How I kept ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ high on Amazon rankings.

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Okay, so this is a post about marketing books, or rather it is a post about one of my books that sold particularly well. (At least in the first few weeks after publication).

I am NOT a marketing guru. I have no special formula and am not trying to sell you anything, get you to subscribe, donate, join a club or even buy the book in question… or any of my books… but you can if you wish!

I am uncertain if my book would not have performed as well if I had done absolutely nothing, if I published, sat back and waited. (Although I doubt it)

The reason I am writing this post is to share with you, (my Indie author friends and colleagues), the history of first few weeks of my books performance on the Amazon sales platform.

I hope you can take something, even one small factor from this and use it to enhance your own sales, or at least gain further insight into what makes books sell. Or not!

To understand and to place the following information into context I need to explain how the book came into being and the lead up to release. So, I’ll take the Advice of Winnie the Pooh and start at the beginning; as “That’s a very good place to start”.

The Book in question is The Pussers Cook Book.  The Amazon hyperlink is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pussers-Cook-Book-Traditional-recipes/dp/1544690584 if you want to take a look, or get a copy (hint hint).

The Pussers Cook Book contains twenty-two recipes of traditional dishes served in the Royal Navy during the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Apart from the recipes, it contains a factual historical information and social comment, written in a witty and humorous style.

The book is listed under this Amazon category: Books > Food & Drink > Reference & Gastronomy > History of Food. (It is currently ranked No.3 as I write this).

The creation of this book came about after many conversations with other veterans. Most hold the food they ate during service in some esteem, some higher than others! What was clear among all personnel was the huge part food and dining played in keeping moral and spirits high during deployments.

With that in mind, I started to search for a cook book containing some ‘Good old British Naval recipes’ and came up with absolute zilch, zero, nada.

There are American forces cook books, Royal Australian Naval recipes, South African, Indian, but I could not find a single book which recorded any Royal Navy dish.

This is where it all starts!

So… I asked in several forces forums who would be interested in such a book, who would share stories and memories of food and dining from their time in the service. The response was substantial and led me to believe there was a market, an audience for such.

I had found a niche, a ‘gap in the market’ so to speak.

A few months later I had compiled and written The Pussers Cook Book.

Now for the nitty gritty about the promotion.


PLANNING.

As I have said above, I spoke to a quantity of people about creating a Naval recipes book and kept the contact details of those who expressed a solid interest in such a book.

Once I was ready to release The Pussers Cook Book, I posted a string of ‘Coming soon’ social media announcements to the groups I identified as being the books prime market, ie Royal Navy/ex royal navy/military/FAA/RFA/ex Forces/Veterans sites.

Many which I had joined since conception of the book in readiness for its launch. This gave me time to build a good, solid reputation and establish myself as a known, trusted and active member of these groups. You may consider this rather mercenary, but I see it as good business sense.

This type of planning and foresight takes a lot of time, work and effort. But once you are accepted, initiated and integrated, the fact that you an established part of a close, sometimes closed network, will pay dividends in many future endeavours.

It is a commitment I think is worth the time and energy needed to sustain the relationship.

The second part of my advanced planning was to design some posters and flyers, and the preparation of initial of blogs needed to spread my message, in a colourful and eye catching way, when posted on social media.

The next was ensuring that my book is listed with ‘book sites’ such as Goodreads, Authors Den, Authorsdb, Promocave etc. And, of course listed on my own website.

Added to this is obtaining listing on other sites servicing my targeted market. In this case, military historical sites and archives, military book, gift and paraphernalia stores, Naval museums. In fact, anywhere that has a library, store, shop, or service which does, or could list books or carry a link. Not forgetting any of their private forums, even those with fifty or sixty members…I would be happy with 1% sales from these.

Once again this is time consuming and often boring, but it is getting all your duck in order before taking the plunge.

Once all these items were in place, I was ready to promote the book.

Before the next step, the launch, I must explain that I made The Pussers Cook Book in two formats, a Hardcover version and a paperback.

This post is ONLY concerned with the PAPERBACK version as this is the only format available via CreateSpace/Amazon.

It may also help to know that it is a 6×9, full colour, fully illustrated book. (hence the price)


LAUNCH.

I decided that a ‘soft launch‘ of The Pussers Cook Book was most appropriate, as this book is targeted at a niche market, a major launch, such as a Thunderclap or Facebook party would have been irrelevant and had little effect on the initial ‘reveal‘.

The launch therefore consisted of a major blitz on as many social media groups as possible, over as many platforms as possible. In this case it was Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, twitter, Tumblr, Ello, Yeopen, StumbleUpon, Flipboard, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger and so on.

Along with all those private sites and forums directed at Military and ex-military personnel I mentioned before.

The first day or two the book was only available from CreateSpace, as it takes a day or two to appear on Amazon sites.

If you look at the beginning of the sales chart, the launch date of the 17th of March, (it was late at night, so the figures show as/from the 18th), you will see that sales were instantly quite good. It looked like all that planning, all the time effort and the brainstorming had paid off.

Until… March the 21st when it all died off!

I still have no idea why this was, perhaps it was something to do with the listings on Amazon becoming live?


PROMOTION

Like everything concerned with being an Indie author it takes work, hard work and lots of it.

Pushing your sales is just one of the areas that you must concentrate your efforts. This is what I have done so far in relation to The Pussers Cook Book.

On the 26th of March I saw the sales figure slow for the first time.

I was ready for this. I had a plan, well it was more of an idea which I formulated after reading several various, (unrelated) articles about books, business, SEO, other authors, and a host of topics I cannot recall!

My plan was to try and push the name, the title of my book to the front of the search lists on the prime search engines algorithms.

Now, most probably you know little about how ‘SEO’ works. You are not alone, neither do I!

BUT I had gleaned a basic understanding, or at least an understanding of the logic behind the principle of how SEO functions. It was with that limited knowledge that I made my next move.

I sent a post asking people to ‘google’ my book by name on whatever search bar they were using, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Edge…whatever.

I did this with emails to other contacts around the world, and on all social platforms and forums. I asked my son, cousin and friends to do the same, to share and re-post the request, and to ask others to do the same.

I was trying to drive the search for ‘The Pussers Cook Book‘ or The Pussers cookbook’ etc. as viral as I could.

It worked.

Within 24hrs The Pussers Cook Book was showing as the top 6 to 8 listings on most searches, eventually making it to the top 10 lists on about every search engine.

The chart shows a boost of sale from that date. I like to consider this a direct consequence of that SEO attack…but again, I have no control specimen to compare effect.

It could simply be a coincidence?

On May the 30th I saw the trend of sales slipping, so I gave the book another boost by simple advertising, posting updated posters and status’s on social media.

April the 4th I noticed the figures dip once again. This time my marketing effort was aimed at the sites I term non-prime. These are the sites that are peripheral to major networks, or adjacent in content and demographics, to the mainstream platforms, but still play a key role in my marketing strategy.

Such sites, I am sure, will differ greatly from person to person and book to book. Much of regarding any site as such is whole subjective.

April the 8th I am have convinced myself, The Pussers Cook Book has run its natural course of being an Amazon bestseller for an Indie author. This is, no doubt the start of the natural decline in sales.

With a hurriedly conceiver promotion, using Easter as a gimmick, “Last chance to get/gift a copy before Easter…etc, blah, blah…” I hope to squeeze out a few more sales and try to keep The Pussers Cook Book as high in the charts for as long as possible.

The reason is, the higher a book’s ranking, the more visibility it is given by Amazon. The more it can be seen the higher the likelihood of getting an extra sale, or three.

If these sales keep the book up in the ranking, the more it will been seen…..& so on. As the sales decrease so does a books appearance. The alternative is to spend a fortune on paid advertising with amazon and Facebook etc.

So, as much self-promotion and marketing you can do without giving the ‘big boys’ a fortune the better it is.

Remember, whatever you spend on, say an Amazon advert, is the amount you must earn in royalties from Amazon, BEFORE you start making any money. All the while, on each sale you do make, Amazon will still be taking their cut. Think about it.

It is now, as I write the 13th of April, 27 days, a month – all bar the shouting – The Pussers Cook Book has been at the top, not bad for an unknown Indie author.

I shall do another marketing blitz over the next day or two. In fact, even this post is part of my overall marketing plan. It has raised awareness of the book, which you will notice I have repeatedly given its full title of ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ throughout this blog post. Hinted that you should at least Google it, if not get yourself a copy (another hint).

What I am trying to convey is, never miss an opportunity…you never know where it might lead.

I do hope that by sharing this with you, you can take something constructive or reassuring from it. Even something that makes it worth getting yourself a copy of this book, or any of my fictional works, as a thank you?

I know sales will now slow. It is inevitable. Yet, I do hope the book will ‘tick over’ for the foreseeable future.

For now, I have four ‘Works in progress’ I must complete; you never know one of these may be my next best seller?paul-white

Here’s hoping.

Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I write in the way I do? (An answer.)

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I am often asked, as I am sure many authors are, “Why do I write?”.

This is not a straightforward or easy question to answer comprehensively. In fact, if I were to answer that question in full, it would be an extremely long essay.

Which is the answer I gave a few days ago.

However, that question was followed by one which made me think, a question I was, at the time, unprepared to answer constructively.

“Why do you write in the way you do?”

This question made me think, beyond the basics of ‘style’ and further than ‘narration’ alone.

So, in the regular and rambling way I use in my blog posts, I shall attempt to convey to you my thoughts on this question.

They are as follow……

I do not write a particular genre of fiction.

Romance stories generally demand detailed character descriptions, a slow build-up of intensity to climax. (Excuse the pun).

On the other hand, Horror readers want faster paced, less detailed, more action books which cut right to the core. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

By not being a genre writer, I have not developed a style limited by the parameters of reasonable expectation of those readers.

Neither do I write for a syndicate publisher, such as Mills & Boon, who have strict plot and style guidelines and can drop any contributor in an instant, should their suggestions not be strictly adhered too.

I am a truly free, independent author.

I have written an offbeat tale of abduction and intrigue, which is also a romantic story, a AofRDVtale of finding oneself and humorous yarn all rolled into one. It is ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’. Available on Amazon, just click the link!

This book alone breaks all the genre specific boundaries it touches upon.

I did not set out to intentionally break any rules, I simply ignored them all and wrote the story I wanted to write.

I have also published two collections of poetry.

The basic premise of each is human emotion. Fear, love, hate, anger, regret and so on. I like the challenges of poetry. The differing forms, such as haiku, present wonderful opportunities to develop wordsmithing skills that can be adapted to storytelling.

That is how I like to think of myself, as a storyteller, a mythmaker; weaving tales into people’s consciousness, making them re-think and to consider life and the world around them in a way they may never have done before.

My book collection, three volumes of short stories called ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’ are designed to do just that, to make the reader reconsider their point of view, to side-swipe their general conceptions, to come at them from left field and leave their minds floundering with a myriad of questions, questions they now find they are asking themselves. (Click the link, or image)

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That is what a great story should do. It should stay with you, lingering within your mind a long time after you have closed the final pages of the book, maybe even forever?

I have also written a children’s book and non-fiction stuff. Very different disciplines than writing standard adult fiction of any sort.

I am, at the time of writing this, working on a novel about an escaped psychopath. ‘Floyd’ is out on a bloody revenge spree against those who had him committed. This book must be considered a ‘Slasher’ type of story. It is a crime thriller certainly, a horror…in parts possibly, but not really.

Once again, I am writing what I want to write, in a way I want to write it. The style and narration I am using is unique to this book. It is not one I have adopted previously.

Which, in a long winded and round-about way, brings me back to the original question of “Why do I write in the way I do?”

Taking note of the above (and remembering my independence), has allowed me to indulge in many experimentations with style, narration, pace, plot, POV’s and all the other ‘literary technical stuff’ writers put far too much emphasis on when discussing writing.

Each of my novels are written from a totally different personal perspective. Making each quite distinctive from the last. Even so, my personal mark is to keep an element of humanity, of emotion, of people’s dreams, hopes and fears running through all my fictional stories, even those involved with psychotic killers!

My short stories reflect those same values, the human passion for life, the experience of relationships, of desire and love, of living, of loss and of death.

I like to explore these areas of the human psyche, areas often forgotten or neglected by other writers and authors. I like to reveal them at a certain pace, a pace which suites the individual story being told.

In some I might come at you from the shadows, smashing into your mind like a train wreck. In another it may be an insidious creep, slowly weaving itself between your receptive neurons, until that is the only thing your mind can focus upon.

This is where the poetry and experiments with lexicon come to the fore; they allow me to use words as a basic material, melding and moulding them, twisting and forming them, until they convey to the reader, not only the description and facts, but the feeling of being there, of being within, of being part of the nether world where my story lives and, without doubt, to see, hear and feel the trauma, the worries, the excitement and passions of my characters as they stagger from one conflict to another.

You can read several my short works at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/ I always have a few stories on this blog, although I do delete and change them at random intervals.

So, in brief, that is my answer to the question – ‘Why do I write the way I do.’

I hope you can pick something useful out of this.

Thank you for reading, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting intimate with your readers.

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By intimate I mean really intimate, telling your readers about your ‘ills’, your personal peccadillos, your most secret sexual pleasures.

Sounds like something you would never do?

Well, maybe you should.

Now, bear with me whilst I, in my usual rambling fashion, seem to digress. I assure you all will become clear as you read on.

 

A short while ago I read an article by…(I forget who!)…which said, that reading is just using words to make suggestions, it is the readers mind that creates the images and makes the story.

To explain this further; when you introduce a character into your story, regardless of your own imagination, each reader will ‘build’ their own personal vision of how that character is; what they are wearing, how they walk, the tone and rhythm of their voice.

The finite details of the car or train they ride in will appear in the reader’s head like a movie scene. Each person will imagine this in a style which is unique to them.

As the reader turns page after page, the houses, the streets, the towns and cities evolve to create that readers own singular and distinctive world. Your words become their (the readers) own story, set in their own world.

All you have done, as the writer, is string one suggestive idea after another; the rest is perception, imagination and vision of the individual holding your book.

This is something I find fascinating; the ability to share thoughts and ideas with another person, a person who you, most likely, will never meet. Moreover, this ability to ‘suggest’ to place guided concepts into another’s mind has no limitations regarding time or space.

Whether the reader is a few meters or a million miles away; or indeed is reading your book a year, a decade or in a thousand years from now, your suggestive words will still stimulate their own imaginations, still allow and encourage them to create a version of that nether-world, a world you fashioned from thought in some timeless point and place.

At this juncture you may be asking yourself “what does any of this have to do with intimacy?

Allow me to continue.

We all have personal and private thoughts; many we never share, even with those closest to us. This is not a fault or a weakness of character. It is simply what we do, as humans, as people.

Now, these things can be simple; like a certain smell evoking a memory. Possibly a memory from childhood, good or bad. But because it is an innermost secret we never reveal the emotions it stirs within us.

Another could be sexual pleasure, a certain touch, in a certain place, given by a former lover or during self-stimulation? Possibly, probably, never shared with another. The reason could again be many, primarily held within to protect us from the possibility of ridicule, however unjust or superficial that may be in reality.

Often not revealing such is matter privacy, of not wanting to be embarrassed, or at least not wanting to give someone else the opportunity to embarrass us. Sometimes it may be protection of another sort, defense against the risk of giving leverage; presumed or real.

That all said and done, I know not a single person upon this earth who are not holding such personal secrets close. We all have them. Even you. Although sometimes we try to hide them from ourselves because of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow or guilt they dredge up from our pasts.

This is the form, the type of intimacy that I believe, as authors, we should share with our readers.

Now, before you shout at me, call me crazy, deluded or worse, let me clarify my train of thought regarding this matter.

I am not saying we should all blatantly reveal our souls; neither am I proposing a mass catharsis. I am simply expressing my view that, as each and every reader is creating their own version of your basic story, as suggested by the words you have written, that to get under the skin of your readers, to endear them to your story, your style of writing, your narration and, of course, to identify with your characters; what better way than to share with them some of the most intimate, emotive and emotional secrets a person can hold?

Doing so will further the perception of true-life, of reality for your readers. Just as you share some of your secrets with those closest to you, your partner, husband, wife, best friend, mother?

Such intimacy builds trust, strengthens relationships, cements bonds. What better way to endear your readers?

This does not mean you have to write a ‘tell-all’ revelation of your own life.

It does mean that you can and, in my humble opinion, should draw on your own life experiences, even those dark and deeply personal ones, to share with your readers. Remember they shall be relating your words to the intimate areas of their own lives not yours.

As fiction writers we cloak reality with fiction, mix fact and fantasy on a daily basis. Nothing changes; what may be perceived as fact is realised to be false and vice versa.

You can become as intimate as you wish with your readers when you draw on your most confidential of life’s experiences. They shall not be judging you, they will be judging you work…and their own lives.

If you still hold concerns about this, let me leave you with these words:

“Everything I write is fiction, except the bits that are true. Although my readers tend to think the truth is fiction and fiction the truth. I just wish I knew the difference”.

Thank you for reading yet another ‘Rambling from a Writers Mind’ blog post.

You may want to read my new book collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’, a number of short (& not so short) stories, focusing on the cognitive and emotional aspects of those involved with, or caught up in, unusual circumstances.

 

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UK Paperback  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Crime-Violence-Paul-White/dp/1522904565/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451428092&sr=1-1&keywords=tales+of+crime+%26+violence+volume+3

 

 

 

C&Vfront1USA Paperback  http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Crime-Violence-Paul-White/dp/1522904565/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451428456&sr=8-2&keywords=Tales+of+crime+%26Violence+volume+3

 

 

 

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Kindle Worldwide http://authl.it/B019VNDE5E

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding White

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A while ago I wrote a post on called ‘Understanding Black’ where we looked into the use of the colour black and its associated and perceived meanings in fiction writing.

This post is all about Black’s opposite, the colour White.

White is a far more difficult subject; its perception, while seemingly universal, is far more diverse and presents more of a challenge when explaining the variances due to individual social discernments and sensitivity.

I shall however, in my customary Rambling manner, endeavor to bring some understanding of how understanding White, in all its forms can be molded and used as a wonderful tool in this, the ancient art of wordsmithing.


 

To start, lets agree that White is an inherently positive colour. Throughout the western world white is the traditional colour worn by brides; it is associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness and perfection.

This is perfect for portraying the innocent child, both girl and boy, as well as the blushing bride! This form of white can be used in regards to Fairies and other mystical folk of good nature. A force to battle evil?

The colour white can represent a successful beginning. White gemstones are believed to help create new beginnings, remove prejudice and pre-conceived notions, to see the innocence in others and to clear emotional clutter and silence the inner critic. This notion is also reflected in heraldry where white is used to depict faith and purity.

Novice nuns, ballerina students, preachers and fair minded medical staff (nurses?) could be included within this whiteness as could a burgeoning friendship.

Someone who lives in an achitectaral or minimalistic white building may, possibly? portray all these qualities…at least on the surface!

It is said white affects the mind and body by aiding in mental clarity, promoting feelings of fresh beginnings and renewal, assisting in cleansing, clearing obstacles and clutter and encouraging the purification of thoughts and actions. This train is continued when looking at a large white expanse, such as garden or field covered in snow, again representative of white coolness and simplicity.  

As the opposite of black, white is frequently use in movies and television typically illustrate the good guy. Do you recall the old cowboy films where the ‘baddy’ always wore a black Stetson?

Maybe a modern, contemporary take using this facet of white, would be have some liquor or a pill (white coloured), which would allow the user to become hyper lucid, to see things simply and clearly. Or your herione starts a new business, where she has all the staff dress in white uniforms? The options are endless one you begin to understand the qualities of colour.

Of course, as writers, we want our white to deliver more than just cleanliness, purity and brightness. We want to use the colour to evoke unpleasant feelings too, whether they be frightening or emotionally disturbing. We know that black can do this, the organic, dark, natural, ancient black. But so can white, when utilized carefully and cleverly.

White is a bright and brilliant colour. Its brilliance that can cause headaches and white-outs. In cases of extremely bright light, either a steady intense flow or a sudden powerful burst, white can be dazzling, disorienting, even blinding.

So, with this particular white we can create the evil snow-queen, Doctor death, or a maze of bright rooms with no visible exit. White is brilliant (excuse the pun) for helping to deliver a psychological scene. Here the white coated doctors smile turns malevolent, a vile grimace!

Further, the use of white in hygienic situations and its association with cleanliness and sterility, as often seen in hospitals, medical centers, laboratories and abattoirs gives rise, not only to great locations, but to the inner fears of our character’s own sensitivities.

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That endless maze of white we spoke of before, suddenly splashed with crimson blood. Your characters (friend/sister/mother/father) dead and tortured body is exposed as they turn a corner? Plenty to consider.

Of course, as I mentioned in ‘Understanding Black’, many eastern and Asian cultures regard white as the colour of mourning and de rigueur for funerals, such as in China and many parts of Africa. Something to bear in mind when looking to mirror reality.

In such locations, to see a parade of white clad persons walking along the street does not signal the start of a parade, it is not a sign that mardi-gras is upon us!

Do not use white with abandonment, consider its deeper meanings, take a moment or two to contemplate the ways you can use white to enhance or strengthen your scene. Use it to communicate feeling, happiness or dread, to you readers.

Here are a few terms and phrases associated with white, I hope you find them helpful.

Whiteout”, means zero visibility.

White flag”, is associated with meanings of surrender and relinquishment.

White elephant”, refers an object or structure that is unwanted, often because it is unfit for purpose.

Pearly whites”, a very English term referring to ones’ teeth.

 A “White knight” is someone who comes to the rescue; a good and noble hero.

Away from the pure white, white may be represented by different shades and tints; snow, pearl, antique, ivory, chalk, milk, lily, smoke, seashell, old lace, cream, linen, ghostly, beige, corn-silk, alabaster, paper, and whitewash are all common names.

NOTES on WHITE:

White is still the color of mourning in China and most parts of Africa. It was once the custom for the Queens of France to wear deuil blanc, or “white mourning”.

White was the color of deepest mourning among medieval European queens, a tradition which survived in Spain until the end of the fifteenth century.

In Chinese culture, colours corresponded with the five primary elements, the directions and the four seasons. White is associated with metal, west and autumn.

The appearance of white in a dream is thought to represent happiness at home.

On Yom Kippur, the Grand Rabbi dresses in white to restore an amicable relationship between God and his people.

For Hindus, white is the colour of pure consciousness, self-illumination and light.

For Buddhists, white is associated with the lotus flower, a symbol of light and purity, knowledge or “illumination” (including the Buddha’s hand gesture). White represents self-mastery and redemption. The figure of the White Tārā is known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity.

In Japan, white is a sacred and pure colour. Historically it is the colour of angels and gods; more recently of doctors, nurses and health professions uniforms, (Japanese refer to nurses as “angels in white”. White is also the colour of cleanliness (important in Japan), while also representing reverence, purity, simplicity. The Japanese associate the white carnation with mourning.

For Indian’s white is associated with unhappiness, death, rebirth, creation, light, serenity and reincarnation. White is the colour of the Brahman (the highest caste).

In Singapore and Malaysia, white is especially associated with respect and is the colour of pilgrimage.

 I am certain you will find some, even if it is just an odd snippet, of this post useful in your current or future writings. I hope so.

Thanks for reading, Paul.

A bit about…Designing your Books Cover.

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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).

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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.

 

From bare bones…how I build a story.

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We all have different systems for writing our stories. Some like to plan everything out, make charts and story boards. Others write copious notes and character biographies, graphs and guides. Some just start scribbling away and see where their words lead them.

The way we set about our writing is personal preference. If, at the end of the day (or many day’s) we end up with a completed work that we are satisfied with, then all is good.

But some parts, some of the stages of writing are I suggest, common to all. These are; the re-writing of the first draft, the re-writing of the second draft. Editing, beta reading, more editing, proofreading, another re-write, more editing and so on.

This will eventually lead to a finished work which we are happy with, (mostly), except for one or two minor alterations…and a little more editing!

The final polished work, which you are now totally and completely satisfied with (?), will now be ready for publishing.

Your amazing work will then sell like proverbial hotcakes; be turned into a TV series, a Hollywood blockbuster movie and a West End play, which will run for at least thirty-five years.

You will become, a multi-millionaire, live on a yacht when you are not staying at one of your several million dollar mansions, which are scattered around the world in the most exotic locations and have a Lear jet to flit from one place to the other.

Your life will be good.

Yeah okay, I got carried away, so maybe not that last bit, at least not yet!

Back in the real world…

The reason I know that we all have differing ways of going about the construction of our novels is a simple one, I have spoken to many of you, read your posts, articles and followed the threads of a thousand and one conversations.

In general, the stages are common, the concepts are common; it is the application, the mechanics which vary.

It was to address this issue that I decided to write this post. But then it became clear, that to include the many minutiae of variances was an impossible task, unless I was to write an entire thesis. Not something I had intended or actually wish to do, at least not now!

So what I have decided is to give a sketch of how I build my own stories, of how I take an idea, a concept and turn it into a book or a novel.

As with many of my posts I am staying away, as much as possible, from any technical jargon, because I think that will help the novices and uninitiated to comprehend my concepts and explanations better.

So here goes!…

 

Using the analogy of a human body!

My initial concept is rather like a jumble of bones. I can easily identify a tibia, the radius and, of course the skull. But the others are mixed in with bones from other species. In this case notes, rough drafts and such that belong to other stories.

The first job I have to undertake (see what I did there!?) is to lay out the bones in an order which loosely resembles a skeleton. The second job is to sift through the remains (at it again!?) and start connecting the larger bones with the smaller ones.

At this stage my bones…read story line…is looking basically as intended. The final pieces of the skeleton, all those niggly wrist bones, the teeny-weeny ear bones can be slotted into place. Standing back, (reading through a day or two later) I can judge how well my efforts have been and make any adjustments needed.

The next step is to double check that the arm is in the position I want it; the legs are angled just so. After all I don’t want my skeleton just hanging around like those from the biology lab. I want mine to pose, to attract and captivate the onlooker. Once I have all the sections (Chapters) in the order I wish, I can the start to put some meat and flesh onto those bones.

This is where I start over again.

Carefully layering, word by word the ‘flesh’ onto the bare bones. Taking my time back and forth over each section of the skeleton ensuring that the thickness of the ‘meat’ is correct in relation to the basic underlying structure. For instance, nobody has a fat forehead!

In the same way I do not want to pad out the first sentence or paragraph of my book with a ton of unnecessary bumf. I want my readers to instantly recognise what kind of person this is… (read- what style of book).

f8a476db508154058928e4f9905bac87I also want my creation to be attractive to that reader. If they like romance then my words must convey that, if it is tension as in a thriller, that must be portrayed too. All this must be accomplished within the first few lines, or at least the first few paragraphs. In this analogy it must be love at first sight.

As I, or you the writer, progresses down the body the same process must take place, adding just the right proportion of flesh to the various areas of you skeleton. By the time you reach its little pinky you should have a basic, rather stout figure laying out before you.

That is the end of that stage, but just the beginning of making your Frankenstein a wholesome human being, or you book into a readable tome.

At this point it is worth standing back once more and regarding the whole. Have a family member or a couple of your close friends inspect your handiwork. Listen to their comments and suggestions. Often two or more pairs of eyes are better than just your own, especially as you will be wearing those rose tinted spectacles.

The next step is to become a cross between Ed Gein (see Texas Chainsaw

Michaelangelo
<This one…not that one>

Massacre) and Michael Angelo. Your job is to carefully sculpt each and every inch of your work. Ruthlessly cut away all the unnecessary, useless, divergent, misleading crap. In fact, everything that is not in harmony with the premise of the story should go.

But don’t throw it away. Keep it filed for another book, a short story or that twist which will let you escape from the dead-end you will write yourself into at some point.

What you have left will be a mean, lean, fighting machine…or not!

Once again work on the sections and chapters of your book, make certain all the joints connections and move smoothly. That the transitions work. This may mean adding some more flesh, but this time ensure it is lean meat and not fat, unless you need that little extra padding. But be cautious.

Time now to stand back again. Sleep and eat properly and regularly for a day or two. Then review your work.

Happy…No? Then go back and polish it some more.

Happy…Yes? Good. Now it is time to beautify your creature, lay on the outer skin.

This is yet another review, edit if you wish. Tidy up anything and everything which is not sleek and smooth. Dot your i’s and cross the t’s. Change ‘that’ to ‘which’ colons or commas to semi-colons, past tense to present. This is like eliminating the moles and birthmarks.

My museNext stage. The test run, test drive. Time for your beta readers to see and feel what you have made. What tasks you have set, or asked your beta readers to do, will affect the feedback you get.

One thing is almost certain. Each beta reader will have poked, prodded, sniffed, licked, and tasted your creation. It will have been tossed about and pulled apart. So you will have to go back and patch it up. All those imperfections that you will…note I say ‘will’…have missed before need correcting.

One good thing is, at this stage of the process is that you can now add the final flourishes. The hair gel and the make-up. Dress your work in fine clothing, titivate it. Get your creation ready for the cat-walk, the promenade. The editor.

You see a good editor wants to look at your work with a critical eye. They are the sage, the modern day Maharishi. With blue and red pens, they (the editors) will clutter the margins with various annotations that require your attention. Oh glory be!

Now you can start from the top, once more, working your way down, through each layer of flesh, each rise and fall, curve and dimple until eventually and exhaustedly you reach that little pinky toe on which you have etched those wonderful words….

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But as you well know that is not the end, because your editor, or another should take at least one more run through…. just in case!

Only after this should you even consider letting your monster out of your laboratory.

I feel I must say, especially those new to writing and who have read this far! That doing everything above only means that you have finished your manuscript.

I have not touched on the subjects of pagination, typesetting, design, book covers, illustrations, blurb, publishing, marketing, promotion, or anything else at all. I have only briefly covered the very simple bit, the writing of a story for a book.

Happy days! 

vampire1

 While I have you attention why not pop over and take a wander around my website? 

 

 

 

HOW TO “WRITER”

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Originally posted on http://coolerbs.com/  (Now updated & re-posted here!)

 JANUARY 17, 2015

 

For everyone who wants to be a writer, I present the honest answers to all of your questions:

What are writers?

People who write words, preferably ones that chain together to mean something.

Can I become a writer?

Yes.

Who can be a writer?

Anyone.

Is (blank) a writer?

Does that person write words? If so, then yes.

How do I become a writer? 

Write.

What do writers do?

Write.

How do I become a professional writer?

Write for free until someone offers to pay you for it. Then, write for them.

Does writing take practice?

Yes. Everything takes practice.

Do writers make a lot of money?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… not usually.

Will I become a professional writer?

Statistically? Probably not.

Do I need to write every day?

You don’t need to, but I recommend it.

Do writers need to read books?

Yes, constantly. How do you think we manage to get all of those words into our heads?

What is the worst thing you can do as a writer?

Mass murder.

Can I make a living as a writer?

That really depends on what type of writing you want to do. Fiction writing is really risky and hard. You could crash and burn at any moment, and that’s assuming you manage to get off the ground at all. Ghostwriting or technical writing, on the other hand, is fairly consistent work, and pays decent. Editing, which is sort of like writing in its own way, also pays well. Writing for a website is actually feasible, but the website has to be really successful. It’s entirely possible, but it’s an upward battle.

Will writers exist in one hundred years?

I hope so.

Why are writers important?

Because, without us, all you would have to read are the labels on food packages.

Why do writers not like people?

We like people! We just don’t like being around people.

Does writing give you a God Complex?

Yes.

Why are writers crazy/depressed/weird?

Couple of reasons:

  • We’re isolated all the time, partially by choice.
  • We create and kill fictional people.
  • A combination of crippling self-doubt and an over-inflated ego.
  • We’re constantly told we’re supposed to be crazy.
  • We’re in our heads all the time, and sometimes we forget to come out.
  • We have to wait for things to happen without any guarantees.
  • We have to survive on the money we make writing.
  • Critics.

Why are writers alcoholics/drug-users?

That’s a stereotype.

How do I write a book?

In no particular order:

  • Write thousands of words.
  • Rewrite thousands of words.
  • Overcome writers block.
  • Create a plot.
  • Create characters.
  • Create conflict.
  • Cry a little.
  • Fight carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Learn about yourself.
  • Learn about what it means to be human.
  • Cry heavily.
  • Spend years on it.
  • Spend more years on it.
  • Procrastinate
  • Write an ending.
  • Rewrite nearly everything.
  • Have a party
  • Finish the book.

What is the best genre to write?

If you’re going by sales, then probably Erotica or Young Adult Dystopian Fiction.

Can I write about Werewolves/Vampires?

Yes, but I won’t like you very much.

What should I write about?

Really? You’re asking me? If you don’t already have hundreds of ideas, then I think you are in the wrong line of work my friend.

What is a “Muse”?

A little voice in our heads that tell us what to write about.

What is “Writer’s Block”?

When your “Muse” stops talking to you.

How do I know when I’m done writing a book?

When it’s the exact story you want to tell, and has absolutely no grammar errors, spelling errors, font issues, size issues, formatting mistakes, or plot holes.

Self-Publishing or Traditional?

Both are fine. Choose what you think will work better.

Do I need to get my book professionally edited?

Yes.

Do I need to get it professionally illustrated?

Yes.

Do I need to get my cover professionally made?

Yes.

What’s a first draft?

The first version of a book, before you go back in and tear the whole thing apart, fixing errors as you go.

How many drafts are there of a book?

As many as needed, sometimes more than 10.

Will my first book get published?

Unlikely. Sorry.

Am I going to become famous when I publish my first book?

No.

How do celebrities write books?

They don’t. Usually a ghostwriter does it for them.

How does James Patterson and Stephen King write so many books?

They write all day. Every day. Till their fingers bleed, heal, and then bleed again.

What is NANOWRIMO?

A contest where you have a month to write the first draft of a book.

What is a manuscript?

According to Google:  “A manuscript is any document written by hand, or manually typewritten, as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some automated way.”

Why does no one like my writing?

I’m sure someone likes your writing.

Am I a good writer?

Possibly.

Am I a great writer?

If you think you’re a great writer, then you’re probably not. The greats are hyper-critical of themselves.

What are the downsides of being a writer?

  • Eye strain.
  • Loneliness.
  • Hand cramps.
  • Back cramps.
  • Self-doubt.
  • Awkward at parties.
  • Madness.

What are the upsides of being a writer?

The things you create are immortal.

How hard do writers work?

Harder then you could possibly imagine.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

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