Melissa C. Walker's Blog
March 7, 2014
Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise Jaden is celebrating the release of her new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION, by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)
The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:
1. Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):
2. Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise’s blog.
3. Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!
4. A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise’s agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!
See how to enter at the bottom of this post!
And now, here are Denise’s Thoughts on the Cover of Fast Fiction:
Since I’m very new to writing nonfiction, I had no preconceived ideas for the cover of FAST FICTION. My publisher sent me a few ideas, all similar with different color schemes, and asked for my input.
Really, I was thrilled with all of them, but I suggested a few small tweaks and my first choice of color. They followed all of my suggestions, which felt really honoring to me (only slight changes of a “speed” look to the font). The finished cover changed very little from the original choices they sent, but I loved it so much, it inspired me to redesign the cover for my first nonfiction book, WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART . Now I love to look at these books together on the shelf!
About Fast Fiction:
Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.
A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
Where you can find Fast Fiction:
Remember, all you have to do is leave comments to get lots of extra entries to win some great prizes.
Don’t know what to comment about? Tell us the name of your favorite writing book!
Access the Rafflecopter giveaway here.
February 9, 2014
Lorie Ann Grover, a co-founder of readergirlz.com, is an idol of mine. Her spirit, her love of reading and her writing… Well, let’s just say I look up to her mucho. Her latest novel, Firstborn, already has a star from Kirkus. And she has this to say about it: “Firstborn originally sprang from an article I read on gendercide. Over 37 million girls are missing today due to China’s One Child Policy. Visit Global Gendercide Advocacy Alliance Project or All Girls Allowed to learn more and act.”
And now, her Cover Story:
“I’m so honored to be included in Melissa’s Cover Stories! I have to say, we authors usually sit at home holding our breath, waiting for our cover reveal from the publishing house. On rare cases we are able to interject a thought before the creation. In On Pointe I was able to ask for a specific type of toe shoe to be portrayed (read that epic Cover Story!). Even more unusual is the request for a correction after the image is designed. Upon seeing the cover for Loose Threads, I asked for embroidery needles to be replaced by knitting needles, in keeping with the story. My request was granted. But as I waited for the unveiling of the Firstborn cover, I prepared to give zero input. Zero. Like normal.
“What a delight to not have a speck of criticism. When I opened the cover file for Firstborn, I was blown away! I remember sitting in amazement that Mike Heath from Magnus Creative had caught the atmosphere, the character, the place with his art. The font itself conveyed the angst and aggressiveness I had hoped to convey within the story. There was my moment of awe, followed by chills, a prayer of thanks, a happy dance, and then a call to my family to see and share my first fantasy cover.
“When I’m working on a novel, at the start or shortly after, I’ll often create a vision board to help me capture those first impressions and hold onto them through the process to publication. I’ll tear out images of characters, the setting, and objects from magazines and books. Then I compose the pieces into a unified whole. This is the vision board I created for Firstborn:
I believe the essence of my board lies in the Blink cover, which was created before I shared this image with the team. The trailer was in keeping with the collage as well:
“I’m incredibly blessed to be working with such a talented team at Blink. I appreciate that they have visually brought my story to the cover. It’s a perfect bridge to the reader.”
Thanks, LA! Cannot WAIT to read this book (which is out tomorrow!).
December 30, 2013
Meg Cabot says of Kristina Springer’s latest novel: “Irresistible as a fluffy kitten. I laughed out loud and so will you!” My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours was a Scholastic Book Club Bestseller and a YALSA Quick Pick. Kristina calls her cover “perfect,” and now the paperback is out, with not one single change. Here’s the cover again, and her original cover story.
KS is running a giveaway on her site through 1/15, and here’s what the winner will get:
• A $20 gift card (Starbucks or Amazon, your choice!),
• Autographed copy of My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours,
• Fake Boyfriend Emergency Kit, and a
• Variety of bookmarks/stickers from all of Kristina’s books
Check out the book here.
December 6, 2013
I am always curious about marketing and different ways to get attention for books of all shapes and sizes. Katie Davis does an amazing job with promotion for all of her titles, and her latest effort in self-publishing is especially timely and fascinating. I interviewed her about Little Chicken’s Big Christmas, a companion to the traditionally published Little Chicken’s Big Day, written with her husband Jerry, and she had some great ideas to share:
MW: What made you want to go the indie route with Little Chicken’s Big Christmas?
Katie: Suddenly I started seeing Little Chicken in a Santa hat kind of almost covering his eyes. Just as suddenly in mid-October I told Jerry we should do a Christmas book with Little Chicken. You can only do an indie book that fast! And if we were going to publish that quickly, why not try to help other writers, too, and do it as a marketing experiment? It’s a reciprocal opportunity. Other writers are learning how to launch their own books, learning from my mistakes, missteps, and successes, and it’s a three-part process, as the first part in an effort that will be repeated for my next indie eBook, the second edition of How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. I’ve re-written it with new content, a bunch of additional chapters and information. I’m launching that on all my social media platforms: my Site, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, My Podcast and it will again have a limited signup time, just like this one did. (The third segment of the experiment will happen in the spring for my traditionally published young adult novel, Dancing With The Devil, published by Diversion Books.)
Jerry: The Christmas story is related to the indie route. We had to get an enormous amount of work done incredibly fast and we knew we’d make ourselves crazy getting it done. Now, Little Chicken has attitude and I love that. He does go along with his mom’s running around and Christmas errands, but he *is* a kid and gets impatient! And from that kid point of view, the holiday season and all that hustle and bustle is crazy! The kids are focused on the presents. Little Chicken is impatient at times, but is enjoying the traditions despite himself. Spoiler alert: in the end we learn that Little Chicken’s impatience is from a completely loving and selfless place so we get to underscore the importance of giving and expressing love and family during the holiday season, no matter how crazy things get. What better reason to make our own selves crazy getting that indie book out?
MW: Was it easy to upload/format?
Katie: It was more important to get the book done than learn how to format it ourselves and since we were under the gun time-wise, we interviewed a bunch of places and finally I found a woman we paid to do it. Sometimes you need to hire people to do stuff you don’t have time to do. My Launch Team will have access to the entire process, and so will the next team, which I’ll open up when I’m ready to launch the next edition and vastly expanded How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. People can already sign up for that team by clicking here.
First I created a mailing list and within a week had well over 125 people signed up. I announced it on my blog and explained that I was having an e-book come out Thanksgiving and that sales would be over by December 26. I thought it would be the perfect marketing experiment in a bottle. My launch team members would learn all my methods and then be able to use them for themselves. They’d be able to use my strategies for their own launches, repeat my successes, and (bonus!) avoid my mistakes!
I sent each team member a review copy and ask them to post an honest review on Amazon. It was very important that it had to be honest or it would mean nothing. I asked them to social media-ize it, too. I, in turn, would show my appreciation by thanking them with awesome thank you presents. There will be a raffle for a guest spot on my podcast and since I get an average 2200 impressions per episode, it’s good promotion for the winner. They could also swap that for an hour of my consultation services. There’re also other thank you gifts that members received just for posting their reviews.
It’s been a fascinating experiment, and one I’m still monitoring. I wanted to see how reviews – that is, social proof – effected buying. However, this experiment won’t mean anything until the results come in from the second and third experiments, because this is only part one. This being a picture book, it will be a much different result from the guide mentioned above, and a novel (my young adult novel, Dancing with the Devil). And of course, this is still all kind of subjective, since the team members will be different (pb peeps v. marketing guide peeps v. YA peeps) AND they’re all MY books and MY efforts. Someone else would have a different book to promote, do the promotions differently, have different ideas, and different outcome.
MW: What “creative marketing techniques” did you try? Which worked best, as far as you can tell?
Katie: As I said, we won’t know the true effect until later in the month when the sales figures come in and even later after parts one and two are done. And again, because this is a picture book I will only know part one of the results – rather, one aspect, really.
But basically the entire idea was to see the effect of social proof. When people see that you have over 100 reviews they may think that book must be really good book and perhaps decide to buy it. Social proof is kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Imagine you’re on the street and you see a crowd of people all hovering around something and you hear cheers and oohs and aahs – you want to go across the street and see what they’re all looking at … social proof is the same idea. That’s why I went for the reviews.
Another creative marketing technique is The Write Your Own Coloring Book promotion. When a buyer submits his or her receipt to me at email@example.com, he or she will be sent a link to download the entire Little Chicken’s Big Christmas in coloring book form – but without the text, so the child can create an entirely new narrative. This is very cool because not only will the buyer benefit by getting a gift with purchase, but the child receiving the gift will, too, as will I, by building my mailing list and know who is interested in my work, and I can keep them updated when more books come out.
MW: How did you decide on the price for the book?
Katie: I simply looked at the prices of other books. I actually didn’t do this for the money – that is for next year – this time I wanted to see what would happen if I did this or that. I wanted to sell a lot of copies, so I priced it low in the beginning. Every time I raised the price I offered an incentive, like the coloring book example, above. I’ve made some really stupid mistakes, too! The phrase “epic fail” doesn’t come close! I will be sharing those and my numbers with my teams and I’ll be comparing the numbers to the launches of the guide and of my young adult book, Dancing With The Devil. Because that one is traditionally published I won’t have any say over the price but these are three such completely different kinds of books, so I think the comparison between them will make for a super interesting experiment in the end.
MW: What advice would you give to other authors who are considering this route with books, children’s books especially?
Katie: I try to coach my marketing clients to be creative, and fear no failure! There’s nothing we can’t do now. You’re only limited by your imagination and your lack of trying.
November 5, 2013
Sara Hantz was here in 2008 to share the original cherry cover of her debut, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green. She’s back with a very different book and a very different cover.
In the Blood is the story of Jed Franklin, who has a normal life until his 17th year, the year when his father is charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys… and normal becomes a nightmare.
Here’s Sara with thoughts on the cover:
“My publisher sends out a cover art form, though my input wasn’t very useful as I couldn’t think of anything other than I don’t like cartoon characters! I’m not a very visual person.
“When I first saw my cover, it brought tears to my eyes–it made me so happy. It was better than anything I could have imagined. I love the newspaper headlines on the body of the guy and also how dark and brooding he is.”
Thanks, Sara! The shadow of the newsprint is my favorite part–so cool.
October 29, 2013
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices is an anthology in which ten YA authors use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction embraces a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry and comic form.
Debbie Rigaud is one of the contributors to the anthology, and she’s here to talk about the cover design.
“The title as an illustrated microphone is just perfection. I’m liking it! But that’s not the initial detail I noticed about the cover. First thing that jumped out at me was the color—as yellow as that early Coldplay song. It made me think of the cover for my romantic comedy PERFECT SHOT (read that Cover Story!), which was also unexpectedly of a yellowish hue. The funny thing is—ready for this?—that for generations in my family, yellow was deemed bad luck. I’m talking bad as the devil on Halloween! We think it all started back over a century ago when my great grandma wore a yellow dress on a day that turned out to be her very worst. Well, my obedient mom took the yellow-ban to heart and kept it going. Growing up, the worst thing you could do was hand her a yellow Mother’s Day card with a bouquet of daffodils. How wacky is that? But all along, I (the rebel that I am) was drawn to yellow, thinking it a bucket of cheerful golden goodness. So, it’s all good to me. Thankfully, with my generation it’s a new day for yellow. Currently, my favorite flower is the sunflower (they were the first flowers my husband gave me), I’ve been published in two yellow-jacket books and the experience didn’t sting (pun intended), and I’d welcome another sunny book cover on my author shelf in the future. Let the sunny shine on!”
Debbie also asked Open Mic editor Mitali Perkins about the cover, and she said that she loves that the cover image isn’t a face that’s tied to a gender or other identifier. And interestingly enough, Mitali tweaked the title to fit the artist’s design. The original title was OPEN MIC: TEN RIFFS ON GROWING UP BETWEEN CULTURES.
I love these takes on the cover, which I think is simple and eye-catching and loud in a subtle way (not easy to pull off).
Debbie’s short story, “Voila,” is the tale of Simone. Thanks to overprotective parenting, Simone’s elderly great aunt Ma Tante has more of a social life than she does. But one afternoon, Ma Tante’s social scene awkwardly intersects with Simone’s in the unlikeliest of places.
October 21, 2013
Barry Lyga’s UNSOUL’D is about a mid-list author in his 30s who sells his soul to the devil for the promise of fame, fortune and fans. It’s actually my life story but Barry changed the main character to a guy. KIDDING! But, um, I can relate to the protagonist’s impulse.
The book is also published by Barry himself, so he had complete cover control. Here’s his tale:
“I tend to like very simple, stark covers. If you look at books like BOY TOY or I HUNT KILLERS, they really have single overriding images or big, potent type treatments. I love those covers. So for UNSOUL’D, I was always envisioning something incredibly simple: Just the title on a white background, to make you really think about that word. And then I screwed it up a LOT before I finally got it right.
“I know just enough Photoshop to be dangerous, so I sort of put together a quick mock-up of what I wanted. And I hated it. So, instead of text on white, I tried text on black. That looked a little better, so I tried adding some flames at the bottom. It still didn’t look right, though. I realized that my poor Photoshop kung fu wasn’t up to the task, so I talked to the woman who did the covers for I HUNT KILLERS and GAME, but we weren’t going to be able to coordinate things in time.
“I gave her my pathetic mock-up and said, ‘But, you know, GOOD.’ And she went to work.
“I was really stressed out. I’ve had input into covers before, but now, for the first time, I was 100% responsible. There was no editor to say, ‘Nah.’ No agent to tell me what worked or what didn’t. No marketing people to offer suggestions. It was exhilarating to be out there on my own, but also frightening. If I said, ‘That’s it,’ then that was it — no one would or could overrule me, and the book would rise or fall on my tastes alone.
“Lisa did a slew of different variations on that original mockup (see two below), and they were all perfectly fine, but there was just something gnawing at the back of my brain and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then Libba Bray looked at the eight or nine mockups Lisa had done and said, ‘You know, these are really dark. And your book is dark, but it’s FUNNY.’ And the proverbial light bulb went off.
“I called Lisa and said, ‘Look, you’ve done some cool covers here, but I want to try doing one in white instead of black.’ Which, you know was the original plan before I mucked things up by playing around in Photoshop. ‘Can you try one like the words are burned into paper or something?’
“Within less than twenty-four hours, she sent me the final cover. And it was just perfect. I could have saved her a lot of work and me a lot of stress if I’d just told her my original idea from the start!
“I love the cover! Absolutely love it. It harks back to my very first idea, but Lisa took it in a totally new direction, making it tactile, giving it heft and dimension as opposed to just flat text on a white backdrop. Now it’s simple and bold, but without being dull or generic.
“I don’t know if it’s my computer screen or my aging eyes, but for some reason the word ‘UNSOUL’D’ on the cover seems ever-so-slightly blurred to me. Just the tiniest bit less crisp than the rest of the cover. Which I actually think is cool for a book that’s all about the gray areas of morality. I imagine it’s just the way my eyes perceive the particular combination of colors and lines on the cover, but I’m a fan of it anyway.”
Thanks, Barry! I love hearing how an author who had complete control navigated the process!
October 17, 2013
Diana Rodriguez Wallach was here to show off the cover for Reflecting Emmy, part one of her Mirror, Mirror trilogy (overall cover at left), and she’s back today with the covers for parts two and three! Take it away, D:
“I have two covers to share with you from my YA short-story trilogy, Mirror, Mirror. Part two in the series, Nara Gazing, is on sale now. And part three, Shattering Gigi, debuts in November 2013.
“The cover for Reflecting Emmy, the first story in the trilogy that came out in September 2013, included a mirror and I really wanted to continue that theme. The entire series revolves around reflections. It’s a re-imagining of the myths of Narcissus and Nemesis, and as many people know, Narcissus famously died while gazing at his own reflection. So mirrors are a huge theme in my modern twist on this tale. Emmy is a paranormal secret agent who’s tasked with ridding the world of Narcissistic people by using a compact mirror to judge their reflections. So for Nara Gazing and Shattering GiGi, it was very important for me to continue the mirror theme.
“I know a lot of art departments don’t care about cover models looking exactly like the characters as they’re described within the book, but I feel otherwise. The character of Nara is being targeted by Emmy because she’s beautiful, vain and narcissistic. So Nara’s beauty is a key point in the story, and I felt strongly that it should be represented accurately. I pushed hard for a redheaded model. Nara is a strawberry blond goddess with pale skin and blue eyes and I’m glad we were able to find a cover image that reflected how I imagined her.
“The first time I saw Shattering GiGi, I loved it! I had absolutely no changes. I loved that they gave the mirrored-image a ‘shatter’ effect, and I loved how the model reflected the overall look of both Emmy and her ageless grandmother, GiGi. I also loved the red dress. GiGi is a re-imagining the supreme Greek Goddess, Nyx, a powerful being believed to have been at the dawn of creation and to have given birth to many of the Gods (including Nemesis). Nyx is a bit mysterious and definitely dangerous, and I think the color red gives off that dangerous vibe.
“The first time I saw the cover options for Nara Gazing, however, I had a different reaction and thankfully my publisher took my opinions into account. Below are a couple photos that were initially suggested for the cover.
“My publisher really liked the first image, featuring a model with the short spiky hair, but I had a number of concerns. While the photo itself is striking, as is the model’s expression, she looks nothing like any of the characters in my book. There isn’t a blond girl within this series, and there definitely isn’t anyone with a trendy pixy cut. Ultimately, I felt like the model looked too ‘punk rock’ for the characters in these stories, and thankfully, my publisher agreed to consider some more options.
“The second photo they sent was of a redhead, which for me was moving in the right direction, and it showed how generous the art department was being to accept my feedback. However, there was no mirror or mirrored-reflection in this image and that felt like too much of a departure from the other covers. I really wanted to the mirrored element to tie the series together. Additionally, I felt the flowers and butterflies in the model’s hair gave a woodland vibe that would have been more appropriate for a fairy character, and not really representative of my edgy Greek goddess tone.
“So we landed on the final cover, left. When they sent the image we ultimately chose for Nara Gazing, I loved it right away. She had red hair, she was gazing at her own reflection, she looked vain and popular, and it had a great high-school feel. It’s perfect.
“I’m thrilled with all of my covers, Reflecting Emmy, Nara Gazing, Shattering GiGi and the trilogy as a whole, Mirror, Mirror, I think if you look at them lined up, you can see how they tie together and I think each is striking in its own right. I also think they really reflect what’s within the pages, which is the ultimate goal, right? Thanks so much for letting me share my cover stories!”
Thank you, Diana! See all three covers together, below:
October 1, 2013
Kimberly Rae Miller is here to share the story behind her simple, beautiful cover for Coming Clean, a memoir about growing up with parents who were a compulsive shopper (mom) and an intense hoarder (her dad). Their house was so cluttered that a squatter lived undetected in their attic for years. Here’s Kimberly to tell the story of her crisp, sparse cover:
“Waiting for the cover was perhaps the petrifying part of the process for me. My memoir is about hoarding, and I know what people think of when they think of hoarding. But, at its heart, it’s also a story of unconditional love. I was so afraid that I’d end up with the book cover equivalent to an episode of Hoarders; I had imagined all sorts of dark, dirty, ugly covers with little girls covered in garbage.
“My editor asked me for input, and I was completely useless. The only suggestion I had was something similar to the cover of Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (right), only instead of wood, the profile on the cover being comprised of random stuff. Ironically, I had the same cover artist, the amazing Lynn Buckley.
“When I first saw my cover, I started laughing, and then I started crying. Which is kind of embarrassing because I was at the gym at the time. It was just such a relief, I had been expecting the worst—dank, disorderly squalor. Pink paper hearts in various stages of unfurling—it was so perfect and so light and beautiful, but really encompassed everything I hoped to convey while writing the book. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect cover.
“The only thing that has changed from inception to printing was the shading of the hearts. The digital book has a slightly lighter pink hue than the hardcover.
“From what I’ve heard, secondhand so I can’t attest to the accuracy, the artist, Lynn Buckley, was totally stumped. She called my editor and was like, I only have one idea…I have these pink hearts. The rest is history.
“I absolutely adore my cover art. It so subtly sums up the entirety of my story; paper, love, opening up, acceptance. I won’t give away the plot…err, my life…but, it’s all there in these nine little hearts.
“Also, the digital version has a three-dimensional quality, which is kind of awesome.”
Thanks, Kimberly! This cover drew me in from the first–and I think a clean cover is the way to go, but the crumpled hearts convey so much. See the full jacket below:
September 23, 2013
Susane Colasanti posted about her cover shoot over on her blog, and she told me I could snag an outtake and a quote, so I did!
“Authors usually have zero input in the planning process when it comes to cover design. Fortunately, my editor asked for input before this photo shoot took place. I told her I’d love to see the models in Vans and flip-flops. Just like Seth and Skye wear in the book. After trying them out, the photo shoot art director decided that barefoot was a better look. Which totally worked out for the best. I love the heart as a tool for hiding their faces. Faces are always hidden on my book covers so you can imagine what the characters look like yourself. The endless possibilities for hiding models’ faces is astounding.”
Check out her full story here. So cute.
The final cover: