TIPS AND TRICKS DOING BOOK COVERS

At this point, I have published well over two dozen books for myself and other writers, and as a writer, I can say that covers are a pain in the ass.

So I thought I’d jot down a few notes to maybe help out other writers, including self publishers and people working with small presses.

Apart from either doing book covers myself, or being an active participant in the design of covers, I have a few other qualifications. Back in the day, when newspapers were laid out by hand, I was a production manager on small newspapers and magazines. Following that, I went on to design posters and promotional materials for stage plays, short films and arts and cultural events. As this was going on, I maintained a steady interest in art and audited art history classes. I don’t pretend to be some great authority, but I do know enough to make my way around a page.

THE CANVAS

In the old days, book cover design was pretty simple. Broadly, you had two sizes – paperback or pocketbooks about 4.5 x 6.5 inches, and trade paperbacks – loosely around 6 x 9 inches. Both had a width to height ratio of around 2 x 3. There was lots of variation, but those were decent rules of thumb.

The point being that you had a good idea of the space you had to work with, and the ratio you needed to work with, and subject to a little fiddling, you were fine. This may seem like mechanics, but the scope of the canvas dictates what you can and can’t do, or what works and what doesn’t work.

Now, however, it’s gotten more complicated. For books, we still have that 2 x 3 ratio, and pocketbooks and trade paperbacks. But now book covers are being presented in a variety of sizes, only some of which involve the physical books.

If you are browsing online Amazon or Barnes & Noble for instance, your first sight of the cover will be a tiny thumbnail, maybe 1.5 x 2.5 inches, and that first sight will be accompanied by a whole bunch of other similarly sized book covers competing for attention. That’s on a computer screen, if its on your phone, it’s even worse.

The key take-away is that for random online book browsing, your cover will be presenting under the worst conditions – a tiny image, with lots of competition.

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BOOK NEWS – DRUNK SLUTTY ELF AND ZOMBIES

Just a quick note.  DRUNK SLUTTY ELF AND ZOMBIES has been uploaded to IngramSpark.  It can now be ordered from the 40,000 platforms, including thousands of brick and mortar bookstores that IngramSpark spark!

Just a note of explanation – IngramSpark is to print books what Amazon is to Ebooks. They’re a giant publisher and distributor, hosting many titles, and providing services to small and independent publishers.  Getting onto IngramSpark is potentially a major breakthrough.

Does that mean I’ll be getting into real bookstores?  Probably not. The economics don’t quite work.

Basically, physical bookstores operate on a rip and return basis.  They order books, they try to sell them within a specific period of time. If they don’t, then they just rip off the covers, send them back, junk the rest and only pay for what they’ve sold.  Believe it or not, that’s the way it’s been working for a hundred years, and it’s been working fine… mostly. It’s the operating mode for books, magazines and newspapers.  And it works fine for big publishers, dealing in substantial volumes.

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TORONTO INDIE AUTHOR CONFERENCE

Well, the first annual Toronto Indie Writer’s Conference has come and gone. There will be one next year, and I’m signing up for it the minute they hang out a shingle.

It was great! 

Most writer’s conferences tend to focus on craft – how to write, what to write, the political and social issues of being a writer, the technique, and sometimes the fun stuff.  It’s all very literary.

This was about Trade – how to do a Kickstarter, the techniques of Facebook ads, that kind of thing.

We do get a bit of that in occasional panels at regular conventions – but usually it’s a group of people who are very experienced on the panel talking shop with each other. It’s like listening to a lively discussion in Greek.

This, on the other hand, was really focusing on working trade issues, mainly single presenters, exploring topics at skill levels in systematic ways. It was fascinating. Of the eight sessions and four round tables, there wasn’t a single dud in the bunch. Everything was useful or interesting, even if I didn’t necessarily understand it or wasn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

Honestly, some of it, was just totally above my level, I could barely follow along, but even then, it was good – If I couldn’t handle it now, I picked up enough to have some idea of how to learn, and the feeling was that I could master it eventually.

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2-24 TORONTO WRITING WORKSHOP

Back from the 2024 TORONTO WRITING WORKSHOP it was a bit of a whirlwind. Flyout Friday evening, do the workshop, and fly back literally immediately.

Literally immediately:  The workshop ended at 5:00, took the cab to the airport, went through security and back home a few hours later.

So … the experience?

This was a bit different from other Conventions I’ve attended.  There were two tracks of programming, a couple of morning sessions, a couple of afternoon sessions, but that was peripheral. What really drove this Convention was the opportunity to make pitches to Agents and Editors.

I did attend a couple of programming sessions. Marketing yourself and Ten Keys to Writing Succes – they were okay, mostly inspirational. There were some practical sessions I didn’t make because I was doing pitches that would have been useful. I’m sorry I missed those.

There programming sessions I couldn’t care less about. Twelve ways to start a story, crafting satisfying endings, that kind of thing. I’ve been writing thirty years; I’ve got multiple short story and book credits. Don’t teach grandma how to suck eggs.

