Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank You, Kathy Ide

Today, we continue our week of gratitude to the charter sponsors of Hope Tour 2012.

Kathy Ide and I met briefly in 2007 at the Mount Hermon Writer's Conference, but at the time I had no idea how much she would impact my life in the future.

Thank you, Kathy Ide, not only for your support of Hope Tour 2012, but also of me personally. You are one of God's beautiful treasures in my life.

Kathy is a writer and an editor. She founded The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, and Christian Editor Network. These two organizations connect writers with professional editors, and editors with book publishers. The Christian PEN also provides numerous resources for editors, including educational workshops all year-round. I've been a member for many years, and have taken numerous courses that have helped me immensely as editor, writer, and publisher.

Some of Kathy's own books:

Christian Drama Publishing: How to Write a Powerful Script & Get It Published

Helps authors write play scripts for churches, schools, and home schools, and get them published. Up-to-date information on drama publishers including contact names, guidelines, and formatting.

Fiction and Truth:  Stories that Speak to the Soul

This is an anthology of short fiction stories with life applications and related Scriptures, written by more than twenty Christian authors, compiled and edited by Kathy Ide.

When Jesus walked this earth, He taught most often by telling stories. We call them parables. Afterward, He explained to His listeners (or, in some cases, exclusively to His disciples) the parallels and meanings that could be derived from the story. Fiction and Truth follows this effective format. Christian authors tell engaging short stories with memorable characters in fascinating situations. Following each story is a brief “Life Application” in which the author suggests how the lessons of the stories can be applied to the reader’s daily life.

Contributors include Angela Hunt, Robin Bayne, Deborah Raney, Eva Marie Everson, Gayle Roper, Kathleen Y’Barbo, DiAnn Mills, Lena Nelson Dooley, and more.

Polishing the "PUGS":  Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling Tips for Writers

In this book I share some of the most common mechanical errors I see in the manuscripts I edit. Contains rules and spellings for books (based on The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the US book publishing industry's standard references) as well as the different rules and spellings for articles (using The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster's New World College Dictionary, the industry standard references for newspapers and journalistic magazines).

Don't let "PUGS" errors decrease your chances of being accepted by a publisher.
Recommended in the Moody Press style guide!

Typing without Pain

After typing in offices for about thirty years, I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both wrists, DeQuervain's Syndrome in both thumbs, tendonitis in both forefingers, and a rotator cuff injury in my right shoulder. I went to several doctors and physical therapists, where I learned how to relieve the pain. I then did some research on how to prevent such injuries from occurring or getting worse.

In this book, I share tips on how to avoid computer-related injuries by finding the right equipment and furniture, setting up an ergonomically correct work area, developing healthy habits, and recognizing the symptoms of a repetitive-strain injury. I also describe warm-up, stretching, and strengthening exercises that can help muscles and tendons work to peak capacity without pain. Also included are effective ways to relieve the pain of a repetitive-strain injury.

Don't forget - the Hope Tour 2012 Kickstarter campaign only lasts 30 days. We've got 22 more days to meet our goal to make the Hope Tour a reality. Won't you join us?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thank You, Melissa Foster and World Literary Cafe

Last fall, I joined a writer's marketing group and was soon introduced to award-winning, best-selling author Melissa Foster. She is founder of the World Literary Cafe and when I pitched her my idea about the Hope Tour, she wrote, "Yes, you're out of your mind, but I LOVE the idea!" With great enthusiasm, she jumped on-board and is helping promote Hope Tour 2012.

One of our stops on the tour is Melissa's town, Rockville, Maryland, so we'll be having some kind of fun event with her while we're there.

Here's a little information of WLC, straight from their website:

The World Literary Cafe (previously known as the WoMen’s Literary Café, welcoming both men and women) is an online community that bridges the gap between readers and authors, with the mission of promoting great literature and bringing together the literary community. The World Lit Cafe offers helpful promotions to authors, reviewers, bloggers, and editors by creating avenues to bring them together under one umbrella in an easily navigable venue.

Be sure to check out all of the services and benefits the WLC offers for readers, authors, bloggers, reviewers - their resources are quite vast.

Thank you, Melissa, and everyone at the World Literary Cafe. We appreciate your support and can't wait to meet you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank You to The Book Club Network

Back in January, I had the honor of meeting Nora St. Laurent and instantly loved the woman. She and her husband, Fred, run The Book Club Network and graciously offered to help promote Hope Tour 2012.

The Book Club Network is a place where people feel safe, have fun, share hearts and embrace, Finding Hope through fellowship in reading groups. Their goal is to help AUTHORS connect with READERS and help READERS to discover their books.

Their site features a database of book clubs, events like book signings and writer meetings, discussion boards, reviews, blogs, giveaways, and a whole lot more! Drop by and check them out - tell them Tracy sent you!

Thank you, Nora and Fred, and everyone at The Book Club Network. We appreciate your support and look forward to working with you the next five months!

Don't forget, the Hope Tour 2012 Kickstarter is still going on. Drop by, pick your reward, make a pledge - and we'll see you out on the road sometime this summer!

Question - are you a member of a book club? What do you like most about it? Feel free to tell us about your book club - we'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thank You, Staci Stallings

The idea for Hope Tour 2012 grew quickly, and soon, it was a gargantuan undertaking. Several people caught the vision early on, and became Charter Sponsors for the entire event.

This week, I'd like to tell you a little about each one of them as a small token of my appreciation for their encouragement, support, and big mouth promotion of our events! :-)

Today, I want to publicly thank author Staci Stallings.

I've only known Staci Stallings since last fall, but during that time she has captured my heart. She has more energy than the Energizer bunny himself, and her attitude is one all of us should model. She is kind, she is pleasant, she is hard working, and she loves the Lord with her whole heart. She loves other writers and spends much, much time offering encouragement, training, mentoring, advice, and sometimes just a compassionate shoulder to cry on.

She is owner of Spirit Light Books, and founder of Grace & Faith 4 U and Grace & Faith Marketing.

She is also a very prolific writer, and maintains a fun blog at E-Book Romance Stories, with reviews, excerpts, and sample chapters. Check out some of her latest:


Life has done its best to knock Beth McCasland to the ground, and the truth is: it’s done a pretty good job of keeping her there. Stuck in a minimum-wage job with a young daughter counting on her, Beth does her best to stay standing under the weight of it all because she knows God is on her side. Then one night she gets the chance to be an angel to another of life’s weary travelers. For once hope has never looked so real.

Cowboy is a grace-filled story about the power of giving everything to God and how a simple act of compassion can change lives forever. Emotional, soothing, and heart-wrenching, Cowboy is infused with the message that no matter who we are and no matter what life has thrown at us, we never have to walk alone.

Available on:

A Work in Progress

Rebecca Avery has never been one of “them”—the popular kids, the beautiful people. With less than fashion-plate looks and an off-beat, quirky style to living life, she has been relegated to finding “alone” activities to fill her time throughout high school. Unfortunately, college hasn’t changed that. Then she meets Eric Barnett, a nice guy who seems a little quirky himself. The only problem is, he’s in love with her roommate—one of the truly beautiful people. When Rebecca finds herself falling for him, she must find a way to break out of her shell or risk losing him forever. Who will win out in this mixed up jumble of feelings and loyalties? Find out in “A Work in Progress.”

Available on:

Coming Undone

Ben Warren has life all figured out. At 35, he’s successful in his work and free as a bird everywhere else. He has no desire to be tied down like some of his friends, and he sees no reason to change that. Then the unthinkable happens and causes him to rethink everything about everything.

Kathryn Walker can’t figure out what she’s doing wrong in the dating department. The rest of her life makes sense. She’s compassionate, strong, honest, hard-working and still alone. She wonders if she is doomed to spend forever single. Little does she know that fate is taking a major turn in her life. In fact, she doesn’t even see it happening until it has. Can she ever get past the fact that Mr. Right didn’t show up in the way she thought he would?

Available on:

Deep in the Heart

Just out of college and completely alone in the world, Maggie Montgomery has one shot left to save her life from an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. Clinging to the last shred of fuel and hope, she arrives at the mansion of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers. Although Maggie is clearly not what Mr. Ayers and his wife have in mind for a nanny, they agree to hire her temporarily until they can find someone more appropriate to fill the position. However, Maggie's whole world is about to be up-ended by two way-over-scheduled children and one incredibly handsome hired hand. As she struggles to fit into a world she was never made to fit in, Maggie wonders if she can ever learn to become a perfect version of herself so she can keep the job, or is she doomed to always be searching for a life she can never quite grasp?

Keith Ayers despises his life. As the son of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers and the fiance to a Senator from Texas' daughter, it looks great on the outside, but inside, he is dying. He would vastly prefer to manage and train his father's racehorses. However, everyone else thinks that is beneath him. He needs to get into industry and build on his father's success. Suffocating under the constrictions of his life, he meets Maggie who begins to teach him that wealth and power is not everything in this life. But can Keith defy the most powerful men in Texas to follow his heart?

Available on:

We're arranging a fun event in Staci's honor when we get to Amarillo, and you're all invited, but if you see her before I do, be sure to thank her for supporting Hope Tour 2012

Thank you, Staci. You're a blessing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We're Going on Tour!

Write Integrity Press is planning a summer book tour - Hope Tour 2012!

But we need your help!

Watch the video, then drop by our Kickstarter page to participate. We're going to post daily on the Write Integrity blog about the towns on our tour, and ask for your recommendations and input as far as food, fun facts, and one MUST SEE from your town, so stay tuned - and plan to leave some comments to help us make the most of this trip!

I hope we'll see YOU out on the road in a few short weeks!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our Losses Matter

Today, please welcome Rita A. Schulte as she tackles the tough topic of loss.

Moving beyond shattered dreams and unmet expectations

When we become Christians, many of us are led to believe, “If you do this, you’ll get that.” Accept Christ, go to heaven. Raise your children in the church, get a holy Christian family. I know; I lived most of my Christian life that way. It’s a life of controlling, orchestrating, and trying to do everything right. If it works (and it does for some people), we risk falling to pride and self-righteousness. If it doesn’t, it leads us to ask the “if only” and “what if” questions that eventually drive us mad: “If only I had been a better parent.” “If only I had tried harder in my marriage.” “What if my mother hadn’t died when I was so young?” Yet there’s no life to be found in ruminating about past failures or future outcomes. That negative, self-defeating thinking profits us nothing. The griever is left feeling lost, confused, angry, and sorely inadequate.
When what we’ve spent a lifetime planting doesn’t seem to grow or flourish, we can easily become discouraged. Whether it be our marriages, our careers, or our children’s lives, we feel ultimately responsible that things didn’t work out as we so carefully and painstakingly planned. We ask ourselves if we would we have invested so much of our hearts in the process if we had known the outcome would be loss. I think the answer has to be yes, because it’s what God has called us to do—and ultimately we will answer to him. He calls us to be obedient, not to focus on the outcomes—that’s his business. When we try to assume his position, we are heading down a slippery slope.

Our Losses Matter to God

There are losses in our lives that we may never fully understand, and we have to decide if we can live with that. It’s about surrendering the “right to know” and trusting Christ as our security anyway. It’s about giving up the mental pictures of how our lives should have played out, what the outcome should have been, that are often radically incongruent with our present reality.
God never said we wouldn’t suffer. In fact, he says just the opposite throughout the Bible. The grief journey almost always leads us back to the age-old questions about suffering. Does a good God really expect us to shoulder the burden of loss and suffering? As difficult as it may sound, the answer is yes, because our sufferings unite us with Christ. They give meaning to what Jesus did on the cross because they give us someone real to relate to.
So what about the answers we may never receive? Or maybe the ones we don’t like—what do we do with those? If we knew the answers, would it really make a difference? Would we see God’s heart differently? What is God’s ultimate purpose for us in experiencing grief?
Wrestling with these questions is as inevitable as the tragedies in our lives, but if we’re stubborn and unyielding in our search, we will find something far more valuable than answers—we’ll find the very heart of God. How? By discovering what God does in the process of watching our hearts break: he gives us his. Our pain is given meaning because we don’t experience it in isolation; we share it in relationship with Christ.
That’s the first thing we need to see about our losses—they matter to God. He is not some cruel taskmaster who is unsympathetic to our plight; he is a high priest who sympathizes with all our weaknesses, and who has been tempted in every way just as we are (Hebrews 4:15).
This shared suffering, God being with us, gives a context for us to fight for our lives and our hearts. Lest you think I’m overdramatizing, let me explain by way of a simple illustration. In the Disney film The Kid, Bruce Willis plays Russ Duritz, a guy who appears rich and successful and yet is really very empty and lonely. He has spent most of his adult life trying to forget his childhood and the painful memories that wounded his heart. Enter eight-year-old Rusty, who Willis initially thinks is a hallucination, but who won’t go away. He is sent to help the grown-up Russ work through some unfinished business. Little Rusty is very unhappy that big Russ turns out to be a loser, and he sets out to replay events in his life to expose the lies he has believed about himself.
One of Russ’s most painful memories occurred at his school playground, where a group of bullies beat him up. Little Rusty takes Willis back to that place, but today, as he goes out to replay the scene, something powerful happens. He knows that the grown-up Russ is standing there with him to face the bullies. Sensing his presence, young Rusty the kid is able to stand up to the bullies and win the fight.

Here’s what we notice: when someone is standing with you in the fight, during those times of sorrow and suffering, the bullies don’t seem so big, the darkness isn’t so black, the fear isn’t as paralyzing, and the fight is worth fighting. In the life of believer, that that someone is Jesus.
So the next time you’re tempted to be discouraged that the life you have carefully tried to orchestrate didn’t turn out the way you planned, remember this: the story isn’t finished yet and God always has a better ending in store!

Rita A Schulte is a licensed counselor, author and host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This currently airing on 90.5 FM in NC and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, Va. Heartline will be launching on the Internet on Christian Life Radio in the next month. Visit Rita's website, and find her on Facebook  and Twitter @Heartlinepod.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 5

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 1 - Designing Book Covers
Part 2 - Composition
Part 3 - Layering and Graphics
Part 4 - Colors and Fonts

Part 5 – Creating the Back Cover and Spine

The final consideration in book cover design is the book spine and back cover. Of course, your first step in assembling your design is figuring your spine width. The formula for spine width is page width (at Create Space for white paper this is .002252) times final number of pages. So for a 300 page book the spine width would be .68 (.002252 x 300). You must know your spine width before figuring total book cover size.

Looking at your complete book cover laid flat you will see the back cover, spine, and front cover, in that order from left to right. So allowing .125 for trim around each edge, your width formula is .125 + cover size + spine width + cover size + .125. For a 5 ½” wide book with 300 pages, the formula would look like .125 + 5.5 + .68 + 5.5 + .125, or 11.93” total. I always use a standard page count to design covers and then alter it when the manuscript is completed.
Also, using layout guides is a good idea. I place one on either side of my spine. This requires simple math: .125 + book cover gives me my first guide. Add the spine width to that figure and I have my second.
Your height is much easier to figure because there is no spine to consider. The formula for an 8 ½” height book is .125 + 8.5 + .125. I find it easiest to keep a Microsoft Excel chart of book sizes, then I don’t have to figure things again.
Once you have your size configured, there are typically three types of design:
  • One design wrapped around from the front cover onto the back
  • Solid spine, Back cover with graphics
  • Solid spine and back cover
In each of these choices, the most important factor is having readable text. Spine text should reflect that used on the front cover, unless there is a script font that does not translate well at a smaller size. In this case, use a simpler font, but be consistent with what else you’ve already used.

The ultimate goal of background design is to display the text. After all, potential readers usually read the blurb before deciding to purchase. Any graphics you use should take this into consideration. Repetition of design elements is a good way to tie the front cover to the back, but be careful of creating anything too busy. Black text over a background with black in it is distracting most of the time. Similarly, bright colored text doesn’t appear well against an equally bright background.

Typically, I use either a dark color on a light background or a light color on a dark background, staying as close to blacks and whites as possible (for example: dark greens and blues).

Another great way to draw the viewer’s eye is by employing a quote. Quotes – whether from the book itself or a book reviewer – are a great way to increase interest. The font of the quote can be different from the blurb, but again, it should fall within the set of fonts you have decided to use. Altering the text color for the quote is also a good idea as is increasing the size a bit from the blurb. Simple separations (short lines or small vector graphics) can enhance the overall appearance and provide interest.

Also, consider how your blurb text relates spatially to both your bar code and your spine. You want to leave ample border around the cover’s edge. With longer blurbs, I prefer to use more than one paragraph. The back cover of thicker books needs additional room for the natural folding along the spine when the book is opened, especially when near the bar code area.


All of the visual elements of a book cover are as important as the story itself. Often the overall design decides whether a reader buys it. By following certain basic rules of graphic design, you will have pleasing results. However, knowing your abilities or inabilities is important.

I hate to see books with bad covers. Equally, I hate to see books with bad covers that people have praised. I have yet to figure out why bad designs get nice comments other than people are inherently nice. Unfortunately, this not helpful to someone wanting to learn. Constructive criticism is just that, constructive. As a beginning designer, know that you must be mature enough to accept you could have done something better.

There is a reason good designers charge big bucks, so before you leap in with both feet, stop and think if perhaps it is better to hire a professional until your skills reach the level where you feel comfortable enough to go it alone. Graphic design is great fun, but when you are working with your own book, ultimately you want the best end result.

Some of Suzanne's work:

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 4

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 4 – The Basics of Design: Color and Fonts

You have decided to create your own book cover. You’ve looked at graphics and considered the composition. The next and perhaps most important consideration is choosing a color scheme and selecting fonts.


There are two types of color in graphic design – RGB and CMYK. Without getting into a complex discussion of what each of these are, let me simply say they are VERY different. Photographs are taken in RGB. Most vector graphics are CMYK. One does NOT translate into another. Printing companies usually specify which they prefer. Know this ahead of time. If you need CMYK designs, then working only in CMYK will save you headaches.

That said, color imparts a mood to your cover. Look at books of horror stories. What colors do you typically see? Similarly, what colors are used for westerns? Romances? Different colors affect viewers in different ways. Think about your particular story in deciding on your final scheme. Stick with a color theme, a set of colors, and don’t range too much. Too much contrast might blind your viewer. Too little might make it boring. Sometimes, if you are unsure, mocking-up several choices will help you decide.


Fonts are the style of your text. Your choice of font should also reflect the subject of the book. There are many choices out there, yet one word of caution – don’t overdo it. The general rule is to use two or at the most, three types of fonts. A simple print font is often better for smaller text. Leave the fancy ones, the scripts for titles or author’s names. Keep in mind that these days, most books are marketed online, so the cover will be a thumbnail image. Are the fonts legible when that small?

Consider the size of the font relative to the font itself. Some are much smaller. You want the letters to be readable. Another good rule is to use only one script font at a time. Too many scripts and the viewer will be confused. When choosing a script font, decide who would be writing. Is it a book about an older woman or a child? This thought should affect the style of script.

