Category Archive: self-publishing

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!]

May 25 2013

Assisted Self-Publishing, Vanity or Subsidy Publishing’s Bad Rep

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What is Vanity, Subsidy and Assisted Self-Publishing?

The first thing you hear people say when the topic of vanity publishing comes up is “You shouldn’t have to pay to be published.”

Simply put, that is the definition of Assisted, Vanity and Subsidy Publishing, and it goes by many other names (co-op, partner, joint-venture, equity publishing, etc.). When you pay an establishment to publish your book, that establishment is a vanity publisher. You pay them to format, design, edit and distribute your book either as an e-book and/or in print.

The quote above can be rather ambiguous because, technically, you pay to be published even if it’s vanity, traditionally or indie. There’s always a price. Not necessarily monetary. You’re still expected to do most of the marketing, promoting (you need a website, and a little swag to giveaway, etc.). No matter how you choose to publish, it all requires money at one point in the process. The goal is to make back what you put in.

You must invest if you want a return. You have to put money in if you want to get money out. That’s an unwritten rule, I’m sure.

So what’s the big deal?

The problem with vanity publishing isn’t paying to be published. I mean, we say that, but that’s not the core issue. I think the REAL problem is:

  1. Most of the time, vanity presses publish anything. No editing, no polishing, not even a good story is required. Not only will they publish anything, they still get a cut of your earnings while charging crazy fees.
  2. Some vanity presses are misleading and pretend to be traditional publishers.
  3. You don’t go through a slush pile. There’s rarely an editor to reject you, making publishing less selective.

Some of those issues apply to true self-publishing too, but the difference between Vanity Publishing and true Self-Publishing is with Vanity Publishing you pay the vanity publisher (sometimes thousands of dollars), expecting the “publisher’s credible name” to back you and your work, and expecting professional guidance. When what you usually get is; you tell them what you want, you pay, they provide, and hit publish. And off your book goes, out into the world, but not necessarily giving its best first impression and not without leaving you broke.

Sure, you can pay extra (up to thousands of dollars) for a series of edits and a smoking hot custom book cover, and it’s great if in your marketing plan, you estimate a return of your investment within a year or two. Great! Good for you. Really, I’m not knocking vanity published authors, especially if you went into the deal with all your questions answered and a clear head. (Unlike I did.)

However, a lot of writers are sucked in by vanity publishing and have no clue what a decent marketing plan is or even what they should expect to sell in the first year of being published, let alone who they’re aiming to sell to (their target audience). After vanity publishing my first book (many, many years ago), it sat on Amazon and sold an average of 4 e-books a month. Yeah, newbie. Why is this? Because vanity publishers mostly target newbies, amateurs, beginners, who just want to see their book published.

And like I said, there’s no harm if this is something you want to do. By all means, have at it. But there are some things other than “paying to be published” that gives vanity publishing a bad rep.

Why so negative?

Now I’ll state again, most vanity publishers operate a legitimate business, so I am not knocking those who choose this route of publishing. Hey, my first four books were published by a vanity press. Which is where my firsthand knowledge (and the sour taste in my mouth) come from. Still, here are some reasons vanity presses have a stigma attached to them.

  1. A lot of vanity presses disguise themselves as traditional publishers.
  2. Misleading about the deals they offer.
  3. High pressure, spammy emails, unsolicited phone calls, flyers and brochures sent to your physical mailbox, all trying to “sale” you on submitting your manuscript or to publish with them again.
  4. You pay for most of the expenses which are usually “extras” and not included in the main package, including edits, custom book cover design, formatting, addition of interior pictures, edits after a certain stage, (and even other random fees) and they still offer you a low percentage on your book’s earnings.
  5. Hidden fees. Ridiculous charges.
  6. Unfulfilled promises. Broken marketing promises, missing royalty checks, copies of books not received, etc.

Here’s a highly detailed and in-depth article from Science Fiction writers of America on vanity, subsidy, and self-publishing. If you’re looking for more information, check out that link.

Now, in all fairness, some good books, authors and careers have come from the vanity publishing mill. So, once again, this could be the perfect route for you. Just make sure you know all the details before signing by the X.

What’s on your mind? Leave a comment below and share it.

 

Image credit: Hash Milhan

Mar 07 2013

Basic Facts about Self-Publishing Every Author Needs to Know

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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?

Nov 14 2012

Pre-order Amid the Darkness at a Discount!

The second book in the Refuge Inc. series, Amid the Darkness, is available on All Romance eBooks for pre-order! Pre-order Amid the Darkness now at a discount and save over $1. Here’s your chance to take advantage of the price before its release this December!

Amid the Darkness (Refuge Inc., Book 2)
by Leslie Lee Sanders
Release date: December 2012
Words: 40,000
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Distopian, MM, Romance.

BLURB:

Weeks after an asteroid strikes Earth, hurling Elliot and Adam into a fight for their survival, the two take shelter in an underground compound known as Refuge Inc. Shaking their past seems impossible as it comes back to haunt them, weakening the foundation of their relationship. Elliot, hung up on guilt over his former actions, tries to right his wrongs which leads him face-to-face with the troubling secrets of the compound. Adam’s run-in with the enigmatic prophet makes him question Refuge Inc. and the survivors’ future.

Working together to uncover the mysteries of Refuge Inc. not only reveals much about the sunless world beyond the compound walls, but exposes the truth about the compound’s occupants … including themselves.

If their haunting pasts continue to dominate, it will steer them directly into a miserable future and their companionship will forever suffer. Either way, they are forced to prepare for the ultimate fight for survival.Can they fight together and make it out on top?

WARNING: Contains graphic language, some violence and brief descriptions of the dead.

 

Jun 15 2012

What’s Next for my Post-Apocalyptic Series?

In light of a recent epiphany, I’ve decided to keep complete control of Before the Darkness (my MM post-apocalyptic erotic romance) and the other books of the Refuge Inc. series. In other words, I’m taking the indie-publishing route yet again.

I’ve indie-published many books with results I’m proud of. And I’m ready to dive in again with my highly anticipated dark series. All the advantages of indie-publishing outweighed the disadvantages in my decision making process.

I enjoy the benefits of:

  • Choosing my cover and cover artist

  • Choosing the release date

  • Choosing the book formats (including print)

  • Choosing the interior layout

  • Choosing what bookstores will offer my book
  • Choosing the book’s price

  • Choosing when and if I want to offer discounts or free books

  • Holding all the rights to my book and the series
  • Having instant knowledge and access to sales stats


Yes, I’m a bit anxious and I know I have a lot of work ahead of me but I’m ready.  Soon, we all will witness the introduction of the Refuge Inc. series!
Keep an eye out for some exciting updates.

Apr 24 2012

Confessions of a Lonely Writer

I come from a huge family. My family is so huge you’d expect a member like me (with what I would call a decent amount of talent in the literary, visual and performing arts) to get a little recognition from them every now and then. Admittedly, good news doesn’t travel much around the huge family circle. Unfortunate, I know. I’d liken the experience to a bad reality TV show where there’s constant drama and unbelievably high ratings.


Friends? Only back in elementary and high school. At sixteen my social life drastically changed when I had my first daughter. Suddenly, my friends and I didn’t have much in common anymore.

Soon after was the death of my social life.

And now, as a writer ( a lonely job) I long for that pat on the back once in a while. That “Good job” or “Congrats!” (Hell, I even crave a decent adult conversation with someone other than my husband from time to time.) “I’m proud of you” and “Keep up the good work” are rarely passed around in my huge family. Growing up I barely heard those words unless it was from my Language Arts teacher. Eventually, I learned to accept it.

I read about the sister and wife of my favorite Sci-Fi author, Hugh Howey, and how they are his support system. They help him with book readings and events, critiquing his works in progress and who knows what else. I long for such a system. If only I had that kind of support with my first published book.

Indeed, my writing journey has been a lonely one. I had to teach myself about publishing the hard way, through trial and error. Oh, I have my share of regrets.

My earliest dream? To see my name on the cover of a book. I started writing short horror stories in elementary school, but my first novel was completed in 2005. Three’s a Crowd: The Beginning, an MMF erotic romance. The results? An embarrassment. The whole experience was a nightmare that I only realize NOW.

I’d been HAD by a vanity press. They charged me hundreds of dollars that I borrowed from one of my sisters and enthusiastically paid them to publish what I now dub “an utter piece of crap.” I was completely oblivious  to my own writing errors and desperate to have my book in print that I never questioned why a “publisher” would publish something so severely unedited. (Literally my first draft!) Until later when I figured out it wasn’t my best work.

I put out a revised and extended version in 2008, (and continued the story after the book as an online serial for free here: www.threesacrowd3.com) after writing two other novels and publishing them all through the same vanity press. Thousands of dollars lost! Finally, in 2011, I was humiliated enough to have Three’s a Crowd: The Beginning discontinued. I mean, I’m trying to make a name for myself and build a decent platform. And although my dream was to have my name on a book cover, I no longer wanted my name on THAT book cover.

Where was my support system and why weren’t they looking out for me? I realized I was alone in that endeavor. Still am.

Now, I highly despise vanity presses learned so much. It took years of making mistakes and learning from them, but now I understand the publishing business and how it works.

Some of what I’ve had to learn the hard way:

·         Research publishers before submitting

·         Research everything before making a commitment including topics and the facts for my stories

·         Respect feedback from editors and readers

·         Take criticism like an adult

·         Keep improving  my writing skills with every book I write

·         Continue to read, write and learn about story writing and book publishing

·         Do not expect perfection but work towards it anyway

·         Keep reading, writing and learning

·         Do not expect to have a team of family and friends behind me, pushing me and urging me on. To only depend on myself, and the people who choose to stand behind me, to get ahead and succeed.

Overtime, my up-and-down experience with writing and publishing has showed me that even without a support system I can make my dreams come true. I currently have 14 books for sale with my name on them. I may be a lonely writer but I appreciate the rewards even more knowing I’ve made it so far by myself.

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.