Nine Rules for Making Your Book Look Good

October 29, 2013

I’ve edited books for authors for more than three decades, so I’m offering the disclaimer that I’m an editor, not a book designer. However, I’ve worked with many book designers and have learned nine rules for making your book look good–both the cover and the interior.

  1. Be purposeful when making your decisions. If you self-publish, you get to make all the decisions, including font style and size, interior page layout, how to handle graphics, page shading, folios (page numbers), and that’s just for the interior. For the cover you get to decide on color, graphics (if any) placement, author’s photos (or not), back cover copy placement, etc. Study some of the books in your own library, and record your own reactions to what you see. That should help you see how much design decisions impact reader reaction.
  2. Be organized in your presentation. Make sure your pages flow in order and chapters follow your table of contents. Keep the information on your cover organized so the reader gets the feeling the book is organized as well.
  3. Keep things simple. If you’ve got a lot of clutter on your cover, the reader will wonder how cluttered the pages are. The interior should show some white space so the reader doesn’t open the book and see nothing but lines and lines of black type.
  4. Offer contrast. Work with your designer to see which colors and fonts contrast well and are attractive.
  5. Differentiate. Your book is your creation. You spent time researching it, writing it, revising it, editing it, and proofreading it. You want it to reflect what you have to say. Too often books look a lot alike (which is okay if you’re branding the same author or series of books). But most of the time they look so much alike because authors use the same templates every other author has access to. When you can, get a custom front cover made for your book.
  6. Project an appropriate image. Do some research and see what image books like yours project. Mysteries tend to use darker colors. Romance novels use more cheerful colors. History books may use historical images of the period the book covers.
  7. Show unity. Be sure the cover design complements the interior design. You want your design to project cohesion.
  8. Be selective about what you emphasize. Everything in your book can’t be equally important, so be selective about what you emphasize on the cover, in the cover text, and in the interior.
  9. Pay attention to detail. Not every reader will be detail-oriented, but as soon as one who is finds mistakes or obvious errors you or your designer should have caught, your credibility suffers. Why yours? You are the author and your name is most likely the only one visible on the cover and/or page header. You don’t want the detail person to tell others what’s wrong with your book.

There you have it–nine rules for making your book look good. They aren’t that hard to follow and the payoff is worth the effort.

Happy writing!


Fighting Fear of Failure

October 7, 2013

Whether in our personal lives, professional lives, or writing lives, it’s not uncommon to fear failure. Oh, sure, we appear confident and self-assured, but fear lurks behind that veneer, and we stop short of succeeding. In essence, we guarantee our failure.

It’s time to stop that self-defeating mind-set and be honest with yourself. It takes a little practice to change an old habit of being self-critical or self-defeating, but anyone can do it. Here are some steps to get you started.

  1. Self-appraisal. Take a long, hard look at yourself. How do you rate your dedication to your writing? Do you write because you’re driven to it? Because you dream of being published? Because you have something to share? Once you’re clear about why you write, you’re more apt to give yourself permission to write–you’ll be more dedicated to it.
  2. Pinpoint the areas that stimulate your fear. Do you feel weak in character development, so you avoid that? Do you feel weak in description, so you avoid that? Do you focus on those writers who are wildly successful in their writing careers, then tell yourself that will never happen for you? Once you’re honest with yourself about what stimulates your fear, confront that negativity head on so you can defeat that anxiety.
  3. Analysis. This is a tough step because it requires you to separate legitimate fears from those irrational fears you generate yourself. It requires you sift fact from fiction. Granted, some fears are justified–such as if you don’t work and earn money to pay the rent or mortgage, you risk being homeless. But most things we fear don’t become reality, so do your analysis to see what’s creating your fear of failure.
  4. Action. To conquer fear, you must do something. For example, if you fear criticism of your writing, so you never share at writers group, take a chance and read at your next meeting. If you get any criticism, you decide whether you accept it or reject it. But at least you’ve broken through your barrier of not reading at writers group. Once you’ve done that you’ll probably read at the next meeting. That means you’ll have to write something, which is a good thing.

If fear of failure is holding you and your writing back, consider implementing these four steps. Fear can be mastered by modifying behavior. Instead of thinking something undesirable will happen, take some action to find out if it actually will. You may find people love your stories, your articles, or your book. If just one person encourages you with a smile or a comment, you’ve stepped onto the path to writing success and you’re closer to freeing yourself from your fear of failure. Happy writing!

Self-image and Writing

October 3, 2013

A friend of mine was over a few weeks ago, saw one of my published books on the shelf, and asked to borrow it. She called earlier this week to tell me how much she’s enjoying it. Guess what that did to my self-image as a writer!

How about you? How do you see yourself as a writer? Oh, sure, those who love us offer glowing support for our writing, but we sort of expect that. Even our writing group members tend to be kind more than critical at times. And, yes, it’s important how they see us as writers, but how you see yourself as a writer is even more important.

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about you as a writer, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • List three adjectives to describe yourself as a writer (not as a person, not as a spouse or significant other, not as a friend, etc., but focus solely on you as a writer). Are you disciplined? Are you dedicated? Do you keep your promises to everyone but yourself (that is, let everyone else claim time you could be writing)?
  • List the top four hurdles you need to get over so you can become the writer you want to be. Do you need to be more honest (not mean, just honest) with yourself about your discipline, dedication, etc. to writing? Do you need to determine what you need to change, then get the knowledge on how to achieve that change? Do you need to work on consistency in saying no to others or in saying yes to self? Do you need to budget for classes, books, travel, research, memberships, conferences, retreats, or whatever you think will help you become the writer you want to become?
  • Find thirty minutes a day for you. If you love to write so much you feel guilty about doing it while there’s other work to be done, give yourself permission to write for a short period (say, 30 minutes) every day. Writing could include anything connected to writing–research, reading, writer’s groups, editing, even writing! Find the 30 minutes (even if it’s two 15-minute periods or three 10-minute periods) to concentrate on writing. The experts say we can benefit by getting our 30 minutes a day of physical exercise in similar shorter periods, so why not get our writing exercise the same way?
  • Embrace your desire to be a writer. Too often we embrace the criticism, the negativity (even if it’s only us telling ourselves we don’t write description well, we don’t use active voice enough, we don’t…, we don’t…). There’s a place for criticism, but there’s also a place for encouragement. When you like a character you created, celebrate that success. When you get a compliment, claim it and keep it. When you’ve accomplished 30 minutes a day writing, put your writing away for the day, take a deep breath, smile, and congratulate yourself on achieving that goal.

Writers write, right? How you see yourself as a writer is important to your success as a writer, so create the best self-image you can. Happy writing!