5 Ways Authors Can Use Scapple

One of my favourite tools in my author’s toolkit is Scapple. Created by Literature & Latte, the same folk who brought us Scrivener, Scapple is a super simple, yet beautifully useful tool that I personally think is essential for authors. And here are five reasons why.

Scapple Use #1: To Create a Plot

Scapple is a digital mind mapping tool, so it makes sense that if you are a plotter, you could use it to create a visual outline of your book. And then as the story progresses, you can add in any changes or deviations or subplots as you go along. As you can see, I am not a plotter, and therefore have no idea what should be on one, but here is a basic idea of how to create one.

scapple plot

Scapple Use #2: To Create a Timeline

Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, creating a timeline is essential if you’re to keep track of the events in your story. Plotters would probably create the outline before writing, but being a pantser, I like creating it afterwards, when I’m in the editing stage, so I know that the story makes sense. The timeline below was created after writing The Elphite, as you can see, I have incorporated Scapple Use #3 in this too.

timeline 2

Scapple Use #3: To Create a Chapter Summary

If you use Scrivener, then you can use the corkboard feature to keep track of what’s going on in each Chapter, and you can see quite easily how long each chapter is, to make sure that they’re similar lengths. If not, you can use Scapple to create a chapter summary, which will help in the editing stage if you need to add extra things in, or move things around, or just check the continuity.

Scapple Use #4: To Create a Family Tree

If your story spans several generations, or just has a particularly complicated story line involving different families, then creating family trees to keep track of who’s who can be quite useful. Though Scapple only has very basic tools, you can make the text boxes different colours, different shapes, and different sizes. You can join the boxes with dotted lines or arrows, you can add images too (though it does seem to make it a bit slow to work with if the images are a very high-resolution). What I love is that you can create a huge, complicated mind map, then just highlight, copy and paste some of the boxes into a new document, and then create a new one just featuring that detail. When I used to mind map on paper with a pencil, I would end up with an endless number of versions as I made mistakes, rubbed things out, wanted to move things around etc.

Here’s the family tree I created for The Doorway to PAM:

PAM fam tree1

Obviously you could add dates to this and other details if you wanted to, I just needed a basic layout so I could remember who was who.

Scapple Use #5: To Create Character Profiles

Again, this is a post-writing exercise for me, but Scapple is quite useful for creating character profiles, to keep track of their background, appearance, likes and dislikes etc. I created this one for Velvet, who is the main character in the Earth Angel Series.

character profile velvet

Scapple is currently available for Mac and Windows, it is a download, and there is a discount for students/teachers. It is a super reasonable price, and well-worth buying!


What’s in a book title?

As the author of ten books, coming up with a decent title for each story is something that I have wrestled with a lot. The title is usually the first thing that people hear or read about your book, and so is the first thing to be judged. (If the title is okay, then the next judgement will be the cover art, then the blurb, then the first page or two, and then the price.)

Some stories come with a clear title, and it would be crazy to consider anything else. I know when I wrote The Elphite, I really didn’t even consider calling it anything else. But using a made-up word as a book title has its drawbacks, which I will come to in a moment.

I feel it’s important to get the title of your book right before you publish, and to try the title out on lots of people, search for it on Amazon and on Google, and to consider all the different ways it might be interpreted. With Indie and Self-publishing, it’s quite easy these days to change the title later on if you feel it’s necessary, but you might find that you confuse your readers (who will think it’s a new book) and the original versions will always be out there somewhere online, it’s difficult to erase them completely. So make sure you are absolutely certain before publishing.

So, things to consider when creating your book title:

#1. Weird or Mundane?

Some book titles seem utterly mundane, yet they have become bestsellers, and have appealed to people all over the world. However, the more mundane they are, the more likely it is that there will be several books with the same title. Now, if you’re the kind of creative who likes to be original, this idea will make you cringe, but having a mundane title has its advantages too.

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When you have a title with ordinary words, or that is similar to other popular book titles, it is likely that people will come across it by accident when they are searching on Amazon or Google. For example, if I were to search for “I’m Here” on Amazon, I will find that in the books section, my book shows up halfway down page two, and in the Kindle section, it’s quite low down on page one. There are so many books with ‘I’m Here’ in the title, and even books with those words in the blurb will show up before my book. Which means that while searching for my book, there’s the possibility that the reader will stumble upon another book they might like better, and also if they were searching for someone else’s book, they might find mine instead.

