1stNews from 1stBooks, April 2, 2003
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Table of Contents
* Editor's Message
* Article: "Front Covers That Grab the Reader"
* 1stBooks Success Profile: Clella Murray
* 1stBooks Success Profile: Roundup of Recent Publicity
* Article: "Author...or Writer?"
* News From the Publishing World
* Seasonal and Topical
* About 1stBooks
* About This Newsletter
* Copyright and Reprint Information
First of all, if you have sent a submission to the Seasonal
and Topical column, a success story for the Success
Profiles, or an article for one of our two 500-word feature
slots (on writing or marketing)--or if you have corresponded
with me privately about anything at all--I need you to
resend it. (And if you'd like to make a contribution to one
of those columns and haven't sent it before, you can send
those along as well. I'd like to feature more 1stBooks
authors in the newsletter.)
success stories, and
articles. Sorry for any inconvenience.
On to the current issue: continuing our series on covers, we
turn now to the front (and a bit on the spine). Jacqueline
Church Simonds will show you how to learn from her mistakes
--mistakes that, in turn, have helped to make her a very
successful small publisher.
And Dave Leonhardt gives a light-hearted look at what makes
an author a writer. Tongue is most definitely in cheek, but
there's useful and practical advice in the piece as well.
Make sure, too, to visit the Success Profile section, where
in addition to the usual individual profile, we mention over
a dozen major media successes that 1stBooks authors have
Front Covers that Grab the Reader
By Jacqueline Church Simonds, mailto:jcsimonds&beaglebay.com
Think like a business person! Although writing the book is
an art, selling the book is strictly business... and
everything about the book package is about business. Thus,
you need a killer cover that screams "professional" and
"interesting" and "worth your time and hard-earned cash!"
That immediately eliminates any line-drawn illustration.
Sketches and etchings were nice for 19th century books, but
they don't make it in the 21st. Be careful about 2-color
covers. Often, they just come out looking poor.
A fully illustrated cover (four colors created from a
painting) tells booksellers "Children's" or "Young Adult."
Go to your local bookstore and look at all your competition.
What's everyone else doing?
"Clip art" that came with your computer isn't going to make
a good cover, no matter what your neighbor tells you. You
need to have a good, professional-looking design. That means
that you need a professional cover designer. Yes, it will
cost money. No, I'm not a cover designer and I'm not looking
for your money. Without a good-looking cover, you might just
as well not publish.
Your cover image must distill the book down to its essence.
Have your cover designer read the book. A different
perspective is helpful. Listen carefully to the designer's
ideas. You may learn something about your own book!
Choose a sans-serif font (without the little curlicues)--you
want to be able to read the title from ten feet away, or on
a thumbnail-sized picture on the Internet (thus, shorter
titles are better). For my first book, a historical novel, I
chose poorly: a very period-looking font. Not only can't you
read it from across the room or on the Internet, but to this
day, librarians spell my name wrong, because the squishy
font makes "Simonds" looks like "Simonas." Ugh!
Always proofread everything! The worst thing you can do is
put out a book with misspellings on the cover. Have friends
proof it, too. Don't depend on your cover designer, who is
Unless the book has been reviewed by the likes of Stephen
King, resist the temptation to put your best blurb on the
front. Don't clutter the front with unnecessary text. Just
the cover image, title and your name are sufficient. Let the
sales job happen on the back cover.
The spine should NOT have any recommendations on it ("Read
this book!" or some such advice). That just screams amateur.
When laying on its side, cover facing up, the spine should
show the title and author's name in letters running from
right to left, top to bottom. For some thicker books, the
title can read across the spine. Few authors, such as Dan
Poynter, run the lettering "stacked" from top to bottom (not
There's LOTS more to know. Hire a professional designer
and/or a book-packaging consultant to give your book a
compelling "pick me up" appeal that will lead to sales!
I wish you success!
Jacqueline Church Simonds is the publisher of Beagle Bay
Books and the author of several novels. Visit Beagle Bay at
1stBooks Success Profile: Clella Murray
"A Pox on You" by C.B. Murray, just received a first place
award for fiction from the Delaware Press Association (DPA)
Communication Contest 2003. DPA will enter it in the
National Federation of Press Women's contest.
"A Pox on You" is, in Murray's words, "a mystery dealing
with the threat of a smallpox mutant used in bioterrorism.
Unfortunately, everything in this fiction could happen."
Preview the book at http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/9568
1stBooks Success Profile: Roundup of Recent Publicity
The media spotlight continues to shine on 1stBooks and its
family of authors! As you may already be aware, over the
past two years, CNN and the CBS Early Show aired major
positive profile pieces on the company (which, respectively,
aired internationally and nationally). The New York Times
also profiled the company and its service offerings, and
1stBooks authors' titles were covered by People Magazine,
Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan Magazine, the Wall Street Journal,
Associated Press, the London Sunday Times, the New York
Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the
Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal-
Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, and hundreds of
other newspapers and magazines.
Recently, 1stBooks author Fran Capo appeared on MTV's Total
Request Live and was interviewed by more than 100 radio
stations regarding her book, and 1stBooks author Philip
Young was interviewed on CNN's Business Unusual. In
February, 1stBooks author Robert Wegner spoke about the new
book he published with 1stBooks in appearances on NBC's
national Today Show, CNN's American Morning with Paula Zahn,
FOX News Channel, E! News Daily, Court TV's Catherine Crier
Show, the nationally syndicated television shows Extra!,
Inside Addition and Celebrity Justice, Associated Press TV,
and dozens of other local market television programs--
including ones in New York, Chicago, Denver, Dallas,
Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles--and numerous local
and nationally syndicated radio programs.
Additionally, 1stBooks author Patrick Gilligan, whose
articles about publicity have run in earlier issues,
appeared on MSNBC's national Economy Watch show to speak
about his book.
You can read Patrick's two articles by clicking on the links
By Dave Leonhardt, mailto:amabaie&phastnet.com
"I don't know if I should put 'writer' on my business card,"
"Then don't," my wife said. "Put 'author' on it."
"But then none of those big companies with overflowing
coffers will want to hire me as a writer." Would George Bush
need a speechwriter? Did General Motors want someone to
write the owner's manual for next year's Buick?
"Fine. Put 'writer' on your card then, and all those fancy
people you give it to will know you can write for them."
"But writer looks so small," I pointed out. "I also want
Fortune 500 companies to hire me as a speaker. They hire
authors, not writers."
"OK, why don't you put both?" she offered.
"Oh, right. That'll impress them. A writer who can't even
write his own business card without duplicating his
redundancies," I said. "I might as well stab myself with my
"OK, why not make two different cards?" she asked in
I stared at my draft. "One card for writer, one for author,"
I murmured. "And one for speaker and another for trainer.
What about one for consultant? Help!"
In the end, I put "author," figuring I'd get most writing
jobs over the Internet, but when I speak live I'd hand out
cards. An author's autograph would make those people giddy
as strawberry Jell-O on the Amtrak Express--but they'd
ignore a mere writer.
What is it about being an author? You can author an article
or a report or just about anything. And you can be the
author of just about anything (including "your own
misfortunes"). But you can't be "an author " unless you've
published a book.
Writing a book does not count. You're still a writer, not an
author. When you publish it, THEN you'll be a real author--
entitled to learn the authors' secret handshake. Don't try
sneaking into the clubhouse on the scant pretext that you
wrote a book. Anybody can write a book--even a writer. You
have to publish it.
Then you're ready to cross that threshold of pride when a
reader you've never met before announces, "I just couldn't
put your book down."
That comment is usually reserved for novels, "serious" non-
fiction like biographies and history, and how-to books on
topics that require wads of glue. Other lowly books just
But what if a lowly book could attract an "I just couldn't
put your book down?" Would that make the writer an author,
or would the author remain just a writer?
My book is a self-help book: "Climb your Stairway to Heaven:
the 9 Habits of Maximum Happiness." Self-help books are not
considered first-class by the literary elite. They wouldn't
even let self-help books into fourth class. In other words,
no self-respecting New York Times book reviewer would tell
me, "I just couldn't put your book down."
At least, not in theory. But several people have said
exactly that. Too bad they said it to me and not to The New
One lady even apologized for not calling me back one morning
because she had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning
reading my book. Now that's the kind of feedback that makes
an author smile. What the heck, that kind of feedback would
make even a writer smile.
Call me a writer. Call me an author. I couldn't care less.
As long as you tell me "I just couldn't put your book down,"
I'm happy as a pig in ... uh ... Jell-O.
David Leonhardt is the Happy Guy, author. No, make that
writer. No, wait. Yes, he's an author. But he's also a
writer. And a book reviewer. And a speaker. This article is
an excerpt from the popular eBook "Musings," written by a
dozen prominent authors. Pick up your free copy at
Or sign up for your free "Daily Dose of Happiness" at
News From the Publishing World
1. Publicity Opportunity
Carol Porter is looking for 10-20 small press authors for a
full month of interviews in the new AUTHORS BY THE MINUTE
E-Zine. There is no charge and circulation is 8,000. Please
email mailto:Novelwriter2002&aol.com with a short author
bio, book synopsis, and press-related info regarding your
2. Indiana University Writer's Conference June 22-27
Just up the road from the 1stBooks office, the Indiana
University Writers' Conference (IUWC), now planning its 63rd
year, annually attracts a staff of nationally prominent
writers who are equally skilled and involved teachers.
Participants in the week-long conference join faculty-led
workshops in fiction and poetry, take classes on various
aspects of writing, engage in one-on-one consultation with
faculty members, and attend a variety of readings and social
events. All conference activities will take place on the
Bloomington campus of Indiana University.
Anyone interested in the conference can find additional
information at http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ewritecon/
3. Authors Wanted for Chicago-Area Events
Patsy Walker, mailto:patsy.walker&harrisbank.com
312/461-6457, coordinates a book club at the Harris Bank and
is looking for new local authors.
Seasonal and Topical
War in Iraq
"The Middle East War Process: The Truth Behind America's
Middle East Challenge: A Book of Answers" by former CIA Case
Officer Richard Robison.
He writes, "We fight in Iraq for so much more than what our
government is telling us at this time. America's goals and
objectives in the region are many and explained in the
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1stNews from 1stBooks is designed to provide useful
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