Publishing Tips

How to Choose a title for your novel!

First, I would like to note that I usually find this to be an easy task. Or, at least, usually a title comes to me either before the book is written or while I am writing it. However, that’s not the case with the third book in the Mirror World series, which despite being nearly done the first draft, Murandy and I do not have a title for yet! And it’s soooo frustrating.

If you’re trying to figure out a title for your novel, here’s what usually works for me.

The title should be relevant to your story.
This can be something to do with where the story is set, with the theme, a line of dialogue, or the name or title of a character. What’s important is that your title ties into your book somehow. For example, Neo Central, is the name of the only remaining city in my first novel.

The title should be meaningful.frontMW1copy
At first, the title may only have meaning to you, the author, but at some point in the process of reading your novel, the reader should have an ‘ah-ha!’ moment where they understand the reason for your selection. This moment can happen as early as when they read the blurb on the back of your book, or as late as the last line, but there should be some connection made between the title and something within the story.

For example the title, Mirror’s Hope, is chalk-full of meaning. One character goes by the name of Mira and the other, Hope. It’s a romance. Also, there are parallel worlds called, Mirror Worlds, in which everyone has a double of themselves, called a Mirror. So the title has multiple meanings, just by being a play on words.

The title should be memorable.
Essentially this boils down to the title should stick in your potential readers’ minds. It should be short, catchy, possibly mysterious. Whatever you need to make sure whoever sees it will want to read it and remember it for later.

Uncover3The title should try and evoke a sense of genre.
Each genre comes with its own set of tropes and expectations. I’m not saying you have to abide by them, but if your title can evoke a sense of genre, your reader will more easily know what to expect and potential readers may be drawn to your novel more easily. To do this, research some titles in the genre you are reading and see if you can spot some patterns.

For example, Unintended, is a play on the word ‘intended’ which implies marriage in a historical or fantasy setting. Adding the ‘Un’ before it, implies comedy. At least I think so.

Your title should be as original as you can make it.
This is tough because a lot of names have already been taken. A good rule of thumb is to do some research and make sure that no other books, especially in your genre, have the same name. If you do end up with the same name as something else, it could cause problems or confusion down the road which is best to avoid.

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So as you can see, coming up with a good title is no simple matter! That’s why Murandy and I need your help! We’re going to be putting out a poll next week to help us choose the title for the next book in the Mirror World series. Stay tuned, or subscribe to this blog to be kept informed of developments!

Thanks for reading and good luck with your book titles!

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How to write a good blurb

Summarizing a 300+ page novel into a few paragraphs is hard and it’s not something that usually comes naturally to us novelists. It took me a lot experimentation to get good at it, but here’s how I learned to do it.

I read the backs of a whole pile of books, and then I emulated them, practicing narrowing my book’s crucial aspects into 2-3 paragraphs.

At least for fantasy/sci-fi there seems to be only a few styles when it comes to the blurb. But no matter what genre you write in, I recommend finding bestsellers within that genre and critically breaking down their blurbs to see what makes them so successful.

For our purposes, I’m going to break down the two most popular styles in sci-fi/fantasy that I’ve come across. The Plot-Oriented style and the Character-Oriented style.

The Plot Oriented Blurb

Example: Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another…

First, we have a powerful statement, a hook to draw the reader in. What makes this book interesting, what is it about?

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Next we have the time period (which tells us this is a historical piece, or a futuristic sci-fi if the year was 2750 instead), we have the main character’s name and identity, we have the inciting incident and we have the setting.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart.

A little more detail about the plot and subject matter of the book.

For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

And then we have the theme, and the last sentence drives the hook home so you want to pick the book up right away and read it.
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The Character-Oriented Blurb.

Example: Mirror’s Hope by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred.

Everything has a price…

The tagline

In a self-serving dystopian society, Mirena’s kind-hearted nature leaves her socially outcast. Daunted by the task of trying to initiate change herself, she tries desperately to conform to the expectations of the cruel society around her.

The setting, the main character and her identity/circumstance.

That is, until she meets Tendro… General to the Panarch’s armies and a rising star in government, no one expects Tendro Seynor to be the prophesied Avatar of the Light, but that’s exactly what he’s become. Alone, he doesn’t have the resolve necessary to follow the path destiny has set before him; but that all changes when meets Mirena and falls in love with her simple faith.

The secondary character and his identity/circumstance.

Brought together by fate, Mirena and Tendro must find a way to change their world for the better or risk the consequences of being on the wrong side of an all-powerful tyrant and his unforgiving Generals. Can they tip the balance of power in their world, or will the lengths they have to go get them in too deep to get back out again?

The inciting incident and a hint at the theme, while giving the hook.

If you’ll notice, all the same crucial aspects are present in both styles: the setting, the characters, the inciting incident, the theme and the hook. They’re just presented in a different order with a different aspect emphasized. As for which style is right to use for your book, it’s probably best to ask yourself, what is the most important aspect of your book? If your story is character-driven, maybe the character style. If it’s more about the setting or the plot, then maybe the plot-oriented style. You can always do what I do and write out a few options in each style until I find one I like.

Thanks for reading!

Have you written a blurb for your book? Share it in the comment section below!

 

Cover Design 101

Cover designer is one of those hats I didn’t expect to wear when I started Mirror World. At the time, I was fairly new to Photoshop and I’ve never considered myself to be an artist. But the most important part of designing a cover for a book is having a vision of what it should look like and being able to communicate that vision to create a final product, whether you end up making it yourself, or finding an artist or another cover designer to realize it for you.

So how is it done, then?

Step 1 – The Vision

As I read or write the book, I try to keep an eye out for a scene or for facets of the book that would make for a good cover image. For Unintended, for example, the scene on the cover is the from the end of the first chapter. It takes place after our main character Kenzie has just accidentally married someone other than her intended prince and looked back to realize that he’s left the symbol of their union, the white flowers, to be run over by a wagon wheel.

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“He was right behind them, hurrying to fall in step with the procession, the white-flowered wedding bracelet shredded where it lay discarded by the wheel of the carriage. As Kenzie watched, the carriage started moving again and the perfect white flowers she had so painstakingly woven together from a rare out of season patch in her homeland were crushed and forgotten.”

If the book is by another author, I usually ask them what they have in mind for the cover and their suggestions, even if they don’t have a full cover image in mind, will usually lead to me having some ideas.

 

Step 2 – The Concept

Once you have a vision of what the cover should look like, it’s time to start looking for concept images. These are images that represent parts of, or the whole of the vision you have in your mind. Keeping with Unintended’s cover, this involved finding a wheel, an example of the white flowers, the cobblestones, and a puddle with the reflection of a castle in it to give the fantasy feel. You want to find examples of the colours you want to use and the things that will appear in the image and get them as close to your vision as possible. It’s also helpful to gather passages from the book that describe the various elements you want to include, especially if you’ll be giving these things to an artist or designer to work from like we did with Unintended.

Step 3 – The Design

Now that you have your concept art, it’s time to put those ideas together and create a cover image. This can be done any number of ways. We have artists who paint, those who sketch, and digital artists, and then there’s also the method of using composite images. For the purpose of this blog, let’s say we’re using composite images. For Black Lightning, by K.S. Jones knew she wanted a certain scene from the novel, but she didn’t want to show her main character, Samuel’s, face. Out of the concept images, I found the ones that most closely described what we were looking for, and that I could blend together using Photoshop to create the image we needed.

Step 4 – The final image

Typically in step three, I will be working with low quality watermarked sample images and playing around with them until I get something that works well. If working with an artist, I’ll be seeing their rough work as they try and recreate what I’ve described to them. In this step though, the design has been agreed upon and approved by all parties, and now it’s a case of making the finished product using quality materials and attention to detail.

After that, you just need to add the font – which is of course another crucial design choice 😉

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Our Submissions are OPEN – Here’s what we’re looking for…

This is it. The moment you’ve been waiting for;our submissions are open once again!

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As a small independent publisher, what we’ve found works best for us is to open our submissions in the fall and leave them open until we’ve confirmed our new releases for the upcoming year. This year we’re looking for 3-5 titles to release in 2017 and we’ll keep accepting submissions until we find them.

So how do you submit to us? Well, it all starts here. On our website’s submissions page we list all the types of books we’re looking for and all the ones we absolutely will not be interested in. We also outline what to send us, where to send it, and how long you should expect to wait for a response. We’ve also included some helpful links to videos we’ve made to help you prepare your manuscript and submission package, not just for us, but for anywhere you choose to send it.

But what’s going to set your submission above the rest? What are we really looking for? Well, I’ll tell you.

Your Query Letter

When we receive a submission, the first thing we look at is your query letter. Typically this should be in the body of your email to us. What we’re looking for here is a sense of who you are and what your book is about. Your ability to write well matters even in your query letter because it is your first impression. We’re also looking for the following bits of information:

  • Your genre (or target audience)
  • Your word count (or scope of the project)
  • Your credentials (or writing history)
  • Your concept, what hooks your reader.

Your Synopsis

Next, we’re going to look at your synopsis. This should be no more than one page and is simply a way of introducing us to your story, your setting, your characters, and the plot. We’re looking to see if the story interests us, but we’re also trying to gauge your ability to tell a story and wrap it up effectively. We want to see how the story ends and we want to see your style as a writer. Please include:

  • Your setting
  • Your main characters
  • Your concept, what hooks your reader
  • Your major plot points
  • A satisfying conclusion

Your Sample Chapters

We ask you to send three chapters with your submission package. We’re looking specifically for an engaging opening. We want to be drawn into your story’s world immediately; We want to care about your main character and we want to be interested in what’s going to happen to them. In short, you need to hook us, your reader. Then, you need to hold our attention for three chapters. If you can do that, we’ll ask to see more. We’re looking for:

  • Your style, or ‘voice’ of your writing
  • Your inciting incident, (again, what hooks your reader)
  • Your writing ability (and level of polish)
  • Your world-building
  • The believability of your characters
  • How well you’ve realized the potential we detected in the query letter or synopsis.

If you receive a rejection letter from us:

There are a number of reasons that we might not want your manuscript and we will do our best to tell you exactly why that is. We strive to provide detailed notes for you so that you will be better prepared no matter what steps you choose to take next in your publishing journey. Keep in mind that publishing is a very subjective and selective business and that what doesn’t work for one publisher, may work well for another. Some of the common reasons we pass on a manuscript are as follows:

  • It’s not in our genre, or doesn’t fit with our current list of titles (see our collection here)
  • It’s not ready for publication and needs improvement of some kind
  • Something in it conflicts with our message or values (learn more about us, here)
  • It just didn’t interest or engage us
  • We ask for the full manuscript, but the story doesn’t realize the potential we see in the sample

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I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful and I look forward to reading your submissions!

Go to http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/submissions to get started!

 

Mirror World News: Publishing 101

2.ArtWORK.Oct16-350x226Adam Giles and I cover the basics of Publishing and your options as a writer with a finished manuscript in this episode of Mirror World News. Usually I provide a more in depth breakdown here on the blog to accompany the video, but this time I’ll be doing it in person on October 12th at the ArtSpeak Gallery in Windsor! There’s still time to register for this workshop on publishing and query-letter writing, through the Arts Council Windsor Region’s website acwr.net.

For now though, here’s the episode. Enjoy!