Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cover Critique

Another indie author has stepped forward for a cover critique. I would like to welcome Marla Madison and her book 'She's Not There' to the blog. Side note: I make reference to Marla's son in the critique because she had mentioned him in her original email.

Here are the comments/suggestions I have after studying your cover. Please bear in mind that this is one person's opinion, but remember, too, that I am not your friend. Our friends are sometimes too kind and kindness doesn't always help us grow as artists, so it's helpful to get some 'real' feedback sometimes.
All the text is difficult to read, including the title. You never want to make someone struggle–even for a second–to be able to read the title of your book. YOUR title especially, is too strong to let it get bogged down in the design. If you are married to your imagery, then I would suggest reworking the placement of the title; perhaps putting a colorblock of some sort behind it.
The illustrations of the women are very cartoonish, which I think does a grave disservice to the message you are trying to convey. They have an almost "Scooby-Doo" (or some similar cartoon show) quality. It's a serious topic and a serious book and it needs to be portrayed as such.
The sticker bush is probably the strongest piece of imagery on your cover, however, the drops of blood, especially because they mimic your text color, are extremely distracting. The sticker bush illustration and the women ghosted behind do not 'match' and the styles are fighting each other.
If you are deeply attached to your cover imagery, then at the very least I would suggest you scrap the outlines of the women and try to rework the title to stand out against the sticker bush. They women are bordering on the comical.
So, I am afraid I agree with your son on this. Here would be my concept suggestion and your son would be able to throw it together for you with relative ease:
I love the idea of the ghosted silhouette, but how about if it was just one woman in a trench coat (with the high collar), facing forward, in shadow and seemingly melting into a grayish fog around her? If you start with a photograph, silo and flatten it so you have distinct (and very detailed) edges, then do everything in tones of soft grays, and you'll get that sense of someone 'disappearing' and it will convey mystery and jeopardy in one fell swoop. You'll also be able to really beef up the title.
I hope this helps!

Link to Marla's book on Amazon:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Success at the Wine Fest

We had a table at the Valenzano Wine Fest this past weekend and I have to say, it was phenomenal! This was the first of this type of thing that we've done as far as book promotion and it was really worth it. We met so many people and sold so many books and guess what? I got my first piece of fan mail! A lady who bought Faith Creation on Saturday read it on Sunday and sent me a really nice letter on Monday! She said she couldn't put it down once she started reading it...just about the highest praise I could hope for. Thank you Karen!

Here's another cool thing that happened: a woman bought Darkness Within (the short story collection) and a short time later, my sister and I went for a break and we saw the woman sitting in the sun, enjoying a glass of wine and READING MY BOOK! My sister said "You better hope she likes it or she'll come back and kick your ass."  I laughed, but, two hours later, I saw the same woman heading back to our booth. Oh no, I thought, she really is coming back to kick my ass! She must have hated it! But guess what? She bought another book because she loved the short stories! It was flattering, but also a relief. I was pretty worn out by then. I don't know how well I could have defended myself against an assault.

My father in law, sister and her boyfriend came and helped us out. They passed out book-markers and talked people into the booth...they are probably responsible for at least half of the sales if not more. So, a very heartfelt thanks to them.

We are contemplating our next event. Hopefully the next one will go as well, but I don't know...this first one will be hard to top.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

National Holiday?

So, we went to Starbucks, which is our usual Sunday thing, but this morning Starbucks was giving away free coffee from 8 to 11 in 'honor' of 9/11.
Oh man, I just don't know what to think. Is it a nice gesture or is it the beginning of the slippery slope? Even the baristas seemed timid and unsure as they told patrons their coffee was free, and the patrons seemed confused more than anything. Maybe we all had a twinge of unease, seeing the potential future this kind of 'honoring' may lead to.

In twenty years, will furniture and car sale supplements splash out in red, white, and blue with a ghosted Twin Towers in the background for their 9/11 50% Off Sale to 'honor' that day? Will supermarkets be extoling us to Stock Up for Your 9/11 Barbecue!
Will I throw up on myself when I see something like that?
Yeah, I probably will.

So, when I see things about making 9/11 a National holiday, well, I just don't know. It seems like it might be the right thing to do on the surface. But below the surface, man, there's a nasty monster called forgetfulness and eventually, people will be looking forward to their 9/11 three day weekend without a thought to the origins of the day.

Look at Memorial Day, right?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Indie Anyone, Indie Anything

I've been extremely lucky. In the balance, I have many more people supporting me than not, but I do know this isn't the case for everyone (or even most) involved in Indie publishing. There is a certain bias against people who publish their own books. I've been faced with it, too, but with the support I have, coupled with my incredible bull-headedness, I tend to brush off the naysayers.

It's a shame this particular bias exists against authors. If you were a musician, would you wait for a record contract to give you permission to make music? If you were an artist, would you wait for a gallery to represent you before you put brush to canvas? If you wanted to make a documentary, would you wait for a movie studio to call you with the go-ahead? If you're an entrepreneur, do you wait until everyone else has smoothed the way for a new venture (consequently reaping the reward). No, of course you don't!

There are dreamers in the world and we are they: writing, making music, making art, painting the living room bright purple because it is our favorite color, exploring recipes, building anything from birdhouses to  motorcycles, starting businesses...and we should be proud of all these things.

So here's the deal I am making with idie-ANYONE who isn't getting the support they need: come see me at any of the places I'll be selling and signing books, whisper the code indie, and let me shake your hand. To me, it will be an honor to shake the hand of someone brave enough to do whatever leads him or her from the beaten path. We'll shake hands in the fresh wilderness that is Indie Anything and I'll look at you in admiration because you are the brave frontrunner in a burgeoning new enterprise.

Visit me here:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dreams and Nightmares

One of the best and worst aspects of being creative is dreaming.

The nightmares are stupendously scary. Much worse than any movie I've ever seen or anything I've experienced in my waking life. And I don't mean the everyday anxiety kind of nightmares, either, though I have those in abundance, too. I mean the can't-wake-up, don't-know-you're-dreaming kind of nightmare that stays with you even after you've been awake (really awake!) for an hour or more. I don't usually remember the nightmares in their specifics, but I do know they almost always involve death and LOTS of blood.

For me, there are two good flipsides to the nightmares. One is the probably pretty common flying dream, but in my dream, I'm not really flying so much as leaping–over trees, over telephone lines–and in the leaping dream, it is always night and it has always just rained; strange, right?

The second thing is solving problems in my sleep. Okay, if you've never done this, then you're probably skeptical, but believe me, it happens. As a graphic artist, it's been my saving grace more times than I can count. Design problems that seem tied in impossible knots get untangled and smoothed over and I wake up with a solution to whatever the problem was.

I've read different things over the years abut keeping a notepad by your bed to keep track of some of the things that fade away shortly after waking. I tried it for a while, but generally came up with nonsense like: 'bend the chairs in metal' and 'why did the windows?' and (my favorite) 'giant rabbits.' Senseless stuff, really; no big revelations there, huh?

This past week, I started dreaming about the characters in the book I'm working on. This has never happened before. It was cool, but in a weird way, also scary, as if they aren't being written by me so much as they are being channeled. So here's my question: if I'm more or less channeling them...

Where are they coming from, exactly?