New name, same people! Hello 2017!

You may have noticed something different this year. That’s right, we’ve got a new name! The Scarlett Rugers Book Design Agency has now transformed into The Book Design House.  We’ve got a new name but our expectations of ourselves and our service hasn’t changed, and neither has the boss (me!).

So why the change?

After working in business successfully since 2011 I have learned a lot about what it takes to run a good business. Not just a business but a good one. A lot of that lies around community and support.

While I am exceptionally proud to have had my own name as the front runner of this business up until 2016, it is time to reflect on what my business really is- a home. A home for authors looking to realise their dreams, a home for my team to feel encouraged and supported, a home where you can focus on what you need to.

My goal has always been to help you be the best author you can be. Since day one.  But that dream is shared, it’s not just mine. It’s shared by my team members, by you, by other service providers- publishers, editors, printers. We all want your success.

I now believe the name of the business represents that. Everyone is important in our team, from the marketers to the designers to the clients- you are all a part of this team.

And I remain privileged to be at the forefront of that team, because I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Where to next?

There’s still some things to take care of so I apologise in advance for any bumpiness as we go along but as time goes by everything will be in its rightful place again. For now the website will be holding the url until the transition is complete.

My 5 pieces of advice to get through trauma: For self-published authors and business owners

My first blog post in months. Things have changed dramatically for me this year, due to some very traumatic experiences that happened to me at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year. Events that changed the course of my life and changed me as a person.

This year the Agency had a really rough start. One of the worst 6-8 months I’ve experienced since this business came to life back in 2008. I’ve experienced mental illness to the point of paralysis, and being unable to work. And this week I have lost a dearest and darling family member, and my heart is broken again.

But instead of hiding my pain, I use it to teach myself lessons. I use my darkness to give me strength, I always have. And I have decided to write this blog in the hopes that other authors and business owners out there who feel the same pain, know that you will get through it.

So these are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone out there trying to build a business for themselves (especially you self-published authors, because that’s what you’re doing) about getting through trauma, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:


Accept your pain.

Our society teaches us that it’s better to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. They forget that we can’t exactly do that if we’ve broken a leg. If my experiences over the past year had displayed themselves physically, I would have been in the hospital under constant care, with bruises and broken bones and internal bleeding. I’m under no illusion about the severity of what I went through, but we are not taught to view our emotional and mental states in the same way.

It is important for you to recognize when you are in pain and need care. Accepting your hurt and pain paves the way for healing. You are allowed to hurt, you are allowed to feel all the emotions that are going on inside you. You don’t have to keep pushing them away and pretending they’re not there. You’re a human being and deserve great love and care, and the way you give that to yourself is by giving yourself permission to feel it, and heal.


Get people around you.

I am very used to isolating myself in crisis mode. I’m naturally an introverted homebody, and I love being on my own. But you need people around you. It is very easy to get swallowed up in your own self-criticism and punishment but you need people around you to tell you to stop doing that and that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you are). You need people to be your strength when you have none, to help you.

This year I have bonded more closely to my family than I ever imagined. They were at my door and calling me on my phone when the shit (repeatedly) hit the fan, and they have been there ever since. I have carved new intimate friendships with people in my life who I had no idea would ever become so important to me. I learned a new aspect of support, one I didn’t think was there and I didn’t understand how everyone else had people around them and I didn’t. But I did, and I do. And so do you.

But you have to ask for it. These people probably have no idea what you’re going through, or don’t know how to help you. You must ask for it. People want to help you, they often don’t know how. How many times have you seen a friend or family member go through something and felt totally helpless? Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shame in asking, only love for yourself. Asking for help means you are taking action with trying to help yourself. You will be surprised at how willing the response will be.


Do things that make you happy.

When the storm clouds are above and the waves are crashing in upon our ship, we may forget that there are things out there that make us happy. Writing makes me happy. Playing Magic the Gathering makes me happy. Watching and analysing movies makes me happy. Learning about business makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. What makes you happy? When was the last time you gave yourself time to do those things, simply to be happy and enjoy it? Without any expectation of success, achievement, or improvement. Just… cos it makes you happy?

Actively find things in your life that will trigger that happiness part of your brain. The more that triggers, the bigger the ripple effect it will have in your life. These aren’t just temporary moments, but they are influencing how you feel the rest of the time. Piece by piece, feeling good about yourself will begin to chip away at the feeling bad about yourself. Give these moments to you, each day, to remind yourself what it feels like to be happy.


Recognize your strength

I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I’m not capable.

Are these familiar thoughts? I have them every single day. But it’s thanks to #2 on this list (people) who remind me of how strong I am. That my recovery throughout this year has been far faster, and with greater emotional health, than normal. Others in my position would probably not have felt the way I do for another two years.

I lose perspective so easily. I forget how much I’ve been through and all that I’ve achieved through it. I tell myself “Anyone would have been able to do better than me,” but that’s total bullshit. They wouldn’t. And we don’t know these things because they’re private, we don’t hear about it except from the Fortune500 CEO’s who experienced these things ten years ago and became stronger for it. Whoop-de-do, but what about the people now? Where are the other people who are hurting as bad as I am? Everyone else seems to have a handle on life pretty goddamn well.

This is not true. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. And most of us do it quietly, because we don’t want the world to see what’s really going on.

Everyone struggles and suffers in their own way. Including you.

It takes so much strength to overcome trauma. You can drown in a wave of doubt, guilt, and shame, collapse under the weight of helplessness and loss. Don’t be blind to how much strength it actually takes to sometimes get through the day. This is not you being weak, this is you being strong.

Look at the reality of your situation, of what you have been through. Pretend it had happened to a dear friend or family member, would you be so willing to tell them that they’re being weak? Or would you understand how hard it must be for them to get through what they’ve been through? You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I think it’s about time you start believing it.


Hold space in your life for you

A lot of the damage I experienced this year was due to the fact I was putting others before me, when I needed to put me first. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to bow to them, to make sure they had enough before I had enough. This happened with relationships, with family, and with friends. I am naturally someone who puts others above myself, and I hit a breaking point. After everything I had already been through at the end of last year, they drained me of all I was. I was getting to the point where I was losing my own identity. I didn’t even matter anymore. And it took the support of others in my life to be able to step back and say no. To begin to rebuild the walls around me. To know that I matter.

The same can be said about business. I was brought up in a family that put work above myself. Work is more important than me. And so I worked and worked and worked when I shouldn’t have, and I was going through serious breakdowns, and again paralysis. Where was I in all of this? I didn’t matter.

Finally, as I began to emerge through the trauma (I still haven’t completely recovered, and it will take quite a while until I’m feeling 100% again), I started to put myself first. Because there is no life for me, without me in it. Not only that but if I continue to bow to the will of others in my life, who want me to sacrifice my entire self, happiness and life to make them happy, then I have no life at all.

Holding space in your life is you giving yourself permission to be who you are, to enjoy all the things you want to, to give yourself the time and space you need to in order to heal.

To hold space means you recognizing this is your life, and you are allowed to live within it. You are allowed to exist within your own moments. You are important.

And most of all, keep writing. Writing is our vice. Writing is our voice. You need to get the stuff inside you out. Seeing it outside of ourselves helps give us perspective, and something to reflect on. It’s also a record, so that in six months you can look back and realise how far you’ve actually come. And it is in your blood, as it is in mine. Writing is our calling, and we must continue to let it flow.

Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And don’t take anyone in your life for granted. Go out today and tell your friends and family how much you love them, because they may not know. Treasure them. And treasure you.

Redesigning your book cover can make you a full-time self-published author

You’re lacking in sales, you’re not reaching new readers, and you’re running out of promotional steam. What’s one thing that could make all the difference in boosting sales and getting you onto the best seller list? Changing your book cover.

Getting sales

ahmadardalan_1 On July 29th 2014, an author named Ahmad Ardalan published a book titled The Gardener of Baghdad. He had been pushing to get it traction, sharing out the link where to purchase it, hitting the social media wave and working hard for reviews. But the success Ahmad had hoped for wasn’t clicking, a piece of the puzzle was missing.

He was ready to submit to the almighty Bookbub. The standards of Bookbub are high, which is why it makes it such a successful platform for self-published authors to get new readers through. In order to be accepted your book has to be at a decent standard, have a good concept, well written blurb, and a cover that doesn’t look DIY.

Ahmad tried three times to get into Bookbub, but he couldn’t crack it. He approached the KindleBoards for help and the problem seemed immediate- his cover wasn’t good enough, he needed something new.

Your story doesn’t matter if your book cover sucks

I know how hard it can be to be in the constant push to get your book into a consistent tide of sales, and sometimes affording a cover designer just isn’t on your list of priorities when you’re publishing. We can only invest so much, and if we have a few spare dollars of change it normally goes into editing and polishing so that the book reads well. That’s the most important part of publishing a book, isn’t it? The story?

Not if no one wants to pick it up in the first place. Your cover is what sells your book, not your writing. After you get a reader hooked, you’re in, but you have to get them to purchase it in the first place.

Remember, your readers aren’t just spending their money, they’re spending their time which is much more valuable. So does your book cover promise hours of adventure, heartbreak or conflict? Or does it say ‘I spent about as much time editing my book as I did on this cover-so that’s what you should expect’?

When authors go full time, thanks to book cover redesigns

M. Ward redesigned her book covers and her life changed overnight; she shared her experiences with us about it on our blog. When she changed over her books to a more genre specific cover for her romance books, she blasted her way onto the New York Times best sellers list.

Were the covers traditional publishing quality? No.

Did they do the job? Yes.

So what was the problem with H. M. Ward’s original covers? They weren’t genre, or audience, specific. They were creative, and beautiful, and the quality of them was stunning. But they weren’t reaching her intended audience. They weren’t genre specific enough.

Your potential readers are looking for books that:

  • Are in the genre they like reading
  • Hold a concept they are familiar with
  • Have a character they could relate to
  • Is “like this other book they just finished”
  • Looks interesting

The job of the cover: Sell the book

When I saw Ahmad’s plight at reaching new readers for The Gardener of Baghdad, I reached out. The cover needed an overhaul so that the audience knew:

  1. What to expect
  2. The genre
  3. Who it is targeted to

I offered the chance to redesign his cover which he graciously accepted, and got started on some new designs. His original concept made use of a painting but the concept wasn’t clear enough. He wanted to show the light and darkness in comparison to the past, and the present, in Baghdad. The beautiful Garden of before to the war torn city of now. I really liked that idea and thought it just needed refining, needed to be presented in a new way.

The concept he approved does exactly that, by using the bright beautiful garden against the contrast of a dark modern city, with simple, soft text we have grounded the design.

ahmadardalan_2The target demographic: people who love historical fiction, mainly women. By using the pastel colours and painted effects, combined with quiet typography, we have nailed the historical/literary fiction genre. We don’t need to tell the whole story, just make it look interesting and give the audience a sense of what’s coming, to get them onto the blurb.

Ahmad submitted the book with his new cover for the fourth attempt this week. He was accepted.

If your sales aren’t working for you, consider the cover. Reach out to a designer, consult with your self-publishing community for feedback, don’t be afraid to change it up. Covers aren’t permanent, even the professionals don’t get it right first try! Authors like H. M. Ward have proven it could mean the difference between working your regular job, and becoming a full-time author.

Why wouldn’t you change it?

How to increase your mailing list, and your sales numbers, as a self-publisher

Lindy DaleThis week we welcome brilliant author Lindy Dale to the blog, who has been kind enough to share with us her successful strategy for increasing subscribers for her mailing list, and her sales numbers. You can find her at

Let me preface this by saying, if you don’t listen to the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, you seriously should. I got this idea from an interview there. At the time (October 2014) my US sales were pathetic. I was selling about one book a day, if that. I had a mailing list of 49 people. My UK sales were okay but nothing could beat what I’d achieved in UK/US in 2012 when I was making about $2500AU a month. I put this down to two things. One, I got cancer and didn’t publish anything for a year so the momentum was lost and two, the golden days of Kindle had started to come to an end. It was harder to be noticed when the number of books tripled overnight. Add KDP select etc into the mix and my career was at a standstill.

