SPAWNews Newsletter – October 2012


For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews:

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From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

Sometimes creative people get bogged down in what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. I know I have this problem sometimes.

For example, suppose you’re a freelance writer. In a given week, you may plan to write two blog posts and send out two query emails to editors. But a client calls you with a rush job. He needs some marketing copy right now. You meet the deadline, but instead of focusing on that success, you lament the fact that you didn’t write your blog posts.

This week, I did something that brought this point home. On Friday, I posted what I had done that week on Facebook. ("This week: 1 four-color magazine, 1 print newsletter, 3 trade show graphics, 5 meetings, 1 radio show, 26 abstracts, 1 online newsletter, 2 web site updates, 2 slide presentations, and a partridge in a pear tree.")

I was kidding about the partridge, but it was great to see all the kudos I received from friends. Maybe I should do this more often! There’s nothing wrong with celebrating your accomplishments. I encourage you to give it a try the next time you say to yourself, "I never get anything done." In reality, you probably do 😉

Susan Daffron (
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.

Editor’s Note

SPAWN isn’t just about writing; we have artists and illustrators, book-cover designers and other extraordinarily talented people on our membership rolls. Visit and click Members. Scroll through the member list and you might find just the right person for a collaboration.

In this issue of SPAWNews, Lewis Agrell tells us how book covers come into being. Be sure to follow the link to his webpage to see the changes he made and why, from the idea to the finished product.

Patricia Fry reviews a book about time management and how to finish your own book. For the Terminally Tardy of us, this could come in handy. Just be sure to set aside time to read it. Roberta Raye knows time management—she managed to write an article for the newsletter between a visit to the emergency room (boyfriend/bike/crash) and packing for a trip to Europe. My excuses seem pitiful in comparison.

New member M.L. Smith shares some ideas for promoting art work—no reason these tips won’t work for writing, too. Those who are on the SPAWNdiscuss Yahoo e-mail list saw Lucinda Crosby’s e-mail about the conference she attended in Hawaii. She had a great time and is more enthusiastic than ever. Read about it below and plan your next conference. Also be sure to check out the SPAWN-sponsored writers’ event the first weekend in November.

The kids are back in school, the fall routine is working itself out, and there’s more/less time to work on what we love. How do you carve out time for yourself and your work? Send suggestions and I’ll get them in a future newsletter—maybe they’ll make good New Year’s resolutions.

 — Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews,

SPAWN-Sponsored Event and Opportunity for Writers

A literary event for writers wishing to learn more about the craft and business of writing will take place Saturday and Sunday, November 3and 4 at the Pleasant Valley Senior Center in Camarillo. The Ventura County Book & Author Fair will morph into the VC Writers Weekend featuring speakers and educational seminars. The event is produced by the Pacific Institute for Professional Writing (PIPW) and co-sponsored by the Ventura County Writers Club (VCWC), Ojai Writers Conference, Global Writing Adventures, and the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN).

Saturday’s theme will be “The Business of Writing,” covering book marketing, social networking for authors, self publishing, small independent presses, and an agent panel discussing the current desires of publishers.

Sunday’s theme is “The Craft of Writing,” with sessions on memoirs, writing for stage and television, writing for women, and the necessary elements a book needs to get published. There is a fee for all sessions. People can purchase per session, per day or two-day pass. Contact Ms. Sexton at 805-633-1506 or for more details.

SPAWN Market Update

by Patricia Fry

This month’s SPAWN Market Update includes 10 opportunities for freelance writers, 10 opportunities for authors, and a variety of ideas and resources for each SPAWN member, whether you are writing a book, creating art, pursuing a freelance writing career, promoting a book, or shopping a screenplay. Are you interested in purchasing mailing lists at reasonable prices? Would you like to know more about ebook showcase sites? Do you need help with how to use the Writer’s Market to your full advantage? You’ll find all of this and much more in the meaty, monthly SPAWN Market Update in the member area of the SPAWN website. To log in, go to Use your name with no space, for example PatriciaFry and then the password that was sent to you when you joined. If you don’t remember the password, click "Lost your password?" and WordPress will send you a new one.

You have yet to join SPAWN and receive all of the benefits. Join this month by going to and click on Join/Renew.

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Cover Design, Self-Publishing Companies, and Colons on a Book Cover By Bobbie Christmas

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: My book is finished being edited and is ready to be printed. How can I put a nice cover on it as cheaply as possible? I don’t expect the book to be on a bestseller list, but I do want it to be more advanced than my first attempt.

A: You are wise to be concerned about the cover. The cover, both front and back, is often the only thing that sells a book. If the cover looks bad, few people will buy the book, no matter how well written the contents may be. As in editing, the cover is not a place where you want to scrimp.

If you don’t want the cover to look cheap, don’t be cheap. That is, pay someone, even if it is only a design student, to design a book cover properly and well. Making the front, back, and spine look professional takes much more work and knowledge than most non-designers can imagine, plus the file must be compatible with the printer’s equipment. If you want the cover to look professional, hire a professional to do it.

You can search the Internet for cover designers and pick one with the best price. Your designer can be anywhere in the world and send the files to you electronically. Check out some of the lower-priced book design companies in India, for example. You can hire a pro yourself, or you can use a pay-to-publish company that offers cover design as part of a printing package. Check the Internet for such companies and see if they offer covers that appeal to you at a price that is satisfactory.

Q: Can you recommend two or three high-quality self-publishing companies? We are ready to publish, but I’m on the fence as to who we should use.

A: Who you choose to publish your book depends on your needs and desires. Some pay-to-publish companies have gotten bad press, yet many clients who have used the same companies have been happy. Instead of listing specific companies, let me make some suggestions.

1.  Evaluate your needs before you begin the decision process. Which is more important to you, a low per-book price or the ability to order only a few books at a time, so you don’t have to warehouse them? The answer will determine whether you want a print-on-demand publisher or a true printing company.

2.  Do you need someone to fulfill orders for you? If so, choose a company that offers fulfillment services.

3.  Do you need help with internal and external design, getting an ISBN or a barcode? Read about the capabilities of each publisher and decide which capabilities are the most important to you and your goals.

4.  If you do not need help with order fulfillment, design, barcode, or ISBN, find a printing company, rather than a publisher. Printers usually charge less than companies that offer extra services and handholding.

5.  If you decide to use a pay-to-publish company, investigate the company first. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask for references from clients, and call or e-mail those clients and ask probing questions. Be sure the company you choose is reputable.

6.  Ask for samples of the company’s products. See if you like the look and feel of the books. If the company will not send samples, go to the next company.

7.  Pay attention to how quickly the company responds to your questions and requests. Be sure the company allows you to speak with a human being, so you won’t have to deal with the company strictly by e-mail or through a website. Don’t, however, fall for high-pressure sales tactics. If someone says you’ll get a good deal only if you make a decision right away, run away, as fast as you can!

8.  Don’t make your decision based on price alone. You usually get what you pay for. For example, some paperback covers curl over time or in heat. Pay a little extra to get a cover that will lie flat for the life of the book.

9.  If you want to use a company that has a higher price and you have been dealing with a human being, you may be able to negotiate a slightly better price. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. Explain that you are considering such-and-such publisher that charges only (give the price) for the same service, and ask if the company will match that price. Be honest and realistic. Companies deserve to make a profit.

Q: Assume the following title (subtitle?) on a book:


How Jogging and Running Can Improve Your Health

Must the second line be considered a subtitle? If so, must I have a colon after WIND, or can it be as I show it?

A: If both lines appear on the title page of the manuscript or on the cover of a book, the top line—RUN WITH THE WIND—would be considered the title, and the second line—How Jogging and Running Can Improve Your Health—would be considered the subtitle. Must it be so? Not really, but a good subtitle clarifies the contents of the book, so it’s wise to have a subtitle on nonfiction books. If you don’t want the second line to be a subtitle, delete it from the title page of the manuscript or the cover of the book before printing, but it would be unwise to avoid using a subtitle that clarifies the contents.

A colon does not need to appear on the manuscript title page or book cover, when the title and subtitle are on separate lines. The colon should, however, appear when the title and subtitle are used together for advertising and promotional purposes. In running text or advertising, for example, it would be Run with the Wind: How Jogging and Running Can Improve Your Health.

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too.  Send them to Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at

Book Review

by Patricia Fry

Finish Your Book: A Time-Management Guide for Writers by Karen Hodges Miller and Lorette Pruden, Ph.D. Open Door Publications, LLC,, ISBN: 978-0-9838750-0-0, 114 pages, $19.95

Here’s a book designed to help you in the process of “unlocking your ideas and finishing your book.”

What do these authors bring to the table? Miller is a veteran journalist and writing coach and Pruden is a time-management specialist and business consultant. Together, they have written this guide for would-be authors who are not doing the writing they want to be doing or hope to someday pursue. These authors’ first words of wisdom are, “Do not wait for inspiration.” If you want to sell what you write, you really must make a plan.

The authors advise, “If you plan to sell your book, make sure the book you want to write blends passion and practicality.” Part of being practical is making time to write.

While there is an abundance of practical tips and techniques throughout this slim book, I particularly enjoyed reading about creativity and creative energy. The authors suggest allowing creativity into your life by trying new recipes, changing your hairstyle, taking a walk, reading a book, journaling, and so forth. They say, “Creativity comes from inside you. If you don’t take time to listen to yourself, you will never be able to hear your own creative voice.” And the first ingredient for nurturing creative energy, they say, is passion.

After the authors attempt to help you explore your creativity, they guide you in developing self-discipline—a definite problem for many would-be writers. They say, “Finding your creative energy when you’d rather be doing something easier and more fun is what self-discipline is all about.” And they say, “Self-discipline is the secret ingredient in all of the steps we mention in this book.”

Among the practical suggestions these two authors offer is their advice that you find an accountability partner. I love this idea for someone who is having a little trouble maintaining a writing schedule. What is an accountability partner? According these authors “It is someone who will support/nudge/nag you into completing a difficult project.”

If you are having trouble getting your writing done, consider taking a look at this book. You’ll learn a little something about creativity as well as writer’s block, how to organize your time, goal setting, how to keep from failing, and how to set your priorities.

Book Promotion for the Artist

by Patricia Fry

One thing you will learn as a career artist is that in order to keep selling, you have to keep promoting. Once you enter into the world of entrepreneurship, promotion will be part of your lifestyle forevermore. Here’s the mindset you should adopt.

  • Talk about your art everywhere you go.
  • Hand out brochures with examples of your work.
  • Carry samples with you, if practical, and show them off.
  • Schedule time slots each week for promotion.
  • Try at least one new promotional activity each month.

Promotional ideas don’t normally come easily for those of us with an artistic bent. Be observant. What are other artists doing? What’s selling and where? Study the way other artists display their arts and crafts. You can learn a lot by watching others. But also act on your own ideas.       

Resources for working artists and crafters:

The Ripple Effect of Showing Art

by M. L. Smith

“There are three classes of people,” Leonardo da Vinci said. “Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”

It is our challenge as artists to highlight our work in fresh ways that will not only increase our exposure, but also lighten the lives of all who see it. Here are three easy-to-implement, low-cost ways to accomplish both.

1. Put a small print of your favorite artwork, perhaps 4” x 6”, on blank greeting cards and personally sign each one for the recipients to keep and possibly frame. Who would not want a free art print personally signed by the artist? They may want a large print. Perhaps others who see it will want a print, too. At the very least, they will ask about you and hear what a talented artist you are—because you are. Have a variety of these cards on hand—remember to sign them directly under the print—and send them out for every occasion with your personal message inside.

2. Many artists don’t keep friends and family up-to-speed on current work. We say we’re working on a new landscape or entering shows, but since most artists don’t have a studio open to visitors (for most years my studio has been a small upstairs bedroom), most people are curious but clueless. Well, no more. From now on, send e-mails with an attached small image of your newest work with comments like, “Here’s my newest painting. I experimented with acrylic inks and like the intensity and transparency. I am titling this one “Above the Columbia.” Now they are part of your journey. They will appreciate that you have included them and will tell others. In addition, they will get back to you with encouraging comments, which in the lonely work of art we often need to hear.

3. If you have photo-editing software, superimpose a short, favorite quote onto one of your artworks, being sure the text can be easily read, and post it on Facebook and other social media pages to be shared and passed along, with credit always coming back to you, your page, your posted artwork.

Remember the adage about what happens when the value of a penny doubles every day? In 30 days, it would grow to 10,000,000.

Inspiring, isn’t it?

M.L. Smith,  MUFN Books,

Book Cover Design Primer

by Lewis Agrell

I have great respect for the written word. I have a greater respect for those authors who are able to synthesize a vision and create a cohesive collection of chapters that inform, enlighten, entertain, and challenge the reader. I know how difficult this is, and how long it takes to go from the first inspired idea to the finished product, because I’m married to a writer/editor. I’ve seen her go to battle with an author, fighting over POV, the use of profanity, structure, phrasing—even where to insert or omit commas. What a battle writing is!

After struggling for months (years?) on a book, making sure that every single adverb, adjective, and clause are perfect, there is one more battle that must be fought: the cover design.

In the big publishing houses authors aren’t even consulted when their cover is created. The design department is charged with this task, and they must do battle with the editorial hierarchy in getting their ideas approved. After several dozen ideas are presented, a final cover design is celebrated, and then the author is shown what his cover will look like.

We now have a new world of self-publishing. With the advent of on-demand digital publishing, a new dynamic has occurred: the author can be in charge of everything, from writing to creating the cover design and sending the final PDF files to the digital printer.

I am a book-cover designer. Although I have been a designer/illustrator for more than thirty years, I have focused on book-cover design for the past six years. It has been an interesting journey. I primarily work with two publishers in the United States, and they send me cover-design assignments on a regular basis.

For the most part, I create two cover samples for the author’s review, and he or she selects one of those designs.

However, I am occasionally faced with the situation where the author has taken the time to put together his/her own cover design, or has an idea of how the cover should look. Sometimes these ideas are workable, and I flesh out their vision. 

Normally, however, the idea is faulty in one way or another. That’s because they are not experienced designers, and are ignorant of several things:

  • What do other books in this genre look like? People who like a particular genre expect the covers of their books to look a certain way. If the book cover looks like other books they have purchased, then they feel comfortable with buying this new book.
  • Symbology. Fonts are symbols. Colors are symbols. Images are symbols. A good designer knows what all of these symbols mean, and uses them judiciously. You don’t put blue on a cover because it’s your favorite color; you use blue because it is a cool/cold color, is recessive, and because it symbolizes faith, compassion, infinity, the intellect, and peace. That’s why you use the color blue.
  • Marketing. There are definitely trends in book-cover design. I’m seeing a lot of painted covers now—even hand lettering. This is most likely a reaction to the over-digitized world in which we live. Certain designs will simply “sell” your book better than other designs. An experienced designer will know best what works in the marketplace.
  • Graphic expertise. Photoshop is a remarkable piece of software, and the best designers have mastered it. Designers also use peripheral software to enhance the cover art.

I really didn’t handle the covers for four Chinese books any differently than I would any other cover. As a designer, I have to know as much as possible about the contents of the book and the intended audience. The cover is simply a synthesized visual reflection of the interior. My goal is to reflect the writing as honestly as possible, with an eye toward marketing and what will catch the eye of the typical browsing customer.

So, as a note to all of you authors out there: when the time finally arrives for you to create the cover for your book, it’s okay to come up with two or three ideas, but turn this process over to the professionals. You’ll be glad you did.  to see examples of book covers

Lewis Agrell is an award-winning designer and illustrator. A native Minnesotan, Lewis was the chief artist for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a New York Times subsidiary newspaper in Florida, for ten years. Prior to that he was the art director for Sarasota Magazine. For the past six years he has specialized in book-cover design and works with a number of independent book publishers. He and his wife, writer/editor Kathryn, live in northern Arizona, and they have three children and one cat.

Give Them What They REALLY Want (or Yes It IS Your Job to Sell Your Art!)

by Roberta Raye

Artists, writers and other creatives have a hard time with this. But it’s a simple fact—just because you finished making the thing doesn’t mean you are finished with it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can put the same creativity into marketing, promoting, and selling your work as you put into creating it.

Understand that people don’t buy art, they buy feelings. They buy lifestyles. By the same token, people don’t buy books, they buy promises—of escape, of solutions to problems, of thrills.You know who is supposed to buy your work because you created it for them.

Take a minute to imagine, specifically and in great detail, who will get the most emotional value from your work. Use your creative imagination to discover what he is looking for; what keeps her awake at night. Make notes. Where does he live, where does she shop? What really motivates this person? Fear? Longing? Desire for a better life? Community? Keep jotting notes as if for a character study. The better you know this person, the easier it is to connect with him or her.

Now you know who is looking for you, and the feeling, lifestyle, or promise you deliver. Think of your work as the vehicle that will deliver the feeling, result, or image they want for themselves. Remember, you are not selling art or books, you are selling the access to what the buyer really wants.

Knowing exactly how your work is the bridge to what they really want, you can now get really playful when you look for ways to deliver it. I make it a point to think win-win. How can you introduce yourself to your intended audience in a way that will give them a reason to know, like, and trust you?

The best way I have found is to offer something of value, and to make sure every interaction is win-win. Think of the ways people try to fill their needs. Find ways to engage in them, especially if those ways are beyond where art or books are traditionally sold. What can you teach? What can you give for free that will leave them wanting more? Find people to partner with, projects to support, events to speak at, videos to be in…get your name out there, and don’t be shy.

Understand that your people—the people who will get the most from what you have created—are looking for you. You know them, but they don’t know you or that you are the answer to their problems. You owe it to them to give them a chance to get what they really want—so get out there and be bold! You can do it when you focus on them and what they will get, not the other way around.

Roberta Raye is an author, artists, entrepreneur, mom, and so much more. She uses her superpowers to turn exhausted, cranky mothers into playful, passionate people. She is the author of Open with Love, a novel of discovery.

Spellbinders Conference in Hawaii

by Lucinda Sue Crosby

I want to write briefly about the International Writer’s Conference in Hawaii. The turnout of the paying public and convention vendors was small, and I’d have to think, a bit disappointing. The turnout of writers and authors was tremendous.

I made contacts with some amazing people: Jane Smiley (MOO and 1,000 Acres) and Kaui Hart Hemmings (The Descendents), Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean), Joyce Graham, and Dr. Diane Howard, among many others.

I met a small publisher (L. Sue Durkin-Eggert, Weaving Dreams Publishing) interested in my The Adventures of Baylard Bear: a story about being DIFFERENT. I have already assured her participation in my publishing company’s (LuckyCinda Publishing) upcoming Second Annual California Fiction Writers Book Challenge coming in the fall of 2012. The winner will have access to her directly to see if a publishing deal might be in the offing.

Also, many Spellbinders attendees have already bought the book Laura Dobbins and I wrote together that was released in September—$ell More eBook$—on Amazon and B&N.

But the coolest link for me is a man named Bob Kosberg. He pitches movies by brief concept, often with little more than the idea, in two breezy sentences and a supporting paragraph. His example: SPLASH … a man falls in love with a mermaid.

I pitched Harry’s Back—a 10-year-old magician obsessed with Harry Houdini conjures the great illusionist up on Halloween. Bob asked me to write a supporting paragraph, which I am attending to. And then, I will rifle through all of my most commercial high-concept film ideas, polish the delivery, and get to him. That is a huge benefit. He is highly connected and reputable and assured me he’d be totally open to anything I felt I should pitch to him.

I plan to be very selective but will certainly spend more time developing these types of ideas now that I have a conduit.

NOTE: Spellbinders is planning two more writer’s conferences in 2013: February 14-17 in Santa Fe and May 9-12 in New Orleans. Contact Jody Mikkelsen. Web site: Phone: 262-729-9844  E-mail: Please mention Lucinda Sue Crosby if you contact Jody.

My workshop and my time on the panel was surprisingly well received. Topic: “The FEAR of starting over (and over): one writer’s reinvention from ZERO to HERO” In fact, Jody’s daughter enthused to her mother that it was her favorite presentation of the weekend. I managed to get laughter where I anticipated, and ad-libbed information about $ell More eBook$ because that was a big topic of conversation by many authors and writers. The big publishing houses are woefully behind in this arena.

If anyone wishes to ask more questions about this event, please e-mail me and/or check out the event’s web site mentioned above. Mahalo and aloha.

Member News

SPAWN got a nice write up. Check out the details at


Arlene Uslander, author of the award-winning anthology, The Mystery of Fate: Common Coincidence or Divine Intervention? is soliciting stories for a sequel, but this time the focus is on animals—as healers, life-changers, and even life-savers. For more information, contact Arlene at or just send her your story. A portion of sales of the book will be donated to animal rights and rescue organizations.


Sandra Beckwith talked about how to build book buzz as a featured speaker at the Mid-Atlantic Publishers Association summer meeting. She is also speaking at the Mohawk Valley Ad Club meeting in October on “Publicity in a New Media Era.

Contests, Events and Opportunities

The Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings are located on the SPAWN blog. Please use these links to get the latest information
Contests and Awards
Events and Opportunities


SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC. 734-455-098
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