In search of the perfect book covers – Part One

Even when I was more of a reader than a writer, I judged book covers. A horrible cover–no matter how good the book may have been–was enough to prevent me from purchasing a book. So when I decided to begin self-publishing, I knew I had to make sure that my covers were nice enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen reading my own books. Shallow, I know, but I doubt I’m the only one who’s felt that way.

The first book I published, the collection of short stories entitled The Melanie Chronicles, was what I saw as my experiment in self-publishing. I wanted to see how to Imagego about with formatting, designing a cover and marketing a book. Some parts of it were more difficult than others, but I already had a cover image and I had a little help from my colleagues. I found the cover image on Shutterstock. I knew I wanted an illustration or vector image instead of a photograph. Even though I am not such a big fan of the color pink, I liked that the shade used in the picture was a deeper shade, not baby pink or pastel pink. In the end, I liked the image so much, I also used it on my business cards and as the header for my blog.

For Linger: a short story I designed everything myself. It took a while to find the right cover image. Many of the images I found were too cheesy-looking. I didn’t like the emotion they conveyed. Others felt overly sexual when I wanted a picture of a woman grieving. You don’t know how difficult it can be to find a good image of a grieving black woman. I found plenty of pictures of women spilling out of bras or naked and clinging to men. I found a few that almost conveyed the emotions  I wanted, but they weren’t quite right. In the end, I found the right cover image. But making a cover is not easy, especially when you aren’t proficient in Photoshop or InDesign. I couldn’t really find the right font and I ended up having a font I don’t really like with an image I loved. It was an experiment. I guess you could say it was a semi-successful experiment since I did everything for it myself.

ImageFor my next book covers, I’ve found pre-made book cover designers who also help with custom-made covers. One such designer is James at Humble Nations. He has a great selection of pre-made covers. You can buy one or buy them in bulk and save them for later. The cover images are great and James is helpful, friendly and funny. Since I have quite a few books that are close to being ready for publication, I decided to try his services. The cover for Choose Me, which is a collection of short stories I’m working on, gives you a great idea of James’ work. I love it. I think it captures the feel of the stories, which are stories about love and relationships with a touch of sensuality. I knew I wanted something that felt sexy without feeling cheap and tawdry. I saw this image and I thought it was perfect. I just think it has the right feel. I’m not sure yet when Choose Me will be published. I still need to tweak a few of the stories. I’ll keep you posted on the actual release date. Once it’s ready, it will be available as an ebook and a POD paperback.

I’m also trying to finish the edit of A Little Night Music. I’ve been discussing it with another designer, Andrew, at Design for Writers. As soon as I have some samples, I’ll share them with you.

Before I sign off, I just wanted to share some new blogs/sites with you:

Coming next week: a book review and (maybe) an interview with Nick Alexander.

Happy reading!

So how did it go with the December Drive to raise money for Stockholms Stadsmission?

Thank-You-Merci-GraciasSadly, my December Drive didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Only 15 people bought copies of Linger: a short story and The Melanie Chronicles. I don’t know who all of the buyers were since not everyone sent messages after they’d completed their purchases, but I thank all of you who tried to help. I will still make a donation to Stockholms Stadsmission at the end of this month. So thank you to the 15 of you who helped. 🙂

But for the 15 people who helped: if you’re reading this message and you weren’t one of the 3 people who emailed me after you purchased, please do mail me . Your names will appear on the acknowledgements page of my next ebook/POD version and you will receive a copy of that book as a gift from me. I haven’t decided yet which book comes out next but it will be a full-length novel. It could be A Little Night Music, The Time Is Now or Snowbound. Maybe Baby is still too rough for publication. I need to revise, revise, revise.

And now…I’m off to write.

 

 

My December Drive: Raising money to donate to Stockholms Stadsmission

ImageNearly everyday when I am on my way to work, I end up chatting with a homeless man named Rune. Rune is an older man who has been homeless for a while. He’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. During the winter, when he’s standing outside Åhléns City selling Situation Stockholm, I make sure he has hot chocolate. If we have extra pairs of gloves at home, I give them to him but he says they keep being stolen by others who are worse of than him. Sometimes he’s not there and then I ask the ladies at Kahl’s Kaffe if they’ve seen him. They also look out for Rune, whose arthritis sometimes prevents him from going out in the elements and selling Situation Stockholm to pay for a shelter.

Meeting Rune everyday also gave me the idea for my December drive. I try to help him as much as I can. I also want to be able to help others. One of the best ways to do this is to support a local organization that helps the homeless and others who are at risk.

