Now I have also created a poll on helpmechooseacover.com with my three designs, so you can vote if you so choose:
I’m almost there! “Starting Out as an Indie Author” is nearly ready for publication. But first, I need some feedback on covers and the book description I’ve come up with. The first cover is based on the graphic I’ve been using for this series for some time now, with stock art I’ve already purchased, so it is more finished than my other two designs. The others have more the character of mock-ups, since I thought it would be fun to attempt something more playful as well. And as you can see in the covers, I haven’t purchased the art yet. They might be too playful, after all, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to purchase the art.
And here’s the book description I came up with:
Have you written your first book and are considering self-publishing? Perhaps you have started looking into the possibility and are feeling overwhelmed by all the options, all the things you need to do and learn in order to become an indie author? Or maybe you aren’t even sure yet whether self-publishing is for you or not, and you want to find out more of what is involved before you decide.
STARTING OUT AS AN INDIE AUTHOR was written for beginning self-publishers and covers the basics on where to sell your books, formatting for eBook and print, and developing marketing strategies. It includes a number of step-by-step instructions for everything from cover design, to setting up eBooks for various distributors, to creating ads with Facebook and Amazon Marketing Services. In addition, there is advice on any number of topics: eBook pricing, using distributors, how much to spend on self-publishing, and writing blurbs for your books.
With this sanity-saving book as a guide, you will have a much better grasp on what is involved in self-publishing and will be able to approach the task realistically and with eyes wide open.
Part I: Is Self-Publishing for You?
Chapter 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
Chapter 2: Potential Self-Publishing Mudholes
Chapter 3: The Costs of Publishing as an Indie Author
Part II: Getting Ready to Publish
Chapter 4: Why Editing is Important – and Who can Probably Skip the Expense After All.
Chapter 5: Preparing Your Manuscript for eBook Retailers
Chapter 6: Cover Options for Indie Authors
Chapter 7: Writing Blurbs and Descriptions for your Books
Chapter 8: Amazon Delivery Fees and Reducing the File Size of Your EBook
Part III: Publishing Your Book
Chapter 9: EBook Pricing
Chapter 10: To KDP Select or not to KDP Select
Chapter 11: Using Distributors for Getting into Online Bookstores
Chapter 12: The Importance of Keywords
Chapter 13: Formatting the Interior of your Book for Print
Chapter 14: Creating a Wraparound Cover for your Print Book
Part IV: Marketing
Chapter 15: The Big Challenge: Becoming Visible
Chapter 16: How to Develop a Strategy for eBook Promotions
Chapter 17: Alexa Rankings for eBook Ad Sites
Chapter 18: Advertising Sites
Chapter 19: Social Media and Cross Promotion
Chapter 20: Newsletter Basics
Part V: Final Thoughts
Chapter 21: Why “Write the Next Book” isn’t Enough; Or: What to do if your Books aren’t Selling
Chapter 22: Rolling with the Changes
Do please let me know what you think!
A lot has been going on here in Central Europe, and I just haven’t been able to take the time for blogging while still moving forward on my writing. My sister came to visit — for the first time in over 25 years. Then we took a short trip to France, where we met her daughter and spent some time drinking champagne in Champagne. I still intend to write a blog post about that with pictures, but when we got back, I had better things to do: I FINISHED A COMPLETE DRAFT OF DRAGON TOUCHED TODAY! The rough draft was done end of February, but it was full of holes. That’s the way I work: first drafts are like a jumble of notes to myself and scenes that are completely written out. During revisions, I added another 20,000 words and deleted around 10,000. 🙂
This evening, I dived right back into Ygerna, inspired by the new cover by Lou Harper:
Do let me know what you think! It’s not finalized yet, and any feedback you have will be sent on to the cover artist. You can see the wraparound cover as well in my last post here on my blog.
I also never got around to a new goal post for this quarter, since that was up at the time my sister arrived, and shortly before we took off for France. I’m just going to carry over the goals from the last round. 🙂
I haven’t posted for WIPpet Wednesday for a while either. I’m sticking with Ygerna, but jumping forward to a scene I was just revising. Our protagonist has realized that she might be pregnant, and she goes in search of a healer who can help her do something about it. Thirteen short paragraphs for the 13th day of the month:
Ygerna reined in her horse on the outskirts of the small village and examined the roundhouses of daub and wattle. There was no help for it, she would have to ask someone which house was that of the village healer. She could only hope no one would recognize her; she wanted as few people knowing her secret as possible. That was why she hadn’t gone to the healer in the town across the land bridge from Dyn Tagell.
It wouldn’t do to be asking about herbs that would start her menses again there, where everyone knew the daughters of Erbin, the King of Dumnonia.
So she’d wrapped her distinctive red hair in a shawl, put on an old gown she usually only wore when she needed to help with chores, and set off for the next nearest village with a healer.
She dismounted and approached a woman throwing slops to the pigs. “Excuse me, can you tell me where the healer in this village lives?”
The woman set down the bucket and pointed. “The third house over there, Lady.”
Oh dear, the old mare and the old clothes had not been enough to disguise her class. Well, at least she knew no one here and no one knew her. They might call her “Lady,” but they didn’t know her name.
Ygerna lead the mare by the reins to the house indicated. A young woman perhaps a little older than Elen was tending a small garden of herbs and vegetables next to the house. A basket beside her contained some radishes, spring onions, and a couple of parsnips.
“Hello,” Ygerna said. “Are you the healer in these parts?”
“That I am.” The young woman rose, smiling, and wiped her hands on her apron. “How can I help you?”
Ygerna glanced around, unable to repress her nervousness. “May we go inside?”
The healer led the way into her modest dwelling, a roundhouse in the old style, and now Ygerna noticed that she too was pregnant. The belt of her gown was tied a little higher to allow for the gently rounding belly.
The healer closed the door behind them. “Let me guess, you need herbs that will abort an unwanted child.”
Emily Witt is our host for the snippet sharing session, in which we post an excerpt from a WIP on our blog, something that relates to the date in some way. If you want to play too, add your link to the Linky.
The 99c promo that is currently running for Looking Through Lace confirms my growing conviction of how important striking covers are for sales. With an advertising investment of less than $60, I have already sold 110 copies of the novella, with a day still to go in the promo. Since investing in the new covers for LTL, Beyond the Waters of the World, and the boxed set of both novellas in December 2015, I’ve already earned back the cost (minus advertising *g*). But the way sales and borrows are going, I should be in the clear on the cost of the new covers soon.
With the new cover of Chameleon in a Mirror, I have also seen a dramatic increase in results on promos.
Given the results of my recent promos with these new covers, I can hardly emphasize enough how important I think it is to have a cover that will entice the reader to click.
Go ye forth and get a new cover. 🙂
After running various versions of the cover designs for Looking Through Lace past Facebook, my blog, and the cover voting site I’ve used before, we have a winner: looking through hair and stars! *g*
For those curious, here’s a breakdown of the various voting results:
Facebook: Hair – 9; Eye – 3; Hair with Grid overlay – 1
Voting site: Hair – 5; Eye – 2; Hair with Grid overlay – 3
Blog: Hair – 4; Eye – 4; Original cover – 3
I find the differences pretty fascinating. The readers of my blog never saw the hair variation with the grid overlay, since I never got around to uploading it, but there was a strong anti-hair lobby. Everywhere else, however, the hair won hands down.
Despite the various objections to the hair, I’m really happy with the result. AND I will now soon have a paperback version of the novella! One has actually been out for a long time, but it’s in Italian. 🙂
I’m very pleased with the job done by Lou Harper, and have already asked her to do the second book, Beyond the Waters of the World. And with all that investment, I should finally get back to the series … If only I didn’t have about a gazillion other works in progress already …
Since a lot of my readers are indie authors who are somehow involved in their own cover design, I wanted to share this article from BookBub:
Unfortunately, no science fiction or fantasy, but I still think it’s always helpful to study effective book covers. I recommend taking a look. 🙂 And while you’re at it, this post on testing covers is quite interesting too — I think I’m going to have to try out some of their suggestions:
Last week, I provided some tips on how to format the interior of your book for print on demand. This week I will finish the POD publishing lesson by showing you a little on how to make the wraparound cover that you need for a print book.
The first thing you will need is a template in the size you want with the spine the correct width for the length of your book. You can either create this yourself using the instructions on your publishing site (here for CreateSpace), or download the template built by CreateSpace when you enter the details for your book, which you can do here:
Createspace now also has a Cover Creator that you can use as well, but of course it’s more limited than creating your own, and it assumes that you do not yet have an ebook cover already designed. I have not used it, so I can’t say much about it. I only glanced through the designs available and didn’t see any for pre-designed front covers.
The formatted interior of Chameleon in a Mirror came out to 383 pages, and I want to use cream paper rather than white, which to me looks more professional. This is what the template looks like that CS built for the book:
Once I have the template, I open it in Photoshop and change the resolution to 300 dpi. I make a copy of the layer, and change one of the two to the background.
Then I drag my ebook cover image into Photoshop, create a layer from it, and drag that onto my paperback cover template, like so:
I make another copy of the layer based on the template. Using the eyedrop tool, I take a color on the edge of my ebook cover and fill this new layer with the chosen color. This is to make sure that I will not end up with any white edges when the paperback book is created — besides having a color on the spine and back that fits with the color scheme of the front cover image. My PSD file now looks like this:
Next I create the text layers for the spine, the title and the author name. Choosing the text layers one at a time, I rotate them and move them to where I want them on the spine. (In my ancient version of Photoshop, this is in the Edit menu under Transform / Rotate 90°.) Of course, if you don’t use different fonts for the author name and title, this would be only a one step process. Here is how my cover looks after this step:
Here you see that after creating the base color layer, I made the template visible again to assist me in placing elements on my cover.
If you have a logo for your book imprint, you could also put that on the bottom of the spine.
The back cover usually has a description of the book, and sometimes an excerpt, some quotes from reviews, or a short bio of the author. You also need to create the necessary white space for the bar code. So going to my solid brown layer, I use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to mark a square the same size as the bar code box. In the edit menu, I choose fill, and fill the box with white.
For the rest of the back cover, I decided on a short version of the book description and a repetition of the mirror motif from the front cover. In order to make the text stand out more, I set the opacity of the mirror image at 30%.
Anyway, here is what the cover looks like now:
It also would have been possible to have a simple description above on the back cover, and a bio with a pic of me below, with no further design elements. That is the layout of the cover template that Joel Friedlander sells on his site for $57 — and here I’ve pretty much told you how to do the same thing for free. 🙂 As you can see, if you already have a front cover — as well as some knowledge of a good graphics program like Photoshop or Gimp — it’s not all that hard to create your own wraparound cover for print publication.
And as an added benefit for me, I have finally put together the files for the POD version of Chameleon in a Mirror. According to Create Space, the print version should be available on Amazon in the next 3-5 days. 🙂
One of the things I’ve had on my to-do list for at least a year is to upload my short story “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” to Amazon and make it free. The story is also in my collection From Earth to Mars and Beyond, and I’ve been thinking that I should redo the Mars ebook with an excerpt from one of the stories in the collection in the back matter to entice a few readers to buy more. “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” is hands down my biggest “seller” on Smashwords, but just sitting there as a free short story without any incentives anywhere in the text to buy anything else from me doesn’t seem to be inspiring those who download it to go looking for opportunities to purchase my fiction.
Since I’ve had fairly good experience with the free story “Gawain and Ragnell” to keep my sales of The Pendragon Chronicles alive, I was hoping I could do the same thing with “Mars” for my SF collections. But when I went searching for the PSD of the original cover to edit it for recent standards and add the Nebula nom to the cover, I couldn’t find the file, nor could my daughter. She suggested that maybe it was time for us to make a new cover for the story anyway, since it was one of the first we did together, and reflects that. So that’s what we did. Here’s the new cover we came up with:
And here’s the old cover we did back in 2011, for the sake of comparison:
I’d love feedback on the new cover! And if you’ve already read the the story, so much the better. 🙂
A couple months back, a certain Charlotte Ashley took issue with something the wonderful (and wonderfully successful) SF indie and KBoards author Hugh Howey* said, and in order to prove how wrong he was, she posted an amazingly inflated list of the expenses involved in self-publishing. She came up with a total publishing cost for an 80,000 word novel of $1900. Her numbers have already been taken apart by the good folks who follow the The Passive Voice. If you are inclined to do so, go and read her post and then the comments on PG’s blog. My more modest estimates will be waiting here when you get back. (BTW, if you have not already done so, I recommend subscribing to PG’s (Passive Guy) blog, and signing up for KBoards as well. You will learn much in both places that will help you as you move forward in self-publishing.)
While I have no interest here in joining the battle regarding Ashley’s numbers, her list offers a simple point of departure regarding potential publishing costs. This probably should have been my first post in this series, since when it comes down to it, in this post I’ll be going into a bunch of the things you have to look into before you start formatting your manuscript and deciding where to publish it. These are the questions (and expenses) to consider when you’re sitting on that brand-new potential world bestseller and wondering how to get it to all the millions of readers who are waiting for your stunning work of staggering genius. So with no further ado, here are the main price points to look into before publishing your novel.
Editing services – First you have to decide whether you want straight proofreading, (checking for spelling and grammar mistakes only), copy editing (generally proofreading plus consistency and other small errors), or content editing, which includes feedback on the structure of the story as a whole.
Most freelance editors charge per word; some charge per hour, making it very difficult to estimate what the cost of a complete manuscript would be. In the latter case, it’s very important to find an editor who will do a free sample in order to get an estimate of the final cost.
Prices for editing services vary wildly. Editors who are just starting out tend to offer their services at lower rates in order to attract customers from whom they can get referrals and testimonials for their web pages. Here again I would suggest signing up for Kboards and checking Writers’ Cafe for people offering editing services. At the same time, I would not recommend booking anyone just starting out who doesn’t offer a trial of at least the first 2,000 words.
From a quick glance through my bookmarks and Kboards, it looks like the minimum cost for proofreading a 80,000 word novel would be about $200.
I will go into whether or not you can safely do without editing services in another post in this series. But just a hint: most people should probably hire a proofreader — unless they have multiple, talented beta readers who are willing to do line edits. 🙂
Minimum proofreading cost for 80,000 words: $200
Book cover – Book covers can be a lot cheaper than you might think, given all the cover artists out there who sell pre-made covers at barely above cost. Like with the editing services mentioned above, this can be an attempt on the part of a designer starting out to find initial customers and build a reputation. A number of cover designers also offer designs rejected by customers as pre-mades — which doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they just weren’t the ones the authors liked best.
Here’s an example of what you can get when you buy a pre-made cover:
Pre-made cover from Littera Designs
The cost of pre-made covers starts at about $25. If you’re interested in looking around to see what’s out there, I would once again recommend checking the threads of the Writers’ Cafe on Kboards for cover artists. There is a thread for pre-made covers here.
Of course, you have to have the perfect story for the cover. And buying such a cover might entail additional expenses. I have since hired Littera Designs for two more books in the series. 🙂
Other inexpensive options for getting a cover for your book are through Elance and Fiverr. I have not used either before, but I know several people who have used Fiverr and were quite happy with the results, for example Beth Camp and Christiana Miller.
Finally, if you have some Photoshop or Gimp skills, you can make your own covers. In that case, the only expense would be in time and licensing fees for stock art.
As with editing, I plan to go into cover options in more detail in another post in this series.
Minimum cover price: $5
Layout & Design – As I mentioned in “Preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers,” it’s getting progressively easier to create your own EPUB and MOBI files for uploading to the various ebook retailers. You may have to spend some money initially for software that will help or speed up the formatting process, but not even that is necessary if you can learn how to use the free tools. Naturally if you find yourself utterly defeated on the formatting front and/or you are a perfectionist swimming in money, you can have your ebook professionally formatted. As with editing, the cost tends to go by the length of the manuscript. As I have never used an ebook formatter, I’m unfamiliar with the prices they charge. This is also a service that can be booked through Fiverr, however — simply search for “ebook formatting.” (Layout for paperback Publish on Demand books is another level of difficulty entirely; for that reason, I intend to devote a complete post to POD formatting and options.)
Minimum layout cost: $0
Publicity – How are you going to get anyone to notice your book once you’ve thrown it out there into the cold, cruel world? Blog about it? How many regular readers do you have? Who will notice?
One option (which I have not yet tried) is to book a blog tour with someone who will arrange guest posts on book blogs in your genre. (If I ever dare the waters of a paid blog tour, I will be sure to post about my results.) Organized virtual book tours start at around $40. If you have writer friends who blog and write in your genre, you can trade cover reveals at no cost to either of you. Another marketing strategy is to try paid advertising. This is rather difficult, however, when the book is newly published and reviewless, since most sites that advertise ebooks have minimum review requirements.
Of course, you can always go with Charlotte Ashley’s suggestion and pay for a Kirkus Review for $425.
Minimum publicity cost: $0
Website – Some people maintain that it’s not professional to have a WordPress blog that is obviously free, like mine (you can tell because “WordPress” is in the URL). Better would be to have www.ruthnestvold.com. Well, I have that too, and it costs me about $60 a year for hosting. Personally, however, I doubt if it is really necessary. I know a number of successful writers who use free blogs as their web presence. Perhaps there are readers out there who decide not to buy a writer’s next book when they see that he or she has a free blog, but I suspect they’re in the minority. So it’s up to you whether you want to pay the money for your own domain or not. The important thing is that readers can find you if they want.
Minimum cost for a website: $0
Minimum total cost of self-publishing (subjective)
Seeing as the only expenses that I find absolutely necessary are an editor and a cover designer, that puts the minimum cost of self-publishing at a little over $200 for an 80,000 word novel. Some people would disagree with me that a self-publisher needs an editor or proofreader, which would leave cover design as the only necessary expense. Editing and covers can, of course, also be much more expensive. My pre-publication expenses for Shadow of Stone came to well over $600 — admittedly, a long book, making the editing price point more expensive. But I also wanted the same cover designer I booked for Yseult, and he had since raised his prices. I also did not want the embarrassment of publishing an unedited manuscript. (And yes, I did earn all that back.)
Such things, however, are naturally for each individual author to decide. When it comes down to it, it’s possible to spend absolutely nothing. Skip the editing, make the cover yourself with the free program Gimp and free stock art (but make sure the licensing allows you to use it for ebook covers), format it yourself with free tools, upload it to ebook retailers, and you have an ebook.
Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of the professional services available that might give your book an edge among the many self-published ebooks on the market. A book that has been professionally edited and that has a professional cover may just have that edge.
Next week, I will go into more detail as to why I think editing is important — and who can probably skip the expense after all.
*If there is anyone who proves you can make money writing science fiction, Hugh Howey has to be it. So take heart, SF writers out there! There is still a market for visions of the future. 🙂
Other posts in this series: