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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Authors That Will Make You Cry Like The Wittle Baby You Are

It's weird how I used to fight the tears when I was younger. I didn't want anyone to know I was crying. The first time I remember doing that was watching DUMBO and I started feeling all these emotions so I tamped it down. NO CRYING!
Then I saw my first movie in the theater, THE LAST UNICORN. I could not stop the tears. I actually remember bawling at the scene where the unicorns are riding the ocean waves back to existence. Crazy emotional.

After that, I have 1,000 different memories of losing my shit. I actually had to be excused from my high school class during a classroom showing of OF MICE AND MEN. I just couldn't deal with life afterward so my English teacher allowed me to stay in his class and wallow in misery for another 30 minutes.
Now, I cry freely and openly. My husband and I look forward to taking our grownup kids to PIXAR mocvies, Star Wars movies, Superhero movies--any and all movies where we can relax in a dark theater, eat popcorn, drink buckets of soda and drown out the stressors of the world by having a good cry. TOY STORY 4 and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME are recent examples.

But enough about movies. Let's talk about books. Authors that ALWAYS make me cry. These guys bring emotional wreckage, heart stabbing pain, anguish, and tears. All the tears that can be cried. And yes, I'm well aware that these are all of the male persuasion. I don't know what to say. It is what it is. I scanned my selves making sure I wasn't overlooking anyone and this is my truth. These are the authors that bring the heavy for me. But don't worry, I have a blog post ready for next weekend with the ladies.

Paul Tremblay.
I don't think I've read ANYTHING this man writes without crying. All of his books HURT ME. They hurt me soooooo bad. I think DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK was the worst offender. I was not okay afterward. Why Paul?? Whyyyyyyy?

Craig Davidson/Nick Cutter.


Another writer who always goes for the heart. Even his horror is emotional. The ending of THE TROOP was gut-wrenching! But SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB and CATARACT CITY both shot me in the feels over and over. Craig just knows how to reach beyond the page with words and cut deep.

Gabino Iglesias


Gabino is a new addition for me. His book, COYOTE SONGS captivated and crushed me earlier this year. I have Zero Saints sitting on my nightstand just begging for me to pick it up and allow Gabino's carefully and thoughtfully chosen words pierce through skin & bone and go straight for the heart. It's my hope to have many more emotionally wrought stories from Gabino in the future. I'm here for it.


Dennis LeHane.


Ouch Dennis LeHane! Why does every book you write have to sting?? I seriously sat here and tried really hard to think of a book that didn't kill me and I couldn't think of a single one. THE DROP--the last like 10 pages of THE DROP was basically me stopping every few seconds to "unblurry" my eyes so I could keep reading. And MYSTIC RIVER?? Fugeddaboutit. Damn, LeHane. Easy! Dennis LeHane's photo is daring me not to cry. Do you see that in his expression? "Just you try to keep your composure, Sadie. You BABY."

Robert McCammon.



Robert McCammon mocks my pain in this author photo. He's delighting in my agony. BOY'S LIFE?? SWAN SONG?? THE LISTENER?? Please, can we have our hearts back??
I'll never get over the feelings. I can't even talk about them. People start to talk about certain scenes and I shush them. Please stop talking. Don't talk about it. DON'T MAKE ME CRY!!!


Chad Lutzke.


Chad Lutzke, whyyyyyyy??? I love the way Chad writes his little stories. I immediately fall in love with the characters and then Chad crushes me with them. HE HURTS US!! STIRRING THE SHEETS, OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, SKULLFACE BOY...all the Lutzke books they want to destroy us with our own feelings and they're winning! It's an army of novellas against my wee heart and I don't stand a chance.



Rio Youers.

There should be a special section for authors who have made me cry the hardest. Rio would be there with Stephen King and Paul Tremblay. Rio's book WESTLAKE SOUL was nothing but a giant attack on my heart. At one point, towards the end, I set it down and just had a good, long cry before I even *tried* to keep going. It's like, if I didn't get some of it out, the ending was sure to overwhelm and then KILL ME. It killed me anyway. 




Stephen King.


