Category — On Reading
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a book cover’s got to be worth at least forty to a hundred times that, if it’s going to sell what’s inside.
According to Para Publishing, “everyone judges a book by its cover,” and their statistics cite a Wall St. Journal study that reveals that bookstore browsers spend eight seconds looking at the front cover and fifteen seconds looking at the back. Yet the trick is usually getting readers interested enough to pick up the book in the first place.
As many of you know, Forgetting English was reissued last year with a gorgeous new cover.
What most of you don’t know is that I was madly in love with another cover image before falling in love with this one. That first cover was exotic and mysterious and beautiful, in a way completely different from the one above. But we ran into a permissions issue and had to let it go.
Naturally, I thought I’d never fall in love again. My kind and patient publisher, Kevin Morgan Watson of Press 53, assured me that I would.
And I did. Now, I can’t imagine my book having a cover other than the one above.
Below is the first edition of Forgetting English, the cover of which went through several dramatic makeovers (different type styles, different colors, different layouts, with the Gauguin painting the only thing that didn’t change) before turning out like this.
While I’m partial to my new book cover, I’ll always have a fondness for this one — my ex-book, if you will. Going through this process not once but twice was interesting; I think authors (not to mention readers) react to a cover much the way they do to people they meet: There’s an instant connection, or there’s not. A good publisher and book designer understands that and looks for an image conveys what’s beneath the cover as best it possibly can.
Check out this book design case study, featuring Erika Dreifus’s wonderful book, Quiet Americans, which takes us through the steps a book designer goes through in preparing not only a cover but the interior design.
Most authors, unless they publish with a small press, don’t have a say in what their book covers look like (or, they attempt to have a say and are ignored or overruled). For my first book, while the Gauguin painting featured on the cover is one of my favorites, its South Pacific feel evokes only one story in the collection, and I didn’t feel it was a good fit. While I’d already sent along a few cover ideas and even several images, someone had already secured permission to use the art, and there was no room for debate.
When my book was reissued, I was thrilled to work closely with Kevin at Press 53 to find a cover that we both thought was perfect for the book. He understands, as good editors, agents, and publishers to, that while the publisher knows how to best market its books (and is footing the bill for book design, no less), the author also has a valuable contribution to make — and an author who loves his or her book cover will be all the happier to promote it.
For more insights on authors and their book covers, check out this piece in The Awl featuring six writers on book covers and marketing; it’s fascinating to hear from authors who either love or hate their covers, who were consulted or not, and how they approach the strange process of getting blurbs.
When all is said and done, when it comes to our book covers, we authors have to be flexible. If our books are our “children,” as the comparison often goes, we have to let go just as parents do: Parents, after all, never know exactly how their kids are going to turn out. And they love them all the same.
October 3, 2012 Comments Off
I’m giving away a copy of Everyday Writing on Goodreads — sign up to win anytime from now until October 10!
September 28, 2012 Comments Off
It’s autumn — and in New England, that means celebrating the foliage. If you’re out leaf peeping, don’t forget to pop into the local bookstores in all those fabulous New England towns. Woodstock, Vermont, has one of the sweetest: the lovely Shiretown Books, right on the main street as you stroll through town.
The store is small but has plenty to offer, including books by local authors and staff picks, and it’s a terrific place to browse. And it’s a bookstore with a big heart: Last year, in response to Hurricane Irene, which devastated parts of Vermont, including areas of Woodstock, Shiretown gave back by donating a portion of book sales to relief efforts.
Bookstores like Shiretown are among the many reasons it’s wonderful to shop locally — to support not only the indies but the communities that support them best as well.
September 26, 2012 4 Comments
Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, is a place for which you’ll want to set aside an entire day.
The bookstore is in a beautiful old Victorian, with several levels, including a full-service cafe on the top level and a large reading area for its many visiting authors.
It’s an fabulous place to wander through — even better, to get lost in — and among its treasures are not only books but clothing, jewelry, accessories, and a huge children’s section that includes toys and games.
Another interesting aspect of Northshire is that it’s one of the growing number of bookstores with an Espresso Book Machine, which means that you can order up any book available through the print-on-demand service (such as self-published books, small press titles, or large publishers’ backlist titles) and have it printed while you wait. And for all you indie authors out there, Northshire also has its own imprint, Shires Press, which offers a variety of packages for authors who want to self-publish their books — a very smart idea and likely one of the many reasons this bookstore is celebrating its 35th birthday and going strong.
August 29, 2012 Comments Off
What’s not to love about a place where you can buy wine and books all at once? I recently discovered The Kiva in Eugene, Oregon — first drawn in by its sign, which reads “Grocers, Booksellers, Wine Merchants.”
