Month: August 2017

Cover Artists: Tips On Finding The One

Cover Artists: Tips On Finding The One

I am ecstatic to announce I’ve found a cover artist! After reaching out to almost twenty (maybe more) artists, I have finally found the one. Benlin Alexander.

He’s experienced, has a great portfolio and is totally invested in bringing my characters to life.

But before finding Benlin, I had to do several rounds of– what felt like–cover artist speed-dating. There were even a few times I came close to sealing the deal, only to change my mind at the last minute, deciding to listen to my gut.

Needless to say, this was a lot of extra stress and, in hindsight; the process could have been easier if I had done a few things differently. Still, I learned from my mistakes and I want you to, as well. Here are some tips on finding the right cover artist.

1) Ask yourself if you want an illustrated cover or a photographed cover

Knowing if you want an illustrated cover or to use photographs, helps to narrow down the list of candidates. If you googled “cover artists” right now, you’d be overwhelmed with the results.  Setting up specifications in advance makes the selection process easier.

Now, you’re probably wondering how to pick between the two? I feel your pain. I’ve seen amazing covers done in both mediums. What it really comes down to is the skill of the artist but there are a few other factors to consider, as well.

If you’re writing a middle grade or lower young adult novel, chances are you’ll do best with an illustrated cover. Your target audience is probably going to range from eight to seventeen (general MG/YA age range because kids read up), so, you’re going to want a design that gets the young ones grabbing at your book.

You need to think about pricing, too. Illustrated covers are more expensive than photographs. Premade photo covers are the cheapest. Custom photo covers are more expensive but, also, more original because you get to actually talk with the artist about what you want. A lot of artists who make photo covers use stock images. Nothing’s wrong with that, as long as they disguise it well. The alternative option is to hire models. Just remember that can get pricey.

2) Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

I briefly commented on this above. What I’m saying here is that you should talk to several artists, not just one. Narrowing down your list of options is key and even ranking the artists in terms of who you want the most is fine. However, don’t shrink your list until there are only a few candidates left.

Sometimes artists are too busy to take on new projects, they’re not interested in your particular project, they may have a personal leave or they may be out of your price range. Basically, there are a lot of reasons they could tell you “no.” Therefore, you need to keep your options open and plan to contact many artists.

It may feel kind of like “cheating” but at this stage in the process you haven’t made any commitments and neither have they. You’re just trying to get the best deal and if you have to turn a few artists down, I think they’ll appreciate your honesty vs. dragging them along.

3) Reach Out to Other Authors for Advice

I’m not suggesting you message random authors. Random DMs are always a bad idea. Instead, if it’s an author you don’t know personally, do a little digging and see who designed their covers. Of course, you want to make sure you actually like their covers before doing this part.

If you have a group of authors you know personally and can turn to, this is the time!!! Ask them any and everything about finding the right cover artist. Inquire into what sources they used.

I have several friends who are authors, too, but there are three that I call my “Author Trifecta.” I turn to these ladies for almost any writing or publishing question I have. They have several more years’ experience than me, so, their advice is solid. Actually, during my search for the right artist, they helped me snuff out a few who were trying to get over on me or were giving me a bad deal.

4) Do Your Own Sketches First

When you come with a plan, the process itself is much easier. As the author, you know your book better than anyone and it’s likely you have a few ideas racing around anyway, so, why not put them on paper? They don’t even have to be good. They just need to convey a concept or mood.

Now, my designer is actually going to read my book before doing the design because he wants to fully understand the story prior to starting. However, I don’t know if this is the norm with most cover artists. I think most just go based on what the author says, what’s trending currently or what they’ve seen in the industry.

I’m not saying anything is wrong with this route. All I’m saying is that every author wants that personal touch to their cover. Because each artist is different with a different schedule, it’s really up to us authors to give them as much as we can about our story in order for them to draw it out.

5) Have A Completion Date In Mind

Artists need to know when you want the cover done by because they’re likely to have several projects at once. Having a deadline in mind not only makes the artist more likely to accept the job but it actually ensures your work will get done in a reasonable amount of time.

Imagine if you were a cover artist and a client said you could complete their cover whenever. If you have several other deadlines and clients, aren’t you more likely to push the no-deadline project to the back burner?

Make sense, right?

Well, that’s all I have right now. Honestly, I could talk about this in even more detail than I am now but the post is getting long.

If you have any extra tips or questions, let me know in the comments or message me. I’m always up for some conversation.

A Writer’s Anxiety–What the Heck Have I Done?

A Writer’s Anxiety–What the Heck Have I Done?

Like most people, I question myself. I question if my bachelor’s degree was really worth the debt I acquired, I question if I actually need my master’s degree and, more recently, I question if I should toss my writing dreams aside and just become a cog in the corporate machine.

Honestly, the thought of giving up makes the world around me fade a bit. When I picture working in a cubicle, sitting at a desk with my computer background image as the cat swinging on a branch saying “Hang in there,” it’s like I’ve stepped into a black & white cartoon. All the color’s gone out of life and everything, eventually, becomes a dull gray.

