Okay, so that title is a bit misleading. It would be incredibly hard for me to squeeze in  all the conference-y goodness that I experienced in Seattle this weekend. In fact, I suspect there will be a few posts in the weeks ahead showcasing bits and bobs from the two day event.

...Like how honest and genuine author Matt de la Pena is. 
...Like how eye opening Author Bruce Hale's keynote was.  
...Like what agents and editors had to say about the viability of their roles in today's publishing world.

However, I know when I was on the agent hunt, I found it so very helpful when someone would spill what everyone was looking for, so that's what I'll do here.

If you write for Children or Young Adults, sink your teeth into this!


Jenny Bent (The Bent Agency) said she likes stories that make her feel something 'big'--either laugh or cry, and to have a strong concept or big idea. She says that authors who write for both YA & Adult are a good fit for her, too.

Eddie Gamarra (The Gotham Group) loves natural storytellers that can compel an audience through all types of mediums--ebook, print and screen.

Tricia Lawrence (Erin Murphy Literary) [who is so nice and genuine and enthusiastic!] loves stories where the character is struggling with something. She likes the theme of identity crisis, because it's so real and true to the age group. Plot is important, but character is HUGE. She wants to see writing that the author has poured all their passion into. She's actively seeking clients and a variety of MG & YA genres.

Rubin Pfeffer (East West Literary) wants to see the OMG factor. Because of the mediums out there for stories, he looks at a manuscript as 'content' not as a 'book'. He feels there are so many opportunities for content to be manipulated today through enhancements, and so he keeps this at the forefront when he reads manuscripts.

Chris Richman (Upstart Crow Literary) sometimes will skip the query pitch to get right to the writing. When considering a client, he's looking ahead at a career relationship, not just focused on one single book or project. He especially loves books for boys (MG & YA), and loves a strong voice and a big concept he can get excited about.


Susan Chang (Tor) says no picture books, but yes to MG & YA. She's seduced by a great idea and loves books that have an emotional range that can make her laugh and cry. She admitted that she also has a thing for 'bad' characters. In a workshop with Susan, she also said that she likes books that can't quite be categorized and fit into the 'weird or strange' zone.

Nancy Conescu (Dial Books for Young Readers) loves a great voice, and really pays attention to the writer's skill with words. If a project you have isn't quite right but she sees something special in your writing, she'll want to see what else you have. For picture books, she wants to see stories that have great illustrating possibilities.

Andrew Karre (Carolrhoda Books, Carolrhoda Lab & Darby Creek) For fiction, PBs have to be story driven. He likes books that could be categorized as 'weird or strange'.

Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books) is looking for stories that offer something new, zippy, and unexpected. Also, she would love to get her hands on the 'next great horse book'.

Hope this info helps some of you on the agent and editor hunt! Everyone on the faculty was friendly and forthcoming, and clearly are passionate for what they do. It was a wonderful conference and great to meet so many enthusiastic writers and industry folk all in one place! These are very 'loose' sounds bites of what each wants, so before you query, read up on these people to make sure they are open to submissions. Do your research and make sure they accept your genre and age group!

Writing Heroes: Donna Gephart

For a long time now, Angela and I have wanted a way to acknowledge the people who have helped us develop into stronger writers and who add to the writing community as a whole. As a new feature here at The Bookshelf Muse, Angela and I will take turns giving well-deserved recognition to some of the people who really make an impact...people who truly are Writing Heroes.

Like Donna Gephart!

As one of the most humble, unassuming, shine-the-spotlight-on-others people I've met, you may not know Donna. But she's definitely a hero in my book.

Donna leads my face-to-face SCBWI group. She is a master critiquer with advice that's right on, and she can always (genuinely) find the good in everyone's writing. She knows how to keep a group on track with gentle guidance, but there's nothing gentle about her celebratory spirit. Just let anything good happen to you and she's encouraging you to share the good news so she can present you with balloons or snacks or bottles of bubbly that you may or may not be able to open due to the absence of bottle openers.

She's also an enviable writer. Her MG books have won awards and landed on state reading lists in Texas, New York, and Illinois. Her characters are funny and the plot lines are so crisp, they make you want to be a better writer yourself.

But most admirably, Donna is all about the kids. Besides the many school visits and Skype conferences she coordinates with students around the country, she also advocates literacy in a ton of other ways, like supporting World Read Aloud Day and Read It Forward. If there's a worthwhile charity within grabbing distance, she'll jump on board to pay it forward.

I admit that most of the writing heroes highlighted here are ones that the writing community might be a little more familiar with, but this time it's a little different. It's hard to believe that someone so talented can also be so generous and kind, but it's true. Donna is awesomeness personified but she's also my friend and I'm so incredibly excited for every success that comes her way.

So thank you Donna, for being one of mWRITING HEROES. You inspire me, woman!

To pay it forward, I will give a 1000-word critique to Donna. She can then choose to keep it for herself or offer it as a giveaway on her blog! As a resident writing hero, she will also have a permanent link in our header.

If you know Donna or she's helped you or your writing in some way, please tell us in the comments. If you don't know her yet, do drop by her blog or website to say hello and to help us celebrate this amazing WRITING HERO! 

Character Trait Entry: Persistent

Definition: stubbornly continuing on, despite opposition, difficulty, or danger 

Causes: desperation, the belief that one's goal is the only thing worth pursuing, ambition, a need to prove oneself (to others or to oneself), a stubborn nature, obsession, having learned through experience that persistence pays off in the end

Characters in Literature: Scarlett O'Hara, Gollum, Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

Positives: Persistent people have great will power. They will do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. When discomfort, inconvenience, or pain would sidetrack some, Persistents are not distracted from their purpose. They have incredible focus, always keeping the prize in their sights. In this way, persistence as a character trait is admired and envied. We can't help but be impressed by someone who perseveres against circumstances that would defeat the average person.

Negatives: Because of their single-mindedness, Persistents often become consumed by their desire. Everything else is peripheral: career, relationships, morals. They are so focused on the goal that everything else falls to the wayside. Persistents are often stubborn to a fault, refusing to give up even when the pursuit of their goal becomes destructive. They don't heed the advice of others, and sacrifice common sense for obsession. Though the goal may be noble, a Persistent's way of pursuing if is often less than honorable.

Common Portrayals: revolutionaries, millionnaires, CEOs, military and world leaders, valedictorians, love interests, visionaries

Cliches to Avoid: The thwarted, often-rejected love interest whose persistence pays off in winning over the hero/heroine; the rags to riches story; the student with many strikes against him whose single-minded focus on his education gets him his diploma or degree

Twists on the Traditional Persistent:  
  • We often see the story told of the young man or woman with no advantages remaining persistent in the pursuit of their goal. But the well-to-do have their own set of hardships. What about an affluent or successful person having to overcome their own particular set of difficulties to achieve something hard to obtain?
  • The goal is usually something high and lofty: success in education or business, getting the guy/girl, riches. But persistence can be exemplified in the pursuit of something smaller, too: buying one's first house, accepting oneself, making the varsity team, overcoming addiction. If the goal is seemingly impossible for your character, it's something worth striving for, no matter how insignificant others might consider it.
  • Persistence isn't always applied to the pursuit of admirable things. Remember that the villain and his persistence in his unsavory goals will also have a big impact on your story.

Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Persistent Unique or More Interesting: compassionate, fearful, weak-willed, contented, unintelligent, polite

Formatting Questions? Ask the Expert

So, as you all know, Angela and I are on this, exhilarating journey of self-publication. We're approaching the end of the formatting process now, which has been one of the most confusing areas for us. After much hardly any deliberation, we decided to hire someone to do this for us instead of attempting it on our own. And we stumbled upon the perfect person for the job: Heather Adkins.

We asked her roughly a gajillion questions. Roughly. She was so incredibly helpful and informative that we figured, Hey. She helped us so much...why not offer her expertise to others who might be utterly befuddled like we were?

So. Much like our recent Q&A on cover design with Scarlett Rugers, we're opening this up to all of you. Thinking of formatting a novel? Considering hiring someone to do it for you? Either way, use the comment section to ask your questions about the formatting process and we'll make Heather's answers available in a future post.

Don't be shy, people. After fielding our questions, she may have heard it all. Seriously, I can't recommend Heather highly enough--professional, informative, above-and-beyond helpful. And her website, CyberWitchPress, is chock full of useful info, so don't hesitate to check that out, too.

Character Trait Entry: Brave

Definition: fearlessness in the face of adversity or danger

Causes: an inherent belief that fear should never limit or dictate a response; growing up in the shadow of bravery, especially during a time of great turmoil (e.g.: having a revered uncle who bravely served his country as a pilot in WW II); an extreme belief in one's own abilities, skills and fortitude; a high tolerance to pain; strong role-modelling (such as parents and relatives that serve in the military, or as police/fireman, etc); a need to consistently challenge and prove oneself as worthy; selflessness; a deep moral center of right and wrong

Characters in Literature: Batman; Captain America; Lan Mandragoran & Galad Damordred  (The Wheel of Time); Nevile Longbottom (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows); Rambo

Positives: Brave characters are often viewed as heroic, and are willing to face hardship and danger because it is 'the right thing to do'. These Braves are natural leaders, inspire others and selflessly do what is required. Others gravitate to this personality and admire them for their fearlessness. Braves do not obsess about possible negative consequences or outcomes--they see a need, make a moral judgement and then act, often placing themselves at peril to keep others from suffering. Braves place the goal above all else, and are unwavering in their determination to achieve it.

Negatives: Because of the attention, hero-worship and high pedestal others place them on, Braves can be susceptible to pride, which can lead them down the dark ego path of  vanity or arrogance. Even characters with this trait who remain true to their selfless nature can become pawns to others who would use their bravery to achieve their own ends. Brave characters can place their trust in others too quickly because of the belief that they too have the same motivation and sense of right and wrong.

Common Portrayals: Soldiers, Policemen, Firemen, Superheroes, Warriors, Hunters

Cliches to Avoid:  the hero who is so brave he is blind to the corruption of the people he works for; the brave hero with a secret death wish; the superhero whose resulting fame causes egotism & the eventual 'fall from grace/comeuppance' as a result

Twists on the Traditional Brave:  
  •  We see a lot of 'brave' but not 'smart' characters. Give us a character who is both! 
  • Bravery is acting without fear, courage is acting despite fear. Think of the saying, 'to fear is to live'.  A complex twist on a brave character would be to have them feel something is missing because they do not feel fear. 
  • Bravery does not have to equate into a character who is big and strong or physically fit. Show us a character who is naturally brave, but his body is compromised, yet rather than have to 'prove himself', he naturally has respect of the people around him.
Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Brave Unique or More Interesting: Eccentric, Modest, Witty, Proper, Disorganized

The Bookshelf Muse Needs Your Help!

Okay guys, it's that time. Becca and I are looking ahead to our MAY 14th book launch for The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression, and we absolutely, positively need help to make this the biggest, most awesome event ever.

So, I'm breaking out the big guns.

Becca and I are going to do something very unique for our launch, something we've wanted to try for a long time, but have been too swamped to take on. Now, using the excitement that has built up around our book, we're finally going to bring it about. And we NEED YOUR HELP!

We've held some big events in the past and we hope this will lead to something bigger than ever before. We need to plan guest posts, find bookmark helpers, arrange for launch day support and more. And to make it work--really, really work--we can't do it alone. So what do you think? Will you help us with our launch?

You guys have always been great about spreading the word and supporting us. I hope that you'll be willing to help out once again, because in addition to the usual launch festivities...

We've got a SUPER SECRET PLAN in the works--so secret in fact, we don't want to spill the details out here in the open. . :) But for our big plan to work, we need people like you.

There are a multitude of ways you could lend a hand. So if you're interested in our SUPER SECRET PROJECT, or would like to get involved another way, just fill out this quick FORM

Puppy eye power & all joking aside, you people are the best! This book was written because Musers asked for it, and we want to do right by you as we launch it. Any support you can give is much appreciated.

Ask a Cover Designer: ANSWERS (PT 2)

Today we're back with the talented Scarlett Rugers, Cover Designer for The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. As we all know, the cover of a book isn't just important--it's CRITICAL. Scarlett has more answers to your cover questions! If you missed yesterday's post, check it out as well! There's a ton of great info to help authors make informed decisions when working with a cover artist and choosing a design.

I'll get right to the Q & A...

Southpaw asked: How do you avoid (or maybe modify) those cliché covers when all the best sellers are using them and selling?

SCARLETT: Best sellers can use cliche covers because readers don't immediately identify with the cover- the identify with the author. A lot of Stephen King book covers are average but you never really consider the cover, you consider the name. At their best-selling height the name is the gold, not the book.

You have to visualize your book as its own element, unattached to any category or genre. It's its own body. It has its own personality. That's where you start.

So in order to avoid cliche covers I brainstorm. I consider the current standard of design with your genre, figure out what makes it what it is, why it's a cliche, why it's used so often. Then I break from it. I'll always remember what my teacher said when I was at University- ideas are currency. The more you have, the richer you are. Why people limit themselves on ideas was lost on him. So when I brainstorm something new I go crazy and fill pages. One idea will lead to another and to another and another, just like web pages can lead you on and on and on in to new and disturbing/wonderous topics.

The Golden Eagle asked: What are the best programs to use when creating a cover?

SCARLETT: I have always used Photoshop/Indesign/Illustrator. As a professional I do my images in Photoshop/Illustrator then layout in InDesign.

I understand that can be very pricey. However Adobe has just organized a month-by-month subscription service which is much more affordable.

I've heard also that Gimp and Inkspace are good to use for those who can't afford Photoshop. I've also heard of PowerPoint but I say no, please, no! Don't use PowerPoint. Its purpose is for presentations, not book cover design. You need a program that specifically handles images, text, layout and the right margins/settings for printing purposes.

Traci asked: How close to the description of characters does the cover artist try and get? Do they read the book to get the details or does an author include that description for them?

SCARLETT: Some designers will read your book, some won't. I don't know the percentage of who does and who doesn't though. I do, because as an author myself I know it's an important step to make sure I interpret the story correctly and can give the cover that absolute personal touch it needs. I also have a questionnaire that I get the author to fill out so they can give me as many details as I need about the story. Sometimes authors come to me and they haven't finished their book, so I use their description to provide some concepts for the book cover.

As for how close to the description of a character do I get? As close as I can. Depends on how determined the author is to have a model on their cover that represents their character. I generally have a preference to stay away from using characters on a cover- just because I don't like having someone else decide what they look like when I read the book. But that's just me! Some authors like having their character on the cover and have a very clear idea what they want. From there we're limited by stock resources and how much you're willing to spend on a photographer if you need one to take the perfect photo for your cover.

Anne asked: I see there's a strong trend toward photographic images as the basis for covers. I'm sure this is because of their ease of manipulation, and their clarity as thumbnails. My question is whether you think hand-drawn or -painted covers can still work for online marketing. And, if so, are there particular characteristics that will make them successful?

SCARLETT: I'm enthusiastic about any style of cover- photographic, illustrated, painted, or simply typography (the use of text). I believe you can make any media form work with enough brainstorming, patience, and persistence.

There are styles of illustration that are popular in chick lit- from cartoon images to illustrated images. If you visit and type in 'woman' or 'shopping' or 'fashion' - and refine your search to only illustrations, you'll see a huge number of pages with quality images ready to be put on to a chick lit book cover.

But for something like paranormal it's extremely unusual to see an illustrated cover- which is where you ask yourself, do you want something that's aligned with your genre or do you want to break the rules and have a beautifully illustrated dark cover?

So when it comes down to choosing the characteristics of an illustration or painting (or collage, or mosaic etc) it's a combination of making sure your choice of media works for your story, and the composition of it on your book cover with all the other elements. I don't even consider your genre. I consider how powerful it is for YOU, for your STORY, for the tale you're trying to TELL. If you hire someone to draw/paint something for you then of course someone who can do it well will be better than someone who can't- but this is only applicable to a book cover about someone who can possibly draw well, or who's life is sketchy. If the book cover is about someone who is crappy at drawing, then by all means have a crappy drawing! See what I mean? Anything can work- it just depends on what angle you take on it.

Jeanie asked: With all the independent printing and self pubbing, my curiosity is: Are they charged to use additional colors? Many books seem to stick with different shades of the same color. I think that a contrast for lettering would make your book title/author name pop. How about the size of the letter printing? Sometimes you can't see the author's name or the book Title well, because of small print. Is there a rule of thumb? I think authors that are doing their own covers should at least hold the book 5-10 feet away and look at it.I received an ARC from an author, and the title blended in with the rest of the book.

SCARLETT: There are two basic sets of colour.
CMYK= Printing
RGB= Computer screen

When you send your book off to get printed somewhere, they will ask for your document in CMYK. The program you use must have the ability to use colour in CMYK.

All printers use CMYK. It stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow and K (Black). There's no extra charge for using any of these colours. It sounds like the books you've seen made a conscious design decision to keep it monochrome.

However there are what's called "Spot colours". A spot colour is a very specific colour that you can request to use if you so choose. For example: Coca-Cola have their own spot colour called "Coca-Cola Red". So the red you see on all Coke products isn't the red that'll come out of your printer but is a very specific combination of colours to get their own brand of red hue. The most popular spot colours come from Pantone. If you see a Pantone swatch book, or geeky gadgets or mugs or stationary with a block of colour and the word "Pantone 704C"- that's a spot colour.

You do have to pay extra for spot colours. When it comes to book covers, and if you're doing it yourself and you're not a designer- I wouldn't even consider this as an option. It's completely unnecessary, and usually only used for branding of companies and large businesses.

If a printer comes back and says to you "you have to pay extra for blue/green/yellow" ask them why, tell them your document is in CMYK, there should be no spot colours, and that should be standard for printing. If they say "no it's not standard" drop them immediately as a printer and go somewhere else!

Leah asked: I was wondering how cover designers choose if the cover will have a photograph of a real person in character - like the girl in the green dress on the cover of Ally Condie's Matched versus the Mockingjay pin on the cover of Hunger Games.

SCARLETT: Having your character on a cover is down to the author's personal choice. I love the Hunger Game covers, very symbolic. But when you have a character on the cover you're not allowing your reader the flexibility to imagine your characters for themselves. So while I will provide concepts that don't include characters, I talk with you prior to that point about what you want on the front, what other covers you like so when I send over some ideas they will or will not include a character on the cover.

There are no rules with this - it's just about what you feel is best for your story and if you want to give your characters an set idea of what your character looks like or if you want to allow them the freedom to imagine it on their own.

Thank you Scarlett--I leaned a TON and I know everyone else did too. It was great to get an insider's look at covers and the decisions that need to be made in the process to ensure it hits the mark with an audience. If anyone wants to take a peek at some of Scarlett's other covers, check out her Gallery

Scarlett Rugers (writing as Scarlett Archer) has just released a book 1001 First Lines which is now available at Amazon! You can purchase a paperback, .lit, .epub, .mobi and PDF versions HERE.

She has been writing for over fifteen years, completed over eleven novels, and her main drive is in speculative fiction or its contrasting opposite romantic comedic novels. She has a passion for studying the art of story telling and is a grand lover of movies. Her focus in work is book cover designs which enables her to put all her energy in to the area she loves most- literature. You can get in touch with her about getting a book cover designed for you at her WEBSITE.

Ask a Cover Designer: ANSWERS!

A few weeks back, I put out a call for questions to ask Scarlett Rugers, the Cover Designer for The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. She's come up with some very thoughtful and insightful responses, so help me welcome her to the blog! *drum roll*

I'll get right to the Q & A...

Bonnee asked: do authors of a book often get to pick or influence the cover their books end up with? Are we allowed to contribute to designing it? Or does it all depend on who we're working with and their own personal terms and conditions?

SCARLETT: The designer you work with should always consult with you at each stage to make sure you are happy with the direction of the book cover. If your designer is pitching concepts to you that aren't in your direction - and continue to stay out of your direction after you provide feedback- you should seek another designer. It's important for you, as an author and client, to have a say in how the cover looks. This could range from letting your designer know what other styles of covers you like so they at least get an idea of what draws your eye, to showing them font faces, colour schemes, and images that you have considered using.

In return, I would also suggest being open to the designer's advice and suggestions. If you have your eye set on a particular font face and the designer says you shouldn't use it - ask them why. It could be due to the fact it has a bad/cheap reputation, could mislead the design of the book cover, could say the wrong thing, could be too expensive, or any other number of reasons. This is where the balance comes in and when you have to trust your designer. I'm not saying they're right, and if you are 100% on using the font face (as an example) then tell your designer that's what you want, but just be aware this is their field of expertise and it's better to be flexible than be dead set on an idea.

In my situation if an author wants something specific- like a font face- on their book that I don't believe works, I'll advise them of why but will put the font face on the cover so they can see the example for themselves. More often than not they understand why it isn't working. But at the end of the day it's your cover, you can have whatever you wish!

When I collaborate with an author some of them are happy to take the risk and allow me to provide concepts that are completely new to them. In the initial questionnaire I ask them if they want me to design something for them that works in alignment with their genre, something 50/50 or something new and unique. New and unique is always a risk from the author's side, I completely understand that. But the feedback I've received from the past writer's I've worked with is that they're happy with the outcome, it's something they didn't imagine but they're excited- and of course as it's a collaboration they give me feedback about the design with what works for them and what doesn't. They're still included at each stage of the design process so that even if it's something new they are allowed to have their say!

Laura asked: How long does it take Scarlett to complete a cover from start to finish?

SCARLETT: The average process is two weeks, but it can take as quickly as three days or as slowly as three weeks to a month. The timeline depends on a lot of contributing factors:
Firstly- am I going to read your book? If so, that'll add one or two weeks to the process.
Secondly- Once I finish the book I then brainstorm on concepts. When I pitch them to you it depends on when you get back to me (Usually they get back to me in a day or two).
Thirdly- The design back-and-forthing has taken anything from a day to a week and a half in the past. This is me sending you the design, refining it further, making changes with your feedback.
They're the main factors to consider when having a cover designed for you. I do my best to respond within 24 hours of your emails- and if I'm delayed I'll always let you know.

M. R. asked: Why don't I see many black covers for middle grade books? Does it make the content look too intense for that age group or is there another reason?

SCARLETT: Colours are very particular, specifically when dealing with age groups. You won't find a lot of black covers for middle grade books because black is a colour that has to do a lot with maturity, themes of adult content, seriousness, and satire. The book publishing industry decided teens in middle grade aren't yet ready for that just yet. I don't advise against using black on a book cover for middle grade books because anything with the right concept and design technique can be wonderful. But colour is one of the first visual senses transmitted to us before we even register words or images. So we have to approach the use of colour with awareness and tact just as we would font faces and images.

Kelly asked: I wonder about how one chooses a font (what to stay away from) and font size?

SCARLETT: Stay away from: Comic Sans and Papyrus.How to choose a font for your book cover:
1) Decide if you want to use a free font, or a priced font.
2) Keep in mind when checking a font face that you can use it commercially. Just because you haven't paid someone to design the cover for you doesn't mean you're using it for free. You're using it for a commercial endeavour so you must be covered.
3) Consider the theme of your book. Research other books in your genre, look at the fonts they've used, how they've used them, and how they've altered them (if at all).
4) When you use a font consider what it's for. Is it for an eBook or are you going to also have it printed? You can use one font for a print cover because printing it will come up beautifully and you can read it easily. But using it in thumbnail form might not work because you can't read it at such a small size. The only way to test this is by printing the font and shrinking it down to size to see if you can read it yourself.
5) Have fun trying different fonts! Get creative. Don't just stick with fonts given to you by Microsoft/Mac. There are a lot of font websites out there and you can get to them easily via Google.

JC asked: what are the 3 most important things to AVOID when designing a book cover?

SCARLETT: I recently wrote an article about this exact thing. They were general design rules I saw being broken consistently, and when you saw the cover with those elements it immediately said "Self-Published Work".

But to specifically avoid, I'd say:

1) Assuming your book cover doesn't matter, and that people will read the story no matter what. When you look at books- would YOU read a story with a bad book cover design?
2) Not spending time on your type/font. The thing that constantly lets a book cover down is the type face. It's a vital component that contributes to the beauty of your cover just as much as colour, and image. Consider the placement, the size, the type face, the legibility/readability, the balance.
3) Not getting feedback. I know it hurts, I know it can break you. But it's worth it. Get feedback from your friends, from online forums- not from people you know will be nice to you no matter what they think. Be brave! It means more people will pick up your work in the long run.

Mirka asked: I'm wondering if there are things that should NOT be on a cover. Examples of NO-NOs in design. This would be my question.

1) Low resolution/quality images.
2) As said before- Comic Sans and Papyrus font faces.
3) Use of drop shadow on text when it works against the design and is not necessary.
4) Rainbow gradients.
5) Images and fonts you don't have the rights/permission to use.
6) your website URL
      Anything that doesn't contribute to the purpose of your design and intention. It's just like writing- if it doesn't have a purpose it needs to be scrapped. Better to not have, than to have and be misleading.
      If your story is a mystery of any sort- having something on the cover that will give away the plot!

      Scarlett, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. We all know how important the cover is, and so knowing what to look for, ask for and avoid is so helpful!

      Check back in tomorrow for the rest of Scarlett's answers to your design questions!

      Scarlett Rugers (writing as Scarlett Archer) has just released a book 1001 First Lines which is now available at Amazon! You can purchase a paperback, .lit, .epub, .mobi and PDF versions here:

      She has been writing for over fifteen years, completed over eleven novels, and her main drive is in speculative fiction or its contrasting opposite, romantic comedic novels. She has a passion for studying the art of story telling and is a grand lover of movies. Her focus in work is book cover designs which enables her to put all her energy in to the area she loves most- literature. You can get in touch with her about getting a book cover designed for you at

      Guest Post: Creating Characters that Fascinate

      Hi guys! Becca's recuperating from Lasik surgery and so can't see to write this, but she has a guest post up over at WRITE TO DONE.

      Today she's tackling the creation of unique, stand-out characters, so please check it out!

      Beyond the Cliché: How to Create Characters that Fascinate

      Hope everyone has an awesome weekend & Easter and we'll see you next week!

      Official Deets About The Emotion Thesaurus

      Hi everyone! I know this post has been a long time in coming, and Becca and I want to thank everyone who has sent us mail and messages about The Emotion Thesaurus, asking when it's available, the cost, etc. You guys are the greatest--you really are. We thought it probably best to do a Q & A regarding the details of the book, and if you have any questions that we don't cover, feel free to leave them in the comments. 

      Will this book be available in print, or only as an ebook? 

      This book will have a print option, so you can choose the format that suits you best--an ebook for your Kindle, Kobo, Sony, iPad, etc. or the traditional paperback so you can disconnect from the net and write distraction free. We are also offering a PDF for those people may not have readers and don't want to pay the unfortunate cost of print-on-demand. 

      *Psssst* Can I tell you a secret? The ebook/PDF version is linked, allowing readers to move from entry to entry with a click of a button. The Print is great too, but if you want to avoid flipping pages, go with the ebook! 

      How is this book different than the Emotion Thesaurus in the sidebar?

      The book covers 75 emotions (some of which are in the sidebar) while others are brand new. Each entry comes with a ton of new content, and is organized in a way that allows writers to target the area they need help showing: a character's thoughts, body language or visceral reactions. The entries also range in emotional intensity, ensuring brainstorming material no matter where a character is on the experience spectrum. Also included are 75 description tips and a writing guide to help writers dig deeper to create fresh, compelling character emotion while avoiding trouble spots like cliches, melodrama, telling, etc. If you would like to see a sample of one of the entries, we posted FEAR in our newsletter.

      What will the cost be?

      The Emotion Thesaurus ebook will launch at $4.99. We hope you'll feel this is the best 5 bucks you've ever spent! If you want the print version, it's higher. We haven't uploaded it yet, but some investigation has led us to believe we're looking at probably $15 dollars after Createspace fees are factored in. *grumblefeesgrumble*

      Click to add to GOODREADS
      What will happen to the blog's Emotion Thesaurus?

      Had Becca and I chosen the traditional route, a publisher would make us take it down. All those entries, which have accumulated hundreds of thousands of hits, GONE.

      Becca and I did NOT want this to happen. We have more control by publishing ourselves, but the fact remains that we cannot keep everything up. So, we're going to meet halfway and modify the current entries, keeping a sample available for people to use. If writers find they'd rather have the full, modded-out, totally cool version, they can snag a copy of the book in the format of their choosing. :)

      When is the book available?

      *shouts it from the rooftops* May 14th! And we are SO excited. And scared. Terrified really. people don't bite, do you? No, I didn't think so. :)

      Questions? Thoughts? Sprinkle donuts? Just leave them in the comments!

      WRITING HERO: Matthew MacNish

      For a long time now, Becca and I have wanted a way to acknowledge the people who have helped us develop into stronger writers and who add to the writing community as a whole. As a new feature here at The Bookshelf Muse, Becca and I will take turns giving well-deserved recognition to some of the people who really make an impact...people who truly are Writing Heroes.

      Today I am honored to profile the awesome Matthew MacNish! My boy Matt is beyond incredible...not only is he super-friendly and amazingly supportive, he has also practically broken the choke-hold of fear that query writing has over writers.

      Yes, you read that right...Matt makes the Query-writing shakes VANISH. 

      It seems impossible, doesn't it? I mean, writing queries has driven more than a few writers to drink. I bet if you were to go back in time, it would be revealed that Poe rode the sauce train largely because of querying. In my mind, these one page torture devices are like the smoke monster from LOST...when you sit down, determined to find that perfect hook, you hear that creepy rattle instead. It speeds up and grows louder and suddenly you're sweating and trembling and want to be anywhere but there in front of the blank computer screen.

      Yet here we have a man who can eviscerate that swollen, greasy beast. He makes query-writing...bearable. In fact, when Matt works his crazy query voodoo, writers suddenly find themselves staring at a road map leading to one place: AWESOME.    

      I have 5 words for you: The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment.If you are new to his blog, please check him out. What. A Great. Guy.

      For years, Matt has tirelessly work-shopped queries of all genres live on his blog, helping writers analyze their story lines and learn to juice up their hooks for maximum impact. He has helped many through this process--not only those who lay their query on the sacrificial slab, but also the people who tune in to see how he and his query katana will chop and slice until only the best elements remain, leaving the query stronger and closer to finding an agent to love it.

      I can only imagine the time that goes into each one of these deconstructions, and of course there is much more to the QQQE than queries. Matt is just an all-round great blogger with strong insight on all things writing and industry related. He's a must-stop on the blog run and a huge bright spot in the writing community. You can find him BBQing on Facebook and yukking it up on Twitter, too. Check him out as he co-hosts the popular A to Z Challenge for the month of April. It's not too late to get involved, either!

      So thank you Matt, for being one of my WRITING HEROES. You rock!

      To pay it forward, I will give a 1000-word critique to Matthew MacNish. He can then choose to keep it for himself or offer it as a giveaway on his blog! As a resident writing hero, he will also have a permanent link in our header.

      So tell me you know Matthew MacNish? Has he helped you or your writing in some way? Please tell us in the comments and help celebrate this amazing WRITING HERO!