Designing a Trilogy

Every fantasy lover knows the magic of a trilogy. When designing book covers in general, many things need to be taken into consideration as it is. You need to be able to portray the feeling of the book, without giving too much away, you need to balance images and text, choose colours and fonts to enhance the story and, depending on genre and audience, much more. So designing a series of continuous, connected book covers really only makes this a harder job.

kj.jpgMy most recent series I’ve designed for is KJ Taylor’s Southern Star trilogy. It’s an especially special trilogy because it’s the third trilogy in a saga of three spanning generations of narrative, and this scope is a significant aspect of all three books’ design. Luckily this is not my first series of book covers. The extra element of design you need to hold onto when doing a series is cover continuity. What you design for the first book needs to set the tone for the rest of the series. Will it be a colour, a symbol, an art style or something else that will hold through all the books? The first one is the hardest because once it’s published, you’re stuck with the theme you chose.

For the Southern Star books there are several elements that are carried across. Firstly is the background. With the almost woodcut-style image, the background being old paper akin to a parchment map, I had laid the foundation for the covers to come. The first book was a paler parchment, a little crinkled, the second, darker and more worn, and the third will follow the same pattern leading to an increasingly darker toned series of books as they progress.

Next is art style. As the griffins on the covers are all hand-drawn by me, style and placement are much more personalised than you’d find on a cover with just stock graphics. The woodcut-style image of the griffin not only has continuity of style as I’m drawing them, but also lends itself to the map-like background. Continuity is important in cover design, just as much as it is in the writing of the books.

Lastly is the title text. I’m a sucker for books that, whenHPTR7-Angle-1200 placed next to each other on a shelf, all line up in some beautiful way. I like the styles to match, the text distribution to be even and for the eye to easily look and see a connected collection of books. So for me, title, spine and any other major text must be in the same spots on the book, especially on the spine. My best example of this is Shayla Morgansen’s Elm Stone Saga books, which have a single branch arching over the spines as one.

A trilogy or series of books is a huge outpouring of skill and effort to write, and it’s only right to dress them properly. Designing a cover for a series is more than just making a nice-looking cover; it’s starting a family of covers, whose genetics travel down the line of books, pulling just enough from inside the book for the outside to sing, and sing the same theme all the way through.

~ Sabrina
Sabrina RG Raven’s work can be seen on her web page www.sabrinargraven.com or her facebook www.facebook.com/SabrinaRGRaven

Convention Preparation as an Author

As convention season commences in Australia, we begin the insanity of convention prep. Most of these tips will be applicable for all those who convention as an artist or any other creator, but this is to all the authors wanting to join the insanity of conventions.

As the co-ordinator of Ouroborus Book Services, I am in charge of stock, packing and running our stall so here are my Top 10 Prep Tips.

1 Lists

Lists are your best friend. Whether you have one book or 13, as we will have this year for April Gold Coast Supanova, this is the most important thing. You need a stock list (especially with multiple titles/items), a stall list (banners, tablecloths, etc) and a survival list (food, water, things to do). Use these to order stock, and while packing so nothing gets forgotten, especially if you are travelling for a convention.

2 Stock Counts

Even though you won’t need 100 of each title (seriously don’t bring 100 of each title or you will be wasting time and space, not to mention lugging them all there), you need to know how much stock you have. I like to make sure we have 20 of each title available before the show. The last thing you want to do is run out. Make sure you do a stock count in plenty of time to order more if you are low.

3 Promo Items

People like free stuff. You need to find the most cost-effective way to do this while making it a useful object. Business cards are great but most folk will put them in the bottom of their bags and never look at them again. Same with flyers. We personally love bookmarks. We hand out free bookmarks at our stall because it’s something people can use. And if they use it, it means you might get a sale later on down the track because they’ve been looking at a pic of your book for the last few months and decide to give it a go. Printing smart is your way to save cash. I know with the place we use, it’s only a small amount of difference in price to go from 100 bookmarks to 1000, so we buy them in bulk. (shout out to www.cmykonline.com.au)

4 Buy a Trolley

Best purchase we ever made was a luggage trolley. It was cheap (under $100) off eBay and holds about 300kg so perfect for us and folds flat enough to fit in the car on top of our stock. It has made life so much easier and we can transport most our gear in one or two tips. If you can’t afford to do this but have an old wheeled suitcase, they can do in a pinch but are a pain to get into a car when full of books.

5 Fridge Bags

If your novel is a standard 5x8in, then supermarket padded fridge bags are perfect to transport books. You can fit two stacks perfectly in each bag and they’re strong enough to deal with the weight. When full they also stack nicely on the above-mentioned trolley and are super easy to Tetris into a car. Plus picking up a bag of books is less stress on your body if you are weak like me. They’re also good for food and drink, and you can pack them inside each other for easy under-table storage during the convention.

