Monthly Archives: July 2013

Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Being a self-published author, or indie author, does not simply mean that you write books and hit the publish button. Without the power of a publisher behind them, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. They have to become business men and women. They need to have great communications and marketing skills and they have to be relentless in their quest to get their books seen.

Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure they can, and should, hire an editor, but that comes at their own expense. They have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover. Another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover.

You know what it sounds like an indie author is? A business in itself. Yes, an indie author is a person, but that person is their own business. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, so now what?

Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need a plan and they need to stick with it if they want to be successful. They need goals and they have to keep producing. They need quality material that never wavers and they need to gain and keep their readers. Treating it like a business will ultimately lead to success. What constitutes success for an indie? I wrote about the differing meanings of success for indie authors. Success depends on the author. Ultimately, though, it means having your books read and making a little money for it. It’s a business. You know what all businesses have? A mission statement.

What is a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in many different fields. Business, education, law enforcement, and churches. They provide for their stakeholders, or many times shareholders, to see that the organization has a clear direction with goals and growth in mind. They provide the employees or members of the organization with a constant reminder of the reasons for what they are doing. They usually discuss the values of that organization and try to distinguish themselves from the competition. Here are some examples of mission statements from various fields:

McDonalds CorporationMcDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

Google Inc.Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Columbia University – Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

And here is one from a field more closely related to us…

Pelican Publishing CompanyPelican Publishing Company has been committed to publishing books of quality and permanence that enrich the lives of those who read them since 1926. With a backlist of more than 2,000 titles, Pelican produces art and architecture books, travel guides, holiday books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, business titles, children’s books, and a growing number of social commentary and history titles.

Even though those four mission statements come from different types of organizations, they all have common themes. They tell the stakeholders what they do and where they are going. Google is the exception. They followed their usual minimalist approach and stuck with a simple, yet powerful, sentence. It still tells you what they do and is probably more along the lines of what Sir Richard Branson would like to see from a mission statement.

Do you know any indie author with a mission statement? I don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any with one, but I still haven’t seen them. As we strive to make self-published authors more respected, I think this could be a huge step in the right direction. We are all our own business, so we might all have different mission statements, but it will help. We will have something that tells people who we are, what we do, and where we are going. It will provide a promise to us and our readers. It will be a promise of quality and commitment. Does this mean that we can only focus on the indie scene? Heck no. Most of us have other jobs or are father and mothers. That still doesn’t change the value of having a mission statement.

Here’s my first draft:

Allen Watson is a self-published author dedicated to creating quality content for his readers. He has experience in politics, education, law enforcement, and emergency medicine and is an avid science fiction fan. He hopes to use his experiences and passions to write works that will engage a global audience and allow them to explore new worlds and ideas. Allen wants his work to inspire readers to become creators and allow their imaginations to run wild.

I’m going to print this out and tape it to my computer so I see it everyday. I’m going to put it on my blog under its own heading. I want people to take me seriously because I take my work seriously. I’ve written before about gaining respect from readers, and this is another way to do that. Professionalize yourself and it will transform to your work. If self-published authors work hard to ensure that they put forth nothing but quality work and they stick to a strong value system that their readers can appreciate, we will all be better off. At some point the people that refuse to read any self-published work will realize that they are really missing out on some good reading and the publishers will have to transform their methods even more than they already have. 

Don’t worry about making your mission statement perfect right away. Heck, I’ll probably change mine at some point. Just be sure to make one. Take a minute and do it now on a scratch piece of paper. You’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

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Please share your mission statements in a comment!

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Writing as a Business


Guest Post: Author David Eccles – Shout This Book Cover Design Secret: You Don’t Need Photoshop!

I’m honored to have friend David Eccles, author of Darke Times and Other Stories, guest posting on the blog today. Getting into the indie author scene has given me a chance to network with some amazing people, and David is certainly one of them. From Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, David has an eclectic reading and writing mind. I’m thoroughly enjoying his new book and am happy with the topic he is discussing today, as it is an important one for all self-published authors. Enjoy!

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Before I begin my article in earnest, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Allen for inviting me to guest on his blog, and for providing us indie authors with much needed and much valued information and guidance.

I know that Allen has plans to feature his cover artist, Jennifer Jordon in future articles, because a beautiful cover can and almost certainly does affect a reader’s decision to purchase an author’s book. One would be wise to read Jen’s articles which will give us all an insight into how a true professional goes about the task of creating a pictorial masterpiece from our literary efforts.

In most cases, it would indeed be wise to shell out money and have a cover artist produce your cover for you, but what if funds are tight, you’re a stubborn so-and-so like me (I’m also broke, by the way) and you feel that you have the necessary skills to produce a decent cover yourself? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at designing your own!

Ah, but Photoshop is expensive, I hear you say. No problem! You don’t need it!

It’s true that while Adobe Photoshop is probably the most well-known and the most widely used piece of software when it comes to image manipulation, there is no point in parting with hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned money if you can achieve equally good professional-looking results using non-proprietary software that is open source, cross-platform, and free!

I’m a huge lover and frequent user of the Gnu/Linux platform, and I dual-boot my computers with both Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux so that I can make the most of what software is available.

For image manipulation, my software of choice is the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), because it’s cross-platform and freely distributable, it’s packed with features and can do nearly all that Adobe Photoshop can do. Screenshots here. Using a plug-in called PSPI increases its functionality and enables the GIMP to use lots of Photoshop plug-ins too!

It is way beyond the scope of this blog to go into any sort of detail as to what one can achieve with GIMP, but there are multitudes of forums and tutorials on how to use it, there is a comprehensive separate installable user manual, and there is a very active community who are always working to improve and develop the program further. The learning curve is quite steep, but after only one afternoon of playing around with it I managed to produce some surprisingly good results, including the cover of my own book! It’s not perfect by any means, but it was good enough to pass the manual review at Smashwords and be accepted into their Premium Catalog!

I blogged about GIMP on my own website in an article called Digital Painting on a Budget, also mentioning free 3D rendering software Blender, and followed it up with a sequel, Digital Painting on a Budget, Part 2, where I introduce another free program designed for creating vector graphics, Inkscape, and a low-cost alternative to Wacom graphics tablets from a company called Monoprice.

This short article is meant merely as a primer to give the reader a little information about freely available alternative software that in the long run will save any author who wishes to go it alone and design his/her own book cover a lot of money. Please keep your eyes open for a detailed in-depth look at cover design in future articles by Jennifer Jordon on Allen’s site.

Click the cover image or the text link to be taken to the Amazon website where you will be able to purchase my book, Darke Times and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen pieces of flash fiction and short stories in genres ranging from general fiction to science fiction, bizarro fantasy, horror, horror erotica and full-blown (if you excuse the pun) erotica.

Darke Times and Other Stories is also available on Smashwords, Kobobooks and at all of the usual places that Smashwords distributes books. I’ve been fortunate enough that since my book’s launch date eleven days ago on the fourteenth of July, every review has been a five-star review, including glowing reviews from horror author John F.D. Taff and YA author M.C. O’Neill, and I’ve been guest blogger on John’s website, with more guest appearances to come elsewhere on the web in the very near future. It’s a great time to be an indie author! Thank you for your support. You can be sure that I’ll give you mine!

  Eccles DarkeTimes


If You’re Truly A Writer

Then write.

 

Write because you have to,

And write because you want to.

 

Write because somebody told you you couldn’t,

And write because somebody told you to go for it.

 

Write because your heart it broken,

And write because it’s starting to heal.

 

Write because you love your life,

And write because your life exists.

 

Write because of the bumps in the road,

And write to soften their blow.

 

Write because you lost your temper,

And write because we have, too.

 

Write because you’re an accomplished individual,

And write because you’ve got more to give.

 

Write because a relative died,

And write because they would want you to.

 

Write because your child was born,

And write because they’ll need your sanity.

 

Write because you can’t express your emotions,

And write because your emotions can’t handle anymore.

 

Write because you’re hungry,

And write because the hungry need you.

 

Write because you’ve tasted your tears,

And write because those tears are temporary.

 

Write because you’re rich,

And write because your wealth doesn’t define you.

 

Write because you’re fighting with your best friend,

And write so you don’t say something you’ll regret.

 

Write because you’ve hit the bottom,

And write to build the steps back up.

 

Write because you have a story,

And damnit, write because your story matters.

 

Writers lead different lives than the rest. Their words often come out better when they aren’t spoken, and that’s okay. Writers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Every writer has a different reason for writing. They all have different inspirations. Their reason for writing doesn’t matter, and their reason might change. What’s important is that they keep writing no matter what the situation or challenge.


Guest Post: Author Destiny Allison On Dystopian World Creation

Thanks for stopping by. I have an awesome treat for you today! As promised, Destiny Allison, author of Pipe Dreams, is taking over to talk about our fascination behind the dystopian genre.

Destiny Allison is an award winning sculptor, businesswoman, and community builder. Luckily for us, writing was her first love! Pipe Dreams is her fiction debut. I will soon be posting much more about her when I get to review the book for the blog and (fingers crossed) hopefully can get her back for a short author interview. Enjoy the post from Allison!

Click here for Destiny’s Webpage!

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Thanks for having me as a guest today, Allen. In a recent post you mentioned that you were a political science major and said, “Turn on CNN or Fox News and you get pounded with stories about how bad everything is and how it’s the fault of one political party or another. Sure, I recognize there are important things we have to take care of, but sometimes I want to transport somewhere else.” This is a great intro into dystopian book. Sometimes I think that if observed by someone on another planet, our country would be labeled dystopian.

I’ve loved dystopian literature since I was a kid. Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, and others create worlds so different from ours but hold up a mirror so we can see the flaws in our own systems and our human commonalities.

Dystopian books are great for understanding why and how people do what they do. Traditionally, they look at dysfunctional power structures, illuminate our motivations, fears, and hopes, and offer us a peek at what could come if we don’t take personal responsibility for our lives. Often they’re chilling because they’re so real.

The world I created in Pipe Dreams is based on recent events, conspiracy theories, and breakthroughs in behavioral genetics. The People’s Protest ended in rebellion and isolated a fictional island city in upstate New York. A new government was formed to protect and nourish humanity’s last hope. To ensure mankind wouldn’t continue to wage war on itself, the government engineered a virus that turned off the DNA markers for greed, aggression, and other destructive human behaviors.

Like in other dystopian novels, my protagonists are everyday heroes. Circumstance forced them into roles they otherwise would not have assumed. As they search for answers and a way to stop a sadistic sociopath from releasing the airborne version of the virus, they have to face their fears and learn to trust again.

My challenge was to create a world that could happen right here and right now. It had to be believable. How could the NSO hold the US military at bay, ensure supplies made it to the island, and keep its miserable citizens in line? Why wouldn’t any of the inhabitants try to swim to the mainland? My reasons had to be good enough that readers stay engaged in the story instead of shooting it down because of flawed logic. Once that was done, the stage was set.

Unlike other books in this genre, I have a large cast of characters. Each of them has their own perspective on what really happened and each wants something different. Though none of them get exactly what they want, it is their pursuit of personal dreams that brings them together and forces a societal change.

I like to think that dystopian works are metaphors for our own lives. That is true with Pipe Dreams as well. As one reader said about the book, “Had your dose of manipulation today?”

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Can Women Write Science Fiction?

Uh oh. It makes me cringe to think of how many people that title just offended. Honestly, it was meant to get you in here. Yes, I’m still going to talk about women writers in science fiction, but in a completely respectful way. Some of what I discuss might make you mad, but trust me, it makes me mad as well. I’m going to talk about the male slanted bias in science fiction and I’m going to be completely honest about what my thoughts are about women writers in the genre.

