LESSONS FROM A HOLIDAY EVENT

I recently participated in an arts fair and was reminded of the many issues a vendor faces…

Make your participation in a retail, wholesale, or non-profit event memorable for both participants and attendees!
Make your participation in a retail, wholesale, or non-profit event memorable for both participants and attendees!

As a seller of the books I write, I have many opportunities to introduce my work. Sometimes the events are large like the Tucson Festival of Books [one of the largest book fairs in the U.S.]. At others, the occasion is small and cozy. Regardless of size, each event provides a chance to view self-introduction and marketing from a new perspective…

SELECTING VENUES

The holiday season presents many occasions to participate in community or targeted audience events. With probable limits on the availability of time and money, you will want to choose among your opportunities carefully.

Appropriateness
Will the event you are considering increase public awareness and appreciation of your brand? While I now live in Tucson, Arizona, most of my work focuses on Hawai`i. Accordingly, I seek venues that appeal to a broad demographic of attendees and am unlikely to participate in a western-themed event.

Location and Travel Considerations
Is the event located in or near your city? How far will you have to travel to participate? The distance you must travel from your home to the event will affect the cost of transporting yourself and your product[s].

Event Size
The size of an event will impact the numbers of people with whom you will have contact. That may affect the nature and dimensions of your materials and tablescape layout. Do you already possess the materials you will need, or are there extraordinary expenses to be paid or traded in one opportunity over another?

Attendees
Some events, like a county or state fair will attract diverse types of people. Others may be focused on a niche market. Ask yourself, which among your top opportunities is the best fit for meeting your current customer/reader base and what might appeal to a new demographic?

Cost
In addition to the fee for participating in an event, there may be additional expenses such as: Lodging; meals; parking; secondary transportation such as delivery and setup of your product[s] and display elements; paying for assistants. There may even be financial transaction fees, as some non-profit events charge a percentage for each sale you make.

Secondary Benefits
Beyond the event itself, are there any benefits to be realized, like connecting with family, friends, colleagues, and your editor and/or publisher? Might there be an opportunity for you to combine the benefits of this event with something else…an advertising campaign? A book signing at a store or library? An podcase and/or interview?

PACKING PRODUCTS & SUPPORT MATERIALS

Carefully pack your products and promotional materials with an eye toward unpacking and setting them up for the event. For example, if you will be using tablecloths, it is a good idea to have them available for immediate use upon your arrival at the venue. As an author, I am also careful to place my supplies of books at the bottom of carts and boxes as they are heavy and could damage lighter weight décor and other display materials.

DISPLAYS

Your tablescape should be a stimulating yet tasteful presentation of your product[s] should include consideration of maintenance throughout the activity as well as the distinctive elements of your branding! What are colors and textures distinguish your brand? What will be the backdrop for your space? Can you hang a colorful curtain…on the back of a tent, or perhaps a screen behind your table display? Might a montage of book jackets make an appealing branding accent? Are there elements in your tablescape that can be easily dislodged by visitors?

Fliers, folding business cards and bookmarks, and bookplates are the primary handouts I offer visitors. At the art fair, I found that fewer readers desired bookmarks than in the past, and no one wished to leave their contact information, even if they were returning customers. Thank goodness my other handouts assure people can contact me if they wish to do so! And, with my distinctive name, I think everyone will be able to find their way to “Contact” forms on my websites!

I continually monitor the restocking and alignment of the elements of my tablescape. This includes business cards, bookmarks and fliers, which means I have to select bookends and containers that are sturdy enough to keep your display tidy. With three titles and several editions in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, plus other projects, I’m contemplating using folding metal shelving to display my books to full advantage…

OPERATIONAL SUPPLIES

What secretarial/display supplies might you need? While you can prepare a standard container of supplies, review your collection prior to every event. When I will be outside, I make sure to include a few heavy items to keep paper materials from being caught up in unexpected changes in wind or other weather conditions.

~  Pens. In addition to pens for general writing purposes, I must include a few that are waterproof and can flow appropriately across title pages at book signings.

~  Secretarial supplies. These might include scissors, pencils, tape, plastic bags [for storage and product purchases], paper clips, rubber bands, string and/or cording, a lined note pad may prove useful to fellow vendors if not you.

~  Transactional supplies. Receipt forms/books, note pad for random reminders of products to order, etc., and a mechanism for taking electronic payments.

