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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10 book art prints to inspire you to read more

Jarrett and I watched The Little Prince last week, and I am smitten. Why had no one told me how cute this movie was when it first came out?!

I loved every bit of it: the gorgeous paper cut-out animation, the thoughtfully done adaptation and expansion of the storyline, the themes of finding adventure and wonder in books. The movie did a great job of keeping the ethereal and delicate tone of the book yet overlaying the struggles of modern life: how the cult of productivity and busyness has made for less spontaneous and unscheduled childhoods (and adulthoods!).

It made me feel like a little kid again–it’s that same happy, giddy feeling you get when you read a great book. So, in honor of The Little Prince, the start of spring, and the very cutest Google doodle (did you catch it on Monday?), I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite reading illustrations and art prints.

Reading and book art prints

I have a whole board of reading and book art prints on Pinterest, and sometimes I just open them up to smile and remember what it is that I love so much in books. (Follow me there, if you want more!)

10 Reading Art Prints to Remind You to Believe in Books

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Simini Blocker)

Reading and book art prints 7

(Source: Doodlemum)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: part of a WPA series)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Monica Castanys)

   Reading and book art prints 5

(Source: Book/Shop)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Book Geek Confessions)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Sarah Wilkins)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)


What I’m Reading This Week

Stop Focusing on Follower Count: 5 Better Approaches for Improving Social Media Use (Andrea Dunlop on JaneFriedman.com): This is such great advice–I see follower count trip up so many authors, yet it just isn’t an accurate predictor of the success of your book. Instead, focus on these 5 goals to stay motivated as you grow your author platform.

Writing the review in advance (Seth Godin): “The last click someone clicks before they buy something isn’t the moment they made up their mind. … We lay clues. That’s what it takes to change the culture and to cause action. The thing we make matters (a lot). But the breadcrumbs leading up to that thing, the conversations we hear, the experiences that are shared, the shadow we cast–we start doing that days, months and years before.”

The business of posting recipes online (Dreena Burton of Plant-Powered Kitchen): There isn’t a blogger out there who hasn’t had to work through this same emotional mire of seeing their work copied without credit, so it’s great to see a blogger discuss this so openly and yet so positively.

5 Scientifically Verified Reasons You’ll Hate Yourself if You Stop Writing (Chad Allen): “So much of winning at the writing game can be summarized succinctly in the immemorial words of Dory in Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming.”

How I Won 12 Book Awards for My Memoir (Judith Newton on Dianne Jacob’s blog):  Memoir can be a tough category to break-out in, so start here if you’re looking for ways to build buzz for your work!

10 Empowering Writer’s Retreats for Women (Ellen Turner on The Write Life): Feeling a little blah or overwhelmed in your writing life? Sounds like you need a retreat!


What We’re Eating This Week

What’s for dinner? Why, I thought you’d never ask!

Monday: Grilled shrimp greek salads, because Monday.

Tuesday: Chicken fajitas, made with a recipe by my author Robyn of Add a Pinch (Have you preordered her gorgeous book yet? It’s a weeknight lifesaver!)

Wednesday: Spaghetti with salumi and endives, adapted from Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry. Lordy, I love that book.

Thursday: The notes in my phone say: “Asian slow-cooked beef and mushrooms with rice and broccoli and snow peas.” AKA throw everything in the fridge in a pot, cover in sauce, cook, and serve over rice. #fancy

Friday: Last weekend Jarrett and I went to this fabulous event at the Museum of American History about the women behind America’s first cookbooks, and they demoed chicken croquettes and tomato butter sauce from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph. All I had to hear was “add a stick of butter to the tomato sauce” and, boom, it was added to the meal plan. I’m powerful like that. (But actually, please say a little prayer for me in executing these–I’m cooking them as a birthday dinner for my mother-in-law and want them not to be, as Mary Randolph would put it, intolerable.)

Cheers!

 

7 Tips for Getting More Use Out of Your Cookbooks

Here it is, one month later, and I’ve been itching with excitement to get back to you all! Like I talked about here, if you’re feeling creatively burned out (or, you know, just worn out from life) then taking a mini-sabbatical may be just what you need.

Even Penguin Random House, the largest U.S. publisher, gets that creative minds need to recharge a little now and then. Their sabbatical program is legendary for offering paid time off to pursue personal interests, and I know the editors there, especially, love hitting that 10 year mark and taking a month off to travel, volunteer, or even just staycation in blissful peace.

And just because writers, bloggers, and other creative kinds work for themselves doesn’t mean they shouldn’t give themselves the same benefits an employer would offer. As Ayn Rand would say:

 

ayn rand quote art print

 

Meanwhile, the wonderful folks over at The Kitchn were kind enough to have me on their site this month, sharing some of my ideas for getting more use out of cookbooks. And the conversations that sparked from that article were incredible! I was so touched to see dozens of readers leaving memories and tips about their favorite cookbooks and how they like to use them. There are so many touching personal reflections in that comment thread, and it honestly made me a little teary to think about how important and heartening our cookbooks can be to us.

As one commenter wrote:

“My mother passed away in April and I can’t seem to move on from her passing. Opening her cookbooks and seeing her notes, especially her hilarious reviews of recipes that weren’t so successful, brings her back to me. Cooking these recipes helps me keep her close to me even though she is gone. So, write in your cookbooks! Your daughters will thank you one day.”

