The 3 most common mistakes on book covers

I know it sounds harsh, but there are a few mistakes on book covers that drive me up the wall. I adore book covers and never get tired of admiring them (and reaching out to feel the paper…) in bookstores, but every once in a while, I see a cover gone wrong.

So today let’s also talk about the ways book cover design can go awry, because I think we always have to edit out the bad before we can get to the good. (Can I get an amen from every writer who’s ever edited that terrible first draft?)

common mistakes on book covers

It’s a cold, hard truth of publishing that people judge a book by its cover. This is engraved on a tablet on a mountaintop somewhere in midtown Manhattan, where the other strictures of publishing are recorded, like, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s advance, and Thou shalt not order anything but a salad at an editor lunch, unless the other person does first, or you’re just really, really hungry and don’t care anymore. But yes, the cover is the first thing a reader will see of your work; it’s how they’ll judge your book; and it’s your most important marketing tool.

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The 5 best books for writers

Jarrett came home from work the other day waving a new book, which one of the editors at his office said was essential reading for writers. Excuse me, I said, but we have that book already, and I could have told you all about it if I had known you wanted more reading assignments.

(I’m always telling Jarrett, “You really should read this book—you’d like it!” when I finish a book. I think his backlog of books I really, really think he should read is really, really long and really, really ignored.)

I was in such a huff that someone had beat me to recommending On Writing Well that I pulled out my yellowing copy from the shelf and forced on him a dramatic reading of my favorite quotes as we ate dinner. (I’ve learned that the best place to trap someone is at the dinner table, and I think this is a free and fair trade for all the cooking I do.)

Anyway, as Jarrett sat rapt, or maybe bored, I told him all about how, at my first job as an editorial assistant at a NYC publisher, one of the executive editors had called me into her corner office, handed me a stack of 10 books about writing, and told me to start there, but that I could come back for more soon.

I had been working as a paralegal at a law firm beforehand, so I thought it was the coolest thing ever that I got to read books about writing instead of police reports. But 10 books is no small stack, and I didn’t know where to start.

best books for writers

So consider this my starter stack for you—these are the 5 books I’d most recommend to any writer, whether an aspiring writer, an established writer, or anyone who has to write or blog for a living. These are the best books for writers; the best books to teach you how to get published; the best books to make you feel less alone and hair-pull-y all the time.

Maybe others have beat me to recommending some of these books on writing to you, but I promise not to get huffy about it, and I hope you’ll still find one or two new gems here:

 

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How a book taught me how to travel better

We’re baaack! After two whole weeks in Greece–completely disconnected, fully honeymooning, and gloriously eating–we’re back to our daily routines and our screens. It’s a little weird to go from full days of being out in “the real world” (aka, not online) to spending 8+ hours a day staring at these little boxes we call computers, but it has also felt so, so good to be productive and have a sense of purpose again. Turns out, I’m one of those travelers that needs some useful work to do in between the gyro-inhaling and beach-sprawling.

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it turned out that my author Jaime Kurtz’s book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations, published just in time for this big, glorious, and very long vacation we had planned for ourselves. So even though I was thousands of miles away, I got to spend long hours on the beach listening to her wise voice tell me exactly how I could squeeze every last drop of goodness out of our honeymoon.

secrets to better travel

As I wrote about here, Jaime pitched me her book idea at the Writer’s Digest Conference, and I immediately said, “I NEED that book!” That’s the same reaction I got from every editor I later pitched the idea to, and the same reaction I get from nearly every person I tell about it. I honestly don’t know how I spent my whole life traveling without this book!

To give you a sense of how the pitching process works, here’s an excerpt from the pitch letter I sent, along with the proposal, to editors:

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One-pot harissa pasta

How many hours have you been staring at the computer today? Spring is so busy, and sometimes it’s hard to shake off the glow of our screens and step out of the tunnel of the Internet.

We’re doing just that in Greece for our honeymoon right now, and oh man, does it feel good. Fresh air, new scenery, SO much to eat. After an insanely busy past few weeks, Greece feels like breathing deep again.

I’m just so happy to be spending some time outside, away from the computer. A lot of folks think us book people are introverts who’d rather sit inside all day reading a book rather than socializing. Which is totally true. But I’m also willing to sit outside all day reading a book. I think that makes me adventurous.

If you also want to try something new tonight, and you’re bleary eyed from staring at your manuscript or the computer screen for hours, then come over here. Back away from the computer, tiptoe into the kitchen, and make this really, really slowly. Isn’t it nice to remember what unrushed cooking feels like?

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

This pasta is:

  1. Cozy, comforting, reassuring, and all those other words you want to come home to after a long day
  2. Excellent when paired with a book or ouzo
  3. Spicy, and just a little bit adventurous. Like reading outside.

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