Silmarillion Awards 2018

SilmAwards InfoGraphic

Today I am here to announce that the Silmarillion Awards are returning for their THIRD year in a row… though, those of you who have been following us for more than the last twelve minutes will notice that they got bumped to a later time-slot this year. With 6 out of 11 bloggers who have participated in the Awards going to Realm Makers this year, we decided it was better to move them to September! Partially because of alliteration, and partially because this way we’re not competing too much with all the back-to-school excitement as much… most people should be settled in by then.

If you’ve been a part of this event before, you know the drill! We haven’t changed anything this year about the Awards themselves.

For those just tuning in, here is the basic gist:

The Silmarils of old were coveted jewels of great worth and power. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, they were the most prized of all the wonders crafted by the elves.

Now, in Tolkien’s world, there were only three of these amazing jewels. But the hosts of the Silmarillion Awards have crafted TEN of them! And we award them to fictional characters that YOU vote for!

This year’s awards are the same as last year’s… we will be awarding a Silmaril for the following categories:

Wisest Councillor

Least Competent Henchman

Most Silver Tongued

Most Epic Hero

Strangest Character

Most Epic Heroine

Most Mischievous Imp 

Most Magnificent Dragon

Most Loyal Friend

Most Nefarious Villain

Each of these awards will be hosted by a different blogger who will be helping host the Silmarillion Awards. For a sneak peek at who is hosting what, you can click on each of the categories and it will take you to that host’s blog.

I will be opening up the nominations for the Least Competent Henchman here on this blog on September 3rd, along with a complete list of instructions and those pesky rules that are always necessary for these sorts of adventures… quests…. things….

Authors, remember, you cannot nominate your OWN characters…. BUT you are more than welcome to ask your fans to do so on your behalf!

Here are a couple of graphics in addition to the info-graphic above that you are welcome to use in order to share the news far and wide…

silmarill-awards-white silmaril-awards-banner-web

Get excited and spread the word!!!!

~ jenelle

Tuesday Tip: Cover Art

Tuesday Tips (1)

If I were to tell you to be like John Hammond and “spare no expense” on only TWO aspects of your book… it would be editing and cover art. There are a lot of places you can save money and “do it yourself,” but these two are so essential to your success as a published author, that I would caution you against cutting corners in these places.

The cover of your book is your first impression.

Despite the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” if we’re honest with ourselves, when it comes to actual BOOKS, it’s exactly what we do. Now, there are many ways a reader can happen across your book… perhaps they have read your books before and will pick up anything with your name on it and give it a go. But if you’re just starting out, chances are your name is not going to be the big draw. That leaves you with the need to come up with a snazzy title and an awesome cover.

Book covers are more than just a pretty picture with some text slapped on there. When choosing a cover artist, you may want to find someone who can not only do beautiful artwork, but also graphic design, since putting text over pictures takes a whole different kind of skill. There is a big difference between beautiful Cover Art and a pleasing Book Cover!

There are a couple of ways you can go with this: you can find someone who will do some original artwork for your covers, which is a great way to go, but also going to be the most expensive. You can find a digital artist, also a great option, and not as expensive, or you can find someone who can take stock images and put them together in unique ways using Photoshop (also called Compositing). If you wander through a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you will see examples of all of these. The Big Publishers use all of these types of artists for their books, so the good news is that each one is a viable option for an indie author!

I would caution you against having a small child draw you a picture and using that as your cover. Unless you are specifically writing children’s books, this is the quickest way to make your book scream “AMATEUR!” I have a few books like this on my shelf, and while I love the stories inside, the covers make me cringe.

I’m not going to do a slide show of “good covers” vs “bad covers” here… I know too many authors and am meeting new ones online all the time and have no desire to accidentally hurt anyone’s feelings. If you want to see examples of book covers that will probably prevent a reader from picking it up, you can check out THIS SITE.

When it comes to things like the placement of the graphic elements (title, your name, series title, etc) there appears to be no industry standard… this is going to be a preference thing. I recommend wandering around a library or book store and taking note of what YOU like on a cover. Do you like the author’s name to be BIG? Do you prefer the title at the TOP of the cover? You’ll find every combination imaginable. Have fun!

If you’re writing a series, you’ll want to make sure that the covers for each book go together, and that the graphic elements look similar and have consistent placing on the book and spines.

Now, just for fun, I want to share with you a few covers that I think are absolutely beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and look professional. (Obviously I think my own covers are lovely, but I’m biased, so for this exercise I’m going to share covers for books I had nothing to do with). I have read some of these, but not all of them.

First Category – Original Artwork - 

Second Category – Composite Artwork - 

Third Category – Symbols -

 

Personally, the composite covers are the hardest for me to find examples of ones I like. They often include beautiful pictures, but I can see where the images have been stitched together, or I don’t feel like they are blended well, and that detracts from the cover itself. Actually… now that I think about it… I think The Last Motley cover is actually a superbly well done composite….

Something that you can see in the above images is a vast array of different styles and layouts. Here are a couple of takeaways and considerations:

1. Be careful of high-contrast images, these can be difficult to place text over and have it still be readable

2. Don’t be afraid of using a box graphic to put your text inside. When done well, this can look professional and aesthetically pleasing.

3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The covers I like best may not be your cup of tea. When in doubt, get a couple more sets of eyes on it.

Now, to answer a few of your questions, dear Reader:

How do indie-authors specifically go about getting cover art for their books? Is it hard to find an artist? Can you do it yourself? Is it hard to get it to look professional and appealing to readers?

First of all, I would strongly recommend against trying to create your cover yourself. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but this is one most people I’ve talked to all agree on… even authors I know who have degrees in graphic arts or similar credentials. It might just be one of those things you are too close to. It’s like trying to do all the editing yourself. Your brain will fill in what you thought you wrote, and it’s easier than you’d think to miss a ton of problems.

When it comes to finding a cover artist, there are quite a lot of them out there, and these days you can find people willing to make covers for just about any price. A lot will depend on what you want and what types of art you are interested in. A custom painting will easily run you several hundred dollars, and that’s before getting it formatted and having graphics placed on the actual cover. There are such things as “pre-made” covers that you can browse through on sites, where you can purchase them for $20-$50 and just put your own title and name on them. A couple of places where you can find pre-mades and artists hoping for someone to hire them for a custom piece are DeviantArt and Fiverr.

Another way to find cover artists is to join a group of authors on social media somewhere. Get to know them, encourage them, ask questions… and see if you can get recommendations for cover artists. You can browse through covers by other indie authors and see what you like, then perhaps reach out to that author and ask who did their cover art (or you can usually find this info on the book cover somewhere, or on the copyright page) then you can contact the artist and see if they have time in their schedule to work on your project. Networking is a great way to find professionals with whom to work.

Is it hard to get it to look professional and appealing to readers? I would say, “Yes.” There are plenty of “bad” covers to steer away from, but there are also a lot of mediocre covers out there. But even traditional publishers struggle in this area. I was in a bigger name brick-and-mortar bookstore the other day, and as I walked through the YA Fantasy/Sci Fi section, I was struck by the sheer number of book covers that all looked nearly identical…. and not one of them made me want to pick the book up and see what it was about!

In the end, covers are important. If you are an author looking for a cover and feeling at a bit of a loss how to proceed, feel free to ask, I have a couple of artists I can recommend! But remember, just as you have put hundreds to thousands of hours and effort into your own art, and would feel offended if someone expected you to give it away for free… art also requires creativity, time, passion, and painstaking work, and the artist doesn’t make a royalty or see the sales numbers or get reviews, and often most readers won’t even know who is responsible for the artwork that surrounds the story they’ve fallen in love with.

A few recommendations added in here after the fact, because I didn’t have time to look these up when I first wrote the post…

I really like this artist’s work, and he did the cover for Dragon Friend

This artist did The Last Motley, and The Story Peddler, as well as a few others I like.

Bulbous Squirrel covers are always gorgeous. I prefer the “symbol” covers to the “composite” ones, but that’s just my personal preference.

DragonPenPress does a great job, and if you are looking for quality that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, she also has a good eye and won’t break the bank. She has some very nice pre-mades, and as a bonus, she does paperback (front/spine/back) covers at an extremely reasonable price. (I am partial to paperbacks, since that’s about all I read… so it’s important to me)

I also really like HSJ Williams’ artwork. She has some unique covers as well, and I look forward to seeing what else comes from this designer!

Another pre-made designer I’ve liked is Ginger Snap Dragon. She did the Mythical Doorways cover, which I LOVE!

Anyway, those are a couple of places to start! There are, of course, tons of other cover artists out there, these are simply the ones I have some familiarity with. A lot depends on what you like!

~ jenelle

Content Editing, Line Editing, Proofreading… Oh My!

 

Tuesday Tips (1)

Last week, we talked about the absolute necessity of editing and learning how to develop a thick skin as an author in order to make certain that your book is the best it can possibly be. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about the different KINDS of editing out there. There are quite a few different options, and for a new author it can be downright overwhelming. You poke your head out of your den and go on facebook to say you’ve finished your book and now you need an editor. Immediately, you are barraged with recommendations and questions like, “What kind of editor are you looking for? I have a great substantive editor!” And your little authorly heart stops.

What KIND of editor?

There are different kinds?

I have to choose?

But never fear! Because I’m here to give you a run-down on the different kinds of editing you can choose from and why each one is important. Thankfully, there aren’t really as many types of editing as you might think, since several of them have multiple names that mean the same thing! Also, I’m going to talk about these in the order in which they should happen, to keep confusion to a minimum!

Developmental (also known as “substantive” or “big picture”) Editing – This is the kind of editing that looks at the entire story as a whole and pokes at the weak spots to see if they hold up. This pass of edits does not bother overly much with typos and grammar and punctuation, this focuses on the story. Are there plot holes? Are the characters three-dimensional? Do things make sense? Are there any big problems with the structure of the story that need to be addressed?

Developmental editing is a fantastic thing to have, especially if you happen to be more of a pantser when you write (“pantser” means you generally do not plot things out or use an outline, you just write as the story and characters lead you). However, I have found that oftentimes you can get a lot of these “big picture” issues pointed out by a couple of really solid beta readers.

Beta Readers – While not exactly “editors” I am including beta readers here in this post because I find them to be an important step in the editing process. It is important to remember that beta readers are NOT editors. They should not be expected to find typos or check your punctuation. Beta readers are generally people who volunteer to read your story in its pre-edited form and give you feedback on things they liked/didn’t like about the story. Some beta readers will give you an overall impression of the book. The best beta readers will make comments throughout your story, pointing out plot holes, things that didn’t make sense, anything that pulled them out of the story or detracted from their reading experience. (Trust me, if you can find a couple of the latter type, hold on to them and never let them go!)

Line Editing - This level of editing gets more into the nuts and bolts of your prose. It looks at your style and points out things like whether or not all your sentences are too close in length, places where your wording is repetitive, places where you present information in a confusing way, or awkward wording that detracts from your story.

Copy Editing - This level is sometimes combined with or included in line editing, but this is were we really get into the mechanical issues: typos, grammar, and punctuation. A copy editor will also note inconsistencies, for example: whether or not you consistently use British or American spellings, whether or not you capitalize certain words throughout your book. This is also a pass of editing that can catch inconsistencies and issues that were CAUSED by earlier revisions! Yep, that can happen. This is why multiple passes of editing are important.

Proofreading - This is the last pass of editing, and should take place when all other revisions are complete. This is the final look over the manuscript to make sure that it is as error-free as possible!

So, now that you know all that… what kind of editing does your manuscript need?

Being perfectly honest, I take every manuscript through every one of these passes. This is why the editing process takes me a while (usually editing takes longer than it took to write the book in the first place). I don’t always do a ton of re-writing in my books, though it has been known to happen, so if you write a “cleaner” rough draft than I do, you might not need to invest in all of these levels. At the very least, I highly recommend Beta Readers, line editing, and proofreading.

 

~ jenelle

Spice Bringer

Yeah… this is like a month late… but hey… if you haven’t seen this yet, then it means you’ve been missing out!

H.L. Burke is bringing us yet another awesome fantasy book to read… and since I’m a month late to the party, that means it’s a month closer to the release date… which Amazon tells me is coming on AUGUST 28th! That’s only two weeks away!!! I highly recommend this author, I’ve read several of her books and have loved them all so far! (She is one of the few authors out there who writes faster than I can read… which is a pretty impressive feat… which is why I haven’t caught up on ALL her books yet, but I definitely plan to!)

Release Day Graphic

 

A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya’s known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish. 

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life. 

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

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Preorder at:
AMAZON

KOBO

Apple iBooks

Uncommon Universes Press – autographed paperback preorder - the regular paperback will be $17.99, but these autographed paperback preorders are just $14.99 with free shipping (free shipping to US addresses only)

Author Picture H.L. Burke

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Follow H.L. Burke around the interwebs! 

(I’ve heard she LOVES it when people stop by and leave comments with lyrics from Backstreet Boys songs…)

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~ jenelle