Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Creating Eye-Catching Book Covers

Last month I had the opportunity to teach a class about creating eye-catching book covers for the Northwest Writers Retreat (ANWA, anwa-lds.org).
It was a great experience for me to share some tips that I have learned and to help authors who are self publishing to create book covers that will bring readers in!!
I would like to share a few points from my class so that anyone can learn what works (and what doesn't) for their own book covers.

Tip One: EVERYONE judges a book by it's cover. It just happens. Some covers will catch your eye and draw you in, others you will simply overlook because it doesn't appeal to your taste. Make sure that you always set a MOOD for you cover. The cover needs to reflect the mood of your book. If it's a romance, choose colors associates with romance- deep, lush colors such as purple, red, even deep greens or blues can work. If you write paranormal then keep the colors dark with stark breaks between colors.
Here is an example of "mood" from an anthology published by Xchyler Publishing (www.xchylerpublishing.com)
When you look at this cover, you get a good feel by the mood it sets. There are dark colors, with shocking red as contrast. Fonts and images are what make the rest of the mood work. So choose fonts and images that match the color mood you're creating. The distressed title font and the creepy eye in the center gives an overall "feel" for what type of book this is, right?

Tip Two: Give a glimpse into the the story (without giving everything else away). Follow the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW formula. Here is a good example of this:

As you look at this cover, what do you know? Who? A girl, probably a teenager (YA). What? The trees are on fire, so fire in definitely involved! When? It's dark outside, so possibly night time. Where? Looks like it takes place in the forest. Why and How? That's why you read the book! By giving some indication about the story, a reader can determine if it's the type of book for them.

Tip Three: Lets go over titles and images. There are rules to follow to ensure your book cover is successful. First, know your genre. If you write romances, use fonts that are soft and handwritten. If you write non-fiction, use clear, bold fonts and if you write thriller/paranormal, use distressing fonts. Make sure to look at other covers in the same genre. See what tops sellers covers look like. BUT remember, the title of the book should be the largest font. The author name should never over power the title. I know it's AMAZING to see your name up there, but make sure (until you're famous) to keep the author name simple and smaller than the title. Second, images are important. Having a focal point is vital to a good book cover. Most romance novels use couples or a woman on the cover- and will let you know if it's a period piece by the way they are dressed. Non-fiction keeps the imagery simple, not to overpower the title, and fantasy books are fun when showing images of another world. Again, check out what other authors are doing. Never copy! But use them as ideas for your own cover, so you know it'll fit in the correct genre. As a side note- be aware of copyright laws. Never used an unauthorized image for your cover. There are many good websites out there that you can pay for the right image.

 Tip Four: Feedback. Yes, it is important to get feedback. But be careful that you aren't just asking close friends and family. They will try to be kind and tell you anything looks great. You need neutral eyes that will be kind but honest. But also remember that if you post it on social media, asking for an opinion, you will get a lot of feedback that can be overwhelming and discouraging. Be selective about who you share the cover with and when you have finished it, post it with pride! Best not to post the final version and then ask "what do you think?" because people will take that opportunity.
Here's a summary of what we've learned today: Mood matters, give a glimpse of your story, titles and fonts make all the difference, and get feedback but not too much! Here is an example how the mood can make all the difference:

Both use the same title but you can see that the colors, fonts, and images make them totally different genres (paranormal vs. romance).

Now that I've briefly gone over the basics, remember that whether you design it yourself or use a professional, this is your book cover. Make sure to have a clear vision of what you want and go for it!

If you are interested in learning more about cover designs, comment below or email me at shhyatt2001@gmail.com. I am a graphic design coordinator for Xchyler Publishing (www.xchylerpublishing.com) and a freelance graphic designer.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Beyond The Wail Book Review

I'm excited to have the opportunity to review an upcoming anthology from Xchyler Publishing. For me, it reminds me of the excitement of my own anthologies that's I've been part of.
Twelve Authors coming together to weave tales of loss and love. Sounds like the perfect way to spend my time reading! 

