ACTRESS AND FORMER NBC PRODUCER SHARES AN INSIGHTFUL Q&A ON SUCCESSFULLY BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT AUTHOR

As a book cover designer and illustrator, I have the privilege to meet and work with countless authors and talents. One of my clients, former journalist, Ginger Marin, sat down with me, and shared some of her insights in becoming an author, her goals and of course the importance of branding.

Here are five questions I asked Ginger that I’m sure will inspire many authors out there!

  1. How (and why) did you choose your style of writing for the Adventures in Avalon?

I’m a former TV news journalist and currently an actor. Overall, my left analytical brain is fairly well balanced with my right creative brain. But I’m happy to report that as a fiction writer, I’ve successfully tipped the scales to the right. Years ago I had an idea for an animated TV show about the crazy capers of a small town police department. I even went so far as to write three episodes. But getting them into the hands of Hollywood agents and producers proved difficult so I decided to go another route and turn the tales into a book series. But a single TV episode is too short for one book and I really wanted to keep the dialogue largely intact. So, I decided I needed a vehicle to tie my crazy detective tales together. I then had the idea of creating my Ginger character, a reporter who gets stranded in a community of cartoon people. That way I could report on the community as a journalist might but fit the commentary to the realm of this fictionalized place and, by extension, also be able to comment on the absurdities of the real world, yet in a very humorous fashion. I think my detective tales then slip in nicely because their world is as nuts as ours.

  1.       What do you want to achieve with your books?

My style in “Adventures in Avalon” is a mixed genre. It’s an animated TV show in book form as far as the detective tales are concerned but it’s satire when my Ginger character speaks. I love writing in first person and for this book I loved writing very simply. I think Ginger’s voice meshes completely with the simplicity of the other characters. The subtitle of my book is “An Offbeat & Quirky Adult Bedtime Story”. If there’s one thing I want to achieve, other than success, it’s giving adults a chance to straddle the space between reality and downright silliness. I want to put smiles on people’s faces. Of course, that’s what I want to do with this book series as it develops. Beyond that, as I tackle other topics, I’d like to make people think about our world and the ramifications of our actions.

  1.       The feedback/success you’ve experienced thus far

“Adventures in Avalon” is my first solo book but I’ve been writing in one form or another since around the age of twelve. I worked at NBC News for eighteen years then moved to Los Angeles to act and write. I’m certainly not the first person to say it’s tough making it in this town. But each time I get involved in a project, acting or writing, it turns into a wonderful learning experience. Last year I helped a friend write his memoir, a much darker subject about his time as a subcontractor for the CIA. It was his project, in fact, that gave me the impetus to turn my own thoughts into published books. I have a nonfiction nearly ready for publication then it’s back to fiction. Next up is a collection of short stories for children. The feedback I’ve received for my work has been terrific. Success takes time, though. So even if it’s just one smile at a time, I’m okay with that.

  1.       Why it’s important to build yourself as a brand?

We live in a world that’s overcrowded on every level with people and things. The competition is astounding and it grows with each passing year. It takes time and effort but it’s absolutely essential to build a brand to get noticed above the fray. Decide who you are, what you want to say and then move full speed ahead.

  1.       Why will you keep doing what you’re doing with your books?

There’s a wonderful quote by artist Andy Warhol that is now my mantra. He said “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

And this is why I love my job – meeting clients like Ginger, and working with them to achieve the covers they deserve – and setting standards for branding in a very competitive market.

 Happy writing everyone!

 “Adventures in Avalon” is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Avalon-Offbeat-Quirky-Bedtime-ebook/dp/B01HFTVELMie=UTF8&qid=1466981451&ref_=la_B00V7EDT24_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2

AdventuresInAvalon_MEDIUM

About the Author of this Article: Jeanine Henning (Twitter: @JenVinci)

Jeanine’s extensive professional background includes 17 years’ experience in cover design, children’s book illustration and publication, comic book publishing and editing, console game design, and writing. She has worked with editors, authors and artists on many continents over the span of her career, adding to her diversity and flexibility as artist and designer. Jeanine still works closely with traditional publishers on cover and book art.

For more information on Jeanine’s background and testimonials, visit her site at: www.jeaninehenning.com and author testimonials at:

https://jhillustration.wordpress.com/author-testimonials/

Click here to visit JH Illustration website now to learn more and find lots of sample covers.