Until I opened up Destiny Allison’s book Pipe Dream, the only female science fiction author I recall reading was a Star Wars book by Christie Golden and Suzanne Collins. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten Golden’s book if it wasn’t the next in a series that I had already started or Hunger Games if it wasn’t so popular. Why? Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have had an unknown bias towards reading male authors in the science fiction genre. I didn’t even know it. Seriously, it never dawned on me that I hadn’t read anything by female authors, but I obviously subconsciously avoided them.

It wasn’t until I was sitting with my good friend, Dr. David Powers, that I even mentioned it. We were going about our usual pre-Bible study routine (talking about science fiction, super heroes, and other things religion usually doesn’t like) and I asked him if he could recall having read a sci-fi book written by a female. He couldn’t. Following up with him for this blog post he said, “I have personally never read a single novel that I can recall by a female science fiction author, unless of course you count the Hunger Games trilogy as such.”

Dr. Powers went on to say that he doesn’t have a bias against female sci-fi authors, just that he hasn’t come across any or know of any. He truly wants to read some from them and is open to recommendations. Some of you might call Dr. Powers and I stupid. Some of you know how many great female sci-fi authors there are out there, but it really is saying something that Dr. Powers has missed out on them. He owns what is probably the largest comic book collection in the South East and is one of the biggest sci-fi nuts I know.

Let’s face it, the genre has a male slant, if for no other reason than the time period it became popular. Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, though certainly not the first to come up with many of their ideas, were the first to bring it to the forefront of popular culture. When these came out, particularly Star Trek, women were just beginning to push into the work force and get away from their male created shackles. Thank goodness for the progressive movement. So, while both Roddenberry and Lucas both tried (come on, a black and female bridge officer in the 60’s?! Gene be crazy!) they were writing and producing in a male dominated world.

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Science fiction pretty much stayed the course as far as portrayals were concerned. Males dominated with the occasional powerful female showing up. Even then, the females eventually became sex focused. Seven-of-Nine, as bad ass as she was, never wore anything but skin tight suits. Imagine Captain Janeway wearing that every episode (well, don’t imagine that). Heck even Star Trek: Into Darkness had the very unneeded scene of Dr. Carol Marcus stripping down in front of Kirk. Come on, she’s a doctor. I didn’t see Bones throwing off his clothes. And this is all coming from J.J. Abrams, a man known for wanting powerful female characters (Judging by the photos below, I’m guessing the next Star Trek movie will involve an NC-17 Rating?).

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So, why haven’t I read female science fiction material? I honestly don’t know. Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I think I did purposely avoid female sci-fi authors. I didn’t think they could do it as good as males. I apologize. Really, I do. I debated not telling you, but there it is. I’ve amended my brain waves.

Is the genre still crawling out of its male centered culture? I don’t think so. In fact, attending the X-Con in Myrtle Beach, I honestly think I saw just as many females as males, so the perception and fan base has changed. It’s no longer just a boys club. Shows like Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Falling Skies all have great females in lead roles (though only one, WH13, has a female writer).

I’m willing to bet that female authors can do better with females characters. As hard as I try, I will never be able to tap into the emotion and mindset of the female characters that I write. I just don’t have the right body to understand the mindset of a female. No male does, no matter how much they think they do. Look at Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games. We fell in love with Katniss, a strong lead, female character. If those books had been written by a male, I really don’t think we would have gotten such great material. Katniss Everdeen made girls everywhere proud. There is no doubt that Katniss needs no male to get through her challenges and survive. She can make it on her own. If a male had written the character, Katniss would have eventually needed a male to live. Not once did I think, “Man, Katniss would have been better as a Korey.” Not sure Peeta or Gale could handle that anyway.

I’m reading a great book right now. Pipe Dreams, by Destiny Allison, is turning out to be fantastic. Now that I am consciously reading a female science fiction author, I keep catching myself thinking about whether or not I would write the same things she does. As a female author, she brings a different perspective to every scene (She will also be a featured guest poster on this blog tomorrow, so be sure to check it out). That’s what we need in the genre. A new perspective. We can still have our male heroes, but instead of it being the sexy, obligatory female with them, they can have a true partner that is just as capable of saving the day. I think the best way to get there, and to gain complete respect for female sci-fi characters, is to have more female sci-fi creators. 

Guys, if you are still on the fence about picking up a sci-fi book written by a female, then do it for your relationships. If you are as big of a science fiction nerd as I am, then you have probably had a hard time balancing your love life with your love for the genre. Science fiction controls us, but it’s not our fault. Use the genre to your advantage. Read female authors, learn this new mysterious perspective on sci-fi life, and you will begin to connect better with your partner. Maybe you can convince her that, hey, maybe this science fiction thing can be super cool for girls, too! Good luck!


What Your Support Means To Indie Authors

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Authors have many different reasons for taking the self-publishing route. Maybe they’ve tried traditional publishing but got rejected. Maybe they didn’t get rejected but realized the possibilities present in self-publishing that might not be there from traditional publishers (percentage of profits). Maybe the authors simply want a way to share their work without having to go through the long process of submitting and having it sit at the gatekeepers desk for months or years.

No matter what your opinion of self-publishing, I think we can all admit that there is some seriously good work out there from the indie author scene. If you don’t think so, then you likely haven’t bought any indie work. As I’ve said before, there are many pieces of bad work out there, but who cares? Just like in music and movies, there will always be less than par work that gets into the mix. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t make my work look worse. If an author spends the time and puts forth a professional effort, as we have advocated, then the work will stand out. Many self-published authors take the time to do it the right way. I know that there are still some of you who will argue that unless a traditional publisher has vetted the work then it can never be as good. Fine. I promise that you are missing work that is often of higher quality than what is on the shelves of your chain book stores.

So, what should we do when we find work that is fantastic come out of the indie author realm? Well, we owe it to the author, and to ourselves, to let as many people know as we can. I’m talking, Tweet about it, Facebook about it, and tell your friends. Most importantly – LEAVE A REVIEW!

As I was reading some indie work yesterday, my main thought was about how much of a difference we can make in each others lives. 99% of self-published authors are nearly broke, but took the time to get their work out to the rest of us. It means something to the author, and if we find that it means something to us, we can truly make a difference in that author’s life. Let me do a little story and some math for you. Now, this may seem like I’m only writing this to make profits for indie authors. I’m not. I want you to know what a difference your support can make (because often, other indies don’t support self-pubbers).

Let’s say Ralph (nobody in particular) puts out his science fiction self-published book. If it had been printed, it would run about 300 pages, the normal size for a science fiction book at the local store. Ralph has two kids, a wife, and works 50 hours a week to support his family, but has always had a passion for writing science fiction. He decided to take the plunge and write a book. He writes it, re-writes it, gets it professionally edited, re-writes it, gets a professional cover done, gets it just right for Kindle (or other platform) and finally hits the publish button. Any of that sound familiar to anyone out there? He took the right steps to give us his story.

We buy Ralph’s book for $2.99, less than a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. We start reading it and quickly realize that, dang, this Ralph guy has written a really good book! Upon realizing this, we should now have a responsibility to Ralph, particularly because he is an indie author. When we finish it, we need to review it. It needs to be a quality review. Something more than “Awesome book.” Write a paragraph encouraging others to buy Ralph’s book. Send out a link to Ralph’s book on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Even if only one or two of your friends pick up a copy, that is still a few extra dollars for Ralph. Let’s say that twenty people pick up Ralph’s book on day one and Ralph gets about $2.05 per copy sold.

20 x 2.05 = $41 – Ralph can take his family our for dinner or pay more on his credit card.

