How to Keep Track of Reviews

Alright, so you’ve just published a book. You’re looking for reviews. You just go out and ask everyone you can to review it, right?

Wrong. Well, sort of.

I made the mistake of failing to be organized enough in my quest for reviews. I should have kept note of EVERYONE I contacted for a review, but I ended up losing track and someone was contacted twice… oops.

What you need to do is use some spreadsheet program to keep track of everyone you contact. It should look something like this:

excellThe important things to keep track of are name, where you found them, where/if they reviewed, how to contact them, and if they liked it.

When you’re ready to publish your second book, you can look at the list, copy it to another sheet, and just remove all the entries for people who never got around to reviewing your first book. With Genie out of the picture, you can now contact Aladin, Jasmine, and Dat Tiger for reviews. Only… Jasmine rated your book 2 stars, so she probably won’t be a fan of your second book, so you can take her off the list too.

Each time you see a new review and add it to the list, it’s important to note if the person liked it and mentioned wanting to read more (in which case they’ll probably be happy to get another free book) or if it wasn’t really their thing.

This might seem silly and an anal way of going about things, but I contacted a LOT of people about my book. I wish I would’ve made a list of them all so I don’t end up bugging someone who I already bothered about the first book.

When you publish your second book (or third or fourth) you’re still going to have to do some footwork to, but this will make it a lot easier. It will also give you an idea of how much work to expect. In reality, the example above would be three no responses to every one review.

Just remember, NEVER get into an argument with someone over their review of your book. If they post a racist rant calling you a cunt on Amazon, contact Amazon to have it taken down. If they say “I didn’t understand why the butler killed the maid. There was no motivation there!” don’t reply with the page numbers that spelled that out. Just let it go. No good can come from arguing with critics. Learning to accept bad reviews is part of being an author.

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Free Amazon Promotion Results

Books given away: 534

Free eBook ranking in my genre: 24 (may have gotten higher, but I forgot to check till the second day)

Books bought since the giveaway: 1

I think that’s pretty good for what small marketing I was able to do. I’m super excited that someone bought my book right after the promotion. I’m assuming that it was still ranked high somewhere, even though it was still ranked in the thousands of it’s genre (the non-free one).

I got a few people who said they started reading and liked it and would leave a review (plus I left a note at the end asking for reviews for anyone who finishes it) so I should get some reviews out of it. I think the promotion went pretty well, and I’ll be sure to update you guys if I get a million reviews or something.

I just got surgery on both my feet, so I might not be blogging for a few days. I was given some pretty serious pain meds, but I’m hoping not to have to use them. I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season!

What was your experience with free giveaways?

“You’re self-published… so, like, not good enough for real publishing?”

A quick reminder that Kiss of The Fey is free on Amazon until Sunday 12/14/14!

There are typically three reactions when I tell someone I’m self-published.

  1. Oh, I’m self-published too! I understand. Let’s discuss relevant book stuff!
  2. Self-publishing? Is that different from publishing? I don’t read much.
  3. Self-publishing? So, a shitty novel that got rejected from everywhere you submitted it to?

Clearly, it’s the third reaction that’s the problem. I will admit upfront that there are lots of self-publishers whose books aren’t good enough to be published. I wrote an entire post about self-publishing fails. I’m not picking on those authors because I understand that some of them don’t really understand what it takes to be successful. They just want to be a writer, and I can sympathize with that. I’ve wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade.

In my internet searches, one article said that self-publishers flood their reviewing service and that they just can’t consider looking at them. Aside from assuming that self-published books are worse, they explain how traditionally published books “…are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line.” (source) Basically, traditionally published books have more work that go into them.

Ahem. For those of you who haven’t self-published, let me take a quick minute to explain how easy it was to self-publish. First, I wrote a novel. Next, I edited it. Then I edited again. And again. I then went out and found beta readers (sent out my novel to about 50 readers, heard back from 3). I started a blog to start getting people interested in my book. After reviewing the notes of my beta readers, I edited again. I spent hours looking for fonts and pictures for my cover, then I had to actually make my own cover.

I ordered a proof of my book to look at and realized that my cover wouldn’t work. I redid the cover completely. I ordered another proof and made sure there were no errors. I formatted my book for Kindle then released the eBook and the paperback. I looked though book blogs and asked another 50 people to review my book, of which 4 or 5 came through.

I admit that I didn’t get a degree in English or creative writing, but do I need one? I read and I’m a critical reader. I worked at my school’s writing center editing other people’s essays, so why can’t I edit my own novel? What I don’t know on the grammar end, I can Google. My covers aren’t going to be a fantastic piece of work, but they look good if I keep it simple.

To be traditionally published, the author has to write their novel. Then they probably edit it lightly before submitting to an agent. Then they submit to a publishing house. They are accepted and talk with the editor, make the changes that they need to. Someone makes a cover for them. Someone formats everything for them. Someone spends money to market their book and get reviews. These authors spend more time sitting around waiting, but they don’t personally put more work into it.

To say that self-published authors don’t put the same amount of effort into their work is an insult. Yes, there are self-publishers who can’t be assed to edit or make an effort on their cover, and I really think that it hurts the rest of us.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t self-publish because I was rejected by a publishing house. I didn’t want a publishing house. There was nothing an indie publisher could give me that I couldn’t give myself, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for 6-8 months wondering if someone sitting at a desk, reading thousands of submissions, would have the patience for my novel after they read the first three paragraphs and threw it aside.

I didn’t want them to say “Congratulations! We’re putting you in print!” and then give me a list of things I had to change to make my book more appealing to the lowest common denominator of readers. I didn’t want itty bitty royalties, or the threat of “write this or else!” to keep a contract. I wanted control of my work, and as someone willing to be patient in waiting for a paycheck, self-publishing was the choice for me.

Another blogger writes, “Despite the wealth of information found online and the relative success of the self-publishing industry, the general public is still impressed by actual publication. They want to read books distributed by well-known houses and imprints… and many will turn up their noses at the idea of a self-published book… Perhaps you are convinced that you’ve written the next Great American Novel… Unfortunately, most people won’t ever recognize your brilliance because of the stigma placed on self-publishing.” (Source)

It’s clear that the problem isn’t self-publishing, but the stigma of self-publishing. As authors, we can’t decide to publish if our manuscript really isn’t ready. Can’t afford an editor? Try to find someone will to trade editing for another skill you may have, like cover editing. Talk to old English teachers and ask, or make writer friends and offer to swap. Stop buying coffee and save up to pay an editor; do whatever it takes to make your novel the best.

Before you publish, get second opinions. Do four out of five out of your beta readers say your novel is crap? Maybe it is. Lots of people want to be writers, but some aren’t cut out for it. Even if you do self-publish, chances are you won’t make a profit. Go on a free site like Wattpad or Fictionpress where you can share you stories for free and get feedback, maybe improve enough to eventually publish.

Self-publishing is real publishing. Publishing is like a popularity contest now. If you have 5000 followers they’ll consider you. If you jump onto the right trend, they’ll milk your story for all they can get. If Stephanie Meyer can get published, and people consider that real publishing, then why not my book? I admit that it’s not perfect, but it’s not the pile of crap that people make it out to be, and that’s the case for lots of self-published authors.

Improve The Chances of Your Blog Being Seen!

Waldo of "Where's Waldo?" for those of you who don't know.

Waldo of “Where’s Waldo?” for those of you who don’t know.

When I started blogging, I had no followers, just like the rest of you. I just started off by making a post that said “Hi, I’m new to blogging!” then by posting whatever I wanted to blog about. For the most part, that’s writing-related posts, but I don’t limit myself to that. I also posted thoughts on other matters such as Barbie dolls and the Alex Day scandal, as well as blue Sour Patch Kids and the title of “Basic Bitch.”

While my followers mostly look at my writing posts, which is evident in the comments and views following the day I post it, the broader topics are the ones getting my blog on the top of Google. People come here looking for basic bitches, Alex Day, and motivational posts. Overall, those viewers contribute very little, never leave comments (or when they do, they’re ignorant ones like BITCH HOW DARE U SAY DAT bleh bleh blah that I filter out) and never have an account to like or follow me, but the truth is that those views are the ones we need.

I published a book in September and I’ve posted links to it EVERYWHERE. I put it at the end of my most Googled post, put it in the sidebar, have a link in the menu to my author blog… basically, if you come to my blog, you’re going to see it. I check the stats page every day and there are always clicks on my Amazon and author blog links. That means that some of the people who are coming to my blog are looking at my book! That’s great! It doesn’t matter that it’s only 5 people a day and they don’t buy it. Considering that I’m still new to blogging, I think it’s a pretty significant accomplishment.

Tips to make your blog more visible:

  • Give every post a good title. Don’t make it “This is how I do it” before going into your workout routine. “This is how I do it” means nothing to most people. “Tips For a Great Workout Routine For Lazy People” is obviously better.
  • Repeat yourself. See how I have my title for this post and then the title of this list? Both phrases can be used by Google to find me, rather than just one.
  • Vary what you post, but not too much. If your blog has no theme, you’re not going to get as many followers (unless you happen to be funny). I post mostly about writing and self-publishing, as well as book reviews, but I don’t hesitate to post something else that’s on my mind. My followers see that most of my posts are relevant, and people from Google find the non-relevant ones.
  • Comment on other blogs. Not just a “Alright!” or “Congrats!” I admit that I do that, but only when I genuinely want to congratulate the person. When you want someone to check out your blog, do NOT post “Oh hey check out my blog.” Add to the discussion with a similar problem you’ve been facing or with a polite opposing view. Not only is the blog owner more likely to check out your blog, but if it’s a bigger blog, their followers may as well.
  • Don’t be fake. You don’t want meaningless followers. Sure, it looks good to have 500 followers, but does it mean anything if they never comment on your stuff? If they don’t care about your book or your life, they’re just a number? Don’t sell your blog as a fashion blog and then critique feminism. Don’t title your blog “My Witty Ramblings” and then complain about college the whole time. Market yourself correctly so that the right people will see you.
  • Make each post the best that it can. Lots of people are turned off by bad grammar and spelling. If I click on a blog that looks interesting but they have a mistake in whatever post happens to be on the top, I click away and never return.
  • Don’t spam your followers. Have a book coming out? Then yes, feel free to mention that in ever post. However, don’t just post six posts saying, “MY BOOK IS COMING OUT.” That’s how you lose followers. Make a post about editing, then marketing, then how you’re handling your nerves. If you’re selling something, let everyone know that by making it visible, but unless it is the sole focus of your blog (as in, no blog posts, you’re just here for a business website) you need to make people want to come to your blog in the first place to see what you’re selling.

 

On an unrelated note, I almost died last night because the interstate turned to ice and I had no idea until I saw the other accidents. For those of you in the north, remember to drive safely!

Vanity Press Alert!

This is just a quick reminder that you shouldn’t be paying anyone to get published. They pay you. That’s how it works. Ignore all comments like this one, they are a total scam:

scamNo. Bad Craig. We don’t like your sort.

For those who may Google this:

Is Cawing Crow Press legit? No.
Is Cawing Crow Press good? No.
Cawing Crow Press. Cawing Crow Press. Cawing Crow Press.
Is Cawing Crow Press a scam? Yes.*
Is Cawing Crow Press a Vanity Press? Yes.*

If you are worried about your book, hired an EDITOR. A reputable one.

Lmfao, went to his site. It is the least legit thing ever. This post isn’t even necessary, his website is screaming THIS IS A SCAM.

Update: Craig is back. He posted a comment that I sent straight to spam because I do think it’s spam, but here’s what it said:

I’d like a moment to comment on your post. I am truly trying to offer a way for people to get quality books published. It’s not a scam, I am dedicated to this model where we work with the author to get their manuscript up to par for publication. Maybe the real scams are the places that milk authors for all the money they can. We don’t do that. We offer a product, for a very low price, that will work for many. Maybe it’s not for you, but to call it a scam? I think not.

Yeah, interpret it as you will. I think it’s a scam. I doubt his services, if they are at all useful, are worth it for the price. If he didn’t want people thinking his website was a scam, he should’ve taken a graphic design class, not based his website around the layout of the GET GIRLS TO DROP THEIR PANTIES WITH THESE THREE EASY STEPS sites, and not gone around SPAMMING people in place of advertising.

Another update: He is bothering me to take this down but I won’t. In my opinion, you should not waste your money on his services. I can direct you to services geared towards self-published and indie authors that are reasonably priced.

*UPDATE as of 4/15/15: Craig is no longer charging a submission fee for submitting a manuscript, meaning Cawing Crow Press is no longer a Vanity Press. However, after talking with an author thinking of working with them, I still would advise against working with Cawing Crow Press. If you just want to be able to say that you have been “published” then they probably won’t try to scam you as far as I can tell, but they aren’t going to do anything for your book that hundreds of indie publishers couldn’t do better.

A Look at Vanity Presses

So a while ago, back when I used FictionPress a lot, I was approached by a vanity press who wanted to work with me. To make things simple, here was our conversation.

1

Alexis being the Vanity Press, clearly.

2

And I am the majestic blue-footed booby.

3

I looked her shit up, thought no thank you, then decided to fuck with them.

4

They never emailed me back about using my editing services 😦 Granted, I have never ever used that email address and I don’t know if it fuctions or not, but hey. The reviews DID say it needed editing.

5.1

But yeah, my research led me to believe that they were not to be trusted.

5

Also, anytime a profile has no activity then updates or is created right before messaging you is 100% shady.

However, I ignored it until I was going back through my old messages finding people who had been interested in Kiss of The Fey when I found this message, and I when I started to look up their information for putting together this post….

6

And poor Lisa Alfonso is gone as well!

7

Her author page is still up and someone mentioned that they couldn’t wait for the sequel, and the author replied “It’ll be out in March!” back in 2012. Someone came along in 2014 and said “I’m guessing that wasn’t March 2013 that it was coming out.”

Assuming that Lisa was a real person, not just part of the Vanity Press, I feel bad for her. It seemed like she had a really good story and she was doomed when a Vanity Press took her book, didn’t edit it so that it would actually sell, and then vanished and left her high and dry. All she can do now is self-publish since publishers only want first rights. But Believe might still be under a legally binding contract with the Vanity Press, even though it’s no longer for sale on Amazon. She just can’t sell the second book and have the first one be unavailable, so what is she to do?

The moral of the story is, NEVER trust a Vanity Press. If they try to make YOU pay to publish your book, it is not a real publisher. This is the internet. Trust no one. Always do your research!

 

Posting Reviews on Amazon

Alright, Amazon has made things a little more complicated for posting reviews on books you didn’t purchase. To post a review, you have to use this link http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews?ie=UTF8&action=preview if you haven’t bought a copy. You can mention that you got a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review or just go ahead with your review, whichever. I had a friend who couldn’t find any link other than the “Post a Customer” review link on the book’s page that wouldn’t let her review it since I had given her a free copy, but there might be somewhere else on the actual page to review it that I’m just missing.

Anyways, I’m still giving out free copies of my book to those of you who will review it on Amazon/Goodreads/their blog, so just fill this out if you’d like a copy!

As soon as I figure out Smashwords and get Amazon to cooperate, I shall be back to posting normal blog posts. Until then~

How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Four: Marketing

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So, I hear you want to know how to market your book. Well, that’s a mixed barrel of apples. Maybe. I’m not sure that that means what I think it means, it just sounded like it belonged there.

Anyways, I will divide up this post for people with money and people without.

First: People with money.

Clearly, marketing will be easier for you. You can pay to use advertising services, pay Amazon to make your book look good, pay Facebook to show your posts to people. That’s all well and good, but I don’t know much about that area. I just don’t have the money.

Another thing to do would be to get your own website, even if it’s just the WordPress site without the “wordpress” in the url. That will make you look more professional, assuming you’re not using one of the layouts that seem like a bad Myspace profile from back in the day.

Finally, you can market to real people, in real life. Tiny book shops are everywhere (at least around where I live). Go in, ask for the owner, pitch your book to them. Ask if they’d like to put them on their shelves. Not only is this marketing, but they’re buying them from you to put on their shelves, so it’s a profit already. If they don’t sell any they obviously won’t be coming back to you, but hey, that’s business. Doing that sort of thing can get your recognized as a local author, which in turn may get you into the local newspaper or interest piece on the news, which will alert more people to you. This is how they used to do self-publishing back in the day, before Amazon. You can order a box of books from Createspace, it’s like $4 a book plus shipping. I plan to try this if I make enough money from online publishing so that it wouldn’t be coming out of pocket. If that happens, I’ll come back and edit this to tell you how it went.

Now, for the fellow penniless… pennilessers? Don’t you moneybags go away, because this is something you have to do too!

What y’all need are reviews. There are a few ways of getting them. One, force everyone you know to read and review your book. Secondly, have them post a review on Amazon, and make sure they don’t mention that they’re your Auntie.

Two, you can give away free copies of your books for reviewers. Go to any forum or Facebook group and offer the free pdf/mobi/whatever in exchange for an honest review. Keep giving them away until enough reviews appear on the page (not everyone who accept a copy will review, that’s life). If they’re mostly two and three star reviews, you might want to pay attention to what they’re saying. Why don’t people like your book? Is it a legitimate problem? Is this something your beta readers pointed out and you ignored?

Finally, you need to get book bloggers to review your book. Blogs with large audiences would be best, but they won’t always have time for you or accept self-published books. You can just ask your followers to review your book for you or you can look around for all the book bloggers you can find and ask if they’ll review your book. Keep in mind, they might not have the time. They might not get around to it for months. These things happen. The best thing you can do is wait.

Obviously, another good thing to do is to blog about it. If you’re writing a book about cooking and you start a cooking blog that gathers 10,000 followers, that’s obviously going to do better than a cook book released from a random unknown author. However, if you’re on here I’m going to assume that you’re a blogger and move on, because you know what I’m talking about.

Another thing to draw readers in once you have the book out there is a low price. My ebook is going to be available for only 99 cents, which can prompt wary readers into thinking “Well, it’s only a dollar, I guess I’ll try it”. There are also ways to give away free copies of your ebook for short periods. This method will not only get more people interested in your book, but they’ll be more likely to buy any other books you have out, especially if it’s a series.

Which brings me to my next point: You need to write another book. Sorry, but one isn’t gonna cut it. You don’t have to write a series, but you need another book in the same genre. Kiss of The Fey comes out on Monday but I’m already halfway through writing A Game of Madness and in November I’ll write The Wildness Within. I can then publish those as soon as they’re good and edited. More books just makes more sense. If they like one, they’ll try another. That means more sales. That means you’re doing something right!

I hope this helped you professionally publish your book! There’s not going to be a step five, but self-publishing pug will be back. Someday.

How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Three: Interior Formatting

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Edit: Clearer instructions on page numbering.

Alright, so your content is done. Your cover is done. What’s next? The interior formatting. I’ll tell you right now that I am not going to tell you the easiest way to do this. Why? Because I know nothing about Word. I’m sure some of you will know an easier way than this, but this is how I did it and it worked for me. My print version looks great. It works.

Before anything, you’re going to want to download Createspace’s template. I actually recommend copying the page specifications from that to a new document so that it’s completely fresh. You should have mirrored margins and the page dimensions should be the same as your cover (if that wasn’t obvious). Do not alter their suggested margins. You don’t want your text looking funny.

I used Microsoft Word for all the formatting. I typically use LibreOffice to write, so I had to copy the file over to a computer with Word on it to get everything looking pretty. If you don’t have Word, go to a library and use theirs for a day. You need something with full editing capabilities.

  1. First, you need to do the opening page. This is basically going to be your title restated in print. You can skip that, if you want, but most books have it. Do you want your book to look like other books? If so, don’t skip this.
  2. Next, the copyright. You know how I told you all to apply for copyright for your book? Did you do that yet? (I mean, I didn’t, but that’s because our printer broke, I’ll get to it). You’re gonna need that for this part. You put that in as well as the “this book isn’t based on your mom” thing and “if you pirate this you die” as well as your ISBN.
  3. Third, you can make a page for previous work you’ve published. For me, my third page says “A fairy curse novel” because it’s in that universe. All the other books in the universe will say the same thing, then the back page will have all the books published so far. So if this is part of a sequel, you can put that there. If you want to put reviews like they do in NY Times Bestseller books, go ahead. Also any dedications or acknowledgments.
  4. I then have a blank page. That’s fine. Gotta love blank pages.
  5. Next I have a map someone drew for me. It is the most amateur thing about this entire book, but it looks good enough. I don’t have the money to pay someone so hopefully people will think I’m going for the simple look rather than the poor look.
  6. I have another blank page. Typically, you don’t want anything like the copyright or dedications beside where your story starts. It’s just distracting.
  7. Alright, now the story starts. Notice, I haven’t mentioned page numbers up until now. That’s because you shouldn’t have page numbers before the story starts. Supposedly, if you create a page break between the last page and this page, you can start the numbering at 1, but I couldn’t get it to work, possibly because the document has mirror margins. What I had to do was create three separate documents, one for the pages before the story that didn’t need numbers, one for the story, and one for the part after the story that didn’t need numbers. So now that you’re finished with the first few pages, covert that to a pdf and save it as “Start” or something like that.
    EDIT: You should be able to start the page numbering by inserting a section break at the end of the first section. You then have to unclick the “link to previous” option for both the header and the footer. The footer/header should now say section 1/section 2 and so on. Do the same thing for the last section or for each chapter break if you want a chapter heading in the actual header.
    Formatting the bulk of the story just required common sense. Go through and look for single words that have been left on pages of their own and make sure line breaks look alright. Do NOT use **** for a line break in a printed book or anything like that. It looks super unprofessional. I used two paragraph breaks and started the new section without an indented first line. It works great.
    To start a chapter, you need a chapter heading. Whatever you do, don’t make it a random italic font in large letters. Or Comic Sans. It looks bad. Use the same font you use for the story and make it a few sizes bigger or get a free font off the web that looks cool. Just use your common sense for this one. Do the fonts work? Are they easy to read? Could you expect to pick up a book that looked like that in the bookstore?
    As for page numbers, the mirror margins mean that page 1 and page 2 will be different. So you can put the number for page 1 and all odd numbers on the left and the number for page 2 and all the even numbers on the right. Do not put them on the same side. One of them will be eaten by the book’s spine when printed and it will look like shit.
    If you want, you can also put your name/ the book’s title in the header. Lots of books do this, just “Author Name” on the top of one page and “Book Title” for the next. If you want each chapter to have it’s own header saying which chapter it is, the only way I know how to do this is to break up each chapter into a separate document and convert them to a PDF. It will be extra work, but the finished product should look normal.
    Again, once you finish with the story save it as a PDF named “middle”. Or “farts”. Really, it just has to be something you’ll remember.
  8. Not everyone will have something at the end of the book, but I don’t think it looks right to go from “The End” to the back cover. I added an “About the Author” segment. Again, no page numbers. Make sure that for your proof copy the back cover is left blank, because they’re going to print PROOF real big (assuming you’re using CreateSpace). Save the file as a pdf named “end”.
  9. Alright you now have three separate PDF files. Again, sorry if there is an easier way, but this is how I did it. Go to this site and upload start, middle, and end. Download the result. Upload that to CreateSpace and see if there are any issues.
    If for some reason the margins aren’t coming up right, it could be because you didn’t merge them right. Say that you had the blank page before your story in the first document. That’s fine, but then your second document needs to start on an even page or the margins won’t be correctly placed. To do this, leave the first page in the second document blank and when converting it to a pdf, only convert page 2-251 to the pdf. That way, the first page in that second document should flow seamlessly with the first one.
  10. Finally, you’ll need to review the proof copy of your book. You have to make sure that everything looks good, from the cover to the interior formatting. Maybe get a few friends to look through it for you so you know that there aren’t any silly mistakes you’re missing.
  11. For kindle, the formatting is a lot simpler. Put your story into a new document. Don’t add page numbers or anything like that. Upload it to Amazon. Preview it. Does it look alright? If not, fix it. (Sorry, I don’t have much more to add. I uploaded a short story to Amazon as a test and it looked just like it was in the document.) Don’t try to format paragraphs specially (other than first line indents) or set the text a certain size. Kindle changes all that. Just use Times New Roman size 12.

I hope this was clear enough to be helpful. Part four will be marketing.

Here are some crappy webcam pictures of my proof copy:

Snapshot_20140815 Snapshot_20140815_1 Snapshot_20140815_2 Snapshot_20140815_3

How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Two: The Cover

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Alright, so you need to find a cover for your novel. It’s all edited, but it needs an image. A strong image. A distinct image.

What you need is a book cover, and there are three ways to get one. First, let’s go the easy route. Let’s assume you have money.

Honestly, buying a cover is the easiest route. Here is where I would suggest to go for a reasonable price. (I don’t know how much covers can cost, but I know that that site makes pretty covers for a price I can almost afford.) You just need to talk to a professional and they’ll make something you love. If you don’t love it, don’t pay them for it. Just make sure that everything is reputable and don’t assume that because you’re paying for it means it’s going to be a great cover. Hey, if you give me $50 I’ll make you a cover. Does that mean you’ll want the cover I make? No.

The next one is also easier, but a lot less solid. This route is going to people and begging for a free cover. I’ve gotten a few decent covers from people at the NaNoWriMo forums who just wanted to design things for fun, but you have to make sure that everything checks out on those.

Finally, and what the biggest trouble is, we have making your own cover. Let me say right now that no matter what you do the cover-maker that CreateSpace uses is crap. Seriously. Do not use one of those covers. It screams “SELF-PUBLISHED”, and that’s not what you want people to think when they see your novel.

Here are the biggest tips I have for making your own cover:

  • Don’t just use an image off of Google. You need to know that you have the right to use that picture. You can either buy a stock image to use or find a free stock image. Obviously, the free one is free, but the ones you pay for will usually be better quality and have a bigger selection. It’s up to you which one you use. Remember, if you need more than one image, buying them can get expensive, and it’ll be worthless if you have no photo editing skills.
  • Use a LARGE image to start with. The bigger it is, the better it will look when compressed down for print. I used an image that appeared alright on screen, even though I knew the resolution wasn’t that high. When printed, the image itself looked alright, but the text looked a little blurry. I couldn’t fix the text because I couldn’t make the image bigger to increase the text resolution. I ended up needing to find a different image and redoing my cover completely.
  • Go simple. Unless you’re a graphic designer, simplicity is key. Seriously. Don’t overdo yourself. It will look terrible.
  • Get opinions on your cover. If most people like it, that’s good. If one person says “Oh, it’s obviously not done by a professional” because they already know that you made it yourself, ignore them. People always assume that self-published works are bad. Take a book and slap “Penguin” on the side and you’ve got yourself a book twice as good as the exact same thing with “CreateSpace” listed as the publisher.
  • Practice makes perfect. If your editing skills aren’t that great, remake book covers for books you already know. Try to recreate them with your own skills and free images. Once you learn the techniques that get the image you like, you’ll be ready to work on your own cover.

I was going to outline step-by-step how I made my own cover, but I figured that I would make a YouTube video instead. At least one of you better find it useful, because I may have downloaded a Trojan trying to get a program to capture my screen.

The quality is shit, but it gets the basics across. It’s 14 minutes long though. So there’s that. (There is a reason I picked blogging over vlogging.) If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I used the photo-editing program GIMP because that’s what someone recommended and it’s free. Photoshop would be unquestionably better, but I’m being as cheap as possible. I basically just made my cover with the steps in the video. Here is what my book cover looks like:

legitcover

If you missed it, part one is here. Part three will be interior formatting.