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One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

 

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author and professional cover designer Hannah Linder to share what works for her when narrowing down the elements for a book cover.

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Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover 

Ms. Example Author has just typed the end on her baby. Her book baby. She’s cried over the manuscript, prayed over it, worked through a thousand kinks—and she’s finally ready to deliver this infant into the world of publishing. This brings her to a crucial stage: the book cover design. What should go on the cover? Which themes, characters, settings, or struggles are vital enough that they should be represented in the design?

So, with enthusiasm and lots of squeals, Ms. Example Author hurries to her keyboard and types her designer this e-mail: “I would like my middle-aged, purple-haired, thin-faced heroine (who also walks with crutches and usually wears a leather jacket) standing outside of her yellow duplex with her curly-haired, next-door neighbor reaching for her hand, a tabby cat sitting in the window, and a red package sticking out of the tin mailbox. And oh yeah, can we add a graveyard in there too? That’s an important part of the story, so we must get that in there somewhere!"

As you might agree, this request already has our brains hurting. Just imagine smashing all this into a book cover! So, how do we proceed with this? How can you, as the designer or the author, help narrow down the basics to portray the most important aspects of your book without overloading the design?

Here’s a quick method that works for me. Let’s run through the questions!

  • What is the genre? A big determining factor on how much, or how little, should go on your cover should be decided after perusing other books in your genre. Nonfiction? Let’s go as simple as possible. Less is more. Historical fiction? We can probably establish the main character, setting, and emotion—and throw in some embellishments too. So do some research and determine what does or doesn’t align with your genre’s current trends.
One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

  • What is the theme? Surprisingly enough, this is a question for both nonfiction and fiction titles. Granted, it may be more important in deciding for a nonfiction book—because hey, if the recurring theme is beauty from brokenness, let’s throw in something like a flower growing from cracked pavement, right? But the theme of your novel can be helpful to evaluate too. For example, if your protagonist must learn to forgive his father, whose dog tags he wears about his neck, that gives us a starting place. Should said protagonist be on the cover? Should the dog tags, which we’ve now established are an important aspect of the story, be hanging about his neck? If nothing else, knowing your book’s theme will help you identify the emotion your book cover should illuminate. 

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

  • What is most important? This can be a hard one because running back to our Ms. Example Author, she might argue that all the things she mentioned in her e-mail were an important part of the story. But let’s narrow it down. Who is the main character? What is the central plot of the story? What is the main setting? What scene or visual would best pull the viewer into your world—and how can you represent that scene or visual in the simplest way?
One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

  • What is the takeaway? When you present a potential reader with a book cover, you are giving them one glimpse into the world of your book. Sometimes you’ve only got a second before they scroll on, pass to the next shelf, or slide your book back into another stack. So, you need to determine now what the takeaway of your cover should be. Will it promise suspense? Romance? History? A great psychological truth? If you’re throwing too much at the viewer in one book cover, they’ll walk away feeling a little unsure and without that solid impression they need. Make sure the aura, the feel, of your story is going to come out strong in your cover. 

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

In conclusion, I defer again to the saying, “Less is more.” Be consistent with your genre, stay in mood with your theme, highlight the most important aspect of your story, and make sure the end result is strong enough to lure readers into your pages and leave an impression. I hope you find this process helpful in deciding what should stay (or not stay) on your book cover. Good luck!  

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One Thing That Works for Me with guest Hannah Linder: Narrowing Down What Should (Or Should Not) Stay on a Book Cover

Hannah Linder, represented by Books & Such Literary Management, is a Christian fiction author residing in the beautiful mountains of central West Virginia. Her upcoming Regency romantic suspense novel, Beneath His Silence, will be releasing with Barbour Publishing in November of 2022. She is a two-time 2021 Selah Award winner, a 2022 Selah Award finalist, and an ACFW member. Follow her journey at www.hannahlinderbooks.com.

Also, Hannah is a magna cum laude Graphic Design Associates Degree graduate who specializes in professional book cover design with affordable prices. Having designed for both traditional publishing houses and award-winning authors, Hannah understands the importance of an attractive book cover and the trends of today’s industry. Her clients have included New York Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors. Find out more at www.hannahlinderdesigns.com.
 
Authors, what cover design questions do you have for Hannah Linder?
Readers, what attracts you to a book cover?

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Kristi Ann Hunter: Rewrite the Book

 

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Kristi Ann Hunter: Rewrite the Book
 

Good Monday morning, Seekerville, and Happy Valentine's Day! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author, podcaster, and all-around super-cool person Kristi Ann Hunter to share about an editing trick that works for her. By the way, if you haven't yet checked out her books, I can't think of a better day than one dedicated to romance! 

Edit. Technically speaking, it’s a four-letter word, but for some writers it’s an agonizing chamber of never-ending torture as you comb through the sentences looking for the right place to add a word here or change a phrase there or enhance this sensory detail or remove that unnecessary description.

Allow me to make it worse. At least it’s going to sound that way at first. For some of you, though, it will be the best editing advice you’ve ever heard. How do I know? Because it’s the best editing advice I’ve ever heard and the person I learned it from claimed the same thing.

We’re talking about a very particular stage of edits today. Some people call them substantive edits, others call them high-level, and still others refer to them as rewrites. For this article we’re going to use the term rewrites. One, because it’s shorter, and two, because, well, you’ll see in a minute.

One Thing That Works for Me with guest Kristi Ann Hunter: Rewrite the Book
Rewrites come after you’ve written and worked through the first draft. The story is completely written and you’ve passed it through a critique group or a couple of beta readers, maybe an editor. You’ve read through it yourself and now you have a stack full of notes and now it’s time to take your book to the next level.

What works for me at this stage of editing is to rewrite the book.

Literally.

I open the existing manuscript on one side of the screen and a blank document on the other. Then I start typing.

I retype every single word of that book. Does it take a while? Yes. Do I occasionally copy and paste a couple of sentences or even a paragraph? Yes. Do I think it’s worth it? Thirteen books later, I’m gonna have to say yes.

What is the benefit of rewriting you may ask? Well, when you are already retyping every word of the book, you lose any hesitation to change something. It can be easy to let something okay stay in the book instead of replacing it with something great, just because it’s already there and it works. When you are going to retype it anyway, there’s no reason not to tweak a sentence’s phrasing or switch out one word for a slightly better one.

I find when I rewrite, I make small changes, add tiny details, and find a better rhythm for the story in general because all I’m having to think about is the phrasing on the page. The plot, characters, twists, and turns have already been set. I can bring all my creative energy into the words themselves.

Interested in trying the rewrite everything method for yourself? Here’s a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Large or double screens make this easier. I have a double wide screen on my desk but you can also hook a monitor to a laptop and get the same effect.
  • You will add words. Lots of them. Make sure you leave room in your word count to add the little details and enhancements. I typically add 20,000 words to a full size novel during this pass, so I try to size my first draft accordingly.
  • While you will type this faster than you wrote the first time since most of the creative direction decisions have already been made, it will take time. Build that into your schedule.
  • This is a lot of typing. A lot. I used to have to break out the wrist braces until I got an ergonomic keyboard. Take care of yourself.

If you try this and find it to be the best editing advice you’ve ever heard, I’d love to hear about it. Unfortunately I can’t pass it along to the original advice giver because it was a screen cap of a tumblr post that I came across on Pinterest.

Inspiration is everywhere, people. Don’t be afraid to use it.

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One Thing That Works for Me with guest Kristi Ann Hunter: Rewrite the Book
A lover of stories from before she could read, Kristi Ann Hunter is the award winning author of sweet regencies written from a Christian worldview including A Noble Masquerade and her upcoming novel, Enchanting the Heiress. She functions on a steady diet of chocolate, Chick-fil-a diet lemonade, and swoony visits with her book boyfriends. When she isn't writing or hosting her podcast, A Rough Draft Life, she spends time with her family in Georgia playing board games, being a dance mom, and living her own happily ever after.

Connect with Kristi at her website, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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What questions do you have for Kristi Ann Hunter about her rewriting everything method?

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media

 

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author, photographer, and graphic designer, Emilie Haney, as she shares about being genuine on social media!

When I talk to authors, one of the things we usually end up discussing is social media. Often this focuses on Instagram. Whether that’s due to my presence on the app as a content creator, or just the fact that I love books and photography and IG combines both of those loves, it’s always a fun topic. When asked my “secret” to growing and maintaining my following, I’ve come to realize my answer hovers around the same things: being consistent, being creative, being genuine. 

I’ve decided to further boil this down to my heart for social media: being genuine. 

Before we go any further I want to make sure you know this is not a ‘get followers quick’ scheme. It’s not a magic bullet, a recipe for growth, or a way to beat the algorithm. It’s my personal approach to social media that I have found to generate real community.

When I started my Instagram account I didn’t think “how can I get a bunch of followers.” I did it because it was fun and I wanted to connect with other book nerds. As my writing became a constant, I realized I needed an “audience” if I wanted to go into publishing someday. Rather than gather a group of people around the idea of “my book,” I drew them with common interest: books, reading, bookish things, and writing. This not only gained me an audience, but it also helped me connect with that audience. My focus then (as it is now) was one thing: to be myself.

Now, I don’t think you need to share everything to be an honest content creator, but I did come up with two aspects that I think require you to be genuine.

Being genuine in your post content: 

When I say you can be honest without sharing everything I’m talking about finding a balance with your audience. I think it’s important to ask yourself what you are comfortable being vulnerable about on your social media platforms. Your honesty in this will help you connect to others, but that doesn’t mean that you share everything in your personal life online.

I like to ask these questions when thinking about what to post:

What is the purpose for wanting to share this personal thing?

Could this help someone else?

Do I have solutions or helpful tips to share?

If I can see why I want to share something personal, I’m more willing to post it. My goal is not to garner sympathy or draw attention to myself; instead it’s to either help with useful tips or open up a window into my life that can let others know they are not alone.

Being genuine in your presentation:

I don’t believe that you have to post unfiltered photos or messy photos to ‘prove’ that you are human, but I do think it can help to share struggles behind a curated facade. This goes along with the point above, but if you want your social feed to be curated and color-coordinated, great! Do it! I don’t think you have to ‘ruin your aesthetic’ just to appear honest. But I do think it helps to have moments of honesty – perhaps in your caption or in your stories. These moments help your readers (or potential readers) to see you as a person and can often make them more willing to support you and buy your books.

Again, the goal is not to get something from your audience, but it is often the result. 

To condense this—my honest approach to social media is built on the fact that my brand is me. It means posting captions that detail my struggles in addition to my triumphs. I don’t try to sugar coat some of the more difficult aspects of publishing, but instead pair those hard truths with encouragement. I also show my face (not often, but sometimes) via my Instagram stories—no matter my ‘state,’ camera ready or lazy day—in an effort to make a personal connection with those who follow me.

For those of you who may struggle with some of this: keep going. I know that it’s hard to put yourself out there. No matter how many followers I have or how much I may ‘influence’ others, it’s not easy to admit I struggle with feeling accepted or that I often experience fear over putting my writing, artwork, or photography out there. But every time I’ve been honest with my followers about my struggles, I’ve had an overwhelming positive response from them. 

The truth is that we’re all human—writer or reader or whatever—and social media connects us in a way that makes it possible to appear very different than we are. Breaking down those barriers with your genuine interests, appearance, struggles, successes, and quirks can be one of the best ways to ‘market yourself’ in a world filled with feeds. 

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One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media
Emilie (Hendryx) Haney is a self-employed freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California with her husband. She’s a member of ACFW, writes adult romantic suspense and young adult fiction, and spends more time on Instagram than she probably should. With a degree in music and youth ministry, she has heart for youth and a love of genuine social media connections. She has built a thriving community around her Instagram platform and brand CreateExploreRead, with a focus on bookish merchandise sold on Etsy and Society6.

Connect with Emilie on her website and Instagram


What questions do you have for Emilie about being genuine on social media?
What are some things that have worked for you in building community among your readers?

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Jevon Bolden: Maintaining the Author’s Voice

 

 

 
Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author, editor, literary agent, ghostwriter, and CEO of Embolden Media, Jevon Bolden, as she shares about 'maintaining the author's voice'!
 
Whether in written or verbal communication, we each have our own word bank and speech patterns within which we relay our thoughts and ideas. Some of our vocabularies and patterns are expansive while others are a bit more limited. In addition to the setting, purpose, and audience, our cultures, education, and various other life experiences contribute to how we put our words together.
 
