For the Sake of Story

Back in November for NaNoWriMo, I put together a sequel for SHADE. (And I won myself a discount on Scrivener. Holla!)

Anyway, I had used most of October to meticulously plan out the novel which is what made it really easy for me to write. Once I have my idea outlined, it’s more or less a paint-by-number, though I do leave room for my muse to take me in other directions should it choose.

December came and looking over my nice little rough draft I realized something that I would fight against for months. Book 2 seemed more and more to be me trying to cram two books worth of story into one.


But the plot twists!

Another murky middle to deal with?

Splitting a book in half is too hard!

But then all those other moments get pushed to Book 3!

Can I really make this split work?

What about the children? Is anyone thinking of the children for goodness’s sake?

Thankfully, I’ve faced these hard moments before. When it came to Book 1, after a writing conference in New York I knew I had to make substantial changes, not unlike the changes I’m probably going to make now.


For some of you rewrites are not any kind of problem. It may be your curse. But for some of you the idea of having to majorly revamp your book scares you like Reevers scare Captain Mal.

For the sake of story, suck it up, and do it anyway.

How do you know if you need to revamp the story? The easiest way to find out is beta readers. And some of the best ways to find beta readers is going to writer’s conferences and networking. Your fellow writers will appreciate a beta read themselves, so offer to exchange chapters or even full novels, get feedback and see what’s working and what isn’t.

Another way is right here on the WordPress community. We’ve got some of the best people on here who have loads of experience who can help.

Hopefully it doesn’t come as news to you that golden ink doesn’t drip from your pen—or keyboard. Think of it as getting the translation of the story in your head right. I’ve often noticed while some things in my stories change substantially, the essence tends to remain the same.

And I’ve probably said this before, but revamping or splitting books can often bring about creative discoveries you might not have stumbled upon otherwise. I created a character from a book split I doubt would have come to me any other way—and he’s one of my faves.

If you really want a story that’s going to be significantly impactful to your readers, it’s going to take some work, and often that work will be uncomfortable and hard. But you owe it to your readers and to your craft to present only the best possible.

It is my own personal goal to make every book I write better than the previous. My hope is that my skill will continue to grow and be illustrated in my writing as it goes forward.

What do you do for the sake of story? Have you had to make substantial edits or changes to a book that you didn’t want to make at first? What are your personal goals for your craft?

Colors, Fonts, and Photos

This is Part 2 in the How to Design a Book Cover series.

Some of the most important considerations in designing a book cover will be the colors, the fonts (or text) and photos (or images, sketches, etc.)  Designers are often very selective when it comes to these elements and how they’ll be used.  They may even create a specific color palette or list of fonts they won’t stray from in their design.


You don’t have to be an expert in design to understand the basics about color.  Every color has meaning.  Sometimes we consciously recognize their meanings, sometimes subconsciously.  But the color you choose for your book will impact what the cover says about the story, whether for good or bad.

There are some guides to the meanings of color that give you a good general concept of those meanings.  But as with anything, these are not hard and fast rules, especially if you know what you’re doing.  It begins with your story.  What do you want readers to first feel about your story when they see your cover?  Happy?  Sad?  Amused?  Creeped out?

What is the story about?  Is it dark and moody?  Light and happy?  Make a list of words that define your story, find a color wheel on the internet and see which colors make you feel the same way those words do.

Within colors there are a few other levels.  Do you want your colors bright and saturated?  More dull and muted?  Do you want cool colors or warm colors?  Pastel or dark?

If this is already too much information for you, no problem, you can still communicate these things to a designer without knowing all the terms.  Go to your story and find the words that describe it.  What industries are they like?  Is ice cream a symbol in your story?  You could say, maybe colors like you would find in an ice cream parlor.  Or is it about a military-style world?  Military-style colors then.  Does it take place in the woods?  Woodsy, earthen colors.

Trust me, the more descriptions like these you can give your designer, the more you’ll spark the creative centers of their brains.  (Just don’t go all auteuer on them.  We’ll discuss what that means later).

Summing up on color, be sure to identify:

  • What emotions do I want to convey at first glance about my story?
  • What kind of story is it? (Happy, pensive, moody, dark, comedic, etc.)
  • Are there any thematic pieces or locations, etc. in my story I could use to describe the colors I want?


Fonts are the style of text you can use in design.  There’s a whole slew of cool fonts out there, but when selecting the one you want, make sure you glance at the copyrights usage.  Even if it says “free” it may not actually be free.

You can also just stick to the font package that came with the Adobe Suite or those that come standard with most computers.  When it comes to fonts the same thing applies.  Use a font that has something to do with your story.  Let it convey the emotion you want.

jae scribbles litandscribbles

When it comes to your title, another possibility is to have your designer or an illustrator draw or create something original.  They can also just modify standard fonts to reflect your story.

jae litandscribbles

Remember, your book cover is a complete package.  You may have the right colors, but if you use the wrong font you can immediately lose any professionalism you might have had on your cover.  This is why it’s better to hire a designer, even if it’s a kid making their way through school.  Offer to edit their papers for them or do some kind of exchange if you lack the money.

But if you still insist on doing it yourself (again unless you’re a graphic designer by trade I am strongly advising you against this), I’ll give you a few basic tips when choosing a font.

  1. Go back to your story.  Does the font you’ve chosen reflect the mood you want to express about your story?
  2. Compare fonts.  Try out the cover with different fonts, print out each version and compare them.  Have friends give feedback on which they liked best and why.
  3. Look at a printed off copy of your cover from different distances.  Pretend you’re a potential buyer walking by a table or looking at the shelf in the distance.  Can you read the font you’ve chosen from a few paces away?  Does the font convey the mood you want from those different distances?


This category includes any kind of graphic you want to stick on the front, be it a sketch, illustration, photo—any kind of image.

Images are another big piece of the book cover puzzle.  If you choose unwisely, even if you have the right font and colors you can still collapse any sort of professionalism.  Examine the covers of the books that are like yours.  What sort of images did they choose?  Why do you think they chose those images and can they tell you anything about what image you should choose?

Consider what standards your genre may have established as well.  Romance novels are more likely to have a good-looking couple on the front, but you likely wouldn’t see that for a historical fiction World War 2 novel.

People tend to get complex with design, but you can always go simple and still look professional.  Maybe your novel is about high school, so your cover image is the front of a locker.  Or more specifically, the basketball team during high school, so you use an image of the hoop or the basketball.  Or perhaps your protagonist is troubled, so you have an image of his crumpled basketball jersey on the gym floor.  I hope you’re beginning to see where I’m going with this.

You may be tempted to take this picture yourself, and as always, I’ll advise you to let a professional do it for you.  Most of us in our repertoire of friends has someone who’s really good at taking photos.  Have them do it, and give them creds in your book (it’s always nice to say on the resume: my work has been featured as the cover this novel, etc.)  Bake them cookies if you need to sweeten the deal.

Perry's Plate

Or bake these babies. Recipe at Perry’s Plate. Mmm…

This is why networking tends to come in handy.  If you’re not to book cover designing stage yet, don’t hesitate to reach out to your group of friends and figure out who has what skill.  An engaging photo can take care of a lot of design effort all by itself.

So, when choosing an image for your cover:

  • Consider what it is telling a potential reader about your book.  Is it sending them the message you want? Does it match the genre?  Is it engaging from a few paces away?  Across the room?
  • Use professional images.  Have a friend take one, or use one of the stock image services online.  Shutterstock, for example, will let you purchase one of their images for $19.  You can use this image up to 250,000 times with a standard license (which means you can have 250,000 copies of your book out there).  Over 250,000 gets pricier, but if you’re making it into the 200,000 range, simply buy an extended license with all the money you’ve made from selling so many books. 😉  There are lots of different companies out there that sell royalty-free images.  Be sure to read their licenses so you know what you’re getting when you buy.  Download the largest size they offer.
  • Whatever image you use, make sure it’s an extremely high resolution.  Standard web images are not typically the right resolution for printing.  If you are only ever planning to do an ebook, if there’s even the smallest possibility of hard copies, stick with a higher resolution.  You don’t want your cover to look fuzzy.  And the rule of thumb in images is you can always make it smaller, but you can’t typically go from small to large without losing quality.


