Monday, September 14, 2009

Five Covers, One Book, You Pick

Usually I post one green blog a month. This month I couldn't resist a bonus blog, and it isn't green. It's black and white--at least in overall effect. Here's why: it's about the book publishing industry--where business decisions are rarely black and white even though the pages often are.

Did you ever wonder what goes on in an editorial/marketing brainstorming session? Especially a session in which book cover art is chosen? Stick with me here. I'm taking you behind the scene at a publishing company. We're going to see the cover art that was discussed for my soon to be published novel, Island Sting. I peeked in on a secret session and I'm sharing!

Ordinarily, an author is not privy to cover art brainstorming sessions, but Leap Books, is no ordinary publisher. The company is leaping into production with bold innovative steps. One of the braver steps Leap took was in not kicking me out when I was busted as I eavesdropped on their meeting.

You wouldn't believe the cover ideas that bounced around. I'm going to share the images I managed to grab in whatever format I could as I split from the very stressful meeting. Well, it was stressful to me. I mean, I know what my plot is about and would recognize any of my characters on the street. I've practically lived in their environment for what feels like centuries. What were these people thinking? The ones I show below, at least, were offered by designers with insight. For a while I worried that Island Sting, a mystery about an authentic endangered species in an actual location (on Earth), might wind up with a casket full of endangered vampires, or maybe werewolves, on the cover... Hey, I love paranormal fiction: vampires, werewolves, and fun fantasy. But you'd be hard pressed to find those elements in Island Sting. Just got an idea though for the next book. Maybe the real reason the marsh rabbit is endangered in the Florida Keys is-- Whoa, back to the subject.

Some of these cover images are very rough, done in low resolution on a whim, others a bit more polished, and most use sample only stock images for illustrating design ideas. One suggested cover even included a title change. I was not able to make the images any larger or clearer than you see. I was sneaking them out of the building, you know. I could hardly ask, "Hey, do you have a better copy of this?" Actually, it's a minor miracle they aren't covered with pizza stains.

So, what do you think of the choices? As an author, which would you pick to wrap your baby in? As a reader, which would entice you to pick up the book and read the blurb? What factors influenced your thinking? Better yet---grab a teen or tween and ask for an opinion. That would be way cool.

Ta da! Here they are:

Number 1 (The sign reads Caution Endangered Species Area.)

Number 2

Number 3

Number 4 (The dude in the image is pointing a gun.)

Number 5

Now that you have a preliminary idea, here's the flash blurb for Island Sting.

Kenzie didn’t expect her first summer in the Florida Keys to be murder. Cute guys, awesome boats, endangered species, gun-toting thugs... In Angelo's up and down world, Kenzie needed a life jacket and Dramamine.

Still like the first one you picked best?

Please comment. Let me know your thoughts. If you can't or choose not to leave a comment,
contact me. I'll compile and summarize all comments and thoughts for you next month.

You know what? Now that I think about it, this is actually a green post. Not a single piece of paper was used to create even one of these images. Yet...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teen Seed Collector Huge Success

January has obsessed me. To the point I forgot September arrived and with it my blog duty until Mr. Green Pants (GP) made commanding eye contact with me, jolting me back into the moment.

January? What’s the big deal, you wonder? January 6, 2010 is the publication date for Island Sting, my mystery novel celebrating green teens. I thought when my book was finally contracted by a publisher, my workload would lighten. So wrong. The steps involved in publishing and marketing Island Sting have presented an unexpectedly steep learning curve for me. I’m struggling with a host of new skills, while simultaneously editing Turtle Dog, my second tale wherein green teens save an endangered species. Thank goodness for two classes of brilliant middle grade and young adult authors: the class of 2k9 authors whose experience guides me, and my own supportive class of 2k10 authors (website under construction) or I may have given up ages ago.

Enough excuses. I’m getting that GP look again. His unhappy face today may be due to the unexpected chill in the air. Though to me sixty-five degrees is a delightful change from the August nineties. F
earing both hawk and snake, GP had spent so much time in his Mr. Potato Head disguise that when he felt secure enough to remove it, the chilly air was an unpleasant surprise. Until I fashioned him a jacket, there was no way he would join me in the planting of a fall crop of peas The seedlings we planted are from the farmers’ market, but I also plant heirloom seeds. Know who else is a fan of heirloom seeds? Oprah. Yep. Oprah and me.

No kidding. Oprah is a fan of my favorite heirloom seed company, Baker Street Heirloom Seeds. What good taste I have! (A little garden humor.) Yes, Baker Street's catalog is a work of art. Yes, they are major supporters of and providers for gardeners of all ages. Yes, they've created an amazing Ozark Mountain village offering history, music, folklore and more. But here’s the really cool part of their family story: Jere Gettle, co-owner with Emilee, his wife, began collecting seeds as a teen. To quote Michele Owens’ article in the August, 2009 issue of O The Oprah Magazine, "[Jere] began collecting and trading seeds the way other kids trade baseball cards, and he printed up his first seed catalog in 1998, when he was 17, growing almost all the seeds himself."

Now that’s a green teen! The Gettles have built that business into one that involves fifty seed producing farmers and, at last count, offers 1,200 fruit and vegetable seeds. Why the Gettles’ passion for heirloom seeds? The Oprah Magazine quotes Jere: "We're saving something that Thomas Jefferson grew or that was grown by the Romans, or that was passed down in a family for 300 years, that might otherwise disappear. And it's important to maintain the genetic diversity these varieties represent. Otherwise, you have the Irish potato famine. Everybody plants the same variety and a disease comes through and wipes out the entire crop. Every one of these old-time varieties has a different flavor—and that's worth getting excited about."

I think so, too.

In this photo GP stands upon the Baker Street Heirloom Seeds Catalog with dragon tongue seeds scattered about--our favorite. He's leaning against sweet dumpling squash and holding their seed package.

To me gardening is a metaphor for writing. I begin each plot with compost--a mixed-up batch of daily life cooked and stirred until ripe. For many days or weeks both garden plot and story plot seem little more than one of two four-letter words, cr-- or the one that rhymes with flit. But eventually tiny seeds sprout and slowly grow into larger, organized living visions. Just when the creation bursts forth, pests and weeds leap forth to impede progress. After contemplation, study, and research, I counterstrike. Detractors are deleted. Destroyers are yanked. Order restored. Healthy, strong bits of the whole are salvaged. When all is said and done, my back aches from digging, sowing, and weeding, both in the garden and at the keyboard. I would have it no other way. I understand Jere Gettles' passion; gardening connects me to those who came before me. It reminds me I am of the Earth, and as such, I share responsibility for Earth's well-being.

Gardening feeds my soul. If I'm very, very lucky, my writing may do the same for a reader or two.

Read more of Michele Owens’ article in The Oprah Magazine:
Visit the Baker Street Catalog online: