Make Your Self-Published Book Look Professionally-Published With These 5 Tips

The goal for any self-published author is not only write an amazing book, but to create a product that can stand out and endure the critical eye of a traditional system.

Your competition are not only other writers but other publishers too. Naturally then, you want to make sure that what you produce is nothing but as good as you can make it. This article will go through five things you must do to ensure your book looks professionally published.

Print Your Manuscript

You might see this as extra time and a waste of paper, but you would be surprised how many additional mistakes you will be able to find. Printing your manuscript out in paperback format (using a recommended type face) will give you the opportunity to view your book in “real life”.

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Reviewing your book this way will allow you to check on things like margins, overall alignment of chapter headings, paragraphs, and words placement (i.e. Are your words getting cut off mid-sentence?). Printing in this format will also get you into mindset of a reader, not a writer. As a reader you will pick up typos, missing words and incorrect word usage than if you were reading off a screen.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Page Numbers
  • Chapter Headings: are they positioned in the same place every time and numbered correctly?
  • Paragraph indentations: are they consistent?
  • Widows and Orphans: single lines at the bottom the page or parts of lines on new pages.
  • That all Notes and Comments from Track Changes are gone.
  • All Subheadings are formatted correctly and consistently.
  • Margins are all the same.

Beta Readers

By this stage your manuscript should have already been looked over by your beta readers, but it’s recommended to give them a copy of the completed manuscript once your formatting has been finalized.

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This allows you to get one final check-over. It is a far better thing for a trusted beta to spot the mistakes in your final proofs than to release the book into the world for your readers to find: because they will. It can be embarrassing to see reviewers commenting on simple mistakes, and ths can damage your sales.

So make use of your beta readers even in the final stages. The more eyes your work sees, the higher change that any remaining errors, whether grammatical or in your typesetting, will be spotted and corrected.

Blurbs

A blurb is your back cover description. A snippet of story line to get your reader interested. It’s an industry standard that blurbs are 100–180 words in length, so be mindful of how much you are revealing.

Remember, a blurb is not a synopsis. You want to briefly introduce your protagonist and some of what they must overcome. You don’t want to give away the entire plot, nor introduce too many characters. For practice, go to your bookshelves and read the back covers of your favorite books. Try to see how they sparked your interest enough to make the purchase.

Remember Blurbs need:

  • Length: 100–180 words
  • Protagonist: ntroduce them, and create an attachment
  • Tone: this should be the same as in your novel

For more details read our blog on writing the perfect blurb.

Tagline or Testimonial

Finding a suitable tagline can take some brainstorming but it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Your tagline is your ‘hook’ to intrigue people enough to pick your book up and read your blurb.

A testimonial from an author in the same genre as you can also help. It is their stamp of approval and if you’re lucky enough to have such an author interested in your work, you want their praise on the front of your book for all to see. This can help legitimize your work and draw their fan base to yours.

Matte Vs Gloss Covers

There are many schools of thought when it comes to choosing a matte or gloss cover for your final paperback.

Some writers think that gloss paperbacks have a cheap mass market look about them. But depending on your cover design, gloss can actually bring out richer colors in dark designs and reveal more intricate details in the illustration work. Gloss tends to be favorite for non-fiction works as it can enhance cover photographs and is less likely to be handled as much as a paperback.

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Matte covers, on the other hand, provide an aesthetic quality and durability to paperbacks. These covers are less likely to peel if handled extensively and won’t show up fingerprints and scratches.

It’s worth noting, however, that fine illustration work can be hidden and colors won’t be as vibrant with matte covers. Be sure to speak to your designer about your preference so they can adjust the colors accordingly.

Matte covers can compliment the art and provide an added bonus of the sensory experience to book buyers who like soft covers. Once again, it comes down to the personal preference of you, the publisher, but it it’s important to research what is popular in your genre and choose what will compliment your design work.

What Else Can You Do?

As a writer it’s your job to create an intriguing story with memorable characters that readers will enjoy. But as a publisher, it’s as equally important for you to provide the best possible, market-standard product for your potential buyers.

Having a well crafted blurb and an effective tagline or testimonial can hook readers into wanting to read more. Printing your formatted interior before finally choosing effective covers will ensure your book looks great and will appear to both booksellers and customers alike.

What else do you think should be included to ensure a book looks at home sat along side a traditionally published book?

 

Image Credits: Manuscript by Seth Sawyers (Flickr). Reading by Shelly (Flickr)

How to Publish Stress Free with Kindle Direct Publishing

When Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), the way an author delivered their work to their audience changed forever. This week we’re going to give you a crash course in KDP publishing, to help make your experience as stress free as possible.

Let’s Begin!

Log into KDP using your Amazon account, or create a whole new one if you wish. When setting up your account you’ll need to add your Address, Tax details and Bank Account. This is so that Amazon can pay you directly. Be aware that you will only receive your royalties from your home country direct debited into your account. Overseas royalties are still paid via cheque.

A special note about Tax

Australian KDP users should be aware that Australia has a Tax Agreement with the US so that we can earn royalties without having to get hold of an American IRS number or lodge a US Tax Return (hooray!). We can use our Australian Tax File number, but the IRS withholds 5% of royalties (as you can see below).

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Creating Your Book

Once all of your account details are completed, click on “Bookshelf” on the top menu.

Click on “Create New Title” so you can begin to add your new book details. Most of this section is relatively straight forward but there are a few things you should have ready.

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KDP Select and Exclusivity

The first thing that KDP asks is whether or not you want to be enrolled in their KDP Select Program. KDP Select is about making your title exclusive to Amazon and Kindle which means, legally, you cannot publish your ebook on iTunes or any other digital book store not owned by Amazon.

It is a contract that you enter into 90 days at a time that allows you multiple benefits. Some of these include free book promotions, higher royalties and a cut of their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) revenues.

At the end of the 90 days you can opt out or stay in, but you must wait the full 90 days if you choose to be in the program. KDP Select and its effectiveness is controversial, but like any contract read the fine print so you know what you’re agreeing to.

Your book description is what’s going to appear on your book’s sale page. If you haven’t read our blog on How to Write An Effective Amazon Book Description, I recommend you do that before you start.

Note: Do you have an ISBN? While technically you don’t need one to publish your boo,k it is important to have one as it can help book distributers and customers locate your title.

Pick your Categories with Care

Do you know where your book sits in the genre world? One of the most important things you need to get right is your categories. I’d recommend thinking of categories like you would think of good to think of sections in a book store. This is where your target audience will go hang out and peruse the shelves. If your book isn’t there, they won’t be able to discover you.

One great thing about KDP is that it gives you the chance to have two separate lots of category options, as you can see below. This allows you to reach more customers that wouldn’t have found you if you were only listed in one category.

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KDP also lets you have seven different key words of your choice that will link Amazon’s search results to your book. The flexibility of KDP means that you can change these up at any time if you find that they aren’t effective. It’s important to note that all changes have an average turn-around of approxmately 12 hours.

Uploading your Files

When it comes to uploading your cover and manuscript files, you must remember that KDP has formatting rules and regulations. If you haven’t gone through a designer that has already formatted your cover to correct specifications take the time to read the “Cover Guidelines.” The same applies for uploading your manuscript.
KDP also have a handy automatic spell check that will scan your book once it’s loaded. If it flags any errors, do take the time to check them to ensure there aren’t simple error’s that you can fix before the final upload. If you have lots of errors, then you aren’t ready to publish. You are a professional and you should see your book as a representation of you and your brand. You want people to buy it and enjoy it, not place it down and leave bad reviews because of sloppy grammar.

DRM

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. This is a digital lock that you can place on your ebook so that no one can convert it from the Amazon .mobi files to other formats that can be used on multiple devices. Like KDP Select, there are many conflicting views on whether or not DRM is a good thing, but be warned, once you publish your book you can’t change your DRM setting.

Preview your Book

This is a fantastic perk put in by KDP that simulates how your book will look on a Kindle screen. It gives you a chance to really pick up any formatting errors that you may have overlooked.

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Setting your Territories and Prices

If you hold worldwide rights for your book select this option so Amazon can make it available to all possible countries. If you don’t hold world wide rights (you should already know your rights before you get this far) only select the countries for ones that you do.
The pricing table you’ll be able to see allows you to enter potential sale amounts, and view the royalties that you’ll earn. Read KDP’s “Pricing Page” if you find the royalty rates confusing. Also note that you are restricted on how low or high you can price your book depending on whether you select the 35% or 70% royalties option. The 35% royalty rates mean you can sell your books cheaper, but if you go for the 70% royalties, the cheapest you can sell your book for $2.99.

Once you’ve selected (and double checked) all of your details and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, you can now press the “Save and Publish” Button. Your book and all of its details will now be reviewed by the KDP team. This can take up to 48 hours.

In Summary

KDP is a great publishing program, but make sure your cover all your bases and know what you are agreeing to, like in any other business venture. Make your publishing experience far more pleasant by being prepared before you begin.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have all of your bank account and tax details?
  • Do you have a cover that will meet KDP Standards?
  • Is your manuscript correctly formatted?
  • Do you have an ISBN?
  • Have you written an enticing book description?
  • Do you know your genre, and have you picked your key words?
  • Do you know which countries you hold rights for?

If you answered no to any of the above, take the time to do your research, ensuring you place your most professional publishing step forward.

3 Reasons To Hire A Designer Instead of Buying a Premade Cover

As writers and readers we judge books by their covers and as a self-publisher choosing the right covers to represent your books is a major step towards getting sales and building your brand. This blog is going to provide you with 3 reasons why as a self-published author you should hire a designer instead of using a premade cover to represent your works.

07042015_scarlettrugers_thesacrifice_7001. Your cover will be about YOUR story

It’s the job of the designer to visually interpret your book. Designers at the very least will want details about the story including a synopsis, settings, main character descriptions and themes. Here at Scarlett Rugers we are unique in taking this process one step further and will read your manuscript so that we can gain an even clearer insight into your books style. Hiring a cover designer will ensure that your cover will be specifically accurate to your story and that it is presented in the best possible way.

Pre-made covers lack personal insight. They are often a generic representation of the style that is trending in that genre. In fact the chances of you finding a cover that says visually what you need it to is very slim. You will end up settling for a cover that may, almost, be right for your story but will most likely leave it wanting.

After working on a manuscript for years to have it reach perfection you have a book that is uniquely you, hiring a designer will ensure your cover reflects that in a way that a pre-made never will.

2. Your unique brand as a self-published author

The-Great-GatsbyThink about all the really great classic covers out there like “The Great Gatsby” and more recently “Twilight.” These covers are instantly recognizable because they are distinctive, memorable and are a visual brand for that author. Influential design work will assist in building an iconic style for your future books, like Josh Kirby’s amazing illustrated covers that established Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Working with a designer will always guarantee that your cover will stand out amongst its peers and build up an identifiable brand for your publications.

One of the major problems with pre-made covers is that they lack that certain something extra that will individualize your book or establish you as a professional author. The majority of them are made by stock images with typography applied to them. This can have a flattering effect, but the image used on that cover will also have been used on three other covers as well. They use the general mass market styles as a guide, selecting the most commonly occurring elements. Unfortunately your book will end up getting lost in the sea of similar covers and won’t define your brand in the future.

carpe-jugulum3. You get one-on-one advice through the project

Designers work closely with authors, consulting and advising them every step of the way. They will make sure that you end up with a cover that that blends your wishes with a professional, market standard design. Many pre-made covers are not made by qualified designers, and you don’t get much flexibility in what you can and can’t change. You only have to look at the quality between a professionally designed cover and a premade one to see the difference. You don’t have a say on what goes on it aside from your name and the title. That’s an important point you must remember, whatever cover you choose will be what is associated with your name. A badly designed cover could send the message to your audience that the writing is of the same quality and rob you of potential sales. I know there are exceptions and that some pre-made cover designers will alter elements on their cover to more suit your needs for a fee, but if you are willing to pay more money you are better off hiring a real designer to get what you want.

A book cover designer’s mission is to create works of art that sell. They won’t just copy what is already out there but will use their strong knowledge of the industry and through extensive discussions with you will design something one of a kind to establish you as a brand. Premade covers, while appealing as a cheaper option, may end up causing your work to be unnoticed and limit your sales. As publishers you need to think and invest like a business. You need to ask yourself what is going to be the best representation of you as a professional writer and publisher because it will be what your audience will immediately associate with you.

What are your thoughts on Premade covers? What kind of experiences have you had with designers or the premade option?

Should you have your character on your book cover?

GMYbu1C3IpaZ9psTRe20rv2L9YZBz3bRVzY_PfnQnFgThe biggest and most frequent misstep made by self publishers is not researching current marketing trends before selecting a cover for their book. They might have written the Book of the Year but no one is going to look at it if its cover isn’t telling the right story, or worse telling too much of it. As writers we get a very firm idea in our heads about what our protagonists look like so we often try and recreate that image when it comes to designing the cover. Unfortunately how you see your character isn’t necessarily going to be how a reader sees them and this can be a major turn off. Knowing what your genre is and listening to your designer might just be the thing that plucks your book out of obscurity.

Why We Love That Face

It’s a fact humans will always be drawn to other humans. We search out faces instinctively so having a person on your book can have its advantages. The temptation is there because not only are we attracted to them but also it can convey a relationship, depending on what they are doing. This is why you see men and women on Romance covers looking at each other longingly. When H.M Ward was a guest on this blog we learnt about her personal experiences designing covers for her Romance novels. She shared about making her covers identifiable to Romance genre readers and not to cater to her own creative preference. After she did this her sales jumped so dramatically she now frequently sits in the New York Times Best Sellers Lists.

Aside from Romance you will see characters on the covers of a lot of Fantasy or Speculative Fiction. The practical reason being that many characters are sub-human and a character with a unique appearance is memorable to readers. Young Adult novels use characters on covers frequently but once again be careful of the genre trends. Lauren Kate’s Fallen cover has her main character, Lucinda Price, in a suitable gothic back drop to represent its paranormal fantasy themes.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

In contrast Veronica Roth’s Insurgent relies on symbolism to showcase her Dystopian fantasy novel. Both are Young Adult, fall under a fantasy sub-heading and are using what works best to represent that particular category. Knowing where your book sits in the genre gene pool should always be intrinsic to your cover decision making process.

Keeping the Mystery Alive

Even though we are attracted to bodies, readers hate having ideas imposed onto them. A character on your book cover can cement that appearance in your audience’s mind and take away the experience of imagining them. This annoys many readers as the appeal of reading is to immerse yourself in your own imagination. If your book is about a place or a particular concept having a character on your cover will send a confused message about the story. Symbolism in cover design is powerful because it isn’t marketed at a particular audience demographic.

George R R Martin: Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin: Game of Thrones

Take a look at the Game of Thrones covers.The original cover is very fantasy driven with castles and characters while the recent  covers have only a simple sword. This isn’t only because of a change in genrepreferences in recent years but also due to the success of the TV Series. It appeals to many (even sworn fantasy haters) and this is important when thinking about your own book.

Another example of this is Chick Lit author Rachel Schurig’s Three Girls series. She changed her covers in 2012 to a simple design and let the candy box colours, shoes and book specific icons appeal to her audience. Moving to a characterless cover helped her Three Girls series become a best seller with a passionate fan base. A little mystery goes a long way with readers and a well-designed iconic cover can have a universal audience, opening up your marketing possibilities.

Three Girls and A Wedding: Rachel SchurigBenefits of a Good Design and Changing Your Mind

Having a good cover designer takes out the guesswork and headache of your cover designing challenges. You are a writer, your art is important to you and you want to give it its best chance. A cover designer has done the research and has the qualifications to give you good advice when it comes to marketing your work. Don’t know where your book fits in the sub-genres? A good designer will, they will also know what’s trending and probably have five ideas on how to market it within reading the first paragraph of your novel. The other sign of a good designer is compromise because this is a symbiotic process. They know how significant this moment is to you, that is why you will be sent different concepts, its so that you can have input into your cover creation.

Scandalous by H. M. Ward  Always remember self-publishing is a business, if your cover is not working you can always change it until you find something that does. Sometimes like H.M Ward and Rachel Schurig you can fall in love with the original designs but even the most beautiful covers can struggle to sell books. The important thing is that they both did something about it; they went back to the drawing board until they found something that worked. Remember, you have a finite number of seconds to get your reader’s attention and having a strong, memorable design can help you find your audience every time.

Do you  have a personal preference when hunting for books? What kinds of things draw your eye?

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?

How does a book cover look in the early stages?


You’ve been waiting for it all week… the first visual concepts from your book cover designer… and they’re going to be AH-MA-ZING. You’ve seen everything else they’ve done and this is just going to be the icing on the cake.

A ping in your inbox; it’s here! You open it up and… what the hell is this?

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Imagine that designing is just like writing (because it truly is).

The first drafts are always, always the worst.

You’ve been dreaming and imagining for a while now, expecting you’ll be overwhelmed with the first magical round of design, but that’s not how design works. Design is a collaboration, and requires input from two people: The designer and the client.

Step 1: Your expectations are too high

The first obstacle is that you’ll already have something in mind. Something that crosses all boundaries of standard design. You’re imagining the Willy Wonka magic ticket and setting yourself up for disappointment.

Willy wonka golden ticket

How to fix it: Enter your partnership with your designer knowing it is art, and art requires time, feedback, and development. Don’t expect your designer to create something off the bat that is 100% what you want because you’ll be writing yourself into a corner. Talking about, and working with the design, is normal.

Step 2: You lose trust in your designer

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The second obstacle is losing trust in your designer. Because your perfect book cover hasn’t immediately happened, the trust and confidence you had in your designer dims a little bit. You start asking yourself,

“How did we get here?” [Naturally. This is a part of the process.]

“Why did they misinterpret what I wanted?” [They didn’t. More communication is needed.]

“Should I have gone with someone else?” [No.]

How to fix it: Understand that this is part of the process. Remember, design is like writing. The first drafts are never the perfect ones, and the designer needs to start somewhere in order to work towards the final result you really love. You have to make the first step before getting to the top of the mountain, or something like that…

concept_rough_examples_scarlettrugers

Step 3: It looks low res and choppy

You were expecting perfection and it’s possible you got something with watermarks, low res images, and a whole lot of collage-like mess. They might have sent over three or four different designs, but they all look like this.

How to fix it: Let it go. If you’re responsible for purchasing stock images then the designer has to work with what they can (i.e.: low resolution, watermarked stock images) before you commit to the final concept and they can buy the high resolution images. Trust the process.

Step 4: There’s been a lack of communication

This cover isn’t what you were expecting at all. It has totally different concepts. You wanted people; they’ve put on scenery or use symbolic images.

I specifically wanted salmon

How to fix it: Did you tell them you wanted people? Did you share with them other covers you like that have models on them? Did they read the brief properly? It’s just down to communication. Before jumping the gun and telling them they did it all wrong, perhaps ask them to explain the concepts to you and why they went in this direction. They might just change your mind.

 

All of these conflicts can be solved with communication. Remember talk to your designer, ask questions. You aren’t expected to know how it works, that’s the designer’s job. And remember that design is an artistic job and will always need your direction and feedback to end up where you are totally happy with it.

Have you had a shock when dealing with designers? Ended up with something totally different? How did it work out for you?