Thursday, August 28, 2008

Part Four: A Question & the 3 C’s: Colors, Continuity, and Choices

Last week we answered two reader questions and talked about business cards. (Click here to read part three.)

Janice Olson left another great question, so let’s start there.

Thanks Dineen, for all the wonderful answers and information. My questions this time are concerning “the” photograph. I have seen different types of professional photographs, but I question which would be the best choice for a one-sheet and business card. Even on your site, there are head, partial, and full body shots on your examples.

My questions:
Would you suggest the same photo be on the card and one-sheet, or should they be different?

Since I see a host of photographs with outdoors or casual settings, and this seems to be the trend, would it look better to have a more casual photograph on the one-sheet? Or on both?

Both are good questions, Janice. In answer your first one, this is really a personal preference. There is a benefit to keeping the same picture on your printed materials to create continuity, but you could use different poses. The background and clothing could be the same but your poses varied. That’s one option. Then for things like blog interviews, you could use a variety of pictures that still hold a connection without becoming redundant.

As for your second question, I strongly recommend you tie this to your genre. For example, if you write chick-lit, doing a portrait that has suspenseful or mysterious tones doesn’t match what you’re writing. Remember, your picture will have some influence on your future reader when they pick up your book in the store. Make a good impression here.

Also, keep in mind that your picture will be small on book jackets and bookmarks. You may have a great picture of yourself set against a lush landscape, but in order to keep you from being the size of a pea in the photo, the layout artist will have to enlarge the photo and crop that excess away so readers can see your face clearly. What may look great in a full background may wind up looking busy and unidentifiable behind your head when cropped. Keep this simple and be sure nothing is poking out from behind your head. You’d be surprised how often this happens. Professional photographers know what to look for and what to avoid.

Overall, whether casual or formal, keep your portrait looking professional. Trust me, whether we realize it or not, most people can spot the difference between a professional shot designed to look candid and casual and a picture taken by a family member or friend.

I touched on this briefly in part two of this series. Just like your portraits, your colors should mesh with your genre. A color scheme of deep red, black, and white will bring across a sense of danger, suspense, and strength. Great for those thriller and suspense writers. Pastel tones give a sense of happiness and peace—a perfect choice for inspirational writers, some women’s fiction, and children’s books. Bold, loud colors are perfect for chick-lit and lively women’s fiction. I think you get the picture here. Choose colors that convey the theme of your stories. This holds true for your printed materials, as well as your web presence, and is another important aspect of continuity.

Creating a common theme between your printed and online materials is like writing a book series. There are elements that carry over from book to book and stay consistent. This will create strong reader identification (also why book series have continuity between covers in their design, colors, fonts, and imagery) and this also speaks a strong but silent message of professionalism.

If you started with your website, carry those designs and colors over to your business card, letterhead, and promotional materials. If you’re a published author and you’re using your current book as a guideline, then your materials to promote that book should match it. Again, this creates strong reader identification. Making connections between advertising materials to the product on the shelf (your book) is vital to a successful promotion. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. And your money.

Choices: Timely vs. Timeless
This is where your planning will pay off. Literally. Make choices now based upon two things. One, your immediate goal. Are you promoting a book? Then make a “timely” choice.” Design your bookmarks, postcards, and online materials to match in color, design, and even fonts. Order quantities of your printed materials based upon your need. It may be a great deal to spend that extra few dollars just to get 500 more bookmarks, but if you wind up not needing them, then it’s money wasted.

Two, your long term goal. Are you promoting yourself as an author? When making “timeless” choices for your printed and online materials, keep in mind that you will most likely keep this “identity” for two to five years. Can you live with that logo and color scheme that long? Making frequent changes will lose continuity and confuse readers. Choose colors and designs for the long haul. Take advantage of the price break between 250 hundred and 500 business cards if you you’re happy with your image and information, and you will make good use of them. The same can hold true for bookmarks, especially if they’re promoting a series of books, or your books in general.

I hope this series has been helpful. This is just a taste of what I’ll be covering in my Late Night Chat, "Design & Marketing Demystified," at the Conference Friday evening. I hope you’ll come, ready to ask questions and even bring your own materials to share or ask questions. Should be fun!

And feel free to leave any questions. I’ll answer them here in the comments section. See you at conference!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

A Passion Redeemed
Revell (September 1, 2008)

Julie Lessman

Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure, book one in the Daughters of Boston series, was her first novel.

No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.

Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.

Praise for the first book in the series:
"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!
"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews
"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat."

If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.

Smudge says, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS SERIES! Julie Lessman treads the ground of passion in and outside of love and God's will with such finesse and truth, unlike anything I've read in Christian Fiction to date. I absolutely love these books and I normally don't care for historicals. These books are loaded with awesome characters and timeless struggles.

I love this series so much that one special commenter will not only get A Passion Redeemed, but also A Passion Most Pure. I am buying these books out of my own pocket to share them and support this fabulous author. Anyone who refers a friend will get their name in twice for the drawing, so BE SURE TO COMMENT!

CONGRATULATIONS to Ronie Kendig for winning House of Wolves by Matt Bronleewe!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Part Three: Questions and the Business Card

Last week we covered some key aspects of the one sheet. Two readers brought up a couple of really good questions so let’s start there before we move on to business cards. (Click here to read part two.)

Thanks for the helpful information. I looked at your site. Some of the examples had backgrounds, others did not. The background ones seemed more cluttered and hard to read. May have been because they were in a small format and not what will be seen on an actual 81/2×11 sheet of paper.

My question: Do you find a one sheet draws more attention with or without a faded background picture. Or should we keep it simple as you suggested in your article without the background to detract from the written material? And if no background, are you suggesting we us graphics and our photo? Will that not also look cluttered?

Janice K. Olson

Janice, this is a great question. You’re right about trying to look at those one sheets in a smaller format. The backgrounds tend to look darker. The key is to do a test print. Often I find the screen version may look darker but the print version is lighter. I always ask my clients to do a test print. Then I can make adjustments for them, if needed. So if you keep an eye for that, either way can work marvelously. Using a background image that’s low in contrast and soft will screen back well, giving you an attractive appearance without the busyness.

It’s really not an issue of one being better than the other. Better to do what you’re comfortable with and can feel confident about in pitching to agents and editors. In other words, if doing the background image seems cluttered to you, go without it.

And add graphics sparingly. Sometimes we can wind up having so much fun with our layout that we keep adding. Just like in writing, if you can take something out and it still stands strong, you most likely didn’t need it.

I have a question related to the one sheet photos. It seems a little - funny - to put a picture of oneself at the top of the page. But, then it seems odd to put it near the bottom too. I can't figure out where it looks best! Is it possible to put a picture of oneself as a child? LOL! I took some of my best pictures then. Or is it best to put a picture- for instance a historical photo - at the top to emphasis the genre one writes? The closer we get to the conference, the more I find I don't know and the more nervous I become.

Donna Alice Patton

Donna, this is also a great question. First, relax and try not to stress over this too much. Remember that God is in the mix too. Do your best, then let him do the rest.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend you put your picture first. You’re already sitting there with that editor or agent. Seeing a picture of you first isn’t really necessary. Start with your story and that historical photo that suits your theme. Put the picture of you at the bottom, side, or even on the back with your bio. Your photo will do its work if/when the editor or agent takes the one sheet with them, which I’ve found many of them do. Then they have a constant reference and connection to who you are and a reminder of your meeting. However, don’t take it personal if they don’t take your one sheet. Even those single sheets of paper can add up quickly and create extra weight in a bag or suitcase.

You asked about using one of yourself as a child. I would only suggest doing that if you tie it into your story or your writing in some fun or quirky way. If you write children’s books, go for it! What fun you could have with that. Then just be sure you tie your bio to it in some way as well, like how your first stories bloomed in your childhood garden. Just understand that the visual identification can be of great help as you make connections. Perhaps you can add your business card to your meeting which has a recent and professionally done picture of you.

And onward to…
The Business Card
Most of what I’ve covered for the one sheet applies to business cards as well. These are basic design concepts that apply across the board. And even more so for the business card, because it’s a very small area of advertising designed to impart your most important information.

When I first started attending conferences, I found it odd that writers would include their picture. Now I understand how beneficial it can be in the connections we make and helping agents and editors remember who we are. They meet with so many people over the course of three days. A picture is a great way to stay in their memory. I do recommend you spend the money, if possible, on a professional photographer. In fact, each conference, a photographer is contracted for this very purpose. And at prices you just can’t beat. Take advantage of this opportunity. Trust me, even cropping a family portrait will still scream family portrait. It’s not just the quality, but the pose as well that can make a difference. If money is an issue, exchange services with someone. Ask around your church, or perhaps you have a family member or friend who does photography as a hobby. Just try to make sure it looks as professional as possible.

For your business card layout, you need your picture, which should be a high resolution image—around 1mg or more—your name, email address, phone number and your web address, if you have one. Optional but helpful tidbits are a tagline and a blog addy. Don’t use a tagline just to have one. If you’re not sure yet what genre or style you plan to write, better to leave this off. And if you’re not a consistent blogger, better to leave this off for now as well.

Use a good card stock for your printing as well. Here are some online printers that offer good service and competitive prices. I’ve worked with most of these and have found they’re all pretty good. And they have templates to step you through your business card design without additional charges—a great alternative if you can’t afford a designer.

Print Runner
Vista Print
Printing for Less
Print Place
Got Print
Just Print

Next week we’ll finish up our exploration into conference materials preparation with any questions you’d like to leave in the comments section and touch briefly on colors, continuity, and making choices now that will fit neatly into your marketing materials for the future. Please feel free to check out my design page for samples of business cards. See you next week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

House Of Wolves by Matt Bronleewe

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

House Of Wolves

Thomas Nelson (August 12, 2008)


Matt Bronleewe

Matt Bronleewe is a recognized producer, songwriter and author. The former member of the band Jars of Clay, has earned numerous awards producing and co-writing albums that have sold a combined total of over 20 million copies. His songs have recently been recorded by Disney pop sensations Aly & AJ, American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, and more. Bronleewe has worked with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Michael W. Smith, International pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Bronleewe was raised on a farm in Kansas, where he lived until he left for college in 1992. At Greenville College in Illinois, Bronleewe formed the band Jars of Clay with his dorm roommate and two neighbors, and the group soon found success. Though Bronleewe opted to leave Jars of Clay early on to pursue an academic career, he soon found himself in Nashville, co-writing, producing, and playing music professionally.

To add to his list of accomplishments, Bronleewe has expanded his love of story telling beyond music into authorship. He is currently penning a 5 book series for Thomas Nelson Fiction. His first book Illuminated began the adventurous series about rare manuscripts and the mysteries within.

Bronleewe currently resides in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife and three children. He continues to write and produce music, and he also volunteers through his church to help disadvantaged youth in the community. Bronleewe enjoys reading, taste-testing good food and watching sports, as well as indulging his interests in art, architecture, design and science.

A mysterious book with a dangerous secret.

An evil brotherhood out to conquer the world.

One man stands between them . . . with his family in the balance.

In the twelfth century, Henry the Lion collected the rarest relics in Christendom. And to protect his most precious acquisitions, he encoded the whereabouts in a gorgeous illuminated manuscript called The Gospels of Henry the Lion.

The manuscript has been showing up and disappearing ever since. No one knows where the relic has been hidden . . . or its ultimate power.

Only one man holds the key to the mystery.

He's carrying it in his briefcase at his son's school for show-and-tell, and he thinks it's a fake. But he's about to find out just how real it is.

Because the wolves are rapidly closing in. And if August Adams can't decode the secret in time, the world's balance of power will forever be altered.

If you would like to read an excerpt of House Of Wolves, it will be HERE

Smudge says not to miss out on the fun. The story premise of this series is very interesting. And I actually have a copy of this book (and a signed book plate!) for one lucky commenter, so be sure to say something!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Part Two: The One Sheet

Last week I talked about identifying your genre and/or niche so as to help you create your “mood.” (Click here to read part one.)

This week let’s talk about the one sheet. Every year I see the questions start a couple months before conference. We’re gearing up and getting ready. We want to make a great first impression on those agents and editors we’re planning to meet. We want to make our stories shine.

The one sheet is an excellent tool to do just that. You can use imagery right along with your carefully crafted words to give a first impression as well. Just like a book cover gives a potential reader an initial glimpse of what your story is about, a one sheet can do the same.

The basic elements to a one sheet are: story title, a short synopsis, author picture and bio, contact information, and one or two images that portray what your story is about, either by story line, setting, or key elements. And make sure both your story blurb and your bio are polished and ready to go. Writing it along with your layout is a bad idea. Time and energy are wasted when a layout has to be redone because of major copy changes.

Let’s start with some basic layout hints to keep your one sheet looking clean and professional.

The temptation can be mighty strong to use some of those quirky fonts you just noticed came with your favorite software program. Resist it! A good rule of thumb is no more than two fonts to a one-page layout. Sometimes three will work if you’re careful, but keep in mind that using the bold form of a font face is almost like using an additional font.

Now that you’ve gone to all that trouble to determine the “mood” of what you write, choose fonts to match. Find a font that suits your story title and feel free to use a bold form here. If you write techno thrillers, a curly cursive font is not going to fit. Find a modern san serif font (no serifs—the little embellishments) to set off that title. If your genre is chick-lit, have a little fun and use something interesting and lively. The point is to make your title stand out, AND fit your story.

Next choose a good font for your body copy for both the story synopsis and author bio. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are usually the best choice for readability. You can also use a san serif font like Helvetica if it’s not a large block of copy, but keep the font size to 12 point. Again, resist the temptation to use a fancier font (AND NO CAPS or italics!!!). If an editor or agent can’t read it easily, you’ve just wasted all that effort and a chance to make that great first impression.

Now use a bold form of that body font for your name and contact information. That’s critical information, which needs to be easily found and read. Keep it with your bio and make sure it’s complete. If you have an agent, that’s important to include as well.

If you have sub-titles, use either a larger and bold form of your body copy font, or choose another font that compliments your title font. Be sure not to clash here. This is when your can either make or break your one sheet. If it’s too busy, the eye will naturally resist reading. That’s the last thing you want happening when you pitch your story.

If you’re a camera aficionado, feel free to use your own pictures. Otherwise, there are a multitude of image sources available online. Even Microsoft has a site for images and clip art. Another option is to use stock photos. Most sights involve fees and some are free as long as you follow their guidelines. Check these out:

This is a wonderful site to find free images. The photos are clearly marked as to what the photographer’s requirements are. Most are free to use as long as you’re not reselling the image or creating a logo using the image. Some photographers ask for notification of use, which can be done easily through the site and some may ask that you give them credit for the photo (either placing their name by the picture or an aterix at the bottom of the page with a “photo by…” credit line.)

Like StockXchange, this is another fee free site. Again, follow the guidelines and respect the photographers’ rights.

iStock is usually my first choice for images for my clients. Using a prepurchase credit system, these images range anywhere from one or two credits to five or ten. Some run more if they’re detailed and/or high resolution. You prepurchase blocks of credit, which works out to about a $1.30 a credit. Again, there are some usage guidelines, similar to StockXchange.

Book Series One Sheets
If you want your one sheet to promote a book series, consider creating a two-sided one sheet. You can use your series title as your main header, then treat your book titles like subheads, even using a smaller version of the same font you used for the main header. Include a brief description of each book to go with the titles and put your bio on the back. This will keep your page looking uncluttered and easy to read.

Simplicity is always a good rule of thumb. Find an image you like best and use it to set off your story title and synopsis. Make sure your bio picture is fairly current and as professional looking as possible. Try not to crop yourself out of a last year’s blurry family photo. Use colors sparingly, especially if you’re using color photography. A busy page will deflect, not invite.

Keep it clean, keep it organized, keep it simple, and keep it professional. Remember, this is your chance to start off with a great first impression of your professionalism and your story.

Click HERE to look at one-sheet’s on my website. And feel free to leave any questions. Next week we’ll take a look at business cards and continuity in your materials. Hope to see you next week!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Finding Stephanie by Susan May Warren
And a Contest!

If you haven't had a chance to read the books in Susan May Warren's Noble series, you've missed out! I loved the first two, Reclaiming Nick and Taming Rafe. And Finding Stephanie looks just as good. I can't wait to read it. In fact, I'm going to Florida for a week and I've save my copy to read on the plane. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of your own, AND keep reading to the end for details about winning a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice.


When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.

Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.

Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?

Read an excerpt HERE.

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Grab your magnifying glass and join me on a Fact-o-Find!

Answer these questions about the bloggers on the tour and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice (you know so you can see some of Cash's great movies *G*)! Email Amy your answers (

Ready, get set, giddy-up!

1. Which blogger is adopting a girl from China?

2. This word 'featherbunkle' is found on which blog?

3. Which blogger is supporting the 'Pickens Plan'?

4. Which blog is "The Cutest Blog on the Block"?

5. Which blogger is a S@HM and also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, nursery director, and woman that is just trying to keep it all together?

6. Which blogger is taking the Southern Reading Challenge?

7. Which blog asks 'How may we serve you'?

8. Which blogger refers to her son as 'super good big guy'?

9. Which blogger is a self-proclaimed 'Starbucks Addict'?

10. Which blogger is a big Trekkie?

For a complete blog tour schedule, click HERE.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Are You?

The ACFW Conference is just weeks away, so I know many of you are wondering what you need or even where to start. Each Thursday for the next four weeks, I’ll be posting some basics to help you get prepared. We’ll talk about identifying your genre or brand, one sheets, business cards, and how to apply this later on to your website, blogs, and future promotions.

So let’s start at the beginning. Who are you? Every path needs a starting point and creating marketing materials start with two things:

What am I selling?
Who am I selling it to?

Now to apply this to writing, start with your product. Your stories are your product, whether you’re published or unpublished (or pre-published, if you prefer). Start by identifying if you’re “genre specific” or “niche specific.”

Genre specific identifies what kind of stories you write. Suspense, YA, historicals, etc. Even if your story is a combination of genres, decide which is the stronger element to identify your book. In the long run, this helps agents and editors to identify and place your product. Where will it fit, and how will we market it?

If your story has more to do with a culture (Camy Tang’s Sushi Series), a hobby (Rebeca Seitz Scrapbooker’s Series), or ministry (Palmer and Chapman’s The Four Seasons of a Marriage Series), then your story is niche specific and serves a very unique demographic.

And it’s possible your stories could be both genre and niche specific, which can be even more appealing. Now don’t sweat this too much. It’s not an exact science, and if you’re just starting on your writing journey, keep it simple.

Once you’ve made this distinction, identify your market. Now I’m going to take the word “market” and use the word “mood” for my purposes here. The idea is to create materials that will portray what your story is about and clearly show that to the editor and/or agent you plan to pitch it too. This is crucial to how you create your one sheets and business cards, and for published authors for your bookmarks and newsletters.

If your story is what you’d describe as a suspense or thriller, you don’t want to put cute little flowers and use bright colors on your one sheet. And if that’s your genre, you don’t want a business card that looks more like something a chick-lit writer would have. This all boils down to imagery and first impressions. This is an opportunity to communicate clearly who you are AND what you’re selling.

Next week, I’ll cover more specific ideas for designing one sheets. I’ll also have some resource links for free and affordable royalty free photographs to help create that mood we’re talking about as well as communicate your story.

Feel free to leave questions in the comment section. Hope to see you next week!