Monday, April 23, 2018

A Feast For The Eyes

According to Forbes and other sources, 65% of people are visual learners.

And, as Study Mode Research claims, the human brain processes visual information faster than text.

It's impossible to deny that we're often drawn to people based on how they look. The visual component is very important to most people. Everything from choosing our favorite colors to selecting clothes to buy relates to appearance.

This is part of the reason why it's important for aspiring authors, and all authors, to think visually when they're writing. I spent many years working with creative writing students and one of the things I talked about a lot was writing to the senses.

Visual writing should be eye candy.  It should all speak to my eyes and give me a clear picture so that I can see it in my head. It's your job to make the reader feel as thought they can close their eyes and see what you're writing about.  You can't presume knowledge on the part of the reader that goes beyond the information you give them on the page.  The purpose of this assignment is to evoke a clear image related to the sense - in this case, sight. 
Consider this example:  The beautiful woman crossed the street.  It really tells you nothing, other than that the POV character in the scene noticed this particular woman.  Why?  Was it the long, flowing brown hair?  Was it the long legs?  Was it the sparkling green eyes?  Was it the creamy skin, offset by the flowing auburn curls?  There are so many missed opportunities in a generic statement like this one, because it could have told me how the POV character defined beautiful, what struck them about the woman.  I also know nothing about the street.  Was it a quiet, dead-end street where the pavement gave way to packed dirt?  Was it a busy multi-lane road filled with impatient drivers and honking horns? 

Of course, it was easier for me to tell students this after learning the hard way. It was something I got hammered on in an early draft of Suspicious Circumstances - my characters were blurry heads talking to each other in white rooms.

In other words, I hadn't done enough to generate a clear visual image of my characters or the settings for the reader. Developing visual images in your mind as you write is important because it will help ensure that you create a visual feast with your text that readers will appreciate.

In the years since then I've learned that it isn't just important to think about the visual elements as you're writing for the sake of your story. It's important to think about the visual elements so that you can contribute effectively when it's time to talk about your book cover. Sometimes the author has little input and is left with whatever the publisher offers.

However, many times, publishers are receptive to suggestions, particularly if they're provided in a timely fashion. And many small presses are not only receptive; they welcome or request input from their authors when it comes time to talk about cover design. The thing about your book that will reach more potential readers than likely anything else is your cover. People will see it online, on social media, on your website and on bookselling sites.

I was fortunate. Down & Out not only welcomes input from authors; they request it. They took my suggestions and produced a cover that exceeded my hopes. And today, I can finally share the cover for my new book, The Spying Moon, with you.


Getting a great book cover is better than getting a new outfit for a party. This is the moment authors are working towards. Nothing does more to make your book seem real than getting a great book cover. Infuse your work with great visual elements and you won't just make your readers happy; you'll find the heart of your story represented in the artwork on the cover.

Having a publisher and designer who really nailed the cover is one of my greatest joys in publishing to date.

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