As an indie author it is critical to choose the best cover for your book. This we have Rob discussing about this topic with us.
Say hello to Rob!
Rob Keeley was born in Wirral, Merseyside, UK. Writing his first story aged seven, his first short play aged eleven and first being published at fifteen, he wrote for several magazines before his first book for children, The Alien in the Garage and Other Stories, was published in 2011.
He has since written two more collections of children’s stories, one of which, The Dinner Club and Other Stories, was longlisted for the International Rubery Book Award. He has now published all five novels in his Spirits series, the first of which, Childish Spirits, gained him a Distinction for his MA in Creative Writing before being longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award and nominated for the People’s Book Prize in 2015.
He has recently studied Screenwriting and Filmmaking, has been a judge for the IGGY and Litro Young Writers’ Prize and is a Patron of the Children’s Media Foundation. His books have been used in schools, libraries and at literary festivals and he is in demand for his author workshops, which one teacher even described as “inspirational”!
Let’s get on with it shall we?
“Never judge a book by its cover”. That has to be up there with “The camera never lies” as one of those old adages that doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny. Everyone judges a book by its cover, metaphorically and in the literal (and literary) sense.
When readers shop for books, whether in bricks and mortar bookshops or online, the first thing that catches the eye is the front cover. Even if it’s a book or series title they know, they’ll be relying on the cover to entice them, to draw them in, to promise a thrilling reading journey, destination unknown.
And if you need proof, look at those empty boxes on websites where the cover isn’t available yet or hasn’t yet been uploaded. How bland and uninviting do those book entries look? Which is why it’s so important for every author, and especially the indie author in creative control of their book, to get the cover right.
It’s not easy, for the indie author. We can be completely on our own, uploading our books directly to the Internet, with only limited numbers of templates or fonts at our disposal. Even those of us who work with a designer or an indie publishing company – and there are some brilliant, talented ones out there – can’t necessarily afford (or access) an illustrator and have to work with what software options are available.
Of all my books for children, only my picture book My Favourite People has so far had the luxury of an illustrator. My novels and short story collections all made use of stock photos from the Net, which have to be bought and licensed by the author or by the designer acting on their behalf. And finding the right picture to illustrate your work isn’t always easy.
I discovered this with The Dinner Club and Other Stories, when I spent a whole afternoon looking at stock photos of fish and chips, in order to find one that reflected a child’s home dinner with his grandmother. And what did everyone, but everyone (even the judges who longlisted it for an award!) later say to me? It looks like a cookbook! Young readers thought otherwise, however – as will be seen below.
So we have to work within our budgets, and with whatever we can get. But perhaps this forces us to be all the more creative. It can even feed back into the text of our books. With The (Fairly) Magic Show I changed the card found by a child in the title story from the King of Clubs to the King of Spades, simply because we’d found a brilliant photo of a pile of cards with this on top.
Sometimes a talented designer can change an ordinary stock photo into something magical and memorable. The graveyard of The Spirit of London became this, simply by adding a sunlight effect. On High Spirits, the one that won the award by the way, we changed a stock Grim Reaper hooded spirit into the Doppelganger of the book simply by adding some smoke and a few energy beams to reflect the climax of the novel.
The imagination is the only barrier to being creative with what we have. Ask any child who builds entire worlds from building bricks or cardboard boxes. And in my case, they’re my readers.
With all communication, the fundamental question to ask yourself is: who is my target audience? And going on from that, what do they want to see, read or hear? With my novels and short stories, I always visualise the intelligent 9-12 year old, reading a book at school or home, or having it read to them, wanting to be informed, inspired, but above all, entertained!
And therefore, the cover has to reflect this, being as colourful, exciting and intriguing as possible. It’s not a bad ground rule for novels for adults, either. The image should complement the title and reinforce it, while both perhaps pose questions that the reader will want answered. Anything and everything to make them want to read.
Sometimes the meaning of the cover and its image won’t become clear until the book is read – as with the ruined world on the cover of The Sword of the Spirit, or the door on The Alien in the Garage. And an added complication these days is that the cover has to be easily adaptable to different formats – paperback, ebook or audiobook. Childish Spirits, the first Spirits novel, is currently being recorded as an audiobook, which has meant reformatting its cover from portrait to square – the shape traditionally used for CDs.
As we’ve seen, we can start with the everyday and make something extraordinary out of it. Sometimes the reaction from the young reader can surprise even the author. The Dinner Club, following its “cookbook” criticisms, went on to inspire reluctant readers I worked with at one school to create their own Dinner Club, with the help of their teachers, in which they were granted an early lunch, ate fish and chips and discussed books and their writing. A cover image did that. Not even the book – its cover. This shows the importance of getting the cover right and tailoring it to its target audience.
Children’s authors should also remember that it isn’t necessarily about doing a “wacky” or “kiddie” cover. I’ve had criticisms – from adults, always from adults – that my covers look “too grown up”. Childish Spirits was one such novel, with its spooky abandoned nursery and ghostly portrait, yet in one school workshop a group of children solemnly claimed they could see extra ghosts in the doorway and next to the curtain. (Have a look. Can you?)
None of them seemed to think that this book wasn’t for them. And all of them were engaged and stimulated as readers by what they saw. No one ever said that children’s books were just for children, either. It’s worth remembering that Harry Potter was published with children’s and adult covers – and that it’s adults who are frequently the buyers of children’s literature.
How do we design a good cover?
I’m sure that whole books could be devoted to this alone, but here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way:
Keep your target audience in mind constantly. What do they want to see – and read?
Basic background colour is important. You know your text better than anyone – what “colour” is it? A dark fantasy story could call for black. A light-hearted romance might benefit from white. White can also be sinister – especially if some blood appears. Children are attracted by bright colours. And so on.
Choose the best possible image from the best source available on your budget. It should be something that captures the essence of your story and/or characters, perhaps obviously, perhaps less so until the book is read.
Choose a font that reflects the style of your story, its title and what your audience wants to see. A computerised, businesslike font might look good on a business studies book but less so on your middle-grade fantasy novel.
Lay everything out clearly, attractively and don’t clutter your front cover.
If you have review quotes from previous books, or an advance review for this one, try and get at least one quote on the cover, if this can be done comfortably without cluttering. Give the source, and make it clear which book it refers to – e.g. “On High Spirits:”. And of course, make sure you’re authorised to reproduce this material! Check with the reviewer if there’s any doubt. Reviews might show up better on printed covers than electronic-only. And if you can’t fit a review on the printed front cover – there’s always the back!
The finished front cover should ideally be adaptable to different formats and media. You might get the chance at paperback, ebook and audiobook – as I now have. A good designer can advise you here.
So, a suitably intriguing and attention-grabbing cover can engage the reader, young or old. It simply has to be right for the story, for the characters, and above all, for your audience. And once you get them past the cover? Then you, as the author, can work your magic.
If you have something to add to Rob’s story, drop a comment here or send him a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.Also, if you are interested in writing a guest post for the independent publishing community, write to me right away. I am still accepting guest post submissions.
Let us chat
As a reader, what kinda covers put you off a book? As an author, what are the things that you look out when you chose your book cover? Tell us about your experience with choosing your book covers. Let us talk.
It is time for yet another guest post from an indie author already. And the topic that our guest blogger for this week has taken is more practical and hands on than ever before. She is sharing her tips and tricks on formatting your next best selling books.
I have been following Jenn’s blog for a while now and I love commenting on her blog as well. So let me hand it over to her, alright?
Say hello to Jenn!
Jennifer Leigh is a self-published young adult author and blogger. She loves to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Her blog, Bound to Writing, focuses on young adult books and writing. She lives in New Jersey with her fiancé, two guinea pigs, and cat.
Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Leigh and I’m the author of Not Like Everyone Else, a self-published young adult mystery book.
When I first set off to formatting my own print and ebook copies, I found that there was so much information. It was overwhelming.
Then I found what worked out for me. Now, the advice I’m about to give worked for me, but may not work for you. But I do hope you’ll find the system that works for you if this doesn’t.
When I format my books I use Microsoft Word. By far, it has the easiest user interface in creating the files I need for my books. This means that all of my information will be based in Microsoft Word.
Print and Ebook copies have to be formatted differently. Though some things remain the same, it’s the little details that change if the book will keep its format when you hit publish. And you want to make sure the book does look the way you want before releasing it to the public.
Physical Copy Formatting
Indents and Spacing
The first things you’ll want to do is highlight your document by using CTRL+A and setting a first line indent of 0.2” and a 1.5-inch line spacing. This will create uniform indents and spacing throughout your work.
You’ll also want to create page breaks after the last sentence of your chapter. This will ensure that your chapters will always start on a new page.
It’s also important that you set section breaks before your story and after. The best place to add in sections breaks is after your title, copyright, and dedication pages. Any pages before and after the final page of your story should have a section break because it will affect the page numbers (see next point).
In a physical copy, you’ll need to add page numbers. Go into the header or footer of your document and select the page numbers that you want for your document. Don’t forget to change the font and font size to match your book’s text. By having the section breaks that we discussed before, your first page should start on the first page of your story and end on the last page.
*Note* Make sure that you check Different Odd/Even Pages to ensure the numbers count consecutively.
You want to make sure your margins are properly formatted so that your text doesn’t get swallowed into the spine of the book. To ensure this doesn’t happen, set your margins to:Top, Bottom, and Outside Margins = 0.75”Inside Margins = 1”You want to also set your margins to Mirror Margins so that every other page has the inside margin.
Check and Order Proof
To ensure your book is properly formatted, check out how the book will print in the print preview. By eyeing the document, you should see any formatting issues. Or, if you’d like to take it one step further, this is the time to order a proof copy of your book, if your publisher allows you to order a proof before publishing.
Ebook Copy Formatting
Now that we’ve looked into how to format a Physical copy, let’s look into how formatting an Ebook is different.
Indents and Spacing
Just like a physical copy, you need to indent and space your text. The first things you’ll want to do it highlight your document by using CTRL+A and setting a first line indent of 0.2” and a 1.5-inch line spacing. This will create uniform indents and spacing throughout your work.
You’ll also want to create page breaks after the last sentence of your chapter. This will ensure that your chapters will always start on a new page.
This section becomes very important for Ebooks. If you don’t add in section breaks, the text will most likely all stay on the same page. Make sure that you set section breaks before your story and after. The best place to add in sections breaks is after your title, copyright, and dedication pages. Any pages before and after the final page of your story should have a section break.
The best part of an Ebook is that you don’t need page numbers! Because Ereaders vary in how many pages your book will have, page numbers are unnecessary.
You want to make sure your margins are properly formatted so that your text looks nice on the page. To ensure this will work, set your margins to:All Margins = 0.5”
Table of Contents
The table of contents is an important part of the Ebook. You’ll want to make sure your chapters have headings, which you can set up in the Styles box. Then when you click on References on the main ribbon, you’ll see the Table of Contents creator.
Set it up how you’d like to see your table of contents. Remember, don’t have it show page numbers because every format will be different. You can easily add and subtract the contents by clicked on Add Text and Do Not Show in Table of Contents or Level 1 which would count for a chapter number or title.
*Note* By using the Table of Contents option, it links your chapters so that people can click on them in your ebook.
Check Your Copy & Read on Ereader
To ensure your book is properly formatted, check out how the book will print in the print preview. By eyeing the document, you should see any formatting issues. You can also change your file over to a PDF, MOBI, or PDF file and read on an Ereader or Ereader app to see if you spot any issues.
Ebooks are easier to format because you need to make it versatile for any Ereader to adapt while keeping the integrity of your book.
Make sure your fonts match and your book text is no larger than 12pt. Your chapter headings and title page text can be larger.Always make sure to check your formatting before sending to be published. Formatting doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take a lot of work.
Thank you, Gayathri for having me on your blog today.I hope you all found this post useful and you continue checking this wonderful series Gayathri is offering to indie authors. I wish you all the best in your self-publishing adventures.
So, you’re an author who is just about to release a book and you want to get the word out. If this sounds like you, and you’re unsure about what to do, this post may be for you as blog tours are a very good way of doing this.
I’ve typically been bad about this myself, but talking someone else through it recently made me realise that, even if I haven’t bee motivated to get up and do this myself many times, I know the theory of it, and it’s information that I’m easily able to pass along that might be of help to others.
So what is in a blog tour?
Typically a book tour is a handful of tours, somewhere between 7 and maybe a dozen, within a week or fortnight period. The idea is to get your book seen on various different blogs, of course which you also promote.
Your side of things (as an author) would be putting up different information, excerpts, interviews, guest blogs on different topics, in each area so that people have an interest in following the different blog posts which also gets the bloggers exposure.
In that way, it manages to be a good thing for people on both sides of the blog tour. Some people also do promotional images. I’ve included a couple of those in this post as an additional assistance to help with visualising the whole set up.
What do you, as an author, have to provide?
But here’s a question you might be asking yourself: How the heck are you, as the author, supposed to cough up original content for upwards of 7 different blogs from one upcoming book?!
First of all, you probably want to pick a place that offers an exclusive cover reveal. Exclusive, as in, this is the place where people go to get their first glimpse of the front cover of your upcoming book. As in, don’t post it up on Twitter like I know you are wanting to (if you are anything like me), no matter how awesome that artwork is, and how cool that cover artist was to work with. Save it for the start of your blog tour.
Trust me, all that energy is going to come in handy when it comes to you promoting these blogs and YOUR BOOK. LGBTQReads and Gay YA are both great resources that offer this.
What about book excerpts?
Excerpts from the book are another wonderful thing you can offer to bloggers potentially hosting you. One of these is probably enough, two if you’re going for an extended blog tour. Think of the kind of excerpt you might see as a preview/hook at the end of Book 1 in your favourite series, something that’s going to make readers want to see more.
And author interviews?
Many bloggers will offer to do author interviews. They’ll either ask you a set number of questions or give you a list of questions to choose from. Your job is to find different questions with each blog (if possible) or to bring fresh content to your answers each time. Their job is to find questions that are going to stimulate those kinds of responses. A great example of this kind of interview is Corey’s Book Corner interviewing Cole McCade.
Also character interviews!
Some bloggers will want to do character interviews. This can be an incredibly good alternate option if you feel as though your author interviews are getting a bit repetitive! You choose the character/s from the book from whom you want to answer questions and go from there. I offered one of these interviews with Dahlia and Bianca, out of my novel Changing Loyalties.
Write a few guest posts
Finally, the other very common post featured in a blog tour is the guest post. I do a lot of those on this blog, such as Lynn O’Connacht’s guest post on Demisexuality in Fantasy Worlds, and J. Emery’s guest post on the Connections Between Characters and How They Develop. These give you a lot of scope to write mini essays on any area of your writing process, the reason you wrote the book you’re about to release.
You likely already know some people who would be very happy to host you. Authors, readers and bloggers have a way of moving in very similar circles. A way of getting people to self opt in is putting a post on Twitter, or whatever networking platform you use, asking for people who would be willing to host you. Reach out to people who might have offered before you had a book that you wanted to do a blog tour for.
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
Are you an author who has or is going to promote your book through blog tours? Tell us how are they working for you. If you are blogger who takes part in such blog tours, which option do you prefer? Also share your favorite blog tour providers. Let us talk.
And this week I have someone whom I met years ago on Google+ (remember that thing that was supposed to beat down Facebook?) book group and someone who knows what she talking about when it comes to book marketing.
So let me introduce you all to Susan Barton!
Say hi to Susan, people!
Susan is an avid reader, book reviewer and author with seven published non-fiction, children’s and YA books. She is also a marketer, copywriter and editor/proofreader with over three decades of professional experience.
From Author to Marketer
So you’ve published your first book. Congratulations! Sitting in front of your computer for several months or more, plugging away, planning, strategizing, editing and rewriting is A LOT of work. That’s a wonderful accomplishment and something to be proud of.
But guess what? Your work is just beginning. I can hear your groans already. I’m sorry… I really am, but I’m here to tell you that this is no time to relax. Instead, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and turn your attention to marketing your book.
Even if you are an introvert!
Many, MANY authors struggle with book marketing. After all, writing is often a solitary, isolating business. Writers enjoy an introverted life of quiet introspection. We’re often not comfortable tooting our own horns. Yet that’s exactly what book marketing is. It’s about letting potential readers know how much they need to read our books.
Like it or not, if you want to sell your book, you’re going to have to put yourself out there for all to see. Fear not, however, there are still some effective ways to quietly, subtly promote your book. The great thing is that these techniques are perfect for all of us introverts!
Here are four SUPER simple ways to do just that:
1. Schedule a Freebie
Promoting your eBook with a free download for one or two days is probably one of the best ways to get people to have a look at your book, and then download and review it.
Many authors are worried about giving away their books, but I’ve personally seen freebie downloads result in dozens of book reviews. This is a valuable book marketing technique that’s definitely worth doing.
Add a newsletter signup form on your author website and send out a monthly (or quarterly, or whatever works best for you) newsletter to let readers know what you’ve been up to.
Add other book-related news and discounts for added value to your readers. Just remember, you can only add newsletter subscribers to your list if they’ve specifically signed up to receive your newsletter. Otherwise, it’s considered spam.
3. Create a Giveaway
Giveaways are excellent ways to generate book buzz. You can give away copies of your book, along with a curated book swag package. Most giveaway participants are excited to enter for a chance to receive these goodies.
Bookmarks, original book illustrations, novelty items and more can be included in your swag. Be original and creative! Add your giveaway to your website and share, share, share via social media.
I told you these four tips would be super simple and I left the simplest technique of all for last. Your email signature should always include information about you and your book. That means adding the links to your book purchase page, your author website and your social media platforms at the end of your email signature.
Every time you email someone they’ll see your info and have the opportunity to click, click and click. Simple!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these four simple book marketing tips and use them soon. If you do, please let me know how they work for you.
If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of marketing your book contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
I am back! I am just here to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
I am here as promised with the piece of news that I have been talking about excitedly for almost a month now. Yes, the series of guest posts from indie authors and relevant people from the independent publishing community is here!
For the first edition we have Kathleen Jowitt talking about the highs and lows of writing as she sees as an author herself and ways to keep yourself motivated through the whole process. So let me hand it over to her and get out of the away after a round of introduction.
Say hi to Kathleen!
Kathleen Jowitt is an author and trade union officer. Her first novel, Speak Its Name, was the first self-published work ever shortlisted for the prestigious Betty Trask Prize.
Again, I am so pumped with the posts I have scheduled already in this series guys. Okay, I am off and K Jo is here!
The highs and lows of writing
Self-publishing can be a lonely business. Writing can be a lonely business even if you’re conventionally published – there are long stretches when it’s just you and the keyboard – but when you don’t have an agent checking in with you, or a publisher checking up on you, you’ve only got yourself to keep you going.
And it can be dispiriting. When you’re at the early stage of a new book and are reluctant to show your work to anyone else, you end up without talking to anyone about your writing, and there’s nobody to counter the negative voice that suggests maybe this one isn’t very good. If it’s been a while since you last published something, and you haven’t had an Amazon or Goodreads review in ages, it can start to feel as if nobody’s reading any of your work at all.