When you have a weird or unique title, like The Elphite, then you can be sure that when you search for it on Amazon, it will be the only hit. Which means that the likelihood of someone stumbling upon it by accident are very slim. I like both weird and mundane titles, as I think they both serve a purpose. But from a marketing perspective, the mundane titles make more sense.

#2. Mysterious Titles

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I’ve always believed that books titles and covers should intrigue you, and that it’s fun to work out the meaning of the title by reading the book. But when I used an acronym in one of my book titles, all I got were comments like – “What does it stand for? Why would I buy the book if I don’t know what it means?” The book was The Doorway to PAM. Which encapsulated the story perfectly, as the book is all about souls who find this doorway which leads them to PAM. I personally felt that by saying what PAM stood for in the blurb, it would spoil it, so I always insisted they just read the story. At one point, when getting the cover art redesigned, I considered changing the title, but everything I could think of – which used more mundane words – had already been used, and I couldn’t bring myself to use the same title as other books already in existence. Despite my decision, I do think that if you find that you really aren’t selling any copies of your book because your title is too obscure and mysterious, then a re-naming might well be the way to go, even though it could cause some confusion.

#3. Is it a Series, a Trilogy or a Saga?

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Another thing to consider when naming your book, is whether it is the first in a series, trilogy or saga. Which could very well influence what you call it. I read somewhere that when Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight, she originally called it Forks. Which makes you wonder what the others in the series would have been called – Spoons, Knives and Teaspoons? (just kidding!) I must admit, when I was trying to name The Earth Angel Training Academy, I was thinking that it would be a standalone book, and I had no plan for it to be a series. Originally, I had titled it ‘The Angels Calling’. Which had more of a non-fiction, spiritual journey feeling to it, so I changed it. It did briefly occur to me that if I did ever write more books and turn it into a series, I would have trouble naming the rest of them, because really, naming the first book after the Academy was akin to JK Rowling naming the first Harry Potter book – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But even if I had the opportunity to go back in time and call the first book something different, I have no idea what I would have called it. If I went down the Harry Potter route, it would have ended up something like Purple Velvet and the Cube-Shaped Alien. Which is actually a pretty cool title…. hmmm…

Most series’, trilogies and sagas these days have an overall title, and again, that is something to consider more thoroughly. I must admit – The Earth Angel Series is not a particularly original or well-thought out title, it just sort of happened.

When I had the covers of my other books redesigned, I wanted to tie them together somehow, and so created a collection – called the Visionary Collection – which made marketing the individual stories much easier. Their original covers were all very different, and disconnected from each other. It also make coming up with the cover art for the next stories much easier.

#4. Title Length

Coming up with the perfect title is really quite complicated. It needs to describe the story, intrigue and excite the potential reader, conjure up a feeling, or image, or emotion, and then sell the book. Sometimes, a single word will do that, and other times, titles end up very long. The length of the book title will affect the cover art, and also more practical things like custom URLs and how many characters it takes up in a tweet.

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The longest title I have, is The Other Side: of the Earth Angel Training Academy. Now I usually shorten it to simply The Other Side, and put the second half as a subtitle, but it was still a mission to figure out the cover to fit the whole title on it. Something to consider is the memorability of the title. My first book is often shortened by readers to The Earth Angel Academy, or just Angel Academy. So I have taken from this experience that the title is too long really. You want the title to be memorable, and so getting the length right is important.

I really like one-word or two-word book titles, but coming up with one that’s unique is not going to be easy. When I was coming up with alternative ideas for The Doorway to PAM, and when I’ve brainstormed ideas for a new trilogy I am working on, I have found that almost every single possibility I can think of has been used already. Which could mean that I just suck at titles, or that quite simply, that’s what happens when there are over 3 million books available on Kindle.

#5. Trends

I would never recommend or suggest that you write a book on a topic, purely because it’s trending, or name a book something that is similar to a bestseller so you can ride their wave with them. But if you are writing books about topics you are passionate about, and those topics happen to be trending, it’s a good idea to get the words people are searching for into the title.

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I wrote The Earth Angel Training Academy in 2009, and at that time, there was very little around about the concept of Twin Flames, which is one of the main themes of the book. So when the Twin Flame concept suddenly became popular and I noticed that my posts on the subject were getting daily hits on my blog, I will admit, it affected my choice of titles for the new books in the Earth Angel Series, which were basically the stories of the reunion of the Flames between 2012 and 2032. I had intended for there to be one book to cover those twenty years, and so I titled it The Twin Flame Reunion. But then it turned into several books (seven!) and so when it came to titling the rest, a pattern emerged of using ‘re’ words. So the subsequent titles were The Twin Flame Retreat and The Twin Flame Resurrection, The Twin Flame Reality etc.. Now, it might look very cool and clever, but I have to say – I would not recommend doing what I have done! You wouldn’t believe how many times I have got confused about which book is which, and I wrote them! Just as it’s not a good idea to name characters similar names, it’s not always a good idea to use very similar book titles in a series, either.

Of course, using the words Twin Flame in my book titles had the intended effect, and they are discovered much more readily by people who are interested in the concept. But I would only suggest using trending topics and words within your title if the book is truly, actually about that. Otherwise people will just end up being disappointed and you’ll get bad reviews.

So there you have it, a few things to think about when coming up with a book title, based on my experience over the last few years. I could write more, but I think I will save any further thoughts for another time, otherwise this post will end up as a book in itself!

Disclaimer: All views, ideas and tips presented in this article are those of the blog post author. Not From This Planet and the author of this post take no responsibility for anything that happens as a result of you following this advice. This post was originally published on TheAmethystAngel.com

What is a Publishing Imprint?

When I first self-published my books, I did so under my own name, and had very basic covers which I made myself. To be perfectly honest, they looked self-published. And not in a good way. 

When I first started out, I didn’t think about having my own publishing imprint. I didn’t really think about having a little symbol on the spine of my books, and how that affects the way readers see them. So for the first few editions of my books, I didn’t have a publishing logo. Then I started publishing under my business name, The Amethyst Angel, and I got a little logo designed, which I started putting on the back cover of the printed books, and then when I got the covers done as PDFs, I got madappledesigns to add the symbol to the spine as well. 

Now, when I put an old version of my books next to the new versions, it makes a massive difference. Somehow, we are conditioned to trust a book more when it has a little symbol on the spine. Even if that symbol isn’t particularly recognisable.
When I’ve helped writers to publish their books (under their own names), coming up with a publishing imprint (and if they’re doing print copies, a little logo as well) is an important part of the process.

Here are some examples of publishing house logos below:

pub logos

You could design your own, get a graphic designer to create one for you, or even purchase a simple image from a stock site, but if you are publishing your own books, having your own publishing imprint and logo is a fun and important part of the publishing journey.

As a little exercise, have a look at your own bookshelf, and notice the symbols on the spines. Chances are, you may not have noticed them before, but it’s a good way to research creating your own.

Things to remember:

Logo Tip #1: Keep it simple

You will need to make the logo quite small to fit on the spine of your book, so keep the image as simple as possible, and if possible, don’t use text for the spine, as it will probably be too small to read anyway.

Logo Tip #2: Test your logo

Test your logo on your spine to see what it looks like, ask your friends and family for their opinion on it. It wasn’t until after I had mine designed that people commented on how it looked a little like the BodyShop logo, or one of the film award logos. Which I don’t mind at all, but if your logo reminds people of something negative, it may be a problem.

sundance logo
am angel logo

Logo Tip #3: Make it Monochrome

The best logos are ones that work in all colours, and that are generally all one colour. My logo works in black and white, which is good because I need it in black on my white covers and in white on my black covers. It also works in different colours too.

amethyst angel logo blue
amethyst angel logo green

Logo Tip #4: Make it Relevant

Make sure your image and your publishing imprint name match up and are relevant to each other. They’re more likely to be memorable to your readers in the future if they are. For example, when you see the penguin logo, you know who the publisher is immediately. You don’t need ‘Penguin’ written underneath. 

You publishing imprint name is essentially your business name, because becoming an Indie Author means you are starting your own business. Come up with lots of different possibilities, then Google the names to see if they are already in use. You don’t really want to use a name or logo that is too similar to another business.

Disclaimer: All views, ideas and tips presented in this article are those of the blog post author. Not From This Planet and the author of this post take no responsibility for anything that happens as a result of you following this advice. This post was originally published on TheAmethystAngel.com