You won’t learn everything you need to know from a few blog posts on cover design, but hopefully you understand the amount of thought that needs to go into designing that cover.

If you are working with a designer, you now have a basic idea of what runs through their head when they design.  Putting some thought into color, fonts, and photos will give you better words to use when telling them what kind of cover you want.  Instead of saying, “Make it cool,” you can use words like: “It’s kind of a dark, moody story, so maybe colors that are more subdued and dark.”  or “It’s a story about young woman who battles cancer with her positive attitude, so something that’s not too happy but hints of better things to come.  Nothing dark, maybe just muted or pastel colors—something that says feminine.”  etc. etc. etc.

Adjectives are helpful too: courageous, optimistic, hopeful.  Or for the darker story: Broody, mysterious, sinister, etc.

Now about this auteur stuff.  Remember one thing: trust in those with whom you’re collaborating.  What do I mean?  I mean if you like enough what the graphic designer did to hire them, trust that they’re good at what they do.  Make it a collaborative effort.  Your designer may have ideas you never would have thought of that will make you a fabulous cover—if you let them.  So give them an idea of what you’re looking for and let them have at it.  Don’t be a control freak over every little detail–that’s what I mean about not being an auteur.

Tomorrow the basic Do’s and Don’ts of book cover design.  Since I know some of you are going to attempt all of this on your own anyway, there are a few basic things you should understand before you do attempt it.  See you then!

One more thing.  If you have book covers you like that you feel utilize these principles well, feel free to link to them in the comments below.  And if you have any further questions on book cover design, include those as well.

Self-Publishing (Maria Murnane)

If you do choose to go the self-publishing route, Maria Murnane had a few tips from her own experience.

How to tell if you’re dealing with a dodgy publishing company:

  • they guarantee or tell you you’ll be successful
  • they are in a publishing partnership or co-publishing
  • they make you buy your own book in order to publish with them (vs. choosing the amount you buy if any)
  • they tell you that you’ll be on a list for Barnes & Noble (if you have an ISBN, you’ll be on that list anyway)

Read the contract carefully.  Some companies will have you sign your rights away for $1.  Make sure that you retain your rights in case later an agent or bigger publishing house likes what you’ve done and wants to sign you.  She also advises typing in a Google search and seeing what predictive text comes up.  If “scam” is first on the list you’re best to steer clear.  Some websites you can use to help you identify who is a scammer and who is not:

Preditors & Editors

When deciding on which place to self-publish with, ask for samples of what they’ve printed.  If they’re legit, they’ll happily do this.  (In my day job as a graphic designer, we always get samples from companies we work with.  It would be strange if they didn’t have samples they could send you.)  Make sure the manuscript has been scoured thoroughly for errors.  Fixes can be quite costly.  Always confirm the trim size.  This is what the printer will cut the book down to.  Go to a bookstore and pick up several different sizes of books.  Decide which size is best with it physically in your hand, then decide that’s the size for you (not just measuring a paper or guessing from a ruler).  Also, if you don’t do this and have to change the size, the typesetter will likely have to go in and change each page.  Don’t cost yourself extra money (or time if you’re doing it yourself) for no reason.  Plan everything out to the tiniest detail.

Don’t have spelling or grammar errors (she couldn’t emphasize this enough).  Don’t have a weird layout.  I’m guessing she meant something like triple spacing, strange, hard to read font, etc.  Times New Roman is a standard font for a reason.  Also, don’t start numbering pages on the very first page.  It looks unprofessional, and it may be that by the time you get to the story page you could be on page 5.  (Most books in my own personal library either start on 1 or 3.)

She recommended hiring a professional.

Much like I’ve said before, just because you can use a program, like InDesign, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do it for your book.  If you’re tight on cash, look around at your circle of friends.  Is there a graphic designer among them?  Maybe one of their cousins, husbands, etc?  If any of them are in college, offer to edit papers for them.  Do you have any other skills you can barter to lower the price?  Even babysitting their kids counts as a skill.  But remember, this is your baby, this novel of yours.  You want to present it in the best light possible.  Spending that little extra to make it more appealing may be the difference between success and failure.  Yes, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do.

The companies she’s had the best experiences with are:


You can follow Maria on Twitter or at