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Review: Kidnapping the Prince of Albany by James J. Dunn

To create an enthralling account of a significant crime, author James J. Dunn has embellished events that emphasize our legal history in the riveting Kidnapping the Prince of Albany: The Real Story of the 1933 Kidnapping of John "Butch" O'Connell, Jr. When John “Butch” O’Connell was kidnapped in 1933, the United States was a more [...]

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7 Myths of Using Press Releases to Promote Your Books

By Joan Stewart

When an author plans a book launch and hires me to write the press release, I often learn fairly quickly that she has no clue about the kinds of results to expect.

That’s because she asks questions like these:

  • “How many books do you think I’ll sell from the press release?”
  • “How many TV and radio shows will schedule me to appear as a guest?”
  • “How many newspapers and magazine do you think will print the release?”

Most authors believe the press release will result in phone calls from eager journalists and an onslaught of orders. Nothing could be further from the truth.

By itself, the press release lacks the power to skyrocket sales.

But combine it with other marketing tactics like a compelling email or phone pitch, and you can help journalists learn about your book and take the next step: schedule an interview with you or invite you to be a guest on their show or podcast.

The pitch can be a timely hook that ties into winter spring, summer or fall. You can tie your book to one of the four seasons of the year. Or choose a sex angle. For local media, choose the local angle.

Why You Need a Press Release

Why, then, should you even write a press release?

Because regardless of what angle you pitch, you can link to the same press release that summarizes your book.

It’s the one document that tells people almost everything they need to know about your book including:

  • What it’s about
  • Why you wrote it
  • The price
  • Where it’s sold, including links to online retailers
  • The publishing company
  • Quotes from you
  • How to order in bulk
  • How to contact you for interviews or speaking engagements
  • Your short bio
  • A synopsis of the book
  • An excerpt from a review
  • Statistics about a problem your nonfiction addresses

You can use the release in many ways: in your book’s media kit and at your website. You can also fold a printed copy and tuck it inside the front cover of a book you send to a reviewer.

The Seven Biggest Myths of Using Press Releases to Promote Your Books

Myth #1

The press release is dead.

Crappy, rambling press releases are dead. So are press releases that sound like free advertisements for your book.

Well-written releases that share information quickly with readers, and explain why they should read the book, are very much alive. They’re one of the most important elements in your publicity campaign, especially when used in tandem with a pitch.

Myth #2

We write press releases primarily for journalists.

That was true 30 years ago, before the Internet.

Today, however, we write press releases mostly for consumers. They can find our releases online, via search, and learn everything they need to know without relying on the media gatekeepers!

In other words, if the media won’t write an article as a result of the release, it can still reach people who buy your books.

Myth #3

The inverted pyramid style is best.

The inverted pyramid style includes the “who, what, where, why and how” details at the top of the release. That was how we wrote releases two decades ago when we were writing only for journalists. If they needed to trim the release, they’d cut from the bottom where the least important information was located.

Today, however, we’re writing mostly for consumers. It’s far more important to place keyword-rich phrases in the press release headline and throughout the body copy so the search engines can find the release and pull traffic to it.

You can start your press release by telling a story of why you wrote the book, or the story of the main character in your novel.

Myth #4

There are dozens of free press release distribution services available so you don’t have to spend money on the paid services.

Most of these free services don’t distribute anything. They park your press release on their website where—horrors!—you might later learn that it’s right next to a pay-per-click ad bought by one of your competitors.

The other problem with free sites is that if you discover a major error in your release, and it’s already on the free site, it’s usually impossible to contact the website owner and make a correction. The mistake lives on forever. reviewed more than 90 of the free options and found only five reputable choices. Read more about them here. They then reviewed those five on criteria such as the size of their distribution network, level of customization, and ease of use. I haven’t tested any of these but you might want to.

If you use one of the free services, that’s fine. But for a book launch, you should also use one of the paid services that actually distribute your release.

I recommend my clients distribute their releases through Dan Janal’s Guaranteed Press Releases service. Dan, a former journalist, makes sure the release has all the elements needed for excellent search engine optimization.

Dan distributes your release through PR Newswire. It’s sent to more than 30,000 reporters at more than 17,500 media organizations, and to a custom list of websites, based on your industry, niche, geographical location and book topic.

This bears repeating: Major stories about your book will usually be generated from a customized pitch with a specific hook or angle. The pitch can link to the release.

Myth #5

Journalists love press releases.

Most journalists despise them because most press releases are written poorly. And writers and editors don’t want the same news that everyone else gets. They want their own idea or angle which you describe in your pitch.

I recommend sending a pitch of no more than three or four short paragraphs via email, and including a link to the release that’s been published through one of the paid or free press release sites, or at your website. Don’t attach the release to the email because people are leery of opening attachments and getting a virus.

Myth #6

No publication will ever print my press release exactly how I’ve written it.

Smaller publications like weekly newspapers and “shoppers,” the free weeklies that show up in your mailbox, will often print your press releases exactly as you’ve written them. They don’t have reporters to rewrite your releases or call you if they think there’s a missing fact or two.

That’s why you want your releases to be as complete as possible and written in such a way that it sounds like a journalist wrote it. No gushing. No mentioning that the author is “thrilled to announce” her new book.

I’ve written press releases of up to two pages that promote events, and my local weekly newspaper has printed them almost word for word.

Myth #7

Google will penalize me for writing too many press releases.

Google doesn’t keep track of how many releases you’re writing, nor does it care.

Other than your book launch, there are dozens of opportunities to write releases. Those include when:

  • you win an award
  • speak at an event
  • schedule a book signing
  • make a charitable contribution
  • start a crowdfunding campaign
  • comment on a breaking news story that’s tied to the topic of your book

My Press Release Masterclass tutorial and 15 handy, done-for-you templates, will help you write perfect press releases every time. Learn more about them here. Or try writing releases on your own. But don’t forget to take the next step with that all-important pitch that includes an interesting hook or angle.

If you’re confused about when to use a press release and when to use a pitch, I’ve written two blog posts that can help:

The pros and cons of press releases and pitches

When to use a press release and when to deliver a pitch
Photo: BigStockPhoto

The post 7 Myths of Using Press Releases to Promote Your Books appeared first on The Book Designer.

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Review: Urban Justice (Vigilante Justice Book 2) by John Etzil

Things can change fast in a small town, and a few weeks after Jack Lamburt handles the initial drama at The Red Barn and the violent fallout from the mafia, trouble is still lingering on the horizon. Urban Justice, the second novel in the Vigilante Justice series by John Etzil, picks up right where the [...]

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How To Use Your Book Cover To Sell More Books

Your book cover design is an essential part of your book marketing strategy. Today author and graphic designer AD Starrling discusses how to make the most of the cover design you've worked so hard to get right.

sell with book coverCover attracts, copy sells.

I can’t recall where exactly I first read this eye-opening line but I now live by this motto as both a writer and a designer.

When it comes to selling books, there is no doubt that an eye-catching cover that fits your main genre and targets your ideal reader is an important element to get right.

There are dozens of articles out there by some very big names in our industry about how changing covers changed their sales figures and in some cases, their entire careers.

Our very own Joanna Penn has written a couple of features here and here, and there is this sobering example by H.M. Ward which I always quote as an example of very effective redesign and rebranding.

I also strongly recommend checking out this podcast interview with Stuart Bache on book covers.

So, now that you’ve got a great book cover, what can you do with it besides putting it out there in the world when you launch your book? It turns out you can do a lot, especially to market it. So let’s break this down into three phases:

  1. Prelaunch
  2. Launch
  3. Branding

1. Prelaunch

Buzz building is a crucial element of most bestselling authors’ marketing strategy when it comes to their new releases. Getting your existing readers excited about your upcoming book and attracting new readers to your writing world is a great way to ensure you get good sale figures when you launch, especially if you’re doing preorders.

I would particularly emphasize targeting your existing readers. Remember the Rule of 7 in Marketing 101. Even your fans may have to “see” your book several times before they click the preorder or buy button.

Here are several ways you can use your book cover to build buzz about your upcoming release before your book goes live. You should start thinking about this 1 to 3 months before your book launch.

A. Cover reveal

A cover reveal is an easy, simple, and effective way to build buzz about your upcoming release. From exclusive cover reveals with preorder links to your mailing list and fan groups, to posts on your social media platforms which you can boost, to paid cover reveal book tours. All of these are easy ways to get your book out there to existing fans and potential new readers.

Many authors do giveaways with their cover reveals to engage their existing readers and attract new ones.

There are two ways you can use your book cover for cover reveals. Just use the cover itself or create attractive graphics that include your cover. In terms of cover reveal book tours, romance and YA fantasy are the two genres that can do well with that particular form of buzz building.

This is the cover reveal graphic I’m using for my upcoming release. Here, I used elements of the book cover for the background, a 3D render of the book, and a tagline with a clear call-to-action.

Blood and Bones Pre-order post

And here’s an amazing cover reveal post where the author uses their actual book cover to full effect (note this is not my design).

Cover Reveal Jovee Winters

B. Profile picture

Another simple way to make your upcoming release highly visible is to change your author profile image on your various social media platforms, your Amazon author page, and even your Bookbub page.

Here are a couple of recent guides which will help you get the dimensions right: Sprout Social Social Media Image Size Guide and Hubspot Ultimate Guide Social Media Image Dimensions.

Social media platforms often change their image dimension requirements so make sure to revisit them at least once or twice a year to ensure you’re using up to date sizing guides.

C. Website

Always try and keep your website up to date by displaying your upcoming release prominently on your Home page. Your cover or an attractive graphic with a tagline and preorder links is an easy way to make sure your readers know what’s coming next, especially if you’re driving traffic to your website with advertising.

Consider adding your book cover with its preorder links to your mailing list sign-up page.

Here’s a website Home page graphic I made for Melissa J. Crispin when we redesigned the cover of her fantasy novella The Crimson Curse.

Sample website banner

D. Banners

Adding your book cover to your social media and newsletter banners is another easy way to boost visibility. Many authors regularly change their banners to not only showcase their upcoming releases but also when they’re doing sales on one of their titles.

Here’s the Twitter banner I made for Melissa J. Crispin.

Melissa J Crispin Twitter banner

E. Ads and teasers

Using your book cover in ads is a brilliant way to boost preorders and increase visibility.

