12-20 - Gilded Heart Design's Christy Caughie "What's New in Cover Design"

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What's New in Cover Design

by Christy Carlyle

While the title of my post refers to what’s new, most of what’s important to know about cover design remains consistent. And that’s good news! It means you don’t need to scramble to keep up with constantly changing trends. Sure, there are fads and genre specific trends, and I’ll mention a couple of those, but in general the following fundamentals have remained true of book cover design since I began designing three years ago.

Stay true to your genre and optimize its best aspects – Being unique sounds appealing, but creating a cover that strays too far from what paranormal romance, historical romance, or fans of any specific genre expect to find on a cover may mean that your book gets lost rather than standing out in the crowd.

Look at what’s hot in your genre by studying bestseller lists or browsing bookstore shelves. Sure, those books are ultimately selling because of excellent storytelling, but great cover design can also play a role. And it can’t hurt to emulate the folks who are selling heaps of books, right? Figure out your genre’s cover design expectations, and then work to create a cover that optimizes those aspects. In other words, figure out what works and do it well.

I write Victorian historical romance and there are basically two main cover design modes in my genre—couple in a clinch or lady in a pretty dress. There are other options, of course, but those two styles have remained consistently popular for years. When I designed the covers for my Whitechapel Wagers series, I tried to combine the appeal of both.  

Don’t skimp on quality – For an indie-published author, paying for book cover design may be one of your larger expenses, but it’s well worth it. Expect to pay between $100-200 (or more) for a professional cover designer to create your perfect cover. As a designer, I have been asked to redesign covers for several authors—to create a more consistent look, to improve on the quality of their previous covers, or to “try something different” to boost sales. 

I've learned that a good deal of the work in cover design takes place before images and typography are combined. Taking the time to envision consistency across a series and figure out your overall brand as an author will improve your covers the first time around. Who knows. It might save you the trouble of a redesign. Then again, one of the great freedoms of being an indie author is the ability to change your cover. It's an aspect of your business and marketing strategy that you control, tweaking a cover or trying different options to test their impact on sales. 

Cover designs for Christina Tetrault with a focus on consistency.
Design principles to keep in mind – Did you have to take an art history or art theory class in school or at university? If you did, they might have droned on about design principles like contrast, color harmony, clear, readable typography, the Z pattern, etc. Did you know you can use these concepts to improve your cover and that any good cover designer will be applying them to the mock-ups and final art you see?

Since many readers purchase ebooks based on small thumbnail images, it’s important to make sure your typography is large and readable in thumbnail dimensions. Also, the higher the contrast of dark and light colors/images on your cover, the more it will “pop.” Keeping color harmonies in mind is also useful. I often pull out an old school color wheel or browse a site like Adobe's Kuler, which features infinite color palettes, for design inspiration. The Z-pattern refers to the notion that our eyes tend to view images in a Z pattern, scanning from upper left to right, then down diagonally to lower left over to right. Since typography and key elements on book covers tend to be at the top, bottom, or in the center of the diagonal, most follow the Z-pattern.

I feel certain that as soon as I type these out, they’ll go out of style. Or perhaps they did go out of style when my finger slipped off the pulse of cover design. And of course these aren't hard and fast rules, just some trends I’ve noticed as I study covers.

Historical romance – I’ve noticed a trend toward monochromatic color schemes which use several aspects of a single hue on the cover. Memorable recent examples are Sarah MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrel covers, but I've seen the technique on many beautiful historical romance covers recently.

YA Paranormal romance – While dark background colors remain a visual cue for many paranormal covers, I’ve noticed YA, in particular, tends to be focused increasingly on single female figures on the cover rather than an object or couple, both of which seemed to be popular for a while. On a recent bookstore visit, these covers caught my eye and held me captive. Beyond the compelling central figures, note their use of contrast, simple design, and readable typography too.

What trends have you noticed in cover design? Feel free to post any questions you have about cover design and I'll do my best to answer. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Three Gifts for Christmas

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. Today is my last post at Romancing the Genres for 2014, and and like the wise men of the Christmas story I have three gifts for you!

Firstly, a biscuit (cookie) recipe that's been in my family since my grandmother's time, but with an added twist. I first did these back in May 2013 and posted them as part of an event to celebrate the first book birthday for my debut novel Keir. Because my male MC was nicknamed the Blue Demon, the biscuits (cookies) were themed to match, but you could use any colour (say red and green for Christmas). I'm going to be making these next week with my three little monsters.

