Happy Monday! :) Today I have a special Giveaway treat for you, my pretties! Here to share a little about herself, industry insight and her Custom Book Cover Contest is my lovely friend and talented editor… Danielle Fine!!!
Dani: Thanks, Karen. I’m really excited to be here. I know you’re Team Caffeine, but virtual tea for me, please.
Karen: Virtual tea it is! *hands you cup and a biscuit—the cookie kind* Let’s jump right in! Editors are a bit of a mystery to authors…we see comments on our manuscripts but rarely get the chance to learn about the person helping to shape our work of art. So tell us a little about yourself. Where is home for you? If you could take a dream vacation anywhere in the world…where would it be?
Dani: I live in Johannesburg, South Africa on a plot with three horses, five peacocks, hundreds of ducks, chickens and bunnies, and one four-year-old mischief machine. A dream vacation... Hmm. I’m a bit of a thwarted nomad, so ideally I’d like to take a year or two off and travel the world with my daughter. Right now though, if I had to pick one place, I guess I’d go for a couple of months in a villa in Italy, learning how to cook Italian food and writing.
Dani: Just three? Seriously? That has to count as cruel and unusual punishment. *Sigh* Okay... The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula le Guin (is that cheating?) Weaveworld by Clive Barker. The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon.
Karen: It is cruel, right? Ha! And yes, that is cheating! :P But, I’ll let it slide if you can find an edition that has all three bound together. Get to work on that! teehee So tell us, why editing and book design? What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Dani: I am absolutely in love with books and everything to do with them. I love writing, and language, and the creation of stories. Plus, I’m a total grammar Nazi, so editing was a natural choice for me. I’m also quite a visual person, dabbling in art and photography, so it’s been amazing to be able to grow that part of myself through design.
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help authors shape and polish their books, and getting to be involved in that journey. It’s a fantastic feeling when authors get excited about the changes we’re making and how the book comes out in the end. From a design perspective, it’s a very satisfying thing to find the right images and create something that speaks to the author, something they love. Working at home in my pajamas is also a plus. :)
Karen: Grammar Nazi? *gasps* No, not you! lol :) And, uh, who wouldn’t want to work from home in their pajamas! That is a major plus. But now, the flip-side to that coin… Wait for it…you knew it was coming…What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Dani: The thing I enjoy the least in editing is giving negative feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I do it (right? :P) I just don’t love it. I know how much work authors put into their books, and how hard it is to have your baby picked on, so it isn’t fun. Necessary, but not fun. In design, it can be challenging when the client doesn’t know what they want or how to tell me what they want. We get there in the end, though. :)
Karen: Negative feedback is definitely hard to give, but you do it in a very constructive way. :) Switching gears slightly… From an acquiring editor’s perspective, what piece of advice would you offer to writers trying to break into the industry? How can we make our manuscripts better? What grabs your attention?
Dani: If we’re talking about querying, the first thing you need to do before submitting is make sure your manuscript is as polished and perfect as you can get it. Make the dreaded query letter and synopsis strong and engaging, showing your voice. Be professional when querying and, if possible, address your query letter to the agent/editor you’re interested in.
Follow submission guidelines. In terms of the novel itself, here are a few things to think about. Make sure you’re always in your character’s perspective, and that doesn’t just mean avoid headhopping (although, you know, avoid headhopping. :) ) Every sentence, every thought and observation should be filtered through your character. The aim of the game is to get the reader into your character’s head, so don’t just report on what’s happening—let the reader experience it with your MC(s). Don’t write on the surface—dive deep into the story, find the emotion, the undercurrent, that goes with the action and let the reader in on it. Don’t overwrite, or let your writing get in the way of the story. Don’t write fearfully—don’t use weakening words like ‘started to’, ‘began to’, ‘almost’, ‘a little’ and so on, don’t over-explain yourself because you’re afraid people won’t understand what you’re trying to say, and don’t try to write like somebody else. Find your own voice and use it boldly. Write with integrity. Write stories that excite you. Write with passion.
What gets my attention... Stories that draw you into a vivid and compelling world and keep you there until they’re done with you. A fresh take on an idea. Interesting and quirky characters. Stories that make you feel. Stories that make you think.
Karen: That is excellent advice. And I can say from experience that your editorial guidance has helped me learn to be dive deeper into my stories and connect with my character’s emotions. Since the majority of your time is spent editing, how do you switch from editor mode to creator mode? As a cover artist, what inspires you? What’s the process like when working on an author’s book cover?
Dani: I’m inspired by so many things, but a strong image is at the top of the list. When I see a beautiful or striking image, my fingers start itching for Photoshop. I like browsing stock image sites. Lame, but true.
When working on a cover, the process depends on whether I’ve read the book or not. I’m lucky in that a lot of the covers I’ve done have been for books I’ve edited as well, so then I’ll generally have ideas to work with. If I haven’t read the book, I’ll send the author a form to complete to give me an idea of what they’re looking for, if there are significant themes or images in the book, the colors they’d like to use etc. Then, in either case, I’ll do a couple of different drafts and send them to the author as a jumping off point. From there we refine (and refine, and refine :) ) the image until the author is happy with it. Then I’ll buy the stock photos, produce the final version and send them a package with a banner and a number of different size options for the image.
Karen: I remember when we refined the process with my Running From Shadows book cover, I loved seeing my characters come to life in picture form! Even though that story isn’t published yet, it’s inspiration for me. And I’ve been told by my blog readers that they enjoy having cover art to look at on my Six Sentence Sunday posts. :)
On that note… Time for the fantastic contest!! What are you giving away? I see a ton of beautiful covers here! Are all these beauties your designs? Do we get to vote on them? How does this work?
Dani: The contest is part of my Countdown to Halloween celebration! Yes, these are all covers I’ve created and, with the authors’ permission, I’m opening them to a vote. Simply choose your favorite cover using the poll here or on my website, and send me a message using my contact form and you could win a 100% free cover. The author with the most votes for their cover will select a random number when the contest closes on the 22nd October, which will be used to determine the winner. The winning author will also receive their next cover free. Once the competition has closed, all covers booked before Halloween will be 25% off and all horror/paranormal covers will be 50% off.
Karen will announce both winners here on her blog on Tuesday, 23rd, October.
Karen: One final question before the voting begins. Do you have to have a finished manuscript to vote? Who’s eligible to play?
Dani: You don’t have to have a finished manuscript to be eligible and anyone can play. You can redeem your free cover any time within the next six months, or you can even gift your free cover to an author friend, if you’re not a writer.
Karen: What a cool gift for an author friend! Thank you so much for being here today and sharing this wonderful contest with us!
Dani: Thank you so much for having me, and good luck to everyone in the contest!
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Contact Dani here for a chance to win a Custom Book Cover!