6 Self Care

Conventions are hotbeds of germs and injuries. I’ll be honest. The tales of con-flu are real, so you need to look after yourself before and during the convention. Take your vitamins and be kind to yourself and try to get some sleep. During a convention weekend, you will eat horrible food, not drink enough water and most likely fall into an exhausted heap each night. Try to eat some veggies and things not deep fried for at least one meal. And for the love of all that is holy, make sure to get the next day after off work. You will need the recovery time. Also, be careful lifting things as the last thing you need is to do your back in after sitting on hard plastic chairs all weekend.

7 Essentials

Apart from your stock, there are some essentials you will need for the convention. These include

  • a tablecloth (a flat sheet is good because you want it to cover the table and hit the floor at the front) and a spare cloth to cover your stuff at night.
  • Signage (some conventions provide this, but extra visual aids always help)
  • Money tin (you will need somewhere to store your money) and a float (change should be a mix of notes and coins depending on your price point. If your books are $20, you should get $20s and $10s, to make change for $50 notes. If you have $15 books, add $5 notes.
  • Pens (for signing)
  • Emergency box (band aids, Panadol, blutac, cloth tape, tissues, scissors etc)
  • I buy a slab of bottles for our team and freeze them. As it gets crazy hot in conventions you will need water so you don’t pass out, and I know I don’t want to pay $4 a bottle there. You can get slabs of 24 bottle for $15 at supermarkets and office supply stores.
  • Convention food is expensive and usually gross. I recommend bringing something to nibble on. Sugar is also helpful to keep the energy up so lollies and fruit can be good. Be mindful of bringing peanuts as you don’t want to kill a customer who might be allergic.

8 Team Prep

Always bring a friend. Obviously, we are a big team, so we can take breaks and still have several folk behind our stall. But if it’s just you, make sure you bring people with you. Most cons will include a few passes with your table booking so use these to your advantage. Eight hours without food or toilet breaks is not gonna be fun. Make sure your team know prices, basic info on the products and how to handle money. Bribe them with candy, lightsabers or daleks (thanks Mum) if needs be.

9 Give Yourself Enough Time

Prep is a heap of work. I start at least two months before the convention, writing lists and doing stock counts. This gives you time to order stuff you need, amass fridge bags, and to space out your costs. I pack at least a week before the convention just in case I forget something.

10 Breathe.

I used to end up in a ball of panic packing for conventions, which in the lovely humidity of Queensland, was never a pretty sight. I’ve now learned that by prepping ahead of time, keeping to my lists, and stopping if I feel overwhelmed for a break, I can now get things done with little panic and stress.

So, in conclusion, plan, have fun and look after yourself!

~Sabrina

Sabrina is the author of Blank and the Everdark Realms Trilogy and is the director, editor and designer for Ouroborus Book Services

Visit Sabrina’s bio here

For more info on convention planning check out How to Sell at a Convention by fellow convention goer Megs Drinkwater available on Kindle.

Method – Procrastination be thy name

Some people have commented that they are amazed at how much work I get done despite being constantly plugged in. I watch movies while I paint, I flick between editing, Facebook, writing, YouTube, book formatting, digital jigsaw puzzles (my guilty pleasure, I’m not ashamed) and a plethora of timewasting online goodies, while I should be doing anything but that.

Some say I need to switch off, be internet-free for a few days, work without Facebook Messenger pinging in the background while I work, but for me I need that distraction. I need a quick interruption sometimes when editing to re-buffer my brain, clear it out so that words I know are spelled correctly don’t start looking wrong. When I write I need bursts of YouTube, of music, of colour, newsfeeds and Instagram to reinvigorate my mind. When I paint, listening to the droning of horror stories being read from Reddit keeps my mind flowing. I also have tinnitus and an overactive brain so too much silence and monotony drive me just a tad bonkers.

But sometimes, it is just procrastination, and that’s okay. Because I don’t plan any of my writing – I’m a pantser through and through – if the characters aren’t talking to me and I finally have time to write between editing jobs (a rarity at the moment), sometimes I need that distraction for more than invigoration. Sometimes it’s a space filler and hell, if I’m honest, it’s an excuse, at least to myself. It’s the theme tune to my writer’s block.

But for me there is no point in forcing it. I know if I force myself to write it will be subpar work. So, I go back to my routine of painting and movies, designing book covers and conspiracy theory videos, and soon, that procrastination becomes creativity. That creativity becomes my muse. My characters wake up and finally get themselves out of that locked room, or the forest they’ve been wandering in for five months (I’m looking at you Everdark Realms part 3), or sometimes some new character will raise their little hand from behind all of the mess and jumble in my brain and say ‘Hey, over here! Have I got a story for you!’

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is sometimes it’s okay to procrastinate, to fill that time with bursts of other things, distractions, other creations or even just sit back and binge a series on Netflix. It’s okay if you need noise and distraction to create. It’s okay to be connected and online 24/7 if that works for you. And if it doesn’t, that’s cool too. In the end method is as method does – do what works for you.

~ Sabrina

Sabrina is the author of Blank and the Everdark Realms Trilogy and is the director, editor and designer for Ouroborus Book Services

Visit Sabrina’s bio here