If you also want to turn your cookbooks into well-used, well-loved family heirlooms, here’s the rest of the article!

7 Insider Tips For Getting More Out of Your Cookbooks

how to use cookbooks more to cook

Confession time: I make cookbooks for a living, but I don’t treat them nicely.

I treat my authors nicely — I love being their literary agent; it’s an honor — and I love the cookbooks we’ve made together (I hold them tight and sing them to sleep and feel all sorts of joy-sparks when I look at them). But let’s not be precious about it:

Cookbooks exist to help us cook.

They work for us, not the other way around. Cookbooks want more than anything to help you cook, and to cook damn amazing food — and sometimes better food than you could cook if left to your own panic-fueled decision-making. Cookbooks want to lure you away from that moment when you’re staring blankly into the fridge, fathoming the meaninglessness of dinner, and wondering why on earth you didn’t just plan something, like you swore you would.

Cookbooks will find you in that moment, wipe away your tears, and gently whisper, “It’s okay … I have an idea.”

So if you’re drowning in cookbooks but still parched for practical ways to get dinner done, you might need to reassess your relationship. Here are seven ways to make your cookbooks work for you like they mean it. They helped reform me from a hapless daydreamer to that stubborn soul that cooks a brand new recipe even though it’s 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, the fridge is empty, and the dog is on fire.

Click here to keep reading this article on The Kitchn!


And because I wasn’t lying when I said I’d been giddily squirreling treats away for you all, here’s a free download of that pretty watercolor kitchen pattern you see in my main graphic!

watercolor kitchen pattern utensils

Go ahead and use it wherever you’d like—on your blog, on Instagram, as a desktop background, or just print it out, fold it in half, and scribble a grocery list on it. I hope it’ll make some little corner of your life a bit cuter!

Click here to download this watercolor kitchen pattern.


What I’ve Been Reading

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert): My goodness am I glad that I gave in to the hype and read this. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations after all I’ve heard about it, but it really was much different than I expected and the perfect read for anyone taking a creative sabbatical (or feeling like they need to). The main gist of the book? Lighten up and play with your work. Never forget that you do this because you love it, and it’s okay to delight yourself, rather than torture yourself, with your creative work.

This Time Lapse Of 52,000 Books Being Shelved Is A Bibliophile’s Dream (Maddie Crum for The Huffington Post): This video hit me right in my weak spot. I could watch it for days and sigh happily at all the beautiful books and the beautiful home for books that the New York Public Library is. Sigh. (See?)

John Green on Failure (John Green via GalleyCat): In this video, John Green talks candidly about struggling with writing after The Fault in Our Stars became a massive success. This is a great tie-in to Big Magic, where Elizabeth Gilbert also reveals what’s on the other side of mega bestsellerdom. (Hint: It doesn’t get easier, but you can choose whether you’ll let the weight of expectations crush you or not.)

The Economics of Dining as a Couple (Megan McArdle for Bloomberg View): We’re big fans of McArdle’s book The Upside of Down, and this hilarious piece is worth reading with your other half before you head out on your next dinner date. As McArdle says, “A communist economy is a terrible idea. A communist dinner table, on the other hand, truly is a bounteous paradise.” (Hail to the fork and sickle!)

Publishing a Cookbook: How Do You Develop Recipes? (aka: How Destroyed Is Your Kitchen?) (Thriving Home): My lovely authors, Polly and Rachel, continue their behind-the-scenes series as they work on their first cookbook. We’re planning their recipe and lifestyle shoots for this fall, and the design inspiration they’ve been collecting is gorgeous. I can’t wait to share this book with you all!

7 Must-Haves to Make Your Home Cozy for Fall Reading (A.J. O’Connell for Book Riot): Blankets! Socks! Stretchy pants! I hope you’re as excited as I am to get extremely cozy with a book this fall.

Why Do Books Publish on Tuesdays? (Laurie Hertzel for Star Tribune): In case you’ve been wondering. 🙂

What have you been reading to kick off the fall? I’m in search of my next book, so I’d love to hear what you’ve been enjoying!

4 Common Mistakes Bloggers Make That Hurt Traffic and Engagement

How to build a nonfiction platform

I spend a lot of time looking at blogs and websites. Maybe too much time. Sometimes I feel like if I have to see one more watercolor Facebook icon or read one more About Me page, I will just flop over, dead from too much Interneting.

But 95% of the time, I just love it. It’s fascinating to see the front end of a blog or website and then talk to its owner and learn more about their back end stats and strategies. I guess it’s sort of like seeing how the blog sausage is made. (“Blog sausage” sounds wrong. In a hilarious way. I will now have to dedicate my remaining years to proliferating this phrase.)

ANYWAY. It’s become so incredibly important to have a strong online platform before you launch a book that it’s impossible to overlook the power of a well-done website or blog. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve seen from speaking to hundreds of bloggers, it’s that very few of them know what the heck anyone else is doing. Sure, there are plenty of online courses you can take that could help you build traffic, but there’s nothing like seeing how that traffic converts into real business (as in product sales) to show you how important certain overlooked areas are.

There are 4 areas that I think are especially overlooked, and where I think many people are stifling their engagement, throttling their traffic, and overall slowing down the growth of their businesses. Here are the mistakes I see most often:

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