Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Production Prep Begins Before You Write the First Line!


After turning in a manuscript to my editor several months ago and having it approved, I moved on to other projects while awaiting more details about the publishing schedule. When my contact from the editorial office emailed me last week requesting cover art information and other items needed for front and back matter, that book was the very last thing on my mind!

And she wanted everything returned to her within one week’s time!

Okay, I told myself. It’s not like I was in the middle of anything pressing—if you don’t count the Christmas season, having our daughter’s family of six living with us temporarily, and everyone in the house getting over colds. Not to mention I still hadn’t settled on my blog topic for today!

But deadlines are deadlines. It was time to put everything else aside, pull up the manuscript files, and start filling out all those information forms.

Then . . . 

Pleasant surprise . . . 

Brilliant person that I am, I discovered I had already gathered many of the details I would need, including representative character and setting photos, applicable scripture verses, and important bits of description. Now, all I had to do was insert everything I’d already collected into its proper place on the editorial forms and then fill in any missing pieces.

Whew!!!

The moral of this tale? Plan ahead! The very best time to begin collecting anything relevant to the production of your book is while you are writing it


So what are some ways to do that?

Character photos. In the earliest planning stages of a new book, I’m already getting ideas for what the central characters look like. One of my favorite sources of character inspiration (physical description, mannerisms, etc.) is the Hallmark Movie Channel. Those actors just generally seem more down-to-earth and believable. Sometimes I recall particular actors from the movies I’ve watched and can look them up on the Hallmark Channel website. Other times, I just go to the site and scroll through the movie images looking for close matches to the characters I’ve already started picturing in my head.

Once I’ve cast my characters, I create a computer folder and download several photos, looking for a variety of poses and attire that in any way fit my story. I’ve also started creating secret Pinterest boards where I save anything relevant to a particular work-in-progress. Since I write in Scrivener, I copy my favorite images into the character files there for quick reference. 

Setting details. Just as with character images, I keep an eye out for pictures that could represent the characters’ homes, workplaces, etc. These images will also be saved to Scrivener and the appropriate Pinterest board. No matter how vividly I’ve described a scene in my manuscript, when it comes to helping the art department create a cover that suits the story, a well-chosen picture is definitely worth a thousand words!

Alternate title ideas. My editors typically ask for several additional title possibilities, so as the story begins to take shape and the strongest hooks reveal themselves, I can start my alternate title list. A tool I’ve been working on to help brainstorm titles is an Excel spreadsheet with four columns of title buzzwords I’ve been collecting based on popular romance hooks. As I come across interesting new title words, I add them to the appropriate word list. Then, to create a title, just mix and match! Here’s a screenshot showing the first several rows:


Quotes and scripture references. When any meaningful quotations or Bible verses inspire an aspect of my story or are referenced in a scene, I add them to a folder in my Scrivener project. One of these quotes may be just right for front matter in the published book or as part of the back-cover blurb. My list may include scripture, verses from old favorite hymns, snippets of poetry, or quotations from famous people.

Dedication and acknowledgements. Early on, I start thinking about friends, family members, or other important people in my life who may have inspired the book in some way or otherwise contributed to its development. Perhaps someone answered research questions or supplied important information during the course of writing the book. As those names come to me, I add them to my front/back matter notes.

Author’s note. For historical novels or any story requiring extensive research, it’s helpful to include a section at the end of the book offering interesting details and deeper insights about places and events referenced in the novel. My research folder in Scrivener has all the information right there for me to sift through and refer back to as I draft my author’s note.

Back cover blurb. While the publisher doesn’t always use my version of the back cover blurb, I’m usually asked to provide a couple of paragraphs along with a short, catchy lead-in. For this, I can usually refer back to what I created for the initial proposal. Some plot and/or character details may have changed since then, but the central concept should still be intact and gives me a starting point for a more relevant tag line and blurb.

Join the conversation! What other pre-pub prep work do you consciously fit into your writing routine? Do you have a system that helps you keep everything organized and ready when you need it?

Since it’s almost Christmas, today I’m offering three giveaways! Winners can choose any one of my three Christmas stories: One Imperfect Christmas, Rancher for the Holidays, or my Christmas novella, Designs on Love (originally part of the Seekers’ Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection). Print copy OR ebook to U.S. residents; ebook only if you live outside the U.S. (but you must be able to receive a Kindle ebook gift). Please mention in your comment if you’d like to be entered in the drawing AND which book(s) and formats you would like to win.


About Myra: Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards and winner of Christian Retailing’s Best for historical fiction. Originally from Texas but now residing in the beautiful Carolinas, Myra and her husband love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with with two very pampered doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.” They’re also currently harboring their younger daughter and family (six in all plus a kitty!) as they transition toward their next missionary calling. With grandkids underfoot ranging in age from 14 down to nearly 3, there’s never a dull moment! 



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120 comments :

  1. Oh, my goodness, is this a good lesson. I didn't learn this one until my sixth book. Duh, on me. Now I start a Pinterest page right away. Think of blurbs when I pitch the proposal and make notes of everything I will need for the "book matter." It's a huge sanity saver.

    I'd love to hear everyone else's ideas on the topic.

    BTW as far as titles, all you LIH authors..Keli Gwyn has a listing of all LIH titles on her web page. Great, great resource!

    Do not wait until the last minute to think about titles either..if you write for LI. Start jotting them down.

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    1. Thanks for the tip about Keli's title list! Sounds a lot easier than paging through the titles on the LI website.

      And it really doesn't matter which publisher you write for. Most of these details will be needed with any publisher--or even if you self-publish!

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  2. Stealing that...I mean, borrowing that spread sheet and printing it out too!!! THANK YOU!

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    1. Happy to send the Excel file to anyone who would like to have it. Just email me privately.

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    2. Send to me!!!!! Hand raised high in the air.

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    3. Your wish is my command!

      Just don't get used it it--LOL!

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  3. SUPER post, Myra.
    Thank you. It's so nicely organized too. YAY!

    Speaking for myself... Finally had to delete my Pinterest account. Just too much of a time suck. ;) But I do have a computer file with a variety of folders including the ones you mention here.

    I use the Snowflake Method quite a bit in the planning stages so that helps me know what I need to do.

    Among the files are photos of setting and characters, maps, ancillary research, whatever I use to formulate ideas. Might have to search thru for what I need again, but at least I know where to start.

    SUPER spread sheet there. This is definitely a keeper. Hope the colds have abated. So much is going around these days.

    Merrrrry Christmas everyone!

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    1. KC, sounds like you have a workable system in place! Yes, half the battle is knowing where to find what you need.

      We're all doing much better at my house this week. Thanks for asking!

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  4. Hi Myra:

    I couldn't agree more with your post today! As a plotter, planning is what I do. I also depend on Scrivener for photos and research files and just about everything else.

    I write the blurbs first and sample titles. I even write the last chapter so I know that if I can get there I will have a 'stand up and cheer' ending. That ending acts as a bonfire at the top of a mountain. It fires hope and shows me there is a way home even from the deepest sagging valley!

    Also, along the lines of Janice Hardy's post on "Three Ways to Make Your Writing Come Alive", I do a marketing 'punch up' to build the most marketing power into the story up front before I write the first word. For example: is the location the best from a marketing POV? Do many people find that location inviting? Have millions visited there (like the Grand Canyon)? Are there any interesting events going on in the area (like a hot air balloon festival)? Do the characters have popular hobbies or outdoor interests? Are there any adorable pets? Will the read gain access to any exclusive places?

    I call all the above 'marketing vitamins'. It is also marketing smart to have your story be interesting in its particulars -- even without the romance. But then I'm a marketing guy first. : )

    I have all your books so please let someone who does not have them win!

    Merry Christmas!

    Vince

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    1. You have excellent marketing strategies, Vince! I'm learning with my Love Inspired proposals to think along those lines even more than before. Hooks have taken on new meaning for me!

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  5. Myra, U remember when you spoke at my local ACFW chapter in Oklahoma. Conference notebook- you were so organized! I'm not at all surprised that you still are. These are some wonderful tips. Thank you for sharing.

    I'd love a print copy of Rancher for the Holidays.

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Oh, yes, the conference notebook! Thanks for remembering, Terri! I do like organization, which is crazy because I am absolutely a seat-of-the-pants writer--or would prefer to be, if not for having to come up with a halfway coherent synopsis as part of a book proposal. I try to keep those just vague enough to allow some wiggle room.

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  6. Wow, Myra, you authors have a lot to keep track of! It sure sounds like it pays to be organized and to hang onto your research and notes! I'd love to be included for any of your stories, thank you!

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    1. Oh yes, nothing gets tossed! Because if I let anything go, THAT one thing would be exactly what I should have held on to!

