Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Lovable Redhead, Crystal Barnes

She's one of the most lovable characters in our WOTS group. She laughs easily, turns red easily, and is so deliciously teasable. Let's face it: Crystal Barnes is just fun to have around.

Since I'm a fellow redhead, I could get away with asking her some of these questions. All of us redheads had "incidents" growing up that brunettes and even blonds don't suffer. We're different--there aren't too many of us in the world.

So in search of finding common experiences, I asked:

What's your worst "being a redhead" memory?

That would probably be acquiring a nickname my freckles afforded me. Don't ask what it is. I haven't repeated it in decades. [Yes, I can relate.]

What's your best?

Hmmm...that's a hard one. Maybe the year I went as Pippy Longstocking to a Halloween gymnastics party. We used clothes hangers to make my long hair stick out and everything. [Giggle!]

Bonus: Do you have the temper that matches the characterization of redheads being quick to anger? Or do you feel you have the flamboyance we're accused of?  

I'd say God has a lot to do with me not having much of a temper. I have been accused of being feisty though. I prefer the word determined. I don't know if anyone's ever used the word flamboyant to describe me. I think redheads become accustomed to being unique/different from early on. Maybe that's where that term comes from and maybe why God gave me red hair. I had to be used to being unique. Writers are for sure. [Yep.]

Okay, enough of that. Moving on:

You're definitely a country girl. You could write contemporary country/western novels but opt for historical. Do you feel like an anachronism?

(Ehem, excuse me while I go look up that word. LOL!)

At times, yep, I definitely feel like a girl out of my time period, but then I figure God gave me a love for knowing how to live off the land and old-fashioned things for a reason. When I was a kid I used to LOVE it when the lights would go out. To me it was loads of fun to warm water on the stove to take a bath and use oil lamps to light the house. Yep, I know I'm weird. (FYI: I love watching Little House on the Prairie.)

Where do you get your story ideas?

Um...God. He's the Master Storyteller, and I can't do anything on my own. I strive to write the stories He gives, otherwise they're just words on a page, a waste of ink, paper, and time.  

You've been doing cover design and formatting for a while. What got you into that?

I actually got into cover design and formatting with my own books. The first being Win, Love, or Draw. When others saw the quality of my work, they shocked me by asking me to do the same for them. I'm glad to help, especially considering I find it fun stuff. 

Do you have a website or something for people to find your service? (If not, how do people reach you? Are you taking clients outside WOTS?)

Currently I've been working off of referrals (some of these have been outside of WOTS), but I might be adding a page to my website soon. Folks, are welcome to contact me through my website if they're interested. 

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!! 

Monday, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Vickie McDonough, Marcia Gruver, and Crystal are celebrating the release of a new collection of 5 Texas-style historical romances - Lone Star Love

Crystal's  contribution to the box set is Signed, Sealed, & Delighted (Marriage & Mayhem, Prequel Novella)

Be sure to join the 5-day-long celebration on Facebook. 


An award-winning author, Crystal L Barnes is a born-n-raised Texan and an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), her local ACFW chapter, 19th Century Writers, and her local church. She has a degree in Computing Science because she loves putting things into their proper place, and she enjoys writing because she gets to share her love of old-fashioned things and the Lord. Find out more about Crystal at or connect with her on FacebookGoogle+, or Pinterest. 

Want to stay up to date on the latest happenings? Sign up for Crystal’s Newsletter.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Cover Trends

Things I learned about book cover trends from designing print ads

by Cynthia Toney

Let me say right away that I don’t design book covers. I’d rather write young adult novels.  But like any fiction reader, I’m attracted to certain book covers more than others.

After receiving positive feedback regarding the first two covers of my YA series, I began to pay close attention to YA covers I liked. That led me to consider trends, and that led me to figuring out what made them work in attracting my attention.

In deciphering which features draw me to a book cover, I realized they’re the same features that designers of print advertising, known as display ads, employ in their designs. And I used to be one—a display ad designer, not an ad.

Everyone reading this knows that any two-dimensional design must stand on its own merit. It must please the eye regarding use of light, color, movement, balance, unity, and visual texture, to name a few elements of design.

