Book Covers: How? Why? When?

Recently I’ve been thinking about book covers and what other authors do to create theirs. As usual, I asked my followers on Twitter for their thoughts:

Don’t judge a book by its cover, the old saying goes. But let’s face it, we all do. A cover is usually the first thing that you see of a book and can cause you to predetermine if you’re going to enjoy the book or not. For those that self-publish, like me, covers can be a source of great frustration and could be a stalling point for your creative process. After all, if you can’t get a decent cover for your novel, how are you going to release it?

For me, covers are a double-edged sword; I both love and hate creating them. Like many members of the self-publishing writing community, I create my own covers. Mostly because I can’t afford to pay anyone to create them, but also because, like publishing my own books, I enjoy the creative process and control that it gives me. Of course, the issue that comes up every time is my lack of skills. Now, I’m not completely clueless; I have enough skills to put together a basic coverꟷas evidenced by my booksꟷbut when it comes to more elaborate designs, I fall short of doing what I want to do. I have these extravagant designs in my head, but when it comes to putting it together, it just doesn’t work. Ideally, I would love to have someone else put them together. I could just throw ideas their way and see what they come up with, but alas, that’s probably not going to happen for a while. But having said that, there are plenty of resources that the ‘broke’ writer can avail themselves of. Websites such as Canva and apps such as Desyner are my go-to’s. They are relatively simple to use and provide a whole host of images and fonts that are free to use.

But, as I said, I also love the process of designing a cover. The cover design is something that, when I’ve hit a wall with writing, or I’ve got some time and don’t want to write, I can pick up, have a play, and see what happens. Like when writing, if I have an idea, I have to do something with it, or it will be lost forever like the fabled lost city of Atlanta (I know what I said). For example, with my current WIP, I’m about three-quarters of the way through the main story, and last week I decided to have a break from writingꟷbecause, let’s face it, sometimes we need itꟷand to do some work on the book’s paperback cover. I spent the next few hours knee-deep in PaintShop Pro and came out the other side with something not half bad. I would like to show it off, but if I’m honest, it’s just not ready for viewing yet. I’m not 100% happy with it, but that’s okay; I still have time to work on it. But what I will say is that I have that urge that I had with The Next Stage and re-design my existing covers…I need to stop it.

My covers are simple, but simplicity isn’t always bad. In fact, I find more and more books that are going the simplistic route; look at books like The Fault in Our Stars, which have a simple but effective cover. However, as I progress with my writing, I’m also getting more adventurous with the design of my covers. My last book, Blindsighted, finally had an image, which was a big thing after my previous two books, and I have a feeling my next one will be more, let’s say, complicated and (hopefully) better.

With all this in mind, though, we all know that a cover can sell (or not sell) a book. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, it is an important part of the package that, if done wrong, can be a disaster that your book might now come back from, so if you’re not confident that you can make something decent, it might be a good idea to get help with it. But whatever you choose to do, enjoy the process, it’s your book, and you should love every bit of it.

Chapters: To Name or Not to Name

Chapters, some books have them, some don’t, and everyone has an opinion on them, so I asked my fellow writers over on Twitter for their thoughts. Below are some of the responses.

As you can see, the responses varied. Some people like short ones, others long, others don’t care as long as they work with the story being told. Another contentious issue is the naming of chapters. So what are my thoughts?

When it comes to reading, I enjoy a short chapter. It appears to make the book easier to read. I say this because I’m one of those people who likes to put a book down when it reaches the end of a chapter. When I stop in the middle of a chapter, I don’t particularly appreciate going back into a book. It simply makes it more challenging to read. So, because the chapters are short, I can say, “I’ll just read one more,” and it won’t take me long. I’ll probably save it for another time if it’s a long chapter. I’ve seen really long chapters and ones that are only a paragraph or two long in my reading life, but the responses I received from my fellow authors/readers are correct; if it works for the storey, it doesn’t matter how long the chapter is. Of course, some books, such as Terry Pratchett’s novels, do not even have chapters. When I’m reading these, it’s all about finding that logical stopping point in the narrative, like switching to the voice of another character. Some people may find this off-putting, and I understand how they feel; it took me a while to adjust, but it works well in his novels.

When I’m writing, my chapters are pretty short. This isn’t a conscious decision, mind you; it just seems to be the way things turn out. I have, however, written a few long chapters when a scene calls for more detail or fleshing out. However, there are some advantages to this writing style, particularly when it comes to editing. It means I can keep using my “just one more” method and not stop in the middle.

The naming of chapters is also a topic of debate among authors and readers. Some people may interpret chapter titles as a spoiler for what will happen within the chapter, which could ruin their reading experience. I understand this, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve read many books, and there’s a lot of naming, not naming, and even adding timestamps and other things. It’s never ruined my enjoyment of a book for me, and sometimes I don’t even notice what a chapter is called. I don’t read “Chapter 4” and pay attention to it, so chapter names/titles don’t bother me.

I’ve used a variety of styles in my writing. My first book, Creatures, had numbered chapters, but it was divided into three distinct parts, each of which had a name, but would anyone have read these title pages? I’m not sure. I used numbered chapters again in The Next Stage, but this time I added time and date stamps to show when the action in the scene occurred. This, I believe, not only aids the reader in determining what is happening and when, but also aids me in editing by allowing me to get the timing correct within the storey. Incredibly useful! The only thing that Blindsighted had were chapter numbers. I started naming them, but I gave up halfway through because I saw the names as minor spoilers that, in a way, ruined the mood I was trying to set in the book. However, in my most recent WIP, the second book in the Creatures series, I’m still using “Part 1, Part 2, etc.,” but I’m also naming my chapters. I’m finding it helpful to name them in this case because it helps me remember what happened in each; whether I’ll keep them in the finished manuscript is another question; I haven’t decided yet.

I believe that the debate over chapters will continue as long as books are written, and that the way they are organised may change over time. So whatever method you prefer, stick with it and enjoy writing/reading the way you want.

Making Time to Write

I posed the question “When do you write?” to my Twitter follows and got the below responses.

Whatever you write, making time to do it, at times, can be extremely trying. We all have things going on our lives, whether it’s a day job, kids, family, friends, hobbies or a whole host of other parts of life, at it can be difficult to put time aside to sit down and write.

Recently I’ve found it harder than usual to get some writing down. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently started uni, and although I’m only in for a couple of days a week, it still eats up a lot of its time alongside house things. To add to our workload, because we can’t make life easy for ourselves, we’ve also just got a puppy. Although she is adorable and we wouldn’t change her, she is a lot of work, and as we’re currently trying to house train her, we have to constantly watch her, ready to put her outside at a moments notice. So being able to take some time out and sit and do some writing just isn’t happening at the minute.

Having said this, however, on a Monday, I have an hour for dinner between my lectures, so I’ve been taking a bit of time to eat and get some writing done. So far, this is working pretty well for me, and I’ve been able to write at least a few hundred words in the given time, which isn’t half bad.

It’s been a little bit frustrating at late not being able to write when I want to as I’ve had a tonne of ideas and have had to settle for just making notes instead and hopefully understanding what they mean when I come to go through them. At the moment not being able to write can’t be helped, sometimes other things in life just take priority. I’m just trying to get settled into uni and dog ownership and trying to not get too down on myself while I do it.

My current WIP, And Then I Killed Her, is coming along pretty well, and I’m slowly chipping away at the first draft. I’ve got plenty of notes to work with, and I’ve always got new ideas bouncing around my head. The story has already gone through several different versions and has probably been my most changed work so far. Some of this is because I’m starting to incorporate things that I’m learning in lectures and seeing things that didn’t quite work for one reason or another. I feel like this novel will probably end up being my most polished (after The Next Stage) as I’m taking my time with it to make it just right.

Coming Next Week: University!

Next week I have the start of all things university. I’ll be beginning my induction week on Monday, where I will learn more about my course and meet some of the people involved in it.

I’m simultaneously both looking forward to this and dreading it.

My anxiety is hitting the roof right now and only seems to be getting worse the closer I get to starting. This is usually the case when I have to do something, especially something new, but I’m generally okay once I start, so I’m hoping this will follow previous patterns.

I can’t wait to start, it’s a whole new adventure for me, and I look forward to everything it brings.

I’ve had my schedule through for when the course actually starts, and I’m not in all that much – in fact, I’m only in 2 days. As I’ve not been in full-time education for years, I’m doing what’s called a ‘foundation year’. This will ease me into uni life slowly and teach me how to study again (something that I’ve never been great at historically). I would imagine that my schedule will be a little busier when I start my true first year of the course.

For now, though, two days where I’m required to be there isn’t too bad and depending on what I have to do for uni, I will be able to continue with my current schedule of writing and blogging, at least for a bit. However, I’m sure I’ll eventually have to work out something new to take into account my course requirements.

As I said, I’ve got a mixture of hope and fear going into this course, but I’m mainly trying to stay positive. It will help me with my writing and maybe even help me get a job in the future.

While I’m studying, make my day even better by picking up a copy of one of my books. Each book bought puts a smile on my face, so head over to Amazon and check them out.

What To Write?

Being a writer sometimes means that you have to juggle your different ideas. I recently asked my fellow writers on Twitter how they decide which idea to work on;

I currently have around 9 ideas that are in various stages of development. Some are just a very basic idea, some have a number of notes written for them, and others have several chapters done.

I tend to flit between ideas often. If I have a new idea that I want to develop, I will spend some time working on that before continuing with previous ideas. Some stories come easier than others. For example, I got a bit stuck with my story It’s All in the Eyes, and then I had the idea for Blindsighted. I found the latter flowed smoother and quicker, and I could fully develop that into a release.

At the moment, I’m working on, And Then I Killed Her, which for now is coming freely. However, if I get stuck, I may move on to one of my other ideas.

Having said that, if I come up with a new idea – for example, I came up with an idea for a new story the other day that involves a homeless wizard – I may spend a few minutes writing a few sentences or jotting down the basic premise, but I won’t spend a great deal of time working on it.

Some books, like The Next Stage 2 and Creatures 2, are coming off the back of a previous entry, so I have a few ideas bouncing around of where I can take the story, but because – in my mind – they have to live up to the book that came before I spend a bit more time figuring things out. Creatures 2 is around halfway written, but I got a little stuck and decided that I would move on to something else rather than struggling with it.

It can be a blessing and a curse to have a lot of ideas bouncing around. On the one hand, it’s great because you’ve always got something to work on if you have issues with a current WIP. But on the other, it can be a pain because I want to work on several at a time. For example, I’m really excited about my wizard story, but my current serial killer WIP is going so well that I don’t want to stop writing it if I lose my flow.

As I’ve found from asking folks on Twitter, everyone has a different way of figuring out which story they will work on at any given time. As with many things, what works for one, might not work for you, so find your own method.

The Return!

Well, after a couple of weeks off while we moved house, I’m back.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, moving house is stressful!

We’re now fully moved into our new home and have been for around a week or so. We’ve spent most of the past couple of weeks either moving our belongings, deep cleaning the rental or unpacking boxes. The first two have now been done, but we still have a number of boxes that we still need to unpack – mainly books and DVDs. But until we have shelving sorted out, we have nowhere to put them. We’re just happy to finally be in a place that is ours and properly feels like home.

If you follow my Twitter or Instagram, you’ll have seen some of the progress we’ve made on unpacking and finding new places for things to live in. As usual, the main thing I’ve been working on is the games room. All the consoles are now out, tested, and ready to play on, and if I do say so myself, it looks pretty damn awesome.

Since we got the keys, we’ve hardly had a spare moment to ourselves. We’ve had a near-constant stream of people in and out of the house, either working on the floors or the site team fixing defects. Today is the day both Alex and I get back to work, and for me, it couldn’t have come soon enough.

I misjudged just how unsettled I would be when we moved. The move to our previous rented house was so easy compared to this one, and I wasn’t prepared for just how much we needed to do. My brain has almost imploded with everything going on, and I got to the point where I just didn’t want to see another soul outside the two of us that live in this house. I just wanted us to have some time on our own to relax in our new home. I’m hoping that now though, with both of us going back to work, things will return to a semblance of normality as we once again get some structure to our days.

In the past couple of days, my brain has been doing overtime with new ideas for some of the stories I’m currently working on, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to work on them.

Along with my writing and blogging, I’m hoping that soon I can start doing videos regularly, whether they are video game streams or something else – so keep an eye out for more info about that.

But for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of our new home (plus some bonus pictures of a neighbour cat I met this morning) and I’ll get back to work.

 

Reviews Are In…

…well the first one is anyway.

It’s been a slow burn release but Blindsighted is starting to get out there. Sales are low, but Kindle Unlimited pages are coming in quicker and the other day I had my first review over on Goodreads – and it was a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. It was also a text review which I always enjoy reading. It’s nice to see what people thought about your novel, whether there is a particular scene that they enjoyed or even if there were any issues they could see. It’s nice to have that input from readers to help me grow as a writer.

When The Next Stage was released, it garnered a high number of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ reviews for the first couple of months which kept its average at the maximum for quite some time. I’m not expecting the same with Blindsighted, but it would be nice to see some more good reviews come in soon.

As I’ve said in previous blogs, I’m not doing any writing at the minute as we put all our energy into our house move. We get our keys today and I’m hoping that we can get everything sorted in the next couple of weeks so I can get back to writing and trying some other things – more information on what I’m planning will come soon.

Our house move has been going on for almost a year, and we’ve spent that long living out of boxes. We can’t wait to get everything sorted, so we can get back to living our lives.

So while you’re waiting for more book stuff from me, you can catch up with my novels by buying them over on Amazon or by using your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

While we wait for the call to come in about picking up keys, we’re trying to keep our minds occupied by playing Stardew Valley. The co-op is really great, and I’ll be doing a blog about it soon.l, so keep an eye out for that.

That’s all for today. I hope you have a good weekend and if you’d like to see updates on our house move watch my Twitter and Instagram as well as our house Instagram.

New Year, New…Book?

I’m taking a break from my regular schedule of posts but will return to it next week.

The new year is upon us. We can put the sh!tshow that was 2020 behind us and try to move on.

To bring a little good to the first day of the new year, I’ve decided to make The Next Stage available for free on Kindle and Google Books. You can find it via the following links;

If you’d like a promo code for Apple Books, then just message me on Twitter and I’ll send one over to you.

If you’re looking for a new read, then The Next Stage could be what you’re looking for.

26th October 2138, Lieutenant William Kell is at the scene of another homicide committed by a rogue group of AIs. What has now become a routine investigation will soon explode into a deeper conspiracy, one that threatens all of humankind. Now it’s a race against time to stop the group’s devious plot before it’s too late, and the city of Washington D.C. implodes into violence.

If you’re unsure, why not check out some of the reviews over on Goodreads, and see what other readers have to say about it.

While you’re over on Goodreads, you can also now set up your 2021 reading challenge. With this challenge you can set a goal for how many books you aim to read this year. I’ve done this for five years, and have found it a good way to make sure I read more. You can see my challenge below and start your own on the website.

This past year I only just managed to reach my goal due to focusing more time on writing and getting The Next Stage out there, but I’m going to try this year, to make some more time for reading, I especially want to read more self-published and Indie authors like myself, as I know how hard it can be to get our books out there to readers.

You can see what I read during my 2020 reading challenge here.

Thank you to all who have already read and reviewed The Next Stage and Creatures. It means a lot to me that people have actually enjoyed what I’ve written and even recommended it it to others. You’re awesome!

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!

The End of a Holiday

Last week I posted about taking a break from writing over Christmas. I was only supposed to be coming back to it tomorrow (Tuesday), but I’ve missed writing more than I ever thought I would, so I’m starting again today.

When I worked my 9-5 – even though it wasn’t really 9-5 – in IT, and had time off, I dreaded going back into the office. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my job – in the most part – but I hated going into an office, or more recently, logging on while working from home. Now I’m writing full-time, I feel more relaxed with what I’m doing, which is doing wonders for my mental health.

Doing my own thing helps so much. Having the option of not doing anything if my brain is having an off day reduces the stress I feel on a daily basis, and I can just relax until I feel better. There was nothing worse on a day when my brain was rebelling than having to put my “happy face” on and pretend I was okay when inside I was screaming. Being able to take a break whenever I like also helps. I can have a wander, or get a drink/snack, without anyone monitoring the length of time I take away from my desk. It’s so freeing.

Anyway, today I’m back at it, and I’ll mostly be working on some blog entries for Wednesday and Friday. I’ve got a few ideas that I’ve been working on for the games blog on Wednesday, and I’ll no doubt have something to say on mental health on Friday, because, well, I still have my brain.

I’m surprised that I actually managed to stick to the no writing for the last week. I didn’t think I would make it this far, to be honest. I thought I’d be on day 2 and then get back into it. That’s not to say I didn’t want to. It was almost painful at times being away from writing, the urge to “just do a little bit” was always there (it would never be “just a bit”), but I also knew that I needed to take a break, to recharge and not get burnt out.

Having some time off from actually writing words, didn’t stop my brain from coming up with new ideas for stories or where to take my current WIPs. So now, when I come back to them, I have a stack of things that I can work on and try to fit into them.

The other thing I discovered having time off, is that not having writing to focus on allowed the pain I’m still feeling in my hip to bubble to the surface and feel worse. I’m hoping that getting back to writing will not only help my mental health but also stop me focusing on any physical pain I’m experiencing.

So…back to it.

The Next Stage; 100! (Bonus Entry)

It’s been a little under two months since The Next Stage released in Kindle and paperback form. Today it an amazing milestone.

It now has over 100 ratings on Goodreads, and every single damn one of them is ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It has now overtaken Creatures with number of reviews and rating average.

This, to me, is a huge thing to happen and something that I never even thought would happen. When it 50 reviews and they were all ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I thought that was amazing, but hitting 100 is phenomenal.

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I had started work on the second book in the series. I’ve done an outline, and I’ve already started writing -so far I’m up to just over 4000 words, so it’s slowly getting up steam. I think I’ve for a pretty solid story so I’m hoping it’ll follow in the footsteps of the first one and be something that readers enjoy.

Below are all the places you can pick up a copy for yourself along with the Goodreads page.

Amazon

Google Books

Apple Books

Lulu

Kobo

Goodreads

Thank you to all who have bought it so far, especially those that have reviewed it. I hope many more people will enjoy it.