The Battle of the Birds: Guest Post and Cover Reveal by Virginia King

Today I’m welcoming Virginia King to talk about how she chose the title and cover for her latest book. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Virginia.

Many authors say that in the process of creating a book, the writing is the easy part. It’s choosing titles and covers where the real work begins.

Title Torture

I was writing a collection of stories re-imagined from the folktales that inspired the modern prequel to my mystery series, Laying Ghosts.

Laying Ghosts 70 KB

A strange message. A deserted beach house. A shocking incident from the past …

When a text message from a long lost friend lures Selkie Moon to Crystal Cottage, the chilling events from a house-party four years earlier wrap her in ghostly fingers and turn her life upside-down.

The folktales form a standalone collection but also a companion to Laying Ghosts. I was going through the usual torture of choosing a title when my mystery author friend Ellen Seltz offered to help. She asked for details of the stories in the collection. One involves the 250-year-old murder ballad ‘Pretty Polly’. Ellen found a phrase in the following stanza from the original ballad:

He pierced her body till the blood it did flow,

Then into the grave her body did throw.

He covered her body, then home he did run,

Leaving none but birds her death to mourn.

Ellen suggested None but Birds for the title of the collection and I was thrilled. It had the right amount of mystery and suspense, while hinting at the dark themes in the stories. But because the collection is a companion to Laying Ghosts, I settled on a variation that gives both titles a similar word pattern: Leaving Birds.

Yay, I had my title. Hurdle one vaulted – with panache. Next came the cover. That should be easy given I had my subject on a plate: birds. Then followed the battle of the birds!

Photos or Illustrations?

Covers guide readers to the genre of the book. All the books in my Selkie Moon Series contain mystical clues inspired by folklore, but the mysteries are modern so the covers are a compilation of photographic elements to reflect this. Leaving Birds is not strictly part of the series and it’s a mix of traditional and modern stories, more closely linked to folklore. Should I use an illustrative style of cover so that the reader would recognise the ‘folktale’ genre?

Conducting a Cover Poll

To get other opinions, I polled the subscribers to my Myth Mystery & Mayhem newsletter. Showing them the following two stock images, I asked: Do you prefer a photographic or illustrative cover for Leaving Birds, a folktale companion for Laying Ghosts? These images are samples of two different styles of cover, not the final cover. The theme of the collection is the loneliness of death, and the cover will be black and white.

Bird Cover Concepts

How Readers Voted

The almost 100 votes were 65/35 in favour of the photographic image. Then I worried that the pop of red had skewed the vote. If I’d removed it from the illustrative cover, the samples would have been more equal. But the red had an unexpected role to play.

Photographic voters liked:

  • Herons, because they’re regal and mystical
  • The drama of the spooky mood
  • The sense of eeriness and mystery
  • Imagining a great black bird surveying a graveyard
  • The single bird and lack of colour being barren and solitary like death
  • Crows, because they’re linked to death

Illustrative voters liked:

  • Hummingbirds!
  • The pop of red against the stark background
  • The colourful bird suggesting a ray of hope in the loneliness
  • The bird’s wings suggesting a soul soaring away
  • The handwriting feeling personal, dated and creepy
  • The celebration of a life departed instead of the gloominess of death

Taking Care with Stock Images

The two concepts are both stock images which could be used as they are. But Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer says that a good cover is not just a stock image with titles added. It is the compilation of images and graphic effects that create a design. Also, if you use a stock image as it is, you’re likely to see it on other covers.

Playing with Cover Concepts

Taking into account the mood of the folktale collection and the feedback from readers, I briefed my cover designer. We tried a different photo of a lonely bird – a seagull on a chimney – as well as the original heron image. And we blended some handwriting into the background like the illustrative sample.

Leaving-Bird-1

Leaving-Bird-2

As much as I loved the lonely seagull in the stock photo, when I saw it as a cover it just didn’t evoke the powerful mood created by the hunched heron. The handwriting also didn’t fit as well with the gull. The battle of the birds was over. We had a winner. And although I was committed to a black and white cover as a companion to Laying Ghosts, I asked my designer to try out some red on the handwriting – for that pop of colour some of my readers had liked in the illustrative sample.

Cover Reveal: Leaving Birds

Here’s the final cover of Leaving Birds, a standalone collection of creepy folktales with adult themes, and a companion to the modern ghost story Laying Ghosts.

Leaving Birds e-book 75KB

Leaving Birds contains:

  • ‘The Woman with Hair of Gold’ – retold from a Russian folktale
  • ‘Peig’s Place’ – a modern ghost story re-imagined from an Irish folktale
  • ‘Polly’s Folly’ – the possibly true events behind the murder ballad ‘Pretty Polly’
  • ‘Serendipity Rules’ – the newspaper report that inspired the plot of Laying Ghosts

If you like to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of books and how they’re written, Leaving Birds also contains insights into how each story inspired the writing of Laying Ghosts.

