buy it!
When you walk through a book store (You remember those, don’t your? Physical buildings with shelves of books made of paper organized by genre and author.), how do you decide what book to pick up?
Or, if you’re browsing Amazon or Barnes and Noble, once your search for genre brings up a page of books, what makes you choose to click on a given book?
Answers to those questions vary. For some, it’s the author. For others, it’s the title. But, for a WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE, it’s the BOOK COVER.
What makes a good cover? How about a GREAT cover? Or, if all the ducks line up in a row, A MEMORABLE COVER?
Browse the covers of books in your personal collection. Is there a theme? If not, what still draws you to those covers?
While I don’t have the ultimate answers to my own questions, I do have some ideas to consider if you are publishing your own book.
Design by Publisher’s Service
All self publishing entities with which I am familiar offer cover design for a fee. Fees start at $200 and range upwards of $500. Some companies offer templates where you use their layout (and their art if you wish) and drop in title, author, and other text.
I’ve never done an online search for book cover designers, but I would be SHOCKED if there weren’t dozens to hundreds of artists willing to design a cover for you… for a price.
But, what if you have your own idea?
Self Design
CreateSpace offers a blank template for covers of books published through them. The template is customized for the thickness of the spine. It’s easy to work with, IF, AND IT’S A BIG IF, you have either Photoshop or Adobe Acrobat Pro. I’ve used their template, and I cannot imagine trying to fit your idea/art/text into their template without one of those programs.
During the course of my high school and university teaching, I’ve had several fine artists as students. For Traveler’s HOT L, I was VERY fortunate to have Reed Steiner, now a Graphic Arts teacher, who was willing to work with Koehler Books on a cover design.
The photo that follows is one set of pencil sketches Reed submitted.

From that group, the publisher, with input from me, selected the lower right option to enhance. The next photo shows the intermediate design, also a pencil sketch.

If you compare this to the final cover, you will see how someone who knows what he’s doing (or she’s doing!), can make what I think is a memorable cover.
RIFTS cover has a similar path from a different origin. This artist is one of my students from Great Oak High. I’d seen her work when she was in my class, and I asked if she was interested in helping. She graciously accepted.
Here’s her first idea.

Very cool, but it’s not true to the story. So I sent her the following.

Check out the final cover on Amazon to see, once again, what an artist can do with minimal inspiration! I consider this my tribute cover to the sci-fi author’s and illustrators from the Golden Age of Science Fiction (1940s-1960s)—my favorite time for that genre!
Next week: “Closing” the Cover
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

Follow A Day in the Life of a Science Fiction Writer by Email