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  7. Great post Myra! Your spreadsheet is definitely a winner. It's good to see what all goes into the 'finishing touches' for an author. I always wondered who wrote the back cover blurb.

    I would love to be entered for a print copy of One Imperfect Christmas and Rancher for the Holidays. Thank you for your generosity.

    May you and everyone have a blessed week.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Hi, Cindy! It was certainly an eye-opener for me to discover everything ELSE I needed to provide my publisher besides the actual manuscript. I'm almost glad I didn't grasp all this before my first book was accepted, or I might have been too intimidated! But in the end, it's all worth it!

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  8. Great post, Myra! I bet your house is spotless! :)
    I learned quickly that there's so much more involved than just writing the book. Private Pinterest pages are a good way for me to keep track of characters, settings, etc. This is a terrific reference...thanks!

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    1. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! What alternate universe are you living in, Jill???? My house isn't "spotless" on a good day. And with our daughter's family of 6 living with us for a few months, some days I can't even see the floor!

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  9. This is definitely the way to go, MYRA! I do this, too. I was blindsided with my first book or two, so had to figure out a way to tone down the last-minute "crazy." :)

    In addition to character, setting and scene photos, I acquire alternate titles and I also write a 500-word synopsis (Love Inspired always requests that), prep a couple of 1 and 2-line "hook" sentences (which they also want), and a sentence they require for "what is the story REALLY about" -- this is where knowing your story's moral premise comes in handy. Verses, of course, and the "Dear Reader" letter, as well.

    Up until a couple of years ago, we also had to write 15 'Questions for Discussion' to put at the back of the book, but LI's done away with that now. I know some readers really miss those.

    Especially if any of you are hoping to write for Love Inspired, make sure you print Myra's post to file as a KEEPER--you'll need it!

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    1. Oh yes, every word true, Glynna! I need to print out my own post to refer to for my NEXT LI book (for which I was just given the go-ahead)!

      I'm actually relieved about not having to come up with the discussion questions. Sorry readers miss them, but those take time and brain power to think up! :)

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  10. Great info, Myra. You are so organized. Thanks for the tip about using Hallmark actors. I love the movies, and you're right about the actors being more down-to-earth than other media stars. I go to images of soap opera stars whose photos are usually a bit too glam. Will switch to Hallmark for character inspiration.

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    1. Right, Debby, and with the plethora of sappy Hallmark Christmas movies on right now, there are oodles of interesting character types to choose from!

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  11. Love Inspired Suspense asks for two cover ideas without people and one with. I try to envision those covers early on and refer to them, at least in my mind's eye, as I write the story.

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    1. Interesting. Love Inspired romances want two cover ideas WITH people and one without!

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  12. Hi Myra, I had faith in you. You always seem so organized!
    Jill, I also use private Pinterest pages for characters and settings. It's so easy to get to my pictures and doesn't take up memory on my laptop.
    Thanks for a great post, Myra! I'll try to improve my organization skills. Thanks also for the tip on Hallmark actors.

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    1. Just dying laughing here at all the comments about how "organized" I am. I am SOOOOO glad y'all can't see my house these days!!!

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    2. I use private Pinterest pages too, for characters and locales my characters might visit. What they wear, drive and are interested in. :) I almost mentioned this in my comment. :)

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    3. All great ideas for using Pinterest, Jeanne! What did we ever do without it?

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  13. This is a great post. I printed it out. Now to apply it to what I do when I am writing.

    Christmas is always a busy time. Enjoy your time with family.

    I would love a print copy of either One Imperfect Christmas or Designs on Love.

    I love how organized you are.

    Have a great day everyone!

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    1. Thanks, Wilani! Yes, I am enjoying having our daughter and family here, even with all the confusion. Having an almost-3-year-old climb into your lap for snuggle time puts so many things back into perspective.

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  14. Good morning, Myra! Thank you for a wonderful post. I'm so glad I woke up a little earlier this morning and was able to visit Seekerville before work. With the end of the semester and grading exams, plus getting ready for my daughter's family to arrive for the holidays, I've missed a few posts lately (I plan to go back and read them over Christmas Break), but I'm so happy I didn't miss this one. I love all the tips, but I especially like the spreadsheet idea for brainstorming additional title choices. I never would have thought of that!

    Waving from Alabama! Wishing you all a wonderful day!!

