No, I’m not going to tell you how to design your book cover. I will say find a professional to do it for you as there’s nothing worse than a shoddy cover, and I speak from painful experience.
I decided to change the cover of my non fiction book about my Australian ancestors. The book has been out for nearly four years and is selling reasonably well, but I figured it could do with a boost, and besides it received a general thumbs-down from my writer colleagues on the ALLi Facebook forum.
The photo is of the Hawkesbury River, where my story is largely set, and was taken by my good self a few years ago. Criticisms of it included the fact that it was not obviously about Australia, that the colour was wrong for that country, that the image contradicted the title (which was the point) and that it was too contemporary. Of all those the one comment that made sense to me was the last.
I found a designer, recommended by ALLi and as it happens Australian, and I found an image I liked – a 19th century painting of the Hawkesbury River by an artist called William Pigeunit. It had just the right element of threat.
Unfortunately while the picture itself is in the public domain I could not find a copy of it with a high enough resolution – I think that’s the term – ie, 1MB or more.
So I found another painting – A Summer Morning Tiff by Tom Roberts – again in the public domain but in the possession of an art gallery in Victoria, Australia. They wanted a fee to provide me with a high res image, and they also sent me a licence to sign promising we would not alter the image in any way, and asking to approve a proof of the cover before publishing. My designer (Jessica Bell) decided one way or another she couldn’t work with the picture without making alterations. So back to square one. In the end she worked on my original image, and the end result, which I am very happy with, is below.
Jessica has managed not just to make the picture a good deal more vivid (by comparison the original looks decidedly drab), she has added depth and interest, and the font suggests a story not set in contemporary times. The miniature silhouette of the woman’s head adds a touch of human interest and hints the book is about a woman, which it is.
So, I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before in my many years of self publishing, and here they are for the edification of anyone out there contemplating using an existing painting for their book cover.
Make sure the image is out of copyright and in the public domain.
Make sure the image is at least 1MB.
Even if you’ve found an image in the public domain if it is not a high enough res you may have to pay for one that is.
It is up to the writer rather than the designer to check image copyright.
Your designer may and probably will have access to copyright-free images, so discuss it with her or him.
If your book is about a person or persons a touch of human interest in the cover is a good idea.
The writer isn’t necessarily the best judge of the sort of cover that will make a book sell.
That’s it really. I wish you the best of luck with your cover design adventure, and again if you have any queries get in touch!
In response to some queries I’ve been receiving recently from writers thinking about self publishing, here is an update on the nuts and bolts of what it entails.
Self publishing offers exciting opportunities for writers …
You get to be in control of everything, including
When you publish
What you publish
The look of the book, including cover design
… It also entails a certain amount of hard work, but depending on your inclination and your budget you can get other people to do all or some of it for you. Here’s what you need to do:
Write the best book you can and have it professionally edited and proofread
Hire a professional cover designer
Convert the manuscript into ebook for Amazon and other online retailers
Publish the ebook on Amazon direct, and/or through Smashwords
Design and publish the paperback
Amazon is the leading online retailer but there are other important outlets as well, including Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks. It is possible to publish your book on all of them for free.
There is also Ingram Spark. They publish and distribute ebooks and paperbacks globally. The pros and cons of IS are
Their worldwide distribution is better than Amazon’s
The quality of paper and print is marginally better than Amazon’s
You have a better chance of selling your book through retailers who don’t like Amazon
They have print outlets in the UK and in Australia, as well as the USA
Unlike Amazon and the rest however you will need your own ISBN. These are available to buy in a minimum of 10 through Neilsen (in the UK).
Marketing your book is a challenge, there’s no doubt about that, and the more writers choose to self publish the harder it is to get anyone to read your book. In my experience non fiction is easier to market than fiction as you can target a specific readership. That said, you can do as little or as much marketing as you like depending on whether you are hoping to make money out of your writing or are just happy to have your book out there.
If you are serious about self publishing you might consider joining The Alliance of Independent Authors. They have a private Facebook forum where you can get advice on all aspects of independent publishing, and there are also regular online conferences and physical meetups. Click on the ALLi sidebar on this page to find out more.
Good luck with your indie publishing enterprise, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.
On Tuesday evening courtesy of ALLI (The Alliance of Independent Authors) we had the pleasure of a talk from Andy Bromley from Ingram Spark.
When I first published The World Country in the World back in 2012 the only option for indie publishers was Amazon. Ingram, a family firm (then and now), existed as book distributors only, and their print arm Lightning Source was aimed largely at traditional publishers.
All that has now changed with the ‘Spark’ added specifically for independent authors.
The great advantage of Ingram Spark is that they have print outlets not just in the US but here in the UK (in Milton Keynes) and in Australia (Melbourne). This cuts down on both shipping costs and delivery time (although paradoxically ordering a book to be sent from the UK to Australia is, though quicker, more expensive if printed there – due presumably to GST). I’ve had my latest novel The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faraday printed by both Ingram Spark and Amazon Createspace and quality-wise there’s very little to choose between them except that the print on the IS version is very slightly clearer.
Ingram Spark is growing all the time and, much as we all love and hate Amazon it’s very good to see some competition. Submission is almost as easy as with Createspace, the only differences are:
The submission costs on Ingram Spark are $US49 for ebook and print or for print only, and $US25 for ebook only (ALLI members get a discount), as opposed to free on Createspace.
Amazon Createspace provides its own ISBN, for free, but this means your book will have Createspace printed on it, which tells everyone it’s self published. With Ingram Spark you provide your own ISBN (in the UK from Neilson, minimum of 10 costing £144), but you get to create and name your own publishing outfit so nobody can tell whether you are self- or traditionally published.
International – ie outside the US – distribution is cheaper and easier through Ingram Spark.
Received wisdom, confirmed by Andy Bromley, recommends for print versions of your book to use BOTH Amazon Createspace AND Ingram Spark. If you submit your book to Createspace and DON’T click on Expanded Distribution then all sales outside the US will go through Ingram Spark, under your own publisher’s name.
And another thing for Australian writers: The Book Depository (owned by Amazon) is apparently about to open up in Australia, and offers free worldwide delivery. Since Australian Amazon handles ebooks only it’s good to see another online company providing competition for print retailers such as Booktopia.
Also on the heels of Amazon is Wordery, an online bookshop handling print books only and offering free worldwide delivery (and currently better deals on both my books!).
What to look out for before contacting a self publishing service.
DO be clear exactly what you are looking for
DO make sure you hang onto the rights to your book
DO make sure the royalties come straight to you and not through a third party
SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT ONLINE
The online market leader is Amazon/CreateSpace, but there is also Ingram/Spark and Lulu. I have no direct experience of these last two, but I do know that while Amazon/CreateSpace charge nothing to upload your book or to re-upload later amended versions of it, Ingram do charge for both. The advantage of Ingram is that I believe they offer different qualities of, for instance, paper, and the shipping may be cheaper as they have an outlet here in the UK, and in Australia.
CreateSpace is the print arm of Amazon and their website is very user-friendly.
Once you’ve uploaded your title and chosen your dimensions and page colour you will be taken to a Pricing page. You can price your book in US$ and the other currencies will calculated automatically, if you wish. (Or you can adjust this.)
The ISBN is provided free through CreateSpace but not on Ingram. You can buy your own ISBN which then belongs to you no matter who you publish through. CreateSpace also have a forum, or ‘Community’, where you can post queries and with a bit of luck someone will get back to you pretty quickly, especially if you post in the afternoon when America has woken up.
Categories and keywords: we didn’t get to discuss these in the workshop, but they do help to sell books if you get them right. Amazon/CreateSpace offers a selection of categories to choose from, and you can pick your own keywords (up to 7, if I remember correctly).
Ordering copies. With Print on Demand unit costs of printing are very reasonable. My 318-page book costs $4.64 to print out, per copy. There are various shipping options but as a guide, Expedited Shipping (3 weeks or so) costs $7.99. Obviously shipping costs per book are less per item the more you order in one go. You can also order copies to be sent direct to other people, all round the Globe.
If you do decide to do it all yourself (and if I can do it anyone can) I have produced a book aimed at the technically challenged, available on Amazon.
This may not be a priority for the family historian but it’s worth mentioning.
Social media is an option obviously, but has to be handled carefully (ie no constant hard selling). What is a good idea is to have a website with a recognisable family name as a title as this will lead other family members to you. Mine, named after my ancestress (marymatchampitt.wordpress.com), has introduced me to several distant relatives with interesting tales to tell. It’s also worth considering a website and Facebook page dedicated to your book.
Reviews are also worth going for, especially from family history magazines.
‘Who do you think you are’ magazine also has a feature at the back called ‘My Family Hero’, and they are often looking out for people to fill it.
Why not? It doesn’t cost much to have your manuscript converted into the suitable formats for Kindle, Kobo, Nook and whatever other devices there are out there. For some reason self publishers tend to sell more ebooks than paperbacks. In my case 90% of my sales are ebooks.
Joel Friedlander is a book cover and interior designer (he also offers page templates). This is the result of a competition where writers submit their covers and he comments on them and chooses winners. It’s useful as you can compare your opinion with his! (And comment if you want to.)
Which reminds me:
USEFUL WEBSITES on self publishing:(or to follow on Twitter)
And if you are looking for advice on everything to do with self publishing you could consider joining ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). Click the ALLi logo on my site. Their subscription fees are £75 for a published (self- or otherwise) author. ALLi have also produced some useful books on self publishing such as:
That is really it. Good luck with your various projects, and please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries (or interesting tales about your self publishing experience).
