Friday, September 21, 2012

Writing Flap Copy

When my editor asked if I'd like to take a stab at writing flap copy, I took a deep breath and pulled two of my favorite historical novels from my bookshelf. First I looked at BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.

What I love about BLUE's flap copy is that it uses passages from the book so that the reader immediately hears Ann Fay's voice.

Wisteria is the only thing me and Daddy ever argue about. I say the flower is purple and he says it's blue. I tell him I don't see how anyone can hate a flower that's so beautiful and smells so sweet. Daddy says he don't understand how anyone could love a vine that wraps itself around every limb on a tree like it wants to choke the life out of it.

Can't you just hear the cadence of Ann Fay's voice?

Next I took a look at HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson.

What I love about HATTIE's flap copy is the last paragraph:

Lovingly stitched together from Kirby Larson's own family history and the sights, sounds, and scents of homesteading life, this young pioneer's story celebrates the true spirit of independence.

I decided to start my flap copy with a quote from my book the same way Joyce did with BLUE. Then I wrote a paragraph that briefly sums up the plot, and then borrowing from HATTIE, I included that my book is also inspired by a family story.

Though I'm sure my editor and copyeditor will revise it, my attempt at flap copy is below:

Sometimes when the kerosene lamp casts shadows, I think I see Ma’s ghost. If she were still alive, she’d say, Jessie Pearl, you keep on studying. Not everybody is cut out to be a farm wife. We’ll find a way to pay for teachers’ college. Leave your Pa to me.

And tonight, Ma would notice how my hands are trembling. I can almost hear her voice. Jessie, fourteen is too young to help birth a baby. Why don’t you go and study in the kitchen? But Ma is just a memory.

It’s 1922, and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that’s before tuberculosis strikes.  Though she has no talent, for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, Jessie puts her dreams on hold to help her family.  She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple any more.

Inspired by Shannon Hitchcock’s family history, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL wraps you like an old quilt in the traditions, tastes, and dialect of rural North Carolina.

So what do you think? Did I pull off writing flap copy? It's not as easy as it looks! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Cover Art Reveal!

I have been waiting anxiously for cover art and here it is! The image is by Timothy Decker, and the type design is by Helen Robinson.

ARC's should be available in mid-October, with an official publication date of February or March.

JESSIE'S journey continues!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Typesetting & Design

THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL after typesetting:

I just completed a stage of the publishing process called "page proofs." After my manuscript went through the typesetting process, it was sent back to my copyeditor. She and I both read the manuscript multiple times looking for mistakes, tweaking words, and searching for lines that were either too tight or too loose. Tight lines run together like this: Weareclosertogetherthantwopeasinapod. L o o s e  l  i n e s  a r e  m  o r e   l i k e  t h i s.

My copyeditor used a couple of terms I was unfamiliar with: widows and orphans. It turns out there are rules to typography that make print more visually appealing to readers. An orphan is a very short line at the end of a paragraph, and a widow is a very short line at the top of a page. Both leave a lot of white space and interrupt reading flow. I found a good article that explains rags, widows, and orphans here:

After much back and forth between myself and the copyeditor, she compiled one master list of changes for the typesetter. It's starting to look like a real book.

I can't wait to see what comes next on my path to publication!

Monday, September 3, 2012

College and Copyedits

Two big events have been happening simultaneously in my life: first my only son went away to college, and secondly my debut novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, will launch this fall.

I finished my content edits in March of this year. I had no clue when to expect copyedits, but since I'm a big believer in Murphy's Law, I figured it wouldn't be at a convenient time. Sure enough copyedits arrived when I was knee deep in college preparations, exactly one week before we were set to depart for American University.

I pushed all boxes, suitcases, and piles of stuff to the side, lived in my pajamas for two full days, and turned those copyedits around. Then I spent the weekend reading my manuscript aloud to be sure I was happy with the changes.

Afterward, my novel was turned over to Helen Robinson for typesetting and design. I can't wait to see the cover. Check back because I'll reveal it first on this blog.

As for Alex, he seems to be adjusting well to life at AU. My novel is dedicated to him, but that will be the subject of another post.

For those of you who haven't been through the copyediting phase, leave a question and I'll try to answer it. For readers who have already been published, I hope you'll share your copyediting experiences below.