This week we’re going to find out a little about author Elaine Calloway. April‘s theme is ‘Covers’ so Elaine will be talking about book covers. She’ll also tell us a little about herself and her writing, and answer some fun questions.Elaine grew up in New Orleans with a love of all things paranormal. She recently released her final Elemental Clan Series book, PENANCE, and is now returning to work on her Southern Ghosts Series. When she’s not writing, reading, or hanging out with family and friends, she speaks at writing chapters and conferences about story structure, marketing, and self-publishing.
Beverley: How important are book covers in marketing your books?Elaine: Absolutely essential! The book cover is the first thing that gets the reader’s attention. Not only does the image need to convey something about the character(s) and story, but also the colors and images have to stand out even when the image is a thumbnail size online. That’s harder than most people think. Many books have decent covers in regular size, but will they catch a reader’s eye when there are fifty thumbnail book cover images on a page?
Having great covers and ones that can connect a series together also helps with book marketing in terms of having postcards, bookmarks, etc. printed out with the book series covers all displayed.
Beverley: What elements are important in the design of a cover?
Elaine: I prefer to have at least one character on the cover. My graphic designer says that this approach humanizes the story and helps connect the reader to the cover, as opposed to just a landscape scene and the book title.
Vivid colors and page layout also matter. You need to have colors that represent the book’s genre but still grab the reader’s attention. You wouldn’t want pink pastels for a Stephen King horror novel, would you? Color and placement send subliminal messages, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Beverley: What don’t you like on covers?
Elaine: I never liked those 1980s romance book covers, the ones with a Fabio-looking guy and his hair being windblown and looking...fake. That is a key thing for me when I seek out stock images for my characters on a book cover: the model has to have a sense of authenticity and being intelligent. The eyes are truly the windows to the soul. You wouldn’t believe how many stupid-looking images with dull, soulless eyes that I page through in order to find one intelligent, fiery set of eyes on a character model.
Beverley: If you self-pub, do you design your own cover or hire someone? Which ever you do, why did you go this route?
Elaine: I do self-publish and I found a fantastic graphic designer that I’ve used for all my books. Even though I designed websites way back when, I never went to school or learned how colors and layout can work together enough to do book covers myself. When I first starting asking for recommendations for book covers, I was saddened to learn that some people charged $500 for a cover! I couldn’t afford that for every book, so I started looking on various sites like Fiverr and Deviant Art.
I found someone on Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com) who had done book covers before and I liked her designs. We’ve worked out a great system. I search through stock image sites and pick images I like, and then I send those to her and give her a sketch of what I’m thinking. She brings me back to reality and explains that she can’t put 50 images into one book cover, and we narrow it down and come to a mutual agreement of what will work and what won’t. She’s very talented and extremely patient with me!
One tip I will say for anyone looking on Fiverr or Deviant Art: Make sure that the designer or you, the author, purchase all photos for the cover legally. There are many people who are not doing so, and it’s copyright infringement. So just be sure all your legal ducks are in a row.
Beverley: Is there a difference between an e-book and a paperback cover? If yes, what is it?
Elaine: There is a different layout, but the image is the same. My designer sends me the image file and then I do the page layout for my paperback covers in Photoshop or Fireworks. I use a template from CreateSpace, an Amazon company that handles my paperbacks. There’s a section for the front cover, back cover blurb, and then the book spine for the title and author name. Once I have the final book cover PNG and JPEG from my designer, I can easily layout the paperback cover by using the template.
With ebooks, I just upload the image to the vendors when I self-publish.
Beverley: Tell us about the cover of your latest book.
Elaine: My graphic designer and I followed our usual process (described in one of the Q&As above) and we had everything selected except for one thing. My book’s main character was a Fallen Angel who had been trapped in Hell for over a year. And I had chosen the main image for the hero, the background, the fiery spots at the bottom, but when I tried searching for Fallen Angel or a man with wings, I was frustrated to learn that every winged male photo/illustration on stock photo sites is ridiculous looking!
We began seeking other alternatives, and finally came up with wings that worked. So the book cover (you can view PENANCE on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2nY02fw) has one stock image for the hero, one image for the fiery lake, and the wings on his back are from some wild bird in Louisiana! It may have even been a vulture, I don’t remember, but I do know finding a giant bird did the trick at making the wings work because my other options were so silly looking! LOL.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?
Elaine: I’ve written novel-length fiction for about twelve years, but before that I wrote short stories and anthologies. And I’m probably one of the few people that has every day of high school written down in a journal, LOL! Writing always helped me calm down, helped me process confusing things, so I enjoyed it from a young age.
Beverley: What genre do you write in and why?
Elaine: I’ve written in a variety of genres, but my two published series are Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and Romantic Suspense/Ghost Stories. I’ve always been attracted to the supernatural; perhaps because I grew up in New Orleans which is a unique city. The dead and the living tend to blend together there, so it seemed only natural I’d wind up writing about ghosts, mysteries and add in some romance.
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Elaine: Wow, there are so many people that could be the right answer to this question. I would say that I really fell in love with the “music that the words make” in a book when I read Dennis Lehane’s books. He’s one of my favorite writers, along with Pat Conroy, because the words are lyrical and the characters so vivid.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Elaine: I attended a lot of writer’s club meetings and conferences to learn the craft, so the main obstacle I faced was trying to get my books published the traditional way before self-publishing became a viable option. After a few years of writing, I met agents and editors who always said they liked my writing and my books, but because I blend genres, they didn’t know how to market them. My books don’t fit into a neat little box. They aren’t just paranormal romance, they’re also ghost stories with a mystery and some humor. Agents had no idea what to do with that, though they often complimented my work and wished me well. Self-publishing has been a fantastic opportunity. I realize there are many people who don’t edit their work and they upload draft-type work instead of a polished book, but readers will weed those authors out. The reader is the new gatekeeper and the reader doesn’t care if my books blend romance, urban fantasy and paranormal. This makes it a fabulous time to be a writer! I’ve even put together my own success strategy for marketing my books into a free 7-day email course.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Elaine: Anything visually artistic sparks the creative juices. I love Pinterest because I can spend a few moments viewing beautiful colors, landscapes, and more before starting to write. I enjoy going to art galleries, reading a chapter of Pat Conroy, watching a fight scene from a favorite movie. Music also helps. I put together soundtracks for each book I write, and that music keeps me in the zone.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Elaine: Stress. Seriously, it’s a creative and inner joy killer of all things good. When my brain is stressed, it’s like putting up a super-efficient security system and my mind won’t let anything else enter in. So any ideas, connecting the dots of a few plots, etc. can’t penetrate through the stress layer and reach me. It’s one reason I’m a morning writer; I write the best before the day job stresses overtake my brain.
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Elaine: On healthier days, yogurt and berries with a side of toast. Granola bars are always a handy option. Strawberry Pop-Tarts (not frosted) are a favorite but I try not to eat them too much.
Beverley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Elaine: Jeans and a comfortable shirt, most days! I’m not a t-shirt person so I guess the type of shirts I wear could be likened to a polo shirt. I’ve always wanted to dress like one of my characters or wear an enormous hat when writing some of my books. However, I haven’t done that yet!
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Elaine: I like to mix up my locations; it keeps my creativity on its toes. Some writing I’ll do at home, but many times I’ll go to a local café or shop. My favorite spots are ones that have unlimited caffeine refills and are quiet enough that I can duck away in a corner table and write for a few hours. The great thing about writing away from the house is that there are less distractions competing for my attention.
My writing critique partner and I will go to a Comfort Inn once or twice a year and do writing retreats. These are great for bursts of creativity because we literally get away from all distractions. We pick a location that is remote but has plenty of cheap and mid-range restaurants nearby, and then we write all day and then go to dinner and brainstorm/plot at night.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Elaine: I always loved Scooby-Doo and that love of mystery and clues helped influence my writing romantic suspense. I also loved Bugs Bunny, but Scooby-Doo was my favorite!
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Elaine: Stephen King. I think he would be fascinating to meet and have a conversation with, and I have missed out on his recent public appearances. Another one would be Joss Whedon. I love his creativity and think he’d be a cool person to meet.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Elaine: My ideal “free” day would be to get up early, go to a café and write for three to four hours. Then I’d meet friends for lunch, maybe take in an afternoon movie or read for a few hours, followed by a nap and then dinner with family. No stress, no tasks to “have to” do, just time for creativity and relaxing.
If I had an unexpected weekend and the time, I’d go to Savannah, Georgia, one of my favorite getaway places. I set my first Southern Ghosts Series book, No Grits No Glory, there and enjoy being back in a port-city atmosphere that reminds me of New Orleans.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Elaine: I have 10 books planned for the Southern Ghosts Series. Right now, there are three books and one novella available, so I’m working on the fourth full-length book in the series. Each book has a mystery, a main character able to see/talk to ghosts, and a bit of romance and humor. My latest release, PENANCE, was the final book in my Urban Fantasy series so I want to focus on my ghost series for now. As with all my books though, each one is stand-alone. Readers can read them in order, but it’s not required.
Blurb for Penance
Going to Hell changes a person. Changes a Fallen Angel even more.For betrayal to his own kind, Cristos has been totured in Hell for years. He will do anything to get out of Lucifer’s grasp. Even those actions on Earth that he once found despicable.
When the Master gives him a second chance on Earth to reap souls, Cristos is an eager servant.Ready to do whatever is needed—until he meets the mysterious woman in New Orleans.
Rachel has fought demons in her head all her life. Adopted at a young age into a family of cops, she has yearned to know more about her biological parents and her background—yet no one will tell her. One night, she wanders into the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Montleone and meets the handsome Cristos.
But what neither of them knows is that they share a history and a haunted past which is about to collide…and could cost them their future—and eternity.
Buy Links:Amazon US
Website for More Links
You can find Elaine at:Website:www.howtoselfpublishyournovel.com andwww.elainecalloway.com
Sign up for her Marketing for Authors course here.
To join her reader’s list to learn more about her upcoming books, click here.
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and more discussion of book covers.