Monday, January 28, 2013

Do-it-yourself Cover Designs

Being an indie writer means being a jack of all trades.  Your main job is writing, of course, but you have to be an editor, promoter, marketer, and artist.  The last one might be a big leap for a lot of writers, but since I have some design skills, I thought I’d try to design my own covers.  Time will tell of that’s a mistake or not.  

They say that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.  With that in mind, my biggest concern is to not look cheesy.  

I designed the cover for my first short story published on Amazon with mixed reviews.  I did put some time into it and had a vision for it.  You can make up your mind.  

I’m currently working on the design for my second short story to go on Amazon.  I did a design awhile back and mothballed it.  I felt it was too bland.  So, I “beefed” it up some and then did some studying of other covers and also researched what other authors and designers said was critical in cover design.  

To help me make my decision on which cover to use, I previewed the three designs with friends and family.  Initially, it got confusing because the vote was evening split.  After a while, one started getting more votes.  Anyway, below are my three cover designs.  Let me know what you think.  And yes, let me know if you think they’re cheesy, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing: A Year in Review 2012

Although I've been serious about writing for the past several years, 2012 was the year I buckled down and decided to get serious about it.  Up until 2012, I had drifted in and out of writing, having some long stints of discipline (writing a novel in 2010 and 2011), but also having periods in which I was extremely undisciplined.

I also decided to become a lot more strategic about my approach.  One of the goals that arose for me in 2012 was to get some street credibility.  I took Stephen King's advise (from On Writing - a great book, you should check it out) and decided to focus on getting some short stories published.  On the whole, I think I did okay.  In just over a year's time, I wrote fifteen stories and got six of those accepted.

Getting a story published was a strange thing.  First of all, the first story I got published was one that I wrote back in 1997.  It has sat around in my proverbial electronic "desk drawer" for years.  I knew it was very marketable because it was short and sweet.  Short being the operative word.  Succinct and precise stories are easier to market.  That's the truth, Ruth.

The story was titled "Home Schooling"  and was published on A Twist of Noir (in late 2011).  It was such a thrill to get it published and really unexpected.

My trouble was that I was haphazard in writing and submitting stories.  I was writing stories that I wanted to write, which isn't a bad thing, but most of them ran too long.  Especially for an unpublished writer.  Writing to market isn't a bad thing and I decided I needed to discipline myself to do that.

So, I switched my strategy and started writing some Flash pieces.  Because they're so short, you can really work to hone them and work off a burst of inspiration to get them done.  In all honesty, it's not my best work, but I got my first Flash story published at Shotgun Honey.  (It's a great site for Flash crime stories.  I urge you to check it out.)  The story was titled," What You Don't Know."

I had a long dry spell of several months.  In the middle of the year, I changed my focus from just working on mystery and crime to writing some horror stories.

Backing up a bit; I wrote a mystery novel for over two years and released it to some beta readers in 2011.  It wasn't a pretty scene.  I learned a lot and took my lumps.  Lumps are very instructive, let me tell you.

Anyway, I turned to horror and it invigorated me.  I found horror a lot easier for me to get into and be productive.  I also gained a deep appreciation for mystery writers.  I truly think it is the hardest genre to write for.  Try to point out any other genre that has as many tacit rules.  I dare you.  You have to have crime.  You have to have a perpetrator.  Then you have to dance around in your plot to provide a mystery without dragging your story to a halt or giving it away too soon.  Let me tell you, it's a challenge.

Now, that being said, I also have abiding respect for those that write in other genres, including horror.  There are some true greats.

My breakthrough horror piece was a story I wrote called "The Dark Child."  It was a straight horror piece.  It originally ran around 7,000 words.  I submitted it a few places with no responses.  So, I took Lawrence Block's advice and decided to start with story in action.  I went back and lopped off the front of it and cut it down to just under 5,000 words.  Just a few short days after submitting it to The Horror Zine, I got a message from the editor who said she wanted to publish it in the December edition.  (BTW, the Horror Zine is a great site for horror stories and the editor is fantastic.)  I was beyond thrilled and she was very complementary of the story.  Writers let something like that go to their heads.  At least, I did.

Anyway, within a couple weeks, I had this anxiety fall over me that I needed to get more stuff published.  I went into a writing frenzy and started submitting stories willy-nilly.  Then came the waiting game.  It was an anxious few weeks.  I literally had seven stories out for consideration with no responses.

Suddenly within a three day period, I got three stories accepted.  It was like a deluge after a drought.  The first one to be accepted was called, "Toofers."  It was probably one of my sickest stories.  It was picked up by a great horror flash story site, Flashes in the Dark.

Two more of stories were accept for publication in 2013.  I have one more story that I think is on the cusp of being accepted by a paying market -- which would be a first for me  Woo-woo.

My anxiety has lifted somewhat and I think I finally gained some credibility.  I'm no longer an unpublished author how can only say that he's trying hard and is desperate to be published.  I can put in a list of credits and I think that gives me about 15 more seconds of evaluation time than I'd get a year ago.

Anyway, I also wrote another full length horror novel and a horror novella in 2012.  Those are both in the editing process.  I hope to release the novella on Amazon in the next couple months and hope to see the novel released somewhere around the middle of the year.

All-in-all, it was a good year, but I need to keep up the pace in 2013.