Monthly Archives: July 2011

31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing

24 July 2011

Ideas from Leo Babauta:

Overheard dialog. If I’m anywhere public, whether it be at a park or a mall or my workplace, sometimes I’ll eavesdrop on people. Not in a gross way or anything, but I’ll just keep quiet, and listen. I love hearing other people have conversations. Sometimes it doesn’t happen on purpose — you can’t help but overhear people sometimes. If you happen to overhear a snippet of interesting dialog, jot it down in your writing journal as soon as possible. It can serve as a model or inspiration for later writing.

. . . .

Art. For the writer aspiring to greater heights, there is no better inspiration that great art, in my experience. While it doesn’t compare to the experience of seeing the art in person, I like to find inspiring works of art and put it on my computer desktop for contemplation (Michelangelo’s Pieta is there right now). It doesn’t have to be classical works, though — I’ve found inspiration in Japanese anime, in stuff I’ve found on, in local artists in my area.

. . . .

Freewriting. One of the best ways to get unstuck if you’re uninspired. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter. Don’t edit, don’t pause, don’t think. Just write and let it flow. You’ll end up with a lot of garbage, probably, but it’ll help you get out of your rut and you might just write some really good stuff among all that garbage.

Link to the rest at Write to Done

Voldemort Knows and Understands Nothing

24 July 2011

As people are saying good-bye to Harry on the occasion of the last Potter movie, Michael Gerson writes an essay on Pottermania, how it’s done and what it means:

Arguably the most famous living Englishman is, technically, not alive. But Harry Potter now determines the American conception of Britishness as thoroughly as Sherlock Holmes ever did. Rather than making the disappointing pilgrimage to Baker Street, a generation will visit King’s Cross station asking for Platform 9¾ and expect to exchange dollars for Galleons at Gringotts. The mythic geography of England — always as important as its actual hills and streets — has been reshaped by J.K. Rowling.

. . . .

The books, in fact, are gloriously derivative, providing an introduction not to magic but to mythology. Harry’s world is populated by centaurs, dragons, werewolves, grindylows, veela, Cornish pixies, sphinxes, phoenixes, goblins and hippogriffs. It is as though Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology, European folklore and Arthurian legend suddenly discovered the same playground. “I’m one of the very few,” Rowling has observed, “who has ever found a practical application for their classics degree.”

. . . .

In his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien — who knew something of the subject — describes the highest achievement of the teller of stories as “sub-creation.” The sub-creator fashions “a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world.” Tolkien calls this “a special skill, a kind of elvish craft.” The creator of Harry Potter practices this craft well — an achievement her detractors cannot understand or duplicate. To read Rowling is to pack a bag and make a visit.

. . . .

Rowling seems to anticipate the objections of those who dismiss myths as lies. Harry’s enemy, Voldemort, does the same. “That which Voldemort does not value,” she writes, “he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Living and Dying in the Kindle Store: 15 Ebook Covers

23 July 2011

Book designer Joel Friedlander shows what works and what doesn’t in the Kindle Store:

You see these covers in two formats, like the rest of Amazon’s displays. A page of search results will show very small thumbnails—60 x 90 pixels—that are extremely challenging to carry off as any kind of good design.

When you go to the product detail page, you’ll get a larger—300 pixels high—image which makes it a lot easier to see the covers. In some cases, I have both versions for you to look at.

This title exhibits the most common failing of ebook covers I saw in the Kindle store: complete fidelity to the print book covers. You’ll see more below, but no matter how lovely this cover is in print, it fails even at legibility in the small preview size.

. . . .

It seems like the thriller writers have the easiest time making the transition to ebooks. Here, the design is so graphic, simplified and typographically distinct that the book works at every size.

. . . .

Here’s a book that’s delightfully delicate and effective in print, but never should have just been dumped onto an ebook cover, at least if you care whether people can read it.

. . . .

Here’s an example of a great print book cover that fails as an ebook preview. In the small size the distinctive typography just about disappears into illegibility, and the most valuable real estate on the cover—the top half—is just a black rectangle. In the larger image, enough detail is restored so you can see the cover well. Works in one size, not in the other.

. . . .

Perhaps as more books move to “straight to digital” we’ll start seeing covers specifically designed for this environment. The books that seem to translate best are ones with simple shapes, typography and colors, although the ability to design these covers is not so simple.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Why Authors Benefit from Abuse

23 July 2011

Abuse is often of service. There is nothing so dangerous to an author as silence. His name, like the shuttlecock, must be beat backward and forward, or it falls to the ground.

Samuel Johnson

Teeny-Tiny Little Pictures – Ebook Specific Cover Design

23 July 2011

From Digital Book World:

When you make a decision to publish your book only in digital format, you are also making an essential change in how you approach cover design. You no longer have to deal with dots per inch in a high-quality print.

The goal is not 9 × 6 inch, 300 dpi any more. It’s 1024 x 600 px, 118 ppi of a typical netbook’s screen or 800 x 600 px, 167 ppi of a Kindle 3 display.

. . . .

We also have to keep in mind that the readers very seldom will have a chance to see the cover in full screen. If yes, it’s going to be after the book is purchased.

. . . .

Things change dramatically when you browse for the same book on the web. Check the screenshot below from Kindle Store. The cover of a single book has an average size of 80 x 115 pixels! This is the size of the book at a very important moment – the moment when the reader makes a decision which book to click and possibly buy.

If we treat browser window as a bookstore’s shelf, the four book covers you see above take no more than 5% of the total display space.

. . . .

1. Make it look good when it’s small

One thing every cover artist has to keep in mind, is that a book cover should look good not only when it’s enlarged, but also when it’s reduced. Before finding a general concept it’s good to have in mind that a cover could be communicative also when it’s in a thumbnail size.

Think of what is the most important part of the cover – and try to make it more visible. What would be seen as dirt when a cover is small? Try to remove it.

2. Remove some elements of the cover

As I wrote in an previous post, all elements of the cover which convey text information are duplicated by other parts of the web page, so it’s not mandatory to keep them in the layout. Instead, it would be great to focus on finding a relevant, convincing key visual, which works well in both big and small size.

. . . .

5. Think of a cut-out area

When you’ll plan the layout it’s good to think of what you could cut out of the cover that would represent most of its values. Think of a square area like a title or a main illustration, which you can use at web sites which display small book covers. Why square? Because it’s the proportions many web stores use to display their products. Both vertical and horizontal images have chances to be equally visible.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Do All Heroines Have to be White?

23 July 2011

Author Justine Larbalestier wrote a novel, Liar, about a woman named Micah, who is black with hair so short and nappy she’s been mistaken for a boy.

Her publisher had a great idea for a cover:



Excerpts from Ms. Larbalestier’s blog:

The US Liar cover went through many different versions. An early one, which I loved, had the word Liar written in human hair. Sales & Marketing did not think it would sell. Bloomsbury has had a lot of success with photos of girls on their covers and that’s what they wanted. Although not all of the early girl face covers were white, none showed girls who looked remotely like Micah.

I strongly objected to all of them. I lost.

I haven’t been speaking out publicly because to be the first person to do so would have been unprofessional. I have privately been campaigning for a different cover for the paperback. The response to the cover by those who haven’t read Liar has been overwhelmingly positive and I would have looked churlish if I started bagging it at every opportunity. I hoped that once people read Liar they would be as upset as I am with the cover. It would not have helped get the paperback changed if I was seen to be orchestrating that response. But now that this controversy has arisen I am much more optimistic about getting the cover changed. I am also starting to rethink what I want that cover to look like.

. . . .

Liar is a book about a compulsive (possibly pathological) liar who is determined to stop lying but finds it much harder than she supposed. I worked very hard to make sure that the fundamentals of who Micah is were believable: that she’s a girl, that she’s a teenager, that she’s black, that she’s USian. One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles.

. . . .

Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I’ve told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them. Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don’t sell. Sales reps have told me that many of their accounts won’t take books with black covers. Booksellers have told me that they can’t give away YAs with black covers. Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA—they’re exiled to the Urban Fiction section—and many bookshops simply don’t stock them at all. How welcome is a black teen going to feel in the YA section when all the covers are white? Why would she pick up Liar when it has a cover that so explicitly excludes her?

The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers.”

Are the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people? That’s not a very sustainable model if true.

Link to the rest at Justine Larbalestier

After an intense online debate, there’s a new cover.


Create an Ebook Cover with Your iPhone

23 July 2011
Comments Off on Create an Ebook Cover with Your iPhone

It’s called Phoster and it works for the tiny little images that comprise ebook covers almost everywhere.

You can even start with a photo you take with your iPhone


4 steps of creating a cover with Phoster

1. Choose a template

I’m sure you’ll find a template which is closest to your needs. Layouts differ in selection of fonts, position of text boxes and a general style. For each of the template, in a next step you can add a picture. You can also leave a background as it is or just change its color – this would make a nice non-fiction book cover.

. . . .

2. Insert a photo or choose a color of the background

Use an icon of a camera to add a picture, either directly taken or from a photo library. You can make basic color adjustments within the application (brightness, contrast and saturation) by tapping on a slider icon.

Remember, you can always use one of the photo applications, which can give a stylish look to your picture. I’m sure you have one of them: Instagram, PictureShow, Camera+ or Hipstamatic.

. . . .

3. Type the text

To change text tap on a “T” icon. An edit box will appear, where you can replace the existing text with your own title. Use Previous and Next buttons to switch between text boxes. Alternatively you can open the edit box if you quickly tap on the text.

. . . .

4. Choose the effect

After you’re finished with texts and pictures, tap Next to move to the last step – applying the effect.
This is the most enjoyable part of the work. There are 19 style available. You can select one of the vintage styles, including paper and dust textures, or you can decide to use color stripes or patterns

Link to the rest at Password Incorrect

Ebooks vs. Real Books

22 July 2011


Source: Online Printing –

PG says interesting information plus a great way to publicize yourself.

UPDATE: Several attentive readers have pointed out anomalies in the data used for the infographics. PG was probably distracted by the pictures. He finds it inordinately easy to overlook numbers, particularly in his bank statement. Over some time period at some location in the world, hardcover books were up 40%, but not recently in the U.S. and Europe.

Here are the latest sales data for American publishers through May, 2011, from The Association of American Publishers:

Category 2011 YTD 2010 YTD Percent Change
Adult Paperback $473.1 Million $576.4M -17.9%
E-Books $389.7M $149.8M +160.1%
Adult Hardcover $386.2M $504.1M -23.4%
Religious Books $252.5M $227.8M +10.8%
Children’s/YA Hardcover $198.1M $211.4M -6.3%
Adult Mass Market $185.1M $264.8M -30.1%
Children’s/YA Paperback $163.5M $192.5M -15.1%
Downloaded Audiobooks $36.5M $31.2M +17.0%

Link to the rest at The Association of American Publishers

The Proper Time for an Author to Die

22 July 2011

The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text.

Umberto Eco

Is Indie Publishing Dead?

22 July 2011

Scott Nicholson says yes.


Indie publishing is dead because we, the current crop of indie authors, are teaching New York how to publish books. I know, that seems crazy, but publishing has always been a crap shoot, with a lot of money backing almost every bestseller and nothing but luck and the author’s tireless marketing backing the other infrequent successes. But corporations aren’t just nabbing superstar indie authors. They are paying attention to how books are presented, where they are priced, what readers really want instead of following outdated Bookscan reports that serve to reinforce the perception that publishers were—surprise!—geniuses at turning bestsellers into bestsellers.


Heck, even agents are rushing to learn the skills we indie authors were forced to develop as survival mechanisms. It’s truly ironic that NY strengthened the enemy by thrusting marketing upon the authors—and marketing is the only skill of value in the world of digital publishing! All else can be purchased cheaply and easily and operated with no overhead but time.


Yes, we are teaching our competition, as we always should. Not that we could help it. If they aren’t watching and learning, they aren’t competition anyway, because they are out of the game. As soon as indie and trad and small press slop together, as they inevitably will, then indies will lose many of their advantages—low pricing, rapid response to changing conditions, innovative marketing that connects with real readers, and the ability to reach niche audiences with narrative voices that have been long suppressed because New York behemoths couldn’t run on niche audiences. Soon, they can, and the niches can look pretty darned big when they are merely one click away, and staff and overhead has been trimmed, and the corporations consist of a half-dozen tech geeks clicking buttons and raking in cash (of course, they will still have a 60-member board of executives and numerous shareholders at the trough, but still….).

Link to the rest at Vincent Zandri

One key difference Mr. Nicholson does not mention is the very large cost burden Big Publishing brings to all of its products. Somewhere, somehow that must be paid.

Looking at indie vs. traditional publishing, it appears much of that cost is paid by the author.

Big Publishing offers advances, but people like Dean Wesley Smith run the numbers and talk about the lifetime value of a book. They make a convincing case that the advance does not compensate for the total money an author gives up down the road. An indie author can live like a king or queen on sales numbers that get a book bounced into outer darkness at a big publisher.

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