Categories
Career changing Covers Legal

Working With a Cover Artist, Part 1

Let’s Look at Working With a Cover Artist

Have you ever worked with a cover artist?

It is like any business relationship, or it should be. Respect your cover artist, and they will help you. Don’t, and beware!

Get an Idea of What You Want Before You Start

covers cover design fonts
So, which fonts are on the covers in your genre?

So the last thing a cover artist wants to hear is, “Surprise me!” When they ask you how you envision your cover, you need to have an idea. One of the best ways to get such ideas is to browse Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and even your local bookstore. Look at the typical covers in your genre. Are they natural-looking? Industrial? Hand-drawn?

What are the predominant colors? Black and white? Green? Pink? Red? Something else? So are they angular, or are the shapes softer and more muted?

Use care!

Now we have all heard or read the expression, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Except that it’s absolutely untrue. We do judge books by their covers. All. The. Time.

Do Your Cover Artist a Favor and Do Some Research

If the covers in your genre’s section of the bookstore are all orange, should your cover be orange, too? It’s hard to say. You want it to look like it belongs in that section, right? But you also want it to stand out. I would say, if you are a new author and you are predominantly selling online, you need to consider how your work is going to look when it’s shown with others in the genre.

Perform an Amazon or Barnes & Noble search for your genre, and for any keywords related to your plot. If your book is a children’s work about a super-ocelot named Clive (please don’t steal this work. I suddenly have a wicked plot bunny ping-ponging around my head), then you could search under children’s works and then under superheroes or animal stories, etc.

It might even be helpful to take a screenshot, print it and then consider images which would fit in and images which would stand out.

Your Name

So, your name is probably not going to be recognizable to most people. While it is an important part of the cover, it might be better for the artist to make the title stand out more.

Cover Artist Contracts!

Oh, and another thing – be sure to have a written agreement with this person. Even something relatively informal, signed by both of you, is better than nothing. But why? Because you’re exchanging money for labor. And that means, sometimes, people sue.

Categories
Career changing Promotions Publishing

Writing a Blurb

Are You in the Middle of Writing a Blurb?

Have you ever written a blurb for a book? Here’s how.

Grab the Reader’s Attention

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Blurbs
        Blurbs are a great way to sell your work

The most effective blurbs are:

  • short
  • specific as to genre (don’t be coy; if it’s horror, then say so!)
  • open about who the protagonist is
  • spoiler-free
  • not a rehash of the first chapter or the entire plot
  • neutral about the quality of your work (don’t say: this is an incredible book. Your saying that does not make it so. Sorry.)

So keep in mind – these are not the same as the summary you write for a query.

Blurb Samples

In this fantasy tale, Dorothy is whisked away by a twister to an unknown magical land. But first she has to deal with the quite literal fallout of her house falling on, and killing, a wicked witch.

Blurbs give us an idea about the story, and they make us want to read more. Also, a blurb for The Wizard of Oz would likely be longer than the above, better reflecting the work’s complexity and length. While a long book does not need to have a long blurb, it at least could conceivably support one. However, a short novel probably would not. Unless, of course, you’ve written The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reclusive millionaire Jay Gatsby leads the good life in 1920s New York. As his friend Nick Carraway watches, Gatsby’s life takes a turn with the all-too appealing but also all-too married Daisy Buchanan.

Or –

Scout and Jem Finch live in Alabama with their widowed father, Atticus, the town’s leading lawyer. It’s the 1930s, and Maycomb seems far from sophistication or enlightenment. And so the trouble starts when a black man is accused of raping a white woman – and Scout’s father agrees to defend the accused.

Back to you.

Categories
Facebook Social Media

… And Facebook for All – Your Home Page

Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Home Page

Your home page is vital. Log into Facebook, and it’s the first thing you see. It’s your Home Page. So here’s what’s in it. You can divide it into what look like columns.

NOTE: Facebook constantly A/B tests. Features move around, change, are renamed and resized, or disappear all the time. These are rolled out in stages; your neighbor may have a different-looking Home Page from yours. And this is 100% normal.

Home Page Links

So first of all, column one (left side, top):

Your Home Page
Facebook (Photo credit: Scott Beale)
  • News Feed
  • Messenger
  • Watch
  • Marketplace

Then shortcuts; this is a section you add to or subtract from.

Then …

  • Explore
  • Pages
  • Groups
  • Events
  • Fundraisers
  • Games etc.

Your Feed

Then column two (center):

  • Status messages on friends’ pages
  • Other friend activities
  • Anything your friends or the pages you follow are sharing

Column Three

Then column three (right, top):

  • Events
  • Friends’ Birthdays
  • Marketplace
  • Groups You Might Like
  • People You May Know
  • Targeted Advertisements
  • A list of friends available on chat (at the bottom)

Let’s start with Column One:

Groups

So this is a list of the groups you have joined.

Pages

These are pages you are following.

Friends

So pretty obviously, this is a way to access your entire list of friends.

Create Group

So you can create groups for any reason. And this includes to support a beloved entertainment figure, promote your business or just complain about people wearing Crocs. So I’ll get into the specifics later.

Games

These will rotate as you access more games, depending upon recency.

Status Messages on Friends’ Pages

So this is the actual News Feed itself. And you can comment on others’ statuses (statii?) or posted links.

Other Friend Activities

First of all, you are served everyone’s activities. Facebook can be a tsunami of data. However, a lot is aggregated; you are usually shown that six people joined a group, rather than separate messages on all half-dozen.

Events

So if you’ve got upcoming events and you haven’t RSVP’d, they’ll show up here, but you can jettison them by clicking the x on the right side. Note that you’ll be invited to all sorts of stuff, including sponsored activities and openings by commercial ventures. And RSVP’ing is not strictly necessary. However, as an event organizer, I have to say it’s appreciated so as to at least get a handle on headcount (and know who not to expect). You need not RSVP for commercial store openings or whatnot.

Friends’ Birthdays

Whether they’ve made the year apparent is their own business. But if they’ve got the month and day up on Facebook, birthdays will show up here. And of course you’re under no obligation to wish people a Happy Birthday, but it is kind of nice.

People You May Know

So this is based upon some sort of an algorithm whereby Facebook looks at things like your current friends list, their friends, your location and possibly also your school(s) and workplace(s). However, I don’t believe the latter are included at this time. So if you have any mutual friends, Facebook lists them as well. Facebook does not always get this right, or it gets it wrong in interesting ways, e. g. Facebook says I “may know” the spouse of someone I attended High School with. Well, unless I went to High School with the spouse (over 30 years ago), then there isn’t much of a likelihood there.

Hence there are times when this list is bewildering. Hey, Facebook is doing the best it can.

Targeted Advertisements on Your Home Page

Well, they’re as targeted as Facebook can make them. This  apparently has a basis in your click activity, your likes, your friends’ likes and whenever you click on an ad to get rid of it. Again, sometimes Facebook can get this wrong in rather spectacular ways; for example, when I wrote this post originally, it showed me an ad for Toyota. And I have neither owned nor contemplated owning one, ever.

A list of friends available on chat

It should go without saying that you should never click on links from chatters you don’t know well. And you’re under no obligation whatsoever to answer anyone’s instigated chat.

So a big part of the Facebook experience is not only playing games but also sharing them with others, or sharing status or links. The way you see and can participate in this sharing is via your Home Page. It is, essentially, a bulletin board between you and your pals. But keep your own wall the way you want it. If you don’t want people to swear or argue politics, etc., that is 100% within your rights.

Next: Your Account Settings

Categories
Facebook

… And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page Part I

Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page Part I

Let’s look at your profile page part 1.

If you’re a member of Facebook, you’ve seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times – it’s your Profile Page.

And Facebook for All -- Your Profile Page Part I
Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is also a Home Page, but I’ll cover that in the next segment. Right now, let’s just concentrate on your Profile. Here’s mine.

Profile Page Part 1: Basics

So at minimum, the Profile page consists of the following:

  • Wall
  • Info and,
  • Photos

And it also contains:

  • A space for your profile picture
  • Information on any mutual friends you might share with anyone peeking at your profile
  • A small subgroup of your friends
  • Your Likes
  • and Your Photos
  • Your Links
  • A share button, and,
  • On the right side, there are advertisements

NOTE: Facebook is the biggest A/B tester on the planet. They constantly move things around in order to try for an improved user experience. Hence this means you may see buttons moved, resized, renamed, or even eliminated. And it also means your neighbor might see an entirely different configuration.

Let’s start with the tabs.

Wall

Up at the top, you can put in your status. There doesn’t seem to be a true limit to how long a status message can be, but after a few lines, it’s excessive. People put all sorts of nonsense in here – including not only statements of their adoration for celebrities but also mundane minutiae such as the scintillating fact that they’re about to go pick up the dry cleaning. If you want to use Facebook at all for your business, your status messages should really be short, somewhat on point and inoffensive (this is also true if you are looking for work and are not using Facebook for any of that – potential employers are watching!).

Below is the wall itself, where friends can post replies to your status (they can also reply directly to the status), send you greetings, send you game requests, etc. You can always delete or hide these messages, which can be a good idea if they are becoming something you’d rather not share with others. People routinely answer all sorts of dumb questions about me (e. g. Do you think Janet Gershen-Siegel has kissed a boy? Gee, I’ve been married since 1992. You make the call.) and I usually just hide or delete those.

You can also hide notifications from various applications so, if everyone you know is playing Farmville, and you don’t care about it, right-click on any Farmville notification and select the hide Farmville notifications button. However, be aware that there are any number of similar or satellite applications (gifts, new gifts or whatever), so you may be doing a rather similar task more than once. Still, understand that you don’t need to ask people to stop sending you requests. Just block the app.

Info

You can add any number of tidbits here. At minimum, you should at least list your marital/dating status, your birth date (the year is optional) and your current city and/or home town. This will draw people in and make it easier for them to find you, particularly if you have a rather common name. You want friends and business associates to figure out that they want you, the Mary Lou in Hicksville, New York, versus the Mary Lou in Mars, Pennsylvania.

Marital status isn’t strictly necessary (and I’ve found it doesn’t stop guys from sometimes hitting on me – eek), but I personally think it’s a nice thing to include. However, of course, no one can force you to do this and naturally it is illegal in the United States for a potential employer to demand this information.

Birth date is kind of nice to have, partly as an identifier and partly to give another piece of information out that’s just pleasant to see. It’s a minor revelation (particularly if you only give out the month and day) and is essentially harmless. And an American employer cannot legally ask for the year. However, employees do have to be of a certain age in order to work full-time at all. Still, if you get that far along in a job application, an employer won’t use Facebook to confirm your age – the employer will instead use official governmental records like your birth certificate for that.

Adding your birth date also means the inevitable onslaught of Facebook birthday greetings.

Biography

Biography is optional and, if you use Facebook for business, keep it short, on point and inoffensive. Work history is also not necessary but it can be helpful if you need for people to find you (are you the Mary Lou in Hicksville who worked at AIG, or at the Dairy Queen?). Plus that can add to the networking vibe but keep in mind that Facebook for networking remains a poor substitute for LinkedIn.

Educational information also helps to identify you. Graduation years are not necessary. Likes and interests will show up in part by your typing in here and also by you “liking” various pages. Keep in mind that this can be found, so “liking” a page with a profane name is going to be something that can be picked up by potential employers and clients.

Profile Page Part 1: Photos

These are pretty self-explanatory. Any photographs that you’re tagged in them will show up here. You can collect photos into albums, of course. Also, if a photograph is unflattering, compromising or just plain not of you, you can always untag yourself. Before my parents were not on Facebook, I was sometimes tagged on my mother’s photos so I would be able to find them. I don’t mind this. My profile has enough photographs of me that it’s obvious I’m not her. But you might. So, if this happens, talk to whoever’s doing this. There are other ways of sharing photographs and albums which might suit your needs better.

Categories
Social Media Twitter

Getting More Twitter Followers

Are You Interested in Getting More Twitter Followers?

Getting More Twitter Followers.

Getting More Twitter Followers
twitter icon 9a (Photo credit: marek.sotak)

Oh, it’s the Holy Grail, isn’t it? Getting more people to follow you, and moving that magical Twitter followers number up, up and ever upwards, to stratospheric heights. And, even more importantly, increasing it to more than the number of people you’re following (more on that later).

Social Media Today weighed in on this, and I support their ideas but would love to expand up them in this post. Here’s what they had to say about Twitter followers and increasing their numbers.

Quality vs. Quantity

First off, they point out that it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Well, yeah. Kinda. However, various Twitter graders (such used to be found on HubSpot – now they provide a website grader) did give more credit for having more followers. Were these graders meaningful? Kinda, sorta.

HubSpot admitted that they did give some weight to the actual numbers. I am not averse to actual numbers being used as a part of the grading system. They are, after all, somewhat objective. But does any of it have a meaning? Probably, mainly, to fellow social media marketing-type folk. But if you were to tout your grade to anyone not into it, they’d probably look at you as if you had three heads (my apologies, HubSpot).

Who Do You Want to Follow You?

So onto the techniques. (1) Think about who you want your Twitter followers to be – like with any other idea, you need to have some sort of a plan. If you want to sell landscaping services, it would help to target homeowners and gardeners, yes? And in your area, right? You might get John from Cincinnati but unless you’re in the Cincinnati area, forget it. John may be wonderful, but his following you is of little help to you. Social Media Today‘s suggestion is to go after directories like We Follow. Agreed, and possibly also go after local groups of people. As in, put your Twitter handle on your business cards. You’re mainly going to be handing those to local folk, so there’s a match there.

