Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rajdeep Paulus: The Journey of a Book Cover

original hand drawn art

Let’s be honest. Whoever came up with the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” was reading in the dark. Or listening to an audiobook. Or got a great, hand-me-down book that had the cover ripped off. Because, before an author’s name is connected to incredible story telling, the cover is all a reader has to go by. And ask most readers—the cover determines whether they will pick up the book. Read the back. And open the book and read the first few lines. Each step leads to the ultimate decision to invest in the story, but the very first step often rests with the invitation of the cover.

In the final stages of cover decision-making, I had a cover crisis. The artwork was so engaging that the title sort of got lost in it. But when I tried to fix it, rather than let the artist make her professional changes, I overcompensated and pushed the details off the page, literally. With only days till the book when live on Amazon, Deepa coached me in some Photoshop basics, and I think we found our perfectly balanced cover: Stars. Blue. Clouds below. And the Post-it on back.

When I finished the first draft of Soaring Through Stars, I began to think about my cover. And without a second thought, I knew I wanted my niece and SVA college student, Deepa Paulus, to design it. The only boundaries I gave her were to make sure the cover had stars on the front, a Post-it Note on the back, and the color blue for Talia. The rest was up to her.

I’m not an artist, but I can only imagine how long it took for her to create a starry sky brimmed by clouds with her pen and pencil on paper. When she showed me an early draft of the hand-drawn cover, I loved it! But I also knew right away: more stars, less clouds.

Once the background was finalized, Deepa went to work with her Photoshop skills, adding blues, sparkling up stars, and matching the fonts from the other two books in the trilogy to help link the books. We had some back and forth about the shades of blue and eventually agreed on a darker but brighter blue that helped the font to stand out and suggest evening, rather than the black sky of nighttime.
Cover design stages Pt. 1

I asked Deepa a few questions about her experience, and this is what she shared:

Rajdeep: What did you enjoy about the process?

Deepa: What I enjoyed most about working on the cover of Soaring Through Stars was that I got to work very closely with my aunt.  Rajdeep Chithi [Aunt] was so much fun to work with and I learned a lot about graphic design.  In addition, I enjoyed the mix of traditional and digital media.  It started with pen and ink and went through Photoshop, so I got to use my two favorite mediums to create this cover.

Rajdeep: What were some of the challenges you faced?

Deepa: The main challenge that came with making this cover was definitely layout.  There are just so many ways of placing information on a page that it can be quite tricky figuring out what works best.  Getting feedback definitely makes the process easier than doing it all alone.

Rajdeep: What would you change about the process when you start your next book cover for some lucky author out there? 

Deepa: I would not really change much about the process.  Keeping my files organized definitely helped when changes had to be made, so I would continue working the way I did.

Interim cover design
Not every author gets a say in how his or her cover will turn out. I’ve had the opportunity to give feedback on all my covers so far. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe a book cover is worth sixty-five thousand—the average length of each young adult book I wrote. 
Grateful for a chance to work with an up and coming artist and digital wiz, thank you Deepa for working so hard on my book cover. I’m thrilled to push book three out of the nest and send her a flight. And I hope the story will take readers Soaring Through Stars. J


Rajdeep Paulus, Award-Winning author of Swimming Through CloudsSeeing Through Stones, and Soaring Through Stars, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her  via Facebook, TwitterPinterest, or Instagram.

Chicago born Deepa Paulus majored in Visual Arts at LaGuardia High School for Music, Art, and Performing Arts (Class of 2014). She designed the logo for Cycling for Change (,) the cover of the YA Novel Soaring Through Stars, and looks forward to graduating Class of 2018 from SVA as a Computer Art Major. Learn more at

Final cover

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Writing An Entire Series At Once, Or Am I Nuts For Doing This

Guest post by Jennifer Allis Provost...

A funny thing happened during NaNoWriMo 2014; okay, a few funny things happened.

Like many writers around the world, I look forward to participating in NaNo every November. (Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Learn more here.) In the past I’ve banged out full-length epic fantasies and short stories featuring everything from zombies to homicidal horses. I didn’t do anything like that for NaNo 2014.

I wrote a series.

Okay, so I didn’t finish the entire series by November 30. But I did finish book one, working title Changing Teams, in 19 days. In the remaining eleven I outlined the next three books and wrote a tie-in short story. Yeah, this series was happening in a big way.

I plunged ahead into book two, but when I was halfway in I decided it should be book three. Then I switched the protagonists for books two and four and added some backstory to book three, which meant that I needed to make some changes to book one. In essence, I was writing the entire series at once.

This was uncharted territory for me. I’ve written three series in the past—one epic fantasy, two urban fantasies—and I’ve always followed the same formula:

1.     Write book one (meaning the whole process including beta reading, editing, etc.)
2.     Check out the market, determine which agents and publishers are buying works similar to mine
3.     Write query letters, synopses, and submit away
4.     Commence nail biting
5.     If book one is picked up, consider series potential

This time around, instead of waiting for an agent or publisher to express interest in book one, I’ll have the entire series in my back pocket. If someone asks, “Hey, is there a sequel?” I can shoot it right over. If I decide to forgo traditional publishing and self-publish, I can release each title a month or two apart, and capitalize on series momentum. And, probably the best thing about writing the whole series at once is that I get to put in those little Easter eggs that fans love to find, and smooth out plot holes along the way.

Is writing an entire series simultaneously hard? You bet it is. But it’s a relatively simple trick from which I’m already reaping awards.

Bio: I'm Jennifer Allis Provost. I write books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. My latest release is Copper Ravens, book two of the Copper Legacy, in June 2014 from Spence City. Look for my next release, the epic fantasy Heir to the Sun, June 1 2015.
Friend me on Facebook: 
Follow me on Twitter: @parthalan

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kristin's Book Review: The Boys in the Boat

My friend Kristin Wroblewski, an avid reader, is a guest reviewer on this blog. This is her review of the NYT #1 bestseller, The Boys on The Boat, a Remarkable True Story


For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

The Boys In the Boat a Remarkable True Story

The generation of men who went off to war after Pearl Harbor were mercilessly
bombed on that fateful morning in December, are now referred to as, in
no small part thanks to Journalist Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation. They,
and the loved ones they left behind to fight the war on the Homefront are given
this label because they, without question, saw a call to duty to defend the

However, in the 1930's, America was in the gripes of The Great Depression
while across the ocean in Germany, a thug named Adolf Hitler was slowly
gaining momentum.There is another story as well. The story of the nine men
from the University of Washington and their remarkable journey to the 1936
Olympics in Berlin. They came from all over the state of Washington and all
socioeconomic backgrounds. They had a common bond, rowing. A sport that
is usually reserved for the elite boarding schools of Eaton and Harrow and
universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and Ivy League Institutions.
Schools such as Stanford and Cal Berkely fell into this category and already
had strong traditions by the time nine young men from Washington made
people sit up and take notice. Within this amazing story of courage and perseverance,
the stories of the rowers themselves are intertwined.

While the nine young men, their coach, and their boat maker were
not well known, there are three names you will come across that will be recognizable.
Jesse Owens, Louis Zamperini and a man, a Brit, by the last name of
Laurie. His son would become a very well known actor many years later.
There are so many stories about the Second World War on the market to
read. This is a good thing because it ensures that The Greatest Generation will
live on through their stories, even after they gone. 

The members of the University of Washington rowing team who went to Berlin in 1936 are all deceased now. Their contribution to the war effort was not through physical
fighting, although many of them did enlist after Pearl Harbor. Theirs was a victory
of the hearts and the minds of America. In the face of tyranny, they made

America believe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

9 Ways to Promote Your Book—Guest Post by author and internet marketer, Sara Crawford

These days, it’s not enough to write a great book. Whether you self-publish, publish with an independent or small publisher, or even land a big book deal with one of the “Big Five” publishers, you need to do as much of your own marketing and promotion as you can. Here are some tools you can use.

1. E-mail lists – Statistics show that e-mail marketing is still one of the most effective strategies. Encourage readers, visitors to your blog, and social media followers to sign up for your mailing list. Give people an incentive to sign up, whether it’s a discount on your book, a free bookmark, a free chapter sample, or something else. Find a way to make your e-mails more than just promotional. Include beneficial information related to your book. (For example, if your book is set in the South and features a lot of Southern cooking, include some fun recipes. Get creative!)

2. Social media – Every social network has a different audience and a different purpose. Get to know the different social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Goodreads etc.) and find out which sites your target audience visits most often. (Tumblr is popular among teenagers, for example. If your book features fashionable or crafty characters, Pinterest may be a good place to promote it.) Don’t just use the social networks to be promotional, though. Support other writers, engage with your readers, and post interesting, funny, or thought-provoking posts.

3. Swag – Whether it’s a bookmark, coffee mug, t-shirt, bracelet, postcard, journal, or any other item, merch is an excellent way to get the word out about your book. You may have to invest a little money, but these physical items can often make people remember you and your book. I used to be in a band called Pocket the Moon. I ordered a ton of plastic toy unicorns, wrote our band name on them, and we sold these at our shows for five bucks. We also gave out free moon pies. These kinds of unique items helped people to remember us, and it made our shows a more fun experience. Find some creative swag that will make people remember your book.

4. Contests and giveaways – These are a great way to create buzz around your book. You can host a giveaway or contest on your website, Goodreads, YouTube, or many other places. You can give away signed copies of your book or some of the fun swag mentioned above. You can team up with local bookstores and giveaway coupons or gift certificates.

5. Blog tours – A blog tour is a virtual tour to help an author promote his or her book. These “tours” go from one book blog to the next with interesting posts such as reviews, guest blog posts, cover reveals, etc., and they are a useful tool to help you connect with potential readers. While it is possible to organize your own blog tour, there are many different services that will do this for you for a low fee.

6. Attend or organize live events – Contact your local library or bookstore to schedule a reading or a signing. Visit nearby schools to discuss your book with students (particularly if your book is for children or teens). Schedule talks and/or workshops about writing and sell your book in the back of the room. Find book festivals and conferences you can attend, and see if you can get on one of the panels. You can also schedule unconventional events. For example, if your book is about music, maybe organize a live musical performance and read a short section in between performers.

7. Team up with other authors – Find two or three authors with books in your genre, and organize events. These may be panel discussions, readings, or book signings. It’s easier to do a regional or even national promotional book tour as well if you have other authors to split expenses, especially if you don’t have a huge marketing budget.

8. Encourage readers to leave reviews and spread the word – A lot of authors have a section at the end of their books (I see this a lot with e-books especially) asking readers specifically to review their book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. if they enjoyed it. You could also just mention this when you do live events. Readers are more likely to leave reviews if you ask!

9. Think outside of the box – How can you make your book promotion fun for both you and your readers? Are there any unique products you can create based on the content of your book? Can you organize events that tie in with any sort of organization or cause related to the subject matter of your book? These are great questions to ask yourself when coming up with a marketing plan.

Other resources:

Sara Crawford is a writer and internet marketer from Atlanta, Georgia. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Her upcoming debut young adult novel is called WE OWN THE SKY. In addition to her writing blog, she maintains THE DAILY WRITER mailing list providing daily inspiration for writers.

You can visit Sara here: