Tag Archives: covers

Back to the (cover) drawing board

A friend of mine with a background in PR explained to me in detail why the covers I posted a little over a week ago don’t work from an advertising and branding perspective, so I’ve gone back and created a couple more with her advice in mind. For the sake of comparison, I’m also including the winner of my last poll, the more serious cover based on the graphics I used for the blog posts. Here are the covers:

Indie author covers

Do please take the poll or let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!

Covers and Book Description for “Starting Out as an Indie Author”

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.

Starting Out as an Indie Author

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!

Cover voting for Chameleon in a Mirror now open!

I’m late, but at least I’m showing up for the party. 🙂 So, as I predicted, I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done in the last week. I’ve done a lot of visiting with the visitors, kept up on the translation, and managed to write at least 100 words a day on Shards of Glass, to make sure it stays in my subconscious so that I can jump right back in when things calm down here again. I have also set up a 99c sale for Yseult for next week, for which I had to get the promotion organized. Also, my daughter helped me out with tweaking the new cover designs for Chameleon — and whipped together a third based on our old design, just simplifying it. Here is what can now be voted on:

Cover designs for Chameleon in a Mirror

You can take the poll here.

I have also uploaded all three covers individually to the Rate Book Cover site to see how they do on a “graded” scale. You can find the three covers above here, here, and here.

Do please vote and rate. It shouldn’t take much more than a minute of your time, and you’ll be doing me a huge favor. 🙂 Thanks in advance!

Now on the WIPpet Wednesday. No math this time: we’re nearing the end of the month and the end of the scene in Facets of Glass, so I have to decided to use that as my excuse to give you the rest. 🙂 For the sake of context, I’m also providing the last paragraph from the previous excerpt. After this, we will be returning to the evil Dowager Princess again for a while.

“Yes, but please do not tell anyone,” he said, addressing Anastasia again. “I might be accused of practicing magic illegally. In exchange, if you have not found a way to lift this spell by the time I return from Bohemia, I promise to do everything in my power to help you.” But what? He had no magic, and no access to those who did.
All he had was the trust of the Dowager Princess. He would need to use it well.
Anastasia nodded. “I can see that it might lead to problems for you.”
And you must promise me that you will not kill my step-sister, came Minerva’s voice in his head.
“That is an easy promise to make, seeing as it is impossible.”
I do believe that you truly do not know Chiara is in Bohemia.
He stared down at the prone form. If Minerva’s step-sister was alive and in Bohemia, it could only mean that his journey there to commission the glass coffin was a pretense.
And the Dowager Princess did not trust him as much as he thought.
But he could speak of neither without revealing too much to Anastasia.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Telling you what?” Anastasia demanded.
“That she is grateful to me for making it possible for her to speak with you,” he lied.
Anastasia’s eyes teared up. “I am grateful as well.”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

New cover for “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide”

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:

Mars cover

And here’s the old cover we did back in 2011, for the sake of comparison:

Mars: A Traveler's Guide

I’d love feedback on the new cover! And if you’ve already read the the story, so much the better. 🙂

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Hire a cover artist or make it yourself?

Ruth Nestvold covers
Some of my covers*

I’m starting this post off with a random selection of my covers — what came up when I searched for covers in my Flickr account, since I just don’t have the time to put together a banner specifically for the purpose right now. Still, it’s a pretty good selection for what I want to explore today: how professional do you want your covers to look? What are you willing to invest to ensure that your covers don’t scream thrown together in an hour with free art found on the internet? (That was the basis for the only cover above that I did completely on my own, in response to a challenge on Joe Konrath’s blog, to write, create the cover, and publish an ebook within 8 hours. It shows. *g*)

Aside from the cover I slapped together just in time to make the 8 hour deadline, I think the differences between these covers are most obvious in the typeface. My daughter — the architect with all the Photoshop expertise who helps me with my covers — can manipulate images wonderfully, much faster than I can, but when we work on a cover together, we often seem to spend much of our time tweaking fonts.

Those who follow this blog probably know which of these covers were designed professionally, and which I designed with my daughter. But if any random visitors want to pipe up in the comments as to what they thought, I would be very interested to see if it’s as obvious as I think it is!

I already talked a little bit about covers and how to find cover artists in my post on the cost of self-publishing. In this installment, I would like to go into covers in a bit more detail, in particular, resources for those who want to try to make their own. But a word of warning up front — if you don’t have any background in design (or someone to help you who does), it will very likely show when you make your own covers.

Then why even bother if you can get a cover on Fiverr for five bucks? When you buy stock art on Dreamstime or Shutterstock, it usually costs more! Here are a few reasons for doing it yourself:

– First off, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to like that five buck cover. Most of my experiences with cover artists have been great, but one of my forays into hiring someone turned out to be a waste of time and money — and it was quite a bit more than five bucks. After that experience, I stuck with making covers with my daughter for a while, since I really didn’t feel like throwing any more money out the window.

– Another advantage of making your own covers is that you can tweak the information on the cover without having to go back to the cover artist, possibly paying more. Let’s say, for example, that you win some big award, and you want to add that information to the cover. Or you decide to make a book into the first in a series, and you need to add “Book 1.” If you created the PSD file in the first place, it’s much easier to do.

– It’s almost as much work finding a cover artist as it is making a cover. It takes plenty of time to go through lists of cover artists, look at examples of their work, and decide which one might fit the tone and genre of the work you need a cover for.

– Perhaps you’re a bit of a control freak, and you have very precise ideas about how you want your cover to look — and you don’t trust anyone else to get it the way you want it.

– You have a background in design, photography, art, or something else along those lines. You enjoy making covers, and for you it’s a part of the creative process. Bestselling indie author H. M. Ward even does the photography for her covers herself. You can read about her cover making process here.

Stock Art

So if you decide to get creative and attempt to make your own covers, where are the best places for getting stock photos? And how much will you have to pay? And is it possible to find stock that isn’t already being used by everyone and her sister?

Some of the main stock art sites:










Razzle Dazzle

On most of these sites you can either buy packages of credits for the purchase of stock images, or you can subscribe and download a certain number of images a day. Prices for individual images vary from site to site and also according to the size and start at a couple of dollars. For larger images, however, you can easily pay $20 for a single photo. So if you are going to be making a series of covers and you have a general idea in advance of the kind of images you’ll be needing, it can worth it in the long run to subscribe for a month and download your daily allotment of images during that month. I did this about a year ago, and now I have an excellent collection of images for use on covers, in banners, on my web site, you name it.

Unfortunately, most of these sites do not tell you how often an image has been downloaded, and you just might find the image you wanted to use on another cover in your genre. The license you buy from these sites is not exclusive. As a result, it makes sense to search by popularity and skip the images on the first page.

Another possibility for finding cover art is through Deviantart. This would involve contacting the artist / photographer directly and working out terms and pricing.

A reminder: make sure that the license you are purchasing allows you to use the art in ebook covers, and if you intend to make a POD book, print as well!


When making your own covers, you may also want to use fonts that you don’t by default have on your computer. Here are some places where you can get new fonts:


1001 Free Fonts

Font Squirrel

What if you decide to hire a cover artist after all?

There are a couple of threads on Kboards which I mentioned in this post which include links to cover artists and premade covers. The article also has a couple of other links to help you find a cover artist to do all the above work for you. 🙂

* The professional covers are the first and the fifth in the row.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

#WIPpet Wednesday: An excerpt from Recontact and the first attempt at a cover

In the last week, I’ve switched from editing Island of Glass to Recontact, the SF novella I wrote with Jay Lake that I’ve mentioned before. So today, I would like to share an excerpt from that again. I’ve uploaded the first 9,000+ words to be critiqued at the next Villa Diodati workshop, but just in case anyone is so blown away that they want to read more, I intend to upload the complete novella as well. Not that I think it’s going to happen, but who knows, I might get lucky. *g*

Given some of the feedback I got from beta readers, I did some reorganizing and made part of the second section of the book into a prologue. Rog, the narrator of this section, is a pretty foul-mouthed guy, so if that offends you, you might want to skip it (and forgive the asterisks — I don’t want this site to end up indexed or anything). Since this is going to be the new beginning, I’m hoping it’s self-explanatory. So without further ado, here are 16 sentences for the 16th day of the month:

Rogelio Crandall-Yui

Hesperides loomed from the iron-gray waters of Naxos Bay, the rusting stub of her narrow neck a monument whose meaning had long been lost. Or transubstantiated, I suppose, if the old mission logs and current radio transmissions were to be believed. The people on this planet had hand-wound crystal sets and a lot of passion. Just no Tesla yet to get them firmly on the road.
They’d find their way.
Meanwhile forty billion jo-dollars worth of hardware from the Smith-Ayapurtam expedition had been rotting in saltwater for well over a hundred years. Even if we were interested in salvage, we wouldn’t be getting much more than materials reclamation.
Hesperides had become the door to the heavens, or the gates to a particularly dissonant h*ll, depending whose theology you believed. One side or the other was even now setting fire to something big farther west along the bay. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see a city burn before, but I suspected I was now.
By all the gods and martyrs, had we f***ed this thing up. I’d never seen a Recontact in such a mess. Not even Hy Wyoming, which was literally the textbook case in How Not To Handle Recontact. The broken-backed starship with the flowering vines growing all over her lee side, crewed now by pale yellow monkeys who fished from the blown hatches just above the waterline — she was the literalized metaphor of the state of relations between the world of Bonificium and the rest of humanity. Ruined, filled with monkey sh*t, with no way back to where things belonged.

My daughter and I have also come up with a first attempt at a cover:

Recontact by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold

Very happy for any and all feedback on both the excerpt and the cover. 🙂

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

New cover for Facets of Glass

I have a new design from Littera Designs for the second book in the Glassmakers Trilogy, based on feedback I got here on my blog and elsewhere:

This is a for a series of YA novellas set in an alternate Baroque period with magic. Facets of Glass takes place in Prague and other settings in Bohemia (mostly equivalent with present-day Czech Republic).

Just for fun, here are some of the images I’ve started collecting on Pinterest:


So what do you guys think? If you haven’t seen the original designs, they’re here.

Cover drafts for Facets of Glass, the second book of The Glassmakers

Yesterday, I got the initial cover designs for the second book of the Glassmakers trilogy back from my cover artist, the lovely and talented Rachel Cole of Littera Designs. For the first book in the series, I bought a beautiful pre-made cover:


Since I want the other books to have the same look and design, I recently hired Rachel to do covers for Facets of Glass and Shards of Glass, even though they are still only in the brainstorming phase. Here are her drafts for the second novella in the trilogy:

Just a little bit of background: the novellas are YA historical fantasy set in an alternate baroque era with magic, revolving around the fate of the Italian glassmaker Chiara. The first book is set in Murano, Venice and Lido, and the second book in Bohemia and its capital, Prague.

So without revealing anything about my own preferences, I want to ask my wonderful readers what they think. 🙂

Cover edits for Chameleon in a Mirror — and some bad publicity for Yseult

Before I get on to my updates, I need a little hand-holding here. One of the covers that my cover artist proposed for Yseult — and which was never used — has showed up on the site “WTF Bad Fantasy Covers” with the following comment:

Nice to see that peroxide blonde dates back so far!

(I’m guessing this is based on Tristan and Isolde. The best part of the doomed romance poetry about them is that the dying Tristan literally hugs Isolde to death. She did ask him to, though, so it’s romantic, or something, IDK.) *

I have no idea where the person running the site got that cover. I posted it back in the day, just because I was curious how people would react. (I liked the sword, but I didn’t like the mascara, and most of my readers here and on Facebook agreed.) Everyone who reads this blog probably knows that the cover of Yseult looks very different. It actually even got some praise when the book was published from ebook guru Joel Friedlander, who said, “Another strong and evocative cover from Derek Murphy.”

Here’s the real cover:

It’s a drag to get slammed for something you didn’t even do, and I’m feeling kind of down. 😦

While I’m on the topic of covers, I played with the cover for Chameleon in a Mirror yesterday, trying to integrate some of the suggestions I got here and on Facebook. This is the result:

Chameleon in a Mirror cover

What do you guys think?

I’d like to get the book finished in time for Christmas, and I’m looking for some beta readers who would be interested in a 100,000 word time travel based on the life of Aphra Behn. Here’s the blurb:

A time travel based on literary history, CIAM is set in the colorful and turbulent times of the English Restoration. The protagonist, Billie Armstrong, has long wanted to rewrite literary history to give Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in England, the prominence she deserves. But when Billie accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, she gets more than she bargained for. What develops is an unwilling masquerade in a tale of license, love and literature, a high-spirited Restoration romp, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future.

If you would like to volunteer, either drop me a note or let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to trade critiques too. 🙂

Part of my progress for the week was working on the CIAM cover. I also wrote about 3200 new words of A Wasted Land, the next Pendragon Chronicles book. A big translation job has been keeping me very busy, though, so I haven’t had as much time to write as I would like. I really have to cut back on the “frittering” if I want to get a few more things off my to-do list!

* Update: Lauralynn pointed out to me that they have now posted a disclaimer and another cover for Yseult, which they claim is the one that actually got used. Well, not quite. If you click on the link and look closely at the second cover, you should easily spot a lot of details that are different. It was one of Derek’s early designs for the cover we finally ended up with. Ce la vie!

Cover for Chameleon in a Mirror, and various other updates

Some time ago, I promised to post a revised version of the cover for Chameleon in a Mirror to my blog, and I’ve finally gotten around to it:

Please let me know what you think!

Since I got Island of Glass off to my niece, I’ve been working on A Wasted Land, the next novel in The Pendragon Chronicles, trying to sort through what I already have and figure out what is usable and what has to go to the trash bin. That means, I don’t have any word count to report, since I’ve been reading, analyzing, editing.

That’s ok. In the last year or so, I’ve been working on training myself to accept my writing progress, even if it doesn’t include words created.

Wishing everyone a great week!