What’s fun about The Kiva is just what the sign indicates: that you can get your grocery and wine shopping done as well as browse for books, gifts, and cards. The grocery prides itself on stocking local and fair-trade foods and beverages, and they have a lot of wonderful wine and beer options, from reasonably priced malbecs to a variety of local microbrews.
I’m not sure what was more fun — to see groceries in a bookstore, or to see books in a grocery store.
The Kiva website highlights everything except the books (books actually comprise a small portion of the store), but the site has a blog that pays a bit more attention to the literary aspect of the place; many of the blog posts focus on books, from summer reading to the books about food, like Forks Over Knives. The bookshelves are stocked primarily with cookbooks, children’s books, and nonfiction — and it’s a fun place to browse. I’d highly recommend stopping in the next time you’re in downtown Eugene, whether you’re there to pick up wine with your books, or books with your wine.
August 16, 2012 Comments Off
It would be impossible to sum up the amazing first week of this year’s Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, which was, as always, an inspiration. Not only is Port Townsend a gorgeous setting in which to immerse oneself in All Things Writing, the writers it brings together creates such an incredible energy.
In addition to teaching five afternoon workshops on topics from scene to character to dialogue — and the writers who join me in these classes always have something to teach me — I had the opportunity to learn from the craft lectures of such writers as poet Ashley Capps (on empathy in writing) and fiction writer Jennine Capó Crucet (on humor), as well as to enjoy their evening readings and many others, among them Judith Kitchen, Dinah Linney, Sam Ligon, Diane Roberts, Erin Belieu, and Chris Crutcher. It truly feels impossible to sum up the wealth of good writing and conversation of the week, but author Donna Miscolta does a great job over on her blog.
I also fit in a little writing time, which is so much easier to do here than in my regularly scheduled life. For one, the setting is so peaceful; looking out over the water or watching deer walk past relaxes the brain in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m trying to fit writing in amid all my other work.
The other brilliant thing about being at Fort Worden is that Internet access is available in only a couple of spots — which means that unless you go to these specific places, you’re disconnected. I had many conversations with writers about how well our writing went when we didn’t have web access; we all experienced big breakthroughs in our projects thanks to having time and space uninterrupted by email, news, and social media.
Now that I’m back, I’ve created a few new rules for myself in order to keep my writing momentum going. I have set myself new, limited social media hours, even for work-related posts and tweets (one thing I learned from being mostly offline for a week is that taking some time off isn’t going to make you disappear as a person, an author, or a business), and I’ve created specific writing goals for myself as well. I’ve also realized that being accountable is part of the deal: If you have to answer to someone about why you haven’t met your deadline, or why you got online during your offline writing time, it makes you think twice about procrastinating. So I’ve got weekly check-ins all lined up.
All these little rules may sound over-the-top — but as most of us know, it’s all too easy to get distracted and to let the writing slip. So here’s my tip for you: As the summer continues, start defining some guidelines and goals, and find yourself a writing buddy to keep each other on track. And, if you can, find a conference or retreat that will help remind you that your writing is vital and important.
July 18, 2012 4 Comments
Most authors have busy schedules — these days, who doesn’t? — and yet it is possible to keep writing, even if you aren’t able to sit down in the chair. These 5 tips will help you see the ways in which you can think like a writer, which is the next best thing to putting words on the page.
July 3, 2012 2 Comments
I always love chatting with Sheila Bender of Writing It Real — she asks the most thought-provoking questions about all aspects of the writing life. So I was delighted to chat with her about Everyday Writing, which meandered into the realm of publishing, submitting work, and writing in different genres — all followed by writing prompts of varying lengths to fit any busy writer’s schedule.
Check out the article here — and if you’re not already a member, I highly recommend becoming one! Membership offers a wealth of articles, inspiration, classes — and community.
Thanks to Sheila for the opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite things!
June 14, 2012 Comments Off
On this summer Monday, I’m delighted to be featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s amazing Writerhead blog as part of her Mojo Monday series. (Visit Kristin’s blog every Monday, where she offers “a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.”
Today on Mojo Monday, I write about how to be an everyday writer (i.e., how to find time to be a writer every day even if you’re not able to sit down to write every day) and offer three tips with matching prompts – so there’s no excuse not start this week off in a writerly mode.
Thanks to Kristin for hosting me today — and happy writing!
June 11, 2012 Comments Off
I’m happy and grateful to be featured on the StyleSubstanceSoul blog today with “5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity.”
If you’re not familiar with StyleSubstanceSoul, visit today and sign up to receive their e-news, which delivers inspiration, book and film reviews, interviews, and amazing giveaways to your in-box every week. This wonderful site was founded by three best friends (and mothers of daughters) who believe that “female energy has the power to change the world.” They are all about living a life of positive action and compassion — what’s not to love about that?
A million thanks to StyleSubstanceSoul for featuring 5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity (and be sure to click through to a couple of the links, where you’ll find books by a couple of my favorite poets). Hope this all leads you to a weekend of inspiration, good reading, and good writing!
June 8, 2012 Comments Off
There’s a lot to enjoy about Manhattan Beach, from its miles of sandy beach to its boutiques and shops to its amazing Mexican food — and, most of all, Pages: A Bookstore, a fabulous indie in the heart of the neighborhood at 904 Manhattan Avenue.
Pages and its three owners — two of them, Patty and Margot, were there for Cher’s party — are warm, generous hosts, and the bookstore itself is a wonderful, inviting space not only for a book event but for wandering and reading.
In addition to comfy chairs for browsing, the bookstore’s shelves are topped with quotes about writing, from William Faulkner to Thomas Jefferson. The layout is spacious but somehow also offers that cozy feeling of being among a great abundance of books.
Like all good bookstores, Pages is active in its community, with events (including author appearances, game nights, workshops, and book clubs), a monthly newsletter, and an expansive children’s section with beanbag reading “chairs.”
Don’t miss this wonderful bookstore the next time you’re in Manhattan Beach — it’s the perfect place to find your beach reading, and a wonderful respite when you’re ready to step out of the sun.
May 30, 2012 Comments Off
I’m very happy today to be featured on the blog of the amazing Jane Friedman, who has posted an excerpt from Everyday Writing, including 10 writing prompts that can be done in 5 minutes or fewer (a.k.a. “Quickies”). A million thanks to Jane for posting this — I hope writers find it helpful and inspiring. The idea behind Everyday Writing is to be a writer every day, even if you don’t have much writing time every day — and these short prompts are meant to offer a way to stay connected to your creativity and your writing.
And, speaking of creativity and writing, Brenda Miller‘s wonderful new book, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (co-authored with Holly Hughes) is for all writers who wish to create physical and mental space for writing. Its abundance of advice for writers includes tips for how to heighten awareness and take risks in your writing, as well as how to write in a community. Best of all, for today only, Brenda’s publisher is offering 20 percent off the book! And be sure to check out Brenda’s blog, The Spa of the Mind, for tips and thoughts on finding respite in a busy world.
May 29, 2012 Comments Off
One of the many things I love about Forgetting English‘s publisher, Press 53, is its yearly Memorial Day tradition: For every book you purchase from the Press 53 website from Memorial Day until Flag Day (June 14), Press 53 will send, at no additional cost to you, a book to an active-duty overseas soldier or to a recovering soldier in a military hospital. What better way to celebrate mark Memorial Day?
Buy a book for yourself or a fellow reader, and Press 53 will take care of the rest. And, in celebration of National Short Story Month, why not try a new collection?
Forgetting English isn’t the only Spokane Prize winner among Press 53 titles — Becky Hagenston’s Strange Weather is also a recipient of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction (and it’s an amazing collection…I highly recommend it).
And here are a few recent Press 53 award-winning story collections:
Anne Leigh Parrish’s short story collection All the Roads That Lead From Home won an Independent Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection.
Marjorie Hudson’s short story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas won a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention.
Michael Kardos’s short story collection One Last Good Time won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction.
May 28, 2012 Comments Off
In the heart of Old Town in Bandon, Oregon, you’ll find the lovely WinterRiver Books, a gem of a book and gift shop.
This bookstore its excellent in its devotion to local and regional books — while so many bookstores tend to have the same bestsellers on the front displays, WinterRiver Books offers a bit of everything, and it’s a great place to browse, especially if you’re in the mood for something different but aren’t sure what.
And WinterRiver Books goes beyond being a bookstore in its wonderful selection of gifts, many of which are eco-friendly, which is always great to see. The store also carries fresh bread from a local bakery…
…and this, in addition to the chocolate selection (which includes Theo Chocolate — mmm) basically means one-stop shopping for a bookstore geek.
March 7, 2012 2 Comments
There are probably few better ways to spend a rainy winter day in the little town of North Bend, Oregon, than in Books by the Bay. (Especially if you’re a bookstore geek, but even if you’re not.)
Books by the Bay has a lovely selection of both new and used books, as well as cards and gifts. Even better, its cafe, The Grounds, offers lunchy items and the usual warm, highly caffeinated cafe drinks (another nice reason to be there on a rainy day).
There are a few cozy chairs — and the bookstore’s wide-open spaces and expansive shelves are great for browsing.
The store’s good light and whitewashed bookshelves remind you that the ocean isn’t too far away…and Books by the Bay is the perfect place to pick up your beach reading.
March 1, 2012 Comments Off