Blue Star Biscuits (Cookies)

The basic sweet biscuit recipe for this has been in my family since before I was born, but I’ve added a twist to create the coloured centers. You will need:

4oz. butter
4oz. caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
8oz. plain flour
Boiled sweets

Oven temperature: 350°F

Lightly grease three baking trays. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the egg gradually and beat well. Sift the flour and fold into the creamed mixture. Knead lightly and roll out to the required thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters – for mine I used two different sizes of star and kept the middles too, but you could use any shape. Place on the trays and put a boiled sweet in the hole in the middle – you can crush these to make them melt quicker in the oven so the biscuit part doesn’t overcook. Bake toward the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes until pale brown (the sweet should melt and spread out in the center of the biscuit). Allow to cool before removing from the trays to allow the melted sweet to reset.

You could also make different shapes and use different coloured sweets to vary the design, even using them to make edible Christmas tree decorations if you make a hole in the biscuit before cooking to thread ribbon. You can also flavor the biscuit (because of the sweets I didn’t add any flavoring to these) by using the following:

2 level tsps. grated lemon rind
2 level tsps. mixed spice or cinnamon
2 tsps. Vanilla essence
2oz. dried fruit
2oz. glace cherries, chopped
Grated rind of one orange.


Second is a free story, or rather eight stories. I am proud to be part of Tales from the SFR Brigade, a free digital anthology of out-of-this-world scifi romances that were a Night Owl Reviews Top Pick, scoring 4.5 stars!

Available for FREE from...
 Amazon US | Amazon UK | ARe
 SmashwordsB&N | Kobo

And for my last 'gift' of the year, I give you my sixth and final title for 2014, releasing TODAY - a futuristic urban fantasy short about redemption and forgiveness. And appropriate to the season, it's an angel story...although my MC Lucien is definitely not the kind of angel you'd want to put on your Christmas tree. :P
Available from...Breathless Press
Amazon US | Amazon UK

How far would you fall for love?

Centuries ago, guardian angel Lucien committed a terrible sin. He gave into his own desires and revealed himself to the mortal woman he'd been charged to protect. By kissing her, he condemned himself. Torn of his wings and his angelic powers, thrown down into the City Below, Lucien now serves Satan as an incubus who claims souls for his master from the City Above, and who feeds on the energy stolen from his mortal lovers. Dark, sexy and charming, he's been top of his league for decades uncounted.

Until His Infernal Highness decides to send Lucien looking for a lost angel. Lucien has no idea what he did to deserve such a punishment, and the touch of an angel could destroy him. Yet the challenge and the potential kudos of seducing one of his former heavenly kin leads him on.

But when he finds the angel, he learns he still has more to lose than his already forsaken soul.


2014 has been an amazing year, both personally and in my publishing life. I'm so pleased to have been able to share so much of it here at Romancing the Genres. Wishing my readers and my co-bloggers a very Merry Christmas, and may 2015 bring you as much joy as this year has to me.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

Yep, it's that time of year again! When homes are decorated with twinkling lights and blow-up Santa's. When the kitchen smells wonderfully sweet from all the baking. When friends and family gather for the annual Christmas Party and White Elephant exchange. and you end up with a badly sculpted ashtray that looks like someone ran over with their car. When you have to walk a mile to the mall because the parking lot is so dang crowded. When you can't turn a radio station on without hearing non-stop Christmas carols!

Okay...I'm starting to sound a bit like a Scrooge aren't I? I'm really not, but have noticed that, as I get older, I’m not nearly as excited about the Christmas season as I was when my children were younger. Their excitement at waking to find a living room full of presents was so much fun to see. They still have that light of anticipation in their eyes, but being young adults, it just isn’t the same.  

I know as the day gets closer and the house is decorated (we tend to be one of the last on the block to decorate) and my husband and I have bought the gifts (again....we're doing that at the last minute) and my daughter comes home, I'll get more into the spirit of things. 

One of the things I do love about the holidays is the traditions we’ve developed over the years. When I was growing  up, we didn’t really have any traditions…mainly because we weren’t quite sure if there would be money for food, much less Christmas presents.  After I got married and started having a family of my own, I tried to make up little fun things to do that my children could carry into adulthood when they have their own families.  For instance, when they were smaller we would go out to dinner on Christmas Eve then come home and play some board games. Afterward, they were allowed to open the gifts they got from grandparents or aunts and uncles.  Once they went to bed, my husband and I would  pour ourselves a glass of wine and finish wrapping the “Santa gifts---which were hidden in the attic---and put together whatever needed to be put together. Before dropping into bed we’d eat whatever treat the kids left out for Santa and leave a thank you note.  Now that the children are older, we’ve had to modify the dinner out into a small family party with trays of food  and over the years I’ve added making Tamales to the list….a very hard thing to perfect when you’re not used to it. The remainder of the night we watch a Christmas type movie before playing a game or two and opening a gift. 
Another tradition we always do is Bake!  My daughter Manda loves to bake….so much so that she burned out the motor in the stand-up mixer.  Usually starting the second week of December we start baking our traditional ‘treats’ like fudge, brownies or M&M cookies.  But the one treat that is a Must-Have every year is my ‘famous’ Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies (okay, famous in my house).  They’re so very addicting, and hard to perfect.  We usually make a lot of them and give them away---otherwise I’ll be tempted to eat them all!!  On Christmas day after everyone opens their gifts, my husband and I make a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, French toast or pancakes depending on what we decide and then I start a turkey and ham for dinner. And, dessert  is usually what we’ve been baking throughout the week as well as my beloved Aunt Alice’s Punchbowl cake.  I posted the recipe here last year.

Man, I’m making myself hungry now. 

What are your traditions during the holidays?  Do you have a "must" food or dessert you like to serve?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recharge this Holiday Season

Vivienne Lorret

This time of year can feel a little hectic, leaving you drained. Sometimes all you need is a way to recharge.

And now… It’s time to load your e-reader with holiday cheer.

Penelope Rutledge longs for passion, but only with the man of her dreams: the brilliant, dashing Ethan Weatherstone. If only her longtime neighbor would open his eyes and realize how much she loves him. If only they weren’t best friends with so much at stake. Penelope knows her future—and their friendship—is in her hands, but is she willing to take the biggest risk of all on the man she loves?

If it were up to Ethan, life and love would be as predictable as the figures in his ledgers—certainly nothing like the adventures Penelope longs for. Yet his childhood friend has grown into a beautiful, feisty woman blissfully unaware of the danger she causes when near. Ethan knows he must save Penelope and her reputation … but can he save himself from the temptation of her lips?

Merry Christmas!


For more stocking stuffer ideas, such as the full Wallflower Wedding Series, visit

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pretty Christmas lights...

Summer! Yay!

I've just arrived back in Australia after a three-year stint in the Northern Hemipshere. A sunny Christmas for me... can't wait!

Still, there's something to be said for those dark and chilly December nights in England... when they put up pretty lights! I went to London a few weeks ago and I saw some lovely lights and shop windows for the festive season. Here's a few pics of Regent and Oxford Streets, outside Selfridges, plus one of New Bond Street, where the diamond retailers are. Chilly, but pretty :)

Like 'em? Good. Now I'm off to sit in the sun, and think about my next book...

Happy Holidays!

Thankful and Hopeful at Year's End

by Christy Carlyle

While I look forward to guest posting on Romancing the Genres in the future (including a post about cover design on Saturday, December 20th), this will be my last monthly post as a Genre-ista. As I'd always hoped it would, my writing is taking up more and more of my time, and I hope to spend even more time writing in 2015.

Publishing my first novella in January 2014 was a scary, exhilarating experience, but it was just a start. I've worked this year on growing as a writer and as an author-entrepreneur. My plans for next year are ambitious, perhaps more than I'll be able to accomplish, but I believe in setting big goals. I don’t know about you, but I need challenges to keep me motivated. 

Next year I hope to publish multiple books under several pen names and in various genres. I know it will require planning, hard work, and discipline. I’m already juggling calendars, due dates, and plotting out various stories so that I can stay on track to meet my goals.

As I embark on my awfully ambitious 2015, I’m looking back with gratitude for my time at Romancing the Genres. I’ve learned and gained so much from being part of a group blog—camaraderie with fellow authors, the chance to interact with blog readers from all over the world, and endless enjoyment from the contributions of each unique and talented Genre-ista. 

Like many of you, as well as planning for next year, I’m rushing around during the busy holiday season. Do you like baking during the holiday season? I always manage a batch of cutout and frosted sugar cookies, but my favorite holiday cookies are actually Russian Tea Cakes, sometimes called Mexican Wedding Cakes. I got the recipe from my grandma’s Betty Crocker Cooky Book, which is now falling apart, but one of my prized possessions from her kitchen.

Russian Tea Cakes

1 cup butter or margarine, softened 
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 ¼ cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I like walnuts best!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

1.    Heat oven to 400ºF.

2.    Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.

3.    Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

4.    Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.

5.    Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Mixed in with buying presents, sending cards, and juggling holiday events, I'm also putting the finishing touches on my third Whitechapel Wagers story, Reckless Wager, a sensual Victorian romance. I still hope to have it out by the end of the year!

As a gift to anyone who's interested in reading it, leave your email address in a comment on this post, and I'll send you an ecopy of Reckless Wager as soon as it's live. 

Thank you to Romancing the Genres and all its readers for the many enjoyable years as part of this wonderful blog! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Changes in Publishing - Part Two

By Maggie Lynch

***If you missed Part One, click on this link Changes in Publishing, Part One

What does all this mean to the individual author?

It means you have to think in terms of the long game. You don’t write a book (or even a short story) for next week’s or next month’s sales spike; and there’s no way to even see a trend before it’s gone. 

One could read all of the above and simply throw in the towel and say “I’m not writing anymore. I can’t make any money.”  However, I would suggest the author’s response to this should be NOT to play the short-game. 

Don’t count on book launches, short-term velocity, or deciding the value of your book on the first month’s or quarters, or maybe even year’s, earnings. 

Stop practicing or seeing answers to the short game. Instead focus on the long game. What is that title worth in two years? Ten years? How can it be re-used, re-purposed, re-made into new products? Duets, short stories, boxed sets, series. 

These are all thinking about long-game products and thinking about each product being more than a stand alone.

On the marketing and discoverability side, the long game approach is also very different. For example, there is no point in jeopardizing your long-term business over something that isn’t going to last. Too often authors check their sales every day and then react by trying some new latest fad to give it a boost: a Facebook or Twitter ad, a Pinterest post, a Tumblr blog, a … you name the latest new multimedia. Some subscribe to a tweet buzzer, or blast their fans with “buy, buy, buy, ” or frantically search for the secret “make millions now” scheme.

These are all temporary boosts with diminishing returns. Yes, the first time you try it you might see a few more sales, but the next time is less, and the next time may be nothing. While chasing those spikes, you’ve failed to write the next book or take into account the long-term sales results for that title.

Joanna Penn has coined a popular term for the type of author who can learn to thrive in this new publishing environment. It is: “author-entrepreneur.” I like this term because it joins both the creative and business sides that successful authors must embrace today.  Let me quote Joanna’s thinking on building an online presence.

“The author-entrepreneur” takes the long-term view, plans accordingly, and thinks ahead. For example, this is why I think relationships with other authors are so important. Some people consider social media a waste of time, but if you have a long-term perspective, you know it’s not about this one tweet, or a single blog post, or this one podcast interview. It’s about building social karma over time, about generosity that comes back to you in unexpected ways, about making friends and supporting each other on the journey. None of that is possible with short-term thinking.”

Embrace Change
Finally, I think the biggest change in publishing is the fact that it IS changing constantly. 

We are nowhere near stability or even heading toward equilibrium in the publishing game. 

We will continue to see changes in both traditional and indie options. 

We will continue to see a plethora of software solutions to speed the production cycle. 

We will continue to see power shifts among companies, countries, genres and formats. 

Authors who can find a way to continue to write great stories while being buffeted by change will be the ones to succeed, long term. 

Authors who don’t become obsessed with the latest gadget, marketing campaign, or promises of riches, will be the ones more likely to succeed in the long term. 

Authors who are willing to take chances, to experiment a little but always verify results, are the ones who will learn to be on the leading edge of change instead of hanging onto the tiger’s tail and bouncing between the earth and the sky.

Like most things in life, authors who can find some semblance of balance of creativity, business acumen, and a match with their core will now be more successful. Learn how to exercise control where you have some power and to let go of control where you do not.

And remember what brought you to writing in the first place. It probably wasn’t riches or fame. Get back to that person—that person who wrote because she had a story that wouldn’t leave her alone, or wanted her voice to be heard in a medium that has long-term staying power, or simply loved the shape of words and sentences and paragraphs. Don’t lose the core and all that flows from that will help you adapt as matches your need.

Maggie Lynch is the author of 15 published books, as well as more than 35 short stories and numerous non-fiction articles. She is also the founder of Windtree Press, an independent publishing cooperative.
Visit her online at
Maggie's love of lifelong-learning has garnered degrees in psychology, counseling, computer science, and education;  and led to opportunities to consult in Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. Since 2013, Maggie has enjoyed the luxury of writing full-time. Her adult fiction spans romance, suspense, and speculative fiction titles under the name Maggie Jaimeson. She writes young adult fiction under the name Maggie Faire.  Her non-fiction titles are found under Maggie McVay Lynch. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

What to do with left over food?

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day and weekend. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of twenty-one people. It was crazy, zany fun! I was so tired the next day I couldn't remember who helped me peel potatoes!

Everyone brought food and we ended up having lots of items we never opened. We gathered up all the unopened food and donated it to the Bethlehem Inn in Bend, OR.

I tell you this because we did miss one giant container of sour cream. Six cups worth of sour cream!

With only my Mother, my husband and I in our house hold, I seriously doubt we will eat the whole container of sour cream. So I’m on the search for recipes to use up the sour cream. If you have a favorite you’d like to share that would be awesome.

Here’s one from me to you for the holidays:

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

Total Time:1 hr 40 min
Prep:10 min
Inactive:30 min                                                           
Cook:1 hr

Yield:8 to 10 servings

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar                                 
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the streusel:
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All Rights Reserved

© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe from the Barefoot Contessa!!
Do you have a special recipe using sour cream?  Please share!


Photo credits baking lady-/'>lammeyer /