Laying Ghosts is available:

Leaving Birds is available:

Follow Virginia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries

Virginia King FB Nomad Portrait

 

In the Selkie Moon Mystery Series, Virginia King gets to explore far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia was a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

 

 

Advertisements

My ePublish Book – A service to help authors wanting to self-publish

Today, we have the lovely and talented Claire Morley with us to talk about her experience of self-publishing and how that led to her providing a service to help other authors become self-published. 

Welcome, Claire! 

Firstly a huge thank you to Kendra for another opportunity to post on her blog.

Over the year I was writing my debut novel, Tindog Tacloban, I daydreamed of agents fighting over the chance to represent me and raising fortunes for the charities I support in the Philippines. In my head I built refuges for children rescued from the clutches of human trafficking, with money earned from the film rights.

I’m sure I’m not alone in these hopes for my novel. Of course the reality is despite some lovely rejection letters, my book just wasn’t what agents were looking for. And so to self-publishing. Thanks to Amazon, (and other ebook retailers – Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo – my experience so far is only with Amazon though) this has become a very real alternative for authors. The growth of sales in electronic books has been phenomenal. We are now able to access a book with a couple of clicks of an iPad, PC, Kindle.

Having made the decision to self-publish Tindog Tacloban, I wanted to do it properly. I invested in an online course, downloaded books and researched self-publishing. I spent weeks preparing, to make sure I was going to give my self-published book the best possible chance of success.

The first thing I learned about was how to format a book and create a cover. Next were the options Amazon offer for promoting your book through their programmes, but perhaps the most important thing I learned was how to market a book. It’s all very well uploading your book to Amazon and telling your friends and family about it, of course some of them (and I can assure you not all of them) will buy a copy, but then what?

Well basically, marketing, marketing and more marketing. And these days that means social media – Facebook author pages, Twitter and continual Tweeting, LinkedIn, Pinterest. It means approaching reviewers and book bloggers, organising Virtual Book Tours, offering to write guest blogs, uploading a profile on Goodreads and any other book website and good old fashioned PR.

All of this takes time, quite a lot of time. Most new authors will have busy lives, they’re probably working or parents or both. Basically they won’t have the time necessary to dedicate to marketing their book. That’s where the idea of My ePublish Book came in. Having had the experience and learning from some of the common errors of self-publishing with my own book, I felt I might have something valuable to be able to offer new authors.

Enter my first guinea pig. Anne Hamilton had first been my tutor at writingclasses.co.uk, later becoming my mentor, proof reader and editor for Tindog Tacloban. When I told her about my self-publishing journey she asked if I would be able to help with the re-launching of her book, A Blonde Bengali Wife. Anne liked the idea of having more control over the publishing process, but had little idea of the technical aspects or the promotion. We decided it would make the ideal case study for my new website – myepublishbook.com.

We worked together on building her social media presence, finding reviewers and useful websites, creating author’s pages and generating interest around the subsequent launch. While Anne worked on, in my opinion one of the most critical aspects of self-publishing – proofing and editing – I set up a Twitter account, a Facebook author page and an Amazon account for A Blonde Bengali Wife and started the marketing aspect. I’m very pleased to say all our hard work paid off. Anne achieved bestseller status in all three of the categories she listed the book in and even better, in one of them she reached the number one spot.

The great thing with self-publishing is you have the control and I want authors to retain that. My ePublish book is not a publisher, we’re your support team. We work with the author to provide them with the service they want. Some people have no knowledge of nor interest in social media, we can do it all for you; others may already have accounts set up and be very proactive. We offer a tailor-made service, no two clients will have the same requirements. The idea is that we will work with an author for four to six weeks on marketing and formatting, after which we hand over all control back to them. All through the process we will provide regular reports on progress and at the end suggestions on how they can continue to increase awareness and hopefully sales of their book.

Traditional publishing and finding an agent is competitive in the extreme, especially for a new author. Self-publishing provides a fantastic alternative and I hope My ePublish Book will be able to help authors achieve their dream of seeing their book on sale.

Author small
Anne Hamilton’s case study can be found at: http://www.myepublishbook.com/case-study

My ePublish Book website: http://www.myepublishbook.com/home

Claire Morley worked in IT marketing for 15 years before moving to North Cyprus 13 years ago, where she now works as wedding planner.

She wrote Tindog Tacloban after volunteering in the Philippines following the devastation wreaked by typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, which ripped into Tacloban destroying homes and killing thousands. All proceeds from sales of the book go to help charities Claire worked with during her time there.

You can follow Claire on Twitter @clairemorley15 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairemorleyauthor/