How a Simple Cup of Coffee Turned into a Worldwide Event

November 25, 2014

warm it upIt started as a simple idea in 2013.

I was going to buy 10 coffees and give them out to the people in need. It had been a particularly harsh winter, and this was my way of sharing a little warmth with those on the margins.

But what started out as a simple gesture turned out to be a far-reaching event.

Many of my Facebook friends started getting involved, coming up with unique ideas and creative ways they could help in their own communities.

They shared the idea with their friends, who also signed up to participate.

In the end, over 250 people from around the world joined me on December 18th, handing out gifts of warmth to those in need.

Instead of coffee (or coffee cards), many people personally gave out scarves, socks, coats, blankets, and meals to people they never even met.

In some cases, participants brought gifts to people to heal old wounds. Others gave to organized causes, such as clothing trees for women’s shelters. And many, like myself, simply took to the streets.

An estimated 1,300 people were helped that day, all because of that simple idea, which we called “Warm it Up!”

This year, I’d like to ask you to help out again. All you need to do is give.

I don’t mean write a cheque from your armchair or give an online donation from your computer. I mean really get out there to see the people you’re helping.

Believe me, it’ll bring you as much joy to help a stranger as it is for them to receive.

On December 17th, 2014, please buy 10 coffee cards (or another item of your choice) and join us in bringing warmth to everyone around us.

Please click here, participate, and share this event worldwide!

Sincerely,

Richard

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

 


A Pro’s Advice on Book Cover Design

November 21, 2014

book cover designThinking about your book cover design, but not sure where to turn to for advice? Book cover artist Alexander von Ness shares some tips with us.

Many authors, especially ones who go the self-publishing route, will one day need to come face-to-face with book cover design.

For many, it’s a daunting prospect. Sure, we know how to tell stories. But what do we know about cover art? Should we even try to attempt it ourselves?

Personally, I believe that, along with editing, book cover design should be left to a professional. After all, the cover will be the first thing a prospective reader will see. Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

So, where do we start? To give us insight, I turned to book cover design artist Alexander von Ness, who agreed to answer some questions about this important part of your book’s overall development.

1) How many book covers have you designed? Do you primarily work for indie authors?

I’ve designed approximately 2,000 covers, which includes covers designed for indie authors, book coaches, medium-size publishing companies, and design contests.

I personally never make any differences between first time indie authors and authors who have already sold millions of books. Every new cover design is a new challenge where I try to create a little masterpiece every time.

Even though I do this for a living, and put food on the table by doing it, this is still a form of art – and art doesn’t include any boundaries in its nature.

2) When authors approach you to design their cover, what are some of their biggest concerns?

Mostly indie authors, who have never worked with me, are concerned that their message wouldn’t be recognized on the cover at first glance. But I reassure them that I make unlimited changes until the author is 100% satisfied.

Also, first time authors are very concerned that I won’t be able to present the main character (and secondary characters) in the way they are described in the book. This is by far the greatest mistake authors make when thinking about a cover! The main character should never be on the cover, unless it’s only in one segment, or as an undefined character whose appearance could still be imagined by the reader while reading the book.

If we have the main character “served” on the book cover, especially in fiction, a lot of readers will forever be deprived of imagining and daydreaming, and might possibly be disappointed by their actual appearance on the cover!

3) What are the most important elements to consider when designing a book cover?

Definitely typography: the font choice and its placement on the cover. Nothing can be compared to that. If your typography is lame, there is no point in having a great design with the best imagery.

I saw a lot of great designs that were literally ruined by bad typography. I would even dare to say that a good designer can be exclusively recognized by a good typography choice. For example, I sometimes send my clients the same design with different typography to prove to them how important this is in the overall design. The typography change was so powerful that the cover was sending a completely different message than it was supposed to.

One of the most important features today, compared to a couple of years back, is the visibility, readability and recognition in a thumbnail size. Today the majority of books are being sold online. So today you’ll see a lot designs with the title over the whole cover, which was unthinkable, even unacceptable a while ago.

Because of this, I’ve seen a new trend in redesigning existing covers. Many authors have done their cover very quickly, unprepared and unprofessional or with a very low budget, so some great, high quality books weren’t selling at all. In the end, they would realize that it is more profitable to make a cover redesign then to write a new book!

For example, at the beginning of this year, I redesigned one fiction novel. Before I made the redesign, the book was selling about seven copies per week. After my redesign, and some extra marketing efforts on the part of the author, the same book was selling almost 2,000 per month! A redesign of the book cover can be a great opportunity to revive sales. Trust me, the results can be surprising!

4) Is it necessary for you to read the book before designing the cover?

No. If that were necessary, I would only be able to create a few covers per year!

After an author contacts me, I send them a few questions to see what they really want, what they like and what they expect from their cover design. Of course, regardless of the different wishes I get from the authors, I design the book cover so it connects to the book and its content and with the message that the author wants to convey to his audience. My goal is, above all, to draw the reader in with the cover design and to give the book a professional appearance that will improve sales.

It’s also important to know the author’s target audience. After I have determined that, I start developing a design concept. Without a strictly defined target audience there is no point in doing a cover design. The majority of authors say that their target audience is males and females from 7 – 77! The author has to realize that his book wasn’t written for every person that enters the bookstore. Once this is determined, I can create an eye-catching book cover.

5) What about interior design? How important is that to the overall reading experience?

Every single part of the book is equally important for success. The interior layout should be readable for everyone. It may not be as important as the title, editing, proofreading, cover design and back copy, because a flawless interior layout design is useless when the book wasn’t edited properly and is filled with grammatical errors.

6) Do you have an opinion about online design tools that allow authors to create book covers on their own?

I think that this is very good and useful, but only to a point. As technology moves on, we have the opportunity to witness the appearance of new tools every day, which are helping us in our everyday work, so it’s no wonder that book cover design also got its turn.

Some book cover designers are frowning because they are afraid that it might take their job away. However, I don’t see any problem here. Just the opposite! I see that the book cover culture is developing in a positive direction and that the awareness of the importance of book cover design is larger every day. We as a community can only gain through that. The ones with a lower budget will be able to have their own book cover, which is something that makes me very happy.

One of the most useful and serious tools would be www.canva.com, which started very well and one that I hope will develop in a good direction. Every tool or application which helps the authors to create their book with less effort can only be beneficial for us who are engaged in the book business. Here I don’t only mean book cover design, but also editing, proofreading, etc. However, I would never recommend people to do these things on their own if they have serious intentions with their book.

Alexander von Ness is a book cover designer with almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design, and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. In the past few years his main area of focus is book cover design. His website Nessgraphica is among the top trusted sites for book cover design services overall.

Questions? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


Richard S. Todd Featured on an Author Panel this Thursday!

October 27, 2014

horror writing,author panel,editor's desk,richard toddIn Toronto this Thursday night? 

Interested in horror writing?

Then come on out to “Shining a Light on the Dark Side: Horror Writing in Canada“, hosted by the Merril Collection and the Ontario chapter of the Horror Writers Association.

The Editor’s Desk‘s President Richard S. Todd will be on the panel with horror authors Sephera GironMark Leslie Lefebvre, and Nancy Kilpatrick for a discussion about writing and publishing the Canadian horror story! Author Brad Middleton will be moderating.

We’ll be at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, 239 College St, 3rd Floor, in Toronto. Start time is 7:30 PM.  Come early as seating is limited.

All are welcome and the event is free!

Hope to see you there!

Richard Todd, Richard S. ToddIf you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is a novelist, speaker, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com, and connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Pro Tips on Book Cover Design

October 22, 2014

book cover design,book covers,editor's deskThinking about your book cover design, but not sure where to turn to for advice? Book cover artist Alexander von Ness shares some tips with The Editor’s Desk.

Many authors, especially ones who go the self-publishing route, will one day need to come face-to-face with book cover design.

For many, it’s a daunting prospect. Sure, we know how to tell stories. But what do we know about cover art? Should we even try to attempt it ourselves?

Personally, I believe that, along with editing, book cover design should be left to a professional. After all, the cover will be the first thing a prospective reader will see. Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

So, where do we start? To give us insight, I turned to book cover design artist Alexander von Ness, who agreed to answer some questions about this important part of your book’s overall development.

1) How many book covers have you designed? Do you primarily work for indie authors?

I’ve designed approximately 2,000 covers, which includes covers designed for indie authors, book coaches, medium-size publishing companies, and design contests.

I personally never make any differences between first time indie authors and authors who have already sold millions of books. Every new cover design is a new challenge where I try to create a little masterpiece every time.

Even though I do this for a living, and put food on the table by doing it, this is still a form of art – and art doesn’t include any boundaries in its nature.

2) When authors approach you to design their cover, what are some of their biggest concerns?

Mostly indie authors, who have never worked with me, are concerned that their message wouldn’t be recognized on the cover at first glance. But I reassure them that I make unlimited changes until the author is 100% satisfied.

Also, first time authors are very concerned that I won’t be able to present the main character (and secondary characters) in the way they are described in the book. This is by far the greatest mistake authors make when thinking about a cover! The main character should never be on the cover, unless it’s only in one segment, or as an undefined character whose appearance could still be imagined by the reader while reading the book.

If we have the main character “served” on the book cover, especially in fiction, a lot of readers will forever be deprived of imagining and daydreaming, and might possibly be disappointed by their actual appearance on the cover!

3) What are the most important elements to consider when designing a book cover?

Definitely typography: the font choice and its placement on the cover. Nothing can be compared to that. If your typography is lame, there is no point in having a great design with the best imagery.

I saw a lot of great designs that were literally ruined by bad typography. I would even dare to say that a good designer can be exclusively recognized by a good typography choice. For example, I sometimes send my clients the same design with different typography to prove to them how important this is in the overall design. The typography change was so powerful that the cover was sending a completely different message than it was supposed to.

One of the most important features today, compared to a couple of years back, is the visibility, readability and recognition in a thumbnail size. Today the majority of books are being sold online. So today you’ll see a lot designs with the title over the whole cover, which was unthinkable, even unacceptable a while ago.

Because of this, I’ve seen a new trend in redesigning existing covers. Many authors have done their cover very quickly, unprepared and unprofessional or with a very low budget, so some great, high quality books weren’t selling at all. In the end, they would realize that it is more profitable to make a cover redesign then to write a new book!

For example, at the beginning of this year, I redesigned one fiction novel. Before I made the redesign, the book was selling about seven copies per week. After my redesign, and some extra marketing efforts on the part of the author, the same book was selling almost 2,000 per month! A redesign of the book cover can be a great opportunity to revive sales. Trust me, the results can be surprising!

4) Is it necessary for you to read the book before designing the cover?

No. If that were necessary, I would only be able to create a few covers per year!

After an author contacts me, I send them a few questions to see what they really want, what they like and what they expect from their cover design. Of course, regardless of the different wishes I get from the authors, I design the book cover so it connects to the book and its content and with the message that the author wants to convey to his audience. My goal is, above all, to draw the reader in with the cover design and to give the book a professional appearance that will improve sales.

It’s also important to know the author’s target audience. After I have determined that, I start developing a design concept. Without a strictly defined target audience there is no point in doing a cover design. The majority of authors say that their target audience is males and females from 7 – 77! The author has to realize that his book wasn’t written for every person that enters the bookstore. Once this is determined, I can create an eye-catching book cover.

5) What about interior design? How important is that to the overall reading experience?

Every single part of the book is equally important for success. The interior layout should be readable for everyone. It may not be as important as the title, editing, proofreading, cover design and back copy, because a flawless interior layout design is useless when the book wasn’t edited properly and is filled with grammatical errors.

6) Do you have an opinion about online design tools that allow authors to create book covers on their own?

I think that this is very good and useful, but only to a point. As technology moves on, we have the opportunity to witness the appearance of new tools every day, which are helping us in our everyday work, so it’s no wonder that book cover design also got its turn.

Some book cover designers are frowning because they are afraid that it might take their job away. However, I don’t see any problem here. Just the opposite! I see that the book cover culture is developing in a positive direction and that the awareness of the importance of book cover design is larger every day. We as a community can only gain through that. The ones with a lower budget will be able to have their own book cover, which is something that makes me very happy.

One of the most useful and serious tools would be www.canva.com, which started very well and one that I hope will develop in a good direction. Every tool or application which helps the authors to create their book with less effort can only be beneficial for us who are engaged in the book business. Here I don’t only mean book cover design, but also editing, proofreading, etc. However, I would never recommend people to do these things on their own if they have serious intentions with their book.

Alexander von Ness is a book cover designer with almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design, and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. In the past few years his main area of focus is book cover design. His website Nessgraphica is among the top trusted sites for book cover design services overall.

Questions? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's Desk

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is a novelist, speaker, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com, and connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The 10 Worst Places to Write

October 7, 2014

worst places to writeNeed somewhere to create that bestseller? Whatever you do, avoid these 10 worst places to write.

All writers have their favourite places to write. Mine is my couch. In fact, I’m on it right now.

But there are some places where even seasoned authors just can’t seem to find that proverbial muse. We polled several of them for their “favourite” worst places to write, and while you might be able to relate to some of their responses, others might surprise you.

10) Around their kids: Yep. Little ones are a constant distraction, from wanting more milk to needing the channel changed. They also tend to peek over your shoulder, breathing down your neck as they inspect what’s keeping you from showering them with attention. But who can blame them for being curious about what you’re doing? It looks so interesting…for about three seconds.

Then it becomes all about them again. Pouring milk. Changing channels.

If you have teenagers, you’re slightly better off. They won’t want anything to do with you, as long as there’s food, TV, and available car keys. So you’ll have lots of time to write, probably about how much you miss them being little.

Face it: no matter how old they are, you’re screwed.

9) Near the TV: In this on-demand world, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. So, you can always catch up on those episodes of Modern Family that you missed.

In fact, why not watch them right now? They’ll just be on in the background while you write.

Two hours later you’re caught up on watching, but the page will still be blank. Stupid TV.

8) In the Nude: Ok, not really a “where”, but a “state of undress” is still a state, isn’t it?

They say that Oscar Wilde used to write in an empty room, completely naked, so he had no distractions. But that was in the days of pen and paper, before the threat of having our web cams broken into existed.

But leaked nude pictures have actually helped some careers.

Would it help yours? Hmm….

7) Around a cat: “Feed me.

“Be my scratching post.

“Your keyboard looks warm – I think I’ll lie on it.

“Chase me away and I’ll stare at you from across the room. Try to concentrate now, human, under the powerful gaze of my stare.

“Just try.

“Ha! Knew you couldn’t.”

6) Home: See ALL of the above. If you have no kids, no pets, no TV, and enjoy wearing clothes, you might be okay.

Oh wait, there’s wine?

5) Anywhere you can access Facebook: WiFi is everywhere, so the temptation to check your Facebook newsfeed, upload some pictures, or play Candy Crush can be insurmountable. For authors, theses distractions are all too common.

In fact, I ran this poll on Facebook and got a huge response. Point proven.

4) On Date Night: You think the cat has a powerful death stare? Check out the one on your partner when you bring the laptop to date night.

The cat will probably never leave you, but your partner might.

Then again, look at all the time you’ll have to write now.

3) In the Mall: Great for people watching. But the constant stream of humanity flowing by can be too entertaining to be distracted by writing. People are just too darn fun to miss!

Maybe avoid the mall. Besides, nothing in the food court is brain food. More like drain food. For mall rats.

2) At Work:  Hee! I know someone who actually did this! Good thing their boss was away at the time. Make sure yours is too before you use company time to write your retirement book.

Unless, of course, you’re prepared to live solely on a typical writer’s income. If you like Kraft Dinner three times per day, you might not mind so much.

1) Starbucks: Strangely, few mentioned coffee shops in general. Starbucks was specifically named, so I suppose Timothy’s and Second Cup are fine.

What’s the difference that makes Starbucks stand out in such dubious fashion?

They’re noisy. Every Starbucks I’ve been in seems designed to broadcast every whispered conversation so that you drown in a cacophony of voices.

They’re crowded. Good luck getting a table, no matter the time of day.

And, worst of all, they’re stereotypical. “There’s ANOTHER writer with his laptop, taking two hours to drink his coffee!”

Where do you find it impossible to write? Leave your answer in the comments below!

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com. Connect with Richard on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.


3 Simple Steps for a Compelling About Us Page

September 24, 2014

About Us,About Me, Editor's DeskYour About Us page could be the most important part of your site. Are you maximizing its potential?

How’s your About Us page? Have you considered how powerful it can be?

The About Us page provides a wonderful opportunity to really connect with your audience. It’s where you can talk about your background and describe what inspired you to start your business. No one likes to read an About Us page that feels like a reshashed sales pitch.

But some organizations do just that: talk about the company instead of focusing on the human element behind the curtain. It’s as if they copied and pasted information from their product pages.

Let your products and services speak for themselves in their own space. This is about you!

So how do we change our minds about About Us pages? Here are three simple rules to get you started.

Rule #1) Tell your story: You felt a passion and started a business. That’s a story worth telling.

Explain what inspired you to take that first step? Did you see a business need worth pursuing? Did you have a mentor who inspired you? Did you start with a lemonade stand and now own a catering business? We need to know!

But remember, the content needs to be relevant to what you’re doing now. If you’re an accountant, the fact that you played in a garage band in your 20s probably wouldn’t apply here. When you get to know your clients a little better, you can share these details.

Finally, now is not the time to be modest. Like I said, your story is worth telling. Tell it. Be honest and be proud.

Rule #2) Show Yourself: We’re human. We like to see other humans. And not the ones in stock photos. We want to to see you!

Arrange for some professional headshots (no selfies!). If you’re creating a page highlighting an executive team, a group shot is a great way to show team unity. If that doesn’t work, try to use the same photographer for individual shots so the images appear consistent.

Also, the pictures should represent your industry. Web developers have more leeway with fun pictures than financial professionals. Your photographer will be able to help you foster the proper image and setting.

Rule #3) Get Someone to Proofread It: I can’t stress this one enough!

A colleague should be able to tell you if it’s too long, uninspiring, or overtly sales oriented. Be sure to select someone who will be able to pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar issues as well.

In case you’re still skeptical about the power of About Us pages, consider Facebook. When you think about it, that monster is simply comprised of personal About Me pages.

Millions of them.

And Facebook really took off, didn’t it?

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.


Have a To-Do List? Create a Done List!

September 4, 2014

to-do list,done listA done list will motivate you to tackle that to-do list, and give you a better sense of accomplishment.

If you’re a first time entrepreneur developing your startup, you will likely have a to-do list.

And, chances are, it’s pretty daunting.

My startup checklist covered three months worth of tasks, covering simple jobs such as business registration and domain name purchase, to more complex projects like conducting a market research survey. And for every task I checked off the list, I added at least two more.

I could only see how much there was to do, and wasn’t appreciating all I had accomplished. It’s not very motivating to look at an ever-growing list every day, without taking the time to reflect on the journey I’d already travelled.

Until I discovered the done list.

Where the to-do list is all about planning, the done list allows you to evaluate how you executed the plan. It’s the perfect balance for the to-do list, giving you a rear-view mirror on how your startup is growing. It also allows you to compare your expectations and results and examine the entire process, empowering you to make better to-do lists in the future.

The done list is also a powerful motivational tool, as it shows you real results. You can pat yourself on the back because you’ve accomplished things! Not intangible goals or wishes, but actual things. At the end of the day, you can look back and be proud of all you’ve done, reenergizing you for the next day.

Your done list may never be as big as your to-do list, but you’ll get more satisfaction from the process by keeping track of both.

As they say, it’s not always about the destination. It’s also about the journey.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.


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