Now let’s say that each of those 20 buyers gets one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Now he has sold 40 copies.

40 x 2.05 = $82 – Ralph starts to feel good about his work and starts a second book, as well as pays down some more debt.

Now let’s say that some reviews start to give his book a boost and all the previous buyers get one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Maybe Ralph gets up to 250 copies sold

250 x 2.05 = $512.5 – Ralph used this to make his car payment, allowing him to possibly spend some more time with his family instead of at work.

How many of you would have your lives transformed just by having an extra $500 or so? All of us.

Most indie authors aren’t looking to become rich. They are looking for just a little extra to help out around the house. There are so many ways for people to make a difference in the world. In fact, because there are so many ways, many people get overwhelmed and do nothing. Instead, let’s play to our strengths – writing and communicating. We are in the indie author scene! Let’s use it and make a difference for our friends and fellow authors. 

When we find great indie work, we CAN absolutely ensure that the author gets that little extra to help them out. Imagine if Ralph’s book hit one of Amazon’s best seller charts for a day because of your help and he sold 2,000 copies. Suddenly he can take a vacation. You helped Ralph take a vacation and all it cost you was $2.99 and some tweets. The indie author scene can be transformed by all of us taking simple steps and recognizing quality work. We may not all be the next Hugh Howey, but dangit, we can still make a difference around the house. Take care.

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement


Self-Publishing Cover Secrets and Help!

Okay, this time I promise not to take such a long hiatus. I miss talking to everyone on a regular basis. I’ve been busy (even though that is not an excuse). My book, Journey of the Kings, is now finished and Kindle ready. I am now waiting for my wonderful artist, Jennifer Jordon, to finish the cover.

As she is working on the cover, I wanted to start a series of blog posts (maybe only a few, but who knows) about the process of creating the cover. We all know that one of the most important parts of the self-publishing realm of books is the cover. I’ve written about it, and any two minute Google search will give you any number of people espousing the importance of having a great cover. First impressions…we know they matter. How many indie authors, maybe even you, have said that if they could do it again, they would spend more time on getting a professional cover for their book.

Not that little Suzie’s art work or Grandma Pat’s skills aren’t up to par. We all know people that can produce art, but do they have the knowledge and skill set necessary to produce a cover for your project? Think about it. How long did it take you to write your book? You had to plan it out, write it, edit it, re-write it, give it out to editors, re-write, etc. THAT IS A TON OF WORK!

All said and done, we know how much time and effort we have invested in our books. Our books become part of us. Along the way, we dream of people choosing our book to read out of the thousands upon thousands they could pick from. Why, after all that work, would you slap a half-ass cover on the front? If you do that, I promise that all of your work will be for nothing. The only super-successful book I’ve seen with a questionable cover is Wool by Hugh Howey. We’ll chock that up to a minimalist success.

So, Jen Jordon will be helping me with a series of posts about the process that she is taking to create the cover for my book. Yes, she is a great friend of mine, but I didn’t choose her for that reason. She has an MFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina (GO GAMECOCKS) and I have seen almost all of her work in person. She doesn’t just specialize in one type of art. Jen has delved into a wide range of techniques that make her someone we (indie authors) want working with us. She knows the many processes and techniques that might need to be used for cover work.

The first post from her will be coming soon. It will probably have to do with the mindset she is taking to work on my cover. It is a science fiction book, so I would imagine her approach would be different than if she was working on a romance novel (maybe my next book will be erotica…make it a little awkward for her).

We also want you to ask her questions. If you have anything you want to ask Jen, about her artwork, experience, or cover work, ask in the comments. She will be more than happy to answer any question you have.

In the meantime, check out her pages! Her contact information is there, so if you would like to get a hold of her to help with your cover, let her know. You can also ask me to contact her for you if you would like.

Jen’s Website

Jen’s Facebook Fanpage

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Jen and I from about 5 years ago


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