Editor in Chief of Lachesis Publishing Inc. I have a Bachelors in Journalism from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) and an MA (almost) in Canadian Studies. I have worked in film and television but my first love has always been books. I'm so happy to make my home at Lachesis Publishing.
Stephanie Stewart is a typical sixteen-year-old girl—she loves hanging out with her friends, going to concerts, and sipping mocha lattes. Yup. Just your average teenager . . . Except for one difference—she can see and talk to the dead. In fact, Stephanie helps dead girls who who’ve been murdered or killed, cross over. Just as Stephanie is getting used to her unique “gift”, her mom stumbles into some dangerous witchcraft that backfires and triggers similar abilities in Stephanie’s best friend Cura, and nemesis Hillary.
Stephanie already has enough trouble trying to maintain a “normal” life between school and her cute boyfriend Dylan, who happens to have a supernatural talent all his own. But now she has to help her friend Cura and her “frenemy” Hillary cope with their new-found powers as well as cross over two murdered cheerleaders and battle an evil demon who wants to use Stephanie’s supernatural strengths as a free pass to The Other Side. And she needs to do it all while still getting her term papers in on time. She’s definitely going to need an extra-large mocha latte for this.
Every LACHESIS PUBLISHING Ebook is on sale until Nov. 30th for .99 cents. If you buy TWO Ebooks we’ll send you a THIRD Ebook for free. All you have to do is drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org after you purchase your Ebooks and tell us which Ebook you’d like for free and we’ll send it to you.
EM: Thank you for your kind words. Years ago I decided to specialize in fiction because I knew that’s what I do best with. I also work hard to help my authors strategize to reach their goals. Part of this strategizing includes giving them book ideas and editorial feedback, based on my years as a book editor before I became an agent.
LP: What do you think about the popularity of indie publishing? What are some of the positive and negative aspects that you’ve seen over the past couple of years?
EM: Indie publishing is an amazing and wonderful development, the answer for many authors who for whatever reason aren’t right for the traditional publishers. Positive aspects are that a book can be published in a matter of days, and also that authors can reach niche/“micro-genre” readers—the long tail—in a way that many of the traditional publishers can’t. A negative aspect is that much of the material is not well edited or edited at all.
LP: How has the role of the agent changed with respect to indie authors? If you represent an author who decides to go indie –do you continue to work with him/her – what can you do for them?
EM: A number of my authors are “hybrid.” I work with them to make sure their indie books don’t compete with their “traditional” books in terms of publication months. I also handle subsidiary rights for their indie books—translation, audio, large print, film/TV.
LP: You are the author of the hugely successful THE MARSHALL PLAN FOR NOVEL WRITING. First published in 1998. For writers who have not yet read it – how can the Marshall Plan help them in their writing?
EM: The Marshall Plan® is a structured approach to writing fiction that takes away a lot of the guesswork. It helps writers produce quality, salable fiction faster. We now offer bestselling software, based on the book, that automates the process.
LP: What do you think separates the successful selling authors from authors who sell only a handful of books a year?
EP: The most successful authors write directly to the market. They study what’s hot and write it with a fresh twist. They know when it’s time to shift genres. They are also extremely savvy at self-promotion and don’t shy away from learning new things.
LP: Do you still take on new clients and if so – what are you looking for?
EM: Yes, I am always taking on new clients, selectively. Genres I’m looking for include domestic suspense/thrillers, Amish romance, extremely explicit romance, cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, and women’s fiction. Also, I often have book ideas that need authors—usually in cozy and historical mystery. Authors interest in being considered for this should have at least a few mystery or mystery-related books under their belt (indie is fine), be willing to take direction, and be unagented, of course. They should email me at email@example.com with their background and a work sample.
LP: What makes a good “in person” pitch?
EM: A good in-person pitch is a to-the-point conversation, not a memorized monologue, including a book’s genre, word length, similar-author readership, and a brief description of the plot and hook. Talk a little about any previous publishing credits and/or organization memberships. Don’t push written material on the person you’re pitching to unless it’s requested. Be ready to answer questions about your project. Don’t let the meeting drag on longer than necessary. When all has been said, simply ask, “May I email you my manuscript?”