Then, the anxiety kicks in and my mind travels several years into the future where I’m either homeless or a complete failure in terms of my writing. Friends have gone on with their careers to be successful. They’ve built families, been promoted and don’t have to take deep breaths every time a bill comes in the mail. And I’m just there, an aspiring writer, still holding on to a dream that has turned its back to me, proving that writing wasn’t my path and I wasted my life…

Dark, right? Welcome to my world. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s had these feelings. I’m also sure I won’t be the last writer to have them either. As horrible as it may sound, I think self-doubt and anxiety come with our territory, guys.

Now, looking at my last post, you may think what could have happened in those two weeks to today to make me go all gloom and glum on you. Well, there are several things but one BIG thing: All the little blocks I had in place two weeks ago…well not all of them are in place now. Actually, many of them are more like rubble than blocks at the moment.

To be honest, I think the only things that’s kept me from tossing my computer and all its content out the window are friends and travel.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been traveling in Germany for the past few weeks. My friends have been housing me at their apartment basically free of charge, so, I’ve been able to keep my expenses low. What I haven’t been able to tamper down is how wonderful it feels to travel again.

Traveling invigorates the soul, it gives me a new outlook, it makes me remember there’s always another adventure around the corner. I just have to be willing to look for it.

Not to mention that writing is essentially an adventure, right?

Benjamin Franklin said it first: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

So, I’m writing and doing. On this blog, I’m writing about my publication journey and all the fears of working as a full-time writer. And I’m also doing. I’m traveling. I’m trying to learn another language. I’m putting myself out there and working as an independent journalist. I’m opening myself up to new people and waiting to see if they become part of my net or if they fade out of my life. Whatever happens, I know I’m both writing and I’m doing.

And you should be, too. If you’re in a rut or some sort of downward spiral, go write, go do! The idea of we writers always being locked up in our room with a gray cloud over us, banging away at a type writer is ridiculous. We’re brave, we’re adventurers and we’re on a journey that so few are strong enough to take up.

So, let me know where you’re at in your writing. What stumbling blocks have you encountered and how did you overcome them?

What writing or doing did you do today? There are no wrong answers. Just know you’re not in this alone.  🙂

Author Highlights: Terry Maggert- Taming the Social Media Monster

Author Highlights: Terry Maggert- Taming the Social Media Monster

The Social Media Monster & You: A Primer

Hi. It’s me, Terry. This verges into bragging, but I do have some things that I’m intensely interested in, and I think that foments ability. I write three-dimensional female characters. I use humor to frame stressful events as a tool to invest my readers, and I am vehemently against the predatory practices of the publishing industry. I’m an author coach and a history professor who is enthusiastic about pie, waffles, giraffes, coffee, and nefarious villains. I also run, because punitive experiences make for good fiction but today I’m going to discuss the social media monster and you.


1.Don’t spam. Ever. If you have the urge to spam endless Facebook groups, twitter, or anywhere else, don’t. The numbers game works against you, and you’ll create a backlash. This should naturally bring you to ask, “Well, then how do I”—stop right there. Let’s go to point number two.

2. Build Your Email List. Immediately. If you have a time machine, go back, strangle Joseph Stalin, and then start building your list. Your list is implicit permission between you and the people who know and like your work. It’s your core, your tribe, your peoples. This is how you become a part of a community in which your books—and you—are the engine that drives the fun. And it should be fun. Not spammy. Naturally, you ask, “How do I”—go to point three.

3. How To Build Email Lists. First, get an app or program that lets you manage your email so it isn’t illegal (gmail isn’t legal). I use Mailerlite, but other people use Mailchimp—I find them to be too expensive. Build a template email that looks professional—header, graphic, your brand name, etc—and then test it by sending it to yourself and a few accounts you can check.
Then, begin building the list in three ways.

When I coach young authors (or first timers) I always say that they should get involved in giveaways with other more established authors. Ask in your online groups or at events. At signing events, have a signup sheet for your mailing list. Offer something free, like your first book. Send one or two emails per month. One out of three of my emails is about books, mainly because I hate spam and love food. You can guess what the other two emails are about (hint: rhymes with waffles). When you send your first emails, people will unsubscribe. Relax, it’s not personal. I can tell you that the more people you meet (who sign up in person), the more ‘sticky’ list members you will have. These people are your friends. Don’t forget that, and reward them with fun stuff (deleted scenes, swag, etc).

4. Be Positive or Be Silent. Hate the president, government, puppies, left-handed people? Fine, but if you make that your voice on twitter, you’re screwed. Half the population will hate you, half will say they love you and not buy your books, and a small percentage will actually go after you to the point of raiding your reviews and trashing you online. If you choose to be political because that’s your calling life, then you aren’t making writing—and your career—first.

5. Use the 90/10 Ratio. Ten percent of your social media posts should be about books! The rest should be about you, your passions, food, cats, travel, other books you’re reading (cannot stress this enough), movies you see, and events you will attend.

It’s a big world. Your books are only a small part of it. Show everyone who you are and what you love, and your books will make more sense as you build your readership.

Author Bio:
Left-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of– well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Ten books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.


Cover Designs, Negotiations & Other Writing Stress

Cover Designs, Negotiations & Other Writing Stress

Whoever said “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” hit the nail right on the head. Currently, where I’m at in my writing journey, I feel like lots of things are going right. The novel is completely edited, betas are reading my story, I finally found a dependable critique partner and I’m even in negotiations with a cover designer. Woot woot!

So, yeah, a few things are going great. That’s not to say everything is wonderful and amazing over here but we’ll save that for a little later. 🙂

What I’ve noticed is that as many great doors open up for me, I find myself spending less time writing. Not to mention, my stress level is sky rocketing, as well but let’s start with writing.

Honestly, it’s kinda been pushed to the back burner which is frustrating because , like I said in my last post, writing is the reason I’m putting myself through all this craziness. Craziness meaning spirals of self-doubt, three side jobs to pay the bills, savings to pay the bills, trial-and-error marketing attempts, and lots more. I mean I’m technically “vacationing” right now but I’m still working online and the main point of my trip to Germany is to look at graduate schools.

Now, obviously, these are good problems to have. Beta readers are like holy beings to we aspiring writers. Not to mention, the idea of finally seeing your story presented as a cover gives every writer the happy tingles in their tummy…or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that even though I’m blessed to have more “good” problems than bad” problems, they’re still problems.

But if I sound like a whiny baby here (#firstworldproblems), let’s take a gander at the “bad” problems…

So, first, my lovely betas who I adore because they’re the best? I need more of them. I thought getting betas would be so easy. I mean, you’re basically giving people the chance to read a book for free. Who wouldn’t take that opportunity? Apparently, a lot of people because, let me tell you, getting the seven betas I have was no easy picnic.

I had to do more asking than actually having people seek me out to be a beta reader which is a bit embarrassing but, hey, I’m supposed to be 100 with you peeps.

Beyond betas, marketing is a pain in the badonkadonk (the butt). I’ve had a revelation about my previous marketing strategy that I now realize is completely flawed. By setting up social media accounts ahead of PC&EGS’ completion, I thought I was ahead of the curve. What I’ve realized is that while I’ve networked like a boss with other writers, I can’t say the same about readers.

Yeah, that was real dumb on my part.

So, here I stand. Happy, questioning, hating myself for my bad marketing, over-worked and full of that lovely feeling we writers call self-doubt. But, hey, at least I’m not there alone.

Where are you peeps in your writing journey? You ready to pull your hair out like me?

I’ll Never Be As Good As (Insert Other Writer’s Name): Why Comparing Yourself to Others Is One of the Worst Things A Writer Can Do

I’ll Never Be As Good As (Insert Other Writer’s Name): Why Comparing Yourself to Others Is One of the Worst Things A Writer Can Do

Sometimes I really feel like banging my head into a wall. Seriously. I just want to hit it until all the negativity stops and I transform into a magical, positive butterfly. Because, like many writers, I have days where I think everything I’ve ever written and will write is complete garbage. This feeling is further intensified when I venture onto social media and see the success of other authors, especially those who are around the same age as me.

Now, don’t think I’m some hateful, jealous, bitter individual. I’m not. There are just days when I can’t stand to see another author post about how they’ve gotten whatever number of reviews, had another thousand people subscribe to their channelor received a jaw-dropping book deal. Because as I’m seeing their success, all I see is my own failure.

Sounds like I’m putting myself down, right? Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing which is why it’s totally pointless. The same days I go on these downward spirals of comparison and “why can’t I,” tend to be my least productive writing days, as well. Since I’m so busy beating myself down and foaming at the mouth at others’ successes, I forget about what I really need to be doing: Writing.

I mean, after all, writing is the reason I put myself through a ton of mess in my life. I could be like one of those non-writer peeps and go to the typical 9 to 5 where I get paid consistently and with a good amount of money but I opted out of that self-inflicted torture for this one instead.

But I’m getting off topic. What I’m trying to say is that comparing yourself to another writer is a waste of time. While you’re doing that self-harming nonsense, you could be writing or working–if you’re not writing full-time–and you could be marketing or at least learning how to because that skill comes in handy in the industry. Trust me.

And I know what I’m saying is easier said than done. I haven’t completely mastered it myself but what I do know is that every moment I waste foaming at the mouth, is a moment I’m pushed a step further from becoming the writer I want to be and being able to help other writers.

Not to mention that writing isn’t a spontaneous act. Writing is all about growth and development. I’m sure who Stephen King was when “Carrie” released is not the same writer he is now. As writers, we’re on a constant path of development because things change in our lives and those changes affect our writing. Through time, practice and patience (which I lack more often than not) we hone our skills and we’re always a bit better than we were before.

In the words of David Schlosser, “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.”

So, let’s all take a vow. Let’s promise to minimize how often and how long we get the “I’ll never be as good a writer as (Insert Name)” thoughts and recognize that we’re better than the writer we were yesterday and that’s worth something. Let’s give those negative thoughts a tenth of our attention before we turn to our keyboard or notepads and get lost in our own worlds.

I don’t think I’m alone in my aspiring writer struggles. What other challenges do you peeps go through?