The Pitches:  It was like speed dating. Or what I’ve read speed dating is like.

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THE MUSEUM OF HUMAN RIGHTS, IT’S IRONIC

THE MUSEUM OF IRONY

That’s what we Winnipeggers call the Museum of Human Rights, that giant monument to the vanity of the Aspers. Some people call it the Museum of Tolerance, after the old South Park episode.

It might be a little cruel, but Manitobans are cynical people. It’s the winters, I think. Survive a Manitoba winter, the slush, the snow, the fifty degrees below zero freezes, the endless promise of warmer weather just around the corner, to be replaced by the next big freeze or snowfall… well, after that, you just stop believing in anyone or anything.

Still, I am a Maritimer by birth, and for all the innate ferocity, cruelty and enthusiastic brutality beneath our welcoming smiles, there is a tiny shred of moral decency beneath it all. So I feel just a little bit bad about what I’m about to write.

But not that bad.

I visited the Museum of Human Rights today. I was very impressed by their inclusion of Buffy St. Marie’s picture in their gallery of indigenous people, the inclusion of her music in the same gallery. It gladdens my heart to see that the Museum affirms the importance of that much overlooked indigenous group, the Pretendians, to the cause of human rights. Apparently there is no greater testament to cultural integrity than the theft of it.

Oh well, that’s the Museum of Human Rights for you. Honestly, it’s none of my business. The status of Buffy St. Marie to the indigenous community is a matter for the indigenous community to decide, not for me. I just accept their consensus. If the Museum has its own views on the matter, that’s a conversation between them and the indigenous community.

And I’ll say no more about it.

I might buy some popcorn though.

I’ve been to the Museum of Human Rights a few times though. My honest impression?

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Welcome to the Attic! My Youtube Channel!

WELCOME TO THE PREMIERE of my new YouTube Channel “The Attic, with D.G. Valdron”, which will feature info on my books and novels, as well as takes on literature, movies and TV that may amuse and disturb.
The whole thing is driven by my friend, Dean Naday, the producer of the channel, and Patrick Lowe, our guest editor. Dean in particular is the driving force. Dean’s background is in Independent films, and he’s produced and directed works including The Exquisite Corpse, Momento Mori and StarWatchers.  Dean has been pushing us to get a youtube channel going, and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with him on an ongoing basis. Patrick of course, has his own Youtube channel and a long history as an animator and independent film maker.
There’s a video on last year’s booklaunch of my “Drunken Elf Chronicles” hosted by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild at Artspace, and a separate video on the questions and answers session during the event.  There’s also a movie review of “The Marvels”, and a video analysis on how the DCU failed as a superhero movie franchise. In the next couple of weeks I’ll have an introductory video on Dr. Who fan films, and a video on the Canadian cult sci-fi series “The Lexx”.
In the future there’ll be more videos related to my books, as well as movie and TV reviews, and perhaps interviews with other writers, artists and assorted mad and unsavoury types.
Please check out the channel, and consider liking, subscribing and commenting on the videos, and of course share with your friends and others who might appreciate the content.

DEATH AND THE ARTIST

I think that most Artists and Writers think a lot about three things: Sex, Death and God. Personally, God can take care of themself, and I’m not getting any sex. So let’s talk about Death, specifically, Death and the Artist… or Writer in my case.

Once in a while, quite erratically, someone says something, and it triggers some random synapses in my brain, and for no discernible reason, I say something sensible. It’s always disturbing when it happens, and often quite frightening for anyone nearby. It’s like discovering that a Bengal Tiger has hacked your GPS and passwords. But anyway, since I had one of those moments, I thought I’d share, for people in the arts field.

Suppose you’re a writer or an artist, someone in the creative field. A poet, a playwright, a short story writer or a novelist, a composer, a lyricist, a film maker, etc. Maybe you are, in which case my sympathies.

Maybe you aren’t, in which case, just pretend.

Now, suppose you’re going to die.

Well, there’s no supposing that is there? You’re going to die, in relative terms sooner than later, and in geological terms, any minute now.

But never mind that – as an artist or a writer, what happens when you die?

THE POST MORTEM LIFE

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Shameless Self Promotion – The Mermaid’s Tale Youtube Review

Someone passed this on to me.  My book The Mermaid’s Tale, got a review on youtube.

I had no idea.  I thought this might have been a person I met at CanCon.  As it was, it turned out to be a complete stranger.

Spoiler Alert – She liked it!

The Mermaid’s Tale by DG Valdron (non spoiler) – utterly unique and underrated dark fantasy – YouTube

I went and thanked her for the review, a week or so ago.  She seemed thrilled.

Anyway, feel free to look it up.

And if you like the review, hit ‘like and subscribe’ – she seems like an interesting thoughtful person and she’s got lots of other interesting things to say about writers, culture and life.