The Phoenix Conference: Buildin’ the Dream

Janet, Ruth, Judy, and Rose

From left: Janet Syas Nitsick (me), Ruth Ann Nordin, Judy DeVries and Rose Gordon

Flying away to Phoenix for a writing conference was one special time not only in what the conference offered but also in the flying experience.

Never before had I flown first class. Dreamed about it but did not believe I would do it. However, the trip to Phoenix changed that.

I experienced a full-course meal, including wine and dessert and bags arriving first in the baggage terminal. It was a great and sure beats my last time flying where my youngest autistic son ran out the plane while waiting to take off from Omaha Eppley Airfield. You can read about this in my first book, Seasons of the Soul.

Of course, Phoenix’s scenery was spectacular. A little too hot in late May for even this cold-blooded individual with temperatures around 107 degrees. But, the sand domes in the horizon took your breath away!

But I digress. What I liked about the Buildin’ the Dream Conference was how you got to interact with fellow authors, publishers and workshops speakers. It was more informal, where you could enjoy eating in the hotel’s breakfast buffet where conferees gathered and intermingle with them or in the lobby area.

You were not going from one workshop to another in rooms so packed you barely could breathe. In addition, you did not walk a mile in high heels to find food. Everything at the hotel was at your finger tips.

The nice advantage of attending a conference like this one was the wonderful speakers, such as USA Today best-selling author Rose Gordon, a top, book-cover designer Anya Kelleye and a Phoenix attorney, Megan D. Scott, who is an entertainment and copyright lawyer.

Gordon gave two presentations. Her first was “Mistakes Authors Make – Historical.” Gordon knows how to sell and make money, thus she knew of what she spoke so you listened.

She writes Regency and American historical romances. Gordon said for you to think of the setting as your wallpaper where people wear clothing and interact to those time-period dictates. Remember, however, to focus on the romance so do not get caught in details which overshadow your storyline. Your office needs to include a dictionary, access to Web resources, a book on that age’s idioms and a trusted friend who knows more than you about the period, she said.

Adding to Rose’s last point, I have a friend who read my Lockets and Lanterns and my novella, She Came by Train. She is knowledgeable about farms, farm animals, reading by kerosene light and attending a small country school. This friend is an excellent resource. I cannot tell you how many times she caught something wrong.

Her second workshop was “Your Books, Your Business.” Gordon told attendees to write with their hearts but think with their brains. Thus make sure your book is done, edited, formatted, has an attractive cover which sells and is marketable. Study your genre, engage the readers, condense descriptions to a sentence or two and become visible like through blog tours, giveaways, promotional items and advertisements, she said. Each piece, though, has its pros and cons. An author blog, for example, is where people interact and learn about you. The con is the time involved in doing one, she added.

Anya Kelleye showed us some of her cover designs. A good book cover needs a strong focal point and must evoke emotions. She cautioned against using a script font. Instead, keep it simple. Too many images or text overtake the cover, she said. Remember, she added, your cover does not need to tell the novel’s whole story.

The lawyer, Scott, also was a great resource. Each state is unique in its own laws, she said. No matter, however, where you live when you bring your idea to physical material it is copyrighted even before it is published and recorded with the United States Copyright office, she said.

In addition, there were many other wonderful workshops. The smaller arena gave you time to talk to the speakers for a short time after their workshops. It also allowed you space to sit and take notes.

But, downfalls did exist. One was the Buildin’ the Dream author conference, and the Arizona Dreamin reader event shared the same Web site page. The two headers used the same colors and unless you paid close attention you could easily sign up for the wrong event. On their feedback form, I alerted them to this problem.

Would I go again, you ask? You bet, in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful trip. The conference was fantastic and it was awesome meeting people you interact with on the Internet, such as Lauralynn Elliott and Judy DeVries. It also was great seeing Rose Gordon again. laughing with her, Judy and Ruth Ann. They even taught me some new words. It was a lovely trip and traveling and sharing a hotel room with Ruth Ann Nordin made it the best. God bless.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Covers, Book Formatting, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Copyright, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Self-Publishing, Social Networking, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , ,

Combatting the Fear of Failure

I read something a while back on a forum where someone thought something was wrong with their book because Bookbub didn’t take their book for a promotion.  For anyone not aware of Bookbub, it’s a marketing service for authors who will take the book and send out an email blast to everyone who subscribes to receive daily notices of sales.  The best thing about it is that it pairs up the genre of the book with readers interested in that particular genre.  The ads can be expensive, but I hear it pays out in results.  Here’s the link in case anyone’s interested:

Well, I recently submitted a book in hopes of promoting it and was turned down.  I thought if I came out and publicly said my book wasn’t accepted, it would help someone who might be wondering if they are a failure because Bookbub didn’t take their book.

The truth is, Bookbub can’t take everyone who submits a book.  I can only imagine how many submissions they get a day. Considering its popularity, it’s a lot.  There’s no way they can take everyone’s book.  They have to make the hard decision on which book to take, and I bet a lot of books they receive are professionally done.

But the key is that they can only take the books they believe will have the best chance of satisfying their subscribers.  It’s not personal.  It’s business.  If Bookbub didn’t accept your book, please don’t take it as a reflection of your book.  This is not a failure on your part.

And this leads me to other things you shouldn’t take personally.  Don’t assume you’re a failure because you didn’t get an award, didn’t sell a certain number of books, or get on a USA or NYT Bestseller list.  You are not a failure just because you don’t get these things.  These things do not accurately reflect the quality of your book.

So how can you combat the fear of failure if it stars rearing its ugly head?  Here are some ideas:

Define What success Is For Yourself

I think one of the worst things we can do is let someone else define what “success” is for us.  The world has its own ideas on what makes a writer successful.  We have to make a conscious decision to tune this out.  I know it’s hard.  It’s why I often go offline or stick to a very small part of the Internet.  It helps me keep in touch with that part of me that started writing books to begin with.

Do Things You Enjoy

Also, we’re all different.  We aren’t all meant to hang out on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.  We’re not all meant to blog or hang out on forums.  There’s no way we can do everything.    Life is too short to spend your time doing things that you hate.  For example, I hate selling books at a table.  I’m an introvert.  I would much rather be at home writing.  But I have a friend who loves selling books at fairs.  She is a people person and loves to engage them.  I’d much rather blog, and she doesn’t like blogging a lot.  What’s the point in me trying to convince her to do things my way or vice versa?

We have our own interests based on our comfort level and personalities.  Life would be very boring if we all did the exact same thing.  Pick what you enjoy, and do that.  And if someone tries to make you feel like you’re a failure because you aren’t doing something they want you to do, run away from that person as fast as you can.  They will only drain you.  Stick with people who are supportive.

Only Make Goals You Have Control Over

My favorite goal is, “I will write X number of books a year.” Then I go through and figure out how I can realistically make this happen.  Writing books is what I love doing most, and I can control it.  I can’t control if others like it or how many will sell.

Don’t make “I will sell X number of copies” a goal.  Instead, do something like, “I will contact X number of bloggers about my book to see if they’ll review it” or “I will submit a book to Bookbub to see if they’ll let me run an ad” or “I will put a link to my website at the end of my ebook” or “I will write a 1-3 sentence blurb about my other books at the end of my ebook to help advertise them” your goals.  These are concrete things you can do.

Goals that rely on other people to do things for you are bad goals because you can’t control what they do.  For example, “X number of people will tell Y number of people about my book” isn’t a good goal.

Recognize the Blessings When They Come

Not winning an award, not making it to the Top 100 on Amazon, not selling a certain number of books, or not reaching some other landmark you were aiming for can be a bummer.  It’s okay to be disappointed.  You’re only human.  You can’t be happy all the time.  But don’t stay in the funk.  Recognize the other things that are working in your favor.

Good things do come along, and sometimes they come in the most unexpected ways.  My suggestion is to make a list of the good things that come along.  Maybe you got an email from a reader who said they loved your book.  (I suggest printing it out.)   Maybe you found out someone said something positive about your book to someone else or on a blog or in a forum.  Maybe there was someone whose marriage is better off today because they read your books and took the time to thank you.  There are many things in this world we don’t control but do happen to make our days brighter.  If we take the time to appreciate them when they happen, it helps to combat the “I didn’t get X” feeling of despair.  I know it’s human nature to focus on the negative, which is why I suggest making a list of the positive and referring to it often.


This list doesn’t cover everything, but  hopefully, this will help someone who might be in need of some encouraging words.  I want to thank Stephannie Beman for helping me come up with the list.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author

Tips on Making Covers or Working With a Cover Artist: Part 2

I’m going to cover the viewpoint of the author, and Stephannie Beman will cover the viewpoint of the cover artist.

Today, we’re going to talk about what to look for when choosing the “look” for your cover.

1.  Less Is More (Or Keep It Simple Silly)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

There is a tendency to want to put as much on covers as possible.  The problem is you can only fit so much on a cover.  I like to think of the cover as a snapshot where you give the readers (at a glance) what kind of book you’re giving them.  In my case, I do romance, and in romance there is usually a woman, man or the couple is often the focal point.   But you don’t want the background to overpower the cover.  I could have a cover with a bride, a stagecoach, a horse, a dog, the hero, a couple of kids, a mercantile, and a lasso on it.  But just how attractive would cramming all that stuff into one cover be?  Maybe all of those things have something to do with the book, but it’s not necessary to put it all into the cover.

My advice is to pick 1 focal image and 1-2 images for the background.  This could be a bride for the focal point, a carriage and a field for the background.  Of course, you can get away with using just one picture.  Some of my most popular covers are ones with a single stock image.

Steph’s Thoughts:

As a cover designer, I run into lots of authors who want to add all the key elements of their stories on the cover. While in theory it might sound like a good idea, it isn’t. Keeping your design simple does two things for the cover design:

  1. It doesn’t confuse the message you want to give the readers
  2. It allows the image to be better seen when it is shrunk down.

Too many items and people clutter your cover. It’s best to pick one main element from your book to place on the cover design. If you aren’t sure what that item should be, ask someone who reads your book to tell you. Or you can do as I suggest to my clients and describe your book in one sentence. This will give you a better idea of what you should place on the cover.

2.  Use Professional Images

Ruth’s Thoughts:

Don’t hand draw something.   If you want an image is drawn, get a professional artist to do it for you.  Most of the time, though, you’ll be looking for pictures.  Unless you are skilled with a good camera, I would advise you to choose a stock photo site and buy a royalty free image.  Your cover doesn’t have to look just like a big traditional publisher’s book, but it should be attractive.  I would advise authors to buy the images and send them to the cover artist.  Stephannie can explain more of “why”, but in a nutshell, it helps to protect your right to have those images on your cover.

Steph’s Thoughts

I know that wanting to I save money on a cover and scouring the Internet for free images to use might sounds like a great idea, but it’s not. I suggestion using professional images from a stock-photography site, hire a photographer to take pictures, or hire an illustrator to draw your cover. Yeah, it costs money, but in the long run it can also save you thousands of dollars.

You should purchase professional images because:

  1. It would really suck to find out later that the free image you used was uploaded to Flickr by someone who didn’t own the rights and now you have to pay $8,000 for its use. (True story)
  2. When you purchase the licensing rights this allows you to use the image according to the stock provider’s terms of use. Please read the licensing terms of each site carefully. You don’t want to find out later that you have to pay a percentage of your royalties or that they can demand that you remove your cover with the image on it and purchase another at a later date.
  3. You can download your proof of purchase so when someone comes to you for using the images and the option for going to the designer there because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., then you have proof.
  4. There may come a time when you need an extended license because you want to use the images on other items, you might not have the option of going to the designer because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., and with an account you can manage this yourself.

Unless you are really good with a camera or know how to enhance the pictures you take, I don’t suggest using your own images. Most amateur photographers aren’t aware of the tricks that make a picture useable. Including and not limited to lighting, shape, direction, color, balance, position, etc. Does this mean you can’t use them? Not at all. Just that you should know more about photography before you use one of your own.

3.  Listen to Your Cover Artist (if you hire one)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

While you should have an idea of what you want on the cover so the artist knows your vision for the cover, there are times when the artist’s experience can be beneficial.  The artist has worked with a lot of images.  They’re familiar with fonts, colors, lighting, and how things line up.  This comes from experience.   Maybe you wanted to use a certain picture on the cover, but it turns out the photo is at an awkward angle that makes the way you want to use this image a bad idea.  The artist will probably see that right away.  They may suggest you find another picture or maybe they’ll find one that is better.  Be willing to take their advice into account.  If you are in serious doubt, have them do both pictures–one yours and one with the way they think it looks better.  Then pick the one you want from there.

Artists usually allow you 2-3 rounds of proofs for free so you can give them feedback on what you like and don’t like.  If you keep changing things though, be prepared to pay for the additional proofs.   But go ahead and do as many proofs as you need to get the cover you want.

In the end, it’s your book and the artist will consent to your wishes, but be open to new ideas and at least take a look at what they suggest.

Steph’s Thoughts

To add to what Ruth said above, if you are hiring a cover artist to create your book cover design, chose one whose design portfolio has covers you like. This will go a long way to getting a design you like.  A good designer understands the trends in design. They know the little tricks that make a design better or suggest the right genre.

It’s your job to have an idea of what you want, it’s the designers to create a cover that reflects your vision. However, be open to suggestions. A good designer will protest a bad design choice and explain why it would be bad. They will suggest a better choice and tell you why it would be better. If their suggestions makes sense, listen to them. They are doing what you paid them for and trying to make a great cover. Remember this is their job and a bad cover reflects poorly on both of you.

Categories: Book Covers | Tags: ,

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