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Book Covers and Blurbs with that Extra Something

Creating a cover is such an emotional process. “They” say the two things that help to sell your book the most are the cover and the blurb. It’s heart-wrenching to create a book that makes you sing with pride, but worry that no one will ever read your story if the cover and blurb aren’t good enough.

Luckily, I have a friend who has some computer magic and was excited to use it on my book cover. It was awesome to sit down together and come up with an idea of what I wanted it to look like, but then to actually have him create it. Because the truth is, I have some skills, but creating an amazing cover is not one of them.

I also luckily have an amazing group of writers, the 7 Evil Dwarves, who were willing to look at my blurb and help give it that extra something. Most people have no idea how hard it is for a writer to try to sum up their book in just a few paragraphs, but trust me, it’s painful. A special thanks to Jami Gray who sprinkled some writer-magic on it.

After several drafts, and countless hours spent constructing my vision, here is the cover to my first young adult fantasy novel, along with the blurb:

Book- Without Back Cover- 1500Pixels

When eighteen-year-old Rose is chosen to join a mysterious order of women known as The Protectors, she hopes to escape a forced marriage and a miserable life. Instead, she unveils the dark secrecy surrounding The Protectors, and uncovers the horrific truth behind their power source. With her loyalty in tatters and her best friend’s life held hostage, she must learn to unlock the powerful magic slumbering deep inside her.

But time is running out.

The Undead Wizards, a dangerous enemy, have re-emerged from the Underworld, plunging The Protectors and the kingdom into a brutal war. Unfortunately, The Fates decree that Rose is the answer to the war may cost her more than she ever imagined. To win, she must decide whether to join them and betray the man she loves, or risk the annihilation of all she holds dear.

What are some of your favorite blurbs or covers?

Like my posts?  Check out my personal blog: Lisa Morrow

Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

The Ups and Downs of Book Covers

The first major frustration I ran into in the past couple of months was cover art problems. I found an amazing cover artist for the first book in my series, but he has a day job, so he couldn’t drop everything and create the covers for my short stories. So… I had to venture out and try someone new.

I hired a cover artist for my short stories who immediately lacked good communication skills. For a good week, I held my breath, hoping she’d still deliver an excellent product, because she came highly recommended. The deadline for my cover came and went, and still I hoped she was just creating something really beautiful.

In the end, the cover came late and was everything I didn’t want. In fact, it was so far from what I wanted, I wondered if she’d done more than skim our email exchanges. It was that moment when I wondered if I’d have to create my own covers. I used to be good with Photoshop, but those skills seem to have faded, and all my attempts at covers ended up cringe-worthy.

After that, I very hesitantly went with another cover artist, but my stomach was in knots for days. Immediately she had amazing communication skills, and I had a much better feeling. The deadline for the project came… and so did my covers. And I LOVED them. Here is the first cover and blurb:

The Sea Goddess

“Lady Dessi Quinn feels a connection to Lord Smit Croswell that’s hard to ignore. Something unseen and powerful draws them together, even though she longs to deny it. But on The Feast of Darkness, Dessi has more important things to worry about than the strangely compelling Smit, at least with her grandmother’s prophesy hanging over her head:

The Goddess of the Sea no longer cares just for sacrifices; she’ll punish all those tainted by blood this night. Should any Quinn draw blood, they will be punished by the goddess herself.

As the night progresses, events outside of her control force her to make an impossible choice. A choice that will throw her into danger on the one night each year where The Goddess of the Sea’s powerful magic lingers in the air, stirring violence in all those creatures dark of soul.

Will she survive against mounting impossible odds – or will the Goddess of the Sea crush her? And will destiny bring Dessi and Smit together, or tear them apart?”

Everyone says a cover is one of the most important things to selling your book. All I can say is: make sure it’s something you’re proud of. I can’t stop staring at my new covers, and I hope everyone feels the same way about their books.

(“The Sea Goddess” will be available on June 16th, but is currently available to pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords.)

Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

Writing a Winning Blurb

A blurb is the description of your book, found on the back cover. Marilynn Byerly,a best-selling author, says that “Blurbs are the second most important selling tool you have for your book, so you want it to grab the reader’s attention” I realize how incredibly important a blurb is for enticing people to read a book, so I’ve been obsessing over my own. After struggling with it for weeks, I finally turned to the internet for advice. I thought I’d share some of the things I learned.