LP: Where are the best places/conferences for a newbie to pitch?
EM: Some that come to mind are the Writer’s Digest conference, ThrillerFest, Sleuthfest, the Romance Writers of America convention, Bouchercon, Malice Domestic.
LP: What makes a good “email query” pitch?
EM: If someone has referred you, such as an editor or another author, say this right up front. Then describe your project—genre, title, similar-author readership—and give a brief description of your story and its hook. Along with this I like to see a synopsis of the entire story and the first three chapters. Details at http://www.evanmarshallagency.com/submissions/.
LP: Bonus: What is your way to de-stress after a busy day wheeling and dealing?
Morgan Hart is home. The thirty-six-year-old former Detroit detective has just moved back to Bijoux, Michigan, the lakeside town where she grew up. Returning to take up the reins as the new police captain since her father, Able, retired, Morgan hopes for a fresh start and a welcome change from the gritty police work she did in the Big D. Morgan also hopes she’ll be able to get her life back on track since her husband Ian Daniels, also a detective, was murdered on a case five years ago. Still unsolved, her husband’s death haunts her even as she settles into her new role.
Morgan has mixed feelings about being back home in Bijoux. Her relationship with her dad is complicated, and the townspeople have no qualms about telling her how she should do her job. Her childhood nemesis, Connie Graham, a reporter for the local TV news station, always seems to show up at the worst possible time, and the owner of the local bookstore, Caleb Joseph, is far too attractive and far too nosy. At least she and her deputy, JJ Jones, get along and bond over their mutual love of cupcakes.
The quaint, old town has gone through quite a transformation since Morgan was there last. Quirky new shops are opening up to attract summer tourists. And many of the old stores along Main Street are getting a facelift. Even the historic Firefly Bed and Breakfast, is changing. It’s hosting a romance writer’s conference with some of the biggest names in the biz. But someone else is determined to make a few more changes. Deadly changes that will leave the town reeling and will have Morgan investigating the first murder in Bijoux in 100 years.
Duncan Kord has travelled the world for many lifetimes. The thousand-year old Viking warrior was given immortality by an advanced race of beings who literally snatched him from the brink of death on a battlefield in Norway centuries ago. Not only did they save him, they infused his body and mind with the essence of a powerful dragon. Despite his powers, Kord has lived the life of a recluse, keeping mostly to himself, wandering the world, guarding his secrets. Kord’s life changes when he discovers the invader responsible for killing his wife and family and destroying his village all those years ago, is alive and well, and living in New York. Kord is determined to confront Sagahr and after so many lost centuries, he now has one purpose: revenge.
He’s an evil corporate mogul
William Jefferson Sagahr has amassed a fortune over many lifetimes. Now living in Manhattan, the powerful magnate is head of a multi-national oil company. The thousand-year-old mercenary warrior was also given immortality and special powers by the same beings who gifted Kord. But Sagahr is nothing like Kord. In fact, he was the one responsible for destroying Kord’s life all those centuries ago. When Sagahr finds out that Kord is alive and well and wreaking havoc on Sagahr’s oil refineries in Alaska, his fury knows no bounds and a twisted hunger begins to grow inside him. He unleashes an evil in the city of New York, the likes of which no one has ever seen. After so many lost centuries, he knows there is only one man who can stop him. One man he must avoid at all cost: Duncan Kord.
To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.
Jessica Bell is an award-winning book cover designer and she is also an author, musician and writing/publishing coach. She is a multi-talented artist who weaves her background into her work. We’re excited to chat with Jessica today, a very talented creative force who gives us an in depth breakdown of what makes a good book cover.
LP: You wear at least four creative hats; author, musician, speaker/coach and book cover designer. Tell us how you came to do all of those and how you balance everything you do.
JB: I began my career as a graphic designer when I self-published my first book as an author back in 2011. Being the type of person that 100% believes in the phrase ‘if there is a will there is a way,’ I embarked on a self-taught design journey, 1) because I was penniless, and 2) because I’ve always loved a creative challenge.
Very soon after my design debut, I started designing covers for author friends as a favour. Until one of my friends told me that I should start a business. I took their advice, and since then I’ve has designed hundreds of covers for indie, traditional, and hybrid authors, many of which have hit bestseller lists, and won awards. One has even graced the shelves of WH Smiths at London airports.
Being an author myself, I fully understand the need to be able to incorporate an author’s vision into their book cover and I am sensitive to their needs. I also pride herself on prompt friendly service and an iterative design process.
I also make a living as a fiction and nonfiction author, singer, and the Publisher of Vine Leaves Press, an independent press founded by myself in Melbourne, Australia. My publishing career started in editing for an English Language Teaching publisher in Athens, Greece, where I currently live, called New Editions back in 2005. I then moved into freelance editing and writing for similar publishers such as Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, Harper Collins ELT, and Macmillan Education, before taking a full-time work-from-home position as Project Manager in the Academic Department of Education First—a multinational company of language teaching schools who produce their own teaching materials.
In February of this year, the success of my book cover design business enabled me to quit my position at Education First to focus on all the creative projects in my life—writing, music, publishing, and graphic design—and of course, teaching wonderful authors everything I know about making books!
Regarding your questions about balance, I have a hard time NOT being productive/motivated. I struggle to allow myself down time, which I have to admit, I should change. When you’re successfully running your own business, and doing the things you love, you don’t often feel that balance is an issue. Perhaps the simple answer to this is, ‘Do what you love!’
LP: Because you’re an author and a musician – do you find being an author helps you in a creative sense with your cover design work for other authors? If so, how?
JB: Absolutely. As I said above, I started designing because I was an author. I think I might be able to relate to my clients a little more because of this. I understand that bringing one’s own vision into fruition is important. So I do my best to accomplish what my clients ask, even if it is done with a slightly different angle. I try to be as artistic and original as possible, while simultaneously targeting the right readers. I draw the line, however, if an author’s vision isn’t going to work. I won’t design what they ask if it’s going to jeopardize the chances of their book selling. In that case, I patiently explain why their ideas won’t work. Sometimes clients appreciate it and let me get on with my work, and sometimes they go elsewhere. But that’s all just part and parcel of this business, I think.
LP: Who are some of your musical influences and what do you listen to when you’re working?
JB: I’m a huge fan of PJ Harvey and bands such as L7, Babes in Toyland, and Magic Dirt ever since my early teens (I was a teen in the 1990s). But since joining the band Keep Shelly in Athens, I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic music. Lately while designing I’ve been listening to artists such as Freeland, Daughter, ionnalee, Memoryhouse, Hælos, Bat for Lashes, Totemo, and Trentemøller, to name a few.
LP: Do you work exclusively with indie authors or do you work with publishing houses as well? What specific services do you offer?
I’ve worked with a few independent publishing houses, but the majority of my clientele are indie authors. I do cover design for eBook, paperback, hard cover (laminate and jacket), and audio book. I also do social media headers/banners/adverts, etc, for websites, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
LP: You do both fiction and non-fiction covers. How do they differ in your opinion?
JB: Nonfiction needs to be either extremely literal, or extremely symbolic, in my opinion. Nonfiction also, I feel, needs a ‘cleaner’ look. You need to let readers know that they are going to be educated/enlightened in some way. I feel it’s quite easy to accomplish this if you take advantage of space. The images and text need to breathe. There needs not to be any question of what the book is about.
For fiction, I think you can make anything work if you have the artistic ability.
LP: How do you come up with a concept for a design/look for a fiction cover? And what if it’s the first book of series- do you discuss branding a particular look/design for the series? How would you come up with a look for an entire series?
JB: I ask my clients to fill in a questionnaire. Some of the questions include:
What genre is it?
What kind of audience are you targeting?
What year is your book set in? What aspects of this era is prominent in your story?
What is the setting like? Please describe it to the best of your ability. What aspects of this setting are prominent in your story?
Are the protagonists male or female, and what is his/her age and what does he/she look like? (eye colour, hair colour/length/shape, etc)
What kind of relationship do your protagonists have? (romantic, just friends, siblings, etc)
What are the themes in your book?
Do you use any reoccurring symbols in your book? (For example, in one of my books, I use a wilting orange tree to symbolize a gradual breakdown of familial warmth.)
What do you want shoppers to feel when they see your covers?
I am able to come up with a concept pretty quickly if authors answer these questions in as much detail as possible.
If it’s a series, I tend to design the first two books in a series together, so that the author can see how my branding translates across multiple books. The main things I focus on when branding a series are font styles, and image positioning. I’m usually able to tell pretty quickly when designing the first prototype whether I can replicate the look over and over while still making each cover different. I tend to get more and more inspired, and gather more and more ideas as I work. So I need to actually start looking for stock images and putting things together before I understand where my designs are going to go. This is why I ask authors to fill in a questionnaire. I need to comprehend their answers and start working simultaneously to get the best result. I seen to be able to design my best covers when the author has offered me lots of suggestions and zero limitations.
LP: What are your rates for cover design?
JB: I work mostly with packaged deals and my prices are in Euros. The current deals I offer are:
400 Euros 1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x hard cover (laminate)
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x hard cover (jacket)
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x Website Header/Advert
1 x Facebook Header/Advert
1 x Twitter Header/Advert
1 x Instagram advert(all based on same design)
LP: Pick one of your favourite covers (that you designed) and break it down for us – in terms of what you did and why.
JB: Such a hard question as I have so many favourites. I’m going to choose a cover that has a lot of different stock images merged to create one, so that your readers can see what can be done.
I am not an illustrator. So all my covers are designed by manipulating stock photography. And because I am limited to what’s available on stock sites, the less ‘specific’ an author’s ideas for the cover are, the better it is for me to get creative and produce something engaging for potential readers. I’m saying this so your readers are completely aware of what they’re getting into with me. Of course, I can modify images (even illustrated images and vectors) to a certain extent. I can even use multiple images to create one different image, but all within reason. For example, see the cover for Wixon’s Day by Phil Williams
Along with answers to the questions I’ve listed in a previous question, the author, Phil Williams also said the following:
I originally envisaged the classic lone-wanderer in a wasteland image, but incorporating his canal boat; a grey and depressive image stretching to the distance. Ideally combined with steampunk technology – either as mechanical parts making up part of the cover, or within the image itself (i.e. the mechanisms of the boat, or a broken piece of machinery in the distance).
The separate images in their original form are:
1) two men on a canal boat inspired by cyberpunk machinery
2) boat was also modified by hand to look cyber-punky by superimposing some cyberpunk piping and turning them into silhouettes
3) the moon and clouds
4) the sky
5) and the mechanical overlay
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Clouds conceal the nation of Estalia, where a lone boatman makes his way across its freezing landscape. Marquos drifts through the dystopian empire without meaning, searching for hope of a better future as he scavenges to survive.
In the Deadland of the North, they say the sky is clear, and the stars shine: Marquos dreams of seeing it, believing that there is something more to this world.
With rebels plaguing the canals, hunted by the authoritarian Border Guard, and the guards of the Metropolis pursuing Marquos for his attempts to liberate a child, the route north is wrought with peril. Both the despotic militants, who rule without true governance, and the ragged bands of fighters who resist them, vie for the boatman’s support, and Marquos is drawn into a war many others don’t realise exists. His journey is not just into the inhospitable North, but into the darkest truths of his people and their history, unravelling secrets as foggy as the world around him.
You’re an award-winning designer – tell us about some of the awards you’ve won.
“I’m impressed, because this cover is completely satisfying, with an impressive skill level in the combination of images, handling of the type, and the quality of storytelling. Great tension and anticipation, too, a winner.”
“This cover really stood out for me. Maybe it’s the combination of the hot colors, the intimacy of the moment shown, and the interesting type choices, but it seems pregnant with interesting and possibly erotic events.”
LP: What are the key elements of a good cover and why?
JB: The four most important design factors I live by are:
Subtle colour combinations. But if you’re after bold and vibrant colours, please don’t use too many. It hurts the eyes. And sometimes scares readers away. I have often found that the most attractive covers I’ve ever seen use a maximum of three different colours and include black, white, or grey.
Have a look at the covers on the right. Notice how the colours of the text in the first cover are extracted from the image, and how in the second example the black and white compliments the bright bold colours.
Less is more. If there are too many elements in a cover, readers aren’t going to know what to focus on. And if they don’t know what to focus on, they are just going to skim past it. Think of the days when we used to use a cork board. All those bills, and reminders, and notices, all piled on top of each other, pins sticking into multiple pieces of paper. You could not see everything that was on that cork board. And most of the time you didn’t even try to. Don’t scare your potential readers away by trying to fit too much in such a small space.
Take a look at the covers above. Notice how the first one has tried to incorporate too many elements and it looks a cluttered mess (not to mention the highly ambitious colour scheme.) And notice how the second one has a lot of space. There is room for the image and text to breathe and it therefore draws the eye.
Focus on portraying a particular theme or emotion. People are attracted to visuals because of the way they make them feel. Which is why you often see TV commercials implementing a narrative that doesn’t seem to have a direct relationship with product.
For example, while I was visiting family in Australia not long ago, I saw an advert that captured my attention. The narrative shifted from scenes in various homes with happy and relaxed families and individuals. Cooking, reading, playing with a baby, a writer content at his desk, etc. All the people in this advert were smiling and at complete ease. In a literal sense, it looked like it was an advertisement for either a furniture store, or a real estate agent. There was no text, until the end, when a bank’s name popped up, along with something very simple about their new easy Internet banking system.
What was their message here? Bank with us and you’ll be able to enjoy life completely stress free.
This is what I believe a book cover needs to do. It needs to create an overall ‘feeling’, not by telling readers exactly what’s inside, but by setting a tone that is going make your target audience take notice.
Notice how the covers above do not try to tell a story, but rather project a tone.
Be careful with your choice of font. Don’t go overboard with cursive fonts. Sometimes you may be able to font a suitable cursive font that looks excellent. Other times you may be better off finding something that is more ‘classic’. To know what looks good against the backdrop of your cover, however, takes a little bit of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to experiment and compare. Another thing to consider regarding font choice, is that certain fonts mesh well with certain genres. CreativINDIE has an excellent post about this, I suggest you go check it out.
LP: Who are two or three of your favourite authors and why?
JB: I’m a huge fan of writing that makes me savour the beauty of the written word. I guess that comes from also being a poet and songwriter. I therefore can’t get enough of Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson, or Jeanette Winterson. There are many more, but those are the first three that come to mind.
LP: BONUS QUESTION: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to and why?
JB: I will never forget seeing STOMP back in the late 90s at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne Australia. I write about this experience in my memoir. Here is an excerpt:
All day during the lead-up to the concert, I listened to the one track I had on cassette over and over. Something about the persistent and raw percussion on trash cans and plastic containers, and whatever else they’d scavenged from the tip and turned into a drum, deeply resonated with me. For one, it further consolidated the fact that if there’s a will there’s a way (something my mother always used to say). If such brilliant music can be created with trash and raw talent, then brilliance, I figured, was purely derived from passion. And if this was the case, I could be brilliant too, no matter what resources I had at my disposal. Two, the beat of their ‘drums’ matched the beat of my heart. Sometimes deep, sometimes tinny. Sometimes soft, sometimes loud. Sometimes angry, sometimes proud. I could feel their rhythm as if it were my own private soundtrack. It spoke to me as clearly and deeply as if it had lyrics.
If you scare easily, don’t read this book.
If you dare to read it, you’ve been warned.
Two years ago on a stormy night, in the dead of winter, Mike Teter experienced something that would change his life forever. Mike was a telescope operator at the world renowned Carson Peak Observatory in New Mexico. We won’t tell you what he saw that night on the mountain nor what happened afterward on a dark stretch of highway, because it would haunt you just as it has haunted Mike. But what we will tell you is that Mike is back at Carson Peak. And what he witnessed that night two years ago is about to become a reality . . .
Phaedra Michaels is a small town psychologist who is beginning to lose hope. Two of her patients at the local hospital in Dismal, Alabama have just killed themselves, she’s still reeling from her divorce and what turned out to be a disastrous marriage, and her father has died, leaving her without any notion of who her real mother is.
Just as Phaedra decides to commit herself to a serious drinking problem and an eating disorder, or two, a mysterious spell book arrives in the mail. Feeling desperate, Phaedra uses it to cast spells to save her fading patients. Suddenly, good things start happening. Phaedra’s patients begin to get better and she even starts dating the sexy doctor from the hospital.
Phaedra is so happy she doesn’t notice the small things that start to go wrong in Dismal, or the dark creatures slithering out of the shadows near her house. When Phaedra finally realizes her spells have attracted every card-carrying demon from hell, she has no choice but to accept help from a slightly nerdy, 500 year-old warlock with a penchant for wearing super hero T-shirts and a knack for getting under Phaedra’s skin. Now, if only she could get the hang of this witch thing, she might be able to save her town.
I carefully pulled the twine and the brown paper fell off. Beneath the paper was a large, leather bound book. It looked like an old journal or recipe book. It was tied together with a red ribbon and the ribbon held numerous pieces of paper. I ran my hands over the smooth leather and read the title of the book. It simply said Spells.
I laughed and pulled the red ribbon that held the book together. The book fell open. Inside, it was like a recipe book a mother would pass on to a daughter. There were old typed pages with handwritten notes in the margins. There were pages added with handwritten spells on them and drawings.
“What the hell?” I said as I leafed through the old book. There were potions and summoning spells and candle spells. In-between pages, there were pressed flowers and herbs and some of the pages were stained with old candle wax.
I set the book down and went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. At least the kitchen was done. It looked like any other modern kitchen. It had granite counter tops and marble floors. I’d spared no expense making it look like something that belonged in an old southern mansion. I wanted the house to be perfect and I had Johnny Boy’s money to help me achieve that dream. The lights flickered when I entered. I would have to talk to Lawson about that in the morning. I took a beer out of the fridge and opened it. I had a sip and grabbed a roll of cookie dough. Armed with the cookie dough and beer, I returned to the book. It had fallen off the counter, to the floor, and was opened to a page. I laughed again. The page it had opened to was love spells. That was just what I needed.
I sat down and ate and drank and leafed through the book. I stopped at a page with an interesting picture on it. The spell was an awakening spell. It awakened you to the supernatural world. I hesitated and looked at the script around it.
Something fell upstairs and the lights went out. I fumbled around and found the nearest flashlight and switched it on just as the lights flickered back on.
“Lawson, you asshole,” I said as I turned the flashlight off. “The wiring is done in the parlor, my ass.”
A sudden wave of fatigue washed over me and I picked up my mess and carted my sorry butt upstairs. I climbed into bed with my flashlight. I still had the book of spells. It had been so long since someone had given me something that I had forgotten what it felt like. I knew the book was more than weird. It bordered on creepy. A normal woman would probably burn the damn thing, but I wasn’t a normal woman. I was a lonely divorcée living in a house known to be haunted, but I loved it the way most people love their pets. I was the daughter of a man who had made it clear that he loathed me, with a step-mother who’d bought me toilet paper for Christmas. The creepy book was wonderful to me. It meant that someone out there, even if they were a freak, cared about me, and freak love was better than no love at all.