You can either use the book cover itself, elements of it, or images that are evocative of the story in your ad graphics.

Here are two Facebook ads I designed for S.E. Wright when we did her boxset cover.

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Here’s a teaser template I created for Melissa J. Crispin, which she then used to add content to use in her social media posts.

The Crimson Curse Teaser

2. Launch

Launching your book is a crazy whirlwind of newsletters, social media posts, advertising, and watching sales and reviews come in for your new baby. If you’ve put in the hard work for your prelaunch, it helps make the launch period that much easier.

Your existing and potential new readers have already seen your upcoming book cover several times in the form of the above buzz-building tactics. Now’s the time to dial things up and get them to click buy if they haven’t already pre-ordered your book.

A. Website and social media banners

Once your book is live, updating your website Home page and your social media banners with new launch graphics is a must. Nothing says “There’s naff all to see here folks” than going to an author’s website or social media page on launch day and seeing the proverbial tumbleweed roll across the screen.

You have a web presence. Use it to the max when it comes to your book launch. Remember the Rule of 7.

B. Boosted posts

Boosted posts targeted at your existing readers is a clever way to get sales on launch day. Sure, you would have sent a newsletter out too, but not everyone will open it on launch day and a boosted post doesn’t hurt visibility.

The book cover itself or a pretty graphic featuring the book and your buy links works well for this.

C. Ads

This is where most bestselling authors concentrate their marketing money. Most authors with a backlist that generates good read through and ROI have ads running in the background for their first in series, a boxset, or their reader magnet for mailing list sign-up anyway, but launch day is when the big guns come out.

Since you have no control over your Amazon ads graphics, ensuring the book cover itself is eye-catching from the get-go with a title or author name readable at thumbnail level is the best chance you can give your book in terms of those few precious seconds you have to catch a reader’s eye on a busy Amazon page.

For Facebook, Bookbub, or Twitter ads, the world is your oyster. Here, you can experiment with all sorts of graphics, images, and elements of your book cover.

Bookbub Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE WrightThe advice for Facebook ads is usually that simple images work better than graphics featuring book covers. But I have seen lots of great Facebook ads featuring book covers that work really well when you consider their social proof.

At right is a Bookbub ad I did for S.E. Wright for her boxset.

Here are some fantastic examples (note these are not my designs) of how you can use a book cover and its elements to create brilliant ads.

Sample Facebook ads

Shayne Silvers FaceBook Ad

3. Branding

The other function your book cover has is to convey your author brand or series brand to readers. It’s advisable to revisit your author branding regularly (I would recommend at least once a year) to make sure you keep things fresh and on target for your genre and the kind of readers you are trying to attract.

A. Website and social media

Here are some great examples of authors who are constantly updating their websites and social media banners to reflect their latest release and branding (again, not my own designs).

Shayne Silvers books

Domino Finn ad

Elise Kova Facebook ad

When I designed the covers for my upcoming urban fantasy series Legion, I decided to give my website and my newsletter a makeover to reflect my new series branding.

AD Starrling newsletter header

B. Swag

Another brilliant and fun way to use your book cover for branding and marketing is by incorporating them in your business card, author event banners, and all your fan swag. So bookmarks, postcards, posters, mugs, T-shirts, tote bags, fridge magnets, popsockets, etc.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to swag. And you can even monetize these designs by having your own author store on Zazzle or Society 6, or your own website.

[Note from Joanna: for more information and ideas about merchandising that ties into your books and author brand, listen to this episode of The Creative Penn podcast.]

Here are some great examples: Elise Kova, JA Huss, and Marie Force.

One thing to ensure before you sell physical products though is that you have the correct licenses with regards to the images used.

So now that we’ve talked about the various ways you can use your book cover or elements of it for marketing, what about the tools at your disposal to create these eye-catching graphics?

Here are the three I would recommend right now:

  1. Photoshop
  2. Canva
  3. Book Brush

When it comes to design, every designer swears by Photoshop. It can look like the tool of the devil at first but I would recommend starting with Adobe’s own tutorials if you’re new to the software.

If you don’t fancy paying for Photoshop, then I recommend Canva as a great platform for creating stunning graphics.

The other platform to consider is Book Brush. The new kid on the block, Book Brush promises to help you “create professional ads and social media images for your books”.

Before I started my design business, Canva was my go-to tool for all my graphic needs. Photoshop is now my personal tool of choice because it’s so versatile. If you’re not a designer, then I would recommend trying both Canva and Book Brush’s free plans before committing to a paid plan with either of them.

One advantage Canva still retains over Book Brush is that you can do more than just ads and social media images on there. Canva offers a plethora of design features including business cards, book covers, flyers, and posters among many others.

The good thing about both Canva and Book Brush is that they are constantly innovating and adding to their platforms so you will be sure to get a solid product that will only gain in value over time whichever one you choose to go with.

Your last option when it comes to ads and social images is to outsource this completely. There are a few book cover designers who also offer social media kits and ads packages, including my previous book cover designers, the amazing Deranged Doctor Design. And of course, my own design business 17 Studio Book Design.

[Note from Joanna: You can also find more book cover designers here.]

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and will go forth with a better idea of how you can effectively use your book cover in all your marketing endeavors.

Have you used your book covers in your marketing and advertising graphics? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

AD Starrling17 Studio Book Design is the brainchild of bestselling fantasy and thriller author AD Starrling. Having done all her marketing designs since 2016, AD launched 17 Studio Book Design in October 2018, after obtaining her Adobe Associate Certification.

What can you expect from her? Stunning, professional covers that fit your genre. A reader for over 30 years and an author-publisher-marketer for over 6 years, she knows how this business works. Do check out the 17 Studio Book Design portfolio to see what kind of covers and marketing packages she can create for you.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn

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e-Book Cover Design Awards, January 2019

cover design

By Joel Friedlander

Welcome to the e-Book Cover Design Awards. This edition is for submissions during January, 2019.

This month we received:

64 covers in the Fiction category
8 covers in the Nonfiction category

Comments, Award Winners, and Gold Stars

I’ve added comments (JF: ) to many of the entries, but not all. Remember that the aim of these posts is educational, and by submitting you are inviting comments, commendations, and constructive criticism.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Please leave a comment to let me know which are your favorites or, if you disagree, let me know why.

Although there is only winner in each category, other covers that were considered for the award or which stood out in some exemplary way, are indicated with a gold star:

Award winners and Gold-Starred covers also win the right to display our badges on their websites, so don’t forget to get your badge to get a little more attention for the work you’ve put into your book.

Also please note that we are now linking winning covers to their sales page on Amazon or Smashwords.

Now, without any further ado, here are the winners of this month’s e-Book Cover Design Awards.

e-Book Cover Design Award Winner for January 2019 in Fiction

Alexandra Brandt submitted Eloia Born designed by Alexandra Brandt. “Young Adult soft sci-fi (or potentially “science fantasy”). The cover depicts both the alien planet of Eloia and (symbolically, at least) the partially-blind heroine.”

cover design
cover design
JF: A gorgeous cover that artfully gives us insight into the story within a cool sci-fi look. Complemented by great type choices and the intrigue of the one-eyed woman, and with beautiful textural elements that enhance the design.

e-Book Cover Design Award Winner for January 2019 in Nonfiction

Lynn Michelsohn submitted Young Billy, Old Santa Fe (Billy the Kid in Santa Fe Series, Book One) designed by Lisa Burroughs. “Thank you, in advance, for your consideration and comments.”

cover design
cover design
JF: The strong title treatment and colorful background image work together to give this cover excellent impact, especially as a thumbnail.

Fiction Covers

A R Kennedy submitted Saving Ferris designed by Karen Phillips.

Saving Ferris
JF: Shows that an effective way to use a dog on your cover is to focus on the emotions stimulated by the canine/human interaction.

Alexandra Brandt submitted Along These Lines designed by Alexandra Brandt. “Science fantasy with ley lines, portals, Japan, and interdimensional space travel. I tried to keep the cover a bit simpler than that, but wanted both the sci-fi and fantasy aspects to come through.”

Along These Lines
JF: Frenetic energy emphasized by expert type handling.

Alexandra Brandt submitted Friends designed by Alexandra Brandt. “A gritty dystopian/post-apoc short story with a hopeful ending–tricky to try to get both tones across, especially with author branding to consider. Curious if I managed it.”

JF: Relies on a strong focus on the physical environment, and it works because it makes whatever story is happening here paramount in our interest.

Andrea Pearson submitted The Shade Amulet designed by Andrea Pearson. “Font used for the title: bu Oscar Diggs Font used for author and series: Felix Titling Head swap, hair swap, added the necklace. Title was rasterized then set as an overlay. Stock photos from Neostock, Shutterstock, Deposit Photos.”

The Shade Amulet
JF: A nice effort. You might try to differentiate the title color by not making it quite so similar to the gold in the background.

Andrew Leon Hudson submitted Welcome to Pacific City designed by Andrew Leon Hudson.

Welcome to Pacific City
JF: Lovely artwork, but it looks more appropriate to a print book because of the lack of contrast and impaired legibility at this size.

Aundriel Washington submitted Palera Dawn designed by Shelbi James. “The font’s name is Ruritania. The colors were chosen to show the depiction of the main character’s new world. The dragon is blue because rarely do we see blue dragons. They may have a hint of blue, but not completely. The image also represents two saviors, a human and her mighty beast.”

Palera Dawn
JF: “Primitive” art can be very effective, but the impact is weakened by the ornate font choice. (“…rarely do we see blue dragons.” Really? What color are the dragons you usually see?)

clyde McCulley submitted Panther Creek Mountain: The Haunted Pond designed by clyde McCulley. “The designer used the silhouette look to capture kid’s attention, and in some ways relate to the Harper Lee “To Kill A Mockingbird” woodcut style of the past, yet colors relate to today’s kids.”

Panther Creek Mountain: The Haunted Pond
JF: Seems like contradictory goals but the cover illustration is lovely.

Craig Chapman submitted In and for the District of Desire: Short Stories from the Dark Crimes-Of-The-Heart Beat designed by Craig M. Chapman. “Images were licensed through Shutterstock and iStock. Background image is a photo by G.H. Chapman”

In and for the District of Desire: Short Stories from the Dark Crimes-Of-The-Heart Beat
JF: Obviously the work of an amateur “cover designer.”

Cristelle Comby submitted Hostile Takeover (Vale Investigation, book 1) designed by Miguel A. Ereza.

Hostile Takeover (Vale Investigation, book 1)
JF: Expert artwork and typography but that big white background is confusing and seems arbitrary.

Dan Cray submitted Mother Tongue designed by Jeroen Ten Berge. “Jeroen blended two heads to express the notion that multilingual people often feel as if different aspects of their personality become more prevalent depending upon the language they’re speaking. For texture, he added a background grid of ‘Mother Tongue’ in a variety of languages.”

Mother Tongue
JF: An inventive concept, but perhaps a stronger or brighter title could help balance the overall dark and somewhat gloomy artwork.

Dan Van Oss submitted A Happy Bureaucracy designed by Dan Van Oss.

A Happy Bureaucracy
JF: A mordantly funny cover that hits just the right note for this humorous post-apocalyptic story.

Darja DDD submitted Love Me Once More designed by Marushka from Deranged Doctor Design. “Contemporary Romance book cover design, Mystic Point Book 0”

Love Me Once More
JF: A strong romance series design (see the two following) that relies on expert image compositing, contrasting type fonts, and coordinated color schemes. Interesting how the relationship between the two characters is quite different on this cover, and I do prefer the beautiful green and gold colors here.

Darja DDD submitted Love Me Now designed by Marushka from Deranged Doctor Design. “Contemporary Romance book cover design, Mystic Point Book 1”

Love Me Now

Darja DDD submitted Love Me Harder designed by Marushka from Deranged Doctor Design. “Contemporary Romance book cover design, A Mystic Point Novel”

Love Me Harder

Darja DDD submitted The Secret Apocalypse designed by Milo from Deranged Doctor Design. “Post-Apocalyptic book cover design, A Secret Apocalypse Story, Book 1”

The Secret Apocalypse
JF: This series uses clean block type and an image with the main character on the cusp of action, highlighted by a flash of light at the center, and turned away from the viewer. On target genre design throughout the series (see the next two).

Darja DDD submitted Extinction Level designed by Milo from Deranged Doctor Design. “Post-Apocalyptic book cover design, A Secret Apocalypse Story, Book 2”

Extinction Level

Darja DDD submitted Land of Dust and Bones designed by Milo from Deranged Doctor Design. “Post-Apocalyptic book cover design, A Secret Apocalypse Story, Book 7”

Land of Dust and Bones

Darja DDD submitted Game of Nations designed by Milo from Deranged Doctor Design. “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense book cover design, A Game of Nations Thriller”

Game of Nations
JF: Exactly what we want for a contemporary thriller cover: impact and a sense of the kind of story within.

Dee J Holmes submitted An Inheritance of Curses designed by Deana J Holmes. “I wanted to strike a balance between modern and fantasy elements. To do this, I combined a close-up portrait of my main character with a softer setting and world-specific symbols. I painted first in sepia tones, then layered in colors. I ended up finding the right font in Cenzo Flare.”

An Inheritance of Curses
JF: Love the style of this illustration, but the title isn’t working so well, its shadow is distracting, and some of the type is disappearing entirely.

Donald Jacobsen submitted Mighty Mommies and Their Amazing Jobs designed by Graham Evans. “The cover for this children’s book was designed to evoke a comic book / superhero feel. Primary colors were selected to make the cover eye-catching to kids and the poses of the diverse characters are intended to imply confidence. MacGuffin font was used because it is dyslexia-friendly.”

cover design
JF: Love the illustration, it really works. For a two-word title, probably better to choose a font that suits the cover, but this one functions okay.

Doug Walsh submitted Tailwinds Past Florence designed by Doug Walsh. “It was important that the book convey a literary feel while maintaining a softer, romantic tone. The bicycle is an important clue to help explain the word “Tailwinds” in the title. The prominence of the color blue plays a large role in the book’s magical elements. The watercolor reveals the setting.”

Tailwinds Past Florence
JF: Both artful and literary.

Gina Smith submitted Plumb Twisted designed by Double J Book Graphics. “A lot of symbolism in PT. Cole is alone-a cancer survivor & distances himself from people. Title: heroine is a plumber’s daughter and a tornado hits the town. The weather is gloomy because of the darker elements of the story-a stalker, kidnapping, a natural disaster that destroys property & lives.”

Plumb Twisted
JF: While this one does its duty as a genre cover, helped by a simple photo and short title, the one below is hard to decipher. Why is a hat so prominent, and why did the designer leave a big empty space right in the middle of the cover?

Gina Smith submitted The Double D Ranch designed by Double J Book Graphics. “The Double D Ranch is a romantic comedy set in Texas. The flowers are bluebonnets the state flower of Texas.”

The Double D Ranch

Grace Blair submitted Einstein’s Compass a YA Time Traveler Adventure designed by 1106 Design. “Symbols on the cover show pyramids for the images of Egypt and Atlantis, the origin of the supernatural compass that directs a dreamy Einstein through time and his discovery. The brown and orange palette give the sense of being lost in the desert and a metaphor for his life’s journey.”

Einstein's Compass a YA Time Traveler Adventure
JF: Dramatic lighting, expert image combinations, and pro-level typography make this cover stand out.

Hampton Lamoureux submitted Black Magic’s Prey designed by Hampton Lamoureux. “Kristin came to me with her dark fantasy novel, telling the tale of a young woman plagued by the curse of a Mexican black magic practitioner. The cover design features a portrait of Tess, the victim, with an Aztec rune cast on her face. The powerful antagonist is seen below her, cast in shadow.”

Black Magic's Prey
JF: Creepy, scary, menacing, sexy, and darkly attractive, this cover has it all. The “architecture” of the composition helps in the effect by creating a shape the eye naturally follows to highlight the relationship between the heroine and her adversary.

Ihor Tureha submitted Rexus designed by MiblArt.

JF: The complete weirdness of this cover looks like its greatest selling point as it highlights a “misunderstood chiropractor turned gamer.”

Jade Kerrion submitted Cursed Tides designed by Rebecca Frank. “This Little Mermaid retelling needed a non-mermaid cover (since it focuses on her evolution as a daughter of air) but still needed strong visual ties to the sea and other mermaid-like elements (e.g., trident, etc).”

Cursed Tides
JF: Looks like a home run to me. Lots of luscious details, plenty of sea and mystery elements, and a fetching heroine with awesome abs.

James Egan submitted Destroyer of Legends designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

Destroyer of Legends
JF: A strong illustration and hand-tooled type work great except where they overlap, slightly impeding readability.

James Egan submitted The King’s Assassin designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

The King's Assassin
JF: The off-kilter composition adds to the tension and drama of this cover, perfectly accessorized by the distressed font.

James Egan submitted The Lost Letter designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

The Lost Letter
JF: An exquisite piece of artwork lovingly matched to type allusive of the period, a great cover for this Victorian novel.

James Murdo submitted Fractured Carapace designed by James Murdo.

Fractured Carapace
JF: Black and white can provide a lot of drama, and you can see that here, but what are we looking at?

Jasmine Antwoine submitted The Fruits of the Earth designed by Jasmine P. Antwoine. “It is first in a YA fantasy series about a world where children are nothing but commodities.”

The Fruits of the Earth

Jeff Bolinger submitted Sea Raiders designed by Jeff Bolinger. “Illustrated by Omar Aranda. I wanted to create a sense of tension and danger for the cover of this children’s Middle Grade book- the third in a trilogy.”

Sea Raiders
JF: Good style, interesting “wavy” treatment for the title. The only problem I have with this cover is that the bottom is so murky the characters are hard to make out, and that’s where the interest is.

Jemma Hatt submitted The Adventurers and The Cursed Castle designed by Andrew Smith.

The Adventurers and The Cursed Castle
JF: Lots of style here too, between the illustration and all the customization of the title/logo. Oddly, although the figures are intended to be running, they look quite static. Love the dog, though.

JJ Johnson Johnson submitted Army of the Dog designed by Woody Myers. “In order to capture the look of the dog in “hunting” mode, we took hundreds of pictures while hiking the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado. Of these hundreds of images, two rose to the top of this magnificent Foxhound that is an integral part of the book.”

Army of the Dog
JF: It’s a great photo, and it is attention-getting. Not sure, however, if this is really the best representation of what appears to be a modern action novel based on ancient Greek philosophy.

John Foley submitted Begotten Not Made designed by John Foley. “Font is Tala by John Harrington, Shandon type”

Begotten Not Made
JF: Charming and clever cover for a modern “fairy tale.”

Jonathan LaPoma submitted Hammond designed by Jonathan LaPoma. “In the beginning and end of the novel, the protagonist is lying on a basketball court and staring up at a hoop with a rim that’s so gray, it’s fading into the thick clouds above. The white in the image captures the bleakness of winter in Buffalo, NY where the story is set.”

JF: I remember that snow very well from a few years I spent in Buffalo. The unusual perspective on the basketball hoop directs our attention right to the title.

Joseph Melesh submitted White or Black … Grey designed by Eight Little Pages. “A Psychological Thriller, that follows our Protagonist, a troubled teenage girl and her chance encounter with an opportunistic predator. The shipping containers with doors open as she walks into the unknown. A dark story, a flash of red on the cover a subtle hint of impending danger.”

White or Black ... Grey
JF: A good story-based design that invites us to follow the heroine into a dangerous spot.

K.M. Weiland submitted Wayfarer designed by Damonza.

JF: An artful design with implications of magic, but I don’t care for the way the top image is so divorced from the bottom one, which seems to contain almost no content at all. Why is it even there?

Katharine Wibell submitted Crocotta’s Hackles designed by Olivia Pro Design. “Crocotta’s Hackles is the third book of The Incarn Saga, a New Adult series, that deals with a race of shapeshifters during a time of war for their kingdom.”

Crocotta's Hackles
JF: An arresting image and carefully controlled colors help make an impact.

L.J. Engelmeier submitted A Shard of Sea & Bone designed by L.J. Engelmeier. “I wanted a design with a strong central image (in this case, my character Saedra) and a design that reflected the watery/somber atmosphere that crops up in the book.”

