Re-covering your books

Coincidentally, the two authors I first connected with when I set out to become an author both revamped the covers of their debut novels recently. I’m also in the process of re-examining my published book’s cover, so I thought it would be useful to discuss the matter further.

How does a writer’s perception on covers evolve?

Science fiction and children’s books author Nicholas Rossis and fantasy and paranoral romance author Effrosyni Moschoudi gave their novels a great boost with new, fresh, awesome covers.

Before I start the Q&A with both Effrosyni and Nicholas, note that they both have amazing offers running right now.

Effrosyni Moschoudi’s The Necklace of Goddess Athena which we will further discuss is FREE from 19-22 November.

Nicholas Rossis’ first book in the Pearseus series is FREE until November 20 and again on November 30.

Have you grabbed your copies? Now let’s talk covers.

profpic 690x884 png 300dpiEffrosyni Moscoudi has received accolades for both her paranormal romance trilogy The Lady of the Pier (an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards quarter-finalist) and her debut time-travelling fantasy The Necklace of Goddess Athena. When the book first came out, Effrosyni had chosen this cover for it:

 

NECKLACE OF ATHENA533x800 (1)

If you click on the book’s title above, you’ll see this new, amazing cover. Let’s ask Effrosyni about this need to give her debut a fresh look.

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Hi, Fros! The new cover is awesome. Really eye-catching! But I’m sure you loved your first cover when you chose it. What were the elements you intended to bring out back then?

When I started two years ago, I knew no one, and my indie budget was non-existent, thus I didn’t have the luxury of employing a professional who could make me a tailored-made cover. Luckily, my sister-in-law, Deborah Mansfield, worked in London as a high-flying graphic designer at the time and although she did anything but ebook covers at work, I thought I had nothing to lose asking if she could help. She was a sweetheart, getting all excited about the prospect of assisting me at the start of my publishing journey and I am forever grateful to her for that. Deborah made the initial cover for The Necklace of Goddess Athena as well as all three in the Lady of the Pier series (plus a fourth cover for a companion poetry book to the series that I plan to publish in January).

 

I didn’t give much input on the first cover. I just sent to Debs a lovely image of the Parthenon (courtesy of my brother-in-law, Adrian Leach – yes, I involved the whole family in that first cover, LOL). I also said it would be lovely if I could have a little owl and a necklace somewhere on the cover and that was the result. Debs chose the graphics, the fonts, the placement of everything and I trusted her blindly. I got a multitude of compliments for this cover across the social media and it helped me tremendously during the first two years of my indie journey.
How has your perception on covers shifted since then?

Well, as you know, they say you live and learn and, boy, is this the case when you’re an indie author! By the time I felt the need to give the sales on this book a boost via a new cover, I had picked up a thing or two on book covers and what makes them more appealing to the reader. They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but it’s a fact that we all do. It’s human nature. So, for the new cover I knew I wanted the wow-factor to be taken under consideration more than anything else. Also, I knew the first cover was static and I needed to have a couple and an action thrown in there for a more dynamic result. I also learned at some point that colors play a very important role and that every genre has its secrets when it comes to the colors its expected to have for the genre to speak for itself. So, for The Necklace of Goddess Athena I imagined dark colors to convey mystery, danger, and to add tension – everything you would expect from a mysterious fantasy story.

And then some. How did the new cover come about?

As I mentioned earlier, I needed a new cover as to give the book a sales boost. This time round I was able to afford a professional designer specializing on e-books and I knew, more or less, what the cover should look like. My graphic designer, the talented Alex Saskalidis of 187designz was, like, in my head! I gave him the blurb and told him I wanted an antique clock and a couple on it, mentioning also the Parthenon and Athena, of course, in case he could find something suitable. Alex worked miracles with that. He came up with this awesome cover that made my jaw drop, and it was his very first proposal. It was exactly what I had in mind. He picked the dark colors without me even talking about this, and picked these incredible graphics too. The glint inside the Acropolis and the clock convey the time travel element perfectly while the couple running hand in hand were straight out of the first chapter. It’s the scene of Daphne and Phevos arriving in modern-day Athens at night. One thing I know for sure –  I’m done looking for graphic designers. Alex was a breeze to work with – polite and easygoing, and that’s equally important to me. Alex was a real treasure to find and I recommend him highly!

No need to use special powers of persuasion. Your cover speaks on its own. I’m already using Alex to work his magic on my own cover.
Readers, if you think the cover is attractive wait till you delve in this book. I did and easily 5-starred it. Here’s my review.

