Over the course of this year, I had the pleasure of working with author and editor Bronwyn Blake, helping her to achieve her long-held vision for the Gulf Women Project. After spending time with a group of women living in remote regions of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Bronwyn became passionate about curating their interesting stories for future generations. As a result, she suggested that it would be a wonderful idea for them to publish their life stories in the form of an anthology. At first, the women thought she was joking; however Bronwyn gently pointed out the importance of sharing their stories with a wider audience. Bronwyn volunteered her time for the project, spending many hours teaching first-time authors how to write and then editing their stories in order to turn them into an anthology. The book, Gulf Women: Voices from Remote North West Queensland was a mammoth effort and one that will see all book sale profits returned to the Gulf community.
Gulf Women was officially launched in July 2017 in Burketown, Queensland. The book launch was held in the Nijinda Durlga Shire Hall and among the hundreds of supporters were thirty of the fifty-five women who contributed their powerful stories to the project. Drought, bushfires and floods are regular occurrences in their remote way of life, as are pet crocodiles and snakebites, and these women travelled far and wide (some meeting in-person for the first time at the launch) to share in the joy of seeing their amazing stories published.
Gulf Women is a collection of short stories from a group of rural women writers. However, anthologies can also be collections of poems, plays, songs or even a combination of these different formats. Most commonly, an editor compiles the collection and publishes the content in the form of a book, thereby providing emerging authors with the opportunity to have their work published without having to write an entire book themselves.
Anthologies: A General Overview
Anthologies always have an overarching theme – like the women of the Gulf region. However, the real art of editing an anthology is finding how the many additional themes within each piece of work link together to create smooth transitions and a cohesive body of work, rather than simply being a random collection of many individual stories.
A lot of work goes into editing an anthology, but it can be a rewarding experience. A large proportion of the work associated with producing an anthology revolves around forming relationships with published authors and potential writers. This in turn creates a small community of people who feel connected to the editor and his or her vision for the anthology, and who also share a feeling of accomplishment when they hold the printed book in their hands.
A Collaborative Experience
The collaborative process of sharing life experiences lends power to a good anthology and offers something unique to its readers. In the case of the Gulf women, sharing their stories of their lives and their ability to exist within a harsh environment gives their anthology a strong collective voice. However, it’s not only the writers of an anthology who share something unique. Reading an anthology is a different experience to reading other genres, such as a novel. In reality, the editor of an anthology is similar to a reader of other genres – selecting those stories they like and discarding those that they don’t will complement the collection. The key difference is that they publish their preferences for other people to read.
Some readers are not fond of anthologies because they consider them to be essentially recycled content; however, others like this ‘second-hand glimpse’ which forms the essence of an anthology. The editor of an anthology must allocate sufficient time to decide what material to include and the best way to structure the book. It is important that the published book not only contains stories they are personally interested in, but also stories that other people will enjoy reading.
Explore Other Worlds
Anthologies enable readers to explore a world they may not have experienced before by providing insight through the eyes of multiple writers. This may be a place, a culture or simply an experience that many have shared. Instead of offering one viewpoint or one theme, anthologies offer variety to the reader, which often keeps them engaged with the book. Some readers collect anthologies that they consider to be the best pieces from a given era or critical theory. These can be a time-saving resource for students because it saves them from having to scour countless books to find what they need.
A well-researched and well-produced anthology has the capacity to amaze, enlighten or delight its audience and the ability to completely redefine the future of both reading and writing. As is apparant from this inspiring anthology project involving fifty-five women from the Gulf region, the collaboration between a commited editor and some remarkable, like-minded writers can result in a powerful and transformative story for audiences to enjoy.
For me, the advent of a New Year is always an opportunity to pause and to review the events of the past year. It’s a time to celebrate your successes and to consider ways to improve the not-so-successful outcomes. One success I was very proud to have been involved in 2016 was the release of my client’s (Jim Reay) third book – The Run. According to Jim, The Run is ‘a thriller mystery which goes inside the psyche of the revolutionary fighter … their willingness and need to kill or die for a cause’.
So with this concept firmly in mind, I wanted to share with you the step-by-step process I followed to design an eye-catching book cover that would effectively encapsulate the theme of Jim’s novel.
Step-By-Step Process for Designing a Book Cover
STEP ONE: The Client Brief
Jim collated his initial ideas for the front cover of his book in a Word document (see image below) which he then forwarded to me. This original client brief is an important starting point in formulating the final cover design as it offers an insight into the author’s vision for their book.
STEP TWO: Researching Background and Central Figure Photographs for Front Cover
The next step in creating the book cover design involved searching an online stock photo library (DepositPhotos.com) for two suitable high-resolution royalty-free photographs – a background image of a small fishing boat adrift on the open sea and a central image of a masked terrorist – to purchase on Jim’s behalf.
Some of the watermarked photo options I identified during the research process as possible options are shown below:
Images of a fishing boat on open sea with sunrise or sunset background
Images of masked terrorist
STEP THREE: Editing Selected Stock Photos Using Photoshop
From the range of watermarked photo examples I provided to Jim, he selected Background image – 2 and Central figure image – 5 as his preferred options to purchase for the book cover design. With these two high-resolution photos forming the basis of the cover design, I then commissioned a Photoshop artist to edit both photographs in order to create a cohesive ‘look and feel’ for the cover of Jim’s book.
The ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of both photographs are shown below:
Original and Photoshopped version of background image for the book cover design
Original and Photoshopped version of central figure image
STEP FOUR: Putting it all Together
With the two stock images having been edited in Photoshop, it was time to put all of the graphic and text elements (including back cover blurb, tagline, author website URL and ISBN barcode) together to create the book cover design. At this point, I experimented with different font faces and colours for the title (plus subtitle if appropriate) and the author’s name on the front cover of the book so that Jim could make his final decision regarding which colour palette and font style he preferrred.
Two initial example book cover designs for The Run are shown below:
STEP FIVE: The Final Tweaks
Jim’s liked the yellow colour palette and font style of Version 1 of the book cover design examples. At this stage, all that remained for me to do was to make a few final tweaks (including capitalising the book title and changing the blurb to white text on a dark shaded textbox) to produce the final book cover design.
Below is an image of the final book cover design for The Run:
Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting back over 2015 and the different projects I’ve worked on and the authors I’ve supported to publish their book. One self publishing project I’ve been very proud to have been involved in was helping my client Cathy Burke (CEO of The Hunger Project Australia) to publish her book: Unlikely Leaders: Lessons from the Village Classroom. This moving and inspirational book – which describes the work that Cathy and others from the The Hunger Project organisation are doing to combat world poverty – has the potential to transform many people’s lives.
Throughout history, it has been through the stories that we tell each other that we shape our own lives and those of our friends, families and communities around us. I firmly believe that inspirational books can act as a powerful vehicle for change within society – providing inspiration, clarifying problems and challenging entrenched thinking patterns. At a critical juncture in your life, the right book can offer you the courage to embark on a new venture, the reality check that you’re not yet ready to embrace change or the quiet affirmation that you’re not alone in your fears or ambitions. An inspirational book can set you on a path to happiness and a successful life.
Reasons for writing an inspirational book
1. Overcoming adversity
During our lives we may have to cope with heartbreaking challenges – the death of a loved one, chronic illness, unemployment or financial difficulties. Sharing what you did to overcome your problems or how your positive attitude uplifted those around you during a challenging time in your life can have a powerful influence on your audience.
2. Personal development
Whether it took you months or a lifetime, we’ve all encountered a powerful learning experience we think might be helpful for others to hear about. Maybe there are things you would have done differently in hindsight or maybe you want to instil hope in others so that they can triumph in their own lives. Your wisdom can help others grow in similar situations.
3. The inspiration of a leader
Has your leadership motivated others to take action? Whatever the actual circumstances, we all have pride-worthy moments of leadership we can share with others to light their path in life.
Sharing your experiences or life story can help readers to identify how you made decisions and why; what wisdom you gained as a result of your particular challenge or journey; and what things made it possible for you to grow and change – transforming into a stronger and more mature person.
Readers want to be able to share your insights so that they have a better understanding of how they can make positive decisions and solve their problems. Even if you are a fiction author, you can write stories that demonstrate how you’ve worked at understanding challenges and give your audience information which they, in turn, can apply in their own lives. Consider your readers as your future self and aim to inspire and encourage them with your words.
My client, Lindy Hardie had a dream to create a beautiful lush garden oasis amidst the red dust of her home town, Blackall in Central Queensland. She then set about chronicling her hard work in diary format in her self published book: Beyond the Dust: a Gardening Journal. Her aim was to share her gardening knowledge and her personal experiences with her family, friends and local rural community.
Authors decide to self publish their book for many different reasons. Some have approached traditional publishing houses to get their book published and are fed up with constant rejection. Others have made the decision upfront to sidestep the judgement of traditional publishers and self publish instead. But authors all have one goal in common: a desire to get their message or story out into the world.
Five good reasons for self publishing your book
1. Traditional publishers won’t accept your manuscript for publication or if they do, they dictate the terms for all aspects of your book
Many successful authors have experienced numerous rejections from publishers before finally getting their manuscript accepted for publication. Every year, traditional publishing houses receive thousands of manuscripts from aspiring authors and will only publish a dozen or so from unknown writers. For this reason, a lot of writers are now opting to self publish their book.
By self publishing your book, you can be actively involved in the whole creative process, and because you have the final say in all decisions about editing, proofreading and book design, your book will turn out exactly the way you want it to.
2. Testing the market to find out if your book will sell
You may have dreamt of becoming a published author but felt anxious that after spending countless hours writing your book, no one will want to read it. Will your book sell successfully?
For many first-time authors, self publishing using digital printing reduces the financial risks associated with book printing. Whereas previously, the only option for self published authors who wanted to print a high-quality book was via offset printing (which usually involves a minimum order of 1,000 books), recent technological advances have meant that the standard of digital printing has dramatically improved. As a result, you can start small and test your market by opting to only print a small quantity of books (most digital printers offer short print run minimums of 100 books, but some will print just 50 books).
3. A subject area or genre that has limited market or niche audience appeal
The subject area or genre of your book may appeal to only a limited market and therefore not be of interest to a large publishing house. Nevertheless, your book may be very engaging to a niche audience and sell very successfully. In this case, digital printing or print-on-demand publishing (POD) may be the ideal option for you to get your story out to your readers.
4. Boosting your career prospects and raising your professional profile
By self publishing a book within your particular industry or field of work, you put in place the groundwork to becoming an authority within your area of expertise. Many writers are now aiming to become ‘authorpreneurs’ whereby their book becomes an essential cornerstone of their business or career. Being published author can open doors to other career opportunities including keynote speaking at conferences and business events, as well as resulting in new sales opportunities.
5. Leaving a legacy for your family or community
All of us have a unique life story to share with the world – complete with ordinary incidents, as well as moments of brilliance, tragedy and humour – that can enrich our families and our communities. Your personal history is as individual as you are, and it can be an invaluable record to hand down to your close relatives, friends and descendants. By writing down and printing your memoirs, you will have created a cherished family heirloom for generations to come.
Whatever your motivation for self publishing, you are more likely to enjoy the publishing process if you commission professional people including editors, typesetters and book cover designers to work with who share your vision for your book.