2009 Best Cover Finalists

We have winners in each of the genre categories, which will now go head to head for the 2009 Best Cover Award!

They are (in alphabetical order):

Abish by Brenda Anderson
Publisher: Cedar Fort

Altared Plans by Rebecca Cornish Talley
Publisher: Cedar Fort

The Dragon War Relic by Berin L. Stephens
Publisher: Bonneville Books (CFI)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Murder by the Book by Betsy Brannon Green
Publisher: Covenant

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Voting uidelines:
  • Pick your favorite COVER, not your favorite book or author.

  • Vote using the VIZU poll on the sidebar. You may vote for one book only.

  • You may send all your friends over to vote, but please tell them to vote for the most visually appealing cover, and not for your book because you're friends.

  • You may vote through Friday, January 2, 2010.

  • On Saturday, January 2, I'll post the winner of the Best Cover of 2009.

See poll results:


2009 Cover Contest

This Cover Contest idea turned out to be more difficult than I expected. There were so many covers that I liked for such a variety of reasons.

So, here's how it will work.

I've divided the covers into seven genres, each genre with its own post page.

I've picked my top five favs for each genre and posted them in alphabetical order.

Covers were picked based on how attractive I thought they were, and how well they communicated the feeling of the genre and the title. It had nothing to do with what is actually inside the book.

My personal tastes lean toward a cleaner look. I don't like cluttered or fuzzy images. I like all styles—photographic, artistic, and clip art. I don't care how big the title and/or author name is but it has to blend well with the image and not detract from it. I really like clever use of fonts—a dated font is usually going to nix a cover for me.

We could argue the artistic merits and complexities of these covers till the cows come home, but let's don't, because basically, choosing a book by its cover is an emotional response to the visual imagery and it's going to be different for everyone.

So, here are the basic guidelines:
  • Pick your favorite COVER, not your favorite book or author.

  • Vote using the VIZU polls on the sidebar. You may vote for one book in each genre category.

  • Please leave comments stating why you liked a particular cover, or not. Be subjective—why/how did it grab you? How did it make you feel?

  • You may point out that I obviously have no taste because I missed THE best cover in the genre (just don't call me names).

  • You may send all your friends over to vote, but please tell them to vote for the most visually appealing cover, and not for your book because you're friends.

  • You may vote through Thursday, December 24th.

  • On Friday, December 26th, I'll post the winners from each genre and then you can vote on which of those seven is, IYHO, the best cover of 2009.

2009 General/Womens Cover Finalists

The FOB Bible by Eric W. Jepson, et al
Publisher: Peculiar Pages

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes
Publisher: Shadow Mountain

The Route by Gale Sears
Publisher: Walnut Springs Press

The Ties That Bind by Kristen McKendry
Publisher: Covenant

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 Historical Cover Finalists

Abish by Brenda Anderson
Publisher: Cedar Fort

In the Company of Angels by David Farland
Publisher: DFE

The Light Above by Jean Holbrook Matthews
Publisher: Covenant

Setting Sail by Grace Elliot
Publisher: Covenant

Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon
Publisher: Covenant

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 Middle Grade Cover Finalists

Freaky Flyday by David Farland
Publisher: Covenant

The 13th Reality: The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner
Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder by Obert Skye
Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Reiyalindis by Cory Poulson
Publisher: Sweetwater (Cedar Fort)

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 Mystery Cover Finalists

Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack
Publisher: Deseret Book

Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black
Publisher: Covenant

Murder by the Book by Betsy Brannon Green
Publisher: Covenant

Shudder by Jennie Hansen
Publisher: Covenant

The Perfect Liar by Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 Romance Cover Finalists

Altared Plans by Rebecca Cornish Talley
Publisher: Cedar Fort

Counting the Cost by Liz Adair
Publisher: Inglestone Publishing

How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini by Heather Horrocks
Publisher: Deseret Book

Pick Up Games by Marcia Mickelson
Publisher: Bonneville Books (CFI)

Winds of Hope by Anita Stansfield
Publisher: Covenant

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 Speculative Cover Finalists

Chaosbound by David Farland
Publisher: TOR Books

The Dragon War Relic by Berin L. Stephens
Publisher: Bonneville Books (CFI)

The Princess of the Sword by Lynn Kurland
Publisher: Penguin Group

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: TOR Books

Within the Flame by LeeAnne Hanks
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.

2009 YA Cover Finalists

Bone Warriors by Bron Bahlmann
Publisher: Sweetwater Books (Cedar Fort)

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison
Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill

Wings by Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: Harper Teen

Vote for your favorite in the VIZU poll on the sidebar.


Thought you might like to know...

Update: Had last minute scheduling changes. Won't be at my computer tomorrow. The book cover finalists are already posted in the sidebar but voting doesn't go live until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. Also set to go live at that time are posts with the images of the covers and voting instructions.

Wasn't planning to post today but I got an email from Amazon.com and I wanted to try it out. This is so totally cool!!

If you blog using Blogger AND you have an Amazon Associates account (both of which are free), you can now do the Amazon links from within Blogger.

First you have to activate it HERE. It puts a little widget thingee next to your Post box.

Then you simply type in the title or whatever and highlight it.

For example, let's say I'm talking about Stolen Christmas...easy peasy linky love.

or I can make it post an image for Stolen Christmas too.

The only downside that I can see is you have to use Blogger's new stupid updated editor—which doesn't give you as much control over things (like image manipulation) as the old editor did.

But still, you can easily switch back and forth between the two editors in your Settings panel faster than you can go to Amazon, find the product, create the link, etc.

Final verdict: It's cool.


Where Are You? and other questions of the season...

Why haven't you posted this week? Did you go on vacation without telling us?

What are you talking about? Huh? Wait a minute....

I believe you are hallucinating because I see two posts clearly labeled Monday and Tuesday.

My Christmas vaca officially starts this coming Friday. I'll officially be back on January 3rd. However, I'll be popping in occasionally to announce winners of the cover contest and other stuff. As time permits.

When are you doing that cover contest?

Well, uhm. Narrowing it down is harder than I thought it would be. But I'll have them up and ready for voting on Friday, as promised.

How is Stolen Christmas doing?

Wonderfully! As of this morning, we've sold 224 paper copies and about a dozen electronic copies.

I just hopped over to Amazon, and Stolen Christmas is "frequently bought together" with The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck and A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by Bill O'Reilly. Interesting.

Are you doing another Christmas book next year?

Definitely! We'll be holding the contest in mid-summer, but start working on your stories now.

Any plans for another non-Christmas short story collection?

Absolutely. I'll be officially announcing it at the beginning of the year, but if you want to get a head start, it will be a collection of stories written for teens but based on Book of Mormon characters, scenarios, etc.

Will you be posting tomorrow?

Probably not. That's my only day to go finish my Christmas shopping. Sorry. But come back on Friday for the cover contest.


Getting Into DB

How can you get a book in Deseret Book? Into the catalog?

Your publisher or distributor has to do this. Unless you've self-published a run-away best seller and people are coming into the stores demanding many, many special order copies of the book (and although rare, I know of a couple of times it's happened), Deseret Book won't really talk to individual authors. They may let you come in and talk to them down at HQ, but nothing will really happen beyond that.

LDS publishers and distributors fall into the following loosely defined categories:
  • DB takes every title the company publishes/distributes (rare; there may not actually be any in this category anymore)

  • DB takes most of the titles the company publishes

  • DB reviews the titles from the company on a book by book basis, picking and choosing according to guidelines known only to them

  • DB doesn't know the company exists and you'll have to hit hard with a good book before they notice you
Also, if you're a small publisher and/or distributor, DB won't really take you seriously unless you have multiple titles (around 10) or a foot-in-the-door type of connection with a decision maker who works there.

As to getting in their catalog, it's frequently by invitation only. We had a few books we tried and tried to get in the catalog with no success. Then we had a book that hit a real niche market and was in high demand. DB then "invited" us to pay lots of money to be in their catalog. After that initial invite, it was easier to get other books in.

If you can get into the catalog, that guarantees your shelf space in the stores and on their website.


Setting Up a Signing

How do you set up a signing? Do you think signings help?

Let your publisher know that you want to do signings and see if they have a process in place to set them up for you. However, unless you're a BIG seller, be prepared to travel on your own nickel.

If your publisher doesn't set up signings or you're self-published, you'll need to do this yourself. You'll have the most success setting up signings in your local area or an area to which you have connections—like maybe the town where you grew up.

Visit or call the local bookstores to make sure they stock your book.

Then stop by and introduce yourself. Take business cards and/or bookmarks. Ask what the store policy is on book signings and who is in charge of setting them up. Make an appointment to speak to that person. (Do not assume that they will be there and able to speak to you right then.)

For every visit, dress professionally—this means business casual, at the most relaxed. Hair done, make-up on, if you're a woman. Hair combed and freshly shaven (or trimmed), if you're a man. And please, please, please, brush your teeth and pop a breath mint before you go.

Be prepared to state what you will do to help advertise the event:
  • Provide posters for the doors/windows.

  • Provide bag stuffer flyers.

  • Be willing to bring treats or door prizes.

  • Time a press release or human interest story in the local paper that will list the dates, times and locations of your signings.

  • Online promo for the signing—and this should be more than a simple mention in a blog post. Facebook it, Twitter it, send it in your newsletter. You need to be able yo give them an estimate of how many people you'll be able to drive through their doors.

  • Bring author friends for a multi-signing event (if the store is interested).

The more work you do, the more likely the bookstore is to host a signing.

And DO NOT go in with the attitude that you're doing them a favor. Unless you're a BIG name that's going to draw hundreds of customers, most book signings are not worth the time and effort for the store. They are doing YOU a favor to let you come in and meet your public.

One more thing to note: Not all bookstores do book signings. If they refuse you, be pleasant and tell them that if they're interested in the future, to give you a call. Then ask if they'd like you to sign the books on their shelves. You want them to be impressed by how easy to work with and accommodating you are; not intimidated by your bullying self.

And yes, I do think signings help, but not in the way most authors imagine. They don't usually help generate immediate sales for the store. It helps to sell your work over time. Signings are most helpful because they personalize you to the workers at the bookstore. If they like you, they will recommend your book to customers after you leave. (This is not really favoritism, it's just the way people work.)


Amazon's Best Book Covers of 2009

Amazon is doing "Vote for the Best Book Covers of 2009" contest HERE.

They've narrowed it down to ten covers and you vote for the one you like best. You get a chance to win a copy of the winning book.

Cool. What a great idea!

In fact, I think it's such a cool idea, that I'm going to do it over on the LDS Fiction site.

I'm going to pick the Top 10 Covers of 2009 (IMHO) from the LDS Fiction site.

Then you get to vote on your favorite—and get a chance to win the winner!

I'll post the T0p 10 next Friday, so if you know of a fiction title by an LDS author that's come out this year, and it's not on LDS Fiction, send me an e-mail ASAP so I can consider it for the contest.

Writing Prompt Friday: The List

Lists are a good start to writing. Pick one of the following and make a list of at least 20 items.

  • Things to do before I turn [your next birthday]. . .

  • Ways to entertain yourself if you were stranded on a desert island. . .

  • Reasons to turn down a marriage proposal. . .

  • Signs that it's time to quit your job. . .

  • Bad things that could happen on the way to a wedding. . .

  • Things to do with one flip-flop. . .

  • Reasons not to wear thong underwear. . .

  • Signs that Santa is an extra-terrestrial. . .
Now that you've had some fun stretching your creativity, make a second list—20 plot ideas/actions/events to include in your novel.


Follow Your Bliss

This may or may not be a question you can use -- maybe I just need to talk to somebody who might understand. But I think I'm stuck.

I want to write a book, an LDS book, but I can't seem to come up with a plot that I like. In fact, except for the boringly standard "girl meets boy," I can't seem to come up with any plot at all. It's like my brain has shut down. I only have some ideas for a background and maybe a character or two, but whenever I try to think of a plot, nothing comes out, and I mean, nothing. I've tried to brainstorm a few times, but I usually only come up with a load of questions that I can't answer, or it's all background and no action, and above all, no resolution. I've tried letting everything percolate in the back of my brain, hoping for a spark that will set it all off, but so far, nothing.

Am I trying too hard, putting too much pressure on myself, or maybe not trying hard enough?

Am I limiting myself unnecessarily by saying, "I really don't want to write a romance?" I mean, I wouldn't mind if a touch of romance was a by-product of the main plot, but that main plot just isn't making itself known.

[A friend] once told me I should take the characters and situation from [my story] and make a book out of it. I've been trying, but I just can't seem to get ideas to expand the story into a full-length novel.

Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do to help myself come up with an idea that I really want to work with?

Thanks for listening to me whine, anyway. I know you must be horrendously busy, so I'll understand if you can't reply right away.

I am horrendously busy, but that's not why it's taken me so long to answer this question. It got lost. I found it just now as I was tidying up my email account. Soooo sorry.

Yes, you're trying to hard. Give yourself a break for a bit. Do writing exercises and prompts until an idea strikes, then go for it!

If you don't want to write a romance, don't write a romance. Just because they sell well in the LDS market doesn't mean they're the only thing that's selling. Fantasy is selling well. So are mysteries and historicals.

Sometimes a short story is just a short story. Maybe there's nothing more to it. Or maybe it needs to percolate a bit longer.

Find a story line that excites you, that you're enthused about. That's what you should be writing—not what you think the market expects. If you aren't excited about your story, no one else will be excited about it either. You have to follow your bliss.


ROFLR Rears Its Ugly Head—Again

Updated to be more clear...

My author friend has a book deal with [a particular LDS publisher]. She's published a few books with them. I was shocked when she told me that TPLDSP [this particular LDS publisher] has first and LAST right of refusal. Meaning that she has to publish ANYTHING she writes through TPLDSP , or not at all. And if they don't want it, she can't shop other publishers.

Is this even legal? Can they force her to use them for all of her publishing, indefinitely? If it isn't illegal, it's definitely immoral. She was a novice writer who probably didn't even understand what she was signing. Have you ever heard of anything like this?

Thanks for any insight.

Because I haven't seen her specific contract (and no, I don't want to see it because I do not give legal advice), I can't really say what exactly her contract says.

However, I've seen contracts from TPLDSP, and yes, they can be pretty bad in that area—at least, they were several years ago. Usually, the ROFLR clause means that if they reject the book she CAN shop it around to someone else, but if that someone else wants it, she will have to go back to TPLDSP and let them know she has another offer and then give TPLDSP the chance to reject it again. If they reject it this second time, she's free to sell rights to the new publisher.

But the next book she writes has to go through this same process as well.

Legal? Yes. If they create the contract and she agrees to it, then yes, it's legal.

Moral/Ethical? Not in my opinion. But I do understand why some small publishers try to get away with it. [This is based on the description of the ROFLR clause given above, NOT a simple ROFR for a series or another LDS book.]

Binding? No. They cannot force her to stay with them forever. I know quite a few authors who have started with TPLDSP and have later gotten out of their contract. [If you're one of those authors and would like to tell us how you did it, you may do so in the comments, anonymously if you like.]

If she is unhappy with her contract, have her speak with their editor/legal department. She may be able to resolve her situation with a courteous conversation. Most LDS publishers will let an author out of their contract if they're not happy. If not, as an absolute LAST RESORT, she should speak to a contract attorney, one who specializes in this area, if possible.


What Kind of Money Are We Really Talking?

Dear Guru,
I am a writer, (unpublished) but have some basic questions. I have seen some financial numbers for the huge writers, but have been unable to obtain a ball park figure for what a good LDS author truly makes. I can't even get someone to tell me how many books a better author sells. What kind of money are we really talking here? Is this worth my time? Do you have time to give me a hint here?

I'm a guru! Wait till I tell my mom. She'll be so proud. :)

Okay. This is an area that is difficult to get good info on because: 1) most companies are tight-lipped about their numbers, and 2) there are so many variables that it's hard to really say.

For example, a lot of it depends on the publisher, the genre, the retail price of the book, the size of the print run, how much advertising the publisher does, how much promotion you do, whether or not Deseret Book/Seagull pick the book up for their stores. . .

In the companies that I've worked for, a first run printing for a new or mid-list author averages 2,000 copies. If they sell through in less than a year, chances are there will be a second printing but the size of that printing depends on how quickly the first 2,000 sell.

An author is going to make 6–10% on royalties—sometimes this is based on the retail price and sometimes based on the wholesale price (again, depending on the publisher).

Let's say you do average and sell 1,800 copies of a book priced at $14.95, and your royalty is 6% on the retail price. You'll make just over $1600.

If you sell 10,000 copies (I've heard DB reps say they won't accept a book unless they think they can sell that many), you'll earn $8970—or maybe a bit more because some contracts pay a higher percentages on a tiered sales schedule.

Is it worth your time? That's something only you can answer.

(P.S. If an author or publisher would like to answer this question anonymously, please send an email and I'll post your response without revealing your identity.)


Fair Use of Quotations

I have no idea if I'm asking this in the right place on your blog, but I'm going to ask it anyway. I have written a novel and in that novel I quote one line from Anne of Green Gables. I'm a first timer and though I've tried to figure out exactly what I need to do, I can't find a specific guideline on if I need to cite this, and more importantly, how to do that. I do have the address of the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery and can use that address if I need to do so. My only fear is that they will laugh in my face since it's only one line. Any suggestions?
This is always a tricky path and I prefer to be safe and not sorry. I generally go for the permission when I can find ownership.

Generally, quoting one line of a much larger source is considered "fair use"—under certain conditions. You can read the official U.S. Copyright definition HERE and Wikipedia has a discussion of it HERE.

However, according to Project Gutenberg, Anne of Green Gables is not under copyright protection here in the U.S. so you would be free to use that line without fear.


Writing Prompt Friday: Let's Write a Poem

Based on the questions and comments I receive, I'd guess that 90% of the readers of this blog are primarily focused on writing fiction—as in, novels. The other 10% are a mix of non-fiction, short stories, and other types of writing.

It's a good thing to stretch out of your comfort zone every once in a while. It builds writing muscles and stretches your brain—a lot. When your brain pops back into place, it often brings new creativity back with it that you can use in your main writing project.

So today's prompt (unless you're primarily a poet):

Write a poem that has something to do with the season—holiday, family, winter.

If you're primarily a poet, your prompt is:

Write a short story that has something to do with the season—holiday, family, winter.
If you post your story on your blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments section.


Free Critique Service. Not.

Why don't you offer a free critique service and spend your time evaluating people's manuscripts? (Just kidding)

Because I've grown accustomed to the luxuries of life: food, clothing and a roof over my head.


Price Wars

What do you think of the pricing war between Amazon and Walmart? How might that affect the LDS market?

As a consumer who buys LOTS of books as Christmas gifts, I love it! Comparing several popular national titles, Wal-mart seems to have the better prices, sometimes only by 1¢, sometimes by several dollars.

For LDS (and more obscure/niche national titles), it's a moot point because Wal-Mart doesn't carry them at all, and not all LDS publishers get their titles up on Amazon (and I ask them, Why not? Really?! You like shooting yourself in the foot like that?).

As someone who has a vested interest in books and publishing in general, it sort of bothers me. I'm concerned about it, but I'm still inclined to the same conclusions I came to back in October. Short-term, good. Middle-term, painful. Long-term, we'll see.


December 2009 Prize Sponsors

Last month's prize winners announced HERE.

Please take a moment to learn more about our wonderfully generous sponsors.

My Spiritual Trail by Robyn Heirtzler

Cateline Fortier remembers little of the mother she lost when she was only four. In an effort to save her own history for her posterity, Cateline begins a journal that follows her remarkable journey to find her family—a journey that leads to employement on a wagon train bound for Salt Lake City in 1862.

Trail life means Indians, hardship and death, but through it all Cateline learns to love the Mormons, growing especially close to a lonely widower and his two small children. Nevertheless, she struggles to accept the faith of her newfound friends as her own.

My Spiritual Trail is a trek—not so much through the wilderness of the West, but through the heart and hopes of an unforgettable young woman.

Robyn Heirtzler currently resides in southern Utah with her husband and their five children. She enjoys running, history, photography, fishing, hiking, boating and rappelling with her family and friends.

She enjoys most those things she can do with her husband and children, no matter the activity.

She has worked as a staff writer and the managing editor of the Hurricane Valley Journal and the Cedar City Review and has had articles published in 4 Wheel Drive and Sport Utility Magazine, Irreantum, and other publications.

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace

Dear Santa,

I've been a good girl this year. (Well . . . pretty good.) I have a nice life and there's only one thing that I really want—one thing that's missing. If you happen to have an extra one lying around your workshop, I would really like a husband. I promise to take good care of him.

Love, Abbie

With a successful bakery to run, super cute nieces and nephews to spoil, and plenty of good friends to keep her company, Abbie's not about to start crying over the fact that she doesn't have a boyfriend to spend Christmas with. But when her sister convinces her to write a note to Santa, Abbie has no idea that a little Christmas magic is about to land her the man of her dreams. Or rather, that man is about to land smack dab on the floor in front of her Christmas tree with no memory of how he got there.

Now Abbie and Ben have to figure out where he came from, who he really is, and if he's actually available.

Aubrey Mace: I live in Sandy Utah where I have been writing stories for most of my life. In retrospect, the fact that I was secretly scribbling short stories during my medical coding class probably should have been a clue that coding was not my first love.

I graduated from Jordan High School and also attended LDS Business College and Utah State University. I wrote my first Official Short Story of a Certain Length while I was attending Utah State. In addition to Santa Maybe, I have two other published books: Spare Change and My Fairy Grandmother.

I still earn my living in the medical field and when I'm not busy with my day job, I divide my hours between working on my next book and spending time with my wonderful family. I enjoy cooking, traveling, gardening, playing the piano and cello, and last but certainly not least, reading.

CLICK HERE for details on how to win these books.

CLICK HERE for details on sponsoring the contest.