Sunday, August 28, 2016

Judging a Book's (Genre) By Its Cover

by L. R. Trovillion

I have no idea why the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" has stuck around so long. Clearly, that's exactly what we all do initially. Okay, as a metaphor, you should not similarly judge a person by their outward appearance...but as for books, that is the first thing a potential reader will see and that reader will make any number of snap decisions based on the cover: is it intriguing, attractive, makes you want to know more... But the most important clue the cover imparts is this one:  genre.

Let's agree that there are indeed certain types of covers that grace particular genres. Think for example of the romance novel. Whether historical romance, contemporary, or romantic suspense, they all share common elements. These may be a portrayal of hero/heroine in an embrace, in a pose of longing, or sometimes just in an outfit that suggests steaminess. Often there are lips or certain body parts featured.  Enough on that. How about fantasy? I'm sure you are already conjuring up all sorts of starry images or hidden glens or fractured beams of light over a mysterious world. You get the point.

So what does an author do when she's told her cover (and her title) are not representative of Young Adult literature, her target demographic? That happened to me. I've been told the cover does not attract YA readers, it looks more like historical fiction, it is not clear what the story may be about...on and on. So, I decided to give a new cover for the ebook version a try. Now I have a new problem.

What should that cover look like and can I find a graphic artist who gets horses? After carefully explaining to the cover designer that the main character is a jumper rider and her horse is dappled grey and sending her a few representative pictures of what I thought she looked like, the poor woman picked out a dressage rider (but was savvy enough to check with me first if it was right). I can only imagine how insane we horse people must sound to an outsider explaining that no, eventers and hunters and dressage riders don't all wear the same outfits and the same tack and yes it makes a huge different to people who read these books. So, she may punt and go for a more abstract concept type cover. I told her as long as it wasn't a horse shoe or a show ribbon, try it out. Getting a cover for a horse book is a very difficult task. Or maybe I'm just picky.

So, with my crazed rambling guidance and some picture ideas, this poor creative soul is out there trying to come up with a horse concept cover knowing nothing about horses, hoping that it will satisfy her fussy "no-that's a flea-bitten not dapple gray" client, me. I have to trust in her artistic sense. I'm not very good with yielding control. So, stay tuned for the big, new cover reveal of False Gods!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Farm Detective

The everyday running of a horse farm is both exciting and challenging. From the lawn tractor that won’t start (yet again) to the mare who is mysteriously losing hair on her face, to the odd looking weed that has suddenly sprouted in the center of the pasture, there is always at least one ongoing mystery on the farm.

From creative thought to research to problem-solving, writing is much like farm management. First, a problem, conflict, or potential threat has to be identified. On the farm it might be swarming bees, a lame horse, or a leaky barn roof. In writing, it could be a murder, a romantic triangle, or even the loss of a job.

The research phase involves the writer understanding the problem enough to explain it to readers, and offering a plausible resolution. It also involves the characters taking steps to manage the problem, or methodically gather information toward resolving the conflict. In the barn, research might take the form of different sprays to get rid of the bees, an internet search or a call to a local county extension agent to identify the unusual weed, or palpation of a horse’s leg to identify the source of the lameness.

Finally, the character or the horse owner has enough information to make a decision that will solve the problem. The decision might involve some trial and error, but eventually a resolution is found. The weed turns out to belong to an innocuous branch of the mint family, the lameness stems from a sore hip, and the bees, well, spraying a mixture of vinegar and water around the barn seems to deter them.

Unlike mystery books, however, farm-based mysteries usually do not involve a murder. But the thinking process that goes into each really is very similar, and I have found that creative problem-solving on the farm also allows me to then create some interesting plot lines. 

One recent challenge was how to secure the barrels for our new horse obstacle so they did not tip over. After much research about safety, and a few trial and error attempts, we ended up packing tires around the barrels to create a stable obstacle for our Colby's Army horses and riders to navigate.

Farm challenges can be frustrating, but if you begin to think of them as a way to develop a book idea or a story line, maybe some of the frustration will turn into creativity. This week I have dealt with the non-starting mower, a mare’s facial hair loss, unwanted bees, a leaning barn support beam, an electric fence that does not want to turn off, and a few other odds and ends. What have your farm or writing challenges been recently?


Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at

Monday, August 8, 2016

The End Decision is Yours

In late June I finished writing the first draft of my soon to be released novel for adults, B and B.  I have had an acquaintance in Canada read and edit it for me and have been thankful for his feedback.  The majority of corrections and suggestions he made, I took on.

It is so helpful to have another pair (or pairs!) of eyes go over your work.  They can point out inconsistencies, spelling errors or grammatical errors.  On top of this, they can let you know if your story flows or in some spots, just doesn’t make sense.

This feedback can only help you to improve your story as you make corrections and adjustments.  Some things you may decide to leave as they are, despite a suggestion.  As the author who self publishes, this is completely your choice!

It was easy for me to take recommendations from this editor – mainly because I agreed with where he was coming from.

When it came to the design of my cover, however, I found myself struggling to take on others’ advice.  I designed one cover and just wasn’t happy with it.  After sitting on the design for a few days, I had an idea on how to change the cover and make it more appealing.

The end result was 5 different designs that I opted to put onto my Facebook page in an album and see what people thought.  I was so relieved when the majority liked the 1 that I thought would make my cover!

Belladonna has a Cover I Love!
As more people liked or commented, I was surprised to find two close friends preferred the first cover I had designed and not been happy with.

On top of this, I received feedback from an author that none of the covers worked for her.  An auntie commented that she didn’t like them either and my husband, well, he’s always brutally honest with me!

So suddenly for a cover that I thought had been picked by the majority as the best, perhaps it was just the least unappealing?  Whether an eBook or a paperback, a book cover draws in readers.  I read the blurb to see if I want to read a story, but a good cover can really draw me in.

Although the decision is ultimately mine, I am now faced with the daunting task of deciding on my book cover.  Do I go with the one that the majority chose, or do I redesign to find something more fitting for those who didn’t like the options at all?  Choices, choices…

What book cover has most caught your attention?