Stephen King! You hurtful bastard. I think he's given me the most fictional pain. THE DARK TOWER SERIES, THE BODY, THE LONG GREEN MILE, 11/22/63, THE STAND, IT...I mean, the pain never ends. It's always there and it's because King gives us such REAL characters. Kill your darlings?? Yes, well--just be careful who you love because King will take them from you and then you'll feel all hollowed out and used up. It's why we love him though, right?? 


Jeremy R. Johnson.


Last but never least, JRJ. There were a few emotional runners in his collection ENTROPY IN BLOOM so I knew he was fully capable. But nothing could prepare me for IN THE RIVER. I would say between that novella and WESTLAKE SOUL, those were the hardest tears I've cried. Kind of amazing how few pages both of those books have--only proves that if you're a talented writer, you can manipulate your readers in a matter of minutes. Dangerous.

So there they are--my emotional heavy hitters.

Friday, July 12, 2019

30 All Time Favorite Books: Child Protagonists

I am utter trash for a good book where the main characters/narrators are children or young adults. I made a list of 30 favorites and summertime would be the perfect time for any of them. In no particular order...

1. Boy’s Life- Robert McCammon
2. I Capture the Castle- Dodie Smith
3. Ghoul- Brian Keene
4. December Park- Ronald Malfi
5. My Best Friend’s Exorcism- Grady Hendrix
6. Danny Champion of the World- Roald Dahl
7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith
8. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock- Paul Tremblay
9. The Body- Stephen King
10. The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafón
11. The Lord of the Flies- William Golding
12. Children of the Dark- Jonathan Janz
14. In the Scrape- James Newman and Mark Steensland
15. Of Foster Homes and Flies- Chad Lutzke
16. Knock, Knock- S.P. Miskowski 
17. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
18. Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card
19. Bastard Out of Carolina- Dorothy Allison
20. Peace Like a River- Leif Enger
21. IT- Stephen King
22. Coraline- Neil Gaiman
23. The Thief Of Always- Clive Barker
24. The Bone Weaver’s Orchard- Sarah Read
25. The Saturday Night Ghost Club- Craig Davidson
26. The Mummy, The Will and the Crypt- John Bellairs
27. Dog Days O’ Summer- James Newman and Mark Allan Gunnells
28. Locke & Key series- Joe Hill
29. Summer of Night- Dan Simmons
30. Inspection- Josh Malerman

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Thoughts on Coming-of-Age Horror and Dark Fiction


My youngest son, Andy, turns 14 this summer. He has two, older siblings. Natalie is 20 and Ryan is 21. This morning was Andy's 8th-grade graduation breakfast and he was allowed to bring one adult. I just assumed it was me. Yesterday, Ryan calls me up and said that Andy asked if he could take him to the breakfast.
My mom's heart exploded. Not because I was hurt or because I wanted to go, but because there is nothing like your grown-up kids supporting each other. It just feels like all the time you have spent investing in these human beings you have made together, reap big, emotional rewards (sometimes).
Sometimes these boys are a pain in my ass!
Hahaha
*sigh*


Which leads me to my passion for coming-of-age stories. Primarily dark fiction or horror fiction coming-of-age stories. And yes, it's true that most coming-of-age is written by male authors and the stories are about young men, but honestly--because I have sons, I don't care. I love them. 
Of course, I remember my own childhood. This is partly why these stories are appealing. The nostalgia and the memories that come flooding back. I wasn't a girly girl in the sense that I pranced around in dresses and played indoors with dollies (although, I did that too). I was outside with the neighborhood kids riding bikes, playing games in the street, double-dog daring one another and climbing trees.
I have scars.
I totally biffed it riding my bike too fast. The street ended and turned into a dirt road so I braked hard to slow down and I skidded out. My knee ground into the sandy, hard dirt. When I stood up and inspected my knee, a flap of skin was holding like a teaspoon of sand like a little pocket. Blood was welling up. I barfed and limped home. My mom had to scrub out the dirt and sand and put an antiseptic on it. But I was TOUGH!! I was back on my bike with a fat Band-Aid!
We also had a creek that ran behind some of the neighborhood houses and we would play Indiana Jones or Tom Sawyer back there. We killed a frog once. We hid from a scary dog up in a tree for hours. I mean, my youth was pretty colorful and I remember it all vividly.
I also lived through it again watching my own children grow up and go through trials that were very similar as well as new trials. Bullies, first crushes, horrible teachers, bad friends, best friends, moving, dances...all the things.
So these books about growing up and doing shitty kid stuff, I love them so hard! 
Here are some of my favorites (probably not an exhaustive list, okay so don't get up in my face!)


BOY'S LIFE, Robert McCammon
THE LISTENER, Robert McCammon
CHILDREN OF THE DARK, Jonathan Janz
GHOUL, Brian Keene
DECEMBER PARK, Ronald Malfi
IT, Stephen King
THE BODY, Stephen King
THE LONG WALK, Richard Bachman
THE SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB, Craig Davidson
CATARACT CITY, Craig Davidson
OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, Chad Lutzke
SKULLFACE BOY, Chad Lutzke
THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU, Chad Lutzke
MONGRELS, Stephen Graham Jones
MAPPING THE INTERIOR, Stephen Graham Jones
SUMMER OF NIGHT, Dan Simmons
BAY'S END, Edward Lorn
GWENDY'S BUTTON BOX, Richard Chizmar & Stephen King
DOGS DAYS O' SUMMER, James Newman & Mark Allen Gunnells
PLAGUE OF GULLS, Stephen Gregory
THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK, Paul Tremblay


I realize there are no female authors or books about girls growing up in that list, but there is a big gap there okay?? I'm talking Horror or Dark Fiction, yeah? Not just any old genre--of that there are plenty.
Here are some that I need to mention:
MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM, Grady Hendrix
KNOCK, KNOCK, S. P. Miskowski
THE WORST IS YET TO COME, S. P. Miskowski
THE BONE WEAVER'S ORCHARD, Sarah Read
THE DEVIL CREPT IN, Ania Ahlborn
THE RUST MAIDENS, Gwendolyn Kiste (but I still need to read this!!)

I have read some killer short stories about girls growing up from Kristi DeMeester and Damien Angelica Walters--so, those are awesome too.
SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE, Damien Angelica Walters
THE BEAUTIFUL THING WE WILL BECOME, Kristi DeMeester

So there it is. My obsession for this sub-genre grows stronger and stronger and consider this a nudge to authors that there is a huge space for coming-of-age written by women or about girls growing up. If I missed some, alert me!






Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Youer Than You- Thoughts on Plagiarism

My school teacher once told me, "Copying is the sincerest form of flattery. They copy you because they like what you do so much."

That answer didn't feel good back then and it certainly doesn't fly with me now, but I have words for it as an adult that I couldn't say when I was in grade school--

BULLSHIT.

Where did that adage even come from? I Googled it. 

Oscar Wilde's quote feels a little more satisfying because of that last part that people just leave off. The people doing the imitating are so mediocre, they have to borrow someone's greatness and pass it off as their own. Meh. Imitation still doesn't feel flattering and there's nothing sincere about it. This quote doesn't address how imitation feels.

The real sincerest form of flattery is respect. Respect people enough to praise them for their own, specialness and creativity. Let them have what is their own.

In the grown up world, we don't use the word "copying" anymore. People are not "Copy Cats" that is far too cute of name for what is actually going on. The legit word is plagiarism.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to "plagiarize" means:
  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
All of the following are considered plagiarism:
  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules) --Plagiarism.org
Why am I writing a blog post about this today? It's because my book reviews and the reviews of some of my friends have been plagiarized and it feels like hot garbage. 
While I'm reading a book, I have a notebook next to me and I'm feverishly writing down my personal and unique feelings/experiences. I also do frequent status updates on my Goodreads
Then, I sit down for about two-three hours and compose my review using MY experiences. MY thoughts. MY feelings and most importantly MY words in the way that I talk. My reviews are extremely conversational. I write like I talk. So when I read someone else's reviews and I see/hear my own voice coming out of someone else's mouth, it literally feels like someone is stealing my identity.
Identity theft. Straight up. 
And it's not word for word because obviously, the people who steal other people's thoughts have the wherewithal to know that copying something word for word is stupid and they'll be found out. So they piece together a review and borrow from multiple reviews and then replace certain identifiable words with words of their own and at the end of it all, their review doesn't EXACTLY sound like anyone else's it just looks like this:

A patchwork of stolen identities stitched together to make a monster.
And I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean, you could be thinking, "Big deal, Sadie. So someone copies your words a little bit in their review. Maybe they just like the way you write stuff and they want to be like you. Maybe they're just practicing and when they mature, they'll write their own reviews with their own words and you can forget this ever happened. Feel flattered that you gave them a stepping stone of success."

