Friday, September 30, 2011

Cover design prosess for A New Threat

A day or two ago I talked about titles, today, we're talking covers. Specificaly, how I came up with the current cover for A New Threat.

I knew I wanted a planet on the cover, since most of the story takes place in space. It also lets potential readers know right away that this is a sci-fi story.

I stumbled upon (literally) this site, that had a tutorial for making planets in GIMP:

Using that, I made a planet and basicly slapped a title over it. This was just a placeholder:
I didn't like the white font though, looks too sterile and plain. So I made it yellow and added the series name:

This looked better but still a little "blah". Also, the proportioning is wrong. (Sadly, I didn't even think of this until I loaded the book into iBooks and saw it looked weird...)

For version three, I fixed the sizing issues. I also decided to show only part of the planet, and make it fill the cover. The effect I'm going for here is a similar look to one that you'd get looking out the viewer of an orbiting spacecraft.

At this point, I had friends at The Anomaly look at and comment on it.
Several issues were pointed out. Mostly some spacing issues with the various lines of text, and also that "Meskka" looks funny. I'd applied a text effect to it, trying to make it "pop", but...
At this point I tried out a few suggestions:

For those tests, I fixed the font spacing, and tried out a darker font color.. I didn't like it...
At this point, I also had a discussion about the title. You can read about that in the last post.
And so, the current cover was born:

I might make some more changes yet. I'm thinking about adding some illustrations of two of the characters superimposed over the planet, but I'm not really an artist, and I'm not sure if I really want to do that or not.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Choosing a Title

Choosing a title for a novel is hard. Well, it is for me.

I called the first book in the Guarding universe "Meskka" for quite a while. My thinking on this went something as follows:
The series on a whole is about the Guardians, with more being revealed about them and their history over the course of several books. Each book will be about something else in the same universe, with some of the same characters and some over-arching plot lines tying each book together.

So, the first book in the series was about the Meskka, thus, "Meskka" for a title. The only thing I didn't like about this was that the title just by itself didn't tell you much about the book. Sure, it'd make sense after reading the book, but the title should say something by itself to someone who's glancing at titles on a shelf. There's also the danger of having a made-up word for a title, it really doesn't say anything. Some readers don't care, and some will browse right past them.

I played around with several different titles looking for one that I liked the sound of, fit with the series title (The Guardian Chronicles, Book 1), and described the book. Some examples of the brainstorming process:
"Cats of Alkask" (I thought "cats" was somewhat misleading, and it didn't sound good)
"Allies of Alkask" (I like, except one of the very minor plot points is "are the meskka going to be allies or not?" this title kinda ruins that, or at least creates the impression that it does.)
"CATS IN SPACE!" (I wasn't serious about this one at all, but it popped into my head... too many muppets....)
"A Strange New World" (This one kinda sums it up, but it's already taken ;) )

I didn't really love any of these. Then I thought about it from another angle. I wanted the title to fit in with the rest of the series, and I'd already thought of a title for the second book in the series, "Threat From the Past". Thinking about this gave me the title, "A New Threat" for the first book, that sums up a few different plot lines in this book. I like it, and people I've ran it past seem to like it too.

Anyone else have title tips to share?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New cover for "Meskka"

I re-did the cover for Meskka a little. Mostly made the planet and title bigger. What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Point of View

I've left Meskka alone for several months while I've been working on An Unwanted Apprentice. I've decided to go back and re-read it. (Every writing book and published author reccomends doing this after you're finished.) It's a good thing too. I've found several point of view errors that I somehow missed before. Also, I've found a few scenes that I wanted to re-write to do more showing instead of telling. Also, I added a viewpoint scence for Bast during the battle on Alkask. On re-reading it, I found it really strange that this battle is taking place on Bast's homeworld, yet we're in Tomed's viewpoint for most of it. So I added a viewpoint that shows what Bast was doing, and what she was thinking about the process.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

epub: Hyperlinks in ePub Books

I also have a site at where I talk about how to make ePub files by hand. I'm going to do some blog posts here with bits and pieces about the ePub format that don't fit in the guide. I thought this might be of interest, since I've almost decided to self-publish.

Anyway, today's topic, links in ePub files.

I've gotten a few questions about how to do links inside of ePub books. This question is both easy to answer, and complicated.

The easy answer is: Just like you would in a normal web-page. This is complicated by the fact that the ePub specification does not give any usage guidelines on how to handle links.

iBooks, Stanza, and Adobe Digital Editions all handle it this way:

If you have an eBook with two files in it, say, "chap01.xhtml" and "chap02.xhtml", and they are in the same sub-folder in the zip file, adding a link is easy:

<a href="chap02.xhtml">Link title here</a>

Put that code somewhere in the chap01.xhtml file, and it'll jump you right to it. This is handy if you want to include a Table of Contents, or link to annotations or something similar. (Yes, if you use the TOC.ncx file, the ePub book will have a Table of Contents, but only through the menu. If you want one to show up as part of the book when you're paging through it, you have to make a separate page with links.)

Also, note that all links in ePub files are relative links. If your folder structure looks like this:

  - title.xhtml
  - chap01.xhtml
  - annotations.xhtml

You can link between title and chap01 by just using the filename, not the full path. If you want to link from chap01 to annotations.xhtml, your link would have to look like this:

<a href="../extras/annotations.xhtml">link text</a>

(Please note that while you can put files in different folders like this, it's not recommended.)

Linking outside of the book can be interesting. The standard link:

<a href="">Link</a>

works in iBooks, Stanza, and Digital Editions. I'm not sure if it works in others, due to limited testing ability. (I don't have a Sony Reader or Nook.)