 

How to utilize all those indie author tools to stand out and grow your audience!

Author Tips

 

By Becky Wicks & Jeanine Henning

 

As indie authors swimming in this endless ocean of ebooks, we all know by now that we need to get smart if we want to actually sell any of our own. Here are some nifty must-haves from authors Becky Wicks and Jeanine Henning.

What Becky’s found….

TweetAdder

Most traffic to my blog and to my books comes from Twitter, and here’s where most interactions with readers, writers and social media big-wigs takes place, too. TweetAdder ($19 a month with 30 days free trial) lets me make a list of Tweets and then sends them for me at random while I scribble away. I can also search for interesting/likeminded people by keywords in their profiles (ie: ‘book blogger’, ‘reviews books’, etc). I accumulated 800 useful followers in just over a week using this tool and the number is still growing.

Author Marketing Club (for sourcing reviewers and more)

I’m so glad I discovered these guys. Paying for a Premium Membership ($105 a year) grants me access to a world of coolness, like a handy Amazon Description Generator, and an Amazon Reviewer Grabber, which scans Amazon for readers who’ve enjoyed books similar to mine, and lets me email them to see if they’d like a free copy of mine to review. Amazing! There are lots of other great tools and workshop videos to watch on AMC – it’s been well worth the membership for me.

Formatting and admin pros from ODesk

I use a great guy to format my ebooks – he does them very quickly and very well. (Tip: ask for your table of contents at the back of your book. It’s easily searchable by readers on all devices so why waste that precious ‘sample space’ at the front when it’s up on Amazon?) Another ODesker cleans up my mailing lists once I’ve made a mess of them (doh) and does other small admin tasks. I’ve tried employing people from Fiverr.com, who offered cheaper services, but I found they didn’t do a great job.

Sigil

Sigil is a free app you can download from the Internet and this has been an essential tool for me! Once I get my formatted epub back from my ODesk expert, I can use Sigil to open it back up and make any changes myself. For example, I can add a call to action to enter a Rafflecopter competition whenever I have one running, in order to gain more mailing list subscribers. I can then re-upload the file to KDP whenever I like (allow 12 hours for changes to apply). It’s very simple to use and if I get stuck, there are tutorials on YouTube.

Mailchimp and Rafflecopter

Two tools I wouldn’t be without; both of them free. I use Rafflecopter to run contests, whereby each entrant is entered (willingly) onto my mailing list. The more competitions I run, the more people I get to add. Amazon vouchers are quite alluring as prizes, as are advanced copies of my books. I use Mailchimp to keep track of my lists – one for bloggers/reviewers and one for readers. I never spam.

Canva

I discovered this by mistake but now I wouldn’t be without it. Canva lets you create (for free) a host of professional-looking memes and social media posts that you can then send out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I use it to mix images with quotes from my books. Tweets with these memes attached have a much higher click-through rate than others. (Tip: make sure you’re on a speedy WIFI connection, or this site can be a little slow).

 

What Jeanine’s found…

…is all the reasons to use cover designers, editors, and nifty tools like social media headers, email signatures and the meaning of life (kidding about the last part!) The first few tools that deserve mention are ‘smaller’ tools, but, they add in creating awareness about your books and your brand as an author.

Email Signatures

The short and sweet usefulness of these affordable marketing additions is the extra attention you generate for views to your site and book locations. It is always best to have a signature designed by a professional, but we all have budgets, and until you can rope in an artist and create a proper signature with all the bells and whistles, you can use companySIG for a quick and easy signature!

Facebook Headers

More and more authors are finally using this silent and constantly visible marketing tool. It’s often the first thing people see when they land on your Facebook page and again the opportunity to garner book and page views increases. For those on strict budgets, try Bannersnack. Alternatively, use a professional who can make sure your brand remains looking good!

Twitter Headers

For me personally Twitter is an invaluable tool! Becky’s already listed the awesome TweetAdder. This platform has connected me with clients and readers, and it keeps us connected. But I make sure I design my Twitter banners to convey the work I do, and that the banner suits my personal brand and visual look. However for those who want to try it alone, Fotor.com offers free online header creation.

Proofreading & Editing Tips for Your MS

Editors are crucial to a successful manuscript – whether you want to self-publish or submit to agents. However, your manuscript still travels quite a journey to get to that editor. Make life for yourself easier and your book better, and read these 21 proofreading tips for authors.

