Welcome to Refracted Light’s stop on the Wander Dust Blog Tour! Today we’re welcoming Michelle Warren to the blog to talk about her take on visual marketing for indie authors. By day, Michelle is a professional graphic designer. By night, a young adult author. So as far as her cover design, website design and marketing materials, she has a bit of an edge and understands the importance of marrying her words with great visuals to catch the eye of potential readers. And from my outside viewpoint, she’s done an excellent job. Long before her book hit Amazon, it was catching the attention of the book blogging world, and causing readers to stop and wonder if this book was actually self-published or being released by a publishing house.
Last month, Michelle released her debut novel, Wander Dust. It’s exciting, it’s an adventurous, it’s romantic, it’s got some really original twists to it, and the mystery is very interesting… want to know more? Keep reading…
Ever since her sixteenth birthday, strange things keep happening to Seraphina Parrish.
The Lady in Black… burns Sera’s memories.
Unexplainable Premonitions… catapult her to other cities.
The Grungy Gang… wants to kill her.
And a beautiful, mysterious boy… stalks her.
But when Sera moves to Chicago, and her aunt reveals their family connection to a centuries old, secret society, she is immediately thrust into an unbelievable fantasy world, leading her on a quest to unravel the mysteries that plague her. In the end, their meanings crash into an epic struggle of loyalty and betrayal, and she’ll be forced to choose between the boy who has stolen her heart and the thing she desires most.
Wander Dust is the breathtaking fantasy that will catapult you through a story of time, adventure, and love.
Click HERE to read my review of Wander Dust
A little more about Michelle…
[box]Michelle Warren is the author of Wander Dust, the first book in The Seraphina Parrish Trilogy. She didn’t travel the road to writer immediately. First, she spent over a decade as professional illustrator and designer. Her artistic creativity combined with her love of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy led her to write her first YA novel. Michelle loves reading and traveling to places that inspire her to create. She resides in Maryland, in a historic Baltimore row-home, with her wonderful husband.[/box]
1. So Michelle, you come from a design background, correct? Are you currently still working as a designer and what pushed you to take the leap into writing young adult fiction? Do you find that your more visual background influences the way you write?
Yes, I’m currently a full-time designer and illustrator.
Writing a novel was never in my life plan. If you had told the younger me I was going to write a book, I would have immediately laughed at you. As a child, I rarely ever read without a fight. I have dyslexia and struggled with reading all of my child and teen years. It wasn’t until after college that I discovered a love for reading.
Fast forward thirteen years and a thousand novels later, I saw an inspirational interview with an author. She mentioned that to escape her everyday world, she made up stories in her head. This idea fascinated me. I’m sure this is no breakthrough to a writer. To me, it seemed like a fun idea, a new way to release my creativity. I started playing with story ideas in my mind. Occasionally, I would sketch the scenes in a notebook. I did this for almost a year. Not long after, the recession hit my home. With the new stress, I found myself needing even more of an escape, so I started writing. When I wrote, I acted the characters out, sketched surroundings, and used photos of my previous travels as inspiration. My visual background hugely influenced the final work.
Even then, I did not consider publishing. My sister, Tabitha, read the book and loved it. She spent almost a year convincing me to publish. Publishing Indie and having control over my own image was a comfortable option.
2. When creating the cover for Wander Dust and your overall look, what objectives did you have in mind? What were you trying to communicate through the imagery? Did you go through several different drafts, or is the cover we see pretty much your original concept?
I played with the cover for a while, but my first few drafts just weren’t quite right. After some thought, I decided I needed to visually blur the lines between a traditionally published novel and an Indie published novel. I wanted the consumer to look at my cover and not realize it was Indie. I scrapped my original ideas and went on the search for new art. I studied what was currently popular in YA novels. I found a photo of a model running through the field. This was perfect because it represents a scene in the book. I collaged other imagery with it, including the city and sparkles. What girl doesn’t like sparkles? In the end, I made sure the cover looked like a traditionally published book.
3. I know in business that it’s important to create a consistent brand for your service or product. Do you feel this concept carries over into the realm of authorship? Why should authors even be concerned about branding? And what should authors be mindful of when creating their brand?
You definitely need to brand your novel. It’s a product. Products need branding to maintain consistency in the eyes of the consumer. Your twitter page, your website, every advertisement, and piece of collateral need to have a cohesive look. Authors should consider the title of the book their logo. Your logo should be on everything. The colors on your book cover are your color scheme. Carry these throughout your marketing.
4. I know that for a lot of Indie and self-pubbed authors that money can be an issue since usually they are fronting all the cost themselves, but yet they might not have the skills or the eye to create their own visual materials. Do you have any recommendations for authors on a budget for cover and/or web design? Advice for DYI-ers?
You can save money and time by purchasing a website template. With these sites, you can insert your own color scheme, logo, and easily drop in a background that matches your cover. Remember to make use of social networking. It’s free and extremely powerful.
5. If there was one thing that would be worth saving your pennies for, in regard to hiring a professional designer, what would that one thing be?
Spend your money on the book cover. Make sure you take the time to compare the finished design to traditionally published pieces. Does it blend? The one mistake I often see with DIY covers is not the art but the text. I can spot Indie covers a mile away when the name of the book or the name of the author sit too close to the edges of the book, uses out-of-date fonts, or fonts that are too trendy.
6. The Indie/self-pubbed movement can have a negative stigma for some readers. Do you feel your commitment to visual quality has had an effect on how people respond to you as a self-published author and your book? What kind of responses — from readers, bloggers and perhaps even industry professionals — have you gotten toward your visual marketing campaign?
First impressions are everything. A smart marketing campaign can make even the toughest critics give your product a second look. Ultimately they will have to love the story to give you a nice rating, but you have to persuade them to open the book first.
I’ve had wonderful comments from readers and authors on the cover, book trailer, and overall marketing. I receive many emails asking for advice. On top of that, I know industry peeps are taking an extra look at my novel. I’ve had a few well-known authors “like/follow” my FB and Twitter pages.
Find Michelle and Wander Dust on the web…
And here’s your next scavenger hunt piece…
And check back tomorrow for the chance to win a fabulous Wander Dust prize pack…