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August IWSG Today is a crazy busy day with the release of my book. Yes, it’s today!!!!! Here’s the link Ok, enough of that. The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover,Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery! August 1 question – What […]
What it’s really like to work with a Cover Designer
Ms. Friel, who designs covers for other authors, felt qualified to create her own. This is the original cover:
As you can see, it’s a decent cover. Certainly far above what many would finger as “amateur” work; nevertheless, the author decided it could use some revision.
TMS: So why did you feel the cover was not quite right?
However, when I looked on his website, I noticed that he offered a cover evaluation service for free. You send him your cover and he looks it over and tells you what is wrong (and right) with it. So, I sent in my cover and he sent me back a pdf outlining his thoughts on my design.
[Here’s a breakdown of what is in the evaluation: Taken from the from P.J.’s evaluation:
This review considers your cover using 5 different components – tone, relevance, attraction, interest and legibility (TRAIL). Each of those sections is scored out of 10, to give your book a final score out of 50.
In each category, she received a detailed description of the ideal cover and where her cover was off the mark. At the end was a summary of suggestions for improvements.]
TMS: Can you tell me a bit about what you thought wasn’t working with the previous version and what suggestions surprised you?
P.J: I knew the text was weak. I was fairly happy with the image itself and he gave me decent marks on that. Overall, I got a score of 23/50. I got a 6/10 for tone. Tone is basically genre.
TMS: Ah. We talked about that. Yours was less gritty
P.J: Yes. For Relevance I scored 8/10…the cover matched the content of the book based on the blurb I sent him. (No Egyptian pyramids on my Norse mythology paranormal romance.)
My cover scored 3/10 for attraction. He didn’t feel that it was very eye catching for readers.
TMS: Really? I would disagree. I found it very eye catching
P.J: I did too…until I saw his.
P.J: Interest score was 4/10. Interest is just how visually interesting the cover is. He mentioned her eye being interesting, but that was about it.
Legibility was a huge fail. I got 2/10. That’s my font choices and use of drop shadows and the bokeh behind “wyrd.” He dinged me hard for all that and I deserved it.
TMS: Text is so hard. I find it’s the “tell” for amateur titles.
P.J: Totally is. And it’s my weak spot. After the scoring, he gave me recommendations on how to fix the cover and showed me several well done covers in my genre.
TMS: Holy crap. He does that for FREE?
P.J: Just the consulting. Not the improvements.
TMS: Right. Still, that’s pretty sweet
P.J: I was going to fix the cover myself, but then I saw where he also offered a service to update a cover instead of designing one from scratch. I asked for a quote and he came back with price I could afford, so I went for it. The difference he made in my cover was impressive. I think he could probably make just about any cover look better.
TMS: Did you have multiple revisions or was it one pass?
P.J: We only did one pass on mine. He sent me a mock up and I asked for one small change. He fixed that and then I was completely satisfied. He sent me an invoice via PayPal. I paid and received my final covers. He also answered my questions about what fonts he used on my title so I could purchase those same fonts to use with any marketing I do.
TMS: Sounds pretty painless
P.J: Completely painless and very quick, too. My experience was 100% positive. I couldn’t be happier.
TMS: Probably makes a difference going with someone with a solid reputation as opposed to hiring some random person off Fiverr
P.J: Absolutely. Damonza is a true professional, offering a valuable and very business savvy service. His free cover consulting led to me ultimately paying for his services and it created a win-win for both of us. If you or your readers are interested, the starting price for his cover improvements service is $95 and prices go up from there.
The link for the cover consulting is:
And here’s the link for his cover improvements service:
Here’s the final result for PJ’s cover:
TMS: Wow. That’s awesome.
P.J: Thanks! I’m absolutely thrilled with it.
Thanks for sharing you experience, P.J. Best of luck with A Twist of Wyrd.
To celebrate her new cover, the book is being offered for free on Amazon until the July 29. Grab your copy today!
*this article was not sponsored by Damonza, we’re genuine fans.
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This week I was working with a friend who was considering a professional line edit and wanted my opinion if the cost was worth it. Normally, I encourage anyone who wants to hire an editor, but in this case, I said no. The reason: a line edit wouldn’t have fixed the real issue. The problems with the sample scene were structural.
What is a structural problem?
The structure of the scene is the logical progression of meaningful moments that creates an event in a story. Sounds simple enough, but many writers interpret this to mean “a list of what happened during a specific time in the character’s life.” The problem with this approach is two-fold: first, the moments included in the scene aren’t meaningful, and second, info-dumping on the reader.
These include little life moments with no effect on the plot: waking up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc. Writers include these because they happened, but they only pad the story with useless filler. These moments don’t have a defined purpose. Cut these bits without mercy!
Info-dumping (or the magic fix-it scene) is more difficult to identify and fix. This is one place where “show, don’t tell” gets writers into trouble by creating dead-dull, convoluted scenes.
Types of info-dumping scenes
- Character building scene– this is the scene that exists purely to “show” the reader some aspect of the character’s personality. (Your normally bad-ass UF heroine spends five pages playing with her dog so she can be more “likable,” for example?)
- World building scene– This is a scene that exists purely to “show” the reader some aspect of the world building. There is no reason for the character to sit at her desk and think through all the reasons her government is corrupt. If it doesn’t cause her to do something, then it’s info-dumping.
- Backstory– This is the most difficult for writers to identify and fix. This scene happens at or near the beginning of the story. (Every have a beta tell you your story begins in the wrong place?) In this version, the writer intends to “show” the critical event that started the character’s journey. Normally, this would be the correct choice, but in this scenario the character did not have agency (the ability to effect change in their story). This lack of agency or choice means the event really belongs in the character’s backstory.
Let’s look at a few scenarios:
A lottery winner becomes disillusioned with her new life
You may be tempted to show the scene where she sees the numbers flash up on the screen one-by-one and she realizes her life is about to change forever. The problem with this scene is that the character is passive through the entire sequence. She doesn’t have a choice to make, so there’s no tension. Unless there is a reason she might not choose to cash in that ticket, the story actually begins after she’s settled in her new life.
Hiker gets trapped on the mountain
We don’t need a scene showing her packing for the trip, or even her deciding to go. The story begins with her choice to go despite the bad weather report.
Two teens escape from post-apocalyptic work camp
We don’t need to see what led up to their arrest.
In these scenarios, the opening doesn’t effect the outcome. On the surface, that statement seems false, but the distinction is the lack of agency and conflict. In the first two scenarios, there’s no conflict. The character didn’t make a decision, so the entire scene does nothing except relay information to the reader. In the last scenario, the chain of causation is broken by the arrest. The girls want to escape from prison, the reason they got there is irrelevant to the goal. In all three scenarios, the beginning scenes are actually backstory.
How to tell if your scene is necessary
If you are still not sure, Jami Gold’s scene goal worksheet can help you evaluate wether you are heading in the right direction.
In her worksheet, she states that a scene must have one of the following: plot point, character goal, action to advance plot, action to increase the tension/stakes. I’m going to edit this slightly and suggest that every scene must have a character goal, which results in: a plot point, an action to advance plot, or an action to increase the tension/stakes.
Jami lists several secondary goals on her chart such as characterization, world building, etc. These cannot be the primary purpose of your scene. If they are, your scene will not engage the readers. Editors will tell you that these elements should be “sprinkled in” other scenes. These types of scenes do nothing to move the action forward. This is why they are considered info-dumping. Even showing can be info-dumping. Scenes must have story-driven goals.
Structuring a scene
Make sure your scenes have these components: (or download my scene planning worksheet)
- Beginning: The POV character needs to have a goal
- What does your main character want at the beginning of the scene?
- What will happen if she doesn’t get it? (stakes)
- What does she do to achieve this goal?
- What stands in her way? Show this conflict
- End: Results
- The character wins, but the solution causes a new problem (advance plot)
- The character loses and the situation is worse because… (increase stakes)
Let’s look at an example:
Beginning: Dorothy wants to go back to Kansas (goal) Never see her family again (stakes)
Middle: She asks the wizard to help her (action to achieve goal) Wizard is a jerk and doesn’t want to help. (conflict)
End: Wizard agrees to help, (win) but only if Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch (new problem, advances plot)
All three components must occur to create a cohesive narrative that tells the story of an event. The event must change something. Either it changes the character’s goal (advance plot), or it increases the tension (stakes). If your scene does not tell a cohesive narrative, then it likely isn’t working.
The structure of every scene should be designed to tell the story of that scene’s goal. A scene that changes nothing, but only relays information to the reader, is info-dumping. Don’t fall into this trap. Scenes are miniature stories. Make sure you structure yours properly.
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