Category Archive: authors

Nov 26 2013

Getting Started: Cover Art for Self-Publishers

Blank white book(Updated 1/26/14 with more cover artists below)

In an article by Terri Giuliano Long on IndieReader.com, founder of Smashwords, Mark Coker, says, “Our brains are wired to process images faster than words. When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” A great cover can “help the reader instantly recognize that this book is for them.”

We all know how important good cover art is for a published book. It’s even more important for self-published authors when competing with traditionally published books on the market.

The perfect book cover does three things:
  1. Grabs attention
  2. Gathers further interest
  3. Gets the sale

Getting the sale usually depends on other factors such as: genre, price, back cover description, interior quality, etc. However, a great book cover should get you one step closer to a sale.

 

Where to Start

Start with writing down your book cover goals and ideas. Depending on your book’s genre and audience, you should have specific goals in mind when planning your perfect book cover.

Erotica: Do you want to portray a specific scene from the story? Do you want sexy cover models? Do you want the mysterious bookstore-appropriate cover like the Fifty Shade books?

Romance: Do you want the hero and heroine to attract your readers? Want silhouetted images or specific body parts so not to throw off your readers and their interpretations of your characters? Would a pretty rose or other object better signify your book’s message? What about colors, does red match the personality, theme or mood of your book?

After you have an idea of what you want to portray, you start looking for a professional cover artist.

Professional Cover Artist

Sure, you probably can whip up a book cover over the weekend using GIMP or some other free graphic manipulating software. But unless you are a skilled graphic designer or a pro with Photoshop you should probably look to someone who creates book covers for a living to assist you.

Cover artists are professional not only because they know how to manipulate images and graphics, they also understand book covers and the genres they create them for. They have specific ideas about the right kind of feel for the genre, the perfect placement of text, fonts and images, they use the highest resolution of the perfect stock photos, and more. Some may even design promo material for you (bookmarks, Facebook headers, etc.) which will come in handy when marketing your book.

Are you still in control?

Of course, you are in control of your book cover. You provide very detailed descriptions and examples of what you desire for your book cover to the cover artist, and they try their best to deliver, usually not stopping until you are absolutely satisfied with the cover. Some cover artists have limits to the amount of revisions you can make, which is understandable if you consider they have other clients and projects to tend to as well.

Will you own the cover rights?

Yes. If you are a self-published author, you are paying for the full rights to use the book cover in any way you please, provided the cover artist acquired the necessary stock photo rights. Still, I would advise you to clarify this with the designer ahead of time.

Aren’t the pros expensive?

It depends on who you work with, your exact needs, and your budget. Sure, a full cover wrap is more expensive than an e-book cover, because you only need a front cover for an e-book as opposed to the front cover, back cover, and spine for a POD paperback. Custom book cover designs cost more than a pre-made cover design. Higher resolution photos cost more for the cover artist, so in turn, they’ll cost more for you. It all depends on your needs.

You said, “Pre-made book covers?”

Yep. You can get pre-made book covers for as low as $25 through some cover artists. The best book cover designers have an online portfolio where you can browse covers through genres or themes. But remember, it’s on a first comes, first served basis. In other words, once a particular book cover is sold, it is gone forever. And although they are pre-made, the artist will still customize the cover with your author name, book title, series title, tagline, etc. For authors with a low budget or debuting, using a pre-made cover can be your best bet.

Finding Professional Cover artists

Finding a professional book cover designer is as easy as Google. Below is a list of a few I’ve either worked with or checked out myself.

Variety of genres.

Art by Karri | http://artbykarri.com/ | Prices starting at $45
RomCom Pre-Made Book Covers | http://www.romcon.com/pre-made-book-covers | Prices starting at $125
Farah Evers Designs | http://www.farahevers.com/ | Prices starting at $50
Mina Carter Designshttp://art.mina-carter.com/ | Prices starting at $40
Cover Art Collective | http://www.coverartcollective.com/ | Prices starting at $30 (This link also lists 10 other book cover designers)
Amazon.com KDP Cover Creator | https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin | When publishing on the KDP platform you now have an option to create your book cover complete with images and templates | currently priced at FREE
Selfpubbookcovers.com | http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php | prices at $69
Mallory Rock (Graphic Artist & Interior Formattor) | http://www.malloryrock.com/ | prices (must query)

 

Suggested by blog readers & visitors:

 

Scarlet Tie Designs Pre-made Book Covers | http://scarlettiedesigns.weebly.com/ | Prices starting at $30
Meredith Orioli – Graphic Designer |  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredith-Orioli-Freelance-Graphic-Designer/1430358920512362?ref=hl | Prices (must query)

 

You know some great and affordable book cover artists? Let us know about them in the comments.

 

When it comes to cover art, this post will help you get started. Now you know what to expect, where to look, and what to budget for your book cover design. Is there anything you would like to know more about? Let me know in the comments.

 

[Image credit: Oh, Chrys!]

Mar 07 2013

Basic Facts about Self-Publishing Every Author Needs to Know

chart

Recently, I’ve come to realize some authors are simply confused about the self-publishing business. Many are holding onto some of the popular misconceptions, while others have the whole business of self-publishing completely wrong, thinking of self-publishing as a last resort, or for books that can’t sale. I think there are plenty of authors out there who are missing out on this option of book publishing because of the longstanding misconceptions about it.

Misconceptions:

  1. You have to pay to self-publish
  2. You self-publish when you can’t sell the manuscript to “real” publishers
  3. Self-published books are poor quality
  4. Self-publishing costs too much money
  5. Self-published books don’t sell
  6. Self-publishing means no physical books
  7. Self-publishing is a hobby and is not a business

The Facts:

  1. Self-publishing is FREE. If you pay to get your book published that is called Vanity Publishing or Subsidy Publishing. From my experience, this form of publishing is just another way for people to take advantage of novice writers. Yes, I fell into that trap at the beginning of my career. However, I learned from that. You should not have to pay to be published.
  2. Self-publishing is not a last resort for many. You self-publish when you decide you want to make more money on your sales, make your own creative decisions, and become your own boss (because as soon as you sell your first book you are legally considered self-employed).
  3. Self-published books are comparable to traditionally published books when it comes to quality. Not ALL self-published books are poor quality and full of errors, though a lot are. Only because it’s become so easy to self-publish that more people are exploring this option and they’re doing it more often (faster). So pretty much anyone could do it, which means some writers who don’t develop their skill or don’t see a need to purchase great cover art or editing services click “publish” much sooner than they should have. However, we shouldn’t assume all self-published books are crap, just like we shouldn’t assume all traditionally published books are perfect.
  4. You could self-publish at no cost. However, self-publishing does require financial investment if you want to sell your book, but the return could be much greater if you know what you’re doing. You are responsible for cover art, formatting, editing, marketing, and marketing materials (i.e., website hosting, bookmarks, business cards, etc.), however, in most cases you earn a higher percentage of royalties (i.e., up to 80% on Kobo, 70% on Amazon DTP, 60% on Smashwords, 60% on ARe and Omnilit, and 40% on Barnes and Noble’s PubIts!). Which means more money back in your pocket. Also, keep in mind, being traditionally published requires an investment too as you are now required to market your book.

    publishingChart

    *up to or varies

  5. Self-published books sale very well. Sometimes you have no idea if the book you just purchased was traditionally published or self-published. Sometimes just browsing Amazon a book jumps out at you and holds your interest. In fact, a lot of the books sold on Amazon and on other online bookstores are self-published books. This is the case because of the increasing amount of authors who are turning to this option.
  6. You can acquire physical copies of your self-published book. With print on demand (POD) services available to indie authors, it is now easier and faster than ever to get your book into print and to print out as many or as few physical copies of your book as you want whenever you want. Amazon’s Createspace is a popular and free POD platform as is Lulu. They just deduct a percentage from each sale.
  7. Self-publishing is most definitely a business … if you choose. Sure, some people self-publish their family’s cooking recipes into a cookbook just for family members and close friends, some self-publish their book of poetry just to have a personal memento to pass down generation after generation. Yes, for some, self-publishing is a hobby and nothing more. But for many others, it is definitely a business. And for a handful of authors, it’s their livelihood, their means to make a living, for such indie authors as; J.A. Konrath (thriller writer), Amanda Hocking (YA, paranormal author), and Hugh Howey (science fiction author).

What Self-Publishing is NOT:

Just like traditional or e-publishing, self-publishing is not:

  • A get-rich-quick scheme. You cannot publish a book and become a bestseller within a short amount of time without working hard on promotion, platform, and investing money on marketing and materials.
  • A fast path to superstardom. You will not become famous and be interviewed by Oprah within a short amount of time without working on your craft, learning the business, and putting in hard work.
  • A means to quit your day job. Because of the reasons above. Don’t quit your day job until you are making a steady amount of money to cover your living expenses and you are consistent for more than a few months. In fact, I personally, would not rely solely on writing as a single source of income because it is so inconsistent. One month you can make 5000 sales the next only 1000. The success of a book varies and sales are unpredictable.

What Self-Publishing Requires:

You will not become rich and famous overnight. Self-publishing, like any business, requires:

  • Hard work (blood, sweat and tears)
  • Skill (knowledge, education, know-how)
  • Investment (time and money)
  • Concentration (focus, planning, strategy)
  • Willpower (determination, mental strength and perseverance)

Some Benefits:

  1. You make ALL the creative decisions. From cover art design, to the font of the interior text, to the release date. It’s all you.
  2. You control the sales price. You can set a price and change it at will. You can even set the price to free (with some distributers).
  3. You earn more money. You make a higher percentage back on royalties.
  4. You keep ALL rights. The rights to your book including digital, film, audio, etc., are yours forever.
  5. You take all the credit. If you do become a bestseller and sell your film rights to a major movie company, you can bask in the joy of doing it all yourself.

Some Drawbacks:

  1. You are responsible for everything. You have to correctly format your book, upload your book, proof it, set prices, manage prices, market it, promote it, and the list goes on. Remember, it’s all you.
  2. You must invest. You pay for cover art and editing (and sometimes formatting if you choose). With traditional publishing and e-publishing, the publisher pays for cover art and provides editing free of charge. “Free” unless you take into account that they’re getting 50-90% off of your sales. *You are “technically” paying for these services including; marketing, distribution, formatting, etc.
  3. You market solely. Sure, you must market your book if you are traditionally published or self-published, but self-publishing means you are doing it all on your own. That means, you must balance out marketing your book, working the day job, raising the family, writing your next book, managing an online social profile, branding, etc., with little or no help unless you pay for marketing services out of pocket.
  4. You take all the blame. If something goes wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I can go on and on about self-publishing, and I will touch on it again in forthcoming posts. What about self-publishing interests you or horrifies you? What questions do you have about self-publishing? I’ll do my best to answer in a future post.

What about self-publishing are you most interested in?
What would you like to know more of regarding self-publishing?

Dec 26 2012

4 Insecurities Writers Need to Get Over


Insecure?
As writers we put a piece of ourselves in everything we write. Writing is a form of creativity, and our creativity stems from our very soul. A little piece of our experiences are scribbled into our writings along with our sweat, blood and tears. So it’s no wonder most of us are insecure. Here’s a list of some of the insecurities that plaque us and reasons why we need to get over them.

  1. What if I fail?

This is a common fear most people encounter when starting something new. The fear of failure. In a world full of uncertainty, we often settle for what we know or choose tasks with predictable outcomes instead of pushing ourselves to our greatest potential. But failing is okay. It’s not the end of the world. The sooner you put yourself out there, the sooner you’ll see that either way, failing or winning, there’s more to accomplish.

  1. People will hate my writing.

Yes. Some people will hate your writing. Simply put, we can’t please everyone. This is one of the many things we writers have to come to term with when developing a thick skin. Even some of the most established writers have haters. Focus on those who would love your work, and write to make them proud.

  1. I’ll never be published.

If you think this way, you’ve already given up. And what happens when you give up? You create a self-fulfilling prophecy and, in fact, you will never be published. Reevaluate why you wanted to be published in the first place. Maybe then it’ll be easier to keep pushing along. Remember, the difference between aspiring and being is the work you put in and the determination to see your dreams come true.

  1. I don’t have enough credentials.

I know this is a catch 22. I hear this a lot. “How are we supposed to build credible credentials if no one will give us a chance to build credible credentials?” My advice … take a chance. Don’t stop trying to be published, or never start, because you’re afraid a reader or editor will think you’re not experienced enough. You obviously know plenty about a subject to think you’re the perfect one to write about it. So take a chance instead of letting your fears hinder you. Besides, the information and experience you do have might just be enough to make you qualified.
 
 
 

Aug 01 2012

Why Isn’t Every Writer Famous?

Most authors have the same dream … to be a bestselling author, make tons of money and contacts, gain millions of fans, have a movie deal or five, gain respect from the masses and forever be known for our craft.

There are probably millions of writers throughout the world, but only few in comparison live that writer’s dream.

Why?

Well, it has to do with a lot of factors. No single author could follow the exact same footsteps as another author and have the exact same outcome. There are so many minute differences that the outcome will never be the same.

Remember in the movie Jurassic Park, when Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, was talking to a woman about the butterfly effect? He took a drop of water and allowed it to run down the back of her hand, and then he did it again with another drop of water. Even though he placed the second droplet in the exact same place as the first, the second droplet didn’t run down her hand in the exact same path of the first droplet as she predicted. Why? According to Malcolm, “Tiny variations never repeat and vastly affect the outcome. Which is unpredictability.”

So no matter what you do to mimic successful, bestselling celebrity-status authors, you will not come to the same conclusion. You may come close to or even succeed that writer dream, and that’s a good way to look at it too.

What are “tiny variations” in publishing?

  • The story itself. No two books are exactly alike. They may have come from the same idea but different authors use their different skills and come up with different stories.

Remember those games we used to play in grade school. One person tells a short story into another person’s ear, by the time the story makes its rounds between ten other people it has changed vastly. The same with stories written by authors, the characters, the motives, the descriptions, the conflict, it all contains tiny and mostly significant variations that affect the outcome and overall reading experience.

  • The book’s audience. Just because one book is getting rave reviews doesn’t mean another following its same path with get the same reviews. And we all know how powerful word-of-mouth advertising is. The more buzz surrounding your book, the greater the chance more people will take notice of it.

People, like literary agents and book publishers, movie directors and even celebrities who can endorse your book. Or for some, their buzz might just result in an increase readership and their relatives finally taking them seriously as a writer. It’s never the same for everyone.

  • Pure luck. Yes, I went there. To be brief and blunt, some people have it and others don’t. Even some authors who get six figure book deals and movie contracts sometimes don’t know how it happened. Some don’t even try, they publish a book and the book just takes off without any promotion at all. Trust me, it happens. I chalk it off as pure luck. Some have it. Some don’t.

So here we are, millions of authors vying for the same attention, the same respect, and the same outcomes as some of the lucky greats before us and the lucky greats even beside us. When the best thing we can do for ourselves is write the best stories we’re capable of, work hard to do what we do best, keep striving but ultimately let the cards fall where they may and enjoy the experience.

We’ll all have a unique writing experience and that’s what makes writing so special to begin with. Let’s cherish the unpredictability.

Do you know some tiny variations that you would like to add? Leave a comment.

Apr 04 2012

Is Your Book Publisher Playing Favorites?

Do you suspect your publisher favors one or a select few of their authors over other authors within their publishing house? Maybe your publisher and the staff frequently spotlights a certain author, his or her books and successes over the rest? Maybe you feel your efforts aren’t getting noticed over those other “special” in-house author’s.

Authors pursue publishers to help us package our books in its finest attire, help market and sale it to the masses. We like believing that having a reputable publisher behind our book tells readers that our book is good enough without us authors having to convince them ourselves.

With Amazon and other book sellers making it easier to self-publish, it’s only a matter of time before mistreated authors fight back against unfair or preferential treatment from publishers and go into business for themselves. Heck, we do most of the tedious “marketing and convincing” ourselves anyway.


Is it wrong for a publisher to play favorites?

I think a reputable, successful and professional book publisher gives equal attention to all of their authors. In other words, non-preferential treatment is never displayed. It is never beneficial to only highlight one particular author’s successes (i.e. positive book reviews, book sales, platform, book covers, writing skills and abilities, etc.) over other authors. The best way to run a publishing business is to not focus on just the bestselling authors but all of your authors; the just signed, the established, the novelists and the anthology writers, all of them.

Publishers and staff should be cautious about expressing their opinion of an author and that author’s work, especially if they work alongside that author and their views are easily seen by authors from that publishing house. If it’s positive comments, then it looks bias and not trustworthy to an outsider. Not to mention, it will stir up questions from fellow in-house authors like, why couldn’t she say something that great about my book? On the other hand, if it’s negative comments, it seems shallow and bitter. Neither is good.


Why would a publisher play favorites?

  • Certain authors have a bigger platform/readership and make more sales, bringing in more money.

  • Certain authors are also staff members acting as editors, marketing consultants, book cover artists, proof readers, etc.

  • They somehow developed an online relationship with the author, possibly through emails, social networking, writers groups, etc.

Reasons why favoritism should be eradicated within publishing houses?

  • It invokes feelings of jealousy, mistrust and unfairness.

  • It prevents other authors from feeling part of the group or community.


To continually spotlight an author is plain bad practice. You put too much focus on one author or select authors, then there’s not enough focus on the rest. Before you know it, you’re depending too much on those select authors to keep your business afloat.

Long-standing, flourishing book publishers are successful because they understand: without their authors there is no publisher.

Feb 24 2012

Embracing Rejection Instead of Fearing It

All writers experience publisher/editor/agent rejection at one point in their writing careers, but serious writers learn to embrace that rejection and use it to improve their writing.

 

Here’s how:

 

Don’t let it hinder you

 

Just like that cutie in high school who never knew you existed. If only you could’ve built the courage to plop your food tray down at his table, slide in beside him and say, “Hi,” things might’ve been different. Instead, fear held you down at the table in the corner with the rest of the unpopulars as you watched big-busted Kyla sit down beside him and start a giggle-laden conversation. What, just me?

 

Fear keeps you from trying because you’re uncertain of the results. And the ultimate fear for writers is … what if they don’t like my writing. And instead of finishing the novel, you put it on the back burner because if you finish it then you’ll want to share it. And what if they think it sucks?

 

You want to get it published, but you’re afraid of submitting it because you’re writing sucks compared to other writers. What if publishers think you have no business writing even grocery lists?

 

They accepted and published your novel, but you’re afraid to market it because reviewers and readers could be harsher than any editor. What if they hate your book so bad the only sales you get are from readers who buy your book for the satisfaction of watching the book burn ritualistic style, and in your backyard, nonetheless?

 

Own up to the fact that you will be rejected one way or another, sooner or later, and make sure every time you …

 

Learn from it

 

A (sort of) nice thing to take away from being rejected by a publisher, editor or agent is that sometimes you get a valued piece of written inscription known as a personalized rejection letter. Sometimes the editor will explain why the manuscript was rejected and sometimes she will even give you pointers on how to improve it, leaving you with the decision to fix it and move on (or resubmit) to another publisher without making any changes at all. Whichever you choose, the point is … you’re moving on (or revising and resubmitting) and trying again.

 

You may get rejection after rejection and no explanation for it. Which isn’t unusual but if your work is continually getting rejected it’s time to change your tactics.

 

  • Rewrite the query letter. Sometimes tweaking the query letter is all it takes. Since the query is the first hint of your writing skills the editor encounters, it’s important that it’s just as polished as your manuscript.

 

  • Have someone else look over the query letter and manuscript. Sometimes it’s difficult for you to see your own mistakes and typos, or if something needs clarification.

 

  • Double check and follow the submission guidelines. Make sure the publisher publishes similar books in your genre, are open for submissions, accepts from author or agent, etc.

 

  • Be professional. No emoticons, text-like abbreviations or usage of slang in your query letter or any written correspondence between you and publisher/editor/agent.

 

  • If all else fails … focus on writing your next novel. Don’t spend too much time rewriting and submitting the same manuscript. Move on to your next novel which should be written better than your last. You should keep learning your craft and improving.

 

Know it’s not the end

 

Serious writers understand it’s not the end of your writing career or the end of rejection. There will be more rejection letters just as long as you keep writing and submitting manuscripts. Rejection is a huge part of being a serious writer.

 

Imagine plopping your food tray down next to that cutie in high school and he turns to you with a look of disgust on his face. Your worst fear, right? Hey, you knew it could happen, at least you can say you tried and that you learned to never go that route again. (Next time you’ll catch him at his locker after school.)

 

So embrace rejection instead of fearing it and use it to improve your writing.

 

 

Feb 14 2012

The Complicated Story Ending

The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.


Sound familiar?

These are the (unofficial) rules about story endings that all writers know or should know. We follow these rules to ensure a great ending to our story in the hopes that readers will stick around for the next book in the series, come back to read our next standalone title, or even pick up one of our backlisted ones.

Why Endings are Important.

The end of any book is important. The end is the last impression the reader has of our stories. It’s the part of the story that is the freshest in their mind and which they rate and judge the book as a whole. A great ending is hard to write but necessary to attempt.

Although I know what makes a great ending I still struggle to execute it at times. I obsess over it, trying to perfect it.

Makings of a Great Story Ending:

  • Twists and surprise endings: Surprising the reader with a revelation that was foreshadowed throughout the story. i.e. It was right under their noses the whole time.

  • Theme: Tying in the overall theme or message of the book into the ending to add extra significance.

  • Answer the major story question: Will they fall in love? Will they find the murderer? Will they ever learn to trust one another?

  • Character change and growth: The main characters must begin the story a certain person and by the end of the story the character is a changed man or woman. The events in the story, the obstacles, the triumphs and failures all mold the character into a different person by the end.

  • End at the end: Once the major story questions are answered and the character achieves the story goal then the story is over. Ending the story before questions are answered and characters change or long after can disappoint the reader.

Currently I attempt to rewrite the ending of my latest WIP and hope it all falls into place. Knowing how to write the perfect ending to your story doesn’t make it any less complicated, in my opinion. However, my motto is: If it’s too easy, you ain’t doing it right.

Feb 03 2012

What I’ve Learned that May Help You and Your Writing




Over the past few months I’ve been soaking in a lot of creative writing information as part of building and improving my writing skills. I recently challenged myself to write the best book I’ve ever written, and to attempt that personal feat required many hours of reading, analyzing, researching and (of course) writing.

I’ve had some epiphanies during the course of writing my post-apocalyptic novel (Before the Darkness) that I would like to share. These are things that I already knew about creative writing (I’m an author. Of course, I knew :/) but only really understood when reading these books or blogs.



What I’ve learned

Source



Metaphors and allegories can help strengthen a story and provide an engaging writing/reading experience.

Major plot twists or twist ending should tie into the overall mood and/or theme of the story for a greater emotional impact.

The sci-fi novella Wool by Hugh Howey

Incorporating universal human emotion into every facet of your writing builds strong characterization and helps the reader relate to the characters, conflicts and particular circumstances.

The erotic romance novel Destiny for Three by Lilly Hale

All reviews, be they positive or negative, ranting or raving, short or long, are still beneficial to the author. A reader may show interest in the very thing another reader finds unappealing in a book. It’s all subjective. At least the book provoked some kind of emotional response to push readers into discussing it.

Readers’ comments about Ranting authors over negative reviews from book reviewers

To easily find areas in your book that are telling instead of showing search for the word WAS. Using was in a sentence usually indicates the lack of effectively describing something or someone in your writing.

Noble Romance Blog

Write what you love and the rest will come to you.

Instead of focusing on getting to the end of your story, make small goals and complete those first.

It’s never too early to start talking about your work.

From various creative writing books, blogs and magazines:

These are just of few of the things I’ve grown to really understand over the past few months just by reading books, blogs, readers’ comments on blogs and magazine. Have you had an epiphany lately?

May 06 2011

Judy Mays: Erotic Romance Writer Outed

(Excerpt from Barbara Vey — May 5th, 2011 link below)

Last week the earth shattering news hit that high school teacher Judy Buranich writes erotica as Judy Mays. Horrors!! An English teacher who writes. It’s almost embarrassing to read the news accounts of the outing. A parent came forward because she felt erotica “is unethical, totally unacceptable. Period. It just sort of sickens and saddens me to know everybody’s sort of looking at this like, hey, this is OK.” I hate to break it to you parent, but erotic is ok. It’s not illegal. Lots of people obviously like it because there’s definitely a market for it. We even do book blurbs on them here. So I contacted author Judy Mays and asked for her side of the story.

Read the rest HERE!