Visual Quill Blog

The Twelve Days of Covers: Day Three

VQ Staff - Saturday, December 15, 2012
Multi-published author Judith Laik came to Visual Quill after receiving her rights back on her previously published novella.  She wanted to publish the book herself, but she wanted the novella, Sentimental Journey, to have a similar look to her other published books that were done in a silhouette-fashion. Our designers had no problem following through on Judith's wishes. We acquired a vintage photo, purchased from the Zenith Historical Society of "The Spanish Castle" that used to be located in Tacoma, Washington, to pull together that perfect cover for the book.   SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY Eve dreams of Howie, white picket fences, and children around her skirts. Howie never shirks a duty, and after Pearl Harbor, his country calls. Will their last night of dancing at Tacoma's Spanish Castle be their last night forever? The 1940s brought wonderful music and the atrocities of war to the sleepy town of Tacoma. Eve and Howie dance the night away in the face of his deployment--a bittersweet evening for them both, because the specter of war and possible death looms between them. Will Howie come home safe after the war or will he be one of its victims? Sentimental Journey is available at Amazon.com.

The Twelve Days of Covers: Day Two

VQ Staff - Friday, December 14, 2012
Our cover today is for Bestselling author, Karen Harbaugh. Karen came to us with several books that she had recently received the rights back on from her New York publishers. She was interested in self-publishing and needed to rebrand herself  and her tradional Regency books. Each of Karen's covers has a unique look and feel, yet they all look like they belong together when they are side-by-side. The Marriage Scheme, her first self-published title, is a light, humorous Regency romance. When Georgia Canning hears that her widowed mother might refuse her suitor's proposal, she's determined to temporarily suspend her studies at Miss Angstead's Select Seminary and see that her mother is properly wed. But for all her marriage-minded scheming on behalf of her mother, the attentions of young Lord Ashcombe are a terrible distraction to Georgia's own academic ambitions. The Marriage Scheme is available online at Belgrave House's Regency Reads.

The Twelve Days of Covers: Day One

VQ Staff - Friday, December 14, 2012
Visual Quill is know for the quality book trailers we produce. But did you know we also design book covers? We are so excited to share with you some of the covers we've designed for authors over the past year. And in celebration of the holiday season, we will post one cover a day for the next twelve days along with a snippet about the book. We hope you enjoy our "Visual" holiday celebration. We've designed many covers for one of our clients, Gerri Russell. This cover is for one a new series Daughter of the Forgotten Realms. The three-book series begins with Passion’s Storm. Here’s a short blurb of what’s to come: Ianthe of Lyonesse is a sorceress whose magic cannot save her people. Alexander Warenne is a warrior who’s never known defeat yet is now a captive in a would-be king’s  plans to take the crown of England. Caught in a web not of their own making, both Ianthe and Alexander fight for their freedom. As Alexander wages war on England, he discovers Ianthe is the one person who can heal his battle-scarred heart. Yet in order to attain her, he’ll have to risk everything. Passion’s Storm is scheduled for release Spring 2013.

Defining the Ineffable: What Makes a Quality Book Trailer?

VQ Staff - Monday, October 01, 2012
With the availability of do-it-yourself video tools, many authors are creating video trailers for books that unfortunately, are leaving viewers with a not-so-stellar impression.  “How good can the book be,” they might ask themselves, “if the trailer is so amateurish?”  Of course, the main way to tell if a book trailer is a quality one is by its results—does it move people to buy the book?  But that’s like saying a good book is one that sells a lot of copies.  It may be true, but it doesn’t help you figure out how to write one. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to create a “quality” book trailer. 1)      Think “pitch,” not “plot.”  Don’t try to reproduce the book in video form, but give people a taste of what the book promises.  Give them a feeling, intrigue them, but don’t just describe the story.  Think of it like a cinematic book trailer—it needs to feel like a movie, not a plot description. 2)      Plan. Create a storyboard so that every shot is planned out in advance and you know what you’re trying to do with the book trailer.  Again, think cinematically. 3)      Hire a real graphic designer.  How you use special effects, the editing, animation, backgrounds, and layout in each shot sends a message to the viewer.  So how sophisticated your graphic design is signals how good your book is.  In book trailers, production quality counts—this is not the place to scrimp. 4)      Make sure it hangs together. Many styles can work—comic, hand drawn, lush, retro—but know the tone and style you’re aiming for so that it feels like a seamless whole.  So look at everything: the script, the visual style, the words on screen, and the music, and make sure it hangs together.  5)      Don’t confuse building your author brand with selling your book.  If too much of your trailer is you talking, then the viewer might get a sense of whether they like you, but not whether they will like your book.  Use book trailers to pitch your book, not you.  Many authors think, “I’m a writer and creative person, I can create my own book trailer.”  But remember, the skills of writing and the skills of marketing and creating videos are very different.  By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to higher quality book trailers and will reap the benefits of higher sales!

The 4 biggest mistakes when making a book trailer

VQ Staff - Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Because book trailers are today’s key to driving sales, many authors are making them, with varying levels of success.  We’ve seen (and made) a lot of quality book trailers, so we like to think we know a lot about how to do it right.  But while doing our research, we’ve also come up with a lot of ways people do it wrong.  So here are the 4 biggest mistakes people make when creating a book trailer. We hope by describing the mistakes, you won’t make them when it comes time to make your own. 1)      Making the book trailer too long. Book trailers shouldn’t be longer than 60 seconds; the absolute maximum time is 85 seconds. Keeping viewers engaged is the ultimate goal of a book trailer and that means keeping it short. 2)      Trying to tell the plot of the book, rather than thinking of it as a 60-second pitch for the book. Because book trailers, in the digital age, have replaced book covers in terms of marketing, it helps to think about how a book cover describes a book; then do that with your book trailer. So think: pitch, and testimonials, not plot synopsis. 3)      Using an author interview as the focus of your book trailer. Interviews with authors work to build author brands and are very useful for that purpose, but they don’t necessarily sell books. Again, think about the book trailer as your book cover.  You’d never paste a big picture of your face on the cover.  Instead, it works better to suggest the feeling and themes of the book.  4)      Revealing too many secrets of the book. People read fiction to escape reality and they often want to imagine themselves as the hero or heroine in the book. So don’t take away that pleasure by feeding them too many specific images. Use animated images and effects that still leave the viewer wanting to know more.  The best way to avoid making mistakes and to create a quality book trailer is to do your research, plan and tap into graphic design and book marketing expertise. Have you seen book trailers that have made these or other mistakes? Share them with us and help us add to the list.

The Top Six Reasons Every Writer Should Have a Blog and RSS Feed

VQ Staff - Friday, June 22, 2012
As a writer, one of the most powerful ways to expand your audience and showcase your work is through blogging. Many internet entrepreneurs work hard to publish their blogs but as a writer you have the ability to easily create the content you need without needing to hire out and generate revenue in the process. Blogs are fairly easy to start. The blogging platform we prefer here at Visual Quill is WordPress because the blog format is easy to brand and to upkeep because you don't need to be a computer programmer to manage your content. Blogging software allows you to begin posting your content to the internet in minutes and when you harness that ability with an RSS feed you have a powerful traffic magnet. Reason #1. Creating your own blog is the easiest way to establish a presence on the internet. Publishing a regularly updated blog helps you keep in touch with your existing audience. Whether they come for your style or subject matter, your readers will appreciate having ready access to your material. Reason #2. A blog can help you attract new readers. Your blog entries (posts or articles) will become fodder for the search engines and will attract new visitors. Once a reader has found something of interest in one blog entry they are likely to move onto other entries as well. Reason #3. Blogs and RSS feeds often rank higher in search engines than traditional web sites. Search engines love blogs and RSS feeds. If you design your blog properly then every time you update it the search engines are notified. Even if you don’t regularly ping, most search engines will revisit blogs more frequently. Plus the very organization of a blog lends itself to spidering and good search engine ranking. Reason #4. Blogs can help you establish or build your reputation in a particular field. As your blog grows you will demonstrate your knowledge in your chosen niche. Reason #5. Blogs are great ways to generate leads. Even if you don’t want to put any advertising on your blog you can use it to promote or capture leads for your own newsletter. These are great leads as the fact that they came from your blog means they are already interested in your topic and predisposed to your individual message. Reason #6. When you have a new release, a blog gives you the perfect launch pad to promote your own work. You can feature the new book, extra material that might relate to the book or its subject matter, or even a well-designed video trailer that promotes your book are a great source of content on or around your release date. A blog is a writer's most powerful tool outside of their books. Just like social networking sites, your blog is a way to communicate with your readers and promote yourself and your work to the rest of the world. Go forth and blog!

ShelfBuzz Award for Seducing the Knight

VQ Staff - Tuesday, May 22, 2012
We’re excited to share that we’ve received an award for the cover design on Gerri Russell’s second book in her Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series, Seducing the Knight. ShelfBuzz honored us with an Award of Excellence for the great cover created by our own Kate Race, cover designer extraordinaire! “I could not be more thrilled for Visual Quill to receive this recognition. The artist, Kate Race, captured the essence of the book perfectly,” Russell said. The cover was featured in an article on http://www.shelfbuzz.com, discussing how readers often judge books by their covers. “A professional, well-designed cover usually indicates that the author cares enough about his or her book to invest in it. So the book might be worth checking out,” the article states. The website finds covers from all genres that stand out. We are honored to be among those chosen for this award.

An interview with Gina Robinson

VQ Staff - Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Today we welcome the talented Gina Robinson to our blog! You can see her The Spy Who Left Me trailer on our site here. We are talking to Gina today about her books, why she loves writing about spies, and we’ll give you a peek inside Gina’s writing process as well. Gina Robinson has always been a storyteller—just ask her parents. An avid book lover, she grew up reading romance, mysteries, and suspense novels but, somehow, ended up majoring in Electrical Engineering. After marrying her college sweetheart, she began to write—software—for several large defense contractors. Eventually Gina gave up the glamorous engineering life for the equally glamorous life of a stay-at-home mom, somehow finding time to write manuscripts about villains with guns, handsome strangers, and mail-order brides. Her published novels, Spy Candy, Spy Games, and The Spy Who Left Me, received rave reviews, establishing Gina Robinson as one of today’s most exciting new authors of romantic suspense. You can visit her web site at www.ginarobinson.com

Gina Robinson, author of The Spy Who Left Me

VQ: Did you always want to write? GR: I've been making up stories to amuse myself as far back as I can remember. But I never wrote them down. I didn't decide to write a novel until I was thirty. And that was a bit by accident. I took my children, who were toddlers then, to story time at the library. Anything to keep them occupied. While we were there, I found a brochure for the University of Washington creative writing extension course. I didn't have the money to take the class, but I had a light-bulb moment. I knew I was born to write. But even with the excitement of finding my calling, I procrastinated for several more years before I actually wrote anything. I did have a lot of fun during those procrastination years doing a lot of reading for pleasure, which I justified as "reading for research purposes." VQ: Did you always want to write humorous books about spies? GR: The first three or four unpublished novels I wrote were historical romances set in the Pacific Northwest in the 1880's through the turn of the century. They were serious in tone because I believed I was a serious writer, if you can imagine. One of them did feature a Pinkerton detective who was undercover, though. And most of them had explosions. For fun, I wrote what I called a "silly" proposal for another historical, this time about a Harvey Girl. When I showed it to my critique group, they loved it and thought it was funny. I eventually realized that maybe what I called "silly" was actually funny to others and my thing. As for spies, I stumbled upon writing about them when my husband showed me an article from a travel magazine about an extreme vacation--fantasy spy camp. I like spy thrillers. I'm also a James Bond and Maxwell Smart fan. I combined all of these loves and strengths of mine by writing about spies in a humorous way. Spy Candy, the first humorous fantasy spy camp book I wrote was the first novel I sold so I guess that strategy worked. VQ: Tell us a little about The Spy Who Left Me. GR: The Spy Who Left Me is the first book in my new Agent Ex series for St. Martin's Press. The series is a lighthearted look at the difficulties of being married to a sexy, world-class spy. All of the stories in the series are reunion romances about spies and their exes, or nearly exes, hence the "ex" in Agent Ex. Here's a brief synopsis of the book: If there’s one thing that can ruin a vacation, it’s running into your ex. If Treflee Miller had only known she'd run into her estranged husband Ty while on vacation with her cousin in Hawaii, she would have brought the divorce papers for him to sign. But life is full of surprises when you’re married to a world-class spy. Ty Miller can understand why his wife is tired of playing Mrs. James Bond. He has to admit that the perfect spy makes a pretty lousy husband. But for the sake of national security and Treflee’s safety, they can’t blow his cover as a host of terrorists try to kill them. Here's what Publisher's Weekly says about it: "Punctuated with Bondworthy downhill car and bike chases and near-death surfing parties, Robinson’s clever concoction of lust and longing is a refreshing tropical cocktail." VQ: What’s next in the Agent Ex series? GR: The next title is Diamonds Aren't Forever, to be released in May 2012. In Diamonds, the hero, Drew Fields, goes undercover as himself to catch a dangerous terrorist who happens to be his stepfather-in-law. This isn't as much of a problem for Drew as it might seem since he and his wife Staci are in the middle of a divorce. That is, until their old attraction sparks back to life. VQ: If you had one spy gadget, what would it be? GR: Do I have to choose only one? There are so many cool spy gadgets. I own a pair of cheap rear view sunglasses like those featured in The Spy Who Left Me. It's the closest I've been to actually having eyes in the back of my head. But if I really had to choose one, I think I'd like Max Smart's Cone of Silence. Once you're in that thing, you can't hear anything outside of it. I prefer to write in a quiet environment. If I had a Cone of Silence over my desk, think how much more productive I'd be! Of course, I wouldn't hear if my house was being destroyed around me or a dangerous assassin broke in. But those are chances I think I'd take. VQ: If you could go anywhere in the world for a year, where would that be? What would you do there? GR: I'd love to go to the UK or Australia. Can you sense a theme? I prefer to go somewhere where English is the native tongue, even if it is spoken a little differently. I feel a sense of shared history with both of those countries. I've been to the UK once before and loved it. I'd spend my time there touring historic manors, castles, and sites, and taking afternoon tea. At least in my experience, they serve very good cake in England. I've never been to Australia so I'd love to go there and tour around. Of course, I'd have to eat Lamingtons rather than English cake. A small sacrifice for the adventure of touring a rugged land. We hope you’ve enjoyed this peek inside Gina’s writing life! What about you…If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

An interview with Cat Patrick

VQ Staff - Tuesday, May 22, 2012
We launch our Visual Quill blog today with fabulous Young Adult author Cat Patrick. You can see her brand new video trailer on our home page here. We are excited to talk with her today about her books, her writing process, and give you a little glimpse inside Cat’s life.

Cat Patrick, author of FORGOTTEN

Cat Patrick is an author of books for teens, beginning with Forgotten (Little, Brown, June 2011). She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and twin preschoolers, and is afraid of heights, planes and zombies. VQ: Very funny, Cat. So a plane flying over the Atlantic filled with Zombies would either be terrifying for you or the start of a new book? J Welcome Cat! Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book, Forgotten. CP: Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can "remember" are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you'd easily forget, yet try as she might, London can't find him in her memories of things to come. When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it's time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future. VQ: Sounds very exciting. Your reviews for Forgotten have been very positive. Can you tell us what inspired you to write Forgotten? CP: My own forgetfulness. I had baby twins and was doing something in the kitchen one morning, and I forgot what I was doing in the middle of the activity. I thought about how awful it would be to have amnesia—then to have it in high school. But then, I wondered: “What if you could remember forward instead of backward? The future instead of the past?” I began writing Forgotten that day. VQ: Where do you do most of your writing? CP: I write 100% of the time in my home office. It’s incredibly quiet—I get too distracted by music—and I usually have a warm beverage and a crunchy snack at hand. VQ: Which part of Forgotten was the most enjoyable to write? CP: I loved the whole experience, but I remember getting chills while writing the scene where the main character, London, first realizes the answer to a big part of the central mystery. That’s so cryptic! But I don’t want to give the location or share too many details and spoil it for those who haven’t read the book. VQ: Is Forgotten slatted to become a movie? If so, when? Can you give us any of the Hollywood scoop? CP: Yes! Paramount bought the movie rights back in February 2011, which was amazing because it was before the book came out. The incredibly talented Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) is attached to play London. I don’t have more details beyond the fact that they’ve settled on producers and are looking for a screenwriter. VQ: What are you working on now? CP: I’m revising my third book, and starting my fourth. My second novel—also YA but not a sequel to Forgotten—will be announced mid-September, and will be available May 8, 2012. VQ: If you had one tip to share with other writers what would that be? CP: Read. Reading great books by other writers helps you shape your own voice, and get inspired. VQ: What’s something your readers would never know about you? CP: Hmm…that’s a tough one. I feel like I’ve revealed all of my quirks in various interviews. Here are a few: I once interviewed Carmen Electra; I share a birthday with one of my brothers but we’re not twins; and I can do the Axl Rose dance. Oh, and I’m very skinny…in my fingers. My ring finger is a size 4.5. Cat, thanks for taking time to talk with us today! We wish you all the best in your writing endeavors. Since we are talking about books today as summer comes to a close: What was the best book you read this summer?

Are Reviews Effective?

VQ Staff - Thursday, January 01, 1970
Nowadays, consumers rely on the Internet to connect with businesses. In order to be efficient and up to date, many business owners utilize social media, phone apps, and the Internet to connect with customers and to attain a broader customer base. For businesses who want to engage with the people who buy their goods and services, online reviews and ratings are vital. Because of places like Amazon, Angie's list, Target, Overstock.com and Yelp, just to name a few, consumers are trained to look for feedback from others before buying products or services. Rating systems or reviews are even more important than a business’ general info or special deals, sales and coupons. Have you ever left a review for a product or service before? If so, what motivated you to do so? Are you more inclined to leave a review for a product that you are happy with, or a bad review for something that didn't meet your expectations? Learn more about the effectiveness of reviews here: http://theonlinedepartment.com/8-reasons-why-online-reviews-are-important-to-your-business