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    1. Hi, Rhonda! Glad you like my title brainstorming spreadsheet. I used it to come up with about eight additional title ideas my editor requested for my upcoming LI romance, and she actually settled on one that came very, very close to one of my suggestions! So I didn't have to go back to the drawing board!!! WHEW!!!

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  15. Good morning Seekerville.

    Myra, I'm disorganized.

    I have many of the things you mention, including pictures and cover ideas, but they're not in the same place. And being that I'm not published, I don't have a whole lot of manuscripts to keep up with.
    I keep a tri-fold display board w/all my characters and a few setting pics in my dining room where I write. I had planned to add a detailed timeline, but never got around to it. Again, disorganized.

    Thanks for all the great ideas.

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    1. Connie, it's never too late to change--LOL! I do like your trifold display with characters and settings, though. Nice to have a visual aid right in front of you while writing. It really helps!

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  16. Good morning, Seekerville! Just having my eye-opening first cups of Earl Grey and getting organized for the day. Keep the conversation going and I'll be back shortly to catch up--when I'm NOT trying to type on a teensy keyboard!!!!

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  17. Hi Myra,
    Wow, with a house full of littles, what a fun Christmas you are going to have!
    I'd love to have a kindle version of Rancher for the Holidays, I had it on my TBR list last year but somehow it slipped by me.
    Christmas blessings to you and your family!

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    1. It'll be a wild and crazy Christmas, that's for sure! The kids already have piles of wrapped gifts under the tree--mostly stuff they've made for each other. The stockings are filling up, too--I have no idea what with!

      I still need to figure out some shopping and gifts. Way, way, WAY behind!

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  18. Hi, Myra!

    What a great post! Thank you for all the helpful tips!

    Hope you are having a wonderful December. It's snowing here!

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    1. Oh no! Just keep the snow up there, okay? I'm voting for a warm and sunny Christmas! Unfortunately, it's not working out that way so far.

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  19. Myra, I am beyond impressed with how organised you are concerning your book details! I am not an author of books but I find that jotting down scripture and inspirational thoughts helps me in my writing of notes and cards to people who can use encouragement. I also teach Sunday School and I often have object lessons for children's church so keeping track of thoughts and ideas helps tremendously. I would love to be entered for a chance to read Rancher for the Holidays and I prefer a print copy.
    Thank you and Merry Christmas!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Connie, great ideas to jot notes and collect inspirational ideas for your cards and Sunday school classes. So much easier than racking our brains when we need something at the very last minute!

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  20. You make me feel like a sluggard, Myra, but they're such great tips. I do keep a Pinterest board and have my characters picked out. Great info on the need for multiple titles!

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    1. Hi, Sandy! Hey, we do what we have to do, and a lot of it is learning the hard way. ;-D

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    1. Hey!!!! My sweet granddaughter and budding author/artist!!! Welcome to Seekerville!!!

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    2. I'm reading your One ImPerfect Christmas book. It's good.

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  22. Good morning, Myra and Seekerville. This morning I am thankful for Seekerville and authors. You do so much behind the scenes to get a book into my greedy little hands that as a reader I would never have even thought of before I came to Seekerville. I loved your One I perfect Christmas. I'd like to win either of the other two in paperback. I'm glad you're feeling better at your house

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    1. Hi, Marianne! Yes, there's a huge, long process involved in getting a book from the computer file into published form. But in the end, it's all about the readers, and we appreciate you sooooo much!

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  23. Great info Myra I think this info is going to become even more important as the indie publishing grows. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. I think you're right, Sandra! Indie publishing involves all this and more!

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  24. Interesting info, Myra. I love learning about the whole publication process. I've often wondered who writes the back blurb -- you mentioned that the author has to send in a couple of paragraphs but the publisher doesn't always use that so who does end up writing that back blurb?

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    1. Kav, sometimes we don't know what the blurb is going to say until the book lands on our doorstep! I'm sure the people in the editorial office mull over our synopses, brief summaries, etc., and then use those to come up with what they believe will make the strongest "sales pitch" on the back cover.

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  25. Wow! Thank you, MYRA! Another fabulous post to bookmark! This is great. :-)

    I, too, use Pinterest boards for character traits, story worlds, and specific book ideas. Game changer! Since we can designate "secret" boards, the sky's the limit as far as our creativity. Literally TONS of visual aids for our characters, where they live, what they wear, etc.

    Thank you, also, for specifics and timeline recommendations BEFORE we write. Tremendous help!