 Enter the podcast where I got this advice:

  1. Start a mailing list (already had one but PA.THET.IC)
  2. Put a link to it in the back matter of all your books and offer a free read if people sign up. So far of the 450 people who’ve signed up I’ve only had five unsubscribe. Two were when I sent out a blast yesterday. I view these as people as freebie hunters who only wanted a free book and wouldn’t have bought my stuff anyway so I don’t care. 1% fall out is pretty good.
  3. Make one of your books permafree. Ie: you list it on Smashwords as free then inform Amazon and they price match. I chose one of my novellas It Started With a Kiss that had never really sold. It had links to the email list in the back matter along with an excerpt from another novel and a buy link to keep reading.

This is when things really started to change. When I made that book permafree it instantly went to #1 in short stories in both UK and US. At one stage it was #1 in Short stories, Women’s Fiction and Romantic Comedy simultaneously (yes it was the free list but hey) It’s been sitting at #20 in the whole UK free kindle chart since October (I think its about #23 today) and over Christmas it was #13. It went from having 3 reviews to 115+. In the US it sits between #145 and #200 in the entire free chart.

From it I get a minimum 5 mailing list sign ups a day. BUT I also get flow on sales because all my books now have an excerpt from another book in the back, plus buy links to that book at the end of it and buy links to all my books with a one sentence teaser. This took me a couple of days to do as I have ten books out.

The results:

Since I did this on October 16th

  • my royalties have increased from $50US a month to $250 (I think last month was three hundred). My UK royalties have bounced back to £450 (that’s about $700AU) a month from about £70
  • My unit sales have gone from one book a day in the US to 5-10 (yesterday after my email blast I got 20 US sales) and from 3 a day in UK to 20. So I’m now selling roughly 30 units a day. This has been consistent since October and is building every month. It went down a bit in the last week but I think that’s because the holiday season is over. It’s also mostly on my novels not novellas and these are priced between 2.99 and 4.99. The ones that are more expensive are the ones that are selling but they are also the latest releases
  • Another interesting fact: My Bastard series of three books has about a 95% read through rate meaning that of those who read book one 95% go on to read the other two. I think this has a lot to do with the beginning of the next book being posted as a free chapter or two at the end of the previous book.
  • Interesting fact 2: I have been testing out having ‘sales’ during this time where I lower my price to .99c but DON’T do any promo (eg: ENT Bookbub etc). when I do this I now get my own sales spike of about 30 sales in a day. If I send a blast to my list it’s about 50. I’ve tried this on every book over the past few months and it’s worked every time.

Fantastic advice from Lindy, so what are you waiting for? Get started on your mailing list today!

Scarlett Talks to Author David Partelow

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“David Partelow was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He is an avid poet, novelist, father, lover of life, connoisseur of sarcasm and all around pain in the hind end. He is the creator of the world of LORE and its continuing novels and has produced a poetry book called “Tomorrow was Yesterday”. He is currently working on the next novel of the Vallance War series in LORE and his other interests include writing adventure, steampunk and horror comedy” (Amazon Bio). David- thanks so much for answering these questions!

Scarlett Talks to Anthony Lavisher on his biggest writing mistakes, what he’s most proud of, and what he thinks shouldn’t be on your book cover.

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Anthony Lavisher
is an author who’s love for writing came from swashbuckling adventures with Errol Flynn. His discipline in his routine, and dedication to his trilogy have set him on a straight course for publishing success! Thanks so much Anthony for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Without further ado…

Author James Oswald on Writing, Publishing, Cover Design, and Running a Farm in Scotland

I’m especially excited to publish this interview with author James Oswald who talks in detail about his life as a writer and his approach to writing books while running a 350 acre farm in his spare time. You should also check out James’ book Dreamwalker which is receiving amazing reviews on Amazonand has it’s print release date set for 14th August 2014!

james oswaldDescribe your writing life as if it were a three course meal

The starter was short, but sweet. I began by writing comic scripts, sending them on spec to 2000 AD magazine, which I’d been reading since it first came out. They bought one of my scripts after less than a year of trying, and I thought my career was made. Sadly, although I tried to get more stories published over the next couple of years, 2000 AD was in a low point in its history, and not buying anything much from new writers.

The main course was a big old leathery steak, needing endless chewing and not really very tasty at all. I wrote short stories, nine novels, more comic scripts, and failed to get a single thing published for thirteen years. I came close a couple of times, but always fell at the final hurdle. I briefly had what could only be described as a Vanity Agent, who pretended to try and sell my first novel before presenting me with a ‘publishing’ deal that was the biggest rip-off I have ever seen. The contract from an unlisted publisher went on for pages, but in summary it worked out that if I paid them a couple of thousand pounds, they would produce ‘more than’ five copies (i.e 6) of my novel in a ‘suitable binding’ (i.e. a ring binder).  They would have had exclusive worldwide rights in perpetuity, retaining upwards of 75% of any subsidiary rights they sold on my behalf. It really was the most dreadful contract I have ever seen – suffice to say I didn’t sign it! I parted company with that agent fairly sharpish too.

Dessert would have to be the most amazing confection of fruit and meringue and creme brûlée and chocolate in the shape of the last two and a half years. Self publishing my first two Tony McLean books, seeing sales and free downloads top 350,000 in eight months, getting a proper agent, a six figure publishing deal, making the bestseller lists, all this has made the bitter wilderness years worth the effort. And they were worth the effort, because that’s when I honed my writing until it was good enough for people to want to read and read more.

What’s in your ‘must have’ writers bag, every time you sit down to write a story?

The only thing I have to have when I sit down to write (and forget all too often!) is a clear idea of what I want the particular scene I’m writing to achieve. That and a notepad to scribble in as I go along. I currently write using Scrivener, but I’ve used Word in the past and even the old word processor program on my BBC Model B microcomputer (I know, showing my age!). These are just the tools that allow me to get the words down. It’s the words that are important.

What do you hate seeing on book covers?

Overused stock photographs. There was a spate of covers a couple of years back that all featured the same photograph of a house in the woods, its windows looking ominous as they reflected the light. It was a striking image, but after the third outing it got a bit tired.

For someone who writes fantasy, I’m not a big fan of most fantasy covers (my own excepted, of course!) It’s getting better, but for a while it was almost always some musclebound oaf with a sword, or a scantily clad woman with a sword, or sometimes both.

It’s always disappointing when the cover artist either hasn’t read the novel or been briefed. I have a copy of the US edition of Colin Greenland’s excellent SF novel Take Back Plenty which shows a very badly painted rendition of the main character in the cockpit of her spaceship. Unfortunately no one has told the artist that Tabitha Jute is black.

DreamwalkerHave you ever designed your own book cover? What were the pros/cons? Would you do it again?

I designed covers for an early version of my three fantasy books, Dreamwalker (print version released August 14th 2014), The Rose Cord and The Golden Cage. My intention was to produce very limited quantities of the books, using Lulu, to give to friends and family. They were never for sale. I had a good idea of what I wanted, but lacked both the artistic and photoshop skills really to pull it off. The results look very amateur, which was fine for that purpose, but would almost certainly have deterred readers from picking up the books had they been for sale. I wouldn’t dream of doing my own covers for a book I intended to sell.

What is your writing schedule, if you have one? If not, why not?

In theory, I write in the evenings from about eight until midnight, having already put in a day’s work on the farm. In practice, there are days when the farm work is done by mid-morning and I can spend the rest of my time writing, maybe getting the evening off for a bit of reading. And there are days when the farming goes on all night (lambing time, for example), or when I’m just too tired to write.

Having a contract with Penguin means deadlines and the need to bring a certain level of professionalism to what is, after all, a job. I am under contract to produce two novels a year and to that end I aim to get 2000 words written every day, but quite often fall short of that.

If I had a single piece of advice to give to writers it would be…

Don’t give up. It took me twenty years to become an overnight success. You have to write because you love making stuff up, because you love words and stories. Of course, everyone’s dream is to be published and successful, but that cannot be the sole reason for doing it.

When publishing your book, how important is it to have a well-designed book cover, compared to the other components like a clear blurb, a well written story, established reader base or good marketing tactics?

The first three are all part of the same thing, which is a professional-looking package. The best cover in the world won’t make up for dreadful writing in between. A cracking good story can be ruined by poor formatting and too many typos. An awkward blurb can put people off what is otherwise a fine read. All these elements have to work in harmony.

An established reader base is obviously helpful, especially if they are good at writing reviews and spreading the word about your books. From my experience of marketing tactics, however, unless you’re in the position to spend tens or hundreds of thousands on poster campaigns and national newspaper advertising, nothing much really works other than writing more books. It’s a well-established principle in the publishing business that the best way to boost sales of an author is for that author to bring out another book.

Have you ever had a really great experience with a professional, in the self-publishing industry (such as an editor, designer or formatter)? What happened? What made it so good for you?

I was introduced (electronically – we’ve never met IRL) to the book cover designer J T Lindroos by a friend who had used him to design his own ebook covers. Juha is a brilliant designer, who charged a pittance and worked through many iterations of design until we hit upon the right feel for my first novel, Natural Causes. I had less of a clear brief for the second one, The Book of Souls, but what he came up with on his own was sensational. He jokingly said he’d like to be paid more if the books did sensationally well, and I took great delight in sending him a substantial bonus when they did.

Are you a pantser, or an outliner? Why?

Very much a pantser (although I prefer the autocorrect ‘panther’). I’ll work out in my head or on my whiteboard what a scene or a story arc is meant to achieve, but no more detailed planning than that. I tend to write the first draft very quickly and organically, with lots of notes of things to go back and change. The shaping comes in the rewrites.

I did once try to plot a novel from start to finish. Like Natural Causes it was based on a short story, so I knew how it ended and the broad arc it would travel. I spent about a month planning each scene in meticulous detail before sitting down to write the thing. By the time I got to the end of the first chapter, I’d introduced an entirely new character who turned out to be pivotal to the novel. Shoehorning her into the existing plan and shuffling scenes around to make it all work meant the writing took twice as long as usual, and the finished result isn’t that good.

If you couldn’t get paid for writing in money, what would be your alternate choice of payment (keep it clean, eh?)?

Like my main character, Tony McLean, I have a penchant for fine single malt whisky, so I guess being paid in drams would work. My publisher and agent both seem to have taken this on board, judging by the occasional (and very welcome) bottles that arrive in the post. Fortunately my publisher also pays in money!

What is the one thing that distracts you most when writing?

<strike> being asked to fill in questionnaires </strike>Twitter.

Do you think that a cover should have specific elements of the book, like characters and places, or is it better to be simple and symbolic to give just an impression of the book and the genre?

It very much depends on the genre and the territory in which it’s being sold. Different things work in different places and for different kinds of stories. The covers of my crime fiction books tend to be photographic, usually showing a vista of Edinburgh or somewhere obviously Scottish, with heavy dark clouds overhead. The images only very loosely refer to anything in the books.

For my fantasy series, on the other hand, the covers are hand drawn, with motifs that closely reflect what goes on in the books. A photographic cover just wouldn’t work for fantasy.

What’s your worst writing habit you just can’t seem to shake?

I know perfectly well the difference between its and it’s, their, there and they’re but when I’m typing fast I often get them wrong. A standard practice now with my final draft is to run a search and replace on all of those words, just to double check!

Are you a one-manuscript-at-a-time author, or do you have several on the go at once?

I write just the one manuscript at a time, but I may well be editing several others and possibly doing the publicity rounds for yet more. I did a library event a few months back where I launched into a description of a scene as an example to a point I was trying to make about the book just out, only to realise halfway through that the scene in question was in the book I was currently writing.

I have enough ideas for different genres and characters to write many books at the same time, but I think my head would explode after a while. There also isn’t the time, what with a farm to run.

What is something you see self-published authors doing time and again, that you think doesnt work?

Trying to sell their new book on social media. Twitter, Facebook and the like are great for interacting with your readers, but actual mentions of your book should be few and far between. If you must sell anything, sell yourself, not your book

Should you respond to reviews of your book, good or bad?

If it’s a great review and you ever meet the reviewer, by all means say thank you. If they post a link on social media, RT it and thank them there if you want to. If someone reviews your book on their blog, link to it and send your readers their way. But always do it without comment.

If it’s a bad review, however much you disagree with it, no good can come of you arguing your case. Best to leave it behind you and move on.


About James

James Oswald is the author of the Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. Set in an Edinburgh not so different to the one we all know, Detective Inspector Tony McLean is the unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath.

Dead Men's BonesBook four in the series, Dead Men’s Bones, published by Penguin, is just out and available from all good bookstores.

James has also written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The first three books in the series are currently available as ebooks, and will be appearing in a Penguin paperback edition soon. The final two books in the series will be out next year.

In his spare time, James runs a 350 acre farm in North East Fife in Scotland, where he raises pedigree Highland cattle and New Zealand Romney sheep.

Shirley Anne Edwards Talks about Writing, Schedules, Alternatives to Writing and Motivation

I’d like to reach out and say a massive thanks to Shirley Anne Edwards for agreeing to answer these questions about publishing, inspiration, morivation, book design and writing in general. What If BookShirley first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. She now reads close to 20 books a month and spends most of the rest of her time writing. Her current work in progress is What If?which you can find out more about at the end of the interview!

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your writing career?

I decided to start publishing too late. I wish I could have published a few years back. Self-doubt kept me from publishing my stories.

What are you most proud of in your writing career?

To be able to finish a full length novel and have the self-confidence to publish it.

What’s in your ‘must have’ writers bag, every time you sit down to write a story?

I must have something to drinks, usually iced tea and somewhere comfortable to sit. I also keep a notepad next to me at all times to jot down any notes while I write.

What do you hate seeing on book covers?

I don’t understand the appeal of a woman’s naked back while she’s wearing jeans. A cover like that doesn’t interest me as a reader.

Do you think it’s better for author’s to hire a designer, or to try designing their book cover themselves?

If you have the experience at cover design, I so go for it! If you have a background in art and computer art programs that enables you to create your own covers, why not? It will save you some money.

What If BookWhat is your writing schedule, if you have one? If not, why not?

I try to write for an hour each day during the week, and increase my time during the weekends. My goal is to write 10,000 word weeks.

If you could outsource one thing when it comes to self-publishing/writing, what would it be, and why?

Formatting and uploading files to various online stores. It would help me save a lot of time if someone else did it. That’s why I plan on paying something

What’s one of your best skills as a writer?

I have a big imagination, so I would say letting my imagination run wild so I can see where it goes and what the final outcome will be.

What’s one of your biggest weaknesses as a writer?

I’m impatient. I wish I could type faster in order to get the words in my head on the page quicker.

If you didn’t become a writer, what other hobby/profession would have filled that hole?

I love children, so probably a teacher, perhaps operate my own daycare center or teach Pre-K or Kindergarten.

What is something just a little bit odd/weird/unconventional/secret about yourself that helps or hinders your writing?

I like to write in complete silence and in one specific room in my house.

Do you write full time, and if so how do you maintain motivation?

I’m just starting out so I’m not a full time write yet *fingers crosses for the future*

If I had a single piece of advice to give to writers it would be…

Believe in yourself and write what you love.

What style/genre/design of book covers do you like the most? Why? Can you share examples?

I’m a sucker for those covers that have puppies on them and a scene near a lake or in a forest.

When publishing your book, how important is it to have a well-designed book cover, compared to the other components like a clear blurb, a well written story, established reader base or good marketing tactics?

All these things you mention are very important. If you’re cover isn’t appealing and your blurb is hard to understand, why would anyone buy your book? Also a well written, edited book is first and foremost above all else.

Do you consider yourself a hobbyist, or a professional as an author?

I would say I’m in the in-between stage. I do hope after What If? Is published, then I can say I’m a professional.

Are you a pantser, or an outliner? Why?

I’m an outliner. I like to see where I’m going as I write and where my characters end up.

If you couldn’t get paid for writing in money, what would be your alternate choice of payment (keep it clean, eh?)?

If I was paid in free food or free coffee, I would be happy.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I wrote an article for my school paper when I was in First Grade. Writing is in my blood.

Should you respond to reviews of your book, good or bad?

Based on all the interactions I’ve witness from authors have with readers or reviewers over book reviews, I would say it’s best if that author keep their opinions about a review to themselves. When an author comments, specifically on a review they feel is negative, regardless of how many stars given to that book, it always spirals out of control and becomes very angry and mean.

More About Shirley:

I’m a Northeast girl who first found my love for books when I read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. I’m a bit quirky and silly at times, and love anything in entertainment from movies to television and books. I read close to 20 books a month and spend most of the rest writing. My debut novel called What If? A young adult murder mystery with a touch of romance mixed in will be out in the fall of 2014. Each week I post a new chapter of What If? On Wattpad. You can find it here: You can find me at my website: On Facebook: On Twitter:

About What If?

