Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

In Fay’s blog on 13th February she asked, how important is a book cover? We had been questioning whether or not book covers are as important in the digital age or not. Do we choose books on the internet through recommendations or do we browse, looking first at the covers? Is the image we see as important there as the physical cover we see when browsing in a bookshop or library? From Fay’s blog and the comments made, we think it worth writing another blog on covers as they are such an important part of the overall book.
Would you be interested in a book which was plain white with just the title and author? In an article in ‘Psychology Today’ the author writes that ‘The wrappers in which things come not only powerfully affect what interests us but also how we react to the contents we find inside.’
The cover of a book might attract us and generate hope that the contents will be of interest and that the writing will be of a certain standard. Once we open the book and start reading or simply perusing the contents, we can make a judgement about whether the visual expectations from the cover are correct. Just how much does a cover tell you about the contents of the book? According to Wikipedia our title phrase is a ‘metaphorical phrase which means you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone’.
There is a blog where the blogger writes fake book reviews based entirely on the covers of books. A recent homework assignment for our writing group was to create a story built around the cover of a book we hadn’t read. It produced some interesting results.
As Fay wrote in her excellent piece, the cover doesn’t always match the contents of the book. She used the example of: Our redhead turns into a brunette on the cover and our tall, dark hero, who is well into his thirties, looks like a blond teenager. And we are sure each of us could come up with several examples of where the cover doesn’t match the contents.

We had great fun finding a suitable photograph for the cover of our Astraea Press ebook, ‘Poppy Pops the Question’. After much searching and elimination we decided on a photo of a young woman standing next to her motorbike with her long blonde hair blowing across her face. The illustrator then placed her in front of a hotel where most of the story takes place and added the title etc. We are very happy with the result.

Osborne and Little have produced wallpaper featuring the classic Penguin book covers. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a room papered with one’s own book covers?  


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Once Upon A Time...

Since I've just recently finished writing another romance, it seemed timely for me to blog about starting a new book.
I never have a problem with ideas. I have them coming out of my ears and the pile of "to be written" novel folders teetering on my writing desk attest to that. Must be at least a dozen waiting patiently in the wings. I get excited about which one to start next but there is always one that "calls" to me more strongly than the others to be written. This time it will be another outback novel set in the largest state of Western Australia in Oz, a region rich in vast grazing properties and mining.
The story would just not take off in my mind until I thought more deeply about each of the main characters and realised that my heroine was too flat. She soon came to life when it eventuated that she was Irish. So I have the lovely opportunity to use my overseas travel inspiration in Ireland some years ago and my husband's family heritage from Rathdrum in County Wicklow as the link for my heroine in my story.
Done. Well, not quite. The story still has to be written.
I came across an article recently about writing with passion. It suggested authors write about things that you are personally passionate about. Makes sense because you can draw on what you already know and impart that enthusiasm into your writing. If you have a passion, ten to one you will know quite a lot about it. So I made a list and will gradually introduce each of my interests in future novels.
Then there is the plotting and planning which I personally need to do before beginning any project and certainly in the novels I write.
Pacing is another issue to keep the story flowing and interesting for the reader. This is achieved of course with lots of questions to be answered. Also helped by movement and dialogue with perhaps only a couple of paragraphs of narrative in order that the pace does not slow down. Then there is possibly a time element for urgency or a quest that a character needs solved. In a mystery maybe also the pressure of being on the run. I've realised that I also toss in some kind of deception or secret that is gradually revealed.
Lots to think about and lots of words to get down on paper. But I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else and when the current project is nearing completion, I find myself looking eagerly ahead to the next. "Outback Kingdom", here I come.
As a teaser, I am putting up the eBook cover for my latest story, "Grace's Cottage". I hope you love the image and promise it conveys as much as I do.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day Freebie

I have a bumper batch of freebies for Valentine's Day. 11 of my Kindle Novels/novellas and 1 short story collection are free to download for today only.

Check out my blog for details.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


How important is a book cover? And how often do we despair or agonise over the cover of one of our books. The publisher very rarely gets it right, even when they have asked for precise details of the main characters. Our redhead turns into a brunette on the cover and our tall, dark hero, who is well into his thirties, looks like a blond teenager.

Self-publishing leads to even more anguish. Do we pay for a professional cover, or do we do it ourselves? I recently published a new novella with KDP and I did the cover myself. I bought a cheap photo-editing package (£30) and paid £3.99 for the photo. The book is called Forgotten and I dismissed a lot of fonts before I found one that I thought looked right for the title.

When the only available book readers were in black and white it didn’t matter so much, but my Kindle Fire is in glorious full-colour HD and the cover picture matters a lot. The book needs to look professional and the cover needs to relate, however remotely, to the content of the book – which is more than can be said for some professionally published books.

With so many e-books out there now, we all have to find a way to make our books stand out from the crowd. Writing a good, well-edited, book is important of course, but the cover might just push it that one step ahead of the rest.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

How to write a serial for People's Friend

I am nearing the end of writing a serial for People's Friend and thought it might be of interest to some to know how it differed from writing a pocket novel.

The serial entitled 'The Lemon Grove' is set in Sorrento, Italy and I hope it will issue some time this summer. I am still only on instalment 6 of 8 instalments but it is going well. It has been a total pleasure in these cold and wet months to take myself away to somewhere sunny. I believe the setting may well have helped in getting my proposal accepted. Many readers will have been to Sorrento and the Island of Ischia, and fantasised about going to live in a holiday destination. Don't we all wonder as we come back home what it might be like to have stayed on and made a life in a place we have grown to love, possibly with a handsome stranger, even after only two short weeks?

When I was pitching the serial to People's Friend, I had two possibilities up my sleeve. Knowing that D C Thomson are based in Scotland and have many Scottish readers, my other idea was to set a serial in a search and rescue helicopter base somewhere in the Highlands. This I felt would have ample possibilities for hunky heroes and emotional situations. My first choice though was Italy and luckily the editor agreed to go for it. One of the best things about this setting for a writer has been the ability to appeal to the senses to transport a reader to my destination. Writing about the food of Italy, the scent of its herbs and the sheer joy of Italian ice cream has all hopefully added colour and life to the story (I've been on a diet the whole time I was writing it so perhaps that has something to do with it!) The other thing I felt was essential to include was characters of all ages. The hero and heroine are in their twenties, there is a young niece of fourteen and a storyline involving the grandmother of the hero, Nana Bonetti. Women's magazines which carry fiction often appeal to an extremely wide age range. I remember as a teenager reading the stories in my mother's magazines and if you can include a variety of ages you will appeal to a variety of readers.

On the sharper plot points there are elements of crime - something which I love. This also gave me the excuse to include a very sexy Italian policeman influenced not a little by the actor who plays Inspector Montalbano in the TV series set in Sicily (pictured above). My character is of course a perfect gentleman but he does have an open topped sports car and nothing's more exhilarating than being whizzed around those scary Italian cliffside roads.

The main difference in writing a serial to writing a pocket novel is that you do have to be somewhat more disciplined and more guided by an editor AT EACH INSTALMENT. Other writers with more experience may submit all 8 instalments and have the whole lot accepted. My experience though has been to submit the first instalment with a synopsis and then wait for the comments and any amendments/rewrites on each instalment before I go ahead and write the rest. It means I have come to know my characters very well as I reread what went before to refresh my memory. With the six pocket novels I have had published, the pacing has been largely up to me. I can have a fast moving beginning, a slightly more gently paced middle with incidents happening whenever I personally felt the pace was flagging. The pocket novel editors certainly ask for rewrites but not as you're writing every 5000 words or so. With a serial however, each 5,300 word plus instalment has to have it's own story arc and carry it's own emotional punch and a hook at the end. This is the cliffhanger ending to induce the reader to make absolutely sure to buy next week's magazine. That's not to say the cliffhanger needs to be over dramatic but it does need to make the reader burn to know what will happen next. Like pocket novels however, it is the characters which really make the reader want to know how the story ends. In that respect a serial is no different. All of which I think is the perfect excuse to post a pic of the wonderful Luca Zingaretti - a great inspiration for my Italian policeman - looking suitably dashing as Inspector Montalbano, and proving that hair loss is no bar to being seriously fanciable!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Miss Bannerman & The Duke -nomination for best book of 2012.

iss Bannerman & The Duke has been nominated for 'best book of 2012' by Long and Short Reviews. As you can imagine I'm thrilled about this. Could I ask you to vote for me if you have the time or inclination? Many thanks Fenella