If you are interested in creating your own covers, or if you are a part of selecting your cover in your published work, you need to understand something about color theory.
Color theory is the associations and impressions we get when confronted with a certain color or set of colors. Color matters.
A Wheel and Some Hex
Your computer generates colors based on combinations of basic colors. These are written in RGB (red-green-blue) or hexadecimal. Once you know the code, you can replicate any color.
Using RGB or hex is particularly important as you replicate your colors and branding across multiple platforms. What looks like pure fire engine red on my monitor may appear more like brick or tomato to you. But at least with a uniform color code, I can get it right if I need to copy the red from your page or cover.
Imaging programs such as GIMP and Adobe InDesign both have color picker tools which look like eye droppers. Select the tool, click on the color you want to replicate, and the tool will grab the correct hex or RGB coded color.
Color Theory: How Does Color Make Us Feel?
It’s just like a lot of the marketing issues surrounding books and book covers. That is, a lot of this will depend upon the buyer persona or demographic associated with the most sales of your genre.
Let’s say you are a science fiction writer. Then a lot of your readership is probably going to skew male. Although if you write LGBT science fiction, you may find more female readers in the mix. Either way, how do they feel about colors? Furthermore, if you mainly have an American readership, their associations with colors will differ from if your ideal readers are Canadian or Swedish.
Consider beta readers and editors – what’s the difference? Does it matter which one you use to help with your manuscript?
Beta readers are people who read over your work. They evaluate it before it gets anywhere near 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.
Beta Readers and Continuity Checks
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.:
They are 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 became shorter. 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.
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 Questions to Ask Them
Are the characters believable? Are they distinguishable?
Do you think the situations are plausible?
Are there good descriptions for the scenes? 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.
The best way to get a beta reader is to be one! Offer a trade with another indie. Usually this work is done for free. So be kind, and either recommend your beta reader friend or at least donate a little something to one of their three favorite charities.
Editors are more professional than beta readers and are generally people you hire. They will do copy editing, where they check for typos, etc., although there should be a last pass by a proofreader before publishing, no matter what.
Editors can also check for continuity, but they will mainly read with the audience in mind. They are a good enhancement to the work of a beta reader, and are a good idea before you send your work out for querying.
The best way to get an editor is to do some research. Ask people you know are published. After all, an editor no longer has to live in the same city or country as you (but you will do best with someone who is a native speaker of the language your book is in). Work with the editor on a sample chapter. Do you get along? Are his or her suggestions reasonable? Are they slow?
And if you are absolutely, utterly stuck for funds, try a local college or university. You might be able to get an English major to help you, but be aware they probably won’t have experience and they may not be the best fit. But they may be all you’ve got.
And make sure to have a written agreement with them! This is a sample copyediting contract, and it’s pretty good. Be sure to change the contract to indicate the laws of your state apply!
In my travels online, I have seen blog posts that were under 50 words long. I have seen blog posts that were a good 10,000 words long. Tweets, of course, are limited. But there have been plenty of Pinterest pins with just an image and nothing else. Or they’ve got enough verbiage behind them to seemingly rival War and Peace. So, what’s ideal? Is there any science behind it?
How long should blog posts be? Buffer likes blog post titles to be six words long (oops, this blog post’s title is too long). Interestingly enough, the blog post where I got the inspiration for this blog post from also has a title that is too long.
Interestingly enough, Buffer says blog posts are best at 1,600 words in length. However, Yoast (the fine makers of an SEO plugin I use for my own blog posting) provides good SEO credit for blog posts that are at least 300 words in length. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but one thing is for sure – those fifty-word blog posts just plain are not long enough.
How big should a Facebook post be? Buffer says forty characters. Keep it short, snappy, and to the point. According to Lee, Facebook posts that exceed forty characters degrade in engagement as they get longer. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that 700-word screed you wrote? Better make that a blog post instead and just link to it. But if you put the whole thing on Facebook, people will scroll right on by.
Here’s a trick to get around the forty-character wall – links show the title and some text, and you can always change these. Or add an image with some text. But don’t go nuts! It is very, very easy to hit and exceed critical mass.
How long should a Google+ post be? Buffer puts the figure at sixty characters. After that, you’re hitting a second line of text. How do you get around it? The idea is similar to Facebook – you have a little room to play with images and even a short subtitle.
How long should a LinkedIn post be? Buffer clocks in at twenty-five words, based upon clickthrough data.
How large should a Pinterest image be? Buffer’s got you covered – 735px x 1102px. These taller pins seem to stand out more, and are therefore shared more often.
Best Lengths for Twitter Posts
How long should an effective Tweet be? Buffer says to limit it to 71 – 100 characters, in order to provide some space for people to comment before sending out a modified tweet (MT). So keep hashtags at six characters for maximal impact. Yes, we all know that people sometimes use hashtags as a bit of wry commentary. Tumblr in particular seems to inspire hashtags like #DudeLooksLikeALady (and not just for fans of Aerosmith). Excessive hashtagging is one of the characteristics of Instagram. However, the best length hashtag on Twitter has six characters.
TL; DR – Check out the chart, and the cited article, for more information. The research on best lengths for posts is sound, and fascinating, and the article was a hell of a find.
Have you ever written a blurb for a book? Here’s how.
Grab the Reader’s Attention
The most effective blurbs are:
specific as to genre (don’t be coy; if it’s horror, then say so!)
open about who the protagonist is
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.
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.
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.
I enjoy fanfiction as much as, perhaps, the next person. But you still can never, ever charge for it. I implore you: don’t even try.
Seriously, put it out of your mind.
But aren’t there exceptions?
Yes, there are some. But first, let’s talk about why fan fiction is problematic.
Issues With This Form of Expression
For writers like you and me – and Stephen King and JK Rowling as well – we prepare our own universes. Some universes are familiar and take any number of real-life elements. For example, King’s The Stand mainly takes place in more or less present-day America. King does not run into any copyright issues with New York City being New York City. Other places in the book, though, are more the product of his imagination. In Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, though, a lot more of the scene is dreamt up by her.
For both authors, and for countless others, originality consists of creating a universe, creating characters, devising a plot, and then executing the plot in some fashion.
In fan fiction, another person (or persons) created the universe and the characters. Even when the fanficcer adds characters, the fictional world remains the original author’s creation. Hence one of the main issues with fan fiction is that it keeps the fanficcer from learning how to do that.
Benefits of Fanfiction
It’s not all bad, of course. The biggest and most measurable benefit is that it keeps you writing. Creativity is often sparked by simply being creative, that is, you write five or seven days per week, and you can fill up that writing time fairly readily. But if you only write three times per month, you may find you have writers’ block when you make the infrequent attempt. There is something about the pressure of deadlines or at least the pressure of your own internal expectations. It helps to not have a blank page to stare at all the time.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with borrowing another’s universe in order to keep writing and exercising the creativity muscle.
The Longest Night Watch 2 is the second indie author anthology dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s. All of the writers are independent authors. And we all hate Alzheimer’s.
In the United States, 5.4 million Americans have the disease. That number will rise in the next few decades as the population continues to age. We are not doctors. But we are writers. And so we are offering this work. All of the proceeds go to research. Because we don’t keep a dime of it.
Who Are We?
The team consists of: Amanda Parker Adams, Andrew Barber, AR Harlow, Becca Bachlott, Brittany Tucker, Carol Gyzander, Cayleigh Stickler, D.R. Perry, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Fiona Teh, Georgette Frey, and Janet Gershen-Siegel (that would be me). Also, Jennifer Stibbards, Joshua L. Cejka, Kate Post, Katelyn Scarlett, L. Anne Wooley, Michael J. Medeiros, Michael Walton, R.R. Virdi, Ryn Richmond, Skye Hegyes, Thomas E. Harper, Trine Jensegg, Virginia Carraway Stark and the team of The Longest Night Watch.
So this is our second time doing this. Last year, we all came together because of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death. That book was a success. Therefore, now we are going to see if lightning will strike again.
This Year’s Urgency
Last year, it was Terry Pratchett. But this year it was Gene Wilder. And now we have also learned Terry Jones of Monty Python is afflicted. Because this disease shows no mercy. As much as we love these entertainers (and Jones is a medieval studies scholar), Alzheimer’s just plain does not care.
But we do.
For this year, I added two stories. Cynthia is about the decline as witnessed by a rather unexpected narrator. Wilder Bloom was written rather quickly and was, of course, about Gene Wilder.
Where You Can Get The Book
Right now, the book is listed on Amazon (currently it’s Kindle only, but that will change) and on GoodReads.
How You Can Help
Please buy the book, and leave a review. Even bad reviews help, as they put our link in more places. So you don’t have to love the book. That’s okay.
Covers! Let’s say you aren’t working with a cover artist. Or maybe you are doing the covers work, and you have purchased the work and been given full rights to it, to do with it as you please. Or maybe your work is not selling, and you are looking to make your own cover or covers (perhaps with a unified theme). Not to worry.
Making Your Own Covers (10 rules)
So you might find that this is the way to go. Also, this can be an option if you are a decent photographer or cannot afford a cover artist. However, seriously consider a cover artist just the same. Or try Fiverr if you’re really stuck!
But let’s say you are bound and determined to create your own cover art.
First of all, do yourself a favor, and use a program designed for this purpose. This means Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign, or Gimp. Please don’t use Paint. This is because you just won’t have the options you would with these other programs I’ve listed.
Go simple. Why? Because busy covers look terrible online, and they usually don’t look so hot in bookstores, either. Consider a main element from your story and go with that as your image. The Twilight novels use this to stunning effect.
Use the right images
Use images which you have permission to use, always! Just because you can right-click on an image does not mean you have permission to use it! Here are three ways to assure you have permission to use an image:
Take the picture yourself.
Buy it from someone! Also, don’t forget to have a written agreement with them for usage.
Get it from a friend or relative who has taken it. Yet again: don’t forget to have a written agreement with them for usage.
Make the image big! Scaling it down is possible. Scaling it up will result in a loss of quality.
Consider what the image will look like if it any part of it is cut off. This is another argument in favor of simplicity.
Consider what the image will look like on mobile devices.
Never, ever use the word ‘by‘ unless you are referring to an ‘edited by‘ line. Otherwise, just use your name as the author name.
Fonts and verbiage
If the title is in serif font, use sans-serif for your name, and vice versa, unless you are using the exact same font. E. g. don’t use two different serif fonts. They’ll look mismatched.
Also, make sure your verbiage (title and author name) is readable! This means size and color, and sometimes outlining. Usually it helps if your image is more or less all one color or at least one color tint, tone, or shade. That, is make it all bright or all pastel or all muted, as that will make it easier for the verbiage to stand out and be readable.
Finally, practice! You aren’t going to turn out a great cover without knowing your program well.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.
But this is not copyright! Instead, the concept exists to work with copyright, in order to help you refine the rights in your work. Also, it can work to help you understand the nuances of rights in others’ works. But which others? Cover artists and songwriters, to name two.
Can I use all of the images I find online?
Absolutely not. Just because you can right-click an image or take a screenshot does not mean you have the right to just take it. And do not get me started on wiping off someone else’s photographic watermark.
Attribution CC BY – this is the most open of the licenses. It allows others to do nearly anything to a creative work.
Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA – this one is similar to CC BY. Except, it requires you attribute to the original artist. Wikipedia uses this one!
Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND – you can pass along the work. However, you can’t alter it. And you must credit the creator.
Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC – you can alter the original work, but you must credit the original artist. Furthermore, you can’t make any money from the work.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA – this one is the same as CC BY-NC. Except, you must license any new creations under identical terms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND – this is the most restrictive license, allowing for sharing. But attribution is required. Also, you cannot make any changes. Further, the sharer can’t make any money off the creative work.
So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.
However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.
You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.
And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.
Transitioning to the In-Person Experience
My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.
After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.
With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.
I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).
Internet Afterlife and a Cyber Legacy
The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.
But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?
A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might just that cyber legacy and feel we are rather shallow people indeed.
Forums Tell a Different Story
However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.
So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind for your cyber legacy? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?
Employee passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.
So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?
So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the is expressly forbids it, companies can. They can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees.
As a result, they can demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. Hence a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.
First of all, here in the Bay State, legislation is pending. This includes H.B 448, which relates to student data privacy. It also includes, which relates to social media consumer privacy protection. And it includes S.B 1055, which relates to social media privacy protection.
Arkansas and Employee Passwords
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. § 11-2-124; Code Ark. R. 010.14.1-500 says:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to a personal online account; change the privacy settlings on their accounts…”
California and Employee Passwords
Much like Arkansas, employers can’t get into employees’ social media accounts. But an exception exists for investigations into misconduct, per Cal. Lab. Code § 980.
Colorado’s law is Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-127, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.”
In Connecticut, the law is Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-40x, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $500 for the first violation and between $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Employees can be awarded relief, including job reinstatement, payment of back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.
So in Illinois, the law is 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 55/10; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 56, §§ 360.110, 360.120.
“If an employer violates the law, an employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.”
In addition, La. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1951 to 51:1953, 51:1955 says:
“Employers may not request or require employees or applicants to disclose user names and passwords or other login information for their personal accounts.”
But in Louisiana, it’s okay for employers to push for a look into employee personal online accounts in one instance. This is if there are allegations of misconduct. So stop downloading porn at work!
So in Maine, the law is Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 26, §§ 615 to 619.
“An employer that violates the law is subject to a fine from the Department of Labor of at least $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations.”
So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.
And then in Michigan, the law is Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 37.271 to 37.278.
“Employers that violate the law can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000. Employees and applicants may also file a civil claim and recover up to $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees’ and court costs.”
And then in Montana, the law is Mont. Code Ann. § 39-2-307.
“An employee or applicant may bring an action against an employer in small claims court for violations. If successful, an employee or applicant can receive $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, as well as legal costs.”
Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to change the privacy settings on their email or social media accounts or add anyone to their email or social media contact lists.”
But just like in Louisiana, Granite Staters will have to provide a look-see if there are any misconduct accusations flying around.
Then in New Jersey, the law is N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:6B-5 to 34:6B-10. So it says:
“Employers that violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the New Jersey Labor Commissioner.”
So in New Mexico, the law is N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-34. This one specifically extends to friend lists.
Oklahoma on Employee Passwords
In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s House Bill 2372 says,
“Relates to labor; prohibits employer from requesting or requiring access to social media account of certain employees; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to social media account; authorizes civil actions for violations; provides for recovery of attorney fees and court costs; defines terms; provides for codification; provides an effective date.”
So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
Furthermore, per R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-56-1 to 28-56-6:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit for violations. The court can award declaratory relief, damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief against the employer.”
So this is beyond the standard where an employer can’t just take a peek whenever they feel like it.
Tennessee on Employee Passwords
And per Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-1-1001 to 50-1-1004:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose passwords to personal online accounts.”
So in Utah, the law is Utah Code Ann. §§ 34-48-101 to 34-48-301. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations, with a maximum award of $500.”
Virginia and Employee Passwords
So in Virginia, the law is Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-28.7:5. It’s not too far off from Arkansas, but an employer can get employee passwords under the guise of an investigation.
Washington (State) on Employee Passwords
So in Washington State, the law is Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.44.200 and 49.44.205. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations and obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, a penalty of $500, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
So in West Virginia, the law is W. Va. Code Ann. § 21-5H-1, another Arkansas clone, more or less.
Wisconsin on Employee Passwords
And then in Wisconsin, per Wis. Stat. Ann. § 995.55:
“Employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for violations and receive appropriate relief.”
Other States on Employee Passwords
In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country.
However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states seem to have these laws. Then according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following states have pending laws (as of 2019): Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. And then in 2018, these states considered the matter: Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.
So these bills come up repeatedly.
Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.