Friday, December 18, 2015

Angels - The Good and the Bad (Part 1)

by Elva Cobb Martin @elvacobbmartin

Angels played a big part in that first Christmas and actually play a big part in the entire Bible.

Do you believe in angels? 
Gabriel visits Mary

I don't mean the feminine, white satin skirted, golden-haired doll angels we use in our decorating.

Do you believe in the biblical supernatural mighty beings the Bible calls angels? Although we are not to worship angels, do you think we might benefit from understanding more about them in the critical times in which we live?

I started thinking about this subject after reading about a man, Ralph Harlow, and his wife in the Guideposts Christmas issue who reportedly saw and heard a group of angelic beings fly over their heads while the two of them walked on a woodland path. One might easily dismiss this report, except the man gave some impressive credentials: He was a sought after witness in court cases, he had an A.B. from Harvard, an M.A. from Columbia, a Ph.D from Harvard Theological Seminary.

I was reminded of my own personal experience of seeing an angel after going through a deliverance ministry with a young man oppressed by demons. That is a story for another time, but the angel I saw who came to protect me looked like the TV ad's Mr. Clean. No satin, frills or femininity at all. 

The Bible reveals two types of angels:
  • Good angels - like Gabriel and Michael
  • Bad angels - of whom Satan is chief 
Part 1 - Good Angels

Some have typed good angels by their activities in the Bible: messenger angels, ministering angels and warrior angels.

1) Messenger Angels

The word angel literally means messenger.

Gabriel appeared to Daniel, Zacharias and Mary with messages from God. He is possibly the same one who appeared to Joseph. 

The most glorious angelic message of the NT was spoken to the two Marys who came early to the tomb: He is not here, for He has risen.
At the rapture all believers will hear the voice of an archangel with the trumpet of God.

2) Ministering/Protecting Angels

Several texts refer to these angels:

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? NKJV

Psalm 34:7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. NKJV

Jacob saw a ladder of these angels coming to and going from earth.
One of these beings went before Israel to lead them to the Promised Land.
Daniel and Elijah were strengthened by the touch of an angel
An angel shut the mouths of lions for Daniel's protection.
These type angels knocked chains off Peter and Paul and opened prison doors.
In Hebrews 12:1 we are told we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on and I believe this includes angels, Bible heroes and our departed loved ones in heaven.

The Bible tells us a way we can activate these helpful angels. 

Psalm 103:20
Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

When you pray and speak the Word of God and God's promises, you can activate angels to go to work. I also believe you can fight against your angelic assistance by speaking doubt, fear and unbelief. Or by getting into anger, strife or disobedience. Check out Ecclesiastes 5:6

3) Warrior Angels

Who can ever doubt the tremendous power of God's warrior angels when we read texts like in 2 Kings 19:35?

35 And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses — all dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, NKJV

Warrior angels are also God's sword-wielding avengers like the angel David saw at the threshing floor of Ornan after David wrongfully numbered Israel.

In Daniel 10 Israel's guardian/warrior angel, Michael, came to aid Gabriel in Babylon battling the demon Prince of Persia.We'll talk in Part 2 about demon angels Satan has assigned to all pagan nations.
An artist rendering of Michael, Israel's guardian angel.

In Revelation 20:1-3 A single warrior angel lays hold on Satan, chains him and casts him into the bottomless pit.

Evil may seem dominant but God's Word and His Church will prevail.

Isn't it exciting to know we STILL have angelic assistance in the earth today?

I love the message the angels gave to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago. It's a great one to meditate on this Christmas season:  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men."

Do you have an angel story? Please share it. And don't miss Part 2 of this series as we blog about bad or evil angels and how we can discern their activities and gain victory over anything they might attempt to do against us.

Merry Christmas,
Elva Martin

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Carolinian Brought Us the Poinsettia

by Elva Cobb Martin

Did you know the man who brought the poinsettia to America was a Secretary of War under President Van Buren, an ambassador to Mexico, and a South Carolina doctor?

He was also an enthusiastic gardener.

During his service as ambassador to Mexico, he often marveled at the beautiful wild plant that mantled the Mexican hillsides and gardens with flame and scarlet hues.

