Part Two: The One Sheet

ACFW Advice, appointments, tips 2 Comments

by Dineen Miller

Last week I talked about identifying your genre and/or niche so as to help you create your “mood.”

This week let’s talk about the one sheet. Every year I see the questions start a couple months before conference. We’re gearing up and getting ready. We want to make a great first impression on those agents and editors we’re planning to meet. We want to make our stories shine.

The one sheet is an excellent tool to do just that. You can use imagery right along with your carefully crafted words to give a first impression as well. Just like a book cover gives a potential reader an initial glimpse of what your story is about, a one sheet can do the same.

The basic elements to a one sheet are: story title, a short synopsis, author picture and bio, contact information, and one or two images that portray what your story is about, either by story line, setting, or key elements. And make sure both your story blurb and your bio are polished and ready to go. Writing it along with your layout is a bad idea. Time and energy are wasted when a layout has to be redone because of major copy changes.

Let’s start with some basic layout hints to keep your one sheet looking clean and professional.

The temptation can be mighty strong to use some of those quirky fonts you just noticed came with your favorite software program. Resist it! A good rule of thumb is no more than two fonts to a one-page layout. Sometimes three will work if you’re careful, but keep in mind that using the bold form of a font face is almost like using an additional font.

Now that you’ve gone to all that trouble to determine the “mood” of what you write, choose fonts to match. Find a font that suits your story title and feel free to use a bold form here. If you write techno thrillers, a curly cursive font is not going to fit. Find a modern san serif font (no serifs — the little embellishments) to set off that title. If your genre is chick-lit, have a little fun and use something interesting and lively. The point is to make your title stand out, AND fit your story.

Next choose a good font for your body copy for both the story synopsis and author bio. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are usually the best choice for readability. You can also use a san serif font like Helvetica if it’s not a large block of copy, but keep the font size to 12 point. Again, resist the temptation to use a fancier font (AND NO CAPS or italics!!!). If an editor or agent can’t read it easily, you’ve just wasted all that effort and a chance to make that great first impression.

Now use a bold form of that body font for your name and contact information. That’s critical information, which needs to be easily found and read. Keep it with your bio and make sure it’s complete. If you have an agent, that’s important to include as well.

If you have sub-titles, use either a larger and bold form of your body copy font, or choose another font that compliments your title font. Be sure not to clash here. This is when your can either make or break your one sheet. If it’s too busy, the eye will naturally resist reading. That’s the last thing you want happening when you pitch your story.

If you’re a camera aficionado, feel free to use your own pictures. Otherwise, there are a multitude of image sources available online. Even Microsoft has a site for images and clip art. Another option is to use stock photos. Most sights involve fees and some are free as long as you follow their guidelines. Check these out:

This is a wonderful site to find free images. The photos are clearly marked as to what the photographer’s requirements are. Most are free to use as long as you’re not reselling the image or creating a logo using the image. Some photographers ask for notification of use, which can be done easily through the site and some may ask that you give them credit for the photo (either placing their name by the picture or an aterix at the bottom of the page with a “photo by” credit line.)

Like StockXchange, this is another fee free site. Again, follow the guidelines and respect the photographers’ rights.

iStock is usually my first choice for images for my clients. Using a prepurchase credit system, these images range anywhere from one or two credits to five or ten. Some run more if they’re detailed and/or high resolution. You prepurchase blocks of credit, which works out to about a $1.30 a credit. Again, there are some usage guidelines, similar to StockXchange.

Book Series One Sheets
If you want your one sheet to promote a book series, consider creating a two-sided one sheet. You can use your series title as your main header, then treat your book titles like subheads, even using a smaller version of the same font you used for the main header. Include a brief description of each book to go with the titles and put your bio on the back. This will keep your page looking uncluttered and easy to read.

Simplicity is always a good rule of thumb. Find an image you like best and use it to set off your story title and synopsis. Make sure your bio picture is fairly current and as professional looking as possible. Try not to crop yourself out of a last year’s blurry family photo. Use colors sparingly, especially if you’re using color photography. A busy page will deflect, not invite.

Keep it clean, keep it organized, keep it simple, and keep it professional. Remember, this is your chance to start off with a great first impression of your professionalism and your story.

Click HERE to look at one-sheets on my website. And feel free to leave any questions. Next week we’ll take a look at business cards and continuity in your materials. Hope to see you next week!

Comments 2

  1. Thanks for the helpful information. I looked at your site. Some of the examples had backgrounds, others did not. The background ones seemed more cluttered and hard to read. May have been because they were in a small format and not what will be seen on an actual 81/2×11 sheet of paper.

    My question: Do you find a one sheet draws more attention with or without a faded background picture. Or should we keep it simple as you suggested in your article without the background to detract from the written material?
    And if no background, are you suggesting we us graphics and our photo? Will that not also look cluttered?

    Janice K. Olson

  2. Janice, this is a great question. You’re right about trying to look at those one sheets in a smaller format. The backgrounds tend to look darker. The key is to do a test print. Often I find the screen version may look darker but the print version is lighter. I always ask my clients to do a test print. Then I can make adjustments for them, if needed. So if you keep an eye for that, either way can work marvelously. Using a background image that’s low in contrast and soft will screen back well, giving you an attractive appearance without the busyness.

    It’s really not an issue of one being better than the other. Better to do what you’re comfortable with and can feel confident about in pitching to agents and editors. In other words, if doing the background image seems cluttered to you, go without it. 🙂

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