(2) Complete your profile – this is a no-brainer and I have no idea why people don’t do this as it takes very little time. And, while you’re at it, add a photograph. Make it of your face, or of the company logo if the profile is shared.

Return the Favor

(3) Follow others – sure, but don’t do so indiscriminately. At some point, you will hit maybe 2,000 following. However, if your own Twitter followers are nowhere near as high, you’ll mainly look like a spammer (e. g. an account indiscriminately following whoever).

The easiest way to assure that a more balanced ratio is maintained is to get into the habit of doing it now, before you have to care about it. Therefore, don’t just follow back everyone who follows you, unless you’ve got a good reason to do so. A lot of accounts will follow and then unfollow in a day or so if you haven’t followed back. You most likely don’t want these followers anyway. So, unless they are appealing for some other reason, don’t bother with them. Might I also suggest pruning? If someone isn’t following you back and they aren’t that interesting, uh, why are you following them again?

Use Tweepsmap to find people who recently unfollowed you. It’s free!

You’re Not the Only One

(4) It’s not about you – agreed. I may tweet (on occasion) about shoveling snow, but the bottom line is, I know that’s not fascinating to most people. You have a new blog post? Tweet about it. The company landed a new contract? Tweet about it. The laws are changing in your area? Well, you get the idea.

(5) Hashtag, retweet, and reply – that is, pay attention to other people. How would they best be able to find your stuff? Would you want them to retweet your stuff? Then retweet theirs. Comment, reply, engage. Be involved with the Twitter community.

(6) Add people to lists – of course. But use those lists! I’ve been on Twitter longer than there have been lists, and I originally just followed everyone. When I started listing them, I began coming up with people who I didn’t know at all, at least not on the surface. Hence I created a list just called Who Are These People? and began investigating them further. I kept a lot of them, but a lot were sent to the great Twitter post in the sky. And that’s okay. Because it goes back to an original principle: follow who you want to follow, and don’t just auto-follow.

Get Personal With Your Twitter Followers

(7) Welcome your new Twitter followers – personally, I’m not a fan of this one, as I have seen all manner of automated “thanks for following me” messages. There’s nothing wrong with a “thanks for following me” tweet every now and then. Those can be nice. Just try not to be too mechanical about it.

Oh, and don’t make your first direct message all about sales. Seriously, just don’t. It’s a poor look no matter who you are.

(8) Integrate, integrate, integrate – that is, like with any other form of social media engagement, put it everywhere. How many times do people have to see something online before they take action? Seven? Nine? Then get your twitter handle out there. Use it in signature lines, on business cards and, heck, even write it on name tags.

Does it all work? Sure it does. And it’s a lot more in the spirit of Twitter than just getting some generic and spammy auto-following list to add your handle, briefly, to their list of who to follow. Don’t be that guy. Be someone who you would want to follow.

Twitter Followers: The Upshot

Getting followers is not the be-all and end-all, so don’t make it that way. Rather, interact and engage. Be encouraging and positive. Being funny helps as well.

It’s not all about the numbers.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Working With a Beta Reader

What’s It Like, Working With a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is somewhat different from an editor.

For one thing, beta reading is generally something that people do for free.

Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who read over your work and evaluate it before it goes to a publisher. They might read for typos, spelling errors, grammatical issues, and punctuation problems, but that is not a very good way to work with them. Work with an editor for that.

Instead, you want them to help you with flow and continuity. If your main character is female and 5’2″ and has a chihuahua on page 4, then she should still be female, 5’2″, and the owner of a chihuahua on page 204, unless there is some on-page reason why she isn’t. E. g.:

  • She is transgender, and successfully transitioned (with or without surgery) to male. Or the character no longer identifies as female or male.
  • The character had a growth spurt and is taller, or has osteoporosis, and shrunk, or maybe her legs were amputated (sorry, character!).
  • She gave away the chihuahua, or it ran away, etc.

The last thing you want is for your beta reader to wonder where the chihuahua went, particularly if the little dog isn’t a big part of the story.

How Can You Start This Relationship?

The best way to get a beta reader is to be one. So offer a trade with another indie. Be kind when you’re done, and either recommend your beta reader friend or at least donate a little something to one of their three favorite charities. If the work is absolutely abhorrent, at least you can say you did that.

What Should You Expect?

You’re working with a volunteer. Things might be slow. You cannot be overly pushy. However, setting an expectation as to the overall deadline (be generous with the time frame!) is helpful. E. g. if you want the beta reading to be done in ten months for a 100,000 word document (very possible, even for a busy beta reader), say you need it done in nine months and try not to be overly anxious about it.

What Are Some Practical Tips?

Use Google docs in order to avoid version control nightmares. Create a schedule and a set of expectations. Hence for our hypothetical 100,000 word work, a nine month time period gives the beta reader about 39 weeks to get it all done. If each chapter averages about 1,100 words long, then you want a beta reading turnaround of about 2 – 3 chapters per week to make it in nine months. See why I’m talking about giving yourself a one-month cushion? You’ve also got to account for vacations, illness, the other person being busy with other stuff, and even a lack of motivation on their part.

How Many Beta Readers Do You Need?

For our 100,000 word work, you’re probably going to want more than one beta reader. In fact, I would recommend that for any work longer than what most people would call a short story. You need some give and take and a consensus. If three beta readers tell you a chapter is dull, then it’s dull. If two say you need to use the word ‘whom’, and one says to use the word ‘who’, look it up on a trusted authority, such as Grammar Girl. Majority does not rule here.

Demographics

Good beta readers are in the demographics of the people you’re trying to reach with your novel. They like your genre or at least are willing to read in it and offer feedback. They don’t tear you a new one when they don’t like something, but they are also unafraid to tell you if something isn’t working for them.

Some Standard Questions

Ask them:

  • Are the characters believable? Are they distinguishable?
  • Do you think the situations are plausible?
  • Are the settings well described? Can you picture yourself where the characters are?
  • Do the transitions work?
  • Are the conflicts plausible?
  • Is the conclusion a satisfying one?

Also ask about genre-specific issues, such as whether your mystery was too easy or difficult to solve, if your horror story was scary enough, if the technobabble in your science fiction novel was credible, etc.

Practical Tech

Google docs is particularly useful for multiple beta readers, as they can see each others’ suggestions. Just set everyone to ‘suggesting‘ and not ‘editing‘. Google docs will also inform them when changes have been made, so they are reminded that you’re still out there, and you still need their help. Be sure to make corrections on the page so the beta readers can comment on them if they want to.

Don’t like Google docs? Then use Word and turn on its editing features. Use Dropbox or the like if your documents are too big to practically email back and forth.

Manners Count With Your Beta Reader!

Be gracious about the corrections; these people are trying to help you! But if it’s important for your character to be Lithuanian or eating pretzels or whatever, then stick to your guns and explain why. Do so without rancor, of course. Be kind and your beta readers will be so in return to you.

Establish a really good relationship, and you could be reading for each other for years.

PS… Beta Reader Rewards

Not 100% necessary, but nice to do all the same. I’ve gotten and given gift certificates. And if your work makes it to publication, send them a signed copy. For free.

Categories
Career changing Promotions

Teasing Your Work

Teasing Your Work

Teasing is a subtle art. It is a lot like a fan dancer’s moves or a shy person’s come-on.

Teasing should feel like a movie trailer because that is exactly what movie trailers do.

Teasers are usually a bit longer than blurbs and are meant to generate excitement. They often end with a question, but they don’t have to. Think of how films are teased if you’re stumped for ideas.

She was spoiled, rich, and beautiful, until the Civil War ended it all. Scarlett O’Hara has lost nearly everything. But there’s a rich man who’s interested, and he might
even love her. Can she win Rhett Butler
and save her beloved land, Tara?

Revealing too much

Don’t get too obvious! You do not do yourself any favors by spoiling your own book. Notice how the above teasing for Gone With The Wind does not go past maybe the middle of the film? And how it never mentions Ashley or Melanie Wilkes, the burning of Atlanta, or Scarlett’s first two husbands? I deliberately left the teaser off at just about when the first big reel ends. It used to be, in the theater, Gone With The Wind would have an intermission, the film was so long. This teaser ends just about a minute after intermission ends.

Revealing too little

This is another problem. If I just said Scarlett was a wealthy woman living a life of luxury on the brink of the Civil War, that would feel a bit incomplete. I can go a little further, plus adding Rhett Butler’s name to the teaser brings in the male main character. Marrying Rhett is one of Scarlett O’Hara’s main character drivers, whether it is to secure finances for her family or due to love on her part. Bringing Rhett into the conversation means the listener or reader gets an even better idea about who Scarlett is, and what motivates her.

Practical Teasing Practice

Can you write a teaser for a classic work? Try it in the Comments section, and let’s see how you do!