Starting with Dialogue
The last two posts have generated discussion on whether or not to start novels with dialogue. I read a recent article HERE on Guide to Literary Agents by the agent Jon Sternfeld of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. He doesn't represent MG or YA, but he talks about things in a query that are automatic deletes for him. He says:
"I’m not a fan of dialogue as the opener (though my more commercial fiction colleagues say this isn’t such a no-no). Nevertheless, I tend to delete manuscripts that open with a line of dialogue (esp. one with an exclamation point) and those whose opening line “dumps” exposition."
The point being, why limit your chances or risk an automatic delete by sending your work to an agent who may think this way? (At least do your research to find out if they dislike dialogue openers or not.) Mr. Sternfeld goes on to say that since querying by email is the norm now, agents are more inundated than ever with queries and sample pages, and they are on the lookout for ways to let them decide quickly if a project is worth taking on.
Have you ever visualized the cover of your fledgling novel, or the illustrations of your picture books if you write those? A lot of writers have--I certainly have. A striking and compelling cover is necessary for the following reasons:
1. It is often the first thing buyers see, that either draws them to the book or fails to catch their eye. Whether the image is online, printed in a purchasing flyer/magazine, or displayed on a hard-copy book in a store, there is no denying that certain covers evoke a stronger connection than others. Of course, it's often subjective as to what makes a "good" cover or a compelling image.
2. Covers give an indication of what a book is about. This is very important. Publishers in the past have been under fire and/or reissued a cover because of inaccurate representation. For instance, a main character on a cover. You may be aware that last January 2010, Jaclyn Dolamore's novel, MAGIC UNDER GLASS came out with the MC is described as black-haired and brown-skinned. So why was there a brown-haired, white-skinned girl on the cover?
In 2009, Justine Larbalestier's novel LIAR came out with a cover depicting a long-haired white girl rather than a short-haired black girl, which the story is about. The cover had to be reissued to correct this.
3. Covers give a tone and a mood to a book. Therefore, it is crucial that it depicts the proper atmosphere and details. Paranormal books must look dark and edgy, light and humorous contemporary books must look well, light and humorous. (Okay, as a writer I can do better than that with my adjectives…um, how about playful and bright?)
4. Covers have design elements that catch one's eye--or not. Designing a cover involves the careful use of color, textures, font size, font style, and composition. If the font on a cover is too difficult to read, whether from style or lack of color contrasts, potential buyers may pass up the book. Colors also elicit underlying emotional responses: blue is calming, red is invigorating/powerful/ intense. Complementary colors accentuate each other and add vibrancy; this means pairing blue with orange, red with green, yellow with violet (this is why greens are often placed in the meat section of your grocery store--it makes the meat look redder). Diagonal lines indicate energy and draw the eye in, while horizontal lines are more serene and peaceful. It all depends on the type of book and the effect the graphic designer wishes to produce.
NOTE: All this isn't to make you feel anxious about your potential cover and whether it will help sell your book. After all, publishers hire book designers who are professionals and generally very good at what they do!
However, the importance of having an accurate and striking cover is all the more reason to be represented by an AGENT. An agent can plead your cause for you if your cover totally misrepresents your writing; he or she can give you extra leverage for change if it is needed.
Have you ever visualized the cover of your book(s)?
Have you ever mocked up an actual design for the cover of your book(s)?
Do you ever worry about the cover of your future published book cover?
If you are a published author, are you pleased with your cover(s)? Is it an accurate representation of your book, and a compelling image?