Wednesday, February 1, 2012

COVER UP ~ By Steven Miscandlon & 'THOU SHALT COMMIT ADULTERY' ~ By Julie Morrigan . . . Noirtoriously ~ AT THE BIJOU

C  O  V  E  R     U  P

By ~ Steven Miscandlon


So here’s the deal. It’s the fourth month of Noir here in BIJOU-town, and our esteemed hostess asked me to write something about book covers, or presentation, or something. Now, I’m no expert, but how could I resist an open offer to spout my opinions to the world at large. It’s what the Internet’s for, right? 

~ Miscandlon Photography and Design
As for my credentials … I don’t claim to be a professional graphic artist or cover designer, but it is something I enjoy doing, and the importance of effective design is something that was battered into my fragile brain during my time at art school, half a lifetime ago. I have designed covers for my partner Julie Morrigan’s published ebooks — Gone Bad, Convictions, Heartbreaker and The Writing on the Wall, as well as her forthcoming novel Darke —and was delighted when Luca Veste recently gave me the opportunity to produce a cover for the recently published Off the Record short story collection. 

THE BIG COMBO ~ It's all about shadow and light.
What has all this got to do with noir? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. But at least something. Because the original forms of noir — by which I mean film noir of the 40s and 50s, and the hardboiled pulp fiction of broadly the same period — were as much about style as they were about substance. Take a look at a classic film noir like The Big Combo, and you’ll see that the interplay of light, shadow and smoke is as important a part of the whole as the killer dialogue.

And book covers? Well, the stark, bold title on Chandler’s first edition of The Big Sleep could teach a few of today’s cover designers a thing or two about how to grab a potential reader’s attention with a powerful but simple design. 

We’re told you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. However, you can certainly judge whether the publisher — or author — cares enough about the product to invest in a captivating cover design. Because people do judge books by their covers — it’s the first thing they see, and the thing they will base their first impression of your work upon. Anyone who walks into a book store does it. And that’s no different with ebooks. 

I’m lucky in that I’m a keen photographer. I had a few shots used in the recent noir-themed special of Doug Mathewson's Blink Ink magazine, and others published in some more outlandish places, from a French book on street performance and dance, to a UK parliamentary campaign group’s presentation on Scottish gang culture. Most of my book designs so far have been created using photographs that I’ve taken personally. 

Stock photography sites can also provide excellent cover images for your book. Pricing structures vary, but some sites offer free, fully licensed images at smaller sizes or resolutions (usually sufficient for ebook covers), with nominal charges usually in the order of just a few dollars for commercial use of larger images. 

Critically, this can help ensure your book cover doesn’t breach somebody else’s copyright. As an author, you wouldn't be happy if someone took your writing and used it without your permission, would you? Photographers and graphic artists have the same rights — always remember that just because an image is on the Internet doesn't necessarily mean it is public domain. Downloading an image and using it as an ebook cover constitutes commercial use, and could leave you open to legal action by the copyright owner. Most reputable publishers will credit the cover photographer or designer on the book’s title and copyright page. 

Creating an eye-catching book cover isn’t rocket science … but neither is it something you can just throw together in five minutes and hope to end up with a professional looking product. If you’re serious about publishing your book, don’t balk at the idea of hiring a professional designer — spending a few dollars or pounds to get a cover design that’s just right for your book, coupled with the right marketing approach, might very well bring you more readers in the long run. And that’s what it’s all about — creating that visual hook that will draw people to your book and to the important bit … those sexy, serpentine sentences that lurk beneath that classy cover.

© 2012 ~ Author/Designer ~ STEVEN MISCANDLON, 
 for impact of AT THE BIJOU authors

Quality opens minds ~ View WebTowne's newest site:
* click  above *

‘Thou shalt commit adultery’ 
‘But it’s onlyavery little mistake’ 

                                            AUTHOR ~ EDITOR ~  NOIR STAR

Waxes Elloqwent ~

In 1631 a reprint of the King James Bible contained a very small error: the word ‘not’, was omitted from one of The Ten Commandments, resulting in it reading ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’. (Full story here for those who are interested) Crown and church were appalled, copies were recalled, and the printers were fined and had their license removed.
It’s now almost four hundred years since the then Archbishop of Canterbury said: ‘I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing …’ and yet in many ways it seems not much has changed.The technology is different, sure, but are our books now free from errors? Judging by the criticism frequently heaped upon small and self-publishers, it would seem not. I, and I’m sure some of you, have bought books/e-books recently and found them to be very poorly presented: badly formatted, full of spelling and grammatical errors, and including inconsistencies of style. I’ve even seen a couple with spelling errors on the cover. 

It should be our goal to put out work that is as near to perfect as we can make it,
but we must also be pragmatic and accept that the odd error might sneak into a published book. However, that’s all it should be: the odd error. And the shorter the piece of writing, the less excusable errors are.

In order to combat those problems, we need our work to be edited and proofread. Simply put, a proofreader will pick up errors in spelling and grammar, and an editor will nip, tuck and polish your writing until it is sleek and shining. 

We must be alert to words and phrases that sound like what we want to say. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read ‘reign in’ for ‘rein in’, ‘your’ for ‘you’re’, ‘it’s’ for ‘its’, and ‘should of’ for ‘should have’. (And even, on one occasion, ‘as a pose’ instead of ‘as opposed’.) As writers, it’s our job to know the difference and to make sure we make the correct word choices. 

We also need to check for consistency. I recently read a story where a name was spelled differently on two lines, one after the other. Similarly, it matters less whether you use single or double quotation marks than that you use the same type throughout. 

Having someone check over your work for continuity can be invaluable. You don’t want someone to keep on smoking a cigarette they just stubbed out, to put their jacket on twice, or to take an active part in the story after you have killed them off. (I did this in the first draft of my novelette The Writing on the Wall, but thanks to careful editing it was caught long before publication.) 

You may think that if your work is being put out by a publisher, then they will absolve you of some of the responsibility and ensure that it iseditedandproofread, but that may not be the case.
Wherever possible, ask for a proof of the formatted book before it is published; that way you can catch any mistakes, whether missed prior to that point or introduced by the publisher.

I’m lucky in that I have an editor and proofreader to call on for all my writing. If I didn’t, I’d have to make other arrangements — perhaps by coming to an agreement with another writer whereby we proofread for each other. Because it’s essential to get another pair of eyes over a document, if only because it’s all too easy to be blind to our own mistakes.

Proofreading and editing is an essential part of the pre-publication process, not just something you do if you have time.
You work very hard to create your characters and their world, and to tell their story. You owe it to them — and to yourself — to make sure that when readers talk about your book afterwards, they are commenting on the realistic dialogue, razor-sharp prose and terrific characterisation, not complaining about avoidable errors.
© 2012 ~ Author/Editor ~ JULIE MORRIGAN, 
graciously for AT THE BIJOU authors

She takes guts straight to story: 
* click  above *
 ~ cuz theigh maik rilly gudt poointz
und dew thiz stuph propheshunooli!

~ Abbsewlootlee*Keight



"Wish Upon A Star"  ~ Julie Morrigan
"Hard Landing" ~ Steven Miscandlon

This SUPER Weekend?

of course!

See ya on the bum's rush.
Blitz is on, but no clipping calls.

BIJOU DISCLAIMER:  Uh, Coach Cowher is no longer actually IN the action of the glory of the outcome story of the SuperBowl as we know it, but Steeler*Kate can't resist a good plug for the Steel Curtain rising once again ... well, maybe next NFL season.

Come THIS WEEKEND and natch,

Images:  THE BIG COMBO ~ Movie scenes ala IMDB photo-files
Classic Cover Designs ~ Miscandlon of course
First Edition copy of THE BIG SLEEP that Absolutely*Kate really wished
 her hero Raymond Chandler had given her ~ in Amazon classic files
'Rocket Science' by  GeospacePlay
Multi SuperBowl winning Coach Bill Cowher ~ NFL and SteelerKate's shrine wall




seana graham said...

Great dual piece.

As someone who still manages to make a living in the world of independent bookstores, I know that on physical books, the cover still counts for an enormous amount of why anyone picks up a book to begin with, so Ms. Morrigan is extremely lucky to have you, Mr. Miscandlon to read her intent and create a cover that matches it.

And Ms. Morrigan couldn't have spoken better about editing. I remember a former professor coming to talk to a group I was in about the way copying was done when there were only scrolls and monks with the vocation to copy them. The thing that impressed me was the idea that there weren't perfect copies. Human error gets into everything--even the most holy texts. Proofreaders, copyeditors and content editors play such a huge role in making any text shine. It's unfortunate that the current cultural mode is to think we can get by without such trivialities.

K. A. Laity said...

Nothing to add except yes, yes, yes. Oh and the photography in the Blink Ink Noir issue ROCKED. I was proud to be in its pages. Fan-damn-tastic work.

Normandie Fischer said...

Excellent. Eye-catching covers? Essential. Proofreading/editing? We mustn't leave home without it.

Here I am, an editor. Dealing with read Number One Million and Two in the back and forth with authors. Sent them a clean copy, added in our agreed changes, sent it to proofreaders, and saw, in black and white, the evidence of myopia or incipient blindness. Oh, I'd added in the final change...but I'd also left the original words to stare glaringly at a reader.

An agent friend wrote that she'd just finished reading a book (already pubbed) in which a permanently mounted camera had been able to walk from the living room to the bedroom. All by itself. (I want one of those.)

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Artists, Authors, Designers, Photographers, Booksellers and Editors! OH MY! What a happy, lively professional-minded theatre for the mind is energizing AT THE BIJOU! Welcome Lady Laity (love saying that) and the sailing lass, Normandie. Glad your insights are 'home' again, lovely Seana. Indeed, the intense team of Julie and Steven in everything quality books and rousing aesthetics were conjured for, present a true life performance for all of us out here in the BIJOU's red velvet seats.

The phrase "in light of . . . " pops up around WebTowne this day. Many authors, some friends, some colleagues, some recently known elbows rubbed, have STOOD UP to being hoodwinked or slip-slopped together in hurry-get-it-out-to-the-market sales. The "in light of" is followed by "the unfortunate circumstances" and then proceeds to back words with safe, careful action, pulling works from a publishing firm who promised, if not the moon, several planets over Pennsylvania. I commiserate with any author or artist aware of the worth of their works, when something outside their own realm goes astray and makes a day not at all their perfect day. Steven's and AT THE BIJOU's Julie's validity screams to high heavens (realming over more than Pennsylvania -- these lovely critters cross ponds called oceans) ~ "AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Treasure your words! Allow them entry to worlds they're intended only when they're all dished up to be served just right!" In the slogan banner flying high AT THE BIJOU ~ "Do it right. Do it big. Give it class." Steve and Julie do. They'll go far. Our authors AT THE BIJOU time and time again, show and show again, bring lively words and most of all pride to our stage. Fortunate the expereience of audiences, here and 'round the world readers, discovering AT THE BIJOU authors in any published or broadcast form now emanating.

Or, in the words of my beloved mother Franny, no doubt keepin' watch from celestials she's spruced up the more (there must be flower arrangements in heaven now) -- on the night before any paper or project was due and she inspected it, past full and lengthy read (mom was a newspaper reporter, nothin' but nothin' slipped by), she turn to THE COVER. That was her forte, seeing that it jumped out and did you PROUD. "Presentation is everything.", she extolled from 1st grade on through calligraphy / photography / political science / and F. Scott Fitzgerald theme papers that popped up in college days. "Presentation is Everything".

I know that, Mom. I live that, Mom. I'm fully attracted to the bright minds and spirits of our times who celebrate gosh darn Excellence too. Ms Ward Fischer, though I don't have an extra permanently mounted camera floating loose AT THE BIJOU for you, I will pay attention to any red pen and keen mind strokes should you ever look over my Detective Nelle Callahan stories. You're a class act yourself, but as author as well, and Kate Laity, Irish lady ~ our ritzy AT THE BIJOU invites You to take to our spotlights and kleigs, right along with our writing, our shows, our reaches into readers' minds.

AT THE BIJOU ~ "Where Writers' Raves are Readers' Faves"

What? Did I pitch up there? You see, while Franny was cautioning, "Presentation is everything", Paul (my hero, my Dad) would say, behind his quiet smile as he sipped coffee on the back patio, listening to where you were going in life, determing what you were next headed to pursue ~ "You don't know until you ask, Kid. Just always give it your best shot."

Thanks Mom and Dad, Steve and Julie, Seana, Kate, Normandie, and the next in the door AT THE BIJOU. I'm fortunate to know and grow with you all.

~ Absolutely*Kate, believing in believers
and the shadows of Noir ... of course

seana graham said...

Love Franny and Paul sneaking into the theatre right at the end here, Kate.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Ah Seana, they sneak in everywhere, you know that.
( Good sharing with you always . . . the stuff that matters )

Kevin Michaels said...

Excellent double feature. Not much I can add about proofing, editing, and the importance of legitimate cover art/images (especially with the storm of fire and hail involving a semi-infamous "publisher" and some of my writer pals). But, with the increase in DIY publishing and the rush to publication that makes the California Gold Rush of the 1850's look like a traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike, I keep remembering the immortal words of Miss Rittenburg - my 7th Grade English teacher at Egg Harbor Elementary: "Check and double-check your work. Then check it again."

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Wise, wise and wise was the Ritenburg theory.

As for the metaphoric comparison simile of the California Gold Rush to the Joisey Pike (must be @ LOST EXIT) = a 33-pointer. Stunning as ever, Mr Michaels, poster-boy for etymological excellence. ~ A*K

Author said...

Thanks for all the great comments, folks. Sounds to me like we're all riding the same train! :) (Or should that be catching the same breeze in our sails?)

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

That astute observation harbingers well, Ms Julie, who makes no mistakes.

Fiona Johnson said...

As usual A*K you are correct in everything you say. Being one of the authors who removed their work from a certain place yesterday, I totally respect Julie and Steven's advice on editing and the power of a professional cover. Everything can be turned into a positive experience though and I've now made lots of connections with other fantastic writers and have renewed energy to reach for bigger and better goals. Thanks everybody :-)

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Brava Fiona, the notorious McDroll. Reading your enthused new directions shows what didn't hold up the qualiity your works deserved is now simply water under the bridge. You're already on fresh new tracks to journeys your writing deserves to discover ... and be discovered at.

Thanks for the kind words, but I just believe in the quality of the best folks I know, flow and grow with. Therein lies all the true enrichments of life. Glad I am to be getting to know you, your talents and character the more. I'm sure your interview when your Noir Star story-show comes up under AT THE BIJOU spotlights shall reveal the recharged success drives your mind's spirit is already putting into motion. ~ A*K

Nigel Bird said...

My favourite of those covers is Gone Bad. She draws you in, like the best of honey-traps, and you know it's going to go bad but you're prepared to throw caution to the wind (again).

Madam Z said...

Maybe "you can't judge a book by its cover," but you can certainly draw attention to a book by its cover. Steven makes a good argument for that thought. And Julie, I was delighted to read your eloquent and, dare I say, impassioned treatise on the importance of proofreading. That is a subject dear to my heart. Honestly, sometimes I feel like reaching into the blogosphere and SHAKING people who think that a noun is pluralized by adding an apostrophe and an "s." And don't get me started on those that don't know the difference between "your" and "you're," or "their," "they're" and "there!" Because I know that "it's all too easy to be blind to our own mistakes," I am fervently hoping that I didn't make any mistakes in my little rant. If I did, feel free to reach into the blogosphere and give me a good shaking!

Author said...

Again, thanks, folks. Good to know how many of us are in accord.

KjM said...

Oh, how I do love a good cover-up. So many possibilities!

In the past I've used as a source for cover images. Costs are minimal and the variety is, as with so much of the Internet, mind-boggling. The license agreement allows for modification of the image(s) and derivitave works, so the user is covered(!) for whatever use is required.

For my Haiku - Through a Lens, I made the image myself. (That sounds far more grand than it actually was - I really don't have any visual/graphic skills). But I was able to take a reasonably good photograph of a camera lens, and use that as the basis of the image.

For anything requiring ART, I'll take a stock photo from or, should something more complex be required, search out a graphic artist.

KjM said...

And, under the heading of "Presentation is Everything"...I've never, I say Never, had my work so well presented as right here At The Bijou.

Hats off, in thanks, to you Ms. *Kate, absolutely.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Was that a fedora you doffed Mr Mackey, or the gent's top hat you wear to both galas and perform *magick*? You enchant with both so swell, that setting up a Presentation of your worthy works is e'er avec plasir.

Much grace o'thanks for the the worthy share on photos/art and being in general "a class act AT THE BIJOU".

~ Absolutely*Kate, knowing Steven and Julie's thoughts and admonishments reached more than a bridgefull of authors on their journeys. Best o'zest to all of you.