As promised to the gentle folk at the Society of Genealogists on Saturday’s workshop on self publishing, here are my notes, posted in two parts.
WHERE I am coming from
What I know about self publishing comes from hard-earned experience publishing my book The Worst Country in the World, which after six years of writing (on and off) evolved into a hybrid mix of family history, early colonial Australian history, memoir and novel. For that reason alone I did not attempt to get it traditionally published. (Nor I realise would any publisher want to take on a book that is not likely to be a mass seller.)
Having read up everything I could find on self publishing and sent off for and received quotes that would entail taking out a mortgage, I decided to do everything myself: convert the book into ebook and design the paperback. The only things I paid for were for editing and cover design. (This not necessarily a path I would recommend unless you have plenty of time and endless patience.)
WHAT is self publishing?
Self publishing is ideal for family historians for the following reasons:
You get to control everything:
You can write the book you want to write
You can choose exactly how you want it to look
You can spend as much or as little as you want to
It doesn’t matter if you’re only expecting to sell a few copies
Print on Demand (POD), which means your manuscript is stored on some electronic device and only printed out when someone orders it, has revolutionised the publishing business. The unit cost of a book is the same whether you order one copy or five hundred. No book goes out of print, and there is no wastage.
However whether or not you decide to buy in professional services or advice it’s important to have a clear idea of what you are looking for with your book. There are sharks out there who are only too happy to charge a small fortune for not very much indeed.
Having done a lot of asking around two companies cropped up frequently, known to offer an efficient, professional and trustworthy service.
A bespoke, personal service for print books only, offering everything from ghost writing to editing to the end production of a beautiful work of art, printed on paper of your choice, handbound in leather or anything else you choose.
Before you approach any of these companies however:
What you need to think of
EDITING: Every writer needs an editor no matter how experienced or successful they are. There are three main types of editor:
Copy editing – line by line checking for grammar, clumsy writing, repetition, clarity
Proof reading – checking for mistakes and typos
There is a certain amount of blurring between these three tasks, but do not expect an editor to proofread your book. It is not his/her job. She/he may correct mistakes if they spot them but it is a different process altogether, and one a sharp-eyed friend might be able to do for you (as she did in my case).
For editors you could do worse than taking a look at the readers at the following manuscript assessment companies:
Received wisdom says do not try to create your own book cover unless you are an experienced graphic designer or au fait with Photoshop or other graphic software. For cover designers:
https://www.99designs.co.ukUK-based. Your cover remit is ‘put out to tender’ to a number of designers who are invited to submit their designs, and you get to choose your favourite. The more you pay (from £189 up) the more designers you are likely to attract. This has the advantage of being able to choose between several completely different approaches.
http://www.lawstondesign.com/index.html UK-based. Rebecca Lawston, a highly experienced designer who works for several major publishing companies. Her fees start at £500 for print, £150 for ebook, to include branding and marketing material.
In addition as one helpful participant suggested, it might be worth your while contacting local HE colleges for graphic design students who might offer their services at a modest fee, in return for experience and publicity. (I have yet to check if this is possible.)
BOOK INTERIOR: First, find a book whose layout you like to use as a template. Consider:
SIZE: Of the book; standard non fiction is 6”x9”, fiction 8”x5” (but you can choose what you like). Mine was 6”x9”.
TYPEFACE AND TYPEFACE SIZE: There are specifically recommended fonts. I used Palatino 11 point. It’s not a bad idea to print out a few pages in various typefaces and sizes in your chosen page size to see what it looks like
CHAPTER TITLE LAYOUT: Centred or left-aligned, upper or lower case, etc.
TRIMMINGS: Drop caps, headers, small caps etc
IMAGES: (photos, maps, family trees) Be aware of copyright: some owners may charge for the use of the image and/or map.
FRONT MATTER : What goes before the main text. This is a matter of choice, but for ebooks certainly it’s good to keep it to a minimum (especially for readers who have downloaded a free sample). Mine are:
Dedication/quote page.This explained the title of my book
Table of contents. Not essential (except in ebooks, for internal links), but standard for non fiction.
END MATTER : What comes after the main text. Mine are:
Afterword : A dedication to my late aunt, who started me off on my genealogical journey
Appendix & chapter notes
You can also include reviews, if you have them, or books you’ve already written.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: This is important to readers, so it’s a good idea to make yourself sound interesting and likeable!
Keep it brief
To the point and in the context of the book.
Write in the third person
BLURB: The blurb is crucial – it’s what makes a person read a book or pass on. Mine is on the back cover of my book, and also on my Amazon page.
Again, keep it brief – no more than 200 words
Write in the third person present tense
Remember it is a selling tool not a synopsis, so don’t attempt to tell the whole story
The blurb also acts as a reminder of why you decided to write the book in the first place, and what it was made you think other people might like to read it!
Enough for now. The sun is over the yardarm.
COMING NEXT: DOs and DON’Ts, marketing; ebooks etc.