A Shard of Sea & Bone
JF: It does the job, and I say that despite whatever it is that’s on the girl’s head, and the “fire” circle has not been very well integrated with the rest of the cover.

Lark Barlow submitted Nina: The Livingston Estate designed by Lark Barlow. “Cover is an image detailed in the mystery.”

Nina: The Livingston Estate
JF: A very common type of solution to the problem of design from a non-designer. Does not compare well to most of the other books in this collection.

Laurie Loveman submitted The Farm Fires designed by Ben Bolt.

The Farm Fires
JF: An interesting image just crying out for a decent type treatment.

Laurie Loveman submitted The Quarry designed by Ben Bolt.

The Quarry
JF: Awkward.

Laurie Price submitted The Mask of Midnight designed by Scott Templeton. “The killer in this story has a background in theater so the stage set for murder. The tragedy mask appears alone because this is no comedy. The smoky beam of light warns us that something sinister behind the richness of the curtain is about to be revealed.”

The Mask of Midnight
JF: Questionable font choices; hard to read dark red type on a black background; too many unconnected images to make a unified message.

Lesli Richardson submitted The Great Turning designed by Lesli Richardson. “I love old sci-fi (Bradbury, etc.) and looked to vintage books in that genre for the feel I wanted to evoke.”

The Great Turning
JF: Well put together and with a great font choice for the title, but I’m not sure this landscape really says “sci-fi” or “post apocalyptic”.

Leslie Manning submitted i am Elephant, i am Butterfly designed by Jay Kenton Manning. “YA contemporary. I purchased the photo on Shutterstock and cropped the model’s face. The designer used a cursive script to represent the feminine handwriting found in the diary. It was not until right before the book went live that I realized those are butterflies on her shirt. Nice coincidence.”

i am Elephant, i am Butterfly
JF: Looks just right for the intended audience.

Lisa Reads submitted Bad Dad designed by BTP Designs. “I am super proud of this cover. The color scheme fit the almost dystopian fighting world that the love story takes place in. I used the sepia stained filter and grained it up a bit to give it some visual texture.”

Bad Dad

Lyss Em submitted Making It Better designed by Lyss Em.

Making It Better
JF: An affecting cover using a sensitive black and white image for this gay BDSM romance.

Marian Blue submitted Quantum Consequences designed by painting: Dean Gibson Design: Marian Blue. “The cover painting was original artwork by Dean Gibson.”

Quantum Consequences
JF: The unmistakable “self-published” look.

Mark Williams submitted Joe Phenix, The Bat of the Battery designed by John Coulthart.

Joe Phenix, The Bat of the Battery
JF: These series (see two following) are a great solution to how to stand out. These historical mysteries have been given a design that alludes to the “steampunk” era and the unique design really sets all these covers apart while instantly alerting fans that they are related stories.

Mark Williams submitted The Frisco Detective designed by John Coulthart.

The Frisco Detective

Mark Williams submitted Daring Desmond, The Elevated Railroad Detective designed by John Coulthart.

Daring Desmond, The Elevated Railroad Detective

Masha du Toit submitted The Strange designed by Masha du Toit. “Fonts: Alte Haas Grotesk and Arvo. The book deals with biological warfare and genetic manipulation. The textures are cross-sections of a human lung as well as various types of bacteria.”

The Strange
JF: A bit creepy, which gives it interest, and the background is used quite effectively.

Mike Crowl submitted Grimhilda! – a fantasy for children, and their parents designed by Mike Crowl.

Grimhilda! - a fantasy for children, and their parents
JF: Seems like a good font choice for the title, but the entire cover comes across as a bit … grim. Not sure that’s right for a children’s story.

Phillip McCollum submitted Fantastic Shorts: Volume One designed by Phillip McCollum. “This collection of 26 short stories covers a multitude of genres, but all of the stories contain elements of fantasy or science fiction. Each tag pasted onto one of the stacked books highlights a key element from one of the stories.”

Fantastic Shorts: Volume One
JF: A good concept, but it looks like it would take more design skill to carry it off.

Rachel Sawden submitted Runaways designed by Caroline Teagle Johnson. “The protagonist is an aspiring travel photographer so it was vital that the cover’s aesthetics reflected that. I wanted vivid colours, a youthful feel, and tropical vibe. It had to look like an adventure. I’m in love with the work that my designer produced and would love for more people to see it!”

JF: Well, lots of people will see it here. It has the “island” colors and vibe, but the type seems underwhelming, sometimes to the point of irrelevance.

Rena Hoberman submitted Half Cut designed by Rena Hoberman of Cover Quill.

Half Cut
JF: Cool and stylish.

Rena Hoberman submitted Some Can See designed by Rena Hoberman of Cover Quill.

Some Can See
JF: An expert combination of images that’s evocative of the atmosphere of this gothic novel, with beautiful textures and lots of appeal.

Sarah Begg submitted Laura the Explorer designed by Hazel Lam.

Laura the Explorer
JF: The cut-paper art is fanciful and attractive; I wish the title was a bit stronger.

Shaul Behr submitted Ari Barak and the Free-Will Paradox designed by Carlo Marco Alfonso. “Kanisah font is designed to look similar to Hebrew lettering”

Ari Barak and the Free-Will Paradox
JF: Yes, the font is just right! These guys mean business! Lots of action! People running!!

Sheryl Beaumont submitted The Carlswick Mythology designed by Jessica Bell. “The moody sky on the cover reflects the overall mystery genre and the image is a reference to both the mythology / archaeology themes and to one of the key locations in the book. The use of the curly font on the word Carlswick is a nod to the romance elements in the story.”

The Carlswick Mythology
JF: Strong photo, although the tilted image doesn’t match too well with the classical and symmetrically aligned type. And the title word “Carlswick” has been so overworked with effects and shadows it’s almost unreadable. Just a few adjustments would make this a really good cover.

Theresa Read submitted Ranger Nader & The Sunstruck Phantom designed by Kam Karem. “The cover image depicts Ranger and his sister Milly eclipsing the sun, symbolic for their triumph over Gilgamesh, a sun-god.”

Ranger Nader & The Sunstruck Phantom
JF: I like the energy and intensity of the design and colors, but I’m not sure the silhouettes work very well, they seem unfinished.

Nonfiction Covers

April Chapman submitted An Extreme God for An Extreme Life designed by April Chapman. “I found this picture online and was able to track it down to a photographer in Greece, Voula Vatsinea, and license it for use. I then added in the light from the clouds and used pink for the font because the book is written for women, and wanted to convey that clearly.”

An Extreme God for An Extreme Life
JF: Nice photo, but I don’t think these elements come together well.

Fiona Brichaut submitted Writing for Mobile designed by Fiona Brichaut.

Writing for Mobile
JF: A good nonfiction cover that’s clear, to the point, and lets us know in both words and images what the book is about.

James F. Brown submitted The Men’s Attire Answer Book designed by James F. Brown. “This book was created entirely by me: content, cover, and blurbs. The front cover photos are me, taken by a photographer friend. I used PhotoShop to tweak these photos and create the front and rear covers and spine. My goal was to show the book’s subject and make a legible thumbnail cover image.”

The Men's Attire Answer Book
JF: Hey, you could have taken the photos too! A good example of why we need cover designers if we want to produce covers for our books that measure up to the content. This one falls far short of the mark in both concept and execution.

MARION W OMALLEY submitted Shopping With Mama: Write ‘Til the End designed by Juanita Wrenn.

Shopping With Mama: Write 'Til the End
JF: Not sure I ‘get’ the title, but a good job of stitching together these images to create a cover that gets its message across.

Renata Lanzoni submitted Shattered Moon designed by Renata Lanzoni. “The image is of the place the book is set in and the eye conveys the theme of the story, which is horror and fear. This is also conveyed by the red color palette chosen.”

Shattered Moon
JF: Looks a lot more like a novel, and that disembodied eye is creepy.

Robert J Power submitted The Little book of Lies designed by Les at Germancreative. “The Little Book of Lies is a humour book filled with fictitious, yet genuine sounding, facts to fool your friends with. Les did great work making my pocket-sized illustrated companion book look bright and fun. I couldn’t be happier with it.”

The Little book of Lies
JF: Clean, simple, and effective.

Simeon Davis submitted The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: A Practical Commentary for Leading a Successful Spiritual Life designed by Brother Simeon Davis. “The cover art shows Krishna and Arjuna, the main figures of the Bhagavad Gita, the epic classic of Indian religion. I aimed for simplicity, trying to make the type simple yet distinctive and readable, and letting the image carry the cover.”

The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: A Practical Commentary for Leading a Successful Spiritual Life
JF: The illustration is used well, although it might have been interesting to zoom in more on the two figures and the ornate workmanship of the carriage.

Well, that’s it for this month. I hope you found it interesting, and that you’ll share with other people interested in self-publishing.

Use the share buttons below to Tweet it, Share it on Facebook, Link to it!

Our next awards post will be on March 31, 2019. Deadline for submissions will be February 28, 2019. Don’t miss it! Here are all the links you’ll need:

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Creativity, Symbolism And Writing With The Tarot With Caroline Donahue

Symbolism can add depth to our writing, turning characters into real people, and developing nuance in scenes. In today's podcast interview, Caroline Donahue explains how to use Tarot cards to delve into symbolism and give your unconscious mind some fuel for creativity.

Writing With The TarotIn the introduction, I talk about the ghostwriting + plagiarism scandal sweeping the romance community #copypastecris, referring to Courtney Milan's original article and what to do about it, plus Kris Rusch's in-depth analysis. I explain the difference between ghostwriting and co-writing, as well as why ghostwriting is a normal practice in publishing [Reedsy examples], but plagiarism is most definitely not acceptable.

Productivity for AuthorsToday's show is sponsored by my Productivity for Authors mini-course with lessons on saying no and setting boundaries, finding time to write, making the most of your writing time, co-writing, working with author assistants, dictation, tools I use personally, and thoughts on health and mindset. Find all my courses at:

Caroline DonahueCaroline Donahue is an American author and writing coach living in Berlin, Germany. She's also the host of The Secret Library podcast. Her new book is Story Arcana: Tarot for Writers.

You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • Common misconceptions about tarot
  • Ways of using the tarot to think about character motivation and inner landscape
  • story arcanaCrossover between Jungian psychology and the tarot
  • The three types of archetypal journeys a book, its author and its characters go through
  • Doing tarot readings with authors to discover what may not be working in a book
  • Why you don’t need to know what the cards mean before working with them
  • Why your subconscious matters when working with tarot
  • On interviewing authors and noticing what they have in common
  • On the changes a new city and continent have had on Caroline’s writing

You can find Caroline Donahue at and on Twitter @carodonahue

Transcript of Interview with Caroline Donahue

Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from and today I'm here with Caroline Donahue. Hi, Caroline.

Caroline: Hi. It's so nice to be here.

Joanna: Oh, it's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.

Caroline is an American author and writing coach living in Berlin, Germany. She's also the host of ‘The Secret Library' podcast which is fantastic and I've been on it, so go listen to that.

Caroline: You've been on it twice.

Joanna: It's amazing. Today we are talking about her latest book ‘Story Arcana: Using Tarot for Writing' which is super cool and something I have definitely done over my creative lifetime.

Caroline, start by telling us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.

Caroline: I think it's one of those things where it's difficult to say when it started because it was kind of always there. I have these memories of being a little kid and taking stacks of paper and folding them in half and stapling them and making books, like, at a compulsive pitch.

Then the problem was is that I may have been an early compulsive bookbinder as much as anything else, at which what my mother pointed out, ‘You might actually want to write in them before you make another one.'

But I was the kid who was hiding under the piano in the corner of the classroom and reading and I pulled my first all-nighter I think when I was in third grade, third or fourth grade, reading ‘Bridge to Terabithia.'

It started very early the obsession with books and my mother used to say that I ate books, which I think is fairly accurate. I'd rather give up food than books probably.

And so with this intensity about books, there was always an interest in writing. And I was fortunate in that my family was not the kind of family that said, ‘Oh, that's a terrible idea. You'll starve to death and die,' or the things that people say, and I got to go to some creative writing camps. There were some writing classes early on in school and I was really supported in that enjoyment.

Now, the funny thing is, I didn't end up getting a degree in creative writing at school. I studied art history and then I ended up studying psychology which has actually been a better degree for writing in some ways because just getting into the way people work and the way that they think has continued to engage me.

I find that actually being into books is the best possible way to handle this because every book can be different. You can write fiction and nonfiction. Writing has been a way for me to stay engaged with many different interests, and yet appear to have a cohesive career.

Joanna: I love that.

Caroline: That's why it's really worked in the long term.

Joanna: I totally get that and I think that works really well. I feel the same way. We can do our research however we like. I have a second degree in psychology and also art history come into a lot of my books as well so obviously you and I have a lot in common. We always talk about this.

Caroline: Totally.

Joanna: Let's get into the tarot. I blame Hollywood, I blame the media for making it sort of only gypsy fortunetellers or satanic rituals use tarot cards.

Tell us a bit more about what tarot is and some of the misconceptions that might be out there.

Caroline: One of my favorite sort of debunking statements about the whole kind of, ‘Is it a satanic tool?' is a friend of mine, Susannah Conway always says, ‘Well, they're just bits of cardboard with pictures on them.' That's what they are.

There are a lot of tools out there that are used for communication and exploration and I think people thought the telephone was kind of a satanic tool early on because it allowed people to communicate over long distances in ways they wouldn't normally be able to do.

So I think the tool itself is actually quite neutral and I think that it depends on how you use it. Some people use it and claim to use it to be able to predict the future and that's not how I'm working with it and I don't think I've actually ever studied with anyone who claims to be able to predict the future.

It's more that, from my background where I studied, expressive arts therapy and psychology is the relationship that the unconscious mind has to imagery, and the mind abhors a vacuum. So if you present a brain with a picture that looks like there's something going on in the picture and then you try to say to yourself, ‘Okay, well what's going on here?'

Your mind will start to fill in the gaps. It just happens naturally. We are storytelling, meaning-making beings. It's how we've made sense out of our lives as long as people have existed.

The tarot is a system that's been around for hundreds of years. It was originally started as…there are mixed kind of thoughts on it, but the greater consensus is that it was started as a card game and that some fortunetellers kind of co-opted the card game and then started to use it for fortunetelling.

It wasn't even intended as a fortunetelling tool from the beginning but because it's had this long association, a lot of people get nervous and freaked out about that, and there are some relatively scary pictures on it.

People get scared of the devil card or they get scared of the tower, they get scared of death. They're not light topics but life isn't light either if we look at it below the surface. It's not like life is puppies and kittens and flowers everywhere and we never have to deal with anything dark.

In many ways I feel like the tarot is a more honest representation of our experience as people because it does include dark imagery, and good books include dark stuff. They're not just sort of, ‘La, la, la, everything is beautiful. The end.' We might want to write one of those sometimes because it'd be kind of a relief but I don't.

Joanna: Neither do I.

Caroline: No, you definitely do not. And most of the people that I know who read books don't want to read those either.

Joanna: I agree with you. I think there's something on that deeper level. You just reminded me there of ‘James Bond: Live and Let Die' I think ‘The Hangman' and the voodoo stuff coming out from the grave and it's been associated with stuff like that, but actually, as you say, I love that, just pictures on pieces of cardboard. That's fantastic. I love it.

Caroline: Bless you Susannah for that one, but it's true. They're neutral. They're an inanimate object. There's no power inside of them that's going to change or control your life. It's a way for you to trick your unconscious to giving you information that's not readily available.

Joanna: No, it's almost like a writing prompt when we're talking about writers.

Caroline: Exactly.

Joanna: So the symbolism of tarots.

Pick a card, any card, and talk about how the symbolism of a card might help us access that unconscious mind.

Caroline: The one that I've focused on, because there are 72 cards in the deck and I have only focused on the first 22 in this book because I feel like they're a set.

The major arcana is traditionally looked at as a set, and for those who don't know much about the tarot there's the major arcana and there's the minor arcana, and the majors in all decks they have big pictures on them and they have big names and they are big types like ‘The Hermit' or ‘The Fool' or ‘The Magician.'

Anyone who's Googled tarot sees that yellow picture from the Rider-Waite with the guy with his arms outstretched and the symbols around him. That's sort of a standard image. So that's the major arcana and they represent major turns in the road, big changes, and the minors are more everyday incidents.

And then within that, there are the court cards, which are people. And so I'm planning to write about those later in terms of plot and the court cards I think are more about character development so I'm going to play with those later.

I don't know if anyone has this issue. I have this issue sometimes when I'm writing a character, it feels a bit forced or it feels like I'm kind of the characters mouthing what I want them to say or they feel a bit like a puppet and there has to be some kind of unconscious motivation going on.

Maybe that the character isn't even aware of because we do things all the time not realizing why we're really doing them and you want your characters to feel more like real people.

So sometimes asking a question like, ‘Well, what are they hiding here? What are they maybe hiding from themselves?' And then pulling a card and seeing what comes out, then you can start to turn it into a puzzle.

Say you have a character who's a really, really friendly, helpful, kindhearted character and then you pull a card and the card underneath it's hiding from them it's something like ‘The Hierophant' hiding underneath, and ‘The Hierophant' is about institutions of thought. It's also about the sort of institutionalized religion, organized thinking society and that sort of thing.

You might have a character who appears to be extremely helpful but if you look at their underneath agenda, they're really trying to push a system. They might be trying to convert somebody. They might be trying to put them in a box or have them make sense.

It's a way to make the dynamic just a little more sophisticated, and often it doesn't take that much to make a scene just a little bit more interesting or dialogue just a little bit more realistic.

Because if you have a scene that's like, ‘Hi, John, I've just been to the store. They were out of milk.' And he says, ‘Well damn, I'm really sad that they were out of milk.' That's not going to be that interesting, but if what's really happening is it's a man and woman and he thinks she hasn't really been to the store. He thinks she's been sneaking out to see her lover.

If you find that underneath. If you pull ‘The Lovers' and see maybe somebody thinks there's something else going on then the thing about the milk can be pretty dynamic.

Joanna: I love that and it's really interesting. I told you this earlier, but at several points in my life's journey, I've pulled ‘The Moon' and ‘The Hermit' and amazingly ‘The Moon' especially has come up for me again and again.

I haven't done my own spread that often in my life but at major points where I just don't know what I'm doing with my life, I pulled ‘The Moon'.

In case anyone is interested, what do you think that says about me?

Caroline: I think ‘The Moon' is about intuition.

The moon comes out at night and it's illumination that happens at night and it's also on many decks. I think you said you had a Rider-Waite, but if you look at a Rider-Waite moon, you'll see this crazy lobster crawling out of the water. There's a lot of weird stuff going on in ‘The Moon.'

There's a wolf howling and there's usually this lobster coming out. I think that ‘The Moon' to me represents looking at the unconscious and seeing what comes up from the depths if you really pay attention to that. So if you're working with ‘The Moon' it's not all going to be out in the open.

It's not like ‘The Sun,' another card, where everything will be really obvious, upfront, everything's good. It's easy. But ‘The Moon' is you have to wait until it gets dark out, you have to wait until some light comes out and then the stuff is going to start coming out of the depths and then you'll be able to see what's really going on.

To me it's about patience, it's not being afraid to find inspiration in the darker portion of your exploration and it's also about trusting your intuition and trusting yourself and not expecting it to be all out in the front with a blaring sign like, ‘Here it is.' It takes a bit more patience to work with ‘The Moon.'

Joanna: I love that and I think it's been quite comforting for me to have ‘The Moon' and also ‘The Hermit' which just represents the writer's life.

Caroline: Totally. It's like, ‘Don't hang out with people. Just go write. Go write. Just go do it, basically.'

Joanna: Exactly.

Let's talk about archetypes because again, we both studied psychology. I've written about Carl Jung. I know you're also really interested in Jungian psychology.

How are the archetypes represented between Jungian psychology and the tarot?

Caroline: I think that there are several layers going on. It's easy to talk about with the major arcane, which again is the focus of the book for this stage, because it not only talks about types that you see like ‘The Empress' is a mother figure, a very maternal figure. You see that in every society.

‘The Emperor' is a paternal figure that's a male energy that's really in charge and can handle everything, and then those are the sorts of archetypal images that you see in every society one way or another.

But the other layer of it is that from the beginning of the major arcana with ‘The Fool' all the way to ‘The World' at the end there is a journey that is happening, and the archetype of a journey is something that's present in most societies.

You see it in ‘The Odyssey'. You see it in cave paintings, you see people going out to hunt trying to solve something and then coming back, and all of these stages of what can happen in the journey are present in the major arcana.

You have the little guy at the beginning of ‘The Fool' who's got a backpack on, he sets out. You get to ‘The Magician' he's got a sense of, okay, I'm feeling a sense of mastery and he goes through all of these stages leading to the cards that scare people and that everybody wants to throw back in the deck whenever they pull them like ‘The Tower' which is everything falls apart, and ‘The Devil' which everybody thinks just means the worst possible thing happening. I don't, but we can talk about that if you want.

And then also, ‘Death' which is sort of an ending things that have to be. And that can be a literal death or it can be a metaphorical death where a relationship dies, something in a storyline dies, something happens.

‘Death' is pretty much primal an archetype as you can get. And then it comes out the other side with things like ‘The Sun' and ‘The Moon' and ‘The Star' which is a bit of hope and moving forward into a sort of reckoning with ‘Judgement' and then you get to ‘The World' which is sort of like, ‘Okay, now we've come full circle, literally like a globe. We've come full circle.' And then you start over.

One thing that I focus on in the book that I think is important is that there are three levels that go through this major arcana journey which is an archetypal journey.

You have your characters in the book will go through their own journey, figure things out, learn things, maybe not learn some other things and they will reach a point at the end.

The book itself will go through its own evolution. Points where the book is working, when the book is not working, when you want to throw the book in the garbage, feeling like this was a stupid idea, ‘I shouldn't have written this book,' and then, ‘Oh, wait, I've figured it out.'

You get through the ‘The Tower' part where the book is terrible and then you have some hope and then you get to the end and you get to ‘The World' and there's your book.

But it's also for the writer because anybody who writes knows that part of the reason that what you want to write is that we want to be transformed by the process as well.

If it was we were exactly the same as we were at the beginning every time we write a book I mean that would get pretty boring for me. So those three layers are happening and you can follow those archetypes through the journey of the major arcana in the tarot.

Joanna: Wow. It's so interesting, and this is the truth about writing, isn't it? You can go all these different layers and levels and like you say, it can be our journey as writers, it can be the journey of the characters. It's just fascinating.

There's so much in your book. It really is jam-packed amazing stuff, but I'm interested because of course you also do readings for other people. You do readings for other writers.

Caroline: I do.

Joanna: If people want to do their own reading with your book, how would they do that or how do you do it for other people?

Caroline: The way I started was basically that, like you, I was getting the same cards all the time for myself.

I would go through phases, and it does change, I would use a different deck. I would change. Nope, you're still getting whatever it was. You're still getting ‘The Hangman' right now. You're in limbo, too bad for you.

And so I said, ‘Well, there's cards I'm just never drawing so I want to learn.' So I decided I was going to do a 100 readings one summer and I just told anybody I'm doing it by donation. I really just want to build more of a relationship with these other cards that I never pull.

And then I ended up doing one of those readings for someone who was working on a book and they said, ‘I don't really need a reading for me. I feel okay about me.' But I'm really stuck on this book.

So we looked at what was not working with the book, where was the stuck point with the book and then you start to ask questions and pull a card and then look at the card and like we discussed earlier your subconscious will start to fill in answers.

You can ask questions and it's best if they are who, what, when, where, why kind of questions. ‘Why' is really good. ‘How' is pretty good. ‘What's missing' is good. You don't want to say, ‘Is this book good? Yes or no?' That's really not going to work very well with the tarot. They have to be a little bit more like prompts where you would want to do some journaling after you do it.

But I do put a couple of spreads that are examples of ones I've created especially for writers in the book. One is which is like working with dialogue. So if somebody is having a conversation you can pull a card for each character and then you can pull another card underneath each character to say what are you really trying to talk about here.

No one ever talks about what they actually talking about in a book or they shouldn't because otherwise, you get things like, ‘Oh, George, we must run forth before the explosion happens because it will kill us all and this is not expository dialogue at all.' You don't want that.

There has to be something going on underneath. Picking something for your surface level and then picking for something underneath is really helpful.

Another thing that's helpful is if you get into this situation. I don't know if anyone else has this happened. It happens to me all the time where my character is in location A, I need to get them to location B and they don't seem to want to go to location B. It just feels unnatural or it's like, ‘Oh, I've got to get them there but it feels really far.'

I used to live in Maine for a while at one point and one thing that they like to say is like, ‘Oh, you can't get there from here, because the roads are constructed in such a way that it's very difficult to get to a place that looks very close by.'

So I had a spread in my head that I called the ‘You can't get there from here.' You pick a card for where the character is now, you pick a card for where they're trying to go and then you pick another one for in between and then start saying, ‘Oh, the people in there are…'

You don't have to know what the tarot means. I would hate people listening to feel like they have to go buy a bunch of tarot books and study it and learn it. It's not like learning a foreign language where you can't interact with it if you don't know what the words actually mean.

Because they're pictures, you can look at the picture and it's more important that you decide what that picture looks like to you. So if you see something like the five of ones and there's a bunch of people trying to poke each other with long sticks and you say, ‘Oh look it's like they're in a fight it's not going well.'

Maybe if she got in a fight with somebody then she'd want to leave and then she could go to this other location.

It's more important that your unconscious kicks in when you're looking at the cards so that your associations and your understanding of your story is what allows it to mean more and to give you some aha moments.

Joanna: I love that. I love the idea of the two levels of the dialogue and then what's actually going on underneath. That's a really good tip. I love that. I'm going to try that. It's fantastic.

Caroline: Yes, it's fun.

Joanna: Let's talk about the decks because you're in art history and I love visual images. I've looked at a lot of this stuff and the interesting thing is there's not one tarot deck that everybody uses. So there might be one card called ‘The Moon' and such but if you buy a Native American deck versus the Rider-Waite as we've mentioned is the kind of maybe the best known.

We've also got the Thoth deck in our house which my husband likes and I know you've got other ones.

Tell us about the deck or decks you prefer and also does it matter? And why the image is so different?

Caroline: First of all, I will say it does not matter what deck you get as long as you like it. If you respond to the imagery and the imagery feels really exciting or rewarding or it connects to the kind of thing you're trying to work on then I think it's completely fine.

There's no one deck to rule them all. I don't think that exists, especially now when there are new decks coming out all the time.

The Rider-Waite-Smith is sort of become one syntax. So there are a lot of decks that will take the illustration that Pamela Smith originally did and I think that was the first deck to have illustrations not just for the major arcana but for the minor arcana.

In many decks, before that, it used to just look like playing cards where you'd have symbols that were the number of symbols for that. There would be five ones in a picture and that was it. There would be no scene. So she's the one who came up with all of the scenes and the scenes have fairly consistent things that happen.

You'll see a lot of decks that have different styles of art and it's fun if you're a big nerd like me where you're like, ‘Oh, oh that's so clever how they placed that a little differently than this.'

But there's always going to be a lobster with ‘The Moon' in the Rider-Waite-Smith convention. The Toth is a completely different sort of syntax. It's like that one is a different language. So if you're really into that, that is its own kind of system if that makes sense to you.

So for somebody who's looking to build a relationship with the tarot, it's kind of interesting to pay attention to which one that is. You don't have to get an actual Rider-Waite-Smith deck if you don't respond to the imagery. Some people love it. Some people are just like, ‘Well, I'm not into it.'

But there are so many out there that there's a deck for you somewhere. There are so many. And a really good place to start is there is a site called, I never know how to pronounce it, and you can look up tarot decks and name for most decks that have been published with the exception of some independents that are on Kickstarter and so on and not yet indexed, but they will have pictures of most of the deck.

I think that one thing to guard against when you're buying a deck is that sometimes you'll see a picture of a deck and there's a picture on the cover of the box and then you may see one or two others and think you're really into it and those three are the ones that you love and then the rest of the deck leaves you flat.

It's like when the single on the album is amazing and then the rest of the album you're not into it. That can happen with tarot.

So the more you can see as many cards in the deck as possible before purchasing or even better if you can go to a shop and see them then that will help. Often if you buy things off Etsy or an independent site or Little Red Tarot in Europe is a great source.

Those places will have pictures of lots of the cards so you can make sure that this is really something you're responding to.

I had a giant card catalog file filled with decks before we left the U.S. in the fall. I had to cut it down. Hilariously, it was culling to down to, like, 50 decks. It was not culling down to two. So there was somewhere I was like, ‘This is cool.' I gave them to friends who are interested, but I still have probably 40 or 50 decks.

Joanna: What did you write the book on for example or did you just kind of use them all?

Caroline: I tended to use groups because I didn't want to be writing from just one deck because I felt like I would be really leaning on that card's imagery and I wanted someone reading the book to be able to use the deck that they loved and not be kind of wedded to it.

I played with using imagery from cards in the book but then I was like, ‘No, I don't want to have a particular deck that people feel they have to respond to.' And I have different decks.

If you go on Pinterest, it is a great place to find tarot spreads. If you search for a question that you have and say tarot spread then they will appear. There's one that's called a deck interview which is kind of fun.

So when you get a deck you can interview your deck which is really fun, because if you go down the rabbit hole like I did if you're into you will end up just get a cabinet. Just get a cabinet and you're going to have all your decks in there and it's going to be fine.

But there are different decks that have very different imagery. I have one that's called the Bohemian Gothic that's hilarious and it's like old-fashioned, crazy, Dracula kind of stuff. I'm not going to use that to write a romance scene necessarily.

Or if you're writing a romance novel you may not want that deck. But if you're writing an adventure suspense plot you're not going to use the cat tarot of which there are many.

I think that you can have different decks that work for different situations and one of the things in this deck interview spread is you can say what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses…you pull cards for this and then it says what should we work on together.

You could look at maybe this deck is really into dialogue or maybe this deck is really into character development or it's really into crime novels and maybe you have another deck that's really, really into romance novels. And maybe you have another one that's really into literary fiction.

It's tough to say. But I like the idea that they all have their own personalities and they're really into different kinds of subjects just like we are. And that the art will activate different parts of your brain that will work well for that. That's all that really matters is that you like it.

Joanna: When I was reading your stuff I was like, ‘Oh, you know, I should look at some other decks.' and I fell, like, into the rabbit hole as you said.

Caroline: Oh, boy.

Joanna: Oh yeah, and I was like, ‘Okay, I'm backing away now because it's…'

Caroline: Yeah, you gotta back away.

Joanna: It's so cool but it's also very intimidating. So I'm back to my Rider-Waite, but it is definitely beautiful as well.

I think this is really important like to stress that this writing prompts can so often be written. Writing prompts are written, whereas this is almost a writing prompt from something visual and I'm a visual writer.

I'm often looking at visual stuff to prompt my writing. So if people listening are in that phase then that really works.

Caroline: Definitely. I think it's helpful to have different kinds of prompts. You can even just say I feel like writing something, pull a card and see…like, okay well, look at this picture and say, ‘Okay, what would a circumstance be surrounding this scene?' And just start writing that and see what happens.

Joanna: I want to ask about your podcast, ‘The Secret Library' podcast, which is amazing and you interview some seriously famous writers, a lot of literary fiction, a lot of kind of prize winners and really interesting guests.

I definitely urge people to check out ‘The Secret Library' podcast.

Because you have interviewed so many super successful authors, are there any commonalities that you see in those writers that you've kind of learned over the years.

Caroline: I think so. I've thought about this a lot but one of the things I've noticed is that just in speaking to them there isn't this point where you're a prize winner or you've won an award for your book or something and then writing suddenly becomes this really easy process where there are no doubts or fears or concerns or you never get stuck.

What I've learned from talking to them is that they're not superhuman. It's kind of like when you get to the age when your parents were when you were a certain age and frustrated with them and you thought you're an adult, you're supposed to understand everything and then you get to this age you're like, ‘Oh, no, they had no idea what was going on.'

It feels a little bit like that, which is not to say these writers don't know what's going on, it's just that I think that for many years I thought when I was trying to write books that when I got really stuck and didn't know what to do that that was an indication of my lack of skill or that it was an indication that I didn't know what I was doing.

In talking to so many authors who hit that point and yet worked through it and continue that that point of feeling like I don't know what I'm doing right now is not an indication of failure, it's just part of the process.

And I think author after author after author that I talk to has had that experience and even the ones who are really big and have hit it really big have often written like four or five books that they tried to sell and nothing was happening, there was nothing keeping them going.

I think of Donal Ryan who is a fiction writer and he just tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and he said, ‘The only reason I kept going was because my wife just said, ‘You know what? It's good and you should keep going.”

And as soon as he published he was shortlisted for a prize but it took years and he could've given up at any moment if there hadn't been somebody saying, ‘No, this is worth it, what you're doing.'

I think that seems to be a consistent theme is that there was some force that convinced them that how terrible it can feel at certain points was not an indication that they shouldn't be writing or that writing wasn't for them.

Joanna: That's interesting you picked that one because you're also writing a novel right now, aren't you?

Caroline: I am.

Joanna: Do you think that's the thing that you personally are taking in or what else are you taking in into your writing process from what you've learned?

Caroline: It's probably the one that's with me today because today I have a library that I go to. I'm a member of a library here in Berlin which I love and it is like my zone and I was running a little bit late this morning.

It's a very popular library. You have to be a member but I got there and there were no desks and it completely threw me off my game and I wrote nothing this morning. So I think having heard this from all these writers I'm like, ‘Oh, good. This is not an indicator that the book is not going to get finished. It's just a hiccup in the routine and I have to just go back tomorrow and it will be fine.'

But the one that is the most consistent and not even today and not even when I was really hardcore working on the book. I was always present with that and always with clients, but I think the other thing too is that there are points when you have to let go of control of the book in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable.

I can think of several people, one in particular, the most dramatic by far, was Patricia Park who was working on a book called, ‘Re Jane' and it was a Korean retelling of ‘Jane Eyre'. She was working in her uncle's shop in New York in one of the boroughs and she hit this point where it's like, ‘Oh, this book is not working. I can't believe it.'

She got a Fullbright to go to South America and kind of spend a lot of time researching the Korean community in South America which is quite large in Argentina. And she got into there and she was really in it and she was starting to develop something and then she realized that the character she was developing was actually a B character in her original book that she had decided was not working.

Not everybody is probably going to get a Fullbright and go to South America and research and realize it's still the same book, but she thought she had a whole new book and it was still the same book.

I think the other one that really stands out is that I have had every single person who has mentioned the length of time it has taken them to write a book has been irritated at how long it took and none of them have said, ‘God, I really wish it had taken a little bit longer. If this book could've taken me another six months, that would've been great, but no it just happened so fast.'

Nobody ever says that. It's always like there's something about it that was inefficient or difficult but also that they gained insight that they needed to have through the process of it being inefficient and difficult and that they were grateful for the insight but they just wish it hadn't taken quite so long.

Joanna: That is super interesting. So I also want to ask you about Berlin because you mentioned the library there and you've been there a few months now, I guess. Six months?

Caroline: We've been here for four.

Joanna: What has Berlin done for you in terms of your life? And what has it changed up about your life? And how does changing place help you change your state as well?

Caroline: Oh, definitely. We had been thinking about this for a few years. We lived in Los Angeles for many years. I was there for 12. My husband was there for 20, and we were at a point where it was time to break up with Los Angeles.

And part of that is how expensive that city has gotten. I want to be writing, I don't want to be sitting in the car which is what you have to do a lot there. There were just a lot of things that we just felt like it wasn't suiting what we wanted.

So we got rid of 80% of our stuff. We moved here. We went from an 1800 square foot, 3-bedroom place with 2 bathrooms to a 440 square foot apartment with one bathroom in which we have three cats and a dog. It's a very, very interesting dynamic.

This is a temporary flat. We will be in something larger before long, but I think we just wanted to cut away all of the distractions and all of the things that were keeping us from doing creative work.

My husband is an artist. He is an illustrator, animator, designer and then I'm writing and I just felt it just takes forever to get anywhere in LA. There was just a lot and it with just all of those things were taking away from the writing.

And also a majority of the book I'm writing right now is set in Berlin. So it turns out it's quite difficult to write a book that's set in Berlin when you're in Los Angeles because they're not very similar.

I think some of it is being in the location of the place that I'm writing about is a huge support and I think that just the European sensibility was one that we have always been interested in and supported.

We just couldn't do the 10 days off a year anymore in America. You have to make a $150,000 to $200,000 to even consider having significant savings that like just to pay for your life and all of those things were like that's just not sustainable, and it's not sustainable doing creative work unless you want to work 80 hours a week when you put your creative work and your day job together.

We just wanted to pull the plug on all of that, which has been wonderful, and to be somewhere where the prevailing value system is not that people should be ground into dust by their work lives.

I'm feeling extremely liberated by that. I'm feeling very grateful to be here. I'm very grateful not to have to have a car anymore.

Joanna: It's a big thing, isn't it?

Caroline: Oh, it's amazing.

Joanna: You can just walk places.

Caroline: We have bikes, you know. We bike or take the…

Joanna: The tube?

Caroline: The public transit which is here and functional.

But the other thing about that that's really good for a writer is I sit on the train on the way to the library, every day that I go to the library and I see a new character. I see someone, I get to watch them and see what they're doing, what are they're wearing, how are they fidgeting. That can go straight in the book.

If I'm sitting in a car on a freeway in LA, I don't get that interaction. I don't get to hear their voice if they're talking to their kid or if they're talking to their friend. All of those details go right in a city like Berlin or London is the same.

There are many cities that have good public transit and everybody is out on it. New York is the same. We were not built for New York. You really have to want that one.

Being here and being able to be a part of that. And the other thing too is as an American things are different here. They look different. The sidewalks look different, and I love that. So I enjoy gobbling all of that detail up.

Joanna: I lived New Zealand and Australia. I was away 11 years and I'm a European. I feel like that and I missed so many things about Europe. So I'm really excited about your book when it eventually makes it out there, your Berlin book.

And also you've got another podcast coming, haven't you? If people are interested.

Caroline: I do. I have a really good friend who is also an American and she took the leap from Boulder, Colorado. She and her family felt like they need a change, she and her husband and her son, and there's been a tech boom in Dublin and she's worked in that field for ages.

So they went to Dublin and they've been there for two years now. we decided based on so many conversations that we would have with people that are like, ‘Oh, that's amazing that you've moved. I couldn't ever do that. That's really amazing what you've done.'

We've both been project managers so we're like, ‘Well, it's just a series of practical steps that you can follow. If you know what they are, it's really not that bad. So we wanted to do a series of episodes of just short kind of actionable, this is how we've done these things. And that the ‘GTFO' podcast that will be coming…

Joanna: What does that stand for?

Caroline: It stands for ‘Get the feck out.' We're going with the Irish ‘feck' rather than the other.

Joanna: Fantastic.

Caroline: So that we don't get kicked off of iTunes.

Joanna: That is a good idea and this is a clean show and that word is clean.

Caroline: Yes, I know.

Joanna: That's fantastic. Where can people find you and everything you do online?

Caroline: They can find me at and then they can find the show at and there are links to everything. I'm on Instagram and Twitter and everything but all of those are on both of those sites.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Caroline. That was great.

Caroline: Thank you so much. It was such a treat talking to you, as always.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn

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Self-Publishing: The Carnival of the Indies Issue #101


By Joel Friedlander

Welcome to this issue of the Carnival of the Indies blog carnival. This issue is for February, 2019. We welcome your submissions on topics related to writing, self-publishing, book design or marketing books.

A collection of outstanding articles recently posted to blogs, your reading here will be richly rewarded.

See the end of this post for links to submit your blog posts for the next carnival, or for participating Bloggers and Featured Bloggers to grab your sidebar badges. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Featured Posts

bloggingDaphne Gray-Grant presents How to establish a writing routine for 2019 posted at The Publication Coach, saying, “The vast number of words required for most books — about 80,000 — ends up intimidating many people. Worse, most of them think they’ll be unable to accomplish the writing if they DON’T devote at least an hour (or more!) a day to it. Instead, I’ve found that the best way to tackle a big project like a book is to work on it a little bit at a time, but do it every day.”

Martin CrosbieMartin Crosbie presents How Can I Gain More Subscribers for My Author Mailing List? posted at Indies Unlimited, saying, “Really great tips on how to build your list. We’ve figured out how to use Mailerlite or Mailchimp of some other mail delivery service, now how do we find readers who want to hear from us? Here are a few ways the IU staff builds their subscriber lists.”

Frances CaballoFrances Caballo presents How Not to Market Your Book – 12 Rookie Mistakes posted at Social Media Just for Writers, saying, “Did you just publish your first book? It’s an exciting time, isn’t it? You’re probably thinking that now it’s time to market your book. To learn about how to market your book, you’re probably reading blog posts like mine and absorbing as much information as you can. Writers put so much energy into writing their books that they have little time to think about marketing them until the final edit is done. That’s when your head tends to come up and when you stop typing. You think to yourself, “It’s time to publish!””

Book Design and Production

Carla King presents Two Online Book Creation Tools That Are Worth the Money posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “’s Tech Guru, Carla King, reviews two of her favorite online book creation tools that allow you to write, edit, share, publish and sell your books from the cloud, including examples of how they work.”

Dmitri Barvinok presents The reach of eBook platforms for Publishers from Kindle to Kobo posted at Front Edge Publishing Blog, saying, “THE POWERFUL REACH OF EBOOKS A QUARTER OF ALL AMERICANS read an eBook last year. In our Front Edge Publishing column this week, Director of Production Dmitri Barvinok writes about why eBooks remain a vital part of book distribution nationwide. In this column, Dmitri shares the latest trends in eBook sales and looks at the unique power and reach of several of the major eBook platforms, including Kindle and Kobo. Are you among those millions of eBook readers? You’ll find this a fascinating overview of how publishers are trying to reach out to you.”

Indie Author

Deborah Jay Deborah Jay presents Authors, are you applying what you learned last year to your current writing? #amwriting posted at Deborah Jay Author, saying, “I wrote this piece both to lay out for myself what I learned last year in my author journey, and to share with others in case it might help them move forward too.”

Lisa Lawmaster Hess presents Embracing My Options posted at The Porch Swing Chronicles.

Mary Patrick presents Are You Covered for Success? posted at Author M. J. Patrick, saying, “This blog follows a recent Indie author, M. J. Patrick, as she navigates through the mysterious of self-publishing. In a recent discussion about publishing woes and wins, choosing the right cover was well visualized when one author brought the same book wrapped in three different covers. This blog reveals the first cover – following blogs in quick succession will reveal the other two, ending with an interview about the entire process that teaches the value of cover design and getting it right.”

Sarah Bolme presents What To Do When Your Book is Pirated posted at Marketing Christian Books, saying, “Authors should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. This is the conventional wisdom. However, piracy does happen. When it happens to you, do you know what to do about it?”

Marketing and Selling Your Books

Brianna Long presents Why Snail Mail is Still Effective in the Age of the Internet posted at The Digital Reader, saying, “Now that brands can reach consumers through emails, texts, and social media, the idea of sending a physical postcard or promotional letter is obsolete, right? Nope! Let me explain why.”

Iola Goulton presents 12 Steps to a Great Blog Post posted at Australasian Christian Writers, saying, “Blogging. It’s often considered one of the basics of a good author platform. But a lot of authors find writing a great blog post an unpleasant chore. 12 Steps to a Great Blog Post will help you write and publish great posts.”

Nate Hoffelder presents How to be a Better Podcast Guest posted at The Digital Reader, saying, “Virtually every marketing expert agrees that if you want to get your message out there in 2018, podcasts are the way to go. We’re told we need to launch our own podcasts, or at the very least be frequent guests on podcasts. This is all very well and good, but how exactly do you go about being a guest on a podcast? How do you make sure that the resulting episode is both fun for listeners and achieves your goals? I can help you with that.”

Sabrina Ricci presents Social Media Updates and Trends posted at Digital Pubbing.

Sarah Bolme presents Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch posted at Marketing Christian Books, saying, “The first few pages of your book are extremely important. You must draw the reader in right from the start. But, be careful that you don’t create a bait and switch.”

Susan Stitt presents How Do I Create Videos to Promote My Book? It’s easier (and more powerful) than you may think! posted at Front Edge Publishing Blog, saying, “Video marketing of books is the future, as in the right now future! We’re just getting started and already the results have been impressive. We have no stake with the companies mentioned in the story, just happy to share what is working for us.”

Self-Publishing Success

Belinda Griffin presents Finding the Ideal Beta Reader to Match Your Target Reader posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “’s Reader Relationship expert, Belinda Griffin, explains how to find, select, and use the ideal beta reader who is aligned with your target reader for your writing and book marketing.”

Dave Chesson presents Setting Up Your Writing Business for Legal Protection posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “’s Author Branding Expert, Dave Chesson, discusses how authors can legally protect their writing business by setting up a company to operate under, something he learned about the hard way. Dave hopes by sharing his experience (and suggestions) he can spare you a similar nightmare.”

Iola Goulton presents Paths to Publishing | Vanity Publishing posted at Christian Editing Services, saying, “This is the final post in a recent series on paths to publishing, and looks at what is often called vanity publishing … when the providers aren’t trying to convince unsuspecting authors that it’s actually self-publishing or indie publishing or even traditional publishing.”

Tyler Doornbos presents DIY Author WordPress Site: 5 Skills for Success posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “’s Web Lead, Tyler Doornbos, offers video walk-throughs of the 5 basic tech skills required to build a DIY WordPress site in his latest series.”

Writing Tools and Tips

Amanda Linehan presents The Emotional Stages Of Writing A Novel posted at Amanda Linehan, saying, “Writing a novel can involve many emotional ups and downs for the writer. What does your emotional arc look like?”

Belinda Pollard presents Survey Results: The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers posted at Write, Edit and Publish Like A Pro, saying, “My survey about people’s experience with beta readers received a rush of responses. Writers clearly find manuscript feedback valuable, but also sometimes struggle with the process. The good news is that there are answers to the problems.”

C. S. Lakin presents How to Advance Your Plot with Careful Scene Design – 5 Steps posted at Live Write Thrive, saying, “Plotting is complex, and whether you “wing it” or plot extensively, there are 5 key steps that will help you stay on track when brainstorming a scene.”

Lisa Poisso presents Formatting your manuscript for editors and agents posted at Clarity: Tools and Skills for Authors, saying, “When you want your work taken seriously, it should look as though it deserves that respect. You want the publishing professionals you work with to be able to focus on the story and the words, not flinching at how painfully small the type is or how tired their index finger is from scrolling through production-sized layouts.”

Lisa Poisso presents How to revise your manuscript: a revision planner posted at Clarity: Tools and Skills for Authors, saying, “Early revision is about big-picture revision: plot, characterization, point of view, and so on. Don’t waste your time tweaking writing you may end up pulling up by the roots. Your mantra: Don’t fiddle—revise.”

Louise Harnby presents How to convey accents in fiction writing: Beyond phonetic spelling posted at The Parlour, saying, “Do your characters speak with an accent? All of us speak in ways that are distinctive; we just don’t notice our own accents because they’re ours and we’re used to them. This article offers guidance on how to self-edit your fiction writing so that accents don’t become the primary story.”

Louise Harnby presents How to write thoughts in fiction posted at The Parlour, saying, “If you write fiction, chances are your characters will be thinking. This article shows you several different ways of conveying what’s going on in their heads.”

Mikhaeyla Kopievsky presents Energising your Plot posted at Mikhaeyla Kopievsky, saying, “An article that looks at ways to tighten the pace of your novel (particularly the difficult second act) using energy instead of conflict.”

Phillip McCollum presents Learning How to Learn Fiction posted at Phillip McCollum – Author, saying, “I’ve started a series on my blog that’s focused on optimizing the learning process (meta-learning) when it comes to writing fiction. We all want to become better writers, but what’s the “best way” to become better? That’s a question I hope to address.”

Zara Altair presents What’s Your Mystery Subgenre? posted at Write Time, saying, “An introduction to mystery subgenres for authors. Why you need to know your subgenre and how it will get you the right readers.”

Well, that wraps up this issue. I hope you enjoy some of the great articles here, and let other people interested in self-publishing know about the Carnival—Use the share buttons to Tweet it, Share it on Facebook, Link to it!

The next issue is March 31, 2019 and the deadline for submissions will be March 15, 2019. Don’t miss it!

Here are all the links you’ll need

The post Self-Publishing: The Carnival of the Indies Issue #101 appeared first on The Book Designer.

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Writers Recognize Your Wingmen

When my daughter started soccer in kindergarten I made some interesting observations. You see there were three kinds of kids on the field. There were the goal-getters, the kids who would hit the ball into the goal and score points. Then there were the passers, the children who would pass the ball to the goal-getters. And then lastly there were the blockers, the kids who would keep the other children off the backs of the goal-getters.

It was always the goal-getters that got most of the accolades from the assembled parents and other spectators. But, any coach will tell you that the passers and the blockers were both just as necessary to the success of the team. They just didn’t receive any of the glory.

In writing, you have the same setup. You have your authors, these are your goal-getters, and the people who get all of the accolades from the book. But, you also have your illustrators who create all the images in the book – these are akin to your passers. Lastly, you have your support people, marketers, formatting specialists and PR people – these are akin to your blockers. They keep your book on track finish the production cycle and get your book noticed.

Just as in soccer you need all three types of children, so to do you need all three types of people in the production of your book. Never forget that!

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Review: Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War by Patrick Hogan

As one of the darkest periods in America history, the Vietnam War continues to fascinate new generations. In Silent Spring - Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War, author Patrick Hogan pulls back another curtain on that brutal conflict, and the battles that it is still causing today. Many people are cursorily familiar with the devastating [...]

This story originally appeared on Self-Publishing Review

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Self-Publishing Review’s Author Manifesto for 2019

We asked authors what they want this year. It's a really simple list: Personal customer service, something to help set up on Amazon, flexible pricing, tons of shares on social media, to sell books, Amazon Customer Reviews, free advice, leave disinformation behind, and have the freedom to publish without shame. How will we deliver this [...]

This story originally appeared on Self-Publishing Review