BULLSHIT.

I'm sorry but it's not right. If someone wrote a book and published it and then someone else basically wrote the exact same book, they just changed most of the words around, wouldn't that be grounds for suing the imitator? Plagiarism is a real legal offense. So is copyright infringement and so is intellectual property. All legal words, my friends. And my words are published in print--which makes them the property of myself and the magazine:
"Copyright infringement is reproducing, distributing, displaying or performing a work, or to make derivative works, without permission from the copyright holder, which is typically a publisher or other business representing or assigned by the work's creator.

I don't understand why anyone would want to pass someone else's ideas and words off as their own but my warning to anyone who has done it, is doing it or has desired to do it...
...reconsider.
Think about why you don't feel confident writing with your own voice. Think about how it makes others feel. Think about how the praise you're getting belongs to someone else and think about how you feel like you've gotten away with it, but you haven't. We see it and we don't like it. 

My suggestion is this:
If you like the way someone writes reviews, ask them how they can help you. Ask them for tips and tricks. Practice using your own voice and send it to people you admire to get feedback. There are so many other ways to be YOU. Please be you--everyone else is already taken.



Monday, May 6, 2019

TOP 10 ANNOYING HORROR REVIEW HABITS

I write reviews for a variety of sources so on Mondays, I make sure that books I have reviewed for SCREAM Mag and Cemetery Dance get their proper lead times before I share them on Amazon and Goodreads. It's helpful for book reviews to be represented across multiple outlets.
I was doing just that this morning--copy & pasting a particular review to Goodreads and Amazon-- when I got distracted reading some other reviews.
My blood began to boil.
I felt a rant coming on...
Instead of unleashing on Twitter, which tends to get me in trouble, I decided to think on it and run the rants through the filter of writing them out properly instead of knee-jerk reacting.
Also, instead of giving myself too much space to ramble, I'm narrowing this down to a TOP 10 List. So here it is:

TOP 10 ANNOYING HORROR REVIEW HABITS:

1. GIFS in Reviews on Goodreads. I'm sorry but these suck and I almost always scroll past them. Often times they're trying to be too funny or cute to be taken seriously. I think there are reviewers on Goodreads who have a following or an audience that specifically shows up for these GIF reviews but I don't think they're at all helpful to anyone and I'm not amused by them. No shame if that's your jam. It's just my opinion that they're annoying.

2. Lowering the star review for not being "scary". It doesn't bother me if the reviewer mentions that they didn't find the book particularly scary but to lower the score for that reason alone is lame. The merit of a quality horror book doesn't rest on if it fulfills one person's standard of scary. All of us are individually scared by different things and it's not the authors sole purpose to meet every, single reader's expectation of scary. That's ridiculous. 

3. Long winded retellings of the plot. It's my understanding that many authors don't particularly enjoy or look forward to writing the synopsis for the back of the book. A lot of work and frustration goes into making that description as concise and informed as it possibly can be without too much detail or not enough details, so a reviewer spending all this time to go over the plot is unnecessary and oversharing to the point of spoiling reader discoveries. 

4. Suggesting people not buy the book. What?? Are you kidding me? Why on earth would anyone recommend that people not "waste their time" or "not buy the book"? I mean, unless the author personally and directly attacked you or harmed you in some way that we should all know about, there is absolutely no just cause in recommending people not read the book or buy it. A review is basically your unbiased reading experience. It's not an opportunity to put people off from trying it for themselves. If your review is written well enough, people may or may not make a choice based on how you felt about the book-to go the extra mile of telling them what to do is over the top. In my humble but strongly felt opinion.

5. Technical aspects. With the exception of editing-like grammar/spelling/typos that make it through to a final copy-I don't think font size or printing errors, publishing mistakes, orders taking too long to arrive--like anything about the condition of the book that doesn't have anything to do with the author, should bare any weight on the actual merit or score. It's just not important. I don't mind when a reviewer mentions it but I get annoyed with whole opening paragraphs being a rant about something that has nothing to do with the story or the author who wrote it. Sorry. It certainly shouldn't reflect in the rating.

6. Rating a book three stars or less but then writing a glowing review. This confuses me so much. If you scored a book 3 stars or less but don't mention anything even remotely critical, it makes me wonder why it's missing those stars. I'm sure anyone who reads the review will wonder what happened or why it didn't rate higher. If there's nothing unsavory worth mentioning, maybe it should rate higher? 

7. Talking too much about other books/authors. I always get a little sad when a book/author falls victim to being compared to other authors/books. The reviews I read this morning were about a book that has a semi-familiar plot trope (not an overused plot trope) and this reviewer spent ample time explaining why they enjoyed this other book with a similar plot trope better. Why?? That's so annoying. Comparison in a favorable way like, "Hey, fans of Stephen King might like this one!" or "This guy writes a bit like Cormac McCarthy" are flattering. But comparisons in the negative like, "This book was trying too hard to be Dracula and here's how it failed in 20 different ways to BE as good as Dracula" isn't helpful because what if your comparison is totally off? I've seen that. Or maybe you should just read Dracula if that's your favorite vampire novel and you compare all other vampire novels to it. It's just unrealistic. (Unless the author is straight up copying someone or something, then full on say that--I have said that before)

8. RUDE, RUDE, RUDE. You don't have to be a bitch in a review of a book you didn't enjoy. It's immature. I recently read a 2 star review of a favorite book of mine where the reviewer praised the concept of the book but then had the audacity to recommend authors that would be better suited to write the book. WTF?! Does it get any more rude? No friends, it does not. The concept and plot of a book comes from the mind of the author. It is the author's story to tell. To suggest that it was a good idea but someone else should have written it, is rage inducing. It's just horribly rude. I also don't think you're qualified to make a statement like that. Who are you? Stay in your lane. 

9. A book is not responsible for your expectations. I've had this discussion before about people saying that a book was overly hyped as being good but then it is the reviewer's assessment that everyone was wrong and the book fell short of their high expectations. Come again?
If a book is getting praise from other reviewers/readers who know their shit and then you read the book and don't like it, it doesn't mean the book was overly hyped or that the hype is wrong. It just means that the praise doesn't line up with your reading experience and that's on you, Sweetheart. It doesn't mean everyone else is wrong. It just means the book wasn't for you. Own it. Don't blame the hype-the hype might be real and the problem is you. That's OK! It's not okay to be arrogant by suggesting the problem is with everyone else. 

10. Tangent reviews. I'm all for a good tangent/rant. Look at this post! It's cathartic for me to write this stuff because it helps me to calm down after I've gotten it all out. But it's not okay to use review space of a specific book to go off on some tangent or pet peeve. I see this a lot. Maybe it's a social issue the book brought up or maybe it's a genre or a writing style, whatever the case may be--save it for a blog post or a tweet or your best friend's text messages--but the review space is for that book. It's not fair to turn it into a personal diary entry.

Anyhoodles.
I feel better.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

REVIEW POLICIES- Sadie Hartmann aka Mother Horror

BOOK REVIEW POLICIES:

Hi! My name is Sadie Hartmann. I currently review horror fiction for Cemetery Dance and SCREAM Magazine.
I also post my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
My friend Ashley and I started a horror fiction review group called, Night Worms. I am the point person for getting your book submitted for a Night Worms group read & review.
sadielouwho@hotmail.com

Night Worms is also the name of the horror book club monthly subscription company that Ashley and I currently own and operate. You can find out more about Night Worms (the business) at NightWorms.com
Night Worms email: nightwormsreviews@gmail.com

I am currently CLOSED to new review requests.
Before you email your request, please read the following:

