Book Blurbs: A Quick Question

book blurb problems.jpgFor those of you who were worried I was blown away by Hurricane Hermine, I’m still here.  We weren’t forced to evacuate but we sure did get pounded by wind and rain.  There’s a little bit of flooding here and there, but nothing too extreme.  With that being said, I wanted to jump right into today’s post.  It will be a short one (I’m going to drive around the neighborhood and help pick up debris).

What makes a good book blurb?  If you can get someone to pick up your book thanks to the awesome cover art you’ve won a single battle.  The second battle comes when they flip it over and read the back blurb.  I need to train for the back cover battle.

Now that Wastelander has been drafted and I’ve started working on the other facets of the production, I’ve began to research different book blurb styles and techniques.  I thought I would share a few of the more solid sources I’ve located that seem to offer useful information.

Side note:  All of the following places I found seem to be pretty solid sources of information for self-publishing if that is your arena of conflict.  They talk about many of the production (printing, typesetting, cover art, etc.) aspects.

  1. From the BlurbBlog I found, The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Book Blurbs for your Novel
  2. From CreativePen I found, How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book
  3. From WritersHelpingWriters I found, Blurbs that bore, Blurb that Blare

I‘ve also found a couple of book sources to check out.  I’ll be ordering these books here from Amazon and will start burning through them with my typical QE flair (highlighters and pens to desecrate the pages).

  1. The highest rated (and seemingly most legit looking) was Book Descriptions That Sell by Gary Webb
  2. More of an impulse than rating fueled I also purchased How to Blurb: (And how not to), by E.M. Lynley.  The author bio seems very legit, hopefully the content rock too.

There is certainly some repeat information in these offerings and in some of the other sources I found that didn’t make the list.  That’s a good thing.  I think of those massive repeats as high priority items.

book in handThere are some variables though for sure.  I’ve seen book blurbs written as (1) giant quotes from the book, (2) a partial quote and partial blurb, (3) full blurb, (4) no blurb and only “stellar” reviews, (5) first person weirdness, (6) a single line of text, and (7) the list goes on.

My plan is to create three different blurbs, each featuring a different style of delivering the information.  On one of my Wasteland Wednesday’s, I’ll present all three and get some opinions and toss a voting poll into the mix.  That way you can vote on the one that would most likely get you to open the book and give it a try.  It will give you another peak into the book, and provide me some essential post-production feedback.

question mark.pngMy question to all of you is what makes a good blurb in your opinion?  If you can remember a book, and could refer it as a prime example, that would be superbly helpful (I tend to sponge style when I read).  If you just tell me what the title is I can search for the blurb.  This is an area where I am learning as I go!

Well, I’m going to drive around in my truck and clean up branches and toppled trashcans in the neighborhood.  I’m behind on comments from yesterday and will start getting back to folks once I finish saving the world and getting my baby boy through the ol morning routine.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

Wasteland Wednesday #1

*Language and Content Warning*

skull and crossbones.jpgskull and crossbonesUnlike QE’s normal informational blog, Wasteland Wednesday will be full of foul language and post-apocalyptic nonsense.  I’m talking f-bombs, thrice-bosomed mutant women, and potential buckets of gore.

Wasteland Wednesday

Corey:  Welcome to Wasteland Wednesday!  I have a very special guest here today to talk about what Wasteland Wednesday is and what we will be doing from here on out.  He rose from the dead, destroyed entire settlements, battled slavers, and butchered an army of renegade flesh eaters!  I’m very pleased to introduce…Drake Nelson!

Drake Nelson:  Eh?  The fuck is this? 

I’m using you as a marketing tool to sell books.

You suck inbreeder balls Corey.  First you create the fucking wasteland to absolutely bone me and now this?  I refuse. 

Refuse?  You one-eyed ingrate!  I created you.

…fuck you.  

* slams door shut on Corey’s imagination *

Ugh!  Frigging useless moronic piece of—

* door re-opens * 

I want bullets.  At least fifty .45 rounds.  You give me that and I’ll help you out with this idiotic sales pitch.  

Fine!

* Corey opens manuscript and types,  “Drake springs a monumental boner as his foot kicks a box of fresh .45 rounds hidden beneath some leaves.” *

Nice!  Got it.  Okay, about this stupid book of yours, maybe you should talk about the cover art you just got updated?  People seem to either wet or stretch their undies at the sight of sexy cover art.  

That’s actually not a bad idea.  After all, you are featured on the cover.  Maybe you could explain what you were doing in the scene?

That’s such a great idea Corey.  I’m in a sharing mood right now too!  Just kidding.  Adios.

*door slams shut again*

Drake?  Are you friggin kidding me?

*sighs*

I don’t have time for this.  All right folks!  We are going to continue on without that geriatric madman here to slow us down.  The next iteration of the cover art did come in.

Many moons ago I wrote a post about how I am currently collaborating with the amazing Michail Mamaschew.  The post featured some of his stellar artwork.  You can check it out here if you missed it.

In that post I revealed how Michail (who is working from Berlin) and I have been collaborating to make the exchange of information easier.  I also shared my original concept art.  Here is my doodle.

Cover Art Concept

*door opens*  

You suck at drawing and your “doodle” is much smaller than this.   

*door closes again*

Screw you Drake!

* Corey locks door *

Okay.  So that was my attempt at the drawing the scene.  Michail recently emailed me his rough concept art for approval.  He added a superficial strip down the center of the image to approximate spine location for the print version.  If you consider the space to the right of the strip, this is what the electronic cover will morph into.

Cover Concept.jpg
The concept cover art for Wastelander: The Drake Legacy. This image is owned by Corey Truax. Any manipulation or use of this image without written permission from Corey Truax is not permitted.

*door rattles*

Yeah, we know Drake, you look badass and Michail rocks.  This is the rough creation without any details added.  I, for one, am pretty stoked about how it’s coming along.

If I fail at traditional publishing, the print and typesetting company (something I’ll talk about in future post) I have selected for the indie route will create font and set the cover text.  Once I get the final product from Michail, I will create a cover draft with temporary text so you can see what it looks like in all of it’s wasteland glory.  That’s pretty much—

* door explodes and Drake jumps through giving thumbs up * 

That is one magnificent bastard right there! 

Humble as always.  Can you share at least one thing about the scene here?  People are curious man.  Do me a solid.

Well the image shows me making my approach to Last Chance.¹  A few minutes later I obliterated the place using only wit, balls, and fucking grit.  Or did I?  Maybe I ninja’d my way in.  Hell, maybe I’m a shit bag slaver myself!  Guess you’ll have to read this ass hats book if you’re curious.  Drake out!

* Drake runs off through broken door waving a middle finger at me *

I’m really sorry about all of this you all.  Next time I’ll try to get Collins, Jim, or Preacher to help me out.  Drake’s kind of a wildcard.  I guess you learned a little though, hopefully.

We’ll see what my broken brain comes up with next week.  Until then, keep hiding, keep hoarding, and as always – stay alive.

¹ Fun Fact!  The Last Chance slaver fortress is modeled after the Moundsville Penitentiary.  In fact, the story occurs in this region of the United States.  

For giggles and evaluation purposes…here’s a poll if you are bored.   

 

Copyright Info (final)

Cover Art: First Cont[r]act

Into the Wasteland

*Note* All images, with the exception of my poorly drawn pencil sketch, come from the artist I am currently working with – Michail Mamaschew.  The images are owned and copyrighted by him.  You can view his artwork, bio, and contact information here (DeviantArt), here (his webpage), and here (ArtStation).


mage with sword.jpgA couple of days ago, I posted about my research into book cover art and my fruitless hunt for an artist (here).  As fortune would have it, I just landed a cover artist.  We had been playing email tag for a bit, sorting the details, and getting a feel for each others legitimacy.   This is an important first step, and something I will talk about in a minute.  Once we felt we were a fit,  I prepared the contract (also important), sent it out, and now we are off to the races.