As a ghost or collaborative writer for authors of diverse ages, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds, it is imperative for me to capture the essence of the author’s unique way of communicating so that their audience feels and knows they are reading that author’s ideas. The writing must authentically reflect them—a little polished for print versus a live speaking event or the like—but them, nonetheless.
 
One thing that works for me is to get a feel for those patterns by gathering samples of the author speaking and/or writing in variety of contexts. I listen to how they speak to me, how they speak to different audiences, if I’m privileged, how they speak to family or close friends, and to those who are older or younger. This is what I appreciate about writing for authors over the course of many years. I attend their events and work with them closely behind the scenes, interviewing them and brainstorming how the content should be delivered. Through every interaction, I am taking lots of mental notes of the words and expressions they use.

Even when an author has supplied me with written notes, transcribed sermon or presentations, and other writings, I am most likely going to see how I can gain access to audio or video recordings of their speaking to a live audience. It helps so much to listen to or watch the author engaging with real people. In doing this, I get to hear how the audience responds to things they say, and I can grab phrases and concepts that seem to resonate the most. And boom—target audience and felt need knocked out in one shot.

Often the authors I work with also have active social media platforms that they themselves maintain. This is another way I get a peek into their word choices and patterns, which I can then duplicate when writing for them or use as a guideline when editing.

Ghostwriting, collaborative writing, and editing are services centered on bringing the author’s ideas to life on the page not my own. Having this much raw data and context keeps me in line and helps me to avoid overstepping the author’s communication style and patterns by imposing how I would say something. This can easily happen if I try to rush through and just get something done. Wanting the author to feel like they are reading themselves when I write for them, I know I must take my time and resist the easy way out of leaning on my own default language patterns.

If I were asked, I would also highly recommend these practices to writers or editors who may be assigned to work with authors with backgrounds different from their own. While there are efforts to diversify publishing, we are currently working within the reality that many times white writers or editors are working with BIPOC authors. Assigning the work to a BIPOC freelance editor or collaborative writer of color would be ideal. When this is not an option and white writers and editors are solely handling content developed by creators of color, employing some of the ideas I’ve shared here will help them maintain the author’s voice and truest meaning or intent.

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One Thing That Works For Me with guest Jevon Bolden: Maintaining the Author’s Voice
Jevon Bolden is a book editor, writer, literary agent, and CEO of Embolden Media Group, a boutique publishing consulting firm in sunny Florida. Jevon is also the founder of a newly formed group called Christian Publishing Professionals of Color that seeks to provide support, career opportunities, and community for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) in Christian publishing. She also serves as a consultant to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and serves on their committee for increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Christian publishing. The books she has written as other people have appeared on ECPA and CBA best-sellers' lists and have sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. As a conference speaker, workshop facilitator, writing coach, and mentor, Jevon shares the best of what she knows with passionate, creative, and influential individuals and groups who desire to publish great books that make a difference.
What questions do you have for Jevon about ghostwriting or collaborative writing?

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

 

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author Roseanna M. White as she shares about 'surprise and delight'!

For the last several years, my husband has been fine-tuning a marketing approach that he learned via Rob Hardy called “Identity Marketing.” It was originally created for filmmakers but was oh-so-easily adapted to the book world that he invested quite a bit of time into writing out those adaptations…and of course, sharing them with me, mwa ha ha ha. The whole system is amazing and works super well with the outlook I’ve always tried to have—that it’s not about selling, it’s about serving. And one of the tenets of this system that I especially latched onto was the principle of “Surprise and Delight.”

What is it? Very simple—whenever you can, come up with something that will surprise (in a good way, of course!) your readers. We all love plot twists in stories, right? Well, one of our goals should be delivering little twists in our marketing too. Things that our readers don’t expect, and which put big smiles on their faces.

Great in theory…but what about in practice? How do we actually come up with these things? I have a whole list of things I’ve done and tried, and many have worked quite well. But today I want to tell you about my absolute favorite.