I would like to introduce a new Author to the Xchyler Publishing family, Author T.N. Payne. It was fun interviewing her and getting to know her better! Her short story is called Dead Man Hocking (which I'll get to that wonderful story later). Although I'd love to include every question/answer, I've included my top five- which really helped me get to know this fantastic author:

1. How did you come up with the title?
Funny thing is, I came up with the title first before I wrote my story. I remember I was thinking about dead men during a break at work -don’t ask me why my train of thought went there because I couldn’t tell you. Then I just had a light bulb moment on the contents of my story and the rest as they say was history.
2. What is your writing drive? The power that keeps you going when your writing gets difficult?
A lot of things drive my writing but one is when my head and heart feel there’s a story that absolutely needs to be told. Another is an inner fire that burns and yearns to affect the world with my writing just like others have done for me. Both of these forces of nature are not to be ignored and so it forces me to sit back down and keep trying, despite the roadblock between my brain and my fingers.
3. How does writing impact other parts of your life?
            For one, it helps me deal with my emotions. I tend to get stuck in my head sometimes and writing provides a release so I can rejoin the world. Another thing is that it’s therapeutic and relaxing. I put everything I have into my words until I’m left exhausted, which is probably one of the only ways an insomniac like me can get a few hours of sleep.
4. What activities best give your brain a break? How do you unwind?
Music. It works every time. All I need is to lay down and quietly sing along to my favorite oldies playing on Pandora.
6. What is your advice to writers?
Take a chance. No matter how bad you think your writing might be, to someone else it may be amazing and/or comforting. I never would’ve thought Dead Man Hocking would be published. I spent the entire time going crazy while I was waiting to hear back, thinking the story was awful and shouldn’t have been exposed to the world. But it turned out to be all in my head. So my advice is to take a chance. That tiny act of bravery can cause a domino effect and change your life more than you would ever expect. Like it did mine.

AND... Just for fun nerd list:
Star Wars or Star Trek? Neither. I haven’t watched them *ducks*
Hunger Games or Divergent? Hunger Games
James Bond or Jack Ryan? Bond, James Bond
Sherlock: Robert Downey, Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch? Robert Downey, Jr. (Love him in anything)
Spock: Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto? *shrugs* Pass
X-Men or Avengers? Avengers
Aliens or Predators? Aliens
Minions or Penguins? Minions
Batman or Superman? Batman, no contest (Love the color black and he has his own signal and car)
Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean? Pirates of the Caribbean
Beatles or Rolling Stones? Beatles
Peter Jackson or James Cameron? James Cameron
Steven Spielberg or George Lucas? Steven Spielberg
Vampires or Werewolves? Werewolves (I don’t do blood)
LARP or MORPG? *turns to Google* Oh! Neither. Not much of a role-playing gamer. 
(Now that's a woman after my own heart!! Except, I've got to get her to watch Star Trek/Star Wars.)

As I just got my hands on the book, I can say that it was very hard to put down! T.N. delivers the account of a not-so-human zombie, named Kyle. As for many stories about zombies, it can be difficult to write personality and likability into the character. But Kyle's struggle to fight the monster and have a semi-normal life, with glimpses of his past life, help bring a very real human quality to this zombie. His involvement with a witch pushes his limits adding a twist I didn't see coming. I fell right into the story and found myself engaged in the life happening all around Kyle.

To learn more about this anthology, visit www.xchylerpublishing.com
To learn more about Author T.N. Payne, you can find her on many social media outlets:
Facebook: Author TN Payne 
Twitter: @tnicolepayne

Don't forget the Raffle going on for the book release!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 5, 2015

FALL Into Writing

Fall is my favorite season of the year! I'm a huge fan of crisp Autumn nights, hot cocoa, leaves changing colors to orange, yellow, and red hues and pumpkin flavored ANYTHING. There is nothing better than a slice of pumpkin pie with a (large) dollop of whipped cream!
The summers always seem busy with things happening all the time. This summer was no exception. We had a wedding, a family reunion, family vacation, and at the end of it all, we moved! Whew! I was glad to get back to a schedule of school and homework. My husband thinks I'm crazy for celebrating the end of summer but I can't help it. I love what's coming next.