And don’t forget. This awesome book is FREE from tomorrow until November 22! Don’t miss out! Here’s that link again: The Necklace of Goddess Athens.

Rossis_1000pxNicholas Rossis’ rampant fantasy constructs fantastical worlds for grown-ups and imaginative tales for kids. His Pearseus epic fantasy series has reached the No. 1 spot on various Kindle categories, and Runaway Smile, his heart-warming children’s story has earned notable distinctions. You can read Runaway Smile for free on Nicholas blog.

 

Nicholas, let’s talk about your Pearseus series. If I remember correctly, you created the first version of the cover, right?

Yes, and I was insanely proud of it at the time. I used a couple of designs my illustrator friend, Dimitris Fousekis, drew for me—the Pearseus logo and the scales of Themis. I hand-drew a map of Pearseus, scanned it and used it as the background, along with some paragraphs from the book in script font.

I then arranged everything to create the cover, using the best of my artistic abilities.

And why did this enthusiasm wane?

We are such terrible judges of our own work, aren’t we? That’s why we need nice people like editors and beta readers. We fall in love with our work, but can’t be sure just how great—or poor—it is until we verify it with the world.

In my case, I uploaded the covers to  Rate Book Cover—a website that allows visitors to rate your books covers using a simple one-to-five star voting system. To my horror, my covers rated between 3 and 3.5 stars. That’s when I decided to have a professional designer, Alex Saskalidis of 187designz, redesign them.

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I love the texture in the new cover. 

Alex is great with fonts. First, he got rid of the Pearseus logo, which was intricate and impressive, but hard to read. Instead, he used a simple, modern font that hints at science fiction, thereby better conveying the unique mixture of fantasy and sci-fi of my books.

Second, he redesigned the scales of Themis, using photographs. The new scales are much more realistic and eye-catching.

Last, he used photorealistic backgrounds to create a tactile image that suits the books well.

In short, Alex’s approach was more professional than mine. You can tell he does this for a living, can’t you?

The final proof that the redesigned covers work better came when I uploaded them on Rate Book Cover. The new covers got an average score of 4.5 stars. One could argue that a difference of a single star is insignificant, but there are three reasons why I felt it was worth it:

First of all, my book covers now reflect the professional writing and editing of the books.

Second, as Pearseus has been Indie published, it has to compete against professional publishing houses. How can you do that with an amateurish cover?

And last but not least, my professional pride (fine, vanity) has now been fully satisfied. Which is priceless 🙂

Hear, hear! Alex did a great job on Pearseus as well!

Readers, make sure you grab your FREE copy of The Rise of the Prince now! Here’s the link. Yes, I’ve read and reviewed this amazing series. Here’s my review.

And if you want to see more work of the talented Alex Saskalidis, here’s his Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you give a LOGLINE when you’re asked for a TAGLINE?

I’ve seen the issue of tagline vs logline raised in forum conversations, so I did some research on it. Apparently, if you pitch a movie script, and you claim that a logline is a tagline, it can be instantly rejected. I hope that when it comes to books this is not set in stone, but knowing what you’re talking about is always a sign of professionalism, and that’s what we’re all striving for.

TAGLINEvsLOGLINE

So what is the difference between a tagline and a logline?

Tagline

It’s a short catchphrase (or two but not more than three) that captures the essence of your story. Think about what you’d put on the cover of your book.

What to consider when creating a tagline

  • Hooking your reader (how? use puns, fresh language, incite feelings)
  • Serving your genre (how? use genre keywords)

Examples:

Tired of seeing him go through women like water, can she convince him to pull her out of the friend-zone? Blue Streak – Jules Barnard

In one sentence, the author “screams” romance and gives us a strong grasp of the premise—girl wants promiscuous boy to see her as more than just a friend. Note how the author hints at the heroine’s timid nature as she needs him to pull her out of the friend-zone.

Love will go on forever seeking another chance. The Lady of the Pier by Effrosyni Moschoudi

This is a romance with a paranormal twist. Note the key phrase that denotes the sub-genre: love will go on forever

An unshared smile is a wasted smile. Runaway Smile — Nicholas C. Rossis (Children’s book)

Tragedy awaits. The Search by C.H. Little (Thriller)

What you mustn’t do

  • Don’t make it too long which would mean applying a smaller font for your cover (not readable in thumbnail size)
  • Don’t try to describe the plot (or you’ll get into “logline” territory)
  • Don’t make it too obscure (i.e. use a gimmick that makes no sense unless you read the book)

Logline

This is the shortest description possible of your plot. It has to be one sentence only of up to 50 words. If you go over, it becomes a synopsis. Less could be a tagline.

Whereas in the tagline you want to hint at what’s there and leave an aura of mystery, here you have to establish your protagonist and antagonist and explain why the reader would want to read your book. I’ve also seen it called “the elevator pitch”. Think about meeting an agent in an elevator, needing to answer the dreaded “what’s your book about” question.

The logline is not suitable for your book cover. You will want to include it in your Media Kit, though, together with the tagline and your official blurb.

What you should consider when creating a logline

  • What drives your MCs (internal drive)
  • What makes your book exciting (the conflict)

Here’s what I plan on using for my upcoming novella Fate Captured (a romance).

A young woman will stop at nothing to make the stubborn Greek man she’s fallen for see the truth about his family even if it means losing him forever.

My heroine’s internal drive is a need to uncover lies (she’s been lied to by her family, and it’s the one thing she cannot tolerate). My hero’s main personality trait is his stubbornness (well, his Greek DNA is not a big help in that area). Showing the premise for their clash and what that entails (her losing him forever, him hanging on to a distorted view of people that matter) is–hopefully–what makes the book an interesting read.

Now, the tagline for the same book would be:

She wants him to see the truth. He wants her out of his life. Even if she gives it meaning.

Here, the romance branding takes front seat. She gives meaning to his life, ergo his life is empty. He needs her, but he’s too stubborn to see it.

See the difference?

I found an interesting article in pdf form presenting various famous film loglines with comments about their effectiveness. It’s an excellent guide to help you create effective loglines.

http://www.norman-hollyn.com/535/handouts/loglines.pdf

If you’d like to bounce tag- or logline ideas off me, just use the comments’ section.

Thanks for reading!

Time-saving Tips for using stockphoto sites (plus casting for Fate Accompli)

www.depositphotos.com - Picture by stockfoto-graf
http://www.depositphotos.com – Picture by stockfoto-graf

I’ll start with a fact: I’m a cover junkie. Whenever I’m browsing Amazon, and my eyes fall on a great-looking cover, I find my forefinger’s pad tingling to tap the “Buy with 1-click” button. And then I have to force myself to consider my monthly book budget; if it’s the beginning of the month, I’m toast!

When I decided to go down the self-publishing route, I knew that one of the perks was that I got to decide what my cover would look like. No generic stockphoto images that screamed “hot romance” would do for me—an established practice for the majority of romance imprints. I needed the characters I created, nourished and came to love to find the perfect casting, and the Casting Director job would be mine and mine alone. Plus, having no big publisher promoting me, I needed the resulting cover to stand out even in thumbnail size. The fact that ebook covers are seen by the majority of readers in a very small size, obscuring details should be seriously factored in when designing your cover.

Branding

Now, what makes a cover truly stand out? In my opinion, it’s a mix of originality and branding, or rather originality in branding.

Keywords

When branding a product, marketers say, the first thing you do is write down its keywords. Now, when we’re dealing with a genre-specific book, these keywords have to resonate the genre not the plot—think “small size”. For example, a major key concept of my novel is its location: Fate Accompli’s story has a Greek island backdrop so my keywords were “seascape”, “sunset”, “beach” and the general quality I went for was “stunning”—bold, striking colors.

Next step was to start browsing stockphoto sites, and, boy, there are a lot out there! You could try finding free images, and this is the best list of free image sources I’ve found, but I wanted a professional-looking cover, so I headed over to the pros. Here’s a list of the 18 top stock photo libraries which, however, does not include Depositphotos which, in the end, became my go-to site. (It offers a free photo or sometimes a free video to its subscribers every week!)

Tip Time: To save time, you can use Everystockphoto. It’s a search engine that will turn out both free and licensed images.

Stockphoto sites offer you different pricing plans: from daily or monthly subscriptions with varying downloading limits to pay-as-you-go credits or images on demand. Prices differ too. What’s common to all is the two types of licenses: standard and extended (or enhanced).

Tip Time: Any image used for a book cover requires a Standard License (the cheaper kind). Trust me, I got the info straight from the horse’s mouth.

So, coming back to my cover, my heroine’s red hair pointed me to a dawn or sunset color palette. It didn’t take me really long to locate this image, and it took my breath away.

Sunset Large

That image became Fate Accompli’s branding basis. I’ve created my Facebook and Twitter banners with that as a background as well as the header in my brand new YouTube channel.

Searching for characters

Introducing Monica

Monica is 24, holds an MBA, but she suffers from a type of emotional growth stunting. How else would you call the fact that the motive behind her determination to get an early degree with Honors stemmed from this crippling need to gain validation from a guy she barely knows? Her stepbrother’s (former) best friend? She hasn’t laid eyes on Alex in nine years, but he made such an impact on her in her teens, he became an omnipresent force in her life. And he doesn’t have a clue!

Monica is a redhead. Pleasant to look at but not a stunner. Young, fresh, likable, a young girl trying to find her identity while fighting traumas in a childhood that deprived her of her father and turned her mother into a trophy wife of a despot. The victim of incessant denigration, she’s naturally insecure but inherently optimistic. And strong.

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depositphotos.com Photo by khorzhevska

It took me hours upon hours of browsing to locate the right Monica. What I got when entering the basic keywords (young woman, redhead, portrait) were heavily made up women with a sultry look. I did locate her, however, on Shutterstock. And bought her in Large (sorry about the object reference, but I am referring to the image right now). Wrong move. The exact same image was available on Depositphotos for a cheaper price (or rather a cheaper plan). But, although I had searched there for hours, the same keywords hadn’t turned up that image.

Super Tip Time: If you find an image on a stockphoto site, and you want to check if the same image is available on other sites, possibly cheaper, you can right-click on the image, choose ‘Search Google for this image’ and bingo! You get all available locations of the same image.

Introducing Alex

On the outside, Alex Argiros is king. He runs a successful natural stone giant, he’s good looking, fit, healthy, a player … and miserable. Alex wanted to become a doctor. He never cared for corner offices with a view. But his father’s dying wish was to turn the company around after his business partner’s betrayal. And Greeks don’t take their father’s dying wish lightly. Alex dropped out of a promising residency in a New York hospital and became a success in an area that left him cold. Needless to say that the driving force behind his success was to see Stavros Chrissos, his father’s nemesis, ruined. If he knew that the girl he hired as his PA was that man’s stepdaughter, he would have thrown her out on the curb, no questions asked. He ends up loving her. Until he finds out…

depositphotos.com Photo by darkfreya
depositphotos.com Photo by darkfreya

Alex gave me an even harder time to locate. My keywords were “handsome”, “male model”, “dark hair”, but “handsome” is, well, a very subjective notion. I found a lot of passable guys, so I made good use of the Lightbox solution offered by most stock photo sites.

Tip Time: If you’re registered on a stockphoto site, hovering over an image will give you the option of storing it in a ‘Lightbox’. Lightboxes are essentially folders you create to store your potential downloads. Very useful!

This guy was my favorite. I find him objectively handsome plus his thick brows and hair are just as I had described Alex—the blue eyes could easily darken to suit my stereotypically Greek male—so I went for him … so to speak. My initial idea was to have only his portrait in the Spicy version, with Monica on the Clean, but when I tried this model on that backdrop, the result screamed “gay romance”. So I opted for Monica on both covers (stronger branding) and Alex accompanying Monica on the Spicy.

Tip Time: Tin Eye is a ‘reverse’ images search engine. You upload an image or add its URL, and it tells you where it came from plus if other resolutions exist! Plus it has a browser plug-in. How awesome is that?

My Casting Director job was now done! I sent the three photos to, George Saliaris a graphic artist I had connected with on Facebook and whose portfolio I had liked, gave him my concept and asked how much he would charge to put the whole thing together. His price was 25 Euros ($31.5) for each cover when a professional cover designer would charge even ten times as much. Of course, the images’ rights had already been purchased by me, so the overall cost for one cover would amount to $40.00. The two covers I did cost cheaper as I used the same images on both.

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The Clean and Spicy stamps used to further separate the two versions (Clean & Spicy) was an awesome suggestion by Nicholas Rossis, author of the epic fantasy series, Pearseus. They are barely discernible in the thumbnail size, but I have used the terms on the Amazon book title as well, so I think the distinction is clearly displayed on each book’s Amazon page.

And … voilà!

girlcover_152x228_finalI think my goal to create a simple but visually attracting romance book cover that references summer (a subtle notion of a Greek island setting) was achieved.

And today those covers are out for the world to see, and have on their tablet, phone or Kindle! Along with the book, of course!

If this article enhanced your knowledge on cover creation or working with stockphoto sites, I’d appreciate something in return:

Thanks for reading, and any ideas, questions or pointers you have feel free to share in the comments’ section.

_____________

Fate Accompli is now out on Amazon in two heat versions. The links below will take you directly to your Amazon store.

Fait Accompli - Spicy version

Fate Accompli Spicy: getBook.at/FateSpicy

Fate Accompli Clean: getBook.at/FateClean

If you’d like to read the first chapters of Fate Accompli, they’re available on Wattpad.

Tour book companies: Host them before you hire them!

Source: depositphotos.com
Source: depositphotos.com

Okay, your manuscript is complete, edited and proofread, and a launching date is dancing in your head. Bravo! In the meantime (hopefully) you’ve spent serious time building your platform. You’ve connected with like-minded authors, hosted them in your blog, made use of “pay it forward” in the most generous way since you still have no wares to hawk, and you know that these kind people will be more than happy to help you when your time in the spotlight comes. But will that spotlight shed enough light on you?

Unless you’ve been extremely lucky to have a big name, same-genre author with a massive following at your beck and call, most likely, you’ve connected with talented but recently published or aspiring authors, who, like you, have been seeking information on how to build an author platform on solid foundation.

I have made wonderful friends these past ten months, and they are more than willing to host the upcoming cover reveal for Fate Accompli, my debut novel, but only two of these nice and generous friends are established romance writers with a specific genre following. How much can I rely on my fantasy/paranormal/thriller/horror friends’ readers taking more than a cursory look at a book that’s been meticulously branded as a contemporary romance?

On the other hand, being active on Goodreads, I know there are dozens of hyper-active bloggers who promote and review books in my genre. But they’re not writers. I can’t say, “Hi! Your book sounds interesting. Hop on my blog for a nice WIP interview,” and connect. I tried connecting through Twitter or Facebook, but this was time consuming, and I didn’t feel it got me anywhere.

Enter virtual book tour companies. These companies thrive on bloggers, and bloggers feast on them. The tour operators need their clients’ book to get as many stops on the tour as possible (or as many as the plan the client has purchased allows) and the bloggers are reading addicts who need tons of books that they couldn’t possibly afford to pay to curb their “need for read”. (I say that in the best possible way as I’m just like that.)

What I suggest, if you’re a blogger/soon-to-be-published writer/reader like me, is to search for book tour companies in your genre and sign up as a blog host before hiring them. Check out the advantages:

  • You instantly become part of their entire bloggers’ network
  • You get easier access to other bloggers’ sites through commenting on posts regarding a book you also hosted
  • Other bloggers, doing the book tour rounds, will stop at your blog and connect.
  • You get more traffic on your own blog.
  • You get to check out soon-to-be-released books of your genre and also gauge the competition.
  • You can get tons of free books that you choose to review or promote on your blog.
  • Through reviewing you connect with same-genre authors (all authors love to connect with readers who spent time reading and reviewing their books).

and last but not least…

  • You evaluate the book tour company’s services (how many bloggers sign up, how responsive they are, the quality of the material sent to you) BEFORE you hand them your good money to promote your book.

I’ve been hosting for some months now, more actively during the summer, and my experience can only be described as positive. First off, I got to read Truly, Ruthie Knox’s new contemporary romance for FREE! (Sorry, that had to top my list as I’m a huge Ruthie Knox fan.) I’ve connected with bloggers, and I feel that when they see me coming out as an author, they’ll be inclined to pick up my book and blog about it. I’ve connected with the book tour operators on a personal level, and I feel more confident approaching them as a client. I read six free books in August alone! Need I say more?

Actually, I do. How do you go about finding virtual book tour companies? Here are some suggestions:

  • Google them. E.g. “science fiction virtual book tours”. You will get results.
  • Ask same-genre authors for suggestions.
  • Join Facebook or Goodreads groups on your genre and ask the members directly.
  • Ask a company that focuses on a different genre to suggest a promoter that accepts yours. They are well connected.

Important notice: Always check a site’s Alexa ranking before doing business with them. For more on that, read Effosyni Moschoudi’s post: Do you check with Alexa before parting with your money? Solid advice there!

If you’re a romance writer, I recommend the following companies for which I’ve hosted (random order).

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Since you’ve come this far, see if these blog posts are helpful:

When beta readers come with an agenda

5 ways new writers can chase away potential readers

The 4 elements of a click-worthy title

golden 100

Hurrah! This is my 100th blog post, so I thought I’d apply myself a little more with a shareable post!

Back to the title of the post: I tried what I preach with it. (Okay, aiming for a pun, I almost wrote “Headlines: your head is in the line”, which would be a tad over-reaching.) Nevertheless, the point is that if the title of your post, article or even your tweet is blah no one will turn their head your way (there I go again). I might lack experience, but I always count on my instinct and empathy skills. So, in order to turn the headline “skimmer” into an actual reader of my content, I try to think beyond of a summary of what my post contains. I try to create a title that resonates and attracts.

But if we were to put that in a title how would it read?

As the excellent article on copyblogger, entitled Writing Headlines That Get Results suggests, one of The Four U’s of writing headlines is Be Useful To The Reader. Before choosing a title, think: What will the reader gain from reading it? I tried this with my “5 Ways New Writers Chase Away Potential Readers” blog post which has proved to be my most successful so far with over 1,000 views in two days and 70+ comments (okay, there’s also spam I have yet to delete–but a spam-attracting post is a successful post!). I’m not a big name. I don’t have impressive credentials. So, if so many people made it to my actual blog, they must have clicked on the title after seeing it on some of the social media platforms I use, or (most likely) through retweets by friends with a bigger following.

I hope I’ve managed to convince you that the title was definitely catchy and click-worthy. What made it so?

  • It starts with a number. 5 ways. A number always presents something concrete. That’s always appealing. But it’s also a low number. I’ve often come across headlines boasting of showing you “50 ways” to overcome an obstacle. Way too many ways for the impatient reader! Can I tell you a secret? My 5 ways article refers to a lot more than five erroneous tactics new writers tend to follow. But I rounded these up into 5 broad categories, which allowed me to use the number “5” instead of a bigger number which might have discouraged people from taking the time to read. In other words: Be succinct.
  • It brands the target audience. 5 ways new writers. New writers were indeed the majority of the readers of this post, but also experienced writers were interested, as they wanted to see if they had followed these tactics themselves when they started out. In other words: Be focused.
  • It hits the target audience were it hurts–excuse the poignancy, but “chasing away potential readers” is the one thing a new writer would want to avoid at all costs. The whole idea of self-publishing and promoting your book is to “attract” as many readers as possible. And here I am, telling you that you might be doing the exact opposite! Wouldn’t that intrigue you to see if I’m right? (Of course, the idea that I might be seen as overstepping my boundaries since I’m not published worried me, so I started the article by clarifying that I was writing from a seasoned reader’s perspective.) In other words: (Don’t be afraid to…) Be evocative.
  • It ends with a lollipop! – “potential readers”, to writers, are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We want them! We want them all! So anything that refers to them, we usually read. In other words: Be appealing. Use sensory words and newfangled terms. If you can’t come up with any, read more edgy romance. Those ladies are surely creative!(Where do you think “click-worthy” came from?) 🙂

So, that was the anatomy of my top title in terms of “clickability” based on WordPress statistics. Combine the above with the Four U’s of the copyblogger article, and see what you can come up with yourselves!

Also, I hope I gave you an idea of “repurposing content”! Until I come up with anything remotely as popular, I thought I’d bring my older post to the surface again! What!? Not everybody has read it! 😉

Read the other three U’s of writing headlines on Brian Clark’s site:

Writing Headlines That Get Results

Any further insight on how to create magnetic headlines? Use the comment form!

 

When beta readers come with an agenda

WHENI just read an article by Victoria Strauss for the Writer Beware blog which verified my own suspicions based on the following incident:

I recently published a favorable review of an author’s novel, and I was browsing other reviews it had received on Amazon when I saw one that really stood out: it was a mean-spirited, venom-spitting piece in total contrast with what other readers thought of the book in question. You’ll probably thing that the reviewer was a troll. No. This was an eponymous review that offered a valid link to the lady’s site. Of course, I gave her site a hit just to see what she was about. The lady, apart from reviewing also worked as a freelance editor.

Hmm.

I got in touch with the author and asked her if she had any idea why her book had been targeted by that person. She confirmed my suspicions. The lady reviewer had contacted her expressing her delight at the prospect of beta reading. The author gladly provided her with an advance copy. However, the feedback she received was dishearteningly negative: the beta reader had spotted all sorts of errors, the book was in dire need of serious editing, but, hey, the beta reader could help out for a fee! The author told her off, and next she heard of that person was through her book’s reviews page.

Apparently, that’s becoming a pattern. There’s a growing number of documented pitfalls a self-published author can fall into, but that “friendly” approach is squeezing through to stand in the front row. I find myself truly riled up at the thought that someone in the know will play up on every writer’s weak spot–the need for reviews–to get access to her work, aiming all along at either making a profit or trashing it. I had half the mind to out that person on Amazon, but I’m not confrontational by nature and wouldn’t be able to stomach the possible backlash.

How would you deal with a beta reader who suggested “improving” your book for a fee, knowing that a rejection might lead to a negative review?

To read the article on Writer Beware click here.

13 Strategy-Altering Blogging Stats

I’ve decided to reblog this amazing blogging infographic posted on Red Website Design Blog, as my blogging experience attests to its validity. When I posted my top post “5 Ways New Writers Chase Away Potential Readers” which garnered over 70 comments and almost 1,000 views in just a couple of days, I thought the blog would sort of be on auto-pilot in terms of getting a steady flow of new followers, as long as I didn’t neglect it altogether. But no, that didn’t happen. Apparently, blogging once a fortnight, or even once a week leads to semi-stagnation.

My weekly WIP: Where, How and Then What interview column, featuring authors presenting their workspace and work process, generates traffic especially on Mondays through #MondayBlogs, but, still, I’ve noticed that more regular posting is needed to add to those followers and media sharing numbers. My recent involvement in the Friday Fictioneers weekly event which asks of the blogger to create 100-word short stories based on a picture prompt seems to have done the trick of adding engagement on top of new followers. That’s all very recent, however, so I’ll come back with more info on that.

What’s your experience? Study the infographic and, please let me know if you have anything to add. (Clicking on the picture will take you to the actual article.)

Calling All Critiques: Introducing Your Hosts

As I posted on Monday, MM Jaye writes is part of the upcoming Calling All Critiques cross-blog event. Today’s post is to introduce the bloggers who will be participating, critiquing, and calling everyone they know to help support those brave souls who have shared their work. You can read more about the event here: Calling All Critiques: A Cross-Blog Event.

Meet Our Hosts

We have seven fabulous bloggers who will be participating in Calling All Critiques.

Brian Basham

Brian grew up and still lives in Va Beach, VA where he spends his time playing with his black lab, Sadie, a.k.a. Inspector Puppy. In his spare time he plays softball, poker, and the occasional video game. Oh, and he writes too. You can read some of his stories for free at his Wattpad page. The first novel in his Virtual Wars series is going through edits and rewrites with no current release date announced. He blogs about writing, publishing, movies, and whatever else he feels like talking about at http://www.brian-basham.com/.

MM Jaye (me)

MM Jaye is the pen name of Maria Messini, a bilingual Greek native who lives in Athens with her husband and daughter. She is a certified translator and also teaches the art of translation to young adults. Writing was Maria’s idea of therapy when, back in 2009, her spirits had temporarily nosedived, but she didn’t take it seriously until her first manuscript was completed last year. Since November, she’s been building her author platform aiming at publishing Fate Accomplis, her first contemporary romance, in the fall, along with Fate Captured, a prequel novelette. She blogs at mmjayewrites.com and myfriendsexcerpts.wordpress.com. You can also find her on Twitter @MMJaye or Facebook.com/MMJayeauthor.

Quanie Miller

Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. Her debut novel, It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy, is a romantic comedy loosely based on her experiences living and working in Silicon Valley. Her first paranormal novel is called The New Mrs. Collins and is slated for a September 2014 release. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress follow her on Twitter @quaniemiller or visit quaniemiller.com and quanietalkswriting.com.

S. L. Saboviec

Samantha grew up in a small town in Iowa but now lives in the suburbs of Toronto with her Canadian husband and expatriate cat. In her spare time, she reads, writes, and thinks about reading and writing—along with playing the occasional video game or eight. She’s expecting her first child in September, but pregnancy has only slowed her down a little; her debut release, Guarding Angel, will be available May 19th. She blogs speculative fiction book reviews at the Magic & Mayhem Book Review Blog and tweets about life and writing from @Saboviec.

M. G. Silverstein

M.G. Silverstein is a YA fantasy novelist and fantasy genre blogger. She is currently completing her second Bachelor’s degree in English (her first is in Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts). Her debut YA fantasy novel Elemental will be available in 2015.

Although she considers the Washington, D.C. metro area her favorite place on Earth—she isn’t ‘from’ anywhere. Having lived in 7 states, 14 cities, and 2 different countries, the only place she feels at home is when reading or writing fantasy. You can visit her at www.mgsilverstein.com to hear her musings on both the fantasy genre and writing a fantasy novel.

Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos is an editor and award-winning author who lives in the New York area and holds a degree in English Literature. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics and is always on top of current publishing trends and technology. In her spare time, you can find her playing French Horn for musicals, small ensembles, orchestras, and a 10-year-old community band for which she was a founding member. Christie can be reached through her editing business, Proof Positive, her author website and blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Mike Verbickas

Mike says: Growing up in a small town, you spend a lot of your time thinking, dreaming and waiting. It’s this experience I credit to why I became a writer.

A trained journalist and fiction writer, I think I bring a unique mix of skills to the blogosphere. In journalism, you feel most alive when meeting diverse people and experiencing new things. After all, who can’t pass up a good story?

Only one week left until we begin accepting critiques!

While you wait, check out all the participating blogs and bloggers:

We look forward to seeing you back here in a couple weeks.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

17 Simple Ways to Make an Impact (reblogged)

There’s a wealth of “how to succeed” advice, targeting aspiring or new self-published authors, crammed in blog posts that later might turn into ebooks with a short life span — apparently the self-publishing trends are as fickle as fashion. Being an aspiring author myself, I’ve been studying success stories, popular or conflicting views, counter arguments (never skipping the comments section where readers often either verify or distance themselves through personal experience), but nowhere had I seen the “it” factor being discussed; the simple fact that some people might diligently follow well-trodden paths which, in their case lead to a dead end, while others seem to develop Pied Piper-like powers along the way, drawing the masses in.

Before writing this off as simply a case of unbeatable charisma which either you have or you don’t, read this unique and comprehensive article by Kimberley Grabas of Your Writer Platform. Kimberley says that even this can be taught, and I believe her.

Your Path to Influence: 17 Simple Ways to Make an Impact

Image from Your Writer Platform

Languishing in obscurity?

Things pretty quiet on the visibility front?

You’ve tried to follow advice from the “guru de jour” to get your writing career on the map, but despite your best efforts, your ideal audience remains surprisingly resistant to your appeal.What’s worse, is that you know it’s possible to build a loyal, invested community, because the evidence is all around you.

Somehow, both new and experienced writers are finding ways to stand out and get their work noticed.But here you are, playing patty-cake with the crickets, debating if it would hurt to just let one of those spam comments through (it’s about time your blog got a little love, right?):

“am to a great extent impressed with the article I have just read. There is not much to say except the following universal truth: You never know where to look when eating a banana. I will be back.”

Okay, maybe not.

(Desperate chic is not the look that bestselling authors are wearing this season.)

So what does it really take to get noticed?

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(Read the rest of this amazing article on Your Writer Platform.)

From Molly Green’s blog: Save $$ With A Manuscript Proof Checklist

This has got to be one of the most useful articles I’ve read lately, and it’s no surprise it appeared on Molly Greene’s blog. All writers want to submit a clean(ish) manuscript to their editor or proofreader, especially if they charge by the hour, but there are pesky errors that wiggle their way into every single page, of the kind that we tend to develop a blindness to. So, if you think that you’ve done an ace job cleaning up your manuscript, use Molly’s checklist and see what else you’ll weed out. Because some weeding you’ll do. Has anyone scrolled down with the pilcrow enabled? Anyone?

MM Jaye

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Save $$ With A Manuscript Proof Checklist

Does your proofreader charge by the hour? If the answer is yes, you may be able to reduce your bill by taking steps to find and repair basic typo-type errors that slip by during the editing phase. Let’s face it, when we’ve read a (fiction or non-fiction!) manuscript a thousand times, we miss a lot. This is my basic run-through before I send my baby to beta readers, then again before I submit for the final proof.

Um, bad news, it’s a manual process. It can be time-consuming. You’re going to hate it. It offers the best payback when you scroll through your document several times, focusing on one type of problem with each pass. But good news, it works! Use this as a template to create your own proofreading checklist. Note: Before you begin, you might want to make a copy of your mss and rename it to retain the previous version.

Read the rest of the article on Molly’s Blog and do NOT neglect to read the comments’ section! Great tips there too!