I’ve had a reasonable amount of success with self-publishing. In 2017 I was the first – and, so far, the only – self-published author to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to the best debut by an author under the age of 35.
When the news broke, I had most of the second one done, and I was able to use the momentum from the excitement of the shortlisting to carry me through the final round of editing all the way through to the publication and launch.
And now what?
Seven months on, with another cycle of awards passed and gone, nothing very exciting in the way of sales, and a measly 10,000 words down on the next novel, I have to admit that I’m feeling a bit flat. I know that this is a temporary state of affairs.
There’s a reason why my work in progress doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very good, and it’s this: it isn’t finished yet. I know that the only way out of this patch of the doldrums is through it. There’s just one problem: I’ve got to keep writing, when the very thought of writing is getting me down.
“[…] the only way out of this patch of the doldrums is through it. There’s just one problem: I’ve got to keep writing, when the very thought of writing is getting me down.” says Jowitt on “the highs and lows of writing”.Click to Tweet
There are two ways to approach this conundrum, and I tend to apply both at once.
Remember that you’re not alone
Firstly, keep reaching out. If nobody’s talking to me, then I’m going to have to be the one to talk to them. Here are some ways that I do that:
Talk to other writers. Do it on Twitter, or in a writing group, or anywhere else that you can have a sensible, encouraging conversation. You might feel like you’re alone, but you’re not the only one.
And remember that even a self-published author shouldn’t be doing everything on their own. At the very least, you need a beta reader. Find the right one, and you might find that they’re a staunch ally and cheerleader for years to come.
Keep asking for reviews. If your book is still available, then it’s still worth looking for people to review it. Earlier this year I found a list of reviewers who specialise in F/F fiction, and I contacted all those that I hadn’t come across before.
And three of them were entirely happy to review my first novel, even though it was over two years old at that point. Meanwhile, a reviewer who has just finished my newest book has come back to me with a set of thought-provoking interview questions, which has cheered me right up. The prospect of having an intelligent conversation about my writing has done wonders.
While I’m on the subject, there’s nothing wrong with reading your old reviews. They tell you that you have produced something that other people have enjoyed reading, and, therefore, that you can do it again. It’s a useful reminder.
“[..]there’s nothing wrong with reading your old reviews. They tell you that you have produced something that other people have enjoyed reading, and, therefore, that you can do it again.” Hear more from Kathleen Jowitt!Click to Tweet
Remember to please yourself
Secondly, look after yourself. Remember why you started doing this in the first place. If you’ve chosen to write, and particularly if you’ve chosen to go it alone, it may well be that you’re doing it because nobody else is writing the kind of books that you want to read.
In short, you’re writing to please yourself. So please yourself. Put in the silly plots, the jokes that only you and two other people will get, the cheesy pop culture references – whatever makes you smile and keeps you writing. You can always take it out again later.
Take a break if you need to. You don’t have to write every day. Personally, I always find that going for a walk helps. There’s something about being out in the open air, away from my desk, and with nothing to do but put one foot in front in the other, that seems to shake the ideas loose.
And enjoy other people’s work – books, films, art, music, whatever makes you feel refreshed, curious, or inspired. You can only put so much out into the world before you need to replenish your own resources. If you honestly don’t feel like writing at the moment, then there’s probably a good reason for that. Take care of your own needs.
Give yourself time. Give yourself company. But don’t give up. There’s a way through this, I promise.
Kathleen Jowitt talks on the highs and lows of writing “Give yourself time. Give yourself company. But don’t give up. There’s a way through this, I promise.”Click to Tweet
Thanks K Jo!
I am back! I am just here to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links. I am adding a Goodreads link to her latest book!
Do you ever feel that writing is a lonely business? And how far does being in writer’s group, physically or virtually help you out when the lows hit you? What do you do to celebrate your highs and get out off your lows? Let us talk.