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    1. You're welcome, Cynthia! I'm still getting used to using Pinterest, but the secret boards are great! I can save all kinds of images without worrying about taking up extra space on my hard drive. Then, when it's time to find pix for my publisher's art department, I can choose the best ones and download them.

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  26. MYRA, you've given us wonderful tips that prepare authors to fill out the Art Fact's Sheet! I work on the Front Matter as I write the proposal, but usually come up with only one title. I love how you use buzzwords to come up with more.

    Thanks for the great idea to look for photos of our heroes and heroines on the Hallmark movie channel website.

    As a Love Inspired author, I'm asked to describe scenes for three people covers. When I'm writing the book, I think about the scenes that will best fit the cover. I also must find clothing that fits the time period so I can describe the clothes correctly. I save the photos in a file. I need to try using a secret Pinterest board like you do.

    It's also helpful to decide on the theme of the story as I'm writing so filling out the keywords on the Art Fact Sheet will be easier.

    Janet

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    1. Yes, the keywords choices can be intimidating! It takes some time and thought to sift through the list Love Inspired provides to choose the most fitting categories.

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    2. Hi Myra:

      About 'keywords': if you know who the best prospects are for your story and what they like best in your particular theme, then the keywords should be those that will best attract their favorable attention.

      Just as in all marketing, the key to success comes down to knowing, really knowing, who your customers are and what they like most in a romance. How do you learn this? You ask them, again and again. Sometimes even the customers don't know this until you ask them. For example: I find your horse stories to be the most satisfying romances I've read in years. Any idea what should go on their cover art?

      Vince

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  27. Hi Janet:

    When thinking of a scene for the cover art, I like the idea of picking a scene in which the reader looks most forward to in that given theme: like when the hero finally discovers that the 'hidden' child is his. Of course, in some themes like 'runaway brides' (I love runaway brides!) the bride needs to be shown running! I remember one cover where the bride was wearing sneakers! That's a bride with a Plan B!

    It also helps to show a scene that you believe the reader would love to step into and become a part of the story. Serene and beautiful locations have to be show! If the story is set at the Grand Canyon or Lake Powell, these should be shown in all their majesty.

    If the reader looks at the cover art and says out loud "I want to be there", you have them hooked. All you have to do is reel them in! : )

    Vince

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    1. Hi Myra:

      Here's a marketing suggestion:

      Think of the title of the book as a headline in an advertisement. Also think about how many potential customers will first learn about your book by seeing the title alone. Your title might be mentioned in a review of another book. It might be listed as an affinity book in the search for a different title. It might appear in a blog or newspaper story. In other words, the title should act to sell your book and not simply serve as something that's 'cute'.

      Job of a headline:

      1. attract the favorable attention of the best prospects. (You simply have to get all the 'low hanging' fruit). These are the readers who, if they only knew what your book was about, would buy it.

      Did you know Mark Twain's books were first sold as subscriptions? Salesmen sold the books door to door with a prospectus before they were published. His titles had to have sell in them. "Life on the Mississippi", "A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's Court", "Innocents Abroad", etc. No "The Sun Also Rises" or "For Whom the Bells Toll" for him. Twain was a marketing machine on his own -- from his white suits to his hilarious lectures. :)

      My motto: "Give the marketing department something to work with!"

      Vince


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    2. MYRA!! I LOVE this post!! :) Seriously, this is a goldmine of information and it's going to the very front of my Keeper File!
      I finally decided a while back that I'm apparently missing the "organized gene" LOL - - I'm hopelessly disorganized - - no matter how hard I try. So I really admire authors such as you who seem to be SO organized and able to retrieve whatever you need. I finally started using good ol' fashioned file folders for each manuscript I write. Additionally I have specific folders containing character info., descriptive phrases, etc. (a different folder for each topic). Using these folders has been a BIG help for me, although I still tend to jot ideas and notes to myself on random post-it notes, which soon become buried underneath assorted items on my desk. *sigh* Maybe 2017 will be my year to finally become organized....but then again, I'm not holding my breath, LOL. ;)
      Thank you again for sharing this awesome post. I do hope you and your family are over those colds - - such a miserable feeling. :( Setting out some Christmas sugar cookies to enjoy today! Holiday Hugs, Patti Jo

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    3. Yum--thanks for the Christmas cookies, Patti Jo!

      In the "olden days," I used three-ring binders for each book ms., with dividers for characters, settings, research notes, etc. Really, really glad computers now make the job of organizing so much easier!