So around two years ago, when we were just beginning to test this system, I had the idea for an online Tea Party Book Club. Now, this was before the world went virtual thanks to The Pandemic That Shall Not Be Named. The inspiration came in May of 2018; I had a book coming out…I went to a tea with the ladies from my church at a local tea house…and my husband had been running some virtual events via online meeting tech similar to Zoom. All these things swirled together in my mind and made me say, “Hey! Why couldn’t we do a tea party online?? I could put together packages, mail them out, and then get together with readers to chat about the book and have tea and treats together!”

I quickly became OBSESSED with this idea. (This is pretty typical of me, LOL.) I priced bulk tea. I priced pretty vintage teacups. Spoons. Sugar cubes. Individually wrapped treats. Candy. Mints. I weighed and priced postage. I considered how much I pay for this sort of thing at the local tea house. I came up with a package price and built it out on my website. And then… then… I presented it to my readers.

Would they love it too? Hate it? Not want to pay for that sort of thing? I didn’t know—all I knew was that I found the idea delightful, LOL, even though it would be a ton of work on my part.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out how my readers would receive it. Within a few days of announcing the idea, I had people filling the parties, ordering “starter kits” that involve tea pots and vintage cups and spoons, a lady from my church volunteered to make tea cozies for me, and I even had some people so excited that they signed up for all the extras and then realized an hour later that, oops, they were out of town that day or already had a tea set they could use.

But this was my answer—this idea, unheard of at the time, sounded so fun that my reader friends JUMPED to be a part of it. Where else did they get an hour with other fans of the book and the author and receive a hand-selected package of goodies to go along with it?

Now, granted, in the last year and a half everything has gone online, and we’re beginning to see a lot more things like this. But I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve been at it for over two years, that kinks have been worked out, processes have been streamlined…and that the seats keep filling up.

Best of all, relationships have been developed. I have regular attendees, and they greet each other like friends when they see a familiar face come back for this month or that month. Readers have become friends. And the conversations have been AMAZING.

Will I do these tea parties forever? Who knows. But I’m having a blast doing them now—especially because my readers are too. It’s just one thing in the many that I do to try to reach out to them, but it’s been a total success. It’s one way to Surprise and Delight them…and seeing how well it’s worked, it’s an inspiration to keep coming up with new ways to do just that in the future.

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One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. 

You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

 

Roseanna is offering a $15 credit in her online store to one commenter!

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight
 

Authors, what questions do you have for Roseanna about her tea parties or her 'surprise and delight' strategy?
Readers, what are some ways other authors have 'surprise and delight'-ed you? 

  

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Audra Jennings: A Good PR Inquiry Email

 

 One Thing That Works For Me with guest Audra Jennings: A Good PR Inquiry Email 

 Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming my friend, publicist Audra Jennings, as she shares the importance of a good PR inquiry email!

 
Your book baby is due soon, and you’re preparing for its launch into the world. You know you need PR and marketing help, so you start reaching out to publicists and blog tour groups to learn more about their services. What do you need to provide in your inquiry email to let them know more about you so that they can determine if they are a good fit for you?
 
There are a number of publicity and tour companies out there who promote books, but each have their specialty and know what the reviewers and media they work with like and don’t like and whether they are the ones who can help you be successful. Not everyone may be the best fit for you and/or your book, and you want to make sure you’re compatible. For that reason, it’s always best to send certain information to them to let them know more about you and your book, similar to making an inquiry to an agent, rather than sending an email that simply says, “Can you send me more information about your services and rates?” (If you have never sent an inquiry into an agent, some of these tips may help you there.) 

What should be in that first email to a PR company?
 
1. A professional presentation
 
Make sure you read over your email for spelling and grammar mistakes, and please use punctuation. I’ll be the first one to admit I could use some proofing in emails, and I’m not going to make judgments on accidental uses of it’s instead of its because I had to go back and fix that somewhere while writing this post. However, at least read over and try to put some writing effort into your email. It doesn’t give your best first impression as an author if your email is incoherent or doesn’t use periods. Just remember, this isn’t a text to a friend.

2. Some information about you

You don’t need to give your life history obviously, but you should introduce yourself. Who are you? What have you written? What is your passion? Why did you write this book (especially if you write non-fiction)? 

3. The title of your book

This might be a given, but I’ve gotten some interesting emails. 

4. The official description of your book/back cover copy