Fun Friday: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Steps to a Great Book Cover

CoverModel CollageWith more and more authors turning to Indie publishing, there’s so many things an author has to do herself. Cover designing is one of them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make a great book cover, and how indie author Lora Young tackled the process for her debut novel, Malicious Mischief.

  1. Book a great cover model, or just ask a friend to help out. When author Lora Young asked her friend Kinsey Parker to model for her cover, I bet she never dreamed the pictures would turn out this great.
  2. Rent or borrow some historical costumes. Yes, finally a reason to dress up! Since it’s so hard to find great historical photos, sometimes you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and DIY.
  3. Book a great photographer. Luckily for Lora, her daughter Rebekah Young is a fabulous photographer. I think the railroad track pic is my fav!
  4. Find the perfect location. Need railroad tracks? Go find some. Want a historical building as the backdrop? Find one in your area. Some people are stingy about permission, so always ask if it’s private property. But if it’s a public place and you’re taking the pic, it’s usually fair game.
  5. Hire a fabulous cover designer. Lora found another indie author who is also a great cover designer, Lynette Bonner. Find the right graphic designer for your book genre, or you can try to DIY this, too. Lynnette has a great video tutorial on YouTube you could check out, Indie Cover Design with Photoshop CS6

Those are just a few tips from a (maybe) future book cover designer. You can always use stock photos for book covers, but you lose some originality. That’s why I love Lora’s idea of organizing her own photo shoot with family and friends. Now she’s got original cover models to add flair to the stock photos Lynnette used in her background. Totally brilliant!

Bonus Feature – The Crash at Crush

Here’s a clip about a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong on the MKT Railway, the setting for Lora Young’s Malicious Mischief. Not the best way to dispose of old trains. Though Mr. Crush was the first to try it, unfortunately he wasn’t the last.

Want to Read More about the MKT Railway?

Check out Lora Young’s debut historical romantic suspense/mystery for a story that’s just as dramatic, but not quite so tragic as the Crash at Crush.

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Malicious Mischief
Lora Young

Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most.

Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.

Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.

As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.

The Versatile Blogger Award

versatileblogger11Last week I received the Versatile Blogger Award (VBA) from writer and prolific blogger, Holly Michael on her blog Writing Straight.

Here is the link to Holly Michael’s post: Another Award: The Versatile Blogger.

There’s a whole site dedicated to this award: Versatile Blogger Award (VBA)

What is it?

The VBA is a blogger award for quality blogs as deemed by the blogging community. Yep–you guessed it. It’s an award by bloggers for bloggers. And it’s an honor to receive this award that is spreading fast in the blogging community.

Thank you Holly Michael for the VBA nod. Since I was nominated by Holly Michael my site traffic and comments have gone up. No coincidence. It’s nice to know there are other bloggers out there who want to write and support each other.

And the Nominees are . . .

Below I’ve nominated some of my favorite blogs in no specific order. Most are writers, book reviewers, and versatile people with lots of interests. Check them out:

  1. Author and fellow CBC alum Jessica Patch: www.jessicarpatch.blogspot.com
  2. Inspirational Romance writer Christina Rich: http://christinarich.wordpress.com/
  3. Reflections on the River with Susan Mires: www.susanmires.com and a blog she collaborates on with other writes, www.pagesfromstages.wordpress.com.
  4. Write-to-Publish staffer Tammy Eddington Shaw: http://www.tamedingtonshaw.blogspot.com/
  5. Chapter president, writer and editor Sally Bradley: www.sallybradley.com
  6. Darci Webster and her Siberian Husky Nora, who does most of the blogging 🙂 :
  7. The ever funny Katy McKenna: www.fallible.com 
  8. Writer, homeschool circulum guru, and one year novel proponent for kids Dan Schwabauer: www.danschwabauer.com or his blog http://oneyearnovel.com/wordpress/
  9. Journeys of love . . . inspired by Faith with writer Susan Holloway: www.susanhollaway.com
  10. A college student’s journey through the Middle East: http://meintheme.wordpress.com/
  11. Writer and book reviewer Caryn Caldwell: http://caryncaldwell.com/
  12. Historical writer Sandra Ardoin: http://sandraardoin.wordpress.com/
  13. Jalynn on homeschooling, books, and more: http://asimplelifereally.blogspot.com/
  14. Jackie’s back porch with Jackie Layton: http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com/
  15. Where Light Pierces the Darkness with Ralene Burke: http://www.raleneburke.com/

The Rules

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to the VBA site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Seven Things About Me

  1. I love purple, puppies, and dolphins. No surprise to anyone who knows me. 🙂
  2. The only foreign countries I’ve been to are Venezuela, Romania, and Mexico. All missions trips.
  3. In college I won Best Supporting Actress at the SPAM Awards. (Student Produced Amateur Movies.) Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I LOST that DVD of me lip-syncing to Etta James and Alicia Keyes.
  4. My favorite sport is baseball, because I actually know what’s going on. Thanks Dad!
  5. I had a friend in high school who thought I was the spitting image of the Star Wars diva Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. Everyone else, including me, thought my friend was crazy.
  6. On my officle wall is a smiley face pic, a shiny pink star, and a dry erase board sponsored by The Office that I write funny sayings on. It’s got a picture of the original gang and a slogan, “Petty behavior. Zero productivity. All in a day’s work.”
  7. I just got a Kindle last week. What took me so long to join the e-reading gang? I’m THAT cheap. 🙂

My Novel: Would You Rather Go to College or Boarding School?

Neither, right? Actually, I had to ask my character that question. My current WIP (work in progress) was about a teen’s first year in college. I thought it would fit into the YA market because my character is 18. But when I pitched at the 2011 ACFW conference it didn’t fly. Why? Because teens don’t want to read about college life. And college students don’t have time to read fiction. At least that’s what one agent and one editor said.

What One Editor Suggested

When an editor from Thomas Nelson suggested I switch my setting from college to a boarding school, I cringed. It would make my story more teenage-friendly. But who would rather read about boarding school than college? College seems like more fun. In my mind I associate boarding school with a harsh regime, like a reform school. Who knows. Maybe I could make my boarding school as cool as Hogwart’s.

So I took a step back and did some research. There actually are Christian boarding schools in New York. Only a few, but they cater to hundreds of students. It’s a different twist on the ordinary high school drama. But is it interesting enough to relate to?

Will an Agent Get It?

The agent I spoke with at the ACFW conference agreed with the editor. I was devastated. But she said one thing that stuck with me, “Your writing is strong.” And she handed me her card. I was so disappointed by the news that I needed to change my novel’s setting. I only remembered the bad part for a month or two afterward.

As the Genesis contest approached, I suddenly remembered the agent’s praise. And her card. So I updated my story to the boarding school version and sent it off to Genesis to test out the new version. When it semi-finaled (yay!) I sent an updated query to the agent. Last week she sent me another rejection letter. This time with pointed advice. She had a lot of contemporary YA novels on her plate, and my story didn’t wow her. Back to the drawing board.  I’m still looking for the right agent, one who will get it.

A New Market

In the market where paranormal teen romance is a section in Barnes & Noble bookstores, my contemporary YA romantic comedy needs some extra punch. I’m not quite willing to add a paranormal punch. That wouldn’t be true to my story.

But I could change parts of my story. Maybe a prep school in New York City would be a better setting. Or my heroine could be a country girl who has to adjust to the big city. Time to spice it up. 🙂

Brainstorm With Me

Q4U: Would you rather read about a character in college, boarding school, or prep school? What other plot, character, or setting developments do you think might spice up a ho-hum YA romantic comedy about a girl running away from a heartbreak only to have to face it again? Don’t worry, there’s no bad ideas here.

Writing Clean for Today’s Teen

Teen readers are some of the most avid readers in the market. They deserve well-thought out novels that entertain and inspire. Yet, every time I pick up a YA novel at the bookstore there’s some kind of cuss word, explicit reference, or drug reference in the first five chapters. Sure, teens deal with heavy stuff every day at public high schools. But that doesn’t mean authors need to promote sex, drugs, and rock and roll. (Just kidding on that last one. 🙂 )

Why Teens Need Better Options

Ok, before you get Footloose on me and organize a dancing protest, consider this. Teen reading is a great time to show kids making good choices. Those high school years are not only a teaching time academically, but relationally as well.  That’s why it’s important to portray characters who eventually make good choices, even if they mess it up at first. They still need to get it right in the end.

Teens want to read books they can relate to. But what makes a book transcendent? A book that rises above the standards, shows real characters fighting tough choices, and becoming better people in the process.  Don’t give the character exactly what they want. Watch how they deal with it. That’s real life. Adulthood. Aren’t teen years preparation for adulthood?

Readers want to grow with the character. It’s part of a good story. Especially to teenagers. They’re in the middle of a hyped-up time of change and they are open to learning new things. So give ’em what they need, not just what they want.

Why I Choose to Write Clean

I read clean fiction. The Christian market is a great place to find clean reads, but I’ll consider books that meet the clean standard. I prefer positive, redemptive books that show a glimpse of a new reality or shed a new light on something.

It’s what I strive to write. Even in the land of the unpubbed, I picture my reader when I write. In my mind, my reader is a teen girl who is tired of the same old click-lit, mean girls club, vampire romance. They want something that’s funny, honest, and thought-provoking. And they don’t want the junk they deal with every day.  They want to rise above it to learn more about themselves and their world.

I loved those stories as a teen. Madeleine L’Engle is still my favorite author. I grew up reading her young adult books, A Wrinkle in Time and my all-time favorite A Ring of Endless Light. Those books stayed with me. They transcended the time period they were written in and spoke to me. One day I hope to publish novels that will speak to any reader, anywhere, just like that.

An Author’s Challenge

In YA fiction, it’s hard to stay on trend and still write a transcendent story. It takes extra research, plotting, and characterization. But it’s well worth the effort for a book that will speak to teens the way no other book can. And those books are usually appreciated by adults as well. I still love finding that great YA book I can rave about.

Everybody loves a good story, but a great one is remembered for a long time. Maybe that’s why Jesus taught in stories. Yeah, I like to set my standards high. Reach for the stars and all that. A good story is something we can all relate to. A great story is one that makes us see the world in a whole new light. Gotta love the power of story.

Here are some of my favorite YA authors:

Madeleine L’Engle Classics that read like modern-day stories.

Jenny B. Jones Hilarious and thoughtful books that inspire.

Robin Jones Gunn Godly stories the portray girls making good choices.

Stephanie Morrill A thoughtful, funny, and dramatic series of how a bad girl finds a good path.

Kristin Billerbeck Lighthearted, inspirational chick lit for teens and twenty-somethings.

Nicole O’Dell Great choose-your-own-ending series.

For more insights on this topic go to Holly Michael’s Writing Straight blog post with guest blogger YA author Jennifer Donohue What’s In a Story.

Q4U: What are your pet peeves about YA fiction? What are some clean reads you can recommend?