Layers, which we talked about previously, also work great with fonts. Don’t be afraid to use more than one line of text or to overlap them, and choose your font color wisely. The color of the font should work well with the graphics to make it readable. Again, look at best-selling books in your genre. What did they use? You often cannot tell the precise name of the font, but it will give you a general idea of what worked.

Lastly, when saving your final book cover design, be sure to embed any unusual fonts. This will prevent your printing company from using standard fonts and thus changing your design. (Note: If creating a PDF, Adobe Acrobat, file. Use the “Commercial Press” option for best quality. PDF files automatically embed fonts. Word Documents do not.)

Once you have your front book cover design, the last task is “Creating the Back Cover and Spine.”

Read more about Designing Book Covers:

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 3

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3 – The Basics of Design: Layering and Graphics

You’ve determined to create your own book cover. You’re willing to learn and have the time to invest. You’ve also given some thought to composition. What comes next?


THE MOST important rule of book cover design is using GOOD graphics. If you aren’t a photographer (and even sometimes if you are), then buy your images.* If you haven’t created vector graphics, if you have no idea what a vector graphic is, then buy them. There are always people who are better than you are at some particular form of design. There is nothing wrong with admitting that. Think of your book as an investment. You want to reap a reward from it, so you have to put money into it.

If you choose to use illustrations, look for quality. I recently viewed a book cover where the woman in the drawing looked more like a man. Had I seen the book cover in a store, I would have passed it right by.

Here is another important rule. Your graphics should fit your story and fit with each other when viewed on the cover. By this I mean, do not use a collection of random objects. So what if your story has a cat, a jar, a girl, and a train in it. Don’t use them all on the cover. Pick a scene from the book, the main focus of the story and PURCHASE an image that fits.Try to avoid clichés as well. Some images have been overdone. I see this especially on romance covers. It pays to do some research and gather some ideas. Think outside the box!

All graphics should be 300 dpi (dots per inch) for printing. This is an industry standard. Graphics that do not meet this standard can be altered in any graphics program. The correct pixel size to purchase greatly depends on how large your print will be. For large background images, I prefer to use at least 1600 pixels (at its largest length or width).


Once you have decided on your graphics (and creating a mock-up first, a sample, will often save you dollars if you are unsure about your final design), then how do you arrange them on the cover?

All book cover graphics are the result of layering. Layering is exactly what it sounds like. If you have five elements on your front cover – three graphics, the title text, and the author’s name text – each of these are a layer. Your background color is also a layer. Obviously, your title text and author’s name text should be as the top two layers, so your decision then becomes in what order to layer the rest.

Always keep in mind the rules of composition when layering your elements and consider opacity and blending. Opacity is the transparency of an object. Perhaps you want the landscape scene to fade into the woman’s face. Then the edges of the scene should be less opaque than the center.

Think of it as applying makeup. I knew a lady who put on her foundation, stopping in a line at her chin. Of course it looked funny. She needed to blend the darker color of her foundation over her chin and cheekbones onto her neck, so that it looked natural. This same idea applies to layered graphics. Look at the edges of the objects; pay attention to which one is on top of the other and notice how they blend together. Sometimes one item will layer better over or under another.

These are but a few simply ideas to consider. Information about layering can be complex, so start simple. If you have an idea you want to pursue, do some research first. There are many great online websites with tutorials for creating different effects.

Now that you have layering down, the next thing to consider is “The Basics of Design: Color and Fonts.”

*Some great places to hunt for good quality images are:

Read the rest of the series on Designing Book Covers:
Part 1
Part 2

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.

Designing Book Covers - Part 2

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 1

Part 2 – The Basics of Design: Composition

Hopefully, you are reading today’s article because you read the introduction and it only made you more determined to learn. You want to self-design your book cover and you want to do it right. Now, where to begin?

You must acquire a graphics program and software to assemble your book cover, those being the first two most essential things to have. I use Adobe Photoshop to assemble difficult images and Microsoft Publisher 2007 to assemble the book cover. There are other programs on the market, but these provide most everything you need.

Book cover design is all about composition. What is composition? It is the arrangement, or the placement, of all the elements on the page. All of these elements when viewed together should answer one important question. What do you want to draw the viewer’s eye?

There are a few basic rules of composition that always work –shapes, lines, and the rule of thirds. Shapes and lines both draw the eye in a particular direction, whether that’s a strong vertical element elongating the page or a more curving one, softening the scene. The strongest lines are often diagonals. The strongest shapes are “S” curves. In both cases, the viewer’s eye is drawn from one corner of the scene to the main focus point. This could be your title or a particular graphic.

The rule of thirds divides the scene into three parts horizontally and vertically. In the rule of thirds, nothing is cut in half. Instead, you divide all your elements into three’s, placing them in a “third” location and NOT down the middle. This is always more visually stimulating to a viewer. Think of a vase of flowers. If you place two flowers in the vase, then one will lean to the right and one will lean to the left, and you will have a hole down the middle. Odd numbers – 3,5,7,9 – are always preferable, so three flowers present a much better composition.

Now, what are these “elements”? Here I am talking about the number of graphics on your cover. One photo of a lovely woman spanning the entire front is good. Two side by side is bad. Yet take those two and set them atop a rolling landscape scene and you have three elements. However, take your two women, the rolling landscape, and throw in a vase of flowers, and now you have four elements. Three was better or if you have the space on your cover, then increase to five. You must also count any text as an element, so one graphic, your title text, and the author’s name counts as three elements.

However, watch your negative space. Negative space is the area where there is nothing (the white in our book cover example). Too little negative space and your cover will become crowded. Also, pay attention to where your elements cross each other. If the telephone pole in the landscape is now coming out from the woman’s head that is bad. You want each element to accent the other without the scene being busy. Simple is always better in graphic design.

Once you have your composition in mind, what is the next step? Next, we’ll talk about “The Basics of Design: Layering and Graphics.”

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 1

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 1 – Should I Design?

The End. The manuscript is completed. Hopefully, you had a good (and I stress the word “good”) editor to comb over it. You’ve decided to self-publish. “Now,” you say, “comes the fun part! The book cover!” But wait, you don’t have any background in design. You’ve never used Photoshop. You don’t know what Vector graphics are, and have never heard of layering. Where do you begin?

One of the biggest problems independent or self-publishing authors run up against is what to do about their book cover. After all, the book cover is the first visual impact their book will make on potential readers, so its importance must not be understated. However, most authors are not graphic designers, and it is one thing to know what style of book cover you like and quite another to create it.

There are a few tips towards good design to consider should you decide to do-it-yourself. However, I must offer a word of caution before you begin. Just as in any profession, your first attempt is not going to look like a Picasso or a Monet. Sure, there is natural talent out there, but most graphic designers are taught. Whether self-taught or through hours of schooling, they began with the basics and worked their way up to more advanced design.

With that in mind, my first tip is know what you’re getting into. If you haven’t any background in graphics, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Trust me when I say it is worth your peace of mind to spare a few dollars and hire someone to create your book cover professionally. Please view yourself at the level of your abilities. If you are only beginning to work with graphic designs, your first attempts will look like a beginner. Trust me. It is only as you gain experience and develop an eye for design that you find your work on the level with those on the best-seller list.

That said, if you are still determined to self-design, then I have compiled a list of key features to book cover design. In this series of articles, I will cover what they are and how best to implement them. They are:

  • Composition (Shapes, Lines, Thirds)
  • Negative Space
  • Layering (Blending, Opacity)
  • Fonts (Style, Readability)
  • Vector Graphics (PNG, JPG, dpi)
  • Color
  • Back Cover and Spine Design

Now, if you read that list and are still determined to do it yourself, then the rest of this article series is for you. However, if you currently feel swamped, then that’s perfectly okay. No one will think less of you for hiring a designer. But here is a VERY important tip. When you hire someone, look at their previous work, and compare it to the covers in the Top-10 Best-selling list for your genre. Believe me when I say this. I have seen self-publishing authors use designers who create bad designs. If you want the best cover for your book, then aim for the best. Set your goals high, and strive for perfection. Above all, give yourself TIME to learn. Excellence in anything only comes through the amount of time you are willing to pour into it.

Still determined? Then tune in next for “The Basics of Design: Composition.”

Read more about Designing Book Covers:

Part 2 - Composition
Part 3 - Layering and Graphics
Part 4 - Colors and Fonts

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cool Free Tools for Authors

Please welcome Karen Baney as our guest blogger today.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m a bit of a techno geek, so when I learn about new technology tools, I like playing with them.  Here are a few that I like.

Regardless of what type of book you are writing, Evernote is a great tool to help you organize your research and notes for your book.  You can capture images, sound bites, emails, info from websites, or just plain old type a note into Evernote.  They allow you to organize notes in different notebooks and add tags to notes to help you find information easier.

One of my favorite features (other than it’s free!) is that Evernote is accessible by the web, on your computer, or through a smart phone app.  I find this particularly helpful when I’m on a research trip.  If I want to take a picture of a WWII plane in a museum so I can refer back to it when I am writing a WWII novel, all I have to do is open up the app and snap the picture.  I can add more details later from my computer or I can type them in while I’m in the museum.

Dropbox is a great tool for storing all of your documents in one convenient place that can be accessed on the web, on your computer, or even from a smart phone app (though you can’t edit documents on the smart phone app without installing another app).  You can also share folders which is great if you are co-authoring a book.  You and your writing partner can store all of your research materials, notes, and the manuscript in a shared folder that only the two of you can access.

I particularly like Dropbox for a few reasons.  First, I can access my manuscript from any computer.  I have the desktop client (the software to run it on my computer) loaded on both my laptop and desktop computers.  But, even if I wasn’t on one of those computers, I could still access it from the web.

I also like the versioning and auto sync features.  This has saved my bacon a few times when I did something silly like accidentally deleting chapter 20 of my manuscript.  All I had to do to recover it was go into the web version and look at the version history.  It was easy to recover it.  One time, I decided I hated how I revised a chapter and wanted to start over.  I was able to get the previous version from Dropbox and start over without having to find a backed up copy on my computer.

Google Apps offers a free version of their suite of cloud based (that just means it’s online) applications.  Some of the key apps include:  email, calendar, sites, and docs.

I use Google Apps so I can have email accounts using my domain name (i.e.  This helps me maintain a professional and branded image in my email communications.  If you’ve ever used Gmail, it works the same way, but you get to use your domain name.  The free version allows you to set up 10 accounts.

I also like using the calendar feature.  It helps me stay organized with all of my guest appearances, blog posts, promotions, etc.  At a glance, I can see what is going on for my day, week, or month.

They also have great collaboration tools, like Google Docs and Google Sites.  You can share items publicly or you can specify who can see them by typing in that person’s email address.  One example of how I use this, is that I share my personal budget with my husband using a private Google Doc.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a few of my favorite technology tools.  Maybe one or more resonated with you.  If you have a favorite tool that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Karen Baney writes Christian historical and contemporary romance novels.  When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys traveling the state of Arizona with her husband, exploring museums and the picturesque landscapes the state has to offer.  Her faith plays an important role both in her life and in her writing.  Karen and her husband make their home in Gilbert, Arizona, with their two dogs.

You can pick up copy of Karen’s novel, A Life Restored (Prescott Pioneers #3), on Amazon for your Kindle.  This story follows the lives of two young people who have a lot to learn about trusting God.  He takes them through dark and fearful places, eventually drawing them to himself and restoring their lives to ones that honor him.

Visit Karen at her website: or on Facebook or Twitter.  Visit her special blog for authors at

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