My Eyes Are Closed, a guest post by Lisa Malabanan

Lisa Malabana is the author of Consonance, and she was kind enough to agree to write a guest post for us as part of her Book Blast Tour. Lisa and I have a lot in common; we are both influenced by the ideas of art and creativity. It’s been a pleasure to connect online with her. 

Thanks so much, Lisa, and best of luck in your literary endeavors! And now…Lisa!

“My Eyes are Closed,” Choosing the Perfect Book Cover

“I don’t like this picture, my eyes are closed.” I’ve heard that excuse many times, and often use that reason not to choose a picture for a photo album. Picking a perfect book cover is not as simple as deleting a bad picture. I’d rather shut my eyes.

My daughter happens to be a good artist in the making. Like me, she loves music, even played the piano for a while and the guitar briefly. She gave up those instruments for the clarinet (for now). Art is the only thing she remains devoted to. Unlike her I am no artist, but I can clearly form an image in my mind when it comes to my story and characters.

Consonance is heavily influenced by music. The inspiration for the story came from my abandoned instruments (piano, guitar, and bass guitar). I wanted to bring them to life and tell a story in the process. I could go on and on about how music can inspire a story, and how a story can inspire a song, but I want to focus on visual art instead.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Whichever art form or style is used, the image or sculpture can elicit an emotion, interpretation, or wonderment. If it is intriguing, then a person will want to learn more about the art piece and the artist.

A book cover should bring about the same principle. Readers peruse the many assortments of books in a bookstore or ebooks in the online store. If a picture captures the attention of the customer, he or she will proceed to read the book blurb, and decide on whether or not to purchase the book. That first impression is essential to make a sale.

 An eye-catching book cover is important, but the image should also fit the description of the book. I may pass on a book if the cover has a raging sea with a man drowning because his boat capsized, although the book flap and excerpt indicates a romance novel set in the Civil War period. Yes, I am exaggerating to illustrate a point.

I am embarrassed to admit that my first book cover for Consonance was terrible. My idea to have a picture of my piano keyboard and the strings of my acoustic guitar to make it feel more personal backfired. This idea actually did the opposite of what I was aiming for. The cover was boring, even the colors were muted and it did not help my book to pop out saying, “Stop and read the blurb!”

The image didn’t seem personal. It was just piano keys and guitar strings. There is nothing special about the picture, so it’s not worth the reader’s time and he/she will move on to the next book.

My initial concept failed, although this did not mean I can’t try again by infusing something personal. For the second attempt, I closed my eyes and imagined the book cover from the perspective of my protagonist, Elle Martins. She is a classically trained pianist, a singer, and guitarist recruited into a newly-formed rock band.

The entertainment image of a stage, spotlights, musicians, and a wild crowd of fans cheering with hands in the air appeared exciting. Yet my mind didn’t envision or embrace that thought. The piano was vital to my cover. After all, the story introduces Elle’s talent on the piano before readers discover her other skills.

Next, I hired a book cover designer. It is important to work with a designer who understands the concept of the story and therefore, comprehends an author’s vision of the book. We agreed on a set budget and how many revisions would be covered in that price range. She gave me resources of royalty free image websites, and gave me the freedom to choose pictures that I like while she did the same based on the book description I provided to her. She also gave me the time I needed to make changes to the cover before agreeing on the final product.

The designer offered three possible book covers based on the images I liked the most. She followed my concept of hands playing the piano and hiding the woman’s facial features so the readers can have their own mental picture of Elle’s appearance. I finally chose the image that means something personal to me.

My second book cover is simple, but it captures the essence of a musician playing a song of her story in a classic style. I am very happy with my choice. To me, the book cover is “picture perfect.”

            The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~Aristotle

Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I had a wonderful time sharing my experiences with you and your readers.

Sincerely,

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Stupid questions to ask self-published authors

“Did you use a real publisher?”

“Is it a real book?”

I’ve heard these questions and other similar queries many times, and not just from those dissociated with the writing and publishing industries. What kinds of people ask these questions? Traditionally published authors. Struggling writers. Non-writers. Friends and family. The guy at the bus stop. Basically anyone.

This is rude and thoughtless. It’s akin to walking up to a set of new parents, gurgling baby in arms and asking, “Can you trade it for a real one?” “Will it get any cuter?” Inherent in those questions and especially in the particular phrasing which uses the word real is the assertion that a self-published book isn’t valid. Dead wrong.

Self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable way to get your book into print. It’s quick and inexpensive. What it isn’t, however, is easy. It still requires the same hard work. You still need to write on your lunch hour and burn the midnight oil. You still need to write, write, and thump on that manuscript until it doesn’t make you want to choke with embarrassment. Then, you need to find a trusted cadre of readers brave enough to give you true and harsh feedback. Rewrite again. Find an editor. Rewrite again. Proof that sucker multiple times.

The process of writing hasn’t changed a bit.  It’s still really hard to do it well and terribly difficult to find success. The good writing will hopefully get noticed and the bad writing will sink to the bottom. Note that this  is just a general rule and isn’t necessary true in all cases – see  The Cuckoo’s Calling and 50 Shades of Grey.

You finally drag your tired carcass across the finish line with this raggedy-ass manuscript in hand and guess what? More work and lots of it. You either need to hire someone to design your cover or get very familiar with GIMP or Photoshop. You need to navigate the idiosyncrasies of .mobi files versus .epub. You must slay the dreaded auto-indent that lives in KDP-land.

I’m not saying that every self-published book out there is a sparkling, beautiful gem, just waiting to be discovered. Sub-standard work exists and the fact that anyone can publish pretty much anything they want means that the publishing world has drastically changed. We need to change with it. We need to accept and understand the new paradigm and begin to strengthen it.

What I’m saying is a self-published book doesn’t suck simply by virtue of being self-published. It very well might be poorly written and ill-imagined, but you must read it before you make that determination.

Self-publishing isn’t new, it’s e-publishing that’s new. Proust paid his own bill in order to get Swann’s Way published . Many familiar authors such as Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe, Benjamin Franklin,  and Edgar Rice Burroughs (among countless others) utilized some form of self-publishing.

So your manuscript is finally ready. You go through the steps required to turn it into an ebook and then a physical book. Are you finished?

HELL, NO. You are not even close to being done.

Now you must market this thing. You must network and promote. And lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify something here – when I speak of marketing and promoting, I mean you will spend months, maybe years, building a platform and maintaining it.

This process is not for cowards. It isn’t going to work for those who lack initiative, follow-through, or tenacity.

So – have some respect, please. The next time you speak with someone who just self-published a book, think about the tremendous amount of perseverance, hard work, and sheer heart that it took. Congratulate them on their huge accomplishment. Give that author a big old bear hug from me!

If you wish to have an opinion on the book, you will need to do one of two things:


1.) Go buy the book and read it.

2.) If you don’t want to buy the book, ask the author if you may receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I guarantee every single author will agree immediately. Now go home and read that book.

Finally, go to AmazonGoodreads, and B&N and review the book. Be kind but give them your honest opinion. These reviews are invaluable for several reasons. Remember I said anyone can publish and they do? This means that the market is glutted and one of the important ways that authors differentiate themselves is using reviews.

Yikes! I can hear everyone out there clamoring and shouting questions about the current state of book reviews.


 Are they trustworthy? Can one pay to get a review?


Answers:  I don’t know. Yes, I suspect so.


This is a topic for another post and I will table it for now and come back to it at a later time.

Let’s just focus on HONEST REVIEWS. If you can deliver them with clarity, honesty, and specificity, they can serve to help the writer better understand her readers. That is worth it’s weight in gold. If you have something to say that might seem a little harsh to just toss out there into the cyberworld, limber up your fingers and send that author a kind but honest review of his book. This is a kind and generous, and something that most people don’t take the time to do for writers.

Criticizing or diminishing the efforts of self-published writers weakens the industry. Instead, let’s take a positive approach. Encourage and applaud self-published authors. Review. Refuse to give anything but an honest review.

By the way, most of these principles also apply to indie artists who are trying to make their way. Let’s lend support and love to all creative people brave enough to put their work out there.

P.S. If you choose not to read the book, you only have one option. Kindly shut up about it until you have something informed and useful to say.


These gorgeous collage pieces were brought to you by one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists, the talented Emilia Elfe. Clicking any artwork will take you to her website.

As always, thanks for spending time with me. If you wanna hang out some more, visit my platform.

Name my painting & win a prize!

I need help coming up with a title for this painting. I’ll accept submissions until Friday, 7/12/13, @ noon. At that time, I’ll choose a title and if yours wins, I’ll send you a surprise package which will include a copy of my soon-to-be-published (like any day now!) book, Cutting Your Losses, plus other cool stuff for creative people.

Here’s the link.

 

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