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    4. VINCE, You make an excellent point that the cover needs to portray a scene the reader would want to step into and become part of the story. I think The Bounty Hunter's Redemption's cover with the hero teaching the heroine's small boy to ride a horse works for that very reason. Kids and horses and heroes are hooks for romance readers.

      Janet

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    5. Hi Janet:

      You're right. I think that is a perfect cover. It's clear to the reader what is going on and better yet, the cover comes true in the story.

      And yet there is the pure 'highly emotional' cover like my favorite of yours, "Courting Miss Adelaide," which I love because I want to jump into the story and steal her away from the hero. Of course, I'm not sure this brand of emotionalism will work for women readers! : )

      Adelaide is the type of heroine who could launch a thousands love letters!

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    6. Adelaide's cover has always been one of my favorites, Janet--just beautiful!!!

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  28. Hi Myra:

    Writers sometimes want to know how can one write the blurbs -- to say nothing of writing the last chapter -- first!

    It's easy from a marketing POV. If you're going to write a MOC story, for example, then write the kind of blurb that would entice you to buy such a book today if you read it in Wal-Mart.

    Actually writing a great blurb first acts as a goal. In reality, pantsers have the advantage in doing this. Make the blurb come true. As for the last chapter, all options are still open if you write it first! Too many pantsers get locked in by closing options as they progress and wind up with unsatisfactory, 'the best I could do,' endings. (Tony Hillerman would just give up and start a new book!) Some writers even run out of their word quota and have to do a 'hurry up' ending. I hate these!

    Some writers will rewrite the first chapter thirty times to best sell the book. Why not take the same trouble to sell your next book? That's the job of the last chapter. If you have a great last chapter -- and writers know what this is when they see it -- then a good pantser should be able to work the story to that last chapter.

    Pantsers have the great advantage because it does not matter how they get to that last chapter as long as they get there in a rewarding and entertaining way. : )

    This is why I am always working on my pantser exercises. It's a great skill to have.

    Vince

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    1. Yes, but . . . it's not that easy to "see" the last chapter until I have envisioned (and written!) the steps to get there! At least beyond knowing it will be a happily-ever-after for the hero and heroine!

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    2. Hi Myra:

      I agree that it might be hard to 'see' the last chapter up front but then the written last chapter is like a beacon showing a writer the way home. You don't have to be able to read a newspaper by the light of a lighthouse. So too, the last chapter is never set in stone. Everything is subject to change. If you can make the great last chapter even better, then glory be!!!

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    3. But the thing is, I write chronologically. Each scene leads me to the next. The last chapter is never written until I get there, so I just have to go on faith. :)

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  29. Myra, I had the same thing happen a few months ago. I was in the throes of deadline dementia and received a request for all the things you mentioned above. I was never so glad to have all the information I needed all in one place in my Scrivener files. Pictures of my characters, the plantation home, secondary characters, descriptions of the area, links, etc.

    I need to work on my “system”, especially in the dedication, acknowledgments and author notes.

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    1. Isn't it a blessing to discover we've already done a lot of the prep work? Better than being caught off-guard!

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  30. Great list! I'm just starting to work on a new project, so this will be helpful.
    I don't have Scrivner, and I'm not familiar with it, so I just use my Microsoft programs. I build files with different notes, pictures, etc. I have character interview forms, research notes, pictures saved, and I also use OneNote to keep track of virtual sticky notes. Pinterest has also been super helpful. I create a "secret" board with my WIP, and I can usually make it public closer to the time of book release to add more fun stuff for readers to check out.

    PS, love the cover for Designs on Love!

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    1. Amber, it's great that you already have some systems in place for collecting what you need. I've heard a lot of writers rave about OneNote.

      Glad you like my cover! It was fun creating it!

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  31. Myra, what a great list of things we can prep while writing that first draft! I love it. I actually looked up homes on an MLS in the area where one of my characters lives and took screen shots so I could envision what the home looked like. It was fun to look at virtual tours in homes, and also to imagine how my characters would interact in those spaces.

    Like you, I also write down people who help me in one way or another so I can remember them in the acknowledgements.

    PS—I love Scrivener. :)

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    1. What a great idea, Jeanne! We can go "house shopping" online for the perfect home for our characters! It's a lot easier writing description when you have photos to go by.

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  32. wow. This is a great post for succeeding with the proverbial 'boy scout' motto of always be prepared. I'm continually amazed at all the extra stuff that comes along with having one's book published. almost overwhelming. Thank goodness for you Ladies here at Seekerville to provide the heads up. I'm keeping in mind all the nifty ways you've developed to have the things you need for the publishing house.

    I would love to be entered for a chance to read Rancher for the Holidays. Either print or Kindle version - whichever is easiest for you.

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    1. That's what we're here for, Deb, to pave the way--or maybe I should say "smooth the waters"--for other writers getting ready to sail off the Island.

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  33. Great post Myra! I am so reliant onPinterest! Also I try to keep a character chart up top on my MS as I am working. Even then, filling in those forms can get tricky!

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    1. So true, Carrie! I'm really glad I discovered how easy it is to save images to Pinterest, especially on secret boards for my wips. (Autocorrect wanted to change that to "hips." Um, NOT!)

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  34. Such an informative post, Myra. Thank you. I also have secret boards on Pinterest where I store photos of characters, setting, and anything that gives me a feel for my story.

    I don't have scrivener and I downloaded a free trial but it seems overwhelming to use, so I create a folder with a blurb and overview/outline but I'm definitely going to use the other ideas you posted!

    I actually make a mock cover for each new book using Canva which I really enjoy doing!

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    1. Josee, you're right--Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve. But now that I've grown familiar with it, I can't imagine writing any other way!

      Making mock covers--fun! I love playing in Canva and PhotoShop. It's often my escape whenever I need a short break from writing.

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    2. JOSEE, I love the idea of making mock up covers! Another reason to get more proficient with Canva.

      Janet

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  35. Great post! I never put much thought to it, but I tend to (when I am in a stuck spot in my story or am bored with what I am writing) write things like my acknowledgements, dedication, etc. The back blurb is a little more difficult. I write and rewrite it (which gets very frustrating) so many times because I have no editor to fix it up for me. No, writing it falls solely on my shoulders and I am determined that it must be absolutely perfect, and perfection is hard to achieve. Espessially when you need to tell the plot of a complex 300 page+ story in less than 300 words.

    I do like to fiddle around and try to find pictures of my characters, but I rarely succeed, and I doubt Hallmark actors would work for my characters! Haha (just imagining a Hallmark actor pretending to be a teenager in the setting of a fantasy world)

    Also, I finally did it! I finally got my second book A Time of Trepidation, Pirates, and Lost Princesses published. It went up on Amazon a few days ago. Eeek!

    Please enter my name for the PB of Rancher for the Holidays.

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    1. Nicky, you're doing great thinking through these things as you go. You may be taking a break from the actual writing, but you're still being productive--and working on other book-related things can sometimes get your imagination firing again!

      Congratulations on releasing your book!

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  36. Thank you Myra for this wonderful post. I'm so glad that you mentioned the Hallmark Channel website. I visited it after I read your article and I bookmarked it for future reference. You have included so much helpful info that I saved it to Evernote for further study. Please enter me in the drawing for "Rancher for the Holidays" in either format. Whatever is easiest for you.

    Theresa

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    1. Glad to be of help, Theresa! Evernote is really handy, isn't it?

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  37. Someday soon I will go to Unpublished Island and rent a hut and learn Scrivener. I have invested $$ in classes and the software, so it's silly not to.

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    1. Um, yes, Tina. Get cracking on that, will you? In your spare time. ;-D

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    2. Hi Tina:

      A great way to get a quick and very useable knowledge of Scrivener would be to be at a conference with someone who uses it to write. Maybe you could be roommates. Make a list ahead of time of what you'd like to do in Scrivener and have the user show you how to do just those things. I don't think you need to know 80% of what Scrivener can do. You just need to know what you need to know and little else -- until you need something else. I believe that you could learn most of what you need in an hour or two if someone simply showed you how to do those things and then watched you do them. I hope you can do this some day. You go to conferences to learn. It's a match!

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    3. That's probably very, very, true, Vince! I know I'm only using the Scrivener stuff that's helpful to me, and I also know there's a whole lot more it can do!

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  38. Great tips, Myra! Wouldn't it be wonderful if the editor would send you those marketing forms at the beginning of your journey? Maybe we should put that in the suggestion box. ;-)

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    1. What an excellent idea, Barbara! I'm putting you in charge of spreading the word!

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  39. LOL, Myra, this is not the blog to read if you feel scattered and out of control like I do today ... or, maybe it is! ;)

    I am SO impressed with all your pre-planning methods, my friend, especially since the only thing I do ahead of time is the jacket blurb, which comes in incredibly handy!

    When I grow up (which according to my husband may be never), I want to be you, Myra! ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Oh, no, Julie!!! PLEASE find a better role model than this terribly introverted writer! Or just don't grow up at all. Adulthood ain't what it's cracked up to be, especially once you qualify for Medicare!

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    2. LOL ... don't worry, if I haven't grown up by now, I probably won't, especially since we revert back to childhood the older we get ...

      I agree about adulthood, ESPECIALLY on Medicare. :|

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  40. MYRA, thank you for this great post. I am definitely a planner. I like to have things in order as best I can.

    Please enter me in the drawing for a print copy of one of your books.

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  41. Caryl, having things in order sure helps in the long run. The hardest part, often, is getting a system in place and then using it consistently!

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  42. The other nice thing about having this stuff in place is that while you write you can use it to keep you focused. If you get stuck these pieces are what you turn to to refresh your mind and they really spark solutions. They help you get your head back into the characters, book and GMC.

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  43. Myra, this was a fun post. I will remember this as I work on my book. Please enter me for One Imperfect Christmas. E-book would be fine.

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    1. Hope you find the info helpful, Sandy!

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  44. This post is a wonderful resource, Myra. Thanks for sharing what you've learned. I've always collected photos for characters, setting, mood, timeframe ... but I never thought how helpful they would be to an art department. I also hadn't thought about the back blurb.

    A question, if it's not too late to ask -- you mentioned the author's notes, particularly for historicals. How do you decide what to include, given *all* the research that goes into historicals.

    Thanks bunches,
    Nancy C

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    1. Good question, Nancy. Mainly I focus on areas the reader might not be immediately familiar with. Or details about the setting that are special to me. If there's something from that era that is relevant to today, I might talk about some of the similarities and differences. For example, in my Flowers of Eden series, one of the secondary characters has dementia, so I added some information about Alzheimer's. I try to make the notes conversational, like sharing some interesting information with a friend. Of course you can't include it all, so just think about what someone else might be interested in knowing about the background for your story.

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  45. Myra, thank you for thoughts about what to write down so it's not just in my head. Yes, I've prepared elevator pitches of various length, but having them written down would be more helpful.

    Thank you, and please enter me in the drawing for your LI book.

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    1. Tanya, it really helps to have what you need written down or stored in a file somewhere accessible so you can find it when you need it.

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  46. I have loved reading the authors discribe their writing methods. It has been very interesting. If I am drawn, I would love one of your hard copy books. Thanx for the giveaway!!!

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  47. Hi Myra! I am definitely borrowing the Excel spreadsheet idea. That's terrific!

    I always start a Pinterest board before I start a story. Sometimes my character pictures shift as I get to know them better. I also keep a large corkboard where I can keep track of important plot points as I write. I try to set it up as early as possible.

    I am bookmarking this post to refer back to.

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    1. Hi, Dana! I know what you mean about how our images of our characters can evolve as we write and get to know them better. BTW, I'm offering my spreadsheet via email if anyone wants it. You can contact me via my website email or through the Seeker email if interested.

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  48. Myra, what a great practical post! I love your spreadsheet of word for titles! I need to steal that idea. :)

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    1. It's really come in handy, Missy! Happy to email you my spreadsheet anytime you're interested.

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  49. Good evening Myra! I didn't have the chance to get to Seekerville this morning, but there was no way I was going to miss this post. So glad to be here now. I have wondered how to handle exactly what you spoke of. I love your use of Scrivener to keep yourself set and organized. And I love your Hallmark movie idea for visualizing characters! You are a genius!

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    1. Aw, Kelly, thanks! As I said earlier, some lessons we just have to learn the hard way, and being a little better organized for the final book production phase has turned out to be a lifesaver!

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  50. I don't have a system. It was interesting reading yours and gave me some ideas. Thanks!
    Jan

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  51. As I thought about your question I realized that this could describe a person's conversion. I remember how attending Sunday School, listening to the minister's sermon, taking part in Youth Group all helped me lay my foundation but it was after a special message and a stirring invitation hymn that my heart felt like it weighed a ton and I knew I had to walk down that aisle. My heart had been pierced and I had to find healing. Julie, both of the approaches to writing that you mentioned in your question can be very satisfying to this reader. Thank you for writing the stories that I love to read!
    Merry Christmas!!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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