Monday, November 21, 2016

It's the Little Things


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My tagline, or motto, or whatever you want to call it is, “a little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!” Someone once asked me what they’d find in my books and that was my reply. It made them laugh and become my motto. It’s worked well for me.

Okay, there’s nothing funny about murder, but you can find humor and maybe a little romance surrounding the characters in the story. In my books I concentrate more on the mystery and the characters more than the physical crime.

Sometimes when we’re trying to figure out what to do to be unique we forget things like a motto. 

The Bogey Man book covers all have one thing in common; branding. A friend of mine, Andy Kohut, created a silhouette of the Bogey Man for me and it appears on each and every cover, effectively branding them for me.

I came up with something for Old Murders Never Die, too. The book is about being stranded in a ghost town. I had some cloth shopping bags made up, and they have a picture of the book cover and a tagline on them. The tagline? “What Happens in Ghost Towns, Stays in Ghost Towns.” This is reminiscent of Las Vegas, but it sure serves my purpose.

I create all of my own book covers. Once in a while I want a person on the cover, but I still want the reader to use their imagination when visualizing characters so I use silhouettes. Let the reader see the character the way they want to, not the way I want them to see people. I’ve used photos of animals when I include one or more of the characters’ pets. In my books the pets are dogs, and who needs a silhouette of a dog? The real deal works quite well.

Another aspect of the covers is that I make sure to depict something from the story. I’ve bought books with covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the story and it didn’t set well with me – a personal problem for me. I want to look at the cover and have at least some idea of what I’m in for if I read the story.

Honestly, I’m not all that artistic, but I know what I like and what I hope readers will like. (No, I’m not fishing for compliments. Trust me.)

What about book trailers? That’s something newish and different. I’ve made a few and they were fun to work on. I’m not that much of a techie, but at least I can say I enjoyed what I put together and in the process hope that they’ll be eye-catching. Sometimes the music can make the whole book trailer. Picking the right background music can be tricky.

I would imagine many authors wish they could write a good (or great) book, and then sit back and wait for readers to flock to them. If wishes were dollars we’d all be wealthy. There’s still a lot of work after the author has typed The End.

Figure out what works for you. I do most of my own work and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Trial and error has played a large part in what I do. If something doesn’t work, move on and try something else.

Authors: What are some of the unique things you do with your books? Readers: What have you seen an author do that stuck in your mind and made you remember him/her?

Imaginative minds want to know.

Until next time, pay attention to mottos on products and books, and think about why it makes you want that product or book. Homework? No, just fun.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (You can find the book trailers on The Books page)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Take a break from the daily drudgery and read “Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here.” It might just help you escape the day for a while.


  1. Marja,
    I admire your ability to create your own book covers and I completely agree that the cover of a book should be representative of what's inside. I don't use "real" people on any of my covers either. Like you, I want readers to let their imaginations visualize my characters.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you, Pat! Your covers are a good example of the cover being representative of the story. The imagination is such a great thing to use when reading a book. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. If I like a certain author, I don't need anything on the cover except the title and the author's name, especially the latter, and I will buy everything by that author. Most of my favorite authors write in one genre only so I know what to expect more or less. Of course, I write in more than one genre but I use a different pen name for each one. Lea Chan books are as far removed from Vv Tiger books as books can be.

    1. Your books provide a great variety, Pat, and I enjoy all of them. I look for specific authors, but the cover will almost always make me take a second look. Of course, it's not just about covers. : )

  3. I love the book covers you've designed yourself, Marja. What works for one author, and her name escapes me (Jaquie...) but not her character, man hunting Honey Beaulieu. She's the daughter of a madame in the old west who sets out to make her living by capturing outlaws with prices on their heads. The books are excellent, but every now and then Jacquie has a picture (drawing) of Honey in a different location with the caption--What is Honey up to now? Or something similar. I think this is a wonderful idea to keep your character in front of readers between books.

    1. That really is a good idea, Dorothy. We should all keep that in mind. It made you remember her, along with her books. : )

  4. I like to create my own book covers, too, except for the one I had a professional do. Right now, I"m in the process of creating a book cover for my latest novel. After checking out what seemed like hundreds of images, I finally found one I think captures the story pretty well. I can feel the story as I look at the image. I think that's a big part of knowing what book cover is the right one for that particular novel, don't you?

    1. Feeling the story as you look at the image is wonderful, Evelyn! That says it all.

      Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to every one!

  5. Always enjoyed Andy's covers but believe he would approve of your creative efforts. My gift recipients all comment on cover so you must be doing something that readers like. Know I find your covers relative and back blurbs helpful when describing to new readers of your series.

    1. Thank you, Jake! I appreciate everything you do. Thank you, and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!