Cover Design

Personally I have written many an article about cover design – and this area of speciality is my stomping grounds (visit my cover design page here). The importance of a professionally designed cover for indie books is becoming more prominent as indies are gaining ground when it comes to taking sales from the bigger publishers.

A quote from this well-read article makes the importance of a proper cover clear:

“Let’s face it – if you saw the average, self-designed book sitting next to Karen Kingsbury’s latest, it would stand out, though not for the right reasons. Self-designed books rarely assure book buyers that they are anything other than, well, self-designed.” Read article here

 

Remember, time is a tool, too

Just as important as having talent, is having time. Time is what you’re going to have to spend the most of when you dip your tentative toes into the pool of indie-publishing. Spend wisely and good luck!

Becky Wicks is an ex HarperCollins author gone Indie. Book 2 of her Starstruck Series ‘Before He Was Gone’ is out August 25, 2014. Find her on Twitter @bex_wicks

Jeanine Henning is a professional cover designer and author. She is currently preparing her first trilogy while working with authors and publishers world-wide to bring books to life. Find her on Twitter @JenVinci

 

The Artist & Writer Disease

Dear Jen’s Personal Blog,

I have a confession to make… Today I coveted mine neighbour’s h-

WAIT! Wrong blog!

OKAY, moving swiftly along. For today’s ‘theme’, I’ve decided to ‘discuss’ a specific debilitating disease that’s been crossing my path of observation lately. The disease is called: AWLB which stands for – artists and writers with limiting beliefs. “That’s not a disease! That’s just a chick trying to be ‘creative’ and funny, and it’s so, like, FAIL!” you say… I say, it IS a disease because too many talented people suffer from it, and they’re passing it around like it’s a Sunday family fudge cake of which everyone at the table want seconds and thirds whilst sharing the same spoon with the sickest member licking the icing off with lip-smacking glee… Guess how I feel about this disease…

Recently I met the most amazing people, many of whom are artists, designers, illustrators and the like. They’re all different, unique, gifted with a touch of the obligatory “weirdness” that we creative types are labelled with. Hey, historically, the most gifted creators were all slightly touched by the mad finger that swirls the martini… See what I mean? That whole sentence was odd. Not that I’m saying I’m that gifted or even like one of the greats, but, just in case I do go down in history as one of the greats right next to Picasso or Dali or da Vinci – it would be nice to be known for that odd sentence “the mad finger that swirls the martini”…. no wait no maybe not so much… Anyway – let’s get back to the talented people who believe they suck. That’s right – they BELIEVE they suck at their talents. This might be you, reading this, right now.

You PILE the pressure on yourself, tear up your sketches, probably chew it and spit it out because ink tastes funny no matter how hard the self-destructing anger is ravaging your veins. Writers delete whole pages if not whole manuscripts in a fit of tormented self-loathing and whacking of keyboards. Cue the days and nights of; “why am I even trying? I’ll never get this right. My style is crap. My sketches are poo. I’ll never make money from this. I’m just not that talented. Check out that guy’s art – I’ll never draw like that! Check this woman’s book, I can’t write like that…”

STOP with the limiting torment people! You are gifted with a powerful LANGUAGE of the mind and the most prolific artist and writer you will ever meet: your unconscious mind. You have NO IDEA what you can do once you choose to stop attacking yourself now, and listen to words I am structuring and see what I say… You think that you are consciously drawing that character or writing that action scene. No. You’re not. All of that is coming from your unconscious mind. Did you know that your unconscious mind is in control of more than 95% of YOU. That includes your mind and body. You don’t think so do you? Well, while reading here, do you consciously remind your lungs to breathe in, and out, in, and out? No. That’s your unconscious mind doing that. Or, while you’re reading here, are you telling your bladder to not (literally) release? No. Unconscious mind again. Your unconscious mind takes in everything around you. Most of the information it captures – you’re not even aware of consciously – but it goes right into your unconscious mind where it’s sorted into all its necessary folders for later recall or use. Your essence, experiences, feelings and memories – all there. You consciously forget about these files – but the unconscious mind can retrieve what it needs in an instant.

The unconscious mind does not speak. It communicates in symbols. Pictures. Metaphors. You, as artist and writer, hold the key to literally be the ‘channel’ in art and writing for your unconscious mind to deliver treasures of thoughts, creations, interpretations, visualizations, patterns, puzzles, premises, stories, wisdom, worlds, new realities, new universes -à infinite horizons of creation

So when you tell yourself “I’m useless”, you are placing a massive wall between you, and your unconscious mind. You are closing the tap to a flood of amazing creation. Why would you do that? It seems almost… limiting, does it not? Why would you limit yourself? You do know why though, that answer will pop into your head right now, “why do you limit yourself?” Delete the negative reason to why you limit yourself, now, and override it with a positive goal.

And what’s the rush?! SO many artists have absolutely no patience with their creations… Those characters you’re writing and drawing are YOU! Did you know that? They’re little parts of you. Yes, even that disgusting monster skinning a rabbit in the nude – that’s you. The rabbit too. That came from you, didn’t it? You made that. Do you like it when people are impatient with you? No, who would? (unless you have a bizarre impatience fetish…but then you’d be part of a different ‘demographic’ of personality, and good luck with that). Yet, you’re impatient with those little parts of you that you’re creating… So should the question be “why am I impatient with myself?” Answer that… Hear if it’s really even such a valid reason, then override with a positive goal.

Choose to re-connect to your unconscious mind. Allow it to take control of your hand and draw what it wishes. Let your fingers on the keyboard be the carriers of the images and metaphors your unconscious wants to deliver. Become CONGRUENT with yourself, your talent, your unconscious mind. Draw what you feel! Visualize on paper and onscreen what is inside you (just don’t be literal people, no one needs to see what’s literally ‘inside you’ okay?).

When you draw without pretence, and write in your true voice – you’ll feel FREE. You’ll ENJOY what you’re creating. You’ll become addicted to the process again. And that’s the key to a successful artist and writer: the PROCESS. Not just the end result. Because the end result is dependent on the PROCESS – which all starts with you, tapping into your unconscious… speaking in the language of symbols, and writing the pictures of thoughts…

…K, enough from me now…

Go think and prosper!

Jen

Drakiie - Jen Mascot

WHY YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL COVER ART: Bad Cover = Bad Sales

While you’re writing your novel, you are a creator. A wordsmith. An artist. But, as soon as that novel’s finished, you’re about to take the next step in publishing business. Yes, you’re becoming not just an author, but an entrepreneur. You are creating a product that has to contend with literally thousands of other products.

Can you, as author, afford for your product – your work of art – to be any less than visible or desirable? No.

     What is one of the key selling points of any product? The packaging.

     What is a book’s packaging? The cover.

So, what’s the purpose of a cover? Many writers will say: “To get customers to pick up the book, or click on the download button.” This is true. BUT, if the customer is to pick up or click and read the book’s summary, and realize that the cover and story have nothing to do with one another, then back goes book to shelf, or, the next ebook is clicked on. You lose a sale.

Yes, the cover must entice the customer. But the full purpose of a book’s cover is to:

  1. Get the customer to notice the book;
  2. Pick up or click on the book;
  3. Buy the book;
  4. Read the book;
  5. Talk about the book;
  6. Repeat for next customer.

If your name is “Stephen King”, then that book can have a blank cover with his name, and it will sell. But until you reach such status, your name is not yet known, so your book’s title and cover art alone carries the day.

So where do you start? You start by pretending you’re telling someone why they should buy your book. Point out the book’s strengths, its genre, its core, what it’s about and what makes it tick. These elements are your unique selling points, and should be conveyed through your title and cover art. And the ultimate purpose is to precipitate an emotional response from your customer. And the outcome? A sale. This is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Starting to re-realize the importance of your book’s cover? You should. Because it’s not just about a pretty cover anymore, is it?

A good cover will reinforce the customer’s initial attraction. We also do this by adding blurbs – which will tell the customer; “Yes, you have made a good choice, and this blurb rewards your decision, as the book is THAT good.” Every detail on a cover must be thought out and planned. Even the placement of the title and writer’s name is extremely important. Again, this is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Look at your current book’s cover. And if you don’t yet have one, then think about book packages that work for you. Are all the elements of the cover presenting accurately, attractively and powerfully the appeal of the book?

So, in designing your product’s package, or, framing your work of art, realize the importance of your book’s cover. You must not just want a pretty cover – your book deserves a professionally designed package that will represent you, your story and product congruently.

And YES, you can get an exclusively designed cover by an industry professional for your book:

JH ILLUSTRATION & COVER DESIGN

https://jhillustration.wordpress.com/

This Blog post appears on www.indieauthornews.com