It should be noted that it took me about 10+ failed attempts to land an artist.  I thought today I would share why I had such trouble, how to avoid these problems, how I found a creative solution to relay my vision, and give some shout-outs to my new artist/co-conspirator.

First, take a look at the image below.  This is what would happen if I created the cover art myself.  No, my baby boy Thor didn’t draw this.  It is, in fact, a Corey original.  I thought it would be nice to post the before and see what happens when Michail takes a swing at it.

Cover Art ConceptIt’s pretty obvious looking at this crudely crafted drawing as to why I needed a cover artist.  No matter how crude, it was an important first step.  Deciding what the cover should feature.

I chose this scene because the location is central to my story, it features my books protagonist, Drake Nelson, and also contains some other important details.  These details are not readily visible in this amateur version, but I will make it clearer in a minute or so.

My first step was to research cover art in my genre and cover art in general.  Again, this post talks about that process.  I did a lot of, “post apocalyptic,” “wasteland,” “apocalypse,” “nuclear fallout,” internet image searches.  If I could trace art I liked back to the artist, I contacted them.  I then went to websites like, Deviantart, Freelancer, Artnet, and Artists&Clients to name a few.

wasteland cowboys

The more I searched, the more I began noticing certain styles of artwork appealed to me.  Largely because these styles of art reflected my feelings about the book I was writing.  Darker painterly styles appealed to me.  Once I isolated a style, I began contacting artists.

This is the next thing to consider.  When looking at an artist portfolio, look for examples of cover art, or a resume saying they know how to format for cover art.  The first few artists I contacted, while they had undeniably beautiful artwork, weren’t sure how to do what I was asking for, didn’t know anything about formatting for cover art (digital cover vs. print cover), or the language barrier prevented effective communication.

iron girl.pngThis should be obvious, but the language barrier is a legitimate issue.  An artist is going to be taking your words and converting them into art.  If you can’t effectively communicate those words, you are destined for failure.

My initial mistake was falling in love with artwork and artists, then playing email tag with artists who wrote in very broken English.  This led to frustration on both ends.  I don’t say this to be cruel, but when email is your only means of communication, and basis for the art to be created, it needs to be clear on both ends in this context.

Contracts.  These killed the next few contestants in the cover art game.  If the artist isn’t willing to sign a contract, you shouldn’t be willing to pay them.  You need to protect your investment.  Worse, the artist could use copyrighted material, and if you don’t have a contract to protect yourself it will be on your head when the real content owner comes knocking.  Or absolutely worse case scenario, you publish, the book does well, then the artist claims he/she owns the rights to the cover and demands additional compensation.

Here is an article about this very real issue from the Independent Book Publishers Association.  And from CreativIndiehere is one place to find a basic template for a book cover contract.

das tal.jpgWith all this being said, I am now working with Michail Mamaschew.  Like I mentioned in the intro, he created all the art you see in this blog today.  When we first started emailing back and forth the scope of his questions, professionalism, portfolio, and obvious knowledge all gave me that warm fuzzy feeling.  Also, his dark painterly style absolutely captivated me.

Then the real challenge came.  Aligning our visions.  How do I take the horrible pencil sketch I made and allow that to make sense to an artist?  I could provide a chapter from my book that describes the scene (again, a contract will protect any emailed story material from being released to a third party, so don’t send a chapter until the contract is signed).  I could offer some photographs.  Or I could write a giant email.  I did all of these things, but I also created a Prezi.  A Prezi is simply a wiz-bang version of a PowerPoint if you are unfamiliar.  It’s a free program and they have free classes on the website (and you can check Youtube) on how to use it.

This is what I came up with.  date with a mage.pngThat link will take you to the Prezi I made to sort out some of those creative details.  You can make it full screen and use the arrows at the bottom to navigate forward and backward, or use the arrows on your keyboard.

Hopefully you found some useful information regarding finding, selecting, and communicating with a cover artist here today.  Regardless, I was very excited to share progress on this front.  I will keep you all up-to-date with incoming concept art and progress on what is being generated for Wastelander.

Do you have cover artists you’ve worked with in the past that was stellar?  Have you had bad experiences?  Are you still sorting out the process?  I’d love to hear from you all about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

Deadly Flowers & Cover Art

homo sapienHomo sapiens adhere to the adage, “You taste with your eyes first.”  It probably wasn’t always so.  I like to imagine there was some trial and error involved.  The kind of trial and error that left bodies in its wake.

Imagine Homo habilis in his natural environment two million years ago.  Two of these majestic half-man/half-ape bipedals prance along the countryside, frolic as they dodge danger, and gather delicious snacks to fill their bellies.  One of our hairy predecessors picks a flower and looks at it – it’s beautiful.  He throws it into his mouth and chews.

His friend sees this and his sloped forehead wrinkles.  He says, “Ugh oog errgl aggg uc chocow bop?”

flower.jpgFor those of you rusty in this forgotten form of communication, this roughly translates into, “Is that safe to eat dear friend?”

Chewing, the questioned man-ape looks over at his concerned companion and shrugs.  A tickle springs up in his throat, his windpipe closes, and he falls over dead.

The survivor looks down at his fallen friend and makes an important realization.  I went ahead and translated it ahead of time.

He thinks, “I saw Krul eat pretty flower. Krul choked and died.  Pretty flower not pretty.  Pretty flower bad.  I crush bad flower.”

We’ve come a long way since then.  At least we like to think we have.  Even though a couple million years separate us from Krul and his unnamed friend, we share a lot in common.

reading ouside.jpgFor us writers and bookworms, the countrysides we frolic in are bookstores – both real and cyber.  The pretty flowers have been replaced by cover art.  Those all-important artistic creations are our first impressions.

While there is still potential we pick a pretty flower and it kills us after eat it, we often decide to taste based on what we see.  Unless our prior knowledge of the flower overrides our survival instinct (i.e. we like the flowers creator, we enjoy flowers of this genus, a friend ate the flower and didn’t die).

So what makes for a pretty flower?  This is a hard one for me, and something I’ve been spending a ton of time thinking about and researching.  As I’m wrapping up my first book, Wastelander, and getting ready to start the companion novella, my eyes are already drifting to the horizon.  I’m thinking about re-writes, editing, more editing, cover art, illustrations, and type setting.

The Road.jpgIn regards to cover art, what is important?  Do you focus on a particular scene from the book?  Do you take the main character and make them the central component?  Do you go with abstraction, surrealism, minimalism, or some other technique?

Take The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, for example.  It’s a far cry from most of the post-apocalyptic genre covers you will see.  With that being said, there is a subtle beauty in the simplicity of it.  Most importantly, in my view, there is a whole story in the image.

Much like studying great writing makes you a better writer, studying a wealth of cover art is a good place to start generating ideas.  Here are some places I’ve been visiting to study the the pretty flowers.  I haven’t eaten one yet that’s killed me.  But a few have left a bitter taste in my mouth.

From ShortList is this article, The 50 Coolest Book Covers.

Here’s one from Flavorwire, The 20 Most Iconic Book Covers Ever.

A glimpse at more recent covers comes from The Casual Optimist, 50 Memorable Cover from the Last Four Years.

Gloria Hanlon (a fellow WordPress Wizard) wrote the post, Book Cover Design Tools and Inspirationthe same day I wrote this article.  In it, she offers some amazing insights and tools.  One example she provides looks at 9,999 pieces of cover art and examines how even the color of the cover could have some subconscious impact on the reader.  It’s a very interesting read.

email waiting.jpgI‘m still playing email tag with a couple artists for my cover.  I already have a concept in mind, but the more I research cover artwork, the less confident I feel.

Also, there are some issues with explaining the requirements (size dimensions, dots per inch for print, pixels per inch for digital, the list continues) to an artist that doesn’t specialize in creating cover art.  But hey, that’s a topic for another day.

What pretty flowers appeal to you?  What is about them you enjoy?  Are your desires based more on context or feeling?  I’m very curious, and honestly, a bit in the weeds.  That’s it for today.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

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