Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cover Design: E-book vs. Paperback

Farsighted will be coming out in paperback soon, and I'm thinking hard about its cover. Paperback book covers have to perform different jobs than Kindle covers. They don't necessarily have to look great on screen, although it sure doesn't hurt. They also require more copy. I've been looking at the covers of books in my house to see which ones I like best.

Check this one out:

It's simple, which I really like, and there are graphics on the front, the spine, and the back. However, I think the back of this cover is underutilized. The back is a great opportunity for marketing. Generally speaking, people picking up a book in a bookstore first look at the front cover, and then they turn it over to look at the back before they open it up. If the back cover is gripping and intriguing, there's a better chance that they'll continue investigating it and possibly even BUY it.

Here's an intriguing back cover:

The text boxes mimic the shape of the honeycomb, and the cover designer has included a teaser and endorsements. Very well done.

Of course, if I'm feeling vain, I could try a back cover that looks something like this:
I wonder if I could pull off that scholarly profile pose. There's only one way to find out. ;)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Infographic: The Mormon Mom's Guide to Money

Are Bitcoins Worth the Risk?

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

No matter how you feel about the bitcoin phenomenon, the existence of this alternative currency tells us something about the current economic environment we're living in. There are people waiting on a list to buy bitcoins, no matter what the coins' value is when the waitlisters arrive at the top of the list. At the beginning of the year, you could buy a bitcoin for $13.51. Last week (a mere 3 1/2 months later), bitcoins were trading for $266.

Buying bitcoins is risky, but many people consider are considering the risk to be worth it, especially after governmental fiascos like the one we saw in Cyprus just weeks ago. With governments behaving in such desperate and erratic ways, people are looking for a currency that is beyond the greedy reach of their lawmakers, something they can count on to take care of themselves. And yet, are bitcoins the best way to address these problems?

This is why bitcoins make me nervous:

  • No government legally compels anyone to accept bitcoins as payment for goods or services, so you may or may not be able to use them when you need to.
  • You have to trust unregulated institutions with your credit card information when you purchase bitcoins. This seems like a perfect set-up for fraud and identity theft.
  • You have to trust a cryptographic network using computer technology that I will probably never understand.
  • There's no guarantee that the existing bitcoin system will continue to honor future purchases or trades.
  • Governments could intervene and render bitcoins worthless (like if the U.S. makes their possession illegal)
  • The anonymous creator has mysteriously "moved onto other projects." 
  • Bitcoins are highly vulnerable to theft since they're untraceable.
So that's why I'm not a big fan of bitcoins. That doesn't mean I don't own any myself, but I'm not going to make them a big part of my overall financial plan.

When it comes down to it, my 401k makes me pretty nervous sometimes, but my real estate never does. For more information about investing, check out Farsighted: The Mormon Mom's Guide to Money. I won't steer you wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Minimalist Cover Art

Why is minimalist cover art surging in popularity right now? I have a theory. I think that there's so much information out there and so many images vying for our bleary, weary eyes that we're all craving something restful. Something simple. Something harmonious and serene like these fantastic examples of minimalist cover art that I've found for you to rest your tired eyes on. Enjoy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Interview with LDS Author Amber Gilchrist

I had the good fortune to interview Amber Gilchrist, author of Glitch, an LDS romantic comedy. She's funny; you'll like her. Here's a peek into this LDS author's writing world:

What made you start writing for the LDS audience?

I've always been a writer and when i joined the church in 1993 at the age of 18 I started writing LDS books immediately, but I only finished one all the way through and it was ridiculously over dramatic and not worth following through, though I may rewrite it some day.  Over the years, I've started several LDS books, most of which are probably half finished.  I've been working on my career as a YA writer, but now I love to use NaNoWriMo to write LDS books just for something different.

Do you think there is any subject matter that is off-limits to LDS authors?

Uh...exotic dancing bar owners who set fire to elementary schools?  Unless, of course, they're taking the lessons and then that would probably be okay too haha.  

How would you write differently if you were writing for a general audience?

Well, I do also write for a general audience.  I write upper YA, for teenagers over the age of 16 or so, and for adults I write series mysteries.  I think the only real difference is that the LDS books have characters who allow me to explore the day to day life of an LDS person.  Religion is rarely mentioned in my other books. 

Do you write from an outline? Or do you start writing and see where the story takes you? Or some other method?

I'm definitely a panster to start.  I think about my characters and then I just let them tell me their story.  Now, if the story starts to drag, usually towards the second part of the middle chunk, I might very vaguely plot out the rest to both avoid a sagging middle and to make sure that everything pulls together at the end.  

Do you think independent publishing will change LDS literature?

You know, I really do.  There's very few LDS publishers and most of them publish the same kind of thing.  Anyone who still has a good story to tell, but colors a little outside of the lines had no chance before.  For those of us who are generally unimpressed with the more dramatic style of traditional LDS novels, indie published books are a breath of fresh air. 

You can catch Amber on Twitter () or on her website. I agree, LDS indie published books are a breath of fresh air.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's Wrong with Multi-level Marketing?

In some areas of Mormondom, MLM companies and distributors are as ubiquitous as CTR rings and minivans. In areas like these, it's not uncommon to be approached by home teachers, visiting teachers, and other people in your ward about joining up. If multi-level marketing is the win-win situation many people tout it as, what's wrong with multi-level marketing?

Nothing, if you don't mind being a pawn in someone else's money-making scheme while you barely scrape by yourself. The danger is that you won't be told the real deal up front. Instead, you'll be given visions of grandeur. Writing for Forbes, Donald Frazier says, "some MLMs amp it up with messianic language and a powerful sense of purpose and community so that IRs stick with it to be loyal and keep friends, even when losing money."

For example, Bountiful-based ARIIX distributes dietary supplements through its multi-level marketing network, but the company's vision is "to unleash the human potential for good." Who wouldn't want to be a part of such a mission. Their website elaborates a little on this vision: "Our desire is to contribute to the greater good of every person we encounter because we believe that each one of us is linked together for a specific purpose." It's exceedingly difficult to find out how much you can make by selling ARIIX products. On the compensation page, you're told, "The possibilities are endless for what you can attain with the Activ8 Compensation Plan. by participating in the Activ8 Compensation Plan you will have access to a tool that can make your dreams a reality."

C'mon, seriously? I just want to know how much commission I'll earn when I sell my visiting teachers the Slenderiix weight-loss products because I already told them that "abnormal fat storage resulting from a suppressed metabolism is a disease of deficiency and co-existent toxicity."

It seems like I'm picking on ARIIX, but I'm just using it as an example. If a company is not willing to be up-front about how much the products cost, how much commission you'll make by selling them, or what you can expect from this "job," it's too risky.

Since multi-level marketing is so prevalent in some LDS areas, I've included a whole section of my book, Farsighted: The Mormon Mom's Guide to Money, to explaining its inherent dangers. There are so many legitimate, less-dangerous ways out there for moms to make part-time income from home. You don't have to resort to the confidence-eroding job of selling price-inflated products to your increasingly skeptical friends and acquaintances. Don't be a pawn. Take control.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saving for LDS Missions

The United States tax code has given its citizens incentives for saving for education and retirement. Section 529 provides tax incentives for saving for college, and 401(k) and 403(b) provides retirement savings benefits. These programs are well known and used by millions of Americans to plan for events that will happen later in life. But there isn't a government-sponsored method of saving for LDS missions, so we have to figure out how to best do that ourselves.

The following are ideas for mission savings that you can use to help your children save for their missions, or they may help you to save for your own mission.

1. Matching Plan. Some employers offer matching plans for their employees' retirement savings. With 401(k) programs, employers can match up to 6% of the employees' earnings and deposit this money in their retirement accounts. When you offer your children a matching plan for their missions, you give them an added incentive, and you also teach them about their future investment strategies. Depending on how old your children are and how much they could potentially earn, you could say, "For every dollar you put in your mission savings account, we'll put in a dollar, too." They'll watch their savings accounts grow faster, which will encourage them to continue working and contributing.

2. CDs. Today's historically low interest rates are great if you're buying a house, but they're not so great if you're trying to save money in a traditional savings account. Today's saving account interest rates don't keep up with inflation, so it's wise to look for another savings vehicle. Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are a good alternative because they have higher interest rates, and you can't withdraw from them until the specified time period has expired. The longer the maturity length, the better interest you'll get. And your child (or you) cannot withdraw the money until maturity, so he won't be tempted to spend it at iTunes.

3. Money Market. Money market accounts are more liquid alternatives to CDs. You'll still get a higher interest rate than you would with a regular savings account, but you can access the money just as you would with a checking account. Money market accounts are a great option for older teens who are approaching mission age and are also learning to use a checking account. Most money market accounts allow you to write checks and use debit cards.

With the new, lowered age requirements for missionaries, starting early with your mission saving has never been more important, and many families will be sending more missionaries now that girls can go at a younger age. For more LDS financial tips, download Farsighted: The Mormon Mom's Guide to Money at Amazon.

How has your family saved for missions?