  • I accept physical review copies only. I am an influencer on social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. My reviews rely heavily on having a photograph of the book I'm reading. 
  • I reserve the right to read & review books on my schedule. If you need your book reviewed by a specific deadline, I'm probably not the right reviewer for you. I do try to keep to an order of when books are received but I enjoy the freedom to make changes to the order.
  • Reading your book does not always result in a review with Cemetery Dance or SCREAM Mag. My editors have left what books I review to my discretion. Reading your book might not result in a review if I choose to not finish the book for personal reasons. Accepting your book also is not a commitment to photograph it or post it to my social media platforms. If you feel like sending me a book is a promise of any of those "requirements" please don't submit a request.
  • I write honest, unbiased reviews based on my personal reading experience. This may mean an unsavory or low starred review. Please don't take my reviews as a personal attack or an invitation for a discussion. 
  • I generally post 3-5 star reviews EVERYWHERE because I'm a passionate reader and love to fangirl over the books that I enjoy and love. It's my greatest joy to encourage others to read awesome horror fiction so I spread the word like a freakish, magical, horror-loving megaphone so if you don't want to be tagged on social media posts gushing about the merits of your writing ability, please let me know in advance.
  • Please browse my reviews and social media accounts to see if your book would be a fit. I'm currently reading mostly horror fiction in all the 20+ sub genres, dark fiction and some dark/horror poetry. I'm not interested in much else at the time.
  • A link of your book on Amazon or Goodreads is required. I don't read books that are not listed on either of those sites. I DO read books that are Indie, Small, Self-Published and Traditionally Published (they just also need to be listed on Goodreads so I can track my progress)
  • If I have accepted a book from you before and you have my address, still submit a request for any future books--don't just send them to me. This creates confusion for me as I get books in the mail that I am expecting, on a daily basis and your unsolicited book might find its way into a Little Free Library instead of my bookshelf.
  • I read & review because I love it. Not because you're paying me to do so, please be kind and courteous! I look forward to hearing from you if you agree to these terms and conditions.
~Sadie Hartmann

Monday, April 1, 2019

Bookstagram for Newbies: Photo tips

I conducted a poll on Twitter about social media platforms and quite a few people commented that they would be more likely to use Instagram if they could take better photos.
I'm assuming they mean bookish photos since my entire network of people on Twitter is primarily focused on books: Reading them and Writing them.
The temptation is to think, "Why bother?"
But if you're looking to engage with other readers, build a brand, promote *anything*, spread the word, boost the signal or sell yourself (your reviews, your books, your whatever) than Instagram is as good as any. It's free and it has a lot of users.

So here are some simple tips on how to take good photos on Instagram.

1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS use natural light. If it's dark or cloudy, don't bother. Never use indoor lighting such as lamps or overhead lights-anything with a bulb. This will create grainy, yellow, dark photos that are unappealing. In this photo, I'm in the kitchen where I get natural morning light:
I haven't edited it in anyway. I took this with my iPhone. The pink square is one of my painted backgrounds. I have a lot of props that I use to fill negative space (blank spots in the frame) just to make it more appealing to the eye:

I'm generally drinking coffee in the morning and I love drinking a warm beverage while I read so it's a good representation of who I am. I also collect vintage typewriters and cameras so I'll use those in my photos from time to time. I also have some fake foliage that I'll throw in for added drama but you can just as easily do what is comfortable to you. Here I have taken the same items but eliminated the painted background, doily under the coffee and the typewriter. I just put them on my floor:

The result is just as nice, I think. It's natural light and the colors are true. I will emphasize that no filter is needed-Instagram suggests filters but I think they change the quality of the photo. I don't think photos of books arranged on carpet or anything with too much pattern look as neat & tidy. Too much visual textures that confuse the eye and distract from the beauty of the book covers.
For Night Worms, I use a simple, black canvas:
I also adjust the "black point" on my photo editing features on my phone. Just to really emphasize the black tones. See here:
You can mess with a photo too much in editing so I only recommend doing that if you really need to, which you shouldn't if you're using natural light. Another tip is glare. Some books are shiny so if you're using direct light from a window, you'll need to move the book around to find the spot without glare. I'll show you:
I have a wall next to a window that I like to use to show a book in my hand. If I angle the book towards the window, you get a glare and you can see the residue from a sticker that was on the book cover (why do publishers DO THAT?!)

But if I angle the book towards me with a slight twist of my hand, the glare goes away:
I also edit my "book in hand" photos with the "black point" tool to really make those book covers pop:
So those are some easy tips with zero pains in the ass and minimal props. You can ask me questions anytime on social media or tag me in a photo where you used my tips! I'd love to see your new photos!

xo
Mother Horror