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Wyman is bereft over the death of her best friend, Peter Preiss, whose body has been found at the bottom of the town lake. She blames herself because she allowed him to go back to his family’s lakeside boathouse late at night where they had just made love for the first time. She wonders what she could have done differently to stop Pete from being killed, and thinks back to the beginning of the school year when her whole life changed forever. Wendy will stop at nothing until she finds out the person responsible for killing Peter, who was bullied by most of the students in their junior class. She is in for even more of a shock when she finds out that not only did Pete keep dark secrets from her, but a few of her close friends are hiding ones as well. This also includes Dylan Mayone, the new popular boy at school, who wants her for his own, and may have had a hand in Pete’s death. Once again, thanks so much to Shirley for agreeing to answer these questions! Can’t wait to see where your writing career is headed!

Should I have a different eBook and Paperback cover?

Books now have two faces: one in the digital world and one in the printing world. The split of the two has brought with it different priorities in design. What works on a paperback will not work on an eBook, and vice versa. Should you consider two different book covers? Is this a trend that will pick up?

The benefits of having a different eBook and paperback cover:

  • I’ve not yet had an author ask for two different covers, but I expect it’s only a matter of time. I don’t envision this idea to be greatly practiced but it definitely has its benefits.
  • eBook covers are best viewed in black and white
  • eBook covers must have a clear message and typography at 180px high.
  • eBook covers are flat, and texture and definition of the paper doesn’t have any effect on the reader.

When I was convinced

I’m writing this blog post today because I was totally convinced this morning. It’s a question that’s been revolving around in my brain for a long time… is this something that should be offered more? What is the difference really?

My latest WIP is a fun chic-lit novel based in New York. I’ve been writing this sort of stuff for a while but when I want to do something well, I buy up anything and everything that might teach be how to do it better, so I bought these two books:

Will Write for Shoes See Jane Write









Will Write for Shoes  arrived in the post two days ago. When I opened up the package, excited and giddy as I always get when receiving books in the mail, I was a little disappointed to find the layout and printing quality of the book to be on par with CreateSpace. Glossy cover, the image cover not as clear as it could be, and the binding stiff and already creased a little bit. This is not a reflection on Will Write For Shoes but a reflection on the actual printer.

I’m used to dealing with CreateSpace and I get proofs a lot. Aside from that I’ve become a Kindle convert so if I can get a book via wifi, I’ll do it. This means I don’t buy up paperbacks nearly as often, and miss out on the personal experience.

This morning See Jane Write arrived in the post. Again I took to it with a box cutter (carefully and overzealously) and opened up the package and aahhhh… there it is… that moment…

~*~*THE MOMENT*~*~

The cover is matte printing, great colour, a good board for some stiffness, and the inside is all pink. The book, without opening it, is an experience. It feels like silk, it smells delicious. As I flip through it the text is in teal and magenta. Had I got this in eBook, the thrill would be dead. It’s just content, content, content. But this body of design, the paperback, is something tangible and calming.

It definitely released a bucket of endorphins in my head.

To slightly tweak or go all the way?

Having a different eBook and paperback cover doesn’t have to mean an entirely new redesign.

Small tweaks: This will save you a lot of cost so you don’t have to think about ordering two new concepts but just think about mainly text placement. On the eBook your title could be much more prominent and centred, while on the paperback it could be subdued a little to allow the graphics to do the talking. This also means you get to use images that have finer details that can’t be picked up in thumbnail format.

Total redesign: This could lead you to offering an exclusive version that only paperback lovers will get. There could be something extra in this book, something you offer only in paper form.

themasterandthetelepath_smargent_6x9_front_1_ebooklayout_600x479 themasterandthetelepath_smargent_6x9_front_1_paperbacklayout_6xx0_479

Having two alternate covers can be a smart move, especially in marketing. If you play your cards right you might even have your fans buying both ebook and paperback copies. And, like everything, you won’t know until you test, test, test!

What are your thoughts on different designs for paperbacks and ebook covers? What benefits or negatives are there?