When he returned home to South Carolina, he brought the plant with him. The transplantation was successful,and soon neighbors were asking him for shoots.  Since the brilliant vermilion coloring reached the height of its glory at Christmas, it was soon combined with smilax and other greens to enrich the holiday festivities.

The custom spread and today it is as popular a symbol of Christmas as holly and mistletoe.

A little known fact about the poinsettia is that the vermilion rosettes of the top are leaves not flower petals. The actual "flower" is the small cup of green segments tipped with yellow and red surrounded by the scarlet whorl of leaves.
The actual "flower" of the poinsettia.

Forgotten now is the Carolina garden where the poinsettia first grew in America. Forgotten, too, is the statesman and botanist who brought us this touch of wild beauty from Mexico. But, though most us do it unknowingly, we do honor the man--for the poinsettia plant was named for him--Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett.

Hope you enjoyed this Christmas trivia. It's great to remember those who've blessed us in various ways during this holy season. Do you have a Christmas blessing or story to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to share this blog on your social media.

Merry, Blessed Christmas to you and yours is my prayer,
Elva Cobb Martin

Monday, November 30, 2015

Downton Abbey's Success Model

By Elva Cobb Martin

Who hasn't enjoyed five seasons of Downton and isn't deliciously awaiting Season Six and the series finale? I certainly am. If we had the new streaming type TV (which is on my Santa wish list) I could ALREADY be enjoying the last of this great series. It has already shown in England.

Today I listened to a Downton Special to get America ready for the finale coming in January on PBS. I made some notes from the remarks of the producer, Gareth Neame, and the writer of the series, Julian Fellowes, that I think you are going to LOVE. I believe they shared major SECRETS of the success of this series that can work for our novels, too!

Julian Fellowes: The spice of the series is love. There's not doubt about that.  All the characters are given an opportunity to feel love, to turn love down, to love the wrong person, to make a mess of it, to make a good thing of it. But, I think, on the whole, love is a very key ingredient to all our lies, even if or because we haven't got any.

How's that for a plot outline for your romance characters?
Downton Writer Julian Fellowes and Producer Gareth Neame

Gareth Neame: This show is about a time when relationships are much more straightforward. There's no strange texting going on. I think audiences have loved the simplicity of the relationships. The fact that they are not really about sexual love, but romantic love, and deeply unfashionable for TV producers to be doing--and yet it seems to be a formula that is working around the world.

Don't you love that statement?  Gives new impetus to our writing of inspirational novels versus various shades of gray!

"Lord Grantham" who was the spokesman for the special, had some great stuff to say about love. He said: Love is all around Downton Abbey. Upstairs and downstairs. There's the seasoned love of Robert and Cora.
The scandalous and passionate love of Lady Sybil and Branson.
The long-simmering love of the butler Carson and the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes.
 But perhaps the truest, noblest love at Downton is Anna's for Mr. Bates. But their quest for simple love and happiness is plagued by misfortune.

Julian Fellowes on Anna and Mr. Bates:
By creating a happy, contented couple but where there is always a grenade with its pin half out in the pocket of one of them--you don't ever have to search for the tension you need.

He's got that right!

Producer Gareth Neame on Anna and Mr. Bates:
Unlike the other love relationships which are plagued with difficulties, what Anna and Bates have is this extraordinary relationship of the heart, this incredible bond. They are the couple that all of us know somewhere in our lives, that have this amazing partnership and it's the only way they can deal with all the hurdles that are put in front of them.

Don't you love this guy's thoughts? No wonder he is the producer of an award-winning series like Downton.

I will close with a description of the butler Carson and his pursuit of love from Producer Gareth.  "He (Carson) moves slowly like the speed of a glacier."

Have you watched Downton Abbey?  Please share your thoughts and any gleanings you've found that can help us write winning stories.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Guest Blog: 10 Ways to Jump-start Your Writing


10 Ways to Jump-start Your Writing

by +AneMulligan  @AneMulligan   Guest blogger from Novel Rocket!

10. If the seat in which you park your behind is a good one, you'll park it more often. A while ago, someone told me about her office chair. It has an exercise ball in it. It's actually part of the chair. If you use an exercise ball to sit on but are balance-challenged, this is for you. Then, you can be to be a balanced writer.

9. Have your muse readily available...capture it in a jar. If James Scott Bell can keep "the boys in the basement," I can keep my muse is a jar. In fact, my critique partner Jessica Dotta made it for me. It's amusing to look at (yes, the pun was intended) and will remind me to start creating.

8. Keep chocolate handy. Okay, it's not that new of an idea, but my new take on it works. Allow yourself one M&M for every forty words written. That way you get twenty-five M&Ms for every 1000 words. It's not enough to get fat, unless you're like Karen Kingsbury, who writes 10,000 words a day.

7. Start the week off right with a clean desk. I try to pretend I'm neat. I like to be neat. I write better with a clean desk. But at night, while I'm asleep, the dust bunnies come out to play. They leave an awful mess, stacks of books, notes and scraps of paper, empty M&Ms bags. There's nothing I can do. They're an endangered species.

6. Stacks of colorful sticky notes help keep you organized. I attended my local ACFW chapter meeting (go ACFW North Georgia!), where an author told us about her method of editing. It involved different colors, sizes, and shapes of sticky notes. It worked for her, so I figured it would for me, too. The next day, I hurried to the store and $90 later came home with a bag full of every color and size imaginable. The next day I tried it. I discovered this method of editing doesn't work for me, but I'm good for sticky notes for the next five years.

5. Hang inspirational pictures & sayings around your desk for those times when you are not creative. Am I the only one who stares blankly at a screen for eons? I thought my brain had turned to grits. So I hung pictures of my characters, quotations in a pretty frame, anything to fire those synapses in my head.

4. Writers' accoutrements. I have a clock, made by one of my writer friends, Linda Rorbaugh. It makes me smile and reminds me that tossing and retrieving are all part of the process of writing. But at nine o'clock there's the submit part that leads to publishing. However, last year, I made it to 12 o'clock. That's PUBLISH!

3. A getaway, no matter how small, is good for writers. It tricks you into thinking you're like Steinbeck or Hemingway. Okay, maybe not, but Starbucks does not have a telephone that rings for you. Nor does it have washing machines or vacuum cleaners that know your name. So, do yourself a favor and break the dull routine you've gotten into.

2. Hang a laminated "Do not disturb ~ writer working" doorknob sign for the office door. Oh, and be sure you shut the door and hang it on the outside. I got a really nice one from My Book Therapy. Of course, it didn't come with a guarantee that the hubs wouldn't open the door and ask if I'm busy. And our mastiffs, Shadrach and Oliver, can't read, so they woof outside until I can't ignore them a minute longer. They have a doggy door a linebacker could fit through, but no, they want personal service. Maybe I should write a manual for authors: How to Train Husbands, Children, and Dogs. Hmm, I could make a fortune...if it worked. Somehow I have my doubts, though. Which leads to... 

1. Turn a blind eye to dust and clutter. Remember #7? Dust bunnies are an endangered species, so do your part. Give them undisturbed breeding grounds (they breed best amidst clutter). That frees you up to write. It all makes sense if you look at it the right way. 

HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS GUEST BLOG BY ANE MULLIGAN ON NOVEL ROCKET! How to you jump start your writing when it lags? Please do leave a comment and share this good blog on your social media.

Thanksgiving Blessings to you and yours,
Elva Cobb Martin

Blackbeard's Anniversary

by Elva Cobb Martin

I blogged on Blackbeard a couple of years ago and thought you might like this shared again as we approach the anniversary of Blackbeard's capture and death on November 22. This was part of my research for my pirate novel, In a Pirate's Debt, for which I am seeking representation.  The below was actually published as an article and a later reprint.
                                           Blackbeard's Flag 

Pirates - Part 2  Blackbeard

To review, in the first part we shared that piracy had their greatest days in our Atlantic waters in the 1600-1700’s. Many governments at the time supported piracy encouraging it as a cheap way to get expensive goods into their country, especially from their enemies. England and others issued “letters of marque” which gave their own “privateers” as they called these type captains, permission to attack and plunder ships of their enemies.

But piracy became so prevalent at times that honest sea trade almost ground to a halt. Then governments withdrew letters of marque, tracked down the pirates, and hanged them in public.

The history of Charleston, South Carolina, records such a story involving Blackbeard, one the most notorious pirates of all who roamed the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean.

In May of 1718, Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, sailed into Charleston with his fleet of pirate ships. He blockaded the harbor, captured and plundered nine ships and took several hostages including Samuel Wragg, a member of the S.C. legislature. After interrogating the hostages about the remaining ships in the harbor—their cargoes and destinations—the victims were thrown down half-naked into the hold.

In exchange for the prisoners, Blackbeard demanded of Governor Johnson something he did not find on the plundered ships, mainly a large supply of meds used to relieve a pirate’s recurring nightmare—syphilis. Blackbeard warned that if his demands were not met, he would execute all the hostages and then raid and sack Charleston.

The legislature complied. It seemed that shame, indignation, and revenge were outranked by fear. Actually, it was wisdom that outranked the lot, with revenge simply being reserved.

Blackbeard sailed away, and he had to be gloating over the fact that not only had he taken the most valuable loot of his career, he had, as one writer put it, “reduced to total submission the proud and militant people of South Carolina without firing a single shot.”

What Blackbeard and his cohorts did not count on was that in the South, revenge rides hard on the heels of humiliation.

Once the pirate squadron sailed out of Charleston Harbor and Samuel Wragg and the other hostages had replaced their clothing, if not their dignity, white-hot Southern dander rose to the surface in the Charleston waters.

It was just the stimulus needed for the difficult task of subduing a hitherto fashionable vice.
History records the results.

The courts of Charleston, in November of that same year, tried, convicted and caused to be hanged in the period of one month a total of 49 pirates.

The pride of South Carolina was certainly restored in great measure by these successes against piracy. Blackbeard, however, was not among those executed in Charleston.

He died on November 22, 1718, at the hand of Lt. Robert Maynard. Maynard and his crew, sent by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood of Virginia, challenged Blackbeard near his Ocracoke, North Carolina, hideout. After being wounded an astounding 25 times, 20 cutlass wounds and five gunshot wounds, Blackbeard succumbed.
Lt. Maynard battles Blackbeard

Maynard reportedly chopped off Blackbeard’s head and attached it to his mast to sail home. Legend has it that when they threw the body over board, it swam around the boat seven times before sinking.

So goes the story of Blackbeard.

In England the last pirate of this era was strung up in 1840, and in America the last one was hung in 1862.

What is your favorite pirate tale? Why do you think pirates, who for the most part were a dastardly group, still tantalize new generations?

Please join the conversation and share this on Twitter and Facebook by clicking the small buttons below.
Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sailing with Pirates

by Elva Cobb Martin

Note: I wrote this blog a couple of years ago and it is shared again as we approach the November anniversary of the capture and death of that most famous of all pirates, Blackbeard.

How do you like my current pirate hero, photo of actor Gerard Butler? Of course, in my wip he is Captain Lucas "Bloodstone" Barrett and we are having a load of fun getting him and my heroine Travea together for a happy ending!

Pirates – Part 1

In our Atlantic waters pirates had their greatest days in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Piracy was often a form of freedom for the outcasts of society, as well as attractive to some second and third sons of nobles who saw it as a way to gain the wealth they didn’t gain from birth order. 

Of course, pirates have been around a lot longer than this time period and modern pirates still operate in many parts of the world today. 

Caribbean pirate ships didn’t roam around 
hoping to chance upon a victim; they were smarter. They patrolled known shipping routes, especially Spanish treasure routes from the Incas to Spain. During much of this time, many governments (particularly England) supported piracy, encouraging it as a cheap way to get expensive goods into their country. 

England and other governments issued “letters of marque” which gave their own “privateers” as they called these type captains, permission to attack and plunder ships of their country’s enemies. 

Piracy became so prevalent at times that honest sea-faring trade almost ground to a halt. Then the governments would begin working against the pirates. They withdrew letters of marque, tracked down the pirates, and hanged them in public. 

An amazing story of this kind is emblazoned in the history of Charleston, South Carolina, my home state and my favorite city.

In May of that year, the notorious pirate Blackbeard blockaded Charles Town Harbor with his large pirate fleet, captured and plundered nine ships of much gold and silver, and took all the passengers captive including a member of the Charleston legislature, Samuel Wragg.

In a message to South Carolina Gov. Robert Johnson, Blackbeard demanded a large supply of medicine in exchange for his captives. The meds, which Blackbeard did not find on the ships he plundered, were needed to relieve a pirate’s recurring nightmare, syphilis. 

The Charles Town leaders capitulated and sent the meds. The captives were released and Blackbeard and his fleet sailed off to Ocracoke, North Carolina, in the gayest of pirate spirits. 
However, there’s another amazing footnote to this story.

When the South Carolina leaders gave in to Blackbeard’s demands, it seemed that feelings of shame, indignation, and revenge were outranked by fear. Actually, knowing Southerners like I do, since my family has lived here for many generations, and what history has now recorded of this incident; it was wisdom that outranked the lot with revenge simply being reserved.

In the next part I will share, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of this story.”

Do you like to read about pirates? Join the conversation and please share on Twitter and Facebook if you have a moment.

Elva Cobb Martin

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3 Incredibly Useful Ways to use Pacing in Dialogue

Guest Blog  by Anthony Ehlers

Pacing in dialogue is like fuel-injection for your writing. Have you ever noticed how you start reading quicker when you get to dialogue in a story?  It’s a great way of showing and not telling — and allows your characters to ‘act’ out a scene.

Here are three ways you can use pacing in dialogue:

① Tighten it

  1. ‘Will you please quit hassling me?’ Tim asked in exasperation.
  2. ‘Quit hasslin’ me!’  Tim snapped.
The pace is better in the second example. We use half the words of the first. The missing ‘g’ and exclamation point add vigour. And ‘snapped’ implies exasperation.

② Give it rhythm
  1. ‘I know the husband is responsible for the murder!’
  2. ‘You see, I know, I know who did it, Inspector. It’s the husband. It’s always the husband, isn’t it?’
The first example is shorter, yes, but it’s also bland. The second shows the cadence and excitement of the speaker. The repetition, italics, and rhetorical question add to the rhythm.

③ Know your genre
  1. ‘If we leave now, it’s only a two-hour trip to the barn where the body was found,’ Mary said. ‘We probably won’t find any new clues, but someone may have seen something.’
  2. ‘Get Alpha team on standby!’ Hawkins hissed. ‘Suicide bomber. 12 o’clock. Hotel roof.’
Both examples could be from suspense novels. Yet the first one’s leisurely pace could be from a cosy mystery. The clipped pace of the second example means it could be from a military thriller.
What ways do you use pace in your dialogue?

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Guest Post How to Market a New Release


Misty Beller has broken records selling as many as 10,000 books a month of her first book. She is a member of our ACFW-SC Chapter and we are so proud of her. Here are her secrets summarized.-Elva Cobb Martin, Pres. ACFW-SC Chapter

How to Market a New Release

By Misty M Beller @MistyMBeller

One of the questions I receive most often is from authors is, 
"How do I promote my new book?" 

Whether it be your debut release or book #5 (or #105) 
marketing a new release can often be daunting. 

But it doesn't have to be!

Through the months of June, July, and August, I shared all
 the different marketing options available to authors. And there 
are a lot of opportunities! But the list can be intimidating, so 
let me break it down into critical steps for a new release. 

This list is accurate for either indie or traditionally published books
 (although indie authors certainly have a few more steps related to                                  book production). 

Let's get started!

  1. Make sure your book is posted on your website, Goodreads, your Amazon Author Central page, and all your social media profiles. In other words, if people are looking for info about the book, make sure they can find it!
  2. Choose whether you want to do a blog tour. If yes,                                           get started and enjoy the ride! For more info on the steps                                           and best practices, see this post
  3. Line up your influencers and early reviewers.                                                       One of the most helpful tools to gain traction with book                                                sales, is to help your book garner reviews early. I've                                                  shared a lot of strategies to gain reviews here.
  4. Share the new release to your newsletter list, blog and                                                 

    social media channels. 
    In other words, get the word out to                                    your people! Get excited and your enthusiasm will be infectious!
  5. Schedule paid advertising. This is the step many authors                                       try to skip,but I've very rarely seen a book take off without some                        amount of paid advertising. There are so many choices out there,                              it's easy to waste money. My go-to sites are                                                  and Facebook Ads. (You may remember,                                I shared the Facebook ad process in detail here.

So that's it! Not so hard, is it? 

After you've accomplished these five, you can step back and send 
up a prayer of thanksgiving. Then assess whether you're happy with                                   the book's sales (and rankings) and develop your marketing strategy 
moving forward. 

Now it's your turn! Do you see a critical step I've missed? 
Anything additional on your book release task list? Let's hear
 your thoughts!

Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance, 
and is author of the bestselling novels The Lady                     and the Mountain Man and The Lady and the                  Mountain Doctor.

Misty was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her
 Southern roots run deep. About eleven years ago, 
she made a career change from farm life into                             the business world, where she worked as a                                Senior Manager and Director of Process &                                                                           Training. She's now loving the life 
                                             of a full-time writer, wife, and mother.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Guest Post 12 Questions to Ask a Book Cover Designer

12 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Book Cover Designer

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Book Cover DesignerYour book’s cover provides a reader with a first impression of your work, and despite all advice to the contrary, people will judge your book by its cover. Our testing has shown that a cover alone can account for a 30% difference in clicks on a BookBub listing, and other sources have reported similar results.
Since your cover design is such a huge factor in a book’s success, it’s worth the cost to hire a seasoned professional to create or redesign the cover. While you might have an ambitious do-it-yourself or in-house approach, a polished cover from a professional designer can make a book much more appealing to readers scrolling through retailer sites or BookBub’s daily deals email.
Before you commit to a cover designer, you should know what questions to ask him or her first. With so much at stake, you want to be sure you’re hiring the right person for the job! Remember, not every designer works the same way, but it’s important to find someone whose expertise and working style best fit you and your books. Here are some questions both independent authors and publishers should ask a potential cover designer and why they matter:

1. What covers have you designed in my genre?

It’s important to get a sense of the designer’s track record in your specific sub-genre. Once you’veidentified a target market for your book, you may want to hire a cover designer who has experience with that genre. This way, they’ll know what styles are trending and perform well, what tone readers expect, and what images and fonts resonate best with your audience.
If they don’t have experience in your sub-genre, they should be willing to do research and become familiar with trending tropes in your genre so they know how to convey your book’s premise and make your book stand out. So make sure they have a thorough process for researching and brainstorming concept art before getting too far into the design work.

2. What is your process for developing a concept for a design?

Get an idea for your potential designer’s approach to brainstorming concepts for their cover designs. Here are some ways they might dive into the research process:
  • Consider your creative brief. Whether you provide a written creative brief or discuss your requirements over the phone, be sure they take your ideas and suggestions seriously. While they are the design experts and will likely have other ideas in mind, you’re most familiar with the content of your book, so they should at least be willing to listen to what you have in mind.
  • Research your genre. How do they research what covers are successful in your genre? If they take a thorough approach, they should look through retailer site sub-genres and see what covers are selling well in your area. For example, if you write dystopian science fiction and they only suggest browsing through other sci-fi covers to see what’s trending, you might want to dig deeper here and make sure they know to look at dystopian sci-fi covers specifically.
  • Access image libraries. An experienced designer should have access to image libraries such as Shutterstock, Getty Images, or iStockPhoto. This will give them a wide selection of images to get inspiration from or choose from if they’re not doing custom photography or artwork for your cover.

3. Are you available to create custom images for which I’d have sole rights?

Choosing from image libraries is a cost-effective way to get a high-quality image for your cover, but it means you wouldn’t have sole rights to that image. While rare, it’s possible to find the same image used on other books or marketing collateral out there. If this isn’t something you want to risk, you may want to commission your designer for a photoshoot or to create custom artwork for you. Keep in mind that this can significantly increase the price of your cover design. Also, not all cover designers offer these services, so if it’s important to you, you should discuss this up front.

4. Can I see your complete portfolio?

This question might seem obvious, but in your enthusiasm to publish your book, you might be tempted to rush into an agreement with the first designer one of your friends refers you to. Don’t do this. Make sure you have the chance to review the designer’s work so you can see if you even like the designs they’ve created before.

5. What are your fees and payment structure?

Some cover designers list their pricing packages on their websites. Others provide custom quotes based on exact specifications.
Book Cover Design Pricing Example
Some designers require a deposit prior to beginning any research or design work to make sure you are committed and will be good for the money — they’ll be spending their valuable time working on your project, so this is to be expected, especially for more expensive designers. The deposit can be anything from 20% – 50% of the overall quote. Whatever their payment structure, be sure it’s something you’re comfortable with toward the beginning of your conversation.

6. Do you offer a no-risk money back guarantee?

Some cover designers are of such a high caliber that they’re confident enough in their work to offer a 100% money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with the final product. Not all designers offer this, but you may personally want to choose someone who does.

7. What will the design process look like?

Professional designers will have an effective process they follow for each of their clients. It may look something like this (though every designer may have a different process):
Step #1: Schedule an initial consultation call. The designer will ask about your genre, what your book is about, and get some ideas from you regarding what you hope the cover will look like. You should also discuss things like timeline and communication expectations, and make sure the designer’s working style seems like a good fit for you.
Step #2: Discuss payment. The designer will deliver a quote based on what you’ve discussed, or finalize the pricing based on the pre-defined design package you choose.
Step #3: First concept round. The designer will send you some mock-ups of what they’re thinking the cover will look like. These usually won’t be polished, since they’ll want your feedback before putting on the finishing touches. Some designers will even provide you with multiple first-concept covers, and you can choose which one you’d like them to run with.
For example, designer Simon Avery creates a range of concept covers:
Book Cover Concepts
While not every book designer does this, this is great for authors who are interested in A/B testing different cover designs or asking their existing audience which design they prefer before the designer moves forward with the final design.
Step #4: Final concept round. The designer will send you a final version of the front cover, back cover, spine, and any other elements you discussed in your consulting call. Some designers also offer a final fine-tuning round to make sure you’re happy with the final cover.
Since you’re paying for your cover design, you should be happy with the final result. While it is perfectly reasonable for a designer to set a limit on the amount of rounds of revision you go through, you want to be sure your designer will be flexible in terms of accepting your feedback and working it into the revisions.

8. How will you deliver the final product?

At the very least, your cover designer should send you a high-resolution JPEG and/or PDF file of your final design — the front cover, the back cover, and the spine (unless you’re only hiring them for the ebook front cover).
But this isn’t enough for some authors. If you want to be able to make tweaks to your own cover in the future (for example, if you’re not 100% set on the title), make sure you also ask for the Photoshop or InDesign file — depending on the program the designer will be using. Not all designers are comfortable providing these files, but if it’s important to you, discuss this ahead of time.

9. What is your average turnaround time?

If you have a tight deadline to stick to for sending out advanced reader copies, locking in a pre-order, or a preset publication date, you should make sure the designer you’re considering has the bandwidth to complete your project well before your own deadline.
At the same time, you want to make sure the designer puts enough time into your project to deliver high-quality output. If they’re turning around covers in a day or two, maybe they’re not putting the necessary effort into making your book stand out in its genre.

10. Will you also be available for additional projects?

If you want the design of all of your marketing elements to be consistent, make sure up front that your designer will be available for follow-up work. Some things you may want design help with in the future may include:
  • Covers for a sequel or subsequent series books
  • Box set 3D covers
  • Audiobook covers
  • Online display ads
  • Bookmarks
  • Website logos
  • Twitter header photos
  • Facebook cover photos

11. What is your communication style?

Just like if you’re working with any other publishing professional (an agent, an editor, etc.), it’s important to set your communication expectations up front. While it may not be realistic to expect anyone to respond to your email within five minutes, 48-hour response times is a reasonable request to make. You might also want your designer to be proactive in letting you know if they will be unavailable for an extended period of time, whether for vacation, a conference, etc. These are all things you should talk about up front so there aren’t panicked moments or resentment along the way.

12. Do you have any references?

Even if the designer has a testimonials page on his or her website, it’s a good idea to speak to or exchange emails with one or two of the designer’s past clients. This will give you a better idea for what to expect from the working relationship (as you can review the designer’s portfolio for yourself).
It can be well worth the additional cost of hiring a professional designer to create a custom design for your book, especially if you want your book to stand out in its genre or are trying to get your book selected for a BookBub Featured Deal. With the additional appeal it will lend to your book, the design could end up paying for itself in short order!
Do you have any cover designers you’d recommend? Give them a shout-out in the comments below!

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Diana Urban

About Diana Urban

Diana Urban is the Industry Marketing Manager at BookBub, and was previously the Head of Conversion Marketing at HubSpot. She's an expert in inbound marketing, content marketing, and lead generation. Diana is also the author of two Young Adult thrillers, and is writing her third novel. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaUrban.