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BSP is delighted to present the cover for A Matter of Mercy by Lynne Hugo. It’s a beautifully written book, perfect for the beach, for reading time curled up by the fire, for book clubs, and for giving (& recommending) to friends. We’d love it if you’d help spread the word. 
Cover Reveal: A Matter of Mercy

You’re going to want to pick this one up, especially if you’ve:
1) ever been to Cape Cod,
2) if you like oysters or clams,
3) if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,
4) if you’ve ever had to forgive someone,
5) if you’ve ever had to take a chance on trust and/or love,
6) if you’ve lost a parent,
7) if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer,
8) or if you like, uh, just damn good fiction.
Here’s the lowdown on this beautifully written novel:Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends … and where it begins.

Thanks to everyone who voted on our cover concepts for Jean Ellen Whatley’s autobiography OFF THE LEASH. Based on your feedback (both on and offline), we’ve redesigned the cover and we’ve now got a winner! We’ve also got a winner for a copy of the book. I printed out the names of those who commented, cut them up and put them in a bowl and plucked out Jennifer, the last person to comment. So, thanks! to everyone who chimed in, and … drumroll … we now present the official cover. We hope you love it and we hope you LOVE the book.


















Thank you all who voted and offered feedback on the cover of Steve Wiegenstein’s debut novel, Slant of Light. We’re really happy with the end result:


We randomly selected one of the commenters on the cover selection entry, and the winner of a copy of Slant of Light is Ellen Kobayashi. Ellen, we’ll be in touch to see which format you’d prefer.


PLEASE VOTE for the one SLANT OF LIGHT cover concept you like best. From the very abstract to the photographic to the historical, we’ve got very different design ideas to consider. Please feel free to share your comments–we’ll take all votes and comments into consideration. And if you vote and leave a comment (tell us in the comments which cover you voted for and why), you’ll be automatically entered to win a copy of the book when it’s released.

First, here’s the summary of the novel:

With the nation moving toward Civil War, James Turner, a charming, impulsive writer and lecturer, Charlotte, his down-to-earth bride, and Henry Cabot, an idealistic  Harvard-educated abolitionist are drawn together in a social experiment deep in the Missouri Ozarks.

Inspired by utopian dreams of building a new society, Turner is given a tract of land to found the community of Daybreak. But not everyone involved in the project is a willing partner and being the leader of a farming community out in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly the life Turner envisioned.

Charlotte, confronted with the hardships of rural life, must mature in a hurry to deal with the challenges of building the community while facing her husband’s betrayals and her growing attraction to Cabot. In turn, Cabot struggles to reconcile his need to leave Daybreak to join the fight against slavery and his desire to stay near the woman he loves.

As the war draws ever closer, the utopians try to remain neutral and friendly to all, but soon find neutrality is not an option. When war finally breaks out, Missouri descends into its uniquely savage brand of conflict in which guerrilla bands terrorize the countryside while Federal troops control the cities, and in which neither side offers or expects quarter. Ultimately, each member of Daybreak must take a stand—both in their political and personal lives.

Remember, these are concepts–not finished covers. Let us know what you like and why, what would make you pick the book up, turn it over and read the back cover or thumb through the pages, and what would make you pass it by.

To see a larger version of the covers, click the cover.


And…now you can pre-order your copy of SLANT OF LIGHT and have it delivered to you as soon as the books are available:


The idea of developing a cooperative relationship among a group of writers and artists/designers and then publishing the group’s work (ala Hogarth Press) has intrigued me for a long time. (See earlier posts or check out our musings on the TWC page.) As the ebook phenomenon continues to develop and more publishers, agents, and editors jump into the self-publishing fray to try to get a piece of the self-publishing dollars, my thinking on the cooperative idea has continued to evolve. What we’re focused on now is the idea of an imprint that forges a middle road between traditional and self-publishing. In other words, an imprint that would publish authors who, like traditionally-published authors understand the importance of professional editors, designers, and marketers working as a team on their behalf, but who also want the advantages of self-publishing by having a yes/no say in the title and cover design, by getting a larger piece of the revenue pie, and by getting their book to market faster.

The Treehouse model, so named because a treehouse is emblematic as a refuge for the imagination, is, as I envision it, a middle way that will make sense to a lot of authors. (At least, it makes sense to me.) First, let’s consider the advantages for an author:

  • A professional editor will work with you to make sure your book is as good as it can be while at the same time giving you final say over editorial decisions.
  • A professional designer will work with you to create a cover that is both arresting and true to your vision and over which you have final yes/no control.
  • Your book is “curated,” that is it is vetted and ushered through the publication process by professionals. Not all books are ready for prime time and the Treehouse crew will make sure each Treehouse author’s work is at its best before it goes “to print.”
  • Your work will be published under an independent imprint.
  • You have the Treehouse team on your side when it comes to advocating for and promoting your book.
  • You do not have to wait a year to 18 months for your book to be published.
  • You split the revenue 50-50 from each book sold–from the first book sold.

Now, let’s look at the disadvantages:

  • You do not get an advance.
    • But the truth is advances, even at the big houses, are getting smaller and many small publishers are paying very small advances, if any, on the front end while not raising royalty rates on the back end.
  • Not only do you not get an advance, but you have to pay to invest in the upfront time/costs of editorial review, layout, design and e-book conversion.
    • But the bottom line is that you pay either way.
      • If you pay an editor to get your manuscript in shape so you can attract an agent, he or she will then shop it to an editor at a publishing house which then takes the cost of their own editorial/design/marketing, etc. out of the post-publication revenue stream. So in that case, you’ve paid twice. Remember, publishers are not in the business to publish your book for free–we have to make money (ideally) or at least cover our costs.
      • Or, if you are doing self-publishing right, you will hire a professional editor and designer anyway, and you will have to spend the time converting your book or pay someone else to do it for you. Why not have a team work with you through the whole path-to-publication process and then keep that team engaged as your partners on your promotional/marketing efforts as well?

Treehouse Publishing, as I see it, gives authors the best of both worlds. How do you see it? What are the advantages and disadvantages of our proposed Treehouse curated publishing model? If you’re an author querying your manuscript now or considering self-publishing, I’d especially like to know what you think. Climb up into the Treehouse with us and let us know what you see for the future of publishing.

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I added our presenter’s notes to the slideshow Jason Makansi used at the recent St. Louis Publishers’ Association meeting. The meeting’s focus was public speaking and how authors can use events to promote their work. Let us know if you have comments/ideas/suggestions on the presentation or gives us your ideas for ways authors can use events to engage their readers.

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We are so close on getting our debut novels ready for release. Dancing with Gravity by Anene Tressler is in the final stages of editing/reviewing and The Samaritan by Fred Venturini is almost ready to go. ARCs for The Samaritan are getting printed this week or next, so if you’ve agreed to read and review, you should be getting your copy soon. If you’d like to review a copy, send an e-mail to and we’ll add you to our ARC mailing list.

It’s not set in stone yet, but we’re hoping for a February 1 release date for The Samaritan. Ladies, although I can guarantee you will love this book too, it will be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the man who loves to read…and even if you’ve got a man in your life that doesn’t love to read so much, he’ll love The Samaritan.

Thanks also to everyone who voted on our cover choices. We narrowed it down to two: one for hardback (because it was Fred’s favorite) and one for paperback.

the winner – paperback, and the runner up  – hardback











Please keep watching for more news and updates on The Samaritan and Dancing with Gravity and, remember, if you would like a review copy, just let us know.

- Kristy


We’re gearing up to release our very first title: The Samaritan by Fred Venturini. We’ve been working with designers to come up with cover art that is at once arresting–i.e. that will make you pick the book up–and that conveys the feel, tone, mood, and essence of the book. This is no easy task because The Samaritan is one helluva book! And, because each of us here at Blank Slate Press has a favorite concept (arrgh!), we’re depending on you to help us decide. We started with 14 concepts and have had members of our Editorial Board weigh in with their picks. Now, we’ve narrowed it down to five. So, here’s what we’d like you to do:

1. vote on the cover that STANDS OUT the most, i.e., the one that you’d be most likely to pick up when browsing at a bookstore
2. read the short synopsis below
3. revisit the covers and vote again if you’ve changed your mind.
4. REMEMBER…these are just concepts…based on which concept wins, we’ll still tweak and fiddle a bit more…and who knows? We may even have another brilliant brainstorm of an idea that we all love so much there’s no question it will have to win.

PLUS – if you go to and sign up for our newsletter, you’ll be entered to win a signed hardback copy of The Samaritan. You can also read an excerpt from the book here.


The Samaritan – A  Synopsis
Dale Sampson is a nobody. A small town geek who lives in the shadow of his best friend, the high school baseball star, it takes him years to even gather the courage to actually talk to a girl. It doesn’t go well. Then, just when he thinks there’s a glimmer of hope for his love life, he loses everything.

When Dale runs into the twin sister of the girl he loved and lost, he finds his calling–he will become a samaritan. Determined to rescue her from a violent marriage, and redeem himself in the process, he decides to use the only “weapon” he has–besides a toaster. Although his “weapon” leads him to fame and fortune as the star of a blockbuster TV reality show, he learns that being The Samaritan is a heartbreaking affair. Especially when the one person you want to save doesn’t want saving.

The Samaritan is a searing and often brutally funny look at the dark side of human nature. It lays bare the raw emotions and disappointments of small town life and best friends, of school bullies and first loves, of ruthless profiteers and self-aggrandizing promoters—and of having everything you know about human worth and frailty questioned under the harsh klieg lights of fame.

Now…If you need/want to change your vote, go back up and vote again.

Yesterday I read the New York Times’ piece about Amazon’s Kindle sales v. hardcover sales. I put a link here on our blog and and “tweeted” the link. I think the numbers speak for themselves–people want to read. And ultimately, they don’t care if it’s on paper, on an audio cd, on an electronic device or sewn together in a parchment codex or rolled up in a papryi scroll. A good story will be read. I believe the medium is important, but, ultimately, it is the message that matters.

The story is the product. The author is the creator. The editor is the polisher. The publisher is the packager. And while I love book cover design and I love to hold books, I love to READ them more.

As an aspiring novelist and brand new publisher, I hope someday to make money from the creation and sales of books. And as an avid reader who places a high value on the experience of reading a well written novel that transports me somewhere new and exciting or that opens doors to new ideas and teaches me something extraordinary, I am willing to pay a fair price for a book no matter what the format. Hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book…it doesn’t matter. The creative team should be fairly compensated for the work they produced.

Before the ebook, I was content, as my hubby still is, to read reviews, make lists of books to read, browse book shelves and get recommendations from friends and book clubs. However, being an immediate gratification type of gal, I also had been known to read a review and then get in my car and actually go buy the book right then and there. It didn’t matter if it was just out and still in hardback. If I wanted to read it–no, needed to read it–I would go get it and start reading. Immediately. That day.

The Kindle was a dream come true for me. Although I love to hold books and underline passages and write in the margins and dog ear pages, I, basically, want to read. I want to get to that first line and read all the way through to the last. Although I love a well-turned phrase and get all warm and fuzzy over beautifully constructed sentences, I ultimately read for character and story. I get so engrossed I will laugh out loud and bawl my eyes out. It is a common occurance for me to start a book when I go to bed and finish it by breakfast.

So, when I get in the mood for a book, I want to dive in. But what if there is no Kindle version?  I’ve gotten used to my instant gratification and I get aggravated (okay, angry) when there is no e-version for me to dive right into, so to speak. Why would a publisher delay release of an e-book, or a paperback, for that matter?  Because the publisher or the author wants me to buy the hardcover. Book clubs routinely postpone tackling a book because it is in hardcover. They wait until the paperback is released. Now, some publishers are doing the same for e-books. If I really, really, really wanted to read the book, I could buy the hardcover–and, as I said, I’ve often done that to my hubby’s chagrin. (I’m Ms. instant gratification makes me happy, he’s Mr. delayed gratification is even sweeter.) Or I could go to the library and check it out and not spend the money. But the fundamental question is: why should I have to? Why make the customer pay more or work harder to get their hands on your product? Especially now when it is so easy to deliver it wirelessly? Poof in 15 seconds I could have the book I want and start in on my next adventure.

For instance,  a couple of days ago I read a review of a book called The Messenger of Athens: A Novel by Anne Zouroudi. It’s a modern-day murder mystery set in the Greek Isles. Since I had just finished a book and since I’m writing a murder mystery set in Greece (albeit in 440 BCE), I wanted to read it. I went to Amazon to buy it for my Kindle and it wasn’t due to be released until July 19. It’s only a couple of days aways, I thought, I can wait. So I preordered it. Once the book was released, it would automatically appear on my Kindle the next time I turned it on to synch. And sure enough, I turned on my Kindle last night, July 19, hit the synch button and there it was. I started reading immediately, a happy customer.

And, as an added bonus, no trees were killed in the making of my e-book , no delivery trucks chugged out CO2 to get my book to me, and I didn’t have to get in the car and drive to the local bookstore. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are costs involved to mining the minerals and manufacturing an e-reader. But still, laying in bed, all snuggled up and ready for an adventure, pressing a tiny little button and having my adventure appear before my eyes, was like magic.

And isn’t that what reading is all about?

- Kristina

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We should never underestimate the importance of good design. Often discarded as simply “marketing” or “advertising,” design is generally considered a lesser form of art. Yet it holds a power that much traditional art doesn’t have. It has the power to make you buy things. It has the power to make you feel like you need something, to offer a product that could possibly change your life. Perhaps this is less admirable, but perhaps it is more powerful. Especially when you’re selling a product that is truly important.

Unlike a new kitchen appliance that promises to chop your vegetables for you (twice as fast!), books are products of creativity, intelligence, emotion, and, most importantly, art. But they still need to be sold—not just for money, but to convince people to read them—and for that, we need design. Book design should not be thrown aside on the belief that it is only the meaning of the words that are important. That is simply not true. A good book is a beautiful and harmonious interaction between the visual and textural aspects of the book and the story, the words. It is not just cover design that is important, but also weight, texture, layout, format. Think of the words as water and the book as the vessel—without it the words would fall over themselves in chaos.

Designing a book cover is tough because there is little freedom: we have a set expectation and template for what a book looks like. It is rectangular. There is a title, perhaps a subtitle. The author’s name. And there is some manipulation of space (whether through illustration, text, or photography) that conveys, visually, the novel itself. Though there are millions of ways to manipulate that blank rectangular space, publishers often take the easy way out and forgo creativity for predictability.

For instance, most people can imagine what 99% of all “romance novels” look like: the airbrushed, painted image of the muscular hero looming over the flushed heroine. Sci-fi and fantasy novels are usually better, but only slightly: their major problem is not the viewer’s need to either gag or laugh (as in the romance novel’s case) but instead the cover designer’s compulsion to include “the ‘dramatic’ pose, the ‘epic’ vista and the ‘adventuring party’ combining warrior and mages” in the words of James Long, blogger. For imaginative readers—as readers of fantasy and science fiction often are—this is almost an insult, as if the reader couldn’t just read the book and come up with his own visual description of the characters and the setting. (Go here for some true cover-art drivel.) A cover should be evocative of what is inside, not indicative.

There are a great many fiction novels out there that deal almost exclusively with romance, or horror, or fantasy. They just have better covers and are marketed differently. It’s almost as if you get a good cover design and the right publisher and your book is immediately marketed as “fiction” instead of  “crime” or “romance”. With that label comes a sense that the book is somehow written better, whether that’s actually true or not. A cover is extremely important in convincing potential readers that the words inside are not as cheesy, conventional, and craptastic as the art on the outside. A creative cover points to a creative novel, just like a cheesy cover points to a cheesy novel.

Visually, there are many ways to create a fantastic cover. It needs balance, which in artspeak means a feeling of visual equality (color, shape, line, value), symmetrical or asymmetrical. The center of interest, the area that first grabs your attention, should be intriguing and will pique your curiosity. Because there is text on the page, proper font selection is vital. This is something that many people simply don’t understand, not just in book covers but on websites, in presentations, etc. Design geeks will be able to name off several of their favorite fonts. (See the awesome Periodic Table of Typefaces.) The final cover should be unified, or harmonious. This simply means that all of the visual and design elements come together to create one whole image. A book cover doesn’t need to be emotionally pleasing but it sure does need to be visually pleasing. Recognizing good design is instinctive for most people—but creating it is a whole different story. (Check out the WSJ article on the evolution of the cover art for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

In short, a really great book design has three things: marketability, artistic/design value, and a deep connection with the words inside. Book design should capture the essence of the story (or message, for non-fiction), not the plot, in a way that is both memorable and marketable. And, like I said before, it should evoke the book, and carry the words to the reader in a vessel that is unique to the water-words it carries.

–          Elena Makansi

Update: we decided to add a few examples of what we consider good design: (check out many more here)