The Serial Scribbler: Read, Practice, and Challenge Yourself



As a publisher and as a writer, I’m often surprised that I hear authors say they don’t read very much because they’re too busy writing. I have to ask the question, “Do you trust a doctor that doesn’t continue their education?”

Practicing writing styles and reading other books helps the author to expand their skills. We’re inspired every day by things we expose ourselves to. It would seem only logical that you would surround yourself with the works of authors that you respect but also seek new works and authors.

The indie publishing age is upon us. No longer are we limited to what one big house publisher thinks we might like. We now have the power to tell them what we are interested in.

One of my favorite things to do is learn about other cultures. Many times, listening to someone talk about their family or tales from their culture will inspire something that I write. I also gain inspiration from reading other authors and seeing how they portray their characters or their scenes. I love seeing how another author constructs their stories, laying them out for the reader to discover the plot.

The art of storytelling relies on the author’s imagination and passion. If the only passion you have is for your own work, it seems rather narcissistic but it also seems rather naïve. Break rules and be a trend-setter but remember there are others who readers will flock to for good reason.

Challenge yourself to be well-versed. Read something outside of your normal genre. Read more in your genre from the past and also current works. It’s similar to studying music. Everything you hear is derived from the masters of the past and the unique sounds inspired from it of today.

I always advise authors to join active writing guilds who challenge them to push past their comfort zones and push their writing limitations. I also practice what I preach and do the same. I can say from personal experience it has only enhanced my craft.

Weigh in! Who inspires you to be a better writer?

Cover Yourself – By The Serial Writer, Lisa “The Body Bag Betty” Vasquez

Cover Yourself – By The Serial Writer, Lisa Vasquez

A lot of authors miss one vital part of creating a successful end result with their book. The Cover. They pay for editors, they pay for formatting but when it comes down to the cover they skimp. Why? I compare this to how a man or woman picks out the person they’re attracted to across the room. Do they choose the most well-adjusted, intelligent person they’ve first laid on eyes on? No, they couldn’t possibly know that. When a person is out on the town looking to find that potential significant other, do they dress in something they “settled for” out of their closet? Not most of the time.

When you look your best and have a polished look, you exude confidence right from the start. This is how your book should be presented.

A book cover has to be engaging on many levels. It has to tell a story in the picture. It cannot just be a “cool pic” you found browsing stock images. That might work for some, but others are looking to the book cover to tell the story before they ever turn the book around to read the synopsis. The image should be clear and crisp, and it should draw the reader into it before they open to the first page.

You have put the time and blood into the writing the book, why would you slap on a cover unworthy of those words?

So what goes into the creation of a cover from a good artist/designer?

·         Color. Color is a mood and it will set the tone for what your book contains within. Is it bleak? Is it horror? Is it romantic? Think about what colors you associate with these moods.

·         Connection. The cover must connect the reader to the story at first glance (think eye contact with that sexy someone across the room).

·         Content. Your book cover must pique the reader’s interest to what’s inside your book. It has to set it aside from every other book in that genre.

·         Font. Oh man I could write a book about this one. I don’t care how gorgeous that cover is, if the font is ugly, distracting, unprofessionally slapped on, and flat it will get passed over. Hello? This is your title! And your name! It should stand out and be bold and majestic. Not flat and distorted. (end rant)

These are just some of the first things I, and other readers, are judging on your book. It’s what will call to them among the thousands of other books on the shelves beside it. You will be judged harshly like any bikini contest on Daytona Beach during spring break so you better bring it. Yes, writing a book is an investment. An investment is a risk. You have to be sure your book is worth it. If it’s not, you should re-think your choice to be a writer.

I’ve seen plenty of books that I’ve read prior to release and thought, “Wow! This is a fantastic story!” Then when the cover is revealed, I get slightly turned off. Am I, your reader, not worthy of the effort to at least give me something I’m proud to put on my bookshelf? If you want my money, which I’m glad to pay for a good story, then give me a beautiful book.

In the end, you’ll find it is easier to sell. Not only that, but you’ll be more proud to blow that cover up and display the banner at book signings, or creating posters to give as swag. Because let’s be totally honest. No one wants an ugly cover on their wall.

Warmest Regards,

Stitched Smile Publications Magazine
Author of The Unsaintly Series
Publishers Liaison
Horror Writer’s Association