PERSONAL PREPARATION

Dress appropriately for your product and the event. Have a filling meal before the event and drink fluids during it. Snack foods should not be messy nor create crumbs you cannot swallow easily. Carry several bottles of plain water that are not too cold. Carbonation may cause digestive discomfort; and anything with color can become a disaster to clothing or products if spilled. If you will be speaking for prolonged periods, you consider adding lemon juice, but only if you’ve tried it previously. Remember to have a go-to-bag with a comb, tissues, disinfecting handwipes [good for post cash sale usage], lip balm and/or lipstick to moisten your lips. Throat lozenges will also moisten your mouth, freshen your breath, and can provide an emergency boost to your sugar level.

PUBLICITY AND MARKETING

While there may be a limited potential for making sales at an event, can you gain positive attention for your work before, during and after the event? For the art fair, I added announcements to the News and Events pages of my author and marketing tip websites, as well as my personal and professional Facebook pages. In addition, I included a notice about the event in general emails sent to a couple of hundred people and organizations in my data base. Your options may vary from mine, but consider them all…especially social media!

POST-EVENT CONSIDERATIONS

~ Preparing for Departure. Hopefully, you have sold and distributed much of the product and promotional material with which you arrived. Keep in mind that that is no guarantee that everything can be repacked in the methodical manner in which you arrived. If you will be participating in frequent events, have a plan for repacking in preparation for the next occasion, with heavy items on the bottom and more fragile pieces on top.

~ Expressing Your Gratitude. Customized expressions of gratitude will help assure that your participation is memorable and that you may have made significant contacts for future! This includes thanking event organizers and media outlets that may have enhanced the experience for both event vendors and attendees.

~ Announcing the Results. To truly benefit from the exertion it takes to participate in even a small event, you will find it appropriate to notify colleagues, the media, and followers of many types about the results of the event. On the last day of the arts fair, my latest Hawaiian mystery, Murders of Conveyance, took first place in the category of Fiction-Adventure in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. This provided me with an excellent reason for contacting many people and organizations in my database!

Wishing you the best in your writing,

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
 author, design consultant, motivational speaker

~ Additional ideas for enhancing participation in events is located at https://blog.jeanneburrows-johnson.com/category/author-appearances/

To learn more about my work, including Murders of Conveyance and the other Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, please visit my author’s website Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

COLORATION FOR AUTHORS

A shorter version of this blog was originally published on the Hometown Authors site on November 5th, 2019…

An artist’s sense of color is normally reflected in their creations, so today’s discussion may be most appropriate to authors, especially those launching their first book or moving into a new series, genre, or nom de plume which may produce new design dilemmas…Even if you are an author under contract to a publisher who controls the art for your books, you may be able to offer input regarding the ambience you wish to see projected. Therefore, I suggest you contemplate artistic issues like color in advance of signing with a publisher. In fact, you may find that analyzing their artistic taste will help you select an appropriate publisher. I’m fortunate to have had the liberty of working regularly with an artist of my choice [Yasamine June] to develop the rich covers of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries.

As a writer and design consultant, I often focus on color. One of my favorite questions for clients seeking branding advice is, “Have you had your color today?” On the surface, this seems like a simple question, perhaps referencing a bright scarf or sales banner. However, my question is directed at the person’s preferences in coloration.

If you are an author, the question addresses your approach to color in both the art and science of your writing…and how you are envisioning the images that may accompany your text. If your writing reflects your personal voice and style, choosing artistic elements may be straightforward. If not, research can ensure colors appropriate to your genre and writer’s voice. [For technical information on coloration such as color theory, colorimetry, tetrachromats, etc., visit Rainbows of Color

SELECTING COLOR
Scientifically, colors [hues] are specific wavelengths of visible light. When considering coloration in your writing and for book jackets, one of the first questions you might ask yourself is, “What is my design aesthetic?” Also, “Does the style of my writing reflect my taste in art?” Do you like the detail of classism or the sharp clean lines of modern art? Do you prefer bright primary colors or muted tones? Like an artist, the author draws on a rich palette of images within their mind’s eye. But to effectively communicate, this must be tempered by the expectations of the readers of the genre in which one works.

~  Lighting. The intensity and type of lighting affects one’s perception of tone [intensity of color] and shade [a mixture of black with color which determines how bright the color is].

~  Layering. The layering of color also affects our view of it. For instance, putting a red color on an ivory background will produce a color that has hints of orange.

~  Tint. The tint of a color is determined by the amount of white it may have, which lightens the color.

~  Region. Through the dialect[s] of your characters, as well as the scenes you describe, your text may indicate colors distinctive to the locale of your work. Within my work, I’ve found the greens of trees and plants growing along the shorelines of the Hawaiian Islands [the setting of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries] to be lighter than those of the hills of `Ulupalakua, Maui. So, which greens are most appropriate to your project? And what about the clarity and tones of blue in the waters and skies you describe?

~  Perceived Gender. This may sound like a dated, or even prejudiced, approach to design. But examining perceptions of your writer’s voice or protagonist may help define appropriate book jacket colors. Consider the differences between romance novels and police procedurals. In the first example, you may have established an ambience that is classically feminine with soft, gentle, and elegant notes. In the second, you may have described a hard-nosed undercover police officer [male or female] who wears black, employs harsh street slang, and fiercely responds to violence. While black is an excellent background for both genres, the artist’s treatment may vary considerably. The romance book often invites the reader to wonder what lurks behind subtle gradations and soft brush strokes of mystical colors and tones. In contrast, the police procedural usually pairs bold primary colors with dark shading set within sharp modern lines.

FANTASIAS OF COLOR
To help you consider more than your personal preferences in color, let’s explore classical and traditional interpretations of basic colors and shades. In my latest Hawaiian mystery, Murders of Conveyance, the cover features my usual frame with the carved gold of Hawaiian heirloom jewelry and the classic red of ancient and modern China.

Red This color is traditionally linked to sunsets, fire, blood, Mars the planet and Mars the Roman god of war. Red is now often associated with signature holidays like New Year’s, Christmas, and St. Valentine’s Day, as well as certain nations like China. This vibrant color calls attention to anything depicted in it. Philosophically, it has been associated with licentiousness and the concept of Satan.

Yellow and Orange Associated with the sun and gold, these happy and bright colors are used for many attention-getting purposes. Depending on their tone, they may announce deeply discounted items, or conversely, the richest and most valued products.

Green Representative of nature, green is often used for health and environmental topics, products, and services. Green colors are also used for military uniforms and equipment.

Blue In daily conversation, blue ideally speaks of clear and serene waters and skies. In many philosophical traditions, it has been associated with purity and loyalty. Today, the color is often utilized by financial and insurance institutions wanting to declare their honesty, and by healthcare providers wishing to project their dedication to the well-being of their patients and clients.

Violet and Purple Although these colors are not adjacent on the color wheel, humans perceive them as related to one another. Located at the end of the visible spectrum of light [literally next to ultraviolet], violet is a spectral color that is less saturated [intense] and displays more blue. Purple is more saturated [intense, pure] and balances two spectral colors, red and blue. With both colors perceived as blends of blue and red, these rich colors remain linked to ancient concepts of royalty, power, and wealth.

White White is an achromatic color [without hue], embodying all wavelengths of visible light. It is historically linked to purity, cleanliness, goodness, and perfection. Like black, it is a good background for highlighting all colors.

Black Absorbing all colors of light, this achromatic color [without hue], is the absence of all visible light and therefore color. Obtained by the mixing of all primary colors, black is linked to darkness, night and evil in historical religious written materials. It is an excellent background for both vibrant and subtle colors.

White and black are often paired for the expression of opposites, as in good and evil, the white hats of the good cowboys vs. the black hats of rustlers, the white dress of the bride and the black of a widow in mourning.

 Gray Also an achromatic color, gray is created by the mixing of white and black. Being neutral, this color is most often associated with somberness, dullness, boredom, uncertainty, and advanced age.

COLOR SAMPLES
Please note that despite how I’ve planned for these samples to appear, your hardware/software will alter the experience…

Once you’ve completed your research and contemplation of coloration for your project, I suggest you write a paragraph outlining the elements you desire with a sample color palette. With colors identified by number in your art or text software program, this will facilitate communication with publishers and artists [should you decide to self-publish].

I should caution you that identifying the colors you wish to see on a book jacket is no guarantee of how the printed work will arrive at your doorstep. Even two editions of the same book, printed by the same company following the same instructions can yield variations in color because of differences in batches of ink or toner, the moisture content of the paper used, and production executed on innumerable types and conditions of equipment.

Wishing you the best in your writing,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, design consultant, motivational speaker

An in-depth discussion of the nature of color is provided at Wearing Your Brand, on my marketing website.

To learn more about The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries [including Murders of Conveyance] and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

WEBSITE RENEWAL

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson  IT’S BEEN SO LONG!

I can’t believe that half of 2019 has passed! A lot of my work time was lost in experiencing two bouts of flu. The one thing I truly missed has been remaining in touch with those of you who periodically drop in at one of my sites or Facebook. But when I look at the following list, it appears my working in spurts did allow me to accomplish most of my other goals:

Murders of Conveyance, the third Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery, recently launched.  I hope you have enjoyed at least one of Natalie’s adventures in murder. This book is a romp across the island of O`ahu during a Chinese New Year scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, Natalie discovered that her dream of a film noire was actually another of her visions. It was a mid-twentieth century murder, that eerily parallels the crime that occurs in front of the hotel suite where she and PI Keoni Hewitt are staying. To learn more about this and the rest of the series, drop in at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

~  Some of my down days included study in order to enhance aspects of the never-ending joys of Search Engine Optimization. This resulted in my adding art to my blogs…present and past. [Scanning the left side menu of past blogs may reveal topics worth exploring.]

~  I’ve also reshaped ImaginingsWordpower.com, a website with tips for branding, marketing, and development. While brightening its overall appearance, I decided to move articles I’ve written on historic Tucson to my author’s website. At this time, you’ll find the first third of “An Early History of Tucson and Her Cemeteries.

~  Inspired by the upcoming British Isle holiday of my fabulous editor, Viki Gillespie, I have just completed Yen for Murder, the fourth Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery. While finishing the remodel of her Auntie Carrie’s cottage, Natalie and Keoni contemplate an antique auction’s catalogue. In it, they discover the image of a Shākyamuni Buddha statue stolen during the commitment of a murder in one of his last cases as a detective with the Honolulu Police Department.

Today I’ve completed the redesign my author website, JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com, which will launch later tonight. There you’ll find the first section of “The Growth of Tucson and her Cemeteries.”  I’m also inserting the following audio sample, “Yuletide in Tucson,” a lighthearted piece on historic Tucson. Wish me luck in embedding this for what I hope will be your listening pleasure!

Yuletide in Tucson

I guess that’s a fair amount of work, but I promise to remain in closer touch with you! This includes launching a business Facebook page.

Wishing you the best in your creative journey,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

To learn more about current and planned projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Tips on branding, marketing and developing your work are available at
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

EMPOWERING BIOS

Jeanne Burrows-JohnsonWith 2019 quickly unfolding, authors and artists face a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Beyond financial planning and tax preparation, this is the ideal time to strategize and schedule events, design and/or revise our websites and social media outreach, and shape marketing materials to support these endeavors. While professional service providers can address many of these issues, there are expenditures that can be avoided if we are able to do some of the work ourselves. The essential question is whether we possess the skills and artistic vision to do so…as well as the time that will be required. Fortunately, like book synopses, several elements of biographies can be utilized repeatedly. Your picture, logos and slogans, descriptions of your work, and biographies of varying lengths and emphasis will all prove useful eventually. Today, I will suggest requisite elements of effective biographies.

WHEN WILL YOU NEED AN EMPOWERING BIOGRAPHY?
You are invited to view points raised in a humorous discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html. The gist of the piece is that everyone, both in and out of public view, has a need for one or more biographies…ranging from single sentences of self-introduction, to paragraphs for professional publications, and even a lengthy eulogy that will enumerate key aspects in one’s life.

WHERE TO BEGIN SHAPING YOUR BIOGRAPHY
By reviewing hardcopy and electronic files that contain materials addressing your life and work, you can gather facts, as well as previous stylistic choices from which you can draw. In addition, I suggest you create files of bios that have impressed you. These can include materials from colleagues and co-authors, as well as the brochures of professionals whose offices you visit.

Regardless of whether you work on a computer, or with pen and paper, begin listing words, phrases and other verbal images that you find attractive and worthy of positive public attention. At this point, do not be concerned about the length of your notes, their chronology, or even the vocabulary you are utilizing. For example, if you were writing a physical description of yourself, you might begin with the basics of hair and eye color with simple words like “brown” and “black.” You can add interest later by replacing “brown” with more dynamic words like coffee, chestnut, or charcoal.

IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH FOR A biography?
If you are a professional, you will interact with colleagues and the general public in differing ways. Each time you are required to produce a new bio, you will face varying requirements in length and style.

~ A casual meeting or elevator speech requires a single sentence of self-introduction in a first-person voice
~ Casual reference by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Your brief self-introduction, should be about three sentences in a first-person voice
~ A brief introduction by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Detailed self-intros often range from a paragraph to a page, written in a first-person voice
~ Complex intros that are to be delivered by someone else should be similar in length, written in a third-person voice

  ~ Anything longer can be used for slow elevators or tall buildings 

BIOGRAPHY ELEMENTS
Regardless of usage, I recommend you utilize verbiage that expresses your personality, as well as the products or services you offer. This allows readers or listeners of your promotional materials [especially prior to an event] to feel they have actually met you. You should consider including the following.

~ Education and training
~ Career highlights and focus of work
~ Professional accreditation and affiliations
~ Photographs are optional and may be appropriate to only some uses. Authors can be photographed holding one of their books and artists may wish to show a sample of their art. Head and bust shots, as well as images of you standing on a stage or at a podium will all prove useful someday. If you have action shots featuring other people, you should obtain a signed release from them.

BIOGRAPHY LAYOUTS
Biographical layouts vary with length and purpose. To maximize harmony with other promotional materials, your biography should utilize elements from your style sheet with your signature font[s], colors, logos, slogans, etc.!

USAGE OF BIOGRAPHIES
Once you have created biographies of varying length and style, you can utilize them in numerous places. Bios can be placed in several places on the internet, including: One or more pages of your website[s], your blog; Facebook and other social media sites; a framed copy can face visitors to your office or studio.

I send copies of appropriate bios to organizers of public speaking engagements twice; once when arrangements have been confirmed, and just prior to the event. I also carry copies to the event in case the host does not have one. Depending on the purpose of the engagement, the bio/intro may be short or long. If short, I print it on cardstock, as well as 8.5 x 11- inch stationery. I also carry a copy with bulleted key points in a non-glare archival quality sleeve in my presentation folder…for those unexpected occasions when I end up having to introduce myself. [With bulleted data, I can choose to add or delete points that I may decide are, or are not, appropriate to the day’s audience.]

FYI: I recently received a call from a radio personality wanting to interview me. For a mere $125 per quarter of an hour, I can be featured on a drive-time radio show…This has reminded me of other [free] opportunities I have had. Not only am I glad to have varied bios at the ready for those I choose to pursue, but I’m thinking about preparing a series of questions that I might want an interviewer to ask…

Wishing you the best in your unfolding Life’s journey,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

REVIEWING 2018

 

Every year brings a mix of high and low points. Hopefully, you have experienced positive outcomes in both your personal and professional lives. I’m delighted to say that that has been true for me in several ways. On the personal front, my husband John was declared free of cancer. This September was especially memorable. I was able to visit friends as well as readers of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries in a visit to the city of my youth, Portland, Oregon—after an absence of more than twenty years.

MERGING OF PAST AND FUTURE
When I used to travel from Honolulu to Portland, I often planned a gathering of friends, which allowed us to catch up on one another’s lives. This was not possible on my last trip. However, each day I was able to see people who mean a great deal to me. The first evening, I saw had supper with Jerry Lesch, one of my favorite directors at the Portland Civic Theatre. We briefly met with my editor, Viki Gillespie, who was delivering marketing materials that I had shipped in advance. Although he was not aware of it, he had met Viki many years earlier during my performance in the play A Shot in the Dark, which Jerry directed. Later, her daughter had taken drama classes with him in high school.

The following morning, Viki took me on a tour of the city. I found that the trees had grown phenomenally and the city seemed much hillier than when I lived there. Later, I enjoyed dinner with my former Highland Dancing teacher, Bonnie McKenzie and her husband Colin, a renowned bagpiper and composer of classical piebroct music. My next event was passing out Hawaiian candy at my 50th high school class reunion. The following week, I gave public addresses at my high school and a combined meeting of book clubs of the American Association of University Women. What a wonderful visit to the past, while gliding more firmly into my public life as an author!

Continue reading REVIEWING 2018

SUCCESSFUL COVER ART

The award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive

Successful cover art is the product of teamwork. In November 2018, Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery] won several awards. Notably, it won Second Place for Published Fiction in the 2018 Arizona Literary Excellence Contest. This was due in large part to the superb editing of Viki Gillespie, who has helped to refine each of the books in the series. Like Prospect for Murder, MOMD also won First Place for Cover Art Design in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, where it was also a Finalist in the Cozy Mystery Category.

 Let’s examine how the winning cover art for this series has been achieved.

 TEAMWORK
Regardless of what you do in life, one of the major keys to your success is teamwork. Even when you are the primary producer of a product, you will be relying on the merchandise, talents, and skills of others. If you are an artist, you utilize a variety of products to create your art, and usually employ a framer to present your finished work to the world. Authors, whether self-published or working with a publisher, are likewise dependent on the output of others to finalize their creations. First, capturing their thoughts depends on a variety of manual and electronic tools. Succinct editing services are also required. Then there is the issue of layout, fortunately provided to me (along with overall publishing skills) by Geoff Habiger of Artemesia Publishing. Of course, he cannot complete his work without the final art designs brought to fruition by fine and graphic artist Yasamine June.

MY APPROACH TO ARTISTIC PROJECTS
While I possess some skill as a design consultant and can produce certain graphic art elements for marketing materials and my websites, I lack the tactile skills to produce truly refined artistic images. So where do I begin art projects? First there is the overall concept, generally driven by text I have already composed. For a book cover, the first consideration is determining the images that will evoke the essence of the story I need to highlight.

Fortunately, when I began writing the series, I composed timelines, chapter synopses, and descriptions of settings and characters. Even a cursory review of these elements reveals a list of those that may be appropriate to a book cover and supportive marketing materials. While some authors create new art for each of their works, I chose to present certain images with consistency including Miss Una, Natalie’s silent but fleet-footed feline companion and images like palm trees and ocean waters reflecting Hawai`i. In addition, I have conceived a recurring gold frame based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry. I also utilize pagination folio art that I designed, and a gold hibiscus flower that Yasamine has refined. At the point that I have a list of elements that might be good for book jacket art, I begin roughing out a tentative layout in a graphic art software program.

ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT
As I examine my list of suitable artistic elements, I manually draw a few pictures that fit the requisite portrait layout of a book cover—knowing that the final product can easily be converted to a square layout for an audio book. So where did the award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive begin?

First of all, Natalie’s life has shifted from a high rise in Waikīkī to a cottage in the beach community of Lanikai on the windward side of the island of O`ahu. Next was consideration of the fact that the murder in this story occurs at night. What does this add up to? A nighttime beach scene which includes the Mokulua islets, the moon, a palm tree, footprints in the sand, and Miss Una. Additionally, although I will not be completing the design, I try to allow space for the insertion of Titling in my signature Peignot font so that there will be no overlapping of images and text. Here is the initial layout I sent to Yasamine.

How did Yasamine’s magic polish this concept?

Since this is the second book in the NS mysteries, I had been through the publishing process for the series once. Additionally, I was able to draw on my experience as art director for the well-received multi-author anthology, Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert. For that project, I featured a picture I shot of the desert at sunset from my back lānai.

Whatever your artistic needs may be, I urge you to be involved in the process, even if you are unable to finalize the images yourself. The input you provide to a professional artist will ensure a product that reflects your own work and the goals you may be setting for future projects…Here’s a look at the before and after images for the forthcoming Murders of Conveyance, being released in early 2019!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Drawing on Sense Memories

What are your earliest and favorite sense memories? Most of us think of the five physical senses as we are experiencing them. The toast looks and tastes all right, but it has a slightly burnt smell. I wish the kids would stop screaming, my ears are starting to hurt. I love this faux fabric, it almost feels like my cat’s fur…

The Creator’s Sensory Perception
As a writer, or other creative person, sensory perception can be an important element in preparing a stimulating picture via words or graphic images. We may not be aware of it, but the way an image or scent impacts us personally can greatly impact or work. One of the most effective devices for creating believable images is by consciously drawing on our memories. This is because referencing something we’ve encountered personally provides a depth of authenticity in whatever work we are undertaking.

The Truth of One’s Experience
This does not mean that we have to reveal our personal circumstances in order to truthfully share a sensory experience. Of course, that may not be true if we are presenting a work that is a memoir or similar personal expression, for which we are obligated to reveal this aspect of our lives. The truth of our sensory experiences can be shared without revelation of the circumstances in which they occur.  Isolating the experience from its original circumstances, can encourage us to revisit the specifics of what we saw, smelled, heard, touched, and/or tasted with greater accuracy.

For example, while we may wish to describe the beauty of a star-lit night from our honeymoon, we do not need to provide details of the circumstances in which we viewed it. Even when we need to describe something we have not experienced, it’s good to seek out the concrete memories of those who have. In describing Shanghai in the 1920’s for Prospect for Murder, I drew on images shared by people whose fascination with the city transcended the actual era in which they traveled. And despite their degree of positive or negative reactions, I was able to utilize their perspectives to provide images of the bustling streets and even the scents they encountered in their sojourns.

In Murders of Conveyance, the third book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, my heroine overhears a conversation in Chinese from outside of the building in which she stands. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve  accidentally overheard a conversation, whether in a language we speak or not. When I moved to Honolulu at the beginning of the 1970s, there were many occasions in which I heard languages I couldn’t understand, nor even identify. Because I needed my heroine to feel connected to foreign dialogue, I inserted phonetic sounds that allowed Natalie to guess the speakers might be referencing someone she knew.

Stimulating Vocabulary
Sometimes we are fortunate to be able to utilize vocabulary or pictures that effectively mimics the images we wish to share.  I find the following words and phrases can bring clarity to a description, sometimes reaching beyond a single sense: wispy; screech; a snapping branch; wrinkled; razor’s edge; staccato; fragmented; shrunken; glassy; whispered; fiery.

The perception of other words often relies on those who read or hear them. Reference to an Upscale dining experience may arouse the taste and ambiance of a five-star restaurant to one person, and a fast-food joint to another. While the phrase Opulent jewelry signifies a strand of synthetic pearls with rhinestones to one reader, someone else may envision weighty crown jewels. Vintage clothing could generate a disco scene from the 1970s for a millennial, whereas someone my age may picture a flapper dress from the roaring twenties—the 1920’s that is. Similar variances can arise with an author or artist’s use of color and shape, as well as a composer’s insertion of pauses, changing rhythms, and escalating tones.

I’m fortunate that many of the images I wish to share in the O`ahu setting of the Natalie Seachrist mysteries practically write themselves: the sparkle and whooshing sound of incoming surf on a moonlit night; the stickiness of teriyaki sauce on a barbecued chicken thigh; the fresh fragrance of a flower lei, the stench of rotting plumeria blooms beneath an aging and neglected tree. But although I bring personal insight to such images, I must avoid cliché verbiage that will bore the veteran traveler. 

Your Target Audience
This brings us to a brief discussion of one’s audience…one’s target market. If you’re working within a recognized genre of literature, art, or music, there may be standards to which the majority of your audience will expect you to adhere. If you are striking out on your own to create a variant or wholly new artistic expression, you can move in any direction you wish…keeping in mind that you will need to attract some degree of a following in order to achieve any degree of success.

Accordingly, I sprinkle snippets of pan-Pacific and world history across my mystery plot-lines.  And while I present a fair number menu items within each book, I place actual recipes on my author website, rather than completely bogging down a story.  As to the cast of characters, folio art framing page numbers, chapter aphorisms, and linguistically and historically detailed glossaries, the reader can choose to appreciate or ignore them…

Wishing you the best on your own creative ventures,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

MEA CULPA

What do you regret about your past or present work? Your book series is doing well!  This truly is an accomplishment to cherish!  What must you do to ensure your writing career continues on an upward trajectory?  Regardless of whether you have a publisher or self-publish, there are problems that can arise during the complex process of production. Some we must live with and bypass with minimal discomfort; others we can actually take steps to remedy…

Publishing Errors

I’ve previously discussed issues an author faces in publishing a series—regardless of genre.  Fortunately, the process of publication is seldom the responsibility of a single person.  Of course, as the author, the quality of the final product reflects on you—for it is you who will be facing the public.

As a reader, as well as an author, I have not heard of a book that arrives in a reader’s lap without flaws of one type or another.  They may be barely perceptible, and actually may be a matter of choice rather than outright error.

Whose Fault?

In truth, no matter how much effort [and sometimes treasure] you invest in maintaining the quality of your work, unexpected flaws can emerge.  They can arise from both overt errors, as well as from actions you failed to take.  Most of my errors come from copying and pasting text and repeating favorite words.  Unless one closely and repeatedly reads the edited text, words may end up out of sequence, or can be wholly missing.

Discovering Flaws

The process of finding errors can be simple or complicated.  In writing a series, you probably have a written or mental list of flaws you’re prone to make.  As I prepare for the publication of Murders of Conveyance and work to complete Yen for Murder, I’ve found that the following errors appear frequently:

~  Repeated words and phrases
My favorites, myriad and R & R.

~  Overuse of prepositional phrases
Mine frequent the beginning of sentences. 

~  Complicated action
I’ve found scenes in which a character would need three hands to accomplish what I’ve described.  I’ve also struggled to explain how hidden compartments are accessed…

~  Character flaws
Misspellings of names, and their pronunciation in audio books can easily occur, and did in the audio edition of Prospect for Murder.  Titles of officials and their organizations can be misstated or may change over time.  Evidently my love of British police procedurals produced my mixing of the word detective with the ranks of police officers.  In actuality, most police forces in the U.S. [including Hawai`i], do not do that.  A sergeant with the Honolulu Police Department who becomes a detective is simply referred to as detective, with higher ranking officers being referred to by their rank.

Major Errors

You might think that writing fiction means that few errors unrelated to grammar will materialize.  But issues of consistency still need to be addressed.  My own inconsistencies have included changing the floor on which protagonist Natalie has a condo and the color of the truck of her boyfriend and detecting partner Keoni.  While regretting even these minor mistakes, at least they do not interfere with the reader’s ability to follow the story.  I’m not sure the same can be said for the two lines of crossed-through text in Murder on Mokulua Drive.

One thing that cannot be ignored or casually dismissed is the erroneous reporting of a historical fact.  I was particularly embarrassed to discover that in copying and pasting text in the Glossary of Prospect for Murder, I mistakenly dropped a sentence relating to Hawaiian Princess Ka`iulani into the description of Queen Kapi`olani. This is an obvious mistake to readers who are familiar with the lineage of Hawaiian royals and a serious detraction from my desire to share Hawaiian history with a global readership.

Making Corrections

Having determined the cause of a problem, you face correcting it.  This can be fairly easy with the publication of a digital book, and other on-line pieces…That is, if you are capable of altering the text within the template that generated it. If you cannot do so yourself, you may have to return to the typographical artist who originally laid out the book. If you are not able to reconnect with them, you will have to find a new source of help.  Fortunately, my publisher is working to correct the MOMD Ebook error regarding Queen Kapi`olani.

Matters are more complex in correcting flaws in printed editions. Unfortunately, the error regarding the Queen can only be corrected when further batches of the books are printed.  I wish I could send out errata labels to everyone who has a copy of the book…The one thing I have done is to publish a message of Mea Culpa on Facebook!

Avoiding Repetition of the Crime

Once you’ve pinpointed the sources of flaws, you can seek appropriate ways to dodge their recurrence. This challenge is exacerbated in the production of a series.  To keep my projects separate but harmonious, I’ve prepared and continually update detailed reference notes listing aspects of appearance, voice, attire, movement and behavior. I also have spreadsheets that pinpoint chapter elements [such as when Natalie has which vision] and the family trees of major characters.

I’m glad that most of my readers enjoy references to daily life in the Hawaiian Islands—especially food.  There are, however, some who would prefer little discussion of food, beverages, relationships, history and cats.  At this point, I don’t foresee removing these elements from my tales—nor would I detract from plot lines by inserting actual recipes.  However, recipes  that reflect Natalie’s life, local restaurants and menu items one might expect at an Island gathering, do appear on my author website.  This has necessitated my keeping records of the food and beverages I write about for review during the writing of each book.

Variations…Not Errors

As a series unfolds, it is to be expected that improvements in writing style and changes in book layout may occur.  This doesn’t mean that earlier editions of books are necessarily flawed.  Happily, my publisher opted to offer embossing on the vibrant cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive.  And, as I like reference material to be readily accessible, we are enlarging the font that introduces Glossary sections.  Similarly, we are inserting spaces before and after the hyphens between author birth and death dates in chapter aphorisms.

Fortunately, while outright flaws need to be addressed, developments in an author’s style of writing and the presentation of their work can be things of beauty!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries [including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.