What I'm most excited about is getting back on track with writing. I am part of a local writers group. There are about six of us that get together once a month and have a critique session or talk about all things writing. It helps keep me motivated. I find I am more focused on my stories and want to devote more time to writing. During the summer, everyone is too busy to meet. So fall means, we're back in business!
Our first meeting since summer, Author Jennifer Shaw Wolf, spoke about "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. I've heard of it before and know it's on my wish list of books to get. We talked about doing Morning Pages (each receiving our own notebook for it) and how that can clear your mind and prepare us for a productive writing day. It was a good meeting and I feel fortunate to have other talented writers in my life that are around to help and support me.
In November is the annual NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month- nanowrimo.org). For some Authors it's a time of excitement as they pull together a story idea and take the month to write it out. For others, it can be a cause of stress. Maybe we put too much pressure to complete a work of art in one month. Truth be told, I have never completed it. But that doesn't mean I don't try. Any writing done is better than none at all. So I am going to attempt, again, to complete NANOWRIMO and hope for the best! Wouldn't it be cool to report that I had, indeed, written a 50K word novel?! But if I don't do it, there's always next year, right? Ha ha
With the cool air and falling leaves, I need to put on my writing sweater (yep, I truly have one) and grab my hot cup of pumpkin spice tea, and settle in for some time with words. I will continue to carve out time every day and hope that I can meet my goal of finishing a novel this year.
Happy Fall Everyone!


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Writing of Two Worlds

I am a short story writer. Well, that's what I tell others for now. I have written two short stories that have been published in really neat Anthologies by Xchyler Publishing (xchylerpublishing.com). 
The first, Stunner, was published in A Dash of Madness: A Thriller Anthology. It was quite a journey for me, having to re-write the entire setting. I learned a lot, cried a lot, and ate chocolate... a lot! But after all the blood, sweat, and tears, the story came out better because of it. I have had people contact me asking me when the next Stunner story will come out. I know, I know, it's on my "To Do" list.
The next story came from my own adventures in Ireland. I fell in love with that country and had to write a tale. That's how Faelad came about, which appears in Legends & Lore: An Anthology of Mythic proportions. Faelad is the re-telling of two Irish myths - The Morrigan and the warrior Cuchlainn. It was a fun write, bringing mythology to life.
 After the second story was published, my husband announced, "I'm so proud of you, but you can't write any more short stories. You need to write your novel now."

I knew he was right. I have had a story swimming around my brain since high school (and I won't mention how long I've been out of school). It was time to sit down and really work on my first novel. However, like many authors, my brain is full of ideas and characters and before long, I was side tracked onto another story. This was a complete change from the YA I was working on. I created a story board, did all the research and was well on my way to writing a Historical Fiction.

Then life has a way of getting in the way and the summer took over. We moved, went on vacation and sent off a kid to the "real world." 

Now that things are settling down, the only story occupying my mind is back to the YA Paranormal one. I have now realized some important flaws to the original plot line and the characters have been coming alive again in my brain. I can't stop thinking about it. But the other story was well on it's way also. What do I do?? Conflict filled my being as I went to the computer to write. I need to finish something, anything. To complete my goals as an author. I can't jump back and forth between stories... or can I?

After consulting, once again, with the most patient husband in the world, he reassured me. I can write what I want, when I want. There aren't any rules dictating how I get the end result, as long as I get there! So if one story is alive, go with it. If it stalls a bit, set it aside and jump into the other world for some time. Every writer has to go on their own journey. What leads me one way won't be the same for other authors and that's okay. In fact, it's vital to be alone in the journey. If we all ended up in the same spot, we'd have some pretty boring books out there! Another author, Ben Ireland, recently posted "Writing a novel is lonely work, at least for someone relatively small time like me. But even alone, it is still so exciting to create a world, and then systematically kick it's ass..."

I am embracing the two stories I'm working on and loving them as different but equal loves. Like children, they are unique, with personality and challenges. I will focus on whichever one needs attention at the moment and eventually, I will get to that finish line, but only on my terms. 

Happy writing to all of my fellow authors out there! The writing is the FUN part!! 
Follow me! Facebook: Author Sarah Hunter Hyatt and Twitter: @shhyatt