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.
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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