Illustrations – What to Do?

Illustrations - What to do? Illustrations are often places where the independent or self-published begin to panic and wring their hands, and even decide to trash their project(s). Depending on the type of book you are writing, illustrations are an integral part of your book. Knowing that, let's step back a step or two.

First if all, your end product for any illustration needs to be a digital photo, which means you can scan or take pictures. It also needs to be at least 300 dpi (dpi stands for dots per inch). I don't want to get too technical, but I think we need to visit some technicalities. When you scan a photo or re-size a digital photo, you can choose a dpi. Often our programs will automatically re-size a photo along with its dpi. As we scale down a picture, then we are lowering the dpi. This is not an acceptable choice in a lot of cases, because we need the higher dpi to keep our picture from pix-elating or fuzzy. In most programs, you can simply change the dpi to 300 to boost it up to an appropriate level. Thus, your picture can be viewed easier and it will print well.

Now, let's look at some methods of illustrations. Pictures are very common, but often your book requires something you cannot photograph yourself. In that case, see if your friends can accommodate or go to a stock photo site, such as istockphotos or dreamstime.

The heaviest user of illustrations are children's picture books. I've seen a lot of different techniques used for picture books. Collages work well. I've even seen torn tissue paper illustrations that are absolutely beautiful and full of colors. With new technologies available, I read on one author's blog how she took photos  of the girls (who were her nieces,please don't take pictures of children or adults to use in any book without getting a photo release signed by the person or, in the case of a minor, by a parent) turned them into cartoons, and then added scenery behind them.

I have also made puppet characters to illustrate my children's stories. My newest method is making a small artistic quilt. The quilt is very much the base of the picture with some items becoming three-dimensional. Instead of thinking about quilts as pieces that need to be sewn together, think of a smaller size. I used 14-inches by 20-inches, which is twice the size of my book page of 7-inches by 10-inches. You can buy fusion paper, which is double-sided. Iron onto fabric, cut out your piece, then remove the paper backing and iron it onto your quilt. I lined my small quilt with a bit of batting and backed it with the same material as the front. It is finished with a blanket binding, which comes in a variety of solid colors. I embroidered some items, I even sewed yarn together for a braided rug. Some items are cut from felt, others are different fabrics, including solid and print cotton, as well as more silky polyester fabrics. Using fusion, hand-sewing, and fabric glue, almost anything can be created. I even combined a bit of paper into this quilt, because I placed an open book on the child's bed.

Photos of scenery are easily taken on family vacations. Add some characters on top of the photo and you could easily have an illustration for a book or, at the very least, a book cover. I did that with one recently. The book is not out yet, but I expect it will be soon. It is entitled, "The Aliens Among Us," and I drew aliens in a drawing program, imported a photo and made it the background. Think creatively,

No matter what medium that you choose, it really is the details that make the difference, especially in children's books. You don't want it so busy with stuff that don't match the story, but it's a huge bonus for kids to be able to play "I spy" with the picture as they explore all of the secrets that you've created in your picture.



How Press Releases Can Help in Book Marketing

How press releases can help in book marketing may not be obvious to those who have never written a press release. However, a well-written press release is simply a well-written article that follows a certain format.

In a press release, you need to answer: who, what, where, when, why, and how. If you follow a newspaper style, you’ll put all of this in the first paragraph. If you use a storytelling formula, you’ll answer all those questions, but in a more entertaining manner.

Your first sentence needs to hook the reader and pull them through your story. A hook usually begins with a problem. Problems need to get more complicated, which continues to bring your reader into your story. Naturally, there needs to be a hero in a story and that hero needs a goal. But the hero needs an obstacle to overcome, and then a new goal is set. Unfortunately, the next step is to show that all goals are lost. Don’t underestimate the hero, because then the hero redefines that goal so that everything comes to a climax so that all the loose ends come together as your story ends.

In a story about your book, the hero is your book. The problem is one in which your book solves. Your problem gets complicated just like your target market’s problems get complicated. The goal, of course, is your book’s goal. Naturally, there is an obstacle, which is getting past that complicated problem that your target market has. The hero, your book, redefines its goal only to appear all is lost, before choosing yet another goal, getting into the climax and tying up all the loose ends.

It is possible that your story doesn’t have every piece of the storytelling model, but it definitely needs to have the who, what, where, when, why and how. Be creative when writing your press release. The target of your press release may be journalists at your local or regional newspaper, but think creatively and find all sorts of publications, including newsletters to send your press release.

Creativity aside, if your press release doesn’t give the information that you need to publicize, then it doesn’t make sense to send it out. I am a big supporter of using storytelling techniques, but some items of this technique make more sense than others. The most important factor of writing any press release is to help tell the story that you have to tell at the particular time in which you are writing it.

How to Hone Your Writing with a Critique Group

By Gina Akao
Guest Post


Are you looking for a sure-fire way to become a better writer? Join a critique group! Here is a brief list of benefits you will gain:

  • If your critique group meets regularly (such as every two weeks like mine), you will write more often, and more consistently
  • You will learn how to give and receive constructive criticism
  • You will have free access to excellent proofreaders
  • You will receive encouragement when you are down
  • You will avoid writer’s block and be able to express yourself in a safe environment
  • You will gain lifelong friends

Now, every critique group is different, and it is important to find a group that is a good fit for your personality and writing style. For example, if you are paired with a critique group that dishes out harsh words, but you prefer a warm-and-fuzzy, sandwich critique (praise intermixed by criticism and more praise), you may want to shop for a more compatible fit. Also, every so often it is good to mix up your readers. I recommend having one member who is a good editor, one member who is creative and poetic, one member who is business-like, and one member who knows you really well.

But like all good things, there is a flipside, so here are a few things to avoid:TalesofaLawSchoolDropoutBookCover

  • Groups that are overly argumentative (writers who defend their writing a little too much)
  • Groups that white wash your critique (“Oh, your writing is soooo wonderful!”)
  • Groups that are disrespectful (Try not to take it personally, but change groups if you need to)

Finally, when you get home after your critique group meeting, I recommend setting aside your writing for a while. Sometimes if you are too close to it, you can’t see which changes to make. I like to go by the rule that if three of my critique group members all recommend a change, I go ahead and make it. If only one member has a certain feeling about something I wrote, but I don’t agree, I follow my instincts and revise as I please. After all, the writer has the final say.

Good luck and happy writing!

Gina Akao

Gina Akao holds a MA in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno, is the author of Tales of a Law School Dropout, owns a freelance writing and editing business, and has been a member of High Sierra Writers for seven years. She offers virtual assistance to authors who need WordPress blogs and helps authors build a platform through social media. If you enjoyed this post, please go to to receive your free “Top Ten Career Tips.”


Using Press Releases to Kick off Your Book Marketing

When you begin marketing your book, it would be easy to overlook a method that has been used as a way of announcing an event since newspapers came into being: the Press Release. In this new technology driven world in which we live, the Press Release is not dead. It is a vital part of the “Kick Off” of a book marketing plan.

As the first thing that you send out, the Press Release should explain what a Virtual Book Tour is, because most people don’t know what it is. The Virtual Book Tour is the primary way to market a book in this new virtual world in which we live. This means the marketing is all online or on the Internet.

Book marketing is now something that every author needs to do, whether you are traditionally published, indie published, or self-published. While this article is not about the manner in which a book is published, it should be noted that even the traditional or big book publishers no longer provide marketing as part of their book package, unless you are as well-known as Lady Gaga or Martha Stewart.

Of course, this means that every author needs to know how to write a Press Release. Naturally, if you personally have deep pockets, you can just hire everything done. Publicists normally view self-promotion as a “kiss of death” for your book. However, there are many people, especially, indie published authors, who would rather stay in control. Self-promotion may be viewed in a negative light by some. Others find it fun. Actually, who better to promote a book than the person who will benefit the most!

When writing your Press Release, do your research. The “who,” “what,” “where,” “why,” “when”, and “how” are standard pieces of a Press Release, but there are many other techniques that you can use to punch up your Release that help grab the attention of the person reading it. Post your Press Release to your Website with a link to it on your Media page.

See my Press Release: http://www.conniedunnbooks/Press Release - Virtual Book Tour.pdf