What the End of Borders Means for Authors

Photo © 2009 The Ewan CC BY 2.0

First of all, a clarification: when right-wingers talk about “closing the borders,” this isn’t what they mean.

The big news over the past week is that Borders Books is officially going out of business.

Book lovers have expressed grief and dismay. One Borders fan called it “a case of internet outsourcing.” He’s not too far off the mark. And this has been coming for a long time. (The photo above was taken a year and a half ago in Oxford.)

But Barnes & Noble continues to succeed, because there’s a difference between Borders and Barnes & Noble, a difference in how the two companies approached the book industry. Barnes & Noble has embraced the ebook—a little later than Amazon, but at least they did. Barnes & Noble has embraced online ordering. You can even special-order copies of my books at Barnes & Noble stores. And Barnes & Noble got the Starbucks deal, too. Barnes & Noble probably sells more coffee than books.

A friend recently asked me whether books would completely disappear. I had to correct her: ebooks are books, too. Now, I don’t think paper books will ever completely disappear. (That’s a different post.) However, ebooks present a number of advantages to authors, not only in what ebooks do for authors, but also in the market changes they portend.

Everyone keeps talking about the demise of the book industry, because people no longer buy books at bookstores. But if you include ebooks and online sales, the book industry is most certainly not dying. And if you include all reading of all online content, the writing industry is more active than ever. And the book industry is changing in ways that portend more and more good things for authors.
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Carnival of Storytelling – July 14, 2011

Welcome to the July 14, 2011 edition of Carnival of Storytelling.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a link at BlogCarnival.com. And thanks to all the bloggers who posted wonderful articles, which I have hand-picked for the following list. Please browse their blog posts, and share your own favorite posts from across the Internet for next week’s carnival.

Enjoy!
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A Sneak Peek at the Ardor Point #2 Outline

I’ve been working on-and-off on this outline for over a year and a half now. I could go down the list of excuses and reasons why it took so long. – And it’s still not “finished” yet, but I can’t stand it anymore, so I’ve started on the “zero-draft.”

I’d like to share with you my outline for the novel, and some stories around it, how I’m using my process on this novel. I’m hoping this will give you some ideas or inspirations for the story you’re working on.

The Summary

The process I follow starts with a one-sentence summary of the story, as many writers do. My original sentence went like this:

A newlywed bride, at a romantic, seaside cottage on her first wedding anniversary, as the onset of economic depression threatens to tear her marriage apart, finds joy.

I didn’t really like that. Too vague. Too blasé. Too blech. But it was enough to keep me focused on what I wanted the story to be about.

However, I revamped the sentence when I started the zero-draft. Here’s how it stands now:
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More about Book Covers

Photo © 2005 Jenn Calder CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Click here for the original image.

Related to last week’s extensive post on book-cover design for indie authors and publishers, Roger C. Parker posted over the weekend a few more tips for better book covers.

He also linked to a page of interactive book-cover makeovers at Dunn+Associates Design’s web site. For a kick, check out a few, and think about how the “before” and “after” designs use the 10 elements of book-cover design that I talked about last week. Pay particular attention to the title and front-cover graphics. How do the new designs use these more effectively than the “before” covers. Especially if you’re wrestling with a book cover right now, this little experiment should inspire you, if not give you a spark of enlightenment.

-TimK

P.S. With at least one of the book covers in Dunn Design’s exhibit (Mark A. Williams’s Your Identity Zones), the author rejected the book cover that his publisher preferred. Traditionally published authors should understand book-cover design, too, in order to use whatever influence you have with your publisher to ensure your book gets an effective design. (Although, as far as I can tell, both the “before” and “after” covers of that book were good covers. The “after” version was marginally better, because it had more focus—less clutter—and highlighted the title more. So it might split-test significantly better than the “before” version. Yeah, at some point, I’ll have to write an article on how to split-test a book cover.)

P.P.S. [update] Kristen Lamb posted over on her blog an interesting guest post by Maria Zannini, a list of Down & Dirty Tips for Creating Cover Art. I’m not sure I agree with all of her advice, e.g., to necessarily put something visually stimulating on the left side to guide the viewer’s gaze toward the right—I would usually start in the middle and work toward the edges, keeping in mind the rule of thirds… but that’s a whole other blog post. Her tips will certainly get you thinking.

-TimK

How to Design Your Book Cover

Cover for "From the Ashes of Courage," so that you can see how I made use of cover elements, and how I could have made better use of them. (Click for a larger view.)

As an indie author, you probably need to understand book-cover design. Traditionally published authors have their publishers’ experts to design their covers (whether or not those experts are worthy of the designation). Self-published authors, just printing up a few copies for family and friends, will probably be satisfied with the très kewl cover design tools at Lulu. But us indie authors need something more than a bare-bones, stock cover. And we don’t have the budget for a professional designer. And even if we do, we don’t have a publishing company helping us choose the designer. So we need to understand book-cover design, if not to design a decent cover ourselves, at least to know what to work on with our designer.
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What Does Seduction Look Like?

Photo © 2009 Carsten Tolkmit CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(Click here for the original image.)

Max, a young writer, asks:

I am writing a story and need a visual description for a female “seductive” (if you know what I mean) antagonist. Or should I even describe her? I’ve seen that done well. This is actually one of my deeper characters.

Hi, Max. The easiest answer I can think to give is: Think of what you like to see in a woman. Then write it down.

I know that sounds simplistic, and it is. But each of us, to some extent, has pre-programmed into him the building blocks for sexual attraction. So the first step is probably to ask yourself, “What would make me feel and think and act the way I want my protagonist to feel and think and act?”

With most writers, this is where writing begins, inside. You empathize with your characters, tap into that part of yourself that feels and acts the same way they do, so that you can understand their story.

But while you’re doing this, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
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Carnival of Storytelling – June 30, 2011

Welcome to the June 30, 2011 edition of Carnival of Storytelling.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a link at BlogCarnival.com. Please browse their blog posts, and share your own favorite posts from your own writing blog for next week’s carnival.

Enjoy!
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Monday Morning #CharacterStory Writing Prompts 2011/06/27

Photo © 2011 Amy Clarke CC BY 2.0
Click here for the original photo.

  1. A photo: top of this post, which the artist has entitled, “Never a frown, with golden brown.” (Click for a larger view.)
  2. A personality type: ISFP.
  3. A need: the need for emotional intimacy.
  4. A quirk: Always writes in 1337-5p34k (leet-speak).

Feel free to comment below with a link to your story if you use any of these prompts. (Or even if you don’t.) You can also submit your story to the Carnival of Storytelling, which is posted on Thursdays. And whatever you do…

Keep writing!
-TimK

Monday Morning #CharacterStory Writing Prompts 2011/06/20

Photo © Nikos Koutoulas CC BY-NC 2.0
Click here for original photo.

Happy birthday to me! (Yup. Don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.)

  1. A photo: top of this post, which the artist has entitled, “.” (Click for a larger view.)
  2. A personality type: ENFP.
  3. A need: the need for attention.
  4. A quirk: Loves to dance, and does not have to be on the dance floor.

Feel free to comment below with a link to your story if you use any of these prompts. (Or even if you don’t.) You can also submit your story to the Carnival of Storytelling, which is posted on Thursdays. And whatever you do…

Keep writing!
-TimK

Carnival of Storytelling – June 16, 2011

Welcome to the June 16, 2011 edition of Carnival of Storytelling.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a link at BlogCarnival.com. Please browse their blog posts, and share your own favorite posts from your own writing blog for next week’s carnival.

Enjoy!
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