As my story is a YA Fantasy with romance, I looked at how Marilynn Byerly suggested creating a blurb for a fantasy story. What I gathered, she recommends the following:

  1. Setting First
  2. Plot Set Up
  3. Main Character Emotional Involvement and Exterior Conflict

Amy Wilkins, who writes blurbs for Harlequin, suggests hooking your reader with your protagonist by asking yourself what the reader needs to know right away. Or, to focus more on your setting, if it is unusual.

She also discusses something called “shoutlines,” which I’ve never heard of before. They are the bolded text between paragraphs or at the start of a blurb that grab your attention. But, she emphasizes that you need to ask yourself if it is needed or adds anything by having it.

One thing Amy really focused on is finding that balance with how much plot to involve. If your reader doesn’t need to know it, or it gives your whole plot away, it’s probably best to leave it out. She suggested picking a spot a quarter or a third of the way through, and not telling anything after that point.

Another thing she suggested, which I hadn’t thought of, was to us a line from your own book. She says it should set up something and can really covey the author’s voice.

Her final suggestion was to end with conflict. That way, you leave the reader wanting more.

I really found these tips useful, but I think it is still a really difficult thing to try to find that balance between hooking your reader with your characters and plot, yet not giving too much away. It also seems so easy to fall into using cliques to make my points. I must avoid them, no matter how tempting!

Any suggestions on how to write a great blurb? What completely turns you away from a book, after you read the blurb?

Websites on writing great blurbs:

http://www.marilynnbyerly.com/blurb.html#SFANDFANTASY

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/5-tips-on-how-to-write-a-blurb-for-your-book/

http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/11/23/5-top-tips-for-writing-a-compelling-book-blurb-by-amy-wilkins/

Squishing it all together…

I promised last week to cover the dreaded synopsis challenge every writer is forced to endure once they’ve completed their novel.  As far as I’m concerned, writing a synopsis is a hell of a lot harder than writing the damn book.  Seriously, you’re expected to squish 350 pages into 5….3 5 0   down to  5.  Do you see the problem here? Besides the fact that 350 has three placeholders and 5, a lonely one?  Yeah, it’s enough to make you want to spike your coffee with cynanide.

As much as I highly dislike this part of the querying process, there is no escaping it.  Really.  Just go out and look at any submission policies from any publishing house or agency.  I guarentee somewhere in that long list of how to send in your stuff will be the word “synopsis”.

It sounds simple enough.  Tell us what your book is about in 2-5 pages.  Ummm, can’t you just read it? Please?  (The whine factor here is off the charts, by the way.)  The honest answer is–no.  Agents and acquiring editors are inundated with queries every hour of every day.  I think the synopsis is a test of sorts.  How well do you know your story? Do you know the most important, intriquing parts of the story? Enough to hook someone into joining your fictional world in 2-5 pages?  If you do, you’re ahead of the game.  If you don’t, you’re about to find out.

Granted queries are suppose to be the first step to snagging someone’s attention, but once you have it, you want to keep it on you.  We’re not greedy, but we do want them to read what we’ve written.  They’re not going to want to come on the journey unless you have a clear path laid out with lovely cakes and pasteries (versus Hansel & Gretel’s breadcrumbs), so that before they realize it, they have completed the journey with you.   This is why your synopsis is so huge. 

How do you get it down? You have to mill down your story to the bones.  If you use Scrivner, it’s a bit easier. Just use the corkboard layout and if you’ve done it right you have a one to two sentence outline for each chapter.  If you’re Scrivner-less, you get to do the same thing.  Remember, high points here.  You don’t need to go into the fact your hero/heroine ate a blueberry muffin, spilled her coffe that made her late for work if what really happened was that by being late for work your hero/heroine walks into a robbery in progress. 

Remember, you’ve already written the story, now, you want to tell the major points.  Adjectives are not necessary, long descriptions are best kept in your manuscript, but you’re a writer so make sure your voice comes through.  Not every little event needs to be detailed, the big ones that impact the ending, those need to be shared.  Here’s the thing, a query doesn’t answer all the questions because you want them to go read your book.  A synopsis will set up the world, your characters, your overall plot and answer all the questions. And it does it, in a logical fashion–no jumping from scene to scene like a hyper Mexican jumping bean.

The best advice I can share: just sit down, write out your book as if someone asked you, “So what’s your book about.”  Don’t work about formatting, etc., just answer that question.  When you’re done, it won’t be pretty by all the necessary points should be there. Then you can go back and polish it up. 

Those who’ve survived the synopsis trials, please, please share how you managed to survive!

–Wicked

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