Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Amazing Blog Banner Redesign, Agent Critique and Signed Book Giveaway Contest

UPDATE: the five page crit offer has been upped to a PARTIAL READ from Ms. Marini!

Well, here it is the long awaited (yeah, right) contest wherein I spread some design goodness, agent awesomeness, critique-buddy genius and agent-buddy coolness.

I decided to do this because, ahem--I admit it--I am a design snob. Yes--there--I'm out with it. Not that I consider myself a design genius, but I do teach it and do it quite extesively--way longer than I have been writing. So, I felt it my duty to help authors, all of us whom are struggling to get ourselves heard and our books read, with a cool new blog look. I had done Heidi Ayarbe's a number of years ago and decided she't totally grown out of it. We both decided she needed a blog/website look that matched the beautiful style of her books. So we branded her with a website that feels like Heidi's writing.

I also thought my own blog needed an update and was in a bit of a pickle. Not only do I write spooky, dark YA, but I illustrate sweet light-hearted childrens' books. The whole dark spooky thing may match my writing, but it is not who I am. In fact, one of my students said I needed a banner that says it all about me. I STILL have to get on that website--but that will happen very soon.

So, in honor of the release of Heidi's new book, WANTED, coming this May, (and the arrival of something else into her life---but I'll let her tell you about that) she and I decided to run this dual contest.

You can enter either here, or on Heidi's blog:

or right here.

What's really exciting is that my uber-wonderful agent, Victoria Marini, a PARTIAL READ to the prizes along with a signed arc of Meredith Zeitlin's forthcoming book, FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS.


First Prize: A custom designed blog banner by yours truly, personalized to best express "your brand". A critique of the first 5 pages of your manuscript by Victoria Marini.

Second Prize: A signed copy of COMPROMISED, by Heidi Ayarbe, including an array of swag, and a signed arc of FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS, by the ridiculously multitalented Meredith Zeitlin.

If you really want a blog banner and don't win---we can talk.

Entry Eligibility:

This contest is for writers, readers and reviewers of young adult, middle grade and picture books. Picture book writers--I should warn you--we can't really offer you a critique if you win, so we'll have to come up with something else.


To be entered in this contest you need to do the following:

Follow both mine AND Heidi's blog, then tweet or facebook about it.
In the comments on either my blog or Heidi's, in a brief paragraph, tell us why you are so desperately in need of a new banner design. Include a link if you want to garner sympathy. We are not reviewing writing samples, so if your pitch for the banner impresses us, we figure your writing will, too!


The contest is open-ended. We'll probably close it at 50 entries or in two weeks, which ever comes sooner. Judging will be based on how cool we think you are and how uncool your website is in comparison! Or, if it just gets too tough to decide, I may have to pull comment numbers out of a hat.
Friends of mine--it would be better if you enter anonymously so I can't be accused of favoritism--but I guess you can't provide your link either.

Anyway--that's my contest! Hope you all enter---I want to fix every writers brand--one blog at a time!

to review other blog banners I've designed check this out:

Stay tuned, because I am also branching out into cover design for Independently published authors.

Oh yeah--and I write books. My latest is called BREAKING GLASS, about a boy and his crush--who comes back from the grave to haunt him--and I will have some news on that very soon.


  1. Both blogs followed, and the contest tweeted! Thanks for such a fun (and useful!) contest. Now, as to why I need a redesigned banner . . . let me count the ways. I'm a believer in lots of white space. Uncluttered. Unfettered. Sadly, I think I've gone to the extremes on my own website: Am I that boring? No! I'm a skydiver and a competitive dragon boater! I write dark fiction for adults and young adults! I raise money for kick-ass nonprofits so they can keep doing what they do! I need a banner with life and pizzazz (If I were pitching to you in person, this is where I'd unfurl the jazz hands). Please. Help me meet my potential as a writer. Nay, as a human!

    Thank you for your kind consideration of my plight.

  2. Done and done. My blog is called, 'The Mad Ravings of a Feaky Snucker.' One would expect it to look amazing, or provocative. Sadly, it is... well, sort of lame looking. The content does NOT match the cover. The curtains do NOT match the drapes. It looks so boring, but then people read it and the amazing content kicks them right in the mind. My blog is like a sneaky ninja!

    It's not fair for readers to be ambushed by my *cough* brilliance *cough* They're already smacked in the eyes by the boring look. I NEED a kick ass banner, with some pizazz! Panache! Parakeets... no, not the last one. But definitely the first two!

  3. I am posting you all over right now :) Facebook, Twitter etc. :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I followed both blogs and tweeted about the giveaway here:!/ashleymaker/status/172444045300338688

    My blog is in desperate need of an overhaul. I only recently made one, and to be perfectly honest, I have no clue how to make it pretty! All the time I've spent reading and writing has not prepared me for the technological challenge of blog design. I am in WAY over my head. You can view its pitiful state at

    By the way, congratulations Heidi on your upcoming book release :-)

    Ashley Maker

  6. I'm not entering, only congratulating (I'm like the worst blogger in the world, ha!)

    The new digs looks awesome and nes on Breaking Glass sounds exciting.


  7. I don't tweet, but you'd better believe i FBd the heck out of this!!
    I would totally love a banner! I mean, if you click on my name, you can see my blog. And what is there to behold? The default banner. THE DEFAULT! Oh the shame and the horror. I mustn't look too closely or I may sink into despair.

  8. Hey contestants--looking good! Looking whiny! this is going to be a stiff competition---If I can't decide by need, I may have to pull comment #s out of a hat! Oh dear. Don't forget to join the blog--and feel free to add me on Facebook, Twitter, whatever so I can see your hollering and baying at the moon. :) And give Heidi Ayarbe some love, too. She just gave birth to her second child.

  9. Hi, Lisa! And thanks for the opportunity. My blog is named "Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know," because I'm mad for the Romantics and--let's face it--probably a little touched myself being a writer. I write dark, gothic YA with romantic elements, seeped in history. My banner, on the other hand, is not so much mad or bad or even mildly dangerous. It has butterflies and pastel colors, for Pete's sake! Instead of sexy and Gothic, it looks more like it was designed for a Care Bear. I'd love to see what you could do with it.

    Congrats on BREAKING GLASS, your awesome collaboration with Ms Marini, and to Heidi on the new baby!

  10. Lisa - first, I wanted to say congratulations on your book selling! What a huge step forward.

    And so I can enter the contest... my plea.

    I'm a writer by trade. Not an artist. I've tried, goodness knows, to express myself through visual arts, and I always manage to fail miserably. My webpage doesn't have a banner yet because my Photoshop/art skills are challenged. How challenged? Well, I can't draw a straight line to save my life. My lines have curveitis.

    My blog is here: It desperately needs a whole makeover. I'd love to start that with a good banner.

  11. There's no use me pretending to be cool for this, because I'm not. I'm a telemarketing sales coach by week, goat farmer by weekend and if that's not yokel enough, I play mandolin in a band with my dad. My favourite pastime is plotting historical mysteries in my replica Tom Riddle diary, while drinking mead and listening to epic soundtrack music. The closest I've ever come to 'hip' is my one year studying design at university, but all it left me with was grand ideas and no skills to implement them - cue the painstaikingly set up photo shoot I've awfully applied to my new blog. But with a diguise... a banner... maybe I can look as cool as my mum assures me I am. Help me Lisa Wan Kenobe, you're my only hope.

    P.S. Thanks for this opportunity, and congratulations on the book release!

  12. Once upon a time...I graduated with honors in graphic design. Then I went on to less glorious attempts at earning money. The most recent of which has me invoicing for a living. 'Cause, you know, the natural progression for a highly creative person is financials. :P I have since begun my creative journey into writing romance and blogging as regularly as I can. My site is called Sm:)e Feel Good and that's who I am In a nutshell. If I can help readers laugh AT ME, well, all the better. :) My sad little banner at SFG is Blogger provided. I keep meaning to upgrade it with my aged knowledge of Illustrator, but haven't made the attempt...yet. Visit me! ;)

  13. Followed and Facebooked. :)
    I am in a similar situation as you. I write picture books and middle grade novels that are more like fairy tales, but I also have a YA zombie novel that I'm currently querying. Very different stuff! The similarity between us ends there. I have no idea how to do any sort of designing. My blog has the basic look you set up with. In fact, it's the rows of books that every writer that doesn't know how to design has. :) So I am in desperate need of help!
    Thank you for doing this contest! It'll be so amazing for whoever wins.

  14. Following and tweeting!
    The sites I love always seem to be so simple. I always think, why can't I come up with that? :)

  15. Sorry! I just noticed the contest is over!

  16. The contest is over...Will be trying next time..However I have started using Banner Designer Pro and its really working great in designing banners.

  17. I am posting you all over right now :) Facebook, Twitter etc. :

    Web Developers in Toronto

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