Why I am talking art on a writing blog.

18057669_1501972326479580_5648823512484096682_n

I have, at last, found enough time to catch my breath and write a new, long overdue post for this blog.

You see, I have had a busy start to this year.

First was the publication, in January, of my first children’s book, The Rabbit Joke, which is designed primarily as a ‘read to me‘ book.

A book for parents or older siblings, to read to the younger ones. The Rabbit Joke lends itself to being read to groups in schools and kindergartens too.

The Rabbit Joke is an outsized, hardcover, fully illustrated, perfect bound, landscape book, from https://www.peecho.com/print/en/263512

rabbitjoke-nominate


In February, I released ‘Life in the War Zone’ a collection of stories, based on true accounts, of what life is like living between warring factions in an area of conflict.

Life in the War Zone takes a serious, no holds barred look at the devastation and trauma of life in the battlefields of the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Lebanon and El Salvador.

Ebooks are available direct from me, via my website. http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

Paperbacks from Amazon.

USA https://www.amazon.com/Life-War-Zone-collection-personal/dp/1542338700  

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-War-Zone-collection-personal/dp/1542338700

litwz4-to-size


Also during February, I published a ‘Coffee Table’ book called ICONIC, or to give it its full title, Iconic – Legends of music immortalised in art.

Iconic is an 8 x 8 inch, hardcover, perfect bound, glossy, book, containing a number of my own artworks, portraits of some of the most well-loved musical talent ever known, such as David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis and many more.

With each portrait is an abridged biography of each artist, covering their life and times. https://www.peecho.com/checkout/14716200169619823/279042

076b096c526b348cc767d112c01ba6bb


March saw the publication of The Pussers Cook Book.

This became an instant hit and an Amazon bestseller. It is still, as I write this over a month after the books launch, at number three in its Amazon category.

The Pussers Cook Book details twenty-two of the best loved dishes, served on Royal Naval ships circa 1960’s to 1980’s. Along with the recipes, there are plenty of jokes and tall stories, some legendary myths are also dispelled!

You do not have to be a sailor to enjoy the Pussers Cook Book. It makes the perfect gift for a freind or loved one.

Paperbacks from Amazon. goo.gl/eTwfWN  

Hardcover from my printers.  www.peecho.com/print/en/282666

18055898_1502182149791931_1326578662584780090_o


You will see by this, why my time this year has been at a premium.

Now, I have touched on art, as in the title of this post, by mentioning my tribute to the great musicians in the book, ICONIC. Which clearly shows the link between writing, books and art.

As do all those millions of books with illustrations, photographs, pictures and images inside. Let alone the amazing and wonderful artistry shown by many book cover designers.

In that respect, books and art are almost inseparable, and never exclusive.


But there is more…

Art has always been a ‘go to‘ place for me, when I need to rest my mind from concentrating on writing. Whilst my form of art, digital painting, is still a creative discipline, it is creative in a totally differing way to the mindful concentration needed for writing.

In that respect, I find creating digital art relaxing, even ‘freeing up‘ the subconscious mind to continue its own creative endeavours, whilst I take my consciousness on a holiday of colour and form.

The problem arises, much as it does when writing, or I should say, when one has finished writing and has published their book.

Who will see it, who will read it, who will buy it?

It is all well and dandy to have a book, three books, ten? Sitting on the shelves getting dusty and covered in cobwebs. What we want, what we need is someone (Many someones) to come along and actually read our words.

The same is true of art. What is the point of creating wonderful, thought provoking, stimulating images if they are simply going to be stored as a digital code on a memory stick. If they are never going to be made onto a canvass, or a poster, or even printed onto a tee-shirt or coffee mug?

Both of those scenarios are, in my humble opinion, a total waste of time, effort and creative energy.

So…what to do about it all?

Firstly, I have made a Facebook page to help direct people to my works.

The main site is my artwork website, where you can browse through a selection of works albums and find links to the other places my work is available. https://goo.gl/pyPI7i

371105aefbe2a12bf6c4d7632b436dd2

855e99385918691085216ea42c85ffb2

97e9c3027b76845a298722a3ecc7b96c

ec28b96acff613a58a4968a9965f6ec5

That is why I am talking about art on a writing blog.

Thanks for reading this…if you have read this far!

I will be back to posting my normal Ramblings from now on.

Cheers, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

MagicBook

Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.

For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is short respite.

dead_tired_writer

Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

917118ca61b1d3fec11ca87809fdb6a7

After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

Paul White.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit about…Designing your Books Cover.

C&Vfront3

I shall try to stay away from as many technical words and as much jargon as I can.

Also, as designing a book cover can be an emotive subject, almost as much as writing the content. I shall say that the following are my personal observations and views, they are not a definitive or an absolute. I do not think any opinions regarding forms of art can be so.

Please feel free to comment, add your own insights and feedback regarding this subject.

So, where to start?

For this I shall take a tip from the famous philosopher Winnie the Pooh, who said, “The beginning is a very good place to start!”

Your manuscript is completed, edited, re-written, polished, edited, beta read, proofread, edited, formatted and is now ready to go to print.

You are ecstatic. This is your masterpiece.

Now all you have to do is get people to read it.

To do that you need to sell lots of copies. (Unless you simply want to give it away?)

To sell lots of copies you need to attract people to your book.

To do that you need your masterpiece to stand out from the crowd.

Standing out from the masses of other books means having a great cover.

NOT a good cover, a great one.

That’s it.

Simple…

NO?

You are right.

Creating a great cover is not as simple as it first seems. All those thoughts and ideas in your head need transforming into a visual and onto relatively small area AND you need the title, maybe a sub-title, a sub-heading, or a catch-phrase. Then there is your name, you want that on the cover too, don’t you? Oh, and the back-cover ‘blurb’ you need that…now what about some graphics, images on the rear cover too? Is there enough room for that and the bar code?

That’s a lot to consider.

Yet that is only the most basic ‘stuff’! Colour, Images, illustrations, copyright, text style, point size, trim, bleed…oh, you have not though this far ahead yet?

OK, let’s get basic.

Firstly, you have to get rid of any preconceptions you have. (Not easy).

It is almost impossible to detach yourself from your book, your story, ‘your baby’. But you must if you want a cover which will sell your book.

Nobody but you will ever see, or feel your story as you do. Each reader will have their own personal interpretation.

That is how reading works.

Don’t get caught in the trap of believing otherwise.

Creating a cover is like a black art. It is a totally different skill to writing. Please do not confuse the two.

A book cover’s paramount job is to communicate the book’s content and convey information concerning both what the book is about and what the book is like.

The front and back flaps have something to say and experienced readers may find clues in a summary statement or author’s note. But the text and graphics on the cover deliver the most immediate and indelible impression. A cover’s imagery can establish character, setting, and plot. A cover’s style can suggest tone, mood, and narrative quality. And extraordinary covers employ both elements in synergy.

 

Second step, be sure of your target audience. That is the people who read the same genre as your book. (Known as demographics in the trade!)

You need to ascertain what they look for in a cover, what it is that attracts them to pick up a book, to read the back jacket and ultimately buy.

Big publishing houses spend a fortune on researching this, millions of pounds a year. An amount I doubt you have to spare, even after scrabbling down the back of the sofa.

So use the big publishers as your research, this will only costs you time.

Check out other authors book covers in the same genre, particularly the mainstream published authors. Walk around the store, surf the net. See what the new trends are. Make notes, take photos, make a ‘like’ board.

This is a good starting point.

 

The next step is to decide what you want the cover to ‘say’. I am not talking about the use of words (yet); I am simply speaking of image perception.

Here are a two simple rules:

Don’t Show Too Much of Your Character

It may be tempting to show your book’s main character on the cover, but this usually is not a very good idea. Most readers prefer to use their imagination to depict the story and characters in their own head.

Be Simple, Strong and Symbolic

Refrain from depicting a specific scene on the cover of your book.

It is better to be more symbolic or iconic with your cover design. Try to come up with a simple eye-catching idea that anyone will understand upon first sight. Keep in mind that most people will see your book as a tiny picture on a bookstore website or out the corner of their eye in a bookstore. In either instance, a strong, simple, symbolic cover is much more likely to catch their attention than one that is complicated or cluttered.

 

 The next consideration is the text.

What typestyle (fonts) to use.

Do not use any of the following fonts (anywhere!): Comic Sans or Papyrus. These fonts are only acceptable if you are writing a humor book, or intentionally attempting to create a design that publishing professionals will laugh at.

Please, no font explosions or special styling. Usually a cover should not contain more than 2 fonts. Avoid the temptation to put words in caps, italics caps, outlined caps, etc. Do not be tempted “shape” the type either.

Where to put your Title and Authors name; Top, middle, bottom, vertical, horizontal?

The title should be big and easy to read.

This is more important than ever. (Many people will first encounter your cover on a screen, not on a shelf.)

Do not forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover.

Ask yourself this; Is the cover compelling at a small size? More people are buying books on a Kindle or mobile device, so you want the cover to read clearly no matter where it appears.

You should also anticipate what the cover looks like in grayscale.

 

Now, back to the artwork.

Rule no. 1, Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. I’m talking about the stuff that comes free with Microsoft Word or other cheap layout programs.

Rule no.2, Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. This is known as the “T-shirt” design. It looks extremely amateurish.

Rule no.3, Avoid gradients. It’s especially game-over if you have a cover with a rainbow gradient.

Rule no.4, Avoid garish color combinations. Sometimes such covers are meant to catch people’s attention. Usually, it just makes your book look freakish!

After all this, if your head is not spinning from the do’s and do not’s I will be surprised. Let me make it simple with a great example of excellent covers.

The bestselling author, Sophie Kinsella’s novels have about everything that is right when considering a book cover.

These romantic comedy covers have not been created by accident. They are specifically designed and crafted via Penguin Random House.

Clearly the target audience is a, young, twenties something, fun, flirty, feminine female.

Best known for her ‘Shopaholic’ series, the main images on these covers are of highly stylized woman, with a clutch of designer carrier bags, against a background suggestive of location.

Here are three examples which follow all the rules (do’s & do not’s).

51-0SPdiUsL._UY250_519s6VsDJ0L._UY250_51Yy5LBLjgL._UY250_

 

These are my suggestions for a great book cover:

Keep it simple.

Avoid clutter.

Only hint at the content.

Go with the latest trends in your genre…OR…

Take a punt at something ‘outside the box’ (but tryto keep within these guidelines).

Below are some covers I love, even my own award winning designs…Oh, didn’t I mention I also design covers for Indie Authors…how remiss of me!

ARSONGR-lifeboatSofEmfront1

privacybcFLOYD7full-dark-book-cover2

If you would like to contact me about cover design, please feel free to email me at paulznewpostbox@gmail.com Please put ‘book cover enquiry’ into the subject bar.

Thank you, Paul.