My book about two questionable cats

Thought I’d share with you a little project I’ve created.

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I’m working on a book about my two cats. Yep, a crazy idea… I know. It’s a personal project I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Not a cat book though.

Somehow it became what it is now. I’ll be sharing a page or two every week, and I’d love to know what you think. Any tips, advice, insults or just a plain ‘Hi, keep at it!’, would be most appreciated. Working on a book from this perspective is unfamiliar to me. Usually I’m the one putting together things like this – not creating it. I don’t know exactly where it is going yet, or where this will end up. All I know – right now – is that I need to get this out my system – ever felt like that? And show it to the world (scary as that may be), finish it and start the next project.

I hope to see you visiting The Tail of Tales blog or facebook pg too 😉

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‘ Your No’s are never really no. They really saying ‘No, not right now, or No, I don’t know what you talking about. Investigate your No’s. ‘

A brilliant and honest talk about creative ways to be an entrepreneur and how to bring your vision to life.

It’s the question that drives us

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Ever felt like there’s more to this world than what we see on the surface? For some reason I keep coming back to this scenario…

The Matrix. Here’s a short description of the movie from Wikipedia.

“The Matrix depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Computer programmer “Neo” learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the “dream world”.”       

 

I recently attended a Business Growth Workshop run by a large organisation. It was a free event. They had young people in training dressed as ‘agents’. All in stiff suits. Faceless faces with stuck on smiles. Were they out to intimidate or inspire? Hard to tell the difference. Nonetheless, there are a few good things I’d like to share with you on what I learnt from this workshop.

I learnt:

  • work ON your business, not IN it
  • STOP trying to make money, instead START building structures to make money
  • where I spent my TIME mattered
  • spend money on things that teach or build you up
  • good branding = influence = people willing to pay more
  • stop focusing on things that don’t matter
  • stop getting advice from the WRONG people, but rather from those you know can grow you
  • sometimes the people you learn from don’t always look the part
  • innovation is important
  • a skill can be taught
  • build good client relationships
  • do strategic thinking on your business at least once a week
  • ACTION a new idea everyday
  • always do more than you think you can
  • HARD WORK doesn’t pay off if you working on the wrong thing
  • sell the VISION of your business – not the dream
  • learn how to speak or present publicly

So this is great, right? I walked away with actionable things to improve.

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As great as this was, there were bad things too. It’s hard to SEE the bad when the good is looking so… well… good. It’s only when you dissect the good and dig deeper (coz that’s what freelancers have time to do), will you see the real intentions that lie beneath these businesses. I like to call them the ‘bulldozers’ of the business world. They like to call it ‘making money while you sleep’… the big trend these days.

There’s only two ways you make money while you sleep – someone once told me – you either steal it or you lie.

 

The bad things I learnt from this workshop:

  • intentional congruence (apparently they say you can’t Google this)
  • you can’t rely on your own instincts to build your business
  • don’t run your business with a job mentality
  • you will become whom you hang out with… ‘your network is your nett worth’
  • ‘If you want to be rich then hang out with RICH people’. How? Stalk them. (yeah right)
  • make your business a profit-making MACHINE
  • start being UNCOMFORTABLE with being comfortable
  • to make a profit you need to change your product and your marketing
  • see trends and take advantage of it
  • wanna be great? Then hang out with great people!
  • Tease. Please. Seize! (huh?)
  • its okay to borrow money to grow your business as long as you make a profit – long term thinking
  • you make your money when you BUY! (again, long term thinking)
  • CREDIT is better

 

This all still sounds kinda good, right? It makes sense. Many large corporations use this type of marketing where they focus their brand campaigns toward a common goal. Find the weak point of the audience, and use that knowledge to offer their business as the solution to a bigger and better business. Emphasis on BIGGER.

When I first wrote this post, it was in anger and disappointment. I rewrote it, and rewrote it some more until the anger was gone. Then I realised all business people need to market, brand and sell their services. Your survival depends a lot on this. The difference though is in HOW you go about doing this.

I’ve attended my fair share of business and creative workshops, seminars and talks. I see these events as opportunities to learn and network. Then give back what I’ve learnt in my blog posts.

Sadly, there’s not much that is completely new. Something we don’t already know about ourselves. Still, I really enjoy attending these events, watching people present on stage, taking precious time to prepare their ideas for the audience. I have a deep respect for speakers like that.

Except for the ‘bulldozers’. The one’s who sit back and openly brag about how much money they make while openly contradicting themselves. I heard things like ‘wanna be great? Then hang out with great people’ or ‘if you want to be rich then hang out with rich people’. Or my ‘favourite’… ‘Go big or go home’.

So I went home that day. I left the event a whole 10 minutes before it ended. Ohh! That really showed them! But, I didn’t return the second day. Even after I had committed myself to it. Even after they made a huge deal about commitment.

The thing about commitment is that it can only be done in trust and in honesty. The commitment itself needs to be true and transparent. So the problem with their commitment policy was that it wasn’t trustworthy, nor honest. I did not commit to one-long-sales-pitch! That annoyed me.

Business is not just about making profit. Maybe that mentality will be to the detriment of my business, but… it’s the human connection I intend to keep alive. If my business has to change WHO I am and trick people into buying into it, then it’s not worth keeping alive. There’s no value in that.

Ethics, values, and kick-ass skill, are things which should be in every authentic business. Not selfies with the Richard Branson or Donald Trump’s of the world.

Oddly enough these ‘bulldozers’ were spot on about a lot of things. They tapped into every human emotion on almost every level possible. Making sure they convinced someone – anyone! – into believing what they were saying. As they themselves say, ‘people buy on emotion, and they make their decision on logic’.

Of course there’s the possibility that I could be reading too much into this. I could be wrong.

I admit. I participated in their circus of applause. I laughed along, and I raised my hand in a YES! to almost everything they asked… almost convincing me until…

… they started selling their service. Little did I know they were doing this all along. And it’s not the selling that annoyed me. It’s the way they went about it.

By the way, they also warn you about people like me… the one’s who talk bad about ‘successful’ people. They say, ‘people don’t like to see others succeed’. And you know what – that’s true! I don’t want to see more bulldozer businesses around 😉

The only thing in this world that will bring you success and money is honesty, authenticity, and YOU!

You may partner up with others or collaborate to achieve this, but only you know how, with whom, and when this will happen. Trust your gut.

Which reminds me of another thing they say… ’don’t think – just do it now!’ That was right before they presented their services ranging from $10 000 and up.

We all know what’s good for us. Some are happy being the bulldozers. Others are happy being the saviours. You decide which one you fall under – are you the destroyer or the saviour in your business world?

I’m grateful for attending an event I wouldn’t normally attend. It gave me perspective. It made me question other businesses as well as my own. It inspired me to write this post.

Sometimes asking the right questions is far more important than the answers we arrive at. ‘It’s the question that drives us’ …

 

 

 

COVER DESIGN TIPS Part 4 of 4: Procrastination and chitter chatter

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I’ve been procrastinating on this last post for cover design tips and what I’ve learnt in publishing.

Originally I was suppose to write about the client brief and deadlines. Then I realised that I’ve already spoken about ‘briefing a designer’… Hmmm, a recap and detour is needed!

But as far as deadlines are concerned, there’s nothing much you can say about them except that they are there for a reason, and they will be here to stay no matter what industry you’re in. The sooner you start seeing it as your friend – rather than your enemy – the less you’ll despise it. There’s two reasons why someone hate deadlines: 1) they miss them all the time, and 2) they not being set realistically. Other ailments are bad communication and bad management. These are factors that make deadlines seem like a black hole and unreachable. Set reachable and more frequent deadlines.

Why I found this last post on what I’ve learnt in publishing hard is quite simple actually. Everyone appreciates the truth, right? And the truth is I’m afraid to end this phase of my design blog posts because what I’ve learnt in publishing is what I know today. And since I’ve written about that already… what happens next?

What’s next will be what I’m learning and discovering now. I’ll be doing my very best to teach you what I know and what I’m learning, new people I’ve come across, interviews with other book designers, new learnings in book design, and business events I’ve attended. I’ll share with you my learnings and views of these events to help fuel the work and life we lead.

Something I’ve been facing particularly this week is that freelancing is not easy. Duh! We all know this and people warn you about this. But neither is working for a boss. What’s difficult is how we view our work. Our skill. Our belief in ourselves is what will make or break us. People will throw their opinions at you whether you want it or not. You need to ignore what’s poisonous or absorb what’s good for you.

I’m grateful for this post. This post is a retrospective. A lesson I’ve learnt while working with agile methodologies..

 

So here’s a quick recap of all the posts I’ve written on things I’ve learnt in traditional publishing:

Intro to what I’ve learnt in traditonal publishing

The spec handover

The book grid

The spec design

Typefaces and fonts

Thoughts and tips on feedback, criticism, typesetting and the book plan

The book cover

Cover artwork

Cover design tips: Part 1 of 4

Cover design tips: Part 2 of 4 – Typography

Cover design tips: Part 3 of 4 – Colour

 

Hope you enjoyed and learnt something from these posts. Even if it was just one thing.

But as all good things, sometimes they need to end so that you are forced to start afresh. I plan to do just that with my next posts.

Stay curious. Stay tuned.

 

COVER DESIGN TIPS: Colour Part 3 of 4

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Leonardo da Vinci knew how to use colour. He knew how it worked in relation to object, light and surroundings. He made a point of understanding it. Take a look at how colour gradually developed in his work along with some explanations of colour within his paintings  http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/vinci.html

 

“Colour is probably the most powerful non-verbal form of communication we can use as designers. Our minds are programmed to respond to colour. The subliminal messages we get from colour shape our thoughts. As humans our very survival is hung on the identification of colour. We stop our cars for red lights and go on green, we look at the colour of certain plants and animals to determine whether or not they are safe for us to eat or touch, the bottom line is that colour is a very important part of our daily lives. It’s important for us as designers to use colour appropriately and understand the meaning behind the colours we choose.”
Erik Peterson

 

I love colour. Life would be rather dull without it. Just think of how television and movies started. In black and white. Perhaps life was simpler without colour – even if it seemed duller.

This post is based on many resources I use and found while writing this post. It’s a little here and a little there. A bit like colour – it’s everywhere.

Just as typefaces, colour has the ability to change a cover dramatically. As every other element on a cover, colour plays a unique and vital role. The art in book cover design is creating a balance between all the different elements from typeface, colour, negative space, mood, and genre to telling the story at a single, split second glance. First get the basic structure right as a black and white piece before you start applying colour.

Try Googling ‘colour psychology’. There are loads of websites on this topic. Such as Red is seen as vibrant, one of the warmer colours, also portraying excitement and power. Take a look at MacDonald’s, RedBull and Coca-Cola. If you look into the history behind their branding you may see why they use the colour red. It’s no accident and it wasn’t just because it looked ‘nice’. So make informed decisions about the message you’d like to send out. Be intentional. Be informed.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.57.07 PMA handy resource to have when working with colour is ADOBE KULER. An excellent resource and place to get your colour inspiration from.

 

Color Wheel - comp_Page_1This colour wheel above I found from Art projects for kids website. What better way to explain something than explaining it to a child! The colour wheel is the foundation of how colour works; how colour is formed; which colours work best together; and which don’t.

And then for a bit of colour theory for those who need a refresher 🙂

PRIMARY COLOURS: RED • YELLOW • BLUE  These are colours that cannot be created through the mixing of other colours. They are colours in their own right.

SECONDARY COLOURS: primary colours can be mixed together to produce Secondary Colours.

TERTIARY COLOURS: is a colour made by mixing either one primary colour with one secondary colour, or two secondary colours.

 

Please feel free to share any other resources in the comments below. There are so many facts and resources on colour that it’s almost impossible to cover in a single post. Perhaps it needs a follow up. Perhaps in the future.

My last post on COVER DESIGN TIPS will follow soon.

Stay tuned. Stay curious 😉

 

COVER DESIGN TIPS: Typography Part 2 of 4

The best way to talk about typography is not to talk about it 😉 This post is mostly filled with videos on what I’d like to share with you on the subject. When it comes to typography, I’m always learning, looking at, and unlearning things about typography. A strange, but sometimes necessary thing to do.


 

Ever heard of Kinetic Typography?

From Wikipedia: Kinetic typography—the technical name for “moving text”—is an animation technique mixing motion and text to express ideas using video animation. This text is presented over time in a manner intended to convey or evoke a particular idea or emotion.

 

Typography can make or break a design. It has the power to transform the look ‘n feel of a book cover.

Here are a few examples of the same design – but using different typefaces.

[No imagery used intentionally because I want you to focus on the typeface itself.]

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Although very subtle, each cover carries a different feel.

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Here are a few websites you may want to bookmark…

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FONT SQUIRREL

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For designers, buying font sets is an expensive route, but worth looking into as an investment, rather than money spent. It can be hard to save those pennies! but try to think of it as added value to your service… ie. once you have those pennies saved up 😉


 

Most days I Google search everything. This video – though not about typography – has the visual elements and honest motivation needed on most days!…

In case you can’t watch the video, here’s the list of 29 things to stay creative.

  1. Make lists
  2. Carry a notebook everywhere
  3. Try free writing
  4. Get away – from the computer
  5. Quit beating yourself up
  6. Take breaks
  7. Sing in the shower
  8. Drink coffee
  9. Listen to new music
  10. Be open
  11. Surround yourself with creative people
  12. Get feedback
  13. Collaborate
  14. Don’t give up
  15. Practice, practice, practice
  16. Allow yourself to make mistakes
  17. Go somewhere new
  18. Count your blessings
  19. Get lots of rest
  20. Take risks
  21. Break the rules
  22. Don’t force it
  23. Read a page of the dictionary (really?)
  24. Create a framework
  25. Stop trying to be someone else’s perfect
  26. Got an idea? Write it down
  27. Clean your workspace
  28. Have fun!
  29. Finish something

 


 

A brilliant video by Ira Glass on Storytelling. For writers and designers. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I hope it’s exactly what you need to hear too…

 

COVER DESIGN TIPS: Part 1 of 4

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Wouldn’t you agree that a lot of book covers look the same? Yes, it is the responsibility of the designer to come up with a unique looking cover, but there are other elements which contribute to this generic-looking ‘style’…

One reason is, stock photo imagery. The other is, inexperienced individuals using design tools to put a cover together of stock imagery.

The Sales and market contribute their fair share toward this problem. They hold a strong influence on how a cover is designed in publishing. Perhaps not for all, but certainly for most. In many cases, it’s not about getting an abstract visual across, but more about what will sell. Not a bad thing! I just feel we should challenge this way of thinking a bit more with better looking cover concepts.

Let the designer explore the visual concept with you. If you work closely with your writer, editor, designer and marketer, you can produce a cover for the market, and true to the story.

There’s a quote from an American artist, Gregory Manchess, which says,

it’s the artists’ or designers’ job to get the buyer to pick up the book. Once it’s in their hands, the writer takes over.

So very true, and you can find ways to capture attention. To draw the viewer in and grab the heart of the book’s story.

Research, research, and more research! Looking at other cover artist’s work opens up new ideas. New ways of thinking or experimenting. Save examples of work you like and dislike. Create your own ‘creative file’, and continuously build on it. When you brainstorming a cover concept, try to look at other sources for inspiration. Anything from comic book art, movie posters, film, fine art, or even street art. History of Art talks about the different art movements such as Futurism, Art Nouveau, Dadaism, and Constructivism. Inspiration is unique to each person. Try to keep an open mind when you developing cover concepts.

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The cover is not a short film”,

another quote by Gregory Manchess.

Draw the viewer in by creating simple, focused concepts. The mistake a lot of publishers or authors make is trying to show an entire scene on the cover. An example of this is the very common scene of the city scape horizon in the far background, with title text in the middle, and a scene of characters posing in the foreground. Every cover should have a good foreground, middle ground and background mojo going. But this doesn’t mean you need to have 10 different things trying to tell a story at the same time.

Covers trying to tell too much

Phil Lit cover

Where do you look first? Looks like this is trying to illustrate all the stories inside the book on the cover.

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Colour, typography, placement – just about everything here is fighting for attention.

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Everything about this cover is bad. Is that the Olympics logo on the left? Even the title itself is badly written!

I’m no stranger to bad cover design. I think we all have bad designs we’d like to hide in some dark closet. As long as we learn, and can see when something is bad. See improvement, and move forward – always improving.

Sadly, these badly designed covers may be getting more exposure for exactly that than the really good ones. They are used as bad examples across a few blogs. Nonetheless, I hope you understand why I had to use examples to show. Covers are always better visually explained, than written in words.

Covers with a single concept…

Here, the title and image doesn’t overpower the book’s message. The title and image work together. One message. One thought. The use of colour can be a powerful tool, as well as using white space very cleverly…

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Jeffrey Alan Love is the designer of this cover. SO intriguing!

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Stephen King’s covers usually speak for itself. They say what they need to say, in the most interesting, and powerful way, that stays in your head long after you’ve put the book down. If you know who the designer of this cover is, please do share it in the comments below.

Milk

Barbara deWilde, is the designer of this cover. It’s quite a literal approach, and works really well. There are many approaches you can take as long as its visually pleasing, attention grabbing and brings through the true essence of the book.

There are many more brilliant covers I could show. The important lesson is not to describe the entire story on the cover. Nor to give the whole story away. You need to awaken curiosity. The designer should interpret the story you are telling into a pleasing and appropriate visual. Let the designer do what they do best. This is also where providing a good brief to the designer comes in, along with trust.

If you take a look on Amazon, you’ll find loads of really bad cover designs. There are many reasons for this. Some would like to say its because of self-publishing. Others like me, prefer to blame those using photoshop when they really shouldn’t. Those who don’t see the value in hiring a good cover designer. And those who simply don’t have the budget to hire a good designer. Whatever the reason, and there are many, the main thing is… taking a bunch of photograph’s and merging them in Photoshop, does not make you a designer …

… okay, that’s not actually the main thing! BUT, it is sad that good cover designs are few and far beyond. Part of the reason for starting this blog is to better our industry. So educate yourself and others. Just reading this blog is educating in itself, not just for you, but for me too 😉

As much hard work and time it takes to write a book, so too, the same respect should apply to your book cover. Educate yourself, do your research, and you’ll reap the benefits of a professional-looking book. Something you can look back on with pride.

Stay tuned.

My next post, PART 2, will be on typography… there’s never enough you can say about typefaces!

Chat soon 🙂