An advertising designer also knows that the ad must somehow jump out at the reader from all the other ads on a newspaper or magazine spread or page. Readers of print periodicals make a decision in a split second whether or not to read an ad’s content. The same goes for a book cover, and thus for a book.

On a table or shelf, what can be done to make a book cover stand out among the rest? It has to do with knowing the trends and staying ahead of them if you can.

Going forward on memory alone—and it’s been eighteen years since I designed newspaper ads—here are some of the design trends I recognize from those days and see repeated in book covers today.

Big human eyes. Dog or puppy eyes. Snake eyes. Just about any eyes, with or without much of the face. The reader is captivated unless every book on the shelf uses eyes.

Off with their heads
—or one side or top or bottom half of the body. The brain fills in the missing pieces. This trend focuses the reader on what the body is doing or wearing and can give a strong hint about the story. Using only legs can work as well.

The back 
--of a figure or the back of a head. Done right, it directs the reader into the figure’s point of view.

Human silhouette.
It evokes mystery. Unfortunately, newspaper advertisers often wanted to fill silhouettes with ad copy, to the dismay of the designer.

Symmetry, sometimes with Abstract Graphics.
Like many trends, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other when it comes to symmetry. For a time, YA book covers celebrated asymmetry. Symmetry was considered boring or lacking in style or design. Not so any more, judging from covers of new releases. Symmetry can be subtle, such as centering from left to right one or more objects or figures on an otherwise asymmetrical background. Abstract graphics might replace more realistic, photographic images.

Limited Color. 
At one time, all newspaper ads printed in black ink, and the product images attracted readers. Then spot color was introduced to draw the eye to an ad, but eventually most advertisers caught on and used it. When presses made full color printing available, a few big-budget advertisers were able to dominate the pages through size and color. Then the little guys followed suit, the pages filled with color and, once again, no one’s ad stood out. So, some clever advertisers went back to black to get their ads noticed on colorful pages.

Today, book covers appear to be moving away from full color and toward a limited color palette. What sometimes appears to be two or more colors is actually a duotone created with one color plus black. Sometimes the entire background is white.

Lens flare or spotlight treatment.
Brings light to an otherwise dark cover image, or calls attention to a particular area of it.

Large Title or Large Author Name.
This trend was addressed continuously in newspaper ads as “Large Header or Large Company Logo,” so it was more of an ongoing debate between designers and clients than a trend.  Sometimes the company logo was the header, just as the author name can appear large at the top of a book cover. Or the title might appear much larger than the author’s name and be located at the top or bottom.

Playing with the Title Presentation or Font.
Other trends include a title that fills the majority of a blurry background, such as the cover of We Were Liars. Sometimes extra kerning (space) is added between letters to spread them out. Another trend is to place the title text on slips of paper, such as on the cover for All the Bright Places. As in that case, a human image might not appear on the cover at all.

I first noticed all these trends in advertising almost two decades ago, but they work now as they worked then.

By paying attention to the cover trends in our genres, authors can plan for our next book cover. The question is whether to ride a successful current trend—or create our own.

What is a favorite recent book cover and why? Did the cover call to you from among many others surrounding it?


Author Bio:

Cynthia writes character-driven teen novels with twisty plots—because life is complicated.

The first edition of her debut novel, Bird Face, won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in the Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues category. With a new publisher, Write Integrity Press, the original story is now book one of the Bird Face series and titled 8 Notes to a Nobody. Book two is 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Watch for future titles in the series, which will continue to combine mystery, real-life struggles, and innocent teen romance.


Best ways to reach Cynthia:

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wanna Play Dress-Up?

Does this pic from 2014 remind you of anything? It's Genre Luncheon time! We get to dress up as a character in our current WIPs this month. Also, we can read the first chapter from our works, so get your voices tuned and ready.

In other news: 

Janice just released Write and Sell Your Novel in paperback. It will be out in ebook form next week, "but," she says, "if you're itching to write and sell your novel, this is the book for you!"  

Write and Sell Your Novel contains all of Janice's novel-writing tips, tricks, and advice. You really CAN write and sell your novel with this book as your companion.

On a personal note: 

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and notes of love and compassion during the time baby Joshua was sick and again after he passed away. Some of you may have even donated to his fund. If so, you have my deep, heartfelt gratitude. The kids are going to have a hard time covering all the bills, but the donations will definitely help. I'm always amazed how generous people can be.

It's hard to see a casket built that small, even harder when someone you love lies inside. He went home to the Father just a few days before his four-month birthday. 

Tyler and Tina were wrapped up in the logistics of getting the baby home and planning his funeral, but now that it's over, everything has had time to sink in. They haven't been too talkative, and Billy and I are giving them their privacy. Please continue to pray for these two kids. I can't imagine how hard this is for them.

Thank you, and I love you all.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Tyranny of the Platform, by Linda Apple

When the concept of building a platform first entered the writing world—yes, I am that old—I got right on it. Publishing had turned the corner. No longer were we at the mercy of the big publishing houses, but e-books were on the rise, small presses, and even self-publishing had lost some of its stigma. All of this, of course, meant authors had to promote themselves, thus, build a platform. 

This made perfect sense to me. In my mind I visualized a rock concert with a high platform so all could see the band. If I wanted my writing to get noticed, I realized I had to stand above the bazillions of writers. So I made a better website, I started blogging, and I was already a public speaker which fit nicely into platform building. 

And then . . . 

Social media came into its own and provided a fantastic way to build platforms, get noticed, and promote. Now we are told to post on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, get on Google+, pin on Pinterest, read on Goodreads, link on Linkedin, upload on Instagram, etc, etc, etc, 

Lord help me!

Now when I am writing, in the back of my mind the little social media nag sits on my shoulder saying, "You need to post, tweet, get, pin, read, link, upload, etc, etc, etc, because if you don't why write? Who is going to see it anyway?"

So I start posting, tweeting, getting, pinning, reading, linking, uploading, etc, etc, etc, and my writerly muse sits on my shoulder and says, "You need to be writing. Because if you don't write, there will be no reason to do all those crazy social media things. 

Shades of King Solomon threatening to divide the baby between the two mothers! 

Platform is important. It is essential. But it can also be a big pain in the writer's derriere. I had to stop and consider my relationship to the social media world. First I had to know myself and my strengths. I am an encourager, a mentor, an idea person, a teacher. Then I thought about what inspires me to buy a book. Usually, it is word of mouth. Someone else has read it and suggests it to me, or I may have met an author at a conference. Most of the time it is because I'm interested in the genre. 

Then I had to consider what made me ignore a book and that was the deluge of pictures on Facebook of open boxes of books with squeee written above it, or the torrent of book covers filling up my twitter feed. I just roll my eyes and skim over them to the next thing. I didn't like feeling like I am being manipulated into buying books. However, when I know an author is truly interested in me and wants to invest into my life instead of focusing on what I could do for him or her, I pay attention. Simple huh? 

With that in mind, since I'm an exhorter, I started putting quotes and illustrating them on Facebook and Twitter. Each morning, while sipping my first cup of coffee, I pray and ask, "What should I choose today? What do people need to hear?" On Saturdays I use a funny quote and on Sundays something that reflects faith.

This works for me. It is a platform I'm good at. And no matter where I go or speak, I have total strangers come to me and tell me how much they look forward to my posts each morning. Plus, they tell their friends! Word of mouth.

Then, when I have a new book, I come right out and say "Hey, I have a new book."  No backdoor approach for me, by the way, I have a new book, if you have time you might want to check it out. Why do I feel I can be so bold? Because I have built a community. My followers do not feel used by me, instead they rejoice with me.

So this is what has worked for me. Now I would like to open this blog to discussion:

Do you agree with my frustration? Disagree?
How do you handle platform building?
Do you feel we should try and use them all? Just a few?
What has worked for you?

I look forward to hearing from you , because as writers, we should never stop learning!

 photo Linda_zpsut2iuxtv.jpg

Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

What You Missed Last Week

We had a hodge-podge of speakers chosen from among our own membership last week, and if you missed it, you missed out on a lot of fun. The three of us--Kathrese McKee, Annette O'Hare, and I (Linda Yezak)--have taken different paths to publication, and we each have lessons to share that we learned along the way.

First up was Kathrese McKee, author of the incomparable YA fantasy, Mardan's Markand it's sidekick novella, Healer's CurseKathrese held up her two covers for Mardan's Mark and discussed why the first one was, believe it or not, ineffective.

This is the "old" cover. Notice the model's age. Since YA is to appeal to kids between 7th grade and high school, this model is too old. The other elements of the cover photo are perfect, including the font, the mark, the cowl covering the model's hair, although the compass overemphasized the pirates.

Kathrese drove home the point of keeping your audience in mind when you're having your cover created. Although I love this cover, I can see how it wouldn't appeal to the YA crowd. They want the heroes of the stories they read to be closer to their own ages.

Here's the new one:

The new cover also has the key elements in it, including font, the emblem illustrating Mardan's mark, the cowl covering the MC's hair--but the age of the kids on the cover is much younger, which illustrates the novel as YA.

Kathrese emphasized the branding elements of a cover and the importance of having these elements consistent in all the covers being created for a series.

She also reminded us that we can't do this job alone. The writing, yes, but everything else that goes in to creating a book requires help, which is why networking is so important. As she says, we're not in a vacuum.

Moving on to sweet Annette and her hilarious story of hammering on the editor's door until she got the response she wanted. She recounted her query history that culminated in her getting a contract for Northern Light.

Like it or not, the query process requires waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. Expecting a response the same day of submission is unrealistic. Sometimes it takes months. Annette realized this and was patient for an entire four days. Then she entered the Pester stage:

"I don’t want to bother you, but…
Did you receive it?
Are you working on it?
What do you think?"
Which, eventually, led to the response:

"It's not a good fit because...
It’s not romancy enough.
It has 3 POVs.
It has contrivances.
It has a side story.
It has too much controversy."
Annette, not being one to take "no" for an answer, re-entered the Pester stage:

She e-mailed the editor.
"Were there parts you did like?
If I made some of her changes would you take another look?"
The editor wrote back:
"You have a lovely writing style
And wonderful characterization
And if you make some changes I would happily take a second look."
So that’s exactly what Annette did, and the editor confirmed receipt this time because she knew Annette would pester her again.

Long story short, Pelican Book Group finally did contract Northern Light during the ACFW Conference in St Louis, 2014.

Annette shared her insights:

First The Pros:

1. I was able to get a publisher without going to conference and without an agent.

2. Since Pelican is a small publisher I worked with them one-on-one, I was able to ask questions on a personal level, such as: Why don’t you love my book? What can I do to make you love my book? Help me to help you!

3. I had a lot of input on my cover art and think it turned out beautiful.

4. I was able to negotiate with the editor about what they considered controversial and changed some things to make both parties happy.

5. I learned a ton! You know how your first book is usually a learning experience? Well, your first to publishing is a learning experience as well.

Now The Cons:

1. Having signed with a small press, there’s hardly any help with marketing. I’ve worked very hard to market my books with no publisher help.

2. Even though I got the contract on my own I still have to pay my agent her fee on this book. She couldn’t even negotiate a better deal with Pelican. My daughter figured out that after everyone gets their cut I make less than a dollar on every paperback sold, a lot more on e-books though. BUT, I do not regret signing with my agent one bit.

3. You know all those pictures of authors opening big boxes of books. I did that too, only I had to pay for them. At a 45% discount of course. They gave me 2 free books and 10 digital copies.

4. I doubt I’ll ever see my book in bookstores.

5. My book released February 19th and I’ve yet to see my sales numbers from the publishing house. So for now I’m pretty much in the hole.

I think there are several of us currently abiding in that hole, but we're learning how to dig our way out.

As for me, the entire point of my discussion was to remind everyone to do their research.

My writing partner and I worked for seven years or so to produce our Dan-Brownesque conspiracy thriller, The Simulacrum, and finally got to present it to editors during the 2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis.

Brad had done the research pertaining to the arguments of Creation Science in opposition to those of the theory of evolution and sketched out a rough plot--then gave me carte blanche to write the story around the research. I had my own things to research as I wrote, including what kind of gun to give my ex-marine and what the Virginia State Coroner's emblem looked like.

We pitched to Guidepost (for some unknown reason) and to Kregel, whose acquisition editor appeared acutely interested. She requested the full manuscript. We celebrated--and hounded our agent to keep up with where the manuscript was in the review process. We made it all the way up to final committee.

The verdict?

"I'm afraid the kids may have overextended themselves" are the only words I remember, but what sparked them were the final editor's observations made within the first ten pages of the story.

1. There is no such thing as an ex marine.
2. Marines--current or retired--don't carry Rugers.
3. The state coroner wouldn't likely to be called in on a municipal case.

The manuscript was rejected, even though the errors were minor. But reaching the point of rejection had taken so long, Brad and I decided to put the book out ourselves. After we did, we received a review from someone who dinged us on another faux pas, which never even crossed my mind to double-check. Did you know that the nickname for a BMW is Bimmer, not Beamer? I didn't. Oops.

So my advice to the crowd last Saturday was this: If you don't know, research. If you do know, double-check.

Three women, three snippets of wisdom. We all learn from each other.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Promo Services: an (Incomplete) Overview

I've started working on my marketing plan for the July 5th release of The Final Ride, and I tell ya, this is nuts. First thing I did was to hire someone to help me organize, let me know what to do and when to do it. She charged $50/hour and took only one hour to get me lined up. (I'd give her name, but I don't think she's still taking clients.)
I'm excited to have a checklist and timeline to work from, but one thing she didn't include are the book promo services. Research for that is my responsibility.
When my friends and I put out the six-book set, Much Ado about Love (now off the market), I learned a lot about the value of these wonderful sites. We used eReader News TodayFree Kindle Books & TipsBook Sends, and Digital Book Promotions. Let me tell you, I was amazed with the results. BookBub is the best, but it was a bit high for us. Doesn't mean I wont use it in the future.
It made a difference to divide our advertising costs six ways. Now that I'm doing this on my own, it's going to bite a little bit. I'm looking at the smaller promo sites, like eBook Soda (flat $15.00 price, plus $6.00 for Twitter and $6.00 for Facebook ads) and Fussy Librarian (priced per genre, but no charges over $16.00). These two may have smaller circulation for their newsletters, but I've used them before with pretty good results.
Book Sends has a menu of services, so it can be expensive or reasonable, depending on what you want. For my genre, they have a newsletter circulation of 11,500, and for a 99c special, I can land in their newsletter for $15.  Also, considering I write Christian Fiction, I can look at the sites that specialize in my genre. Faithful Reads, for instance, has a flat rate of $25. I haven't figured out Inspired Reads yet. I must be missing something, because I didn't see submission instructions anywhere.
At $50 for a 99c ebook, Book Gorilla is probably as expensive as I'm willing to go. So that means I can have ads with the ones the group for Much Ado about Love used. Digital Books Promos charged $30.00 for our 99c box set; Free Kindle Books & Tips and BookSends, $25.00, and the whopper of our budget, eReader News Today, $45.00.
Most of these sites encourage you to have special prices on your ebook of 99c or free. Some won't take you unless you've priced your ebook that way, others charge considerably more if you're promoting a book at a higher price. Some have pricing scales depending on your genre. Most prefer that you already have at least ten reviews, with the bulk of those reviews being 4-star and higher. Most prefer--which makes perfect sense--that you have a professional product: well written, with an eye-catching cover. And you should have a professional product whether you're going to use one of these services or not. That should be considered a no-brainer.
Then there are the few that will accept new releases. Free Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, and eBook Soda accept new releases as long as you've got a track record they can look at. And since all the services have a restricted period between one ad and the next (90 days between ads for the same title), I may save these for the new release and use the others to advertise the special price on Give the Lady a Ride. Giving the first in the series another shot at an audience will increase the readership for the second in the series, The Final Ride.

If you're in the same boat I'm in, determine what your goals are, what your budget is, and what your timeline is, then go explore the different services. Look for their requirements and circulation, and how much bang you'll get for your marketing buck. BookBub is undoubtedly the best where circulation is concerned, and if you have the budget for it, give it a shot. It should definitely be on the top of your list.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Coming in April

These three characters are speaking on the 16th.

Heaven help us all.

Kathrese McKee, Annette O'Hare, and I (Linda Yezak) will be sharing some tidbits about our writing journeys. The road to publication is paved with the blood, sweat, and tears of the authors who travel it. Some are lucky enough to reach their destination. The only thing certain about this journey is that you'll never arrive if you shut down your engine.

We three are revving up for the next mile marker.