So what is my December Drive? All of the profits from December sales of Linger: a short story (a Kindle-only short story) and The Melanie Chronicles (ebook and print version) will be donated to Stockholms Stadsmission at the end of the month. I hope to raise at least 1000 Swedish kronor. To do that, I will need your help.

So please help me reach my goal by purchasing a copy of Linger and The Melanie Chronicles. Clicking on the cover images in my sidebar will take you to where you purchase them. Once you’ve purchased either book, please send me an email. Everyone who helps will be thanked in a special post in January and will receive a free copy of my next publication.

Thanks for your help and thanks so much for reading my blog. 🙂

Stockholmers, buy a Christmas tree and support Stockholms Stadsmission

mission treeI already told you about my mission for the month of December–to donate all the profits from December sales of Linger: a short story and The Melanie Chronicles to Stockholms Stadsmission. Now I’ve found out that those of us in the Stockholm area can buy Christmas trees in Kungsträdgården and help support the mission at the same time. I think this is a great way to support Stockholms Stadsmisison‘s endeavors in helping the homeless, substance abusers, and at-risk women and children.

If you purchase a “typical” Swedish tree, 135 kronor will be donated to Stockholms Stadsmission. If you splurge and get the King Spruce, 185 kronor will go to the mission. Stockholmers can even order their tree online from hemgran.se and have the tree delivered to their door. But then the amount that goes to the mission is 50 or 95 kronor, depending on which type of tree you order.

For more information, click here. Note: this information is in Swedish only but you can use the translate plug-in on the website to see the info in English.

For those of you who don’t live in Sweden, I hope you’ll do something to support your local charities this holiday season. Donate old clothing that’s still in good condition to the Salvation Army or a homeless shelter. Help out at a soup kitchen or food bank. Volunteer at a senior citizen center. Volunteer at your local library and start a story hour for kids or offer to be a homework helper.

Remember the message of this season: It’s better to give than to receive. And giving doesn’t have to cost a dime.

By the way: I’m near done reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer, so later I’ll be posting a review of it and Santa Maybe by Scarlett Bailey, whom I interviewed for the blog last Christmas.

Might be time to check in with Scarlett again and see what she’s got planned for Christmas.

Happy First Advent!

My Spring/Summer 2012 Reading List

I’ve been buying books like crazy the last few weeks. I need a steady supply, you see. It’s the bookworm in me and it must be fed. Plus, in a month I will be heading to Italy for ten days of vacation and I always have books with me when I travel. So what will I be reading? I’ve got paperbacks and ebooks on my Kindle…:) Here’s what I bought:

Paperbacks

Kindle

So I think I am set for spring/summer reading…at least for now. I will add to the list, so you know I’ll keep you updated.

What are you all reading now? And what’s on your spring/summer reading list?

And a little Melanie Chronicles news: I’ve sold 100+ copies now of the ebook version, which pleases me. I’ve broken even now and it makes me happy that people want to read my writing.

The Melanie Chronicles is live on amazon.com now!

Yup, that's from amazon.com...

So now it’s official: the print version of The Melanie Chronicles is live on Amazon. You can find it here and it’s only $3.99 + shipping. A few people asked me why I was doing a print version when it’s already available as an e-book. Well, not everyone has or wants an e-reader. My mother is one of those people. She isn’t interested in e-readers at all–despite all my efforts to convince her of the joy that is Kindle. When I was in Philadelphia in February, we had a conversation that went something like this…

Me: Mom, I’ve published my collection of short stories now.

Mom: Oh, good! Where is it?

Me: It’s an e-book, so it’s on my Kindle. (Show my mother the ebook.)

Mom: But where’s the book?

Me: On the Kindle. See? Right there… (Show her the cover, etc on the Kindle.)

Mom: That’s so nice, honey, but I want a real book. Can’t you print one for me? You know I don’t like these techno-thingies.

I should also add that my mother doesn’t read the email I send her unless I call her first and tell her I’ve sent her an email. She’s not very into computers. She won’t even buy anything online if she can help it.

Anyway, several of my friends have also said they want to read my book but don’t have an e-reader and don’t like reading books on their computers. Plus, I am one of those people who loves my e-reader but still loves the thrill I get from having print books.

So for any of you who are like me and still like print books or if you’re like my mom and you don’t like techno-thingies, the wait is over–the book is now officially live on amazon.com. You can also order it from my CreateSpace mini-store.

That’s it for now! I am trying to finish A Little Night Music and Another Cup of Love, plus the revision/editing of Snowbound so you can have even more from me to read .

Another Update: POD Version of the Melanie Chronicles Live in 5-7 Days

So it’s official: I checked the digital proof after submitting a new file with adjust margins and corrected italicization. I debated ordering yet another print proof but then I downloaded the PDF proof, printed it out and measured everything up. It looked great so I approved the proof.  If I ordered a print proof it was going to take close to 5 weeks to receive it (unless I paid 30+ USD for express shipping) and I just didn’t have the patience to wait that long or the desire to spend that much on express shipping.

If you don’t want to wait a week to order it from Amazon, you can go to my CreateSpace “store” and order it here.

So what do you get? Three short stories about Melanie and a taste of my writing style. I have more fiction coming soon– three novels and three more volumes of Melanie stories.   I’ll let you know when the next publication is ready!

The latest print proof has arrived!

Cover of POD version of The Melanie Chronicles

Last night I came home exhausted from an intense day at the office and all I could think about was the fish casserole I was going to eat for dinner. Then I opened my mailbox and found a slim cardboard package atop the usual bills and commercial circulars and my heart leapt: the new print proof of The Melanie Chronicles had arrived!

I just stood there in the lobby of my apartment building feeling giddy at the prospect of being able to finally check the latest proof. You may remember the first version was not really what I expected–what looked great in the digital proof looked wonky in reality. Still, it was an awesome feeling to hold my mini short story collection in my hands and see proof that I am a writer and I am capable of putting together a book–even if I suck at formatting sometimes.

Anyway, I went upstairs and forced myself to wait until after dinner to open it. I was hungry, tired and I knew I’d get a crashing headache if I didn’t eat soon. So I behaved myself–ate my dinner, didn’t rush through it–though I did make a few posts on Facebook–and then I opened my package. Overall, everything looks great. Only three things popped out at me:

  • On the even-numbered pages the outer margin is slightly narrower than on corresponding odd-numbered pages
  • A full-stop disappeared at the end of a sentence
  • A magazine title that ought to be italicized isn’t

Other than that, no spelling mistakes, no weird typos, no major problems. Tord says I should go ahead and make the book live. He says these things don’t bother him but I know how many people are. They look at self-published books and put higher demands on them than they do traditionally published books. In a way, I understand them. We expect traditionally published books to be perfect. We also expect indie writers to make sure their books are perfect because we want them to prove us wrong about the quality of self-published books, which still bear to a certain extent the stigma of the past.

So what do you all think? Should I fix the 3 tiny problems listed above? Or should I go ahead and put the book on sale and concentrate on getting the next volume of Melanie stories, A Little Night Music (working title, could change any day now) and Another Cup of Love ready for publication?

Coming soon: a print version of The Melanie Chronicles

The Melanie Chronicles--coming soon as a trade paperback.

It’s true! I’ve had quite a few people asking when they can order a print version of The Melanie Chronicles since they don’t have e-readers. With that in mind, I looked around for a good print-on-demand service and decided to go with CreateSpace. I received a proof a few days ago–it needed some tweaks. I devoted all of last night to making necessary changes and adjusting the formatting, then I sent the updated document to CreateSpace. Now I am just waiting for them to get back to me following their review.

So what’s next? Well, there will be two more volumes of The Melanie Chronicles–one with stories of her relationship with Damian, the other focusing on her affair with Alex the Swedish actor. I think all the covers will feature the same cover illustration–just with a different background color. Maybe I’ll even publish the novel I wrote about Melanie and John. We’ll see. 🙂

The print version of The Melanie Chronicles will be available via amazon.com, my CreateSpace estore and via this lovely blog. I’ll keep you updated on the final publication date.

Going to Matera again

Lovely Matera

Next week I head to Matera for Brainstorming at the Spa 2012. I really feel like I need this after the last couple of weeks I’ve had. I don’t really have a concrete idea to brainstorm, but I think–with the help of my fellow brainstormers–I will have figured out a skeleton of my next project by the time I return to Stockholm on the 26th.

I’m looking forward to being in the company of my wonderful Matera friends who’ve cheered for me, given me pep talks and advice. And when I return I will let you know what sparkly ideas I’ve managed to come up with. I’ll be thinking about a new novel or novella and planning (already) for Nanowrimo 2012.

Before I leave, I’ll write another post and I hope to have an author interview (or two) ready for April.

Also: if you’ve already purchased The Melanie Chronicles and enjoyed it, please post a review on Amazon or BN.com. Your support means a lot to me! 🙂