Have you ever considered the work that goes into a book cover? We take them for granted, these works of art that tug at your attention and beg you to have another look.
I make some covers myself but the very good ones so far all come from the hand – or computer – of a very talented lady called Renée Barratt. A cover tells a lot about the story that’s behind it but there’s only so much space to tell it, and you also don’t want to give away the entire plot of the book through the cover. That makes designing a good cover a serious art form.
If I need a cover made by someone else I usually start asking at least 2 months before I need it. That is how much time can go into getting the cover right. You have to explain the story to the graphics designer, he or she has to get the idea for it, create a first impression and usually there are things not right. Which is understandable. As a writer you have the story in your head and somehow you have to convey the key elements of it to the designer. It’s a tough job sometimes, but when the cover is done it’s something to be proud of for both the author and the designer. And as you may be able to tell from the three images up here: I am very proud of my covers!
Yes, dear reader, it doesn’t happen often but today I feel the need to convey this. I’m proud of the books I’ve written and what they mean to many people.
I get e-mails from people around the world who tell me that my books make their life better. Among them are people who suffer from illnesses, and my books help them. There are also people who appreciate the books I write because they simply (is that really simply?) put them in a new world where they can experience new things.
I am proud of that. Happy for them. I am also proud that so many people buy my books and ask for more. It tells me that I’m doing something right. And even when I’m not getting rich of it financially, that’s fine. The emotions that come from the mails, letters and comments of so many people are worth so much more than money can ever be.
Maybe the only way I can put it is this way:
I may be a 5 star writer, you are a 10 star audience!
Last week Saturday I took a huge step. It has to do with books.
I have published a Dutch SciFi which is doing somewhat quite well online, considering that I’m an unknown writer in my own country. (Yes, take some time to laugh. The English version is still in the works, by the way.)
Today I took a few copies to the local library, showed them and asked how it could be done to get the books on their shelves. It would be fun to have my books in the library of my own town.
The people there were lovely! Very kind, interested and helpful! They had great advice, handed me a number of e-mail addresses, told me to get in touch with local newspapers and simply tell them about my book. Papers seem to love hearing about new talent. “You may even get interviewed,” they said. (OH NO!) And maybe there is an opportunity for me to do a reading at the library, or something like that.
After that I packed up the two copies of the book I had brought and… went to a local book store. I showed them the books and told them about me. They immediately wanted to put them up in their store. We discussed a price and their margin, and there the books went. Whoa Nelly.
I came home, pinched myself, said ouch and ordered a bunch more copies. Just in case. As an investment in what may come. I’m still in a daze about it… And yes, I sent mails to the newspapers and the Dutch Library Service to see if they want to read and rate my book for library purposes…
Many a question’s being asked about what is a book. A real book. I think that’s a valid question, and also something that only can be answered from the right point of view.
A book always used to be something made of paper, with a cover around it, and words inside that smell of ink.
The digital revolution bestowed the e-book upon us, with a cover around it that looks like a little machine (e.g. e-reader, tablet or even a smartphone), and the smell of ink is absent for now (but wait for it, technology will catch up on that!).
So what is a book? Is it the medium that carries the story, the paper, the ink, the weight that comes with it? Or is it the story that’s conveyed, regardless of the medium it’s read from? Do you read a book or do you read a story? I think it’s fair to say that both options are true and real, and books are books, be they paper or e. As for the weight that comes with a book… e-readers have weight too and that can be a blessing for people who have problems holding up the big paper tomes.
There will always be paper books. There will always be e-books. And that’s the grand thing. Stories appear on both media, so you can take your pick. There is no absolute in what’s the best. The absolute could be your personal preference, and that’s not even a fixed point because there are people who appreciate a heavy, smelly book when they’re at home, but who take their e-reading device along when they travel (for instance when they don’t want to risk damaging the paper version).
Yes! That is all I can say to this strange road that lies behind me. Behind me? Yes! Behind me. Almost four years of actual book-publishing lie behind me, and yes, it was an incredible journey. Even more yes, because I’m ready for more of this.
There will be more adventures of Hilda the Wicked Witch and if possible there will also be a sequel to the first Lily Marin novel. More science fiction and fantasy. I can only say yes to all that, and all this came to pass because of a writing contest I did with a few friends, someone who kept nagging me to publish that first little Hilda book, and because of all of you, dear readers. My heartfelt thanks for each and every one of you who have bought and downloaded my books, and who have sent me such encouraging words, such lovely and touching e-mails and so on. Also a big thank you to everyone at the Alexandria Publishing Group for their support, camaraderie and advice.
It’s taken many years before I reached the point where I could truly understand and embrace my love for writing. I’ve always loved books and reading, but writing added an amazing dimension to the world of words and I’ll be eternally grateful for getting there. Maybe there’s something of a lesson for each of us in this, dear reader. No matter how long something takes, if it’s meant to be, if there is love for something in your heart, it will find a way.
So what is more appropriate than to end this post with Yes, and their hit single Love will find a way:
I think it’s time for a small update of what is going on in my writer’s software at the moment. As usual it’s far too much, but there is progress on the horizon.
In order of randomness:
Book 12 of Hilda the Wicked Witch, “Hilda Extreme” is halfway through editing and the cover is done. I still hope that this book can come out in January 2014 but due to circumstances beyond my control this is not yet certain.
After Hilda 12, all attention for editing goes to a Science Fiction story about an astrophysicist at the University of Bristol who makes a shocking discovery that will change his life. The title for this book will probably be “A girl named Sandy (and then everything changed)”. And no, the astrophysicist is not called Sandy.
The mad dash called Nanowrimo has resulted in what I think is a rather special story. It became an urban fantasy called “Clara’s Eyes”. It needs to be reworked of course, but I’m giving that some time.
I have finished the first draft of a Science Fiction story that for now has the title “Sebastian”. Or “Help”. Or “Book friend”. As you see, that’s not entirely clear yet. This is a story I wrote simultaneously in English and Dutch. This is my first attempt to write a book in Dutch and it may even be published through an official Dutch publisher. So far the lady who checks and proofs the separate Dutch chapters is quite enthusiastic about the story (as a comment “Exciting!” shows), but these stories need a lot of aftercare as well.
Even though Hilda’s 12th adventure isn’t published yet, there is a new Hilda in the works. Hilda 13. No title yet, but fans and supporters of Hilda’s talking house will enjoy this one very much. More from Baba Yaga’s past will be revealed in this book, and there’s a visit from someone special which of course will mean a handful of work for our magical couple.
The novel around Lily Marin, my steampunk heroine, is progressing well. Everyone who has read and enjoyed her short stories will look forward to this book and I am pleased with how it is developing. Dr. Calgori, Master Wilfred and Billy will all be present again, and adventures and surprises are guaranteed.
And then there is secret project X, a fantasy story about people on a planet where you travel by giant spiders, fly on wasps, and where butterflies are very vicious creatures indeed!
Oh. Did I say ‘small update‘? I hope you enjoy this update and live in anticipation of publications!
What is your favourite medium to read from? Do you prefer books? Tablets? E-readers? Your telephone?
The Daily Telegraph posted an interesting article on this topic a little while ago:
Electronic readers ‘better than books’ for older people
Elderly people should use e-readers or tablet computers rather than books because they place less strain on the eyes while reading, a study has found.
Digital reading devices allow older people to read the same text more quickly and with less effort than printed pages, without affecting their understanding of the text, researchers said.
But when asked which device they preferred reading on, traditional books were twice as popular as electronic devices among older readers, backing up previous surveys.
The results suggest that despite digital book sales overtaking print in the UK and the US, readers are still more attached to the culture associated with books than the convenience of electronic devices.
Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, tracked the eye movements and brain activity of 36 younger participants aged 21-34, and 21 older adults aged 60 and above as they read text from e-readers, tablet computers and printed pages.
Who has not spent hours and hours in libraries? Perusing the thousands of books on the shelves, exploring the many different categories and styles?
I know I have done that a lot in the past, when there was no Internet, when there were no e-books (yes, I am one of those e-book fanatics).
Very early already I had gone through all the books suitable for my age, and I could not find anything worthwhile to read any more that I had not already read, so my parents arranged that I could go into the adult books section.
A world of worlds, knowledge, impressions and marvel opened for me when I discovered the joy of reading. The person who initiated that with me was my mother. She was the book worm in the house, and soon I was the other one. More than once I had to be called a few times, and shaken physically, for the call to come to dinner. Once engrossed in a book the real world simply disappeared.
Libraries have always been impressive and very necessary institutions where the knowledge of a nation or a culture were collected and cared for. The first known library in the world was that of the great city of Alexandria, in ancient Egypt. It functioned as a very important place of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. As this is the first known and also very significant library in history, it has a special meaning. One that started all the other libraries, all those other places that gather wisdom for posterity. It was such an impressive place, with so many written scrolls, that it also became the name for the Alexandria Publishing Group that I am a member of.
Since libraries contain so much knowledge and give so much food for thought, often they were (and sometimes still are) destroyed. Food for thought is a dangerous thing for usurpers and dictators. The dumber a people, the easier they can be controlled. But not only humans have destroyed libraries. Also the simple fact that books are made of paper is a danger – fire is a great enemy of libraries. Luckily these days there are many good fire-detection and sprinkler systems. They help in preserving the important old and new documents that so many brilliant minds have put together. (Of course water can be a threat to books as well.)
Libraries. They are important places. Places that feed the mind. Home of readers and writers. And a public library makes no difference between rich and poor, old and young, the colour of skin, or what other differences you can think of. Anyone who needs to research something, who has a burning question, or who wants to borrow a book for the pure joy of reading, it does not matter. The library can accommodate it.
The library. I don’t know how it was for you, dear reader, but for me the library, even at a young age, was more important than the playground. I would even say that it was my playground. It offers thousands of ways to be entertained, amazed, scared and surprised. And most of all: become knowledgeable.
It’s amazing but true. Two years ago I published my first little book, about a wicked witch called Grimhilda. Hilda for friends. When I pressed that “publish” button for the first time, little did I know…
What followed was a small avalanche of books (at least that is how it seems to me). More Hilda books, and people kept downloading them. I brought out a few books in a different genre too, but Hilda apparently is everyone’s darling. Not bad for a wicked witch. I started an author facebook page to have a way to interact with fans of my written heroes and heroines, which was a good idea. I met very nice people!
A very nice and also surprising milestone was the invitation to join the Alexandria Publishing Group, a collective of independent writers who stand for books that are good in every way. Not just the story, but also the grammar, spelling, etcetera. Quality all through the work.
I am grateful to Sharon and Jean, who made Hilda happen, and Arlene for nearly getting on my nerves to publish that first booklet of Hilda. Without them, this all would not have happened. Thank you, Carol, who patiently looks for all the mistakes I hide in the texts, and of course, I am grateful to the fans of Hilda, William, Babs and Lily (and all the others), for downloading and buying my books. Without them, this would never have taken off the way it has!
Two years. Amazing. How will things look two years from now…