Thursday, May 31, 2012

Novel Tag Lines & Cover Art

This has been an enormously fun and anxiety-inducing week in the world of readying a novel for publication. In the past few days I've discovered the following things:

1.) My agent and I chose the right publisher for KEOWEE VALLEY. They may be small in size, but they are mighty in generosity. In a huge publishing house an author's wishes are often lost, especially when it comes to cover art. Most of the time at houses like this, authors will not even lay eyes on the cover of their novels until they're already set in stone.

But at Bell Bridge Books--though the publisher ultimately makes the final call--the author (a.k.a me) is not only consulted on cover art, she is considered. And this is huge. I have spent the past few days in back-and-forth emails with the house's marketing director and cover designer, and most likely wore everyone down with my cover anxieties (I really don't want it to look like a romance novel, I really don't want a woman's face to show, etc, etc, etc). But they have responded with reassurance, generosity, and inspiration. And I'm so thankful.

2.) There is virtually no good stock art out there of women in Colonial dress--or Colonial fashion in general, particularly representing the mid-18th century... at least not the kind adequately respresentative of my novel. Oh, there are heaping French dresses and shiny silk bodices and plenty of "pirate's ladies," but nothing quite suited to KEOWEE VALLEY, and to Quinn, my protagonist, who abandons a civilized Southern city and adventures into the wild Appalachian frontier. Who wouldn't have worn a ball gown into the the wilderness, but who also wouldn't have looked like a Pilgrim.

So we'll see what the creative team comes up with for KEOWEE VALLEY. There are talks of utilizing an artist, which big publishing houses often do, but for which smaller houses often lack the discretionary funds, and instead utilize stock art. No matter what, I'm (now, after the flurry of emails) confident that whatever image is chosen, it'll be a good one. And it won't be Fabio and his lady in a clutch.

Not that there's anything wrong with this image. It's pretty darn awesome. But it's not suited to my novel.

Whew... fanning my face and moving on....

3.) My tribe is creative, generous, kind, and unfailingly supportive. This week I enlisted their help with two things: my author photo for the back of the novel, and a tag line for the front. I posted three photos my husband had taken of me over the weekend and asked folks to choose, because doing so was making me, quite simply, lose my Cheerios. And they did--close to 70-something people responded, not only making me feel plain wonderful, but also giving truly well thought-out opinions. Putting your face on a book that (hopefully) many people will see is something I find to be terrifying. But I get by with a little help from my friends.

The tag line: I sent out an email to some creative folks I know for help with this one. A tag line is a pithy, punchy hook that appears on the front of a novel (movies use these all the time).

Some examples of catchy tag lines:

* from the cover of John Grisham's The Chamber: "Between the crime and the punishment is the truth..."
* from the cover of C. Hope Clark's Lowcountry Bribe: "A killer wants to make certain she buys the farm."

And a few from the movies:

* "The true story of a real fake" - from Catch Me if You Can
* "She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees" - from Erin Brockovich
* "There can be only one" - from Highlander

My tribe answered the call, even enlisting their own family members and friends to help. I gathered up their dozens of great ideas, mixed them with my own, and sent them to my publisher-s-who promptly found one they loved, tweaked it just a little, and we may have a tag line for KEOWEE VALLEY. Because of my Super Friends.

Writing a novel is often a lonely process. You forget that in a crazy world and in a highly competitive field, there are people cheering you on. And I'm finding that there's nothing more fun, especially at this point in the making of a novel, than sharing in the process.

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