Writing The Blurb – What You Need To Know

Today we’re all about blurbs. Do you write your own, or get someone else to do it? Let’s give you some guidance about what makes a good blurb, and a great one.

Have you ever read a blurb that tells you the entire plot of the novel and you have put it back on the shelves and walked away? This is one of the many signs of a bad blurb so writers take note. Giving too much away, or not sharing enough to entice, can turn readers off wanting to know more. The length of the blurb, introducing your protagonist in an interesting way and using the right tone for your novel genre can make a huge difference in the  final decision of a curious book buyer. It’s difficult for even the most experienced of writers to construct an effective and engaging blurb but being aware of the following will get your head in the right game.

How long is long?

Ideally your blurb should be of about 100-180 words. This is a good word count to aim for as it will fit the back cover neatly in a good size font. You don’t want to give too much away, it’s important to not think of it in the same way you would a synopsis. It is the second base on the way for a customer to purchase your book and your main aim is to intrigue and entice them. Take a look at the below blurb for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, an epic novel of about 650 pages:

american-gods ‘Is nothing sacred? Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS, takes a long hard look at the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who- it finds there…’

107 words is all it takes to give you a taste of what the book is about, just enough to make you curious. It doesn’t give you a blow by blow of what happens and how it ends. Less is more and finding that balance will always take more than one draft. It doesn’t have to be that short the first time round, lean it back with each draft and you will end up with a solid piece of tight prose.

Hello, what’s your name?


Blurbs are a great place to introduce your protagonist. It’s like meeting a stranger where first impressions always count. This gives your reader a chance to emotionally connect and become attached to them. This story is about them, and if the character doesn’t interest your reader on your blurb than they certainly won’t want to spend the next six hours with them. To use the above example, we quickly learn that the protagonist is Shadow, he was in prison and is now a grieving widow. The first few lines tell you exactly who your protagonist is even if it’s only a brief introduction. You are essentially speed dating your reader, be coy enough to be mysterious, don’t tell them your whole life story and then awkwardly propose.

Setting the scene

Book blurbs are direct and immediate advertising. All advertising has an angle and a target audience. The first very big question you need to ask yourself is do you know yours? It might seem obvious but you might be surprised how many writers don’t. As the cover of your book is a symbolic language tailored to your genre so must your blurb be. Rhythm in your tone sets the scene for your novel and it should be written in the same style and voice as your story. Your goal is to target readers that like your genre and intrigue them enough to want to know more. To jump genres let’s look at Kyra Davis’s 164 word blurb for her chick lit novel Sex, Murder and a Double Latte;

310740Thriller scribe Sophie Katz is as hard-boiled as a woman who drinks Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccinos can be. So Sophie knows it’s not paranoia or post-divorce, living-alone-again jitters, when she becomes convinced that a crazed reader is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. The police, however, can’t tell a good plot from an unmarked grave.

When a filmmaker friend is brutally murdered in the manner of a death scene in one of his movies, Sophie becomes convinced that a copycat killer is on the loose — and that she’s the next target. If she doesn’t solve the mystery, her own bestseller will spell out her doom. Cursing her grisly imagination (why, oh, why did she have to pick the ax?), Sophie engages in some real-life gumshoe tactics. The man who swoops in to save her in dark alleys is mysterious new love interest Anatoly Darinsky. Of course, if this were fiction, Anatoly would be her prime suspect . . .

An interesting chick lit style blurb written with a thriller twist in keeping with the plot line and tone of the novel, it ends with an emotive hook to grab your attention leaving questions and curiosity.

Quotes and Testimonials

The last thing to briefly touch on is whether or not to have quotes, or a fabulous testimonial, from reviewers as a part of your blurb. There is a rather fine line with this because unless you have someone legitimate who has critiqued your work than it won’t have any leverage. It needs to be a review from a respected reviewing company, like Kirkus, or if you have sent your work to an established writer. Credibility is key. A quote from your mum (unless she is Anne Rice or JK Rowling) will make you look like an amateur.

Round Up

Like all writing, blurbs are not an exact science. It’s helpful to look at the best sellers in your genre and see how they are constructed. Remember to take some time to research and re-draft, it may be the decider on whether or not readers take that extra step.

Use the below checklist to make your blurb awesome:

  • Length: Is it between 100-180 words?
  • Protagonist: Are you doing introductions and creating attachment?
  • Research: Have you read other blurbs in your genre?
  • Tone: Is it the same ‘voice’ you have used in your novel? Are you leaving it open ended?


What do you look at first when buying a book? Do you read blurbs? Or do you think they spoil the plot too much?


ISBNs – What Are They And Why Do I Need One?

jack_sparrowOne of the more ambiguous problems that Self Published authors face in their adventure to publication is the debate of the ISBN, more specifically what they are and why do you need one?



What do all the numbers mean?

ISBN’s, or International Standard Book Numbers, are a thirteen digit number that is often printed as a part of a books barcode. This unique number system was invented in 1965 and is used to identify your book across the world. It is a combination of codes breaking down your regional group, publisher and title and if you want your book printed you will need to register an ISBN for it.


 Why is having an ISBN number so important?

The main reason is that it identifies your book and book like products internationally so that booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors can not only find your book but also market it more efficiently. There is always a strong possibility that some one else in the sea of authors will have the same title as yours, with multiple editions, so your ISBN is essential for customers to differentiate between your book and all the others when ordering. It’s important to note that while it’s a specific number for your work, ISBN’s are not a part of copy write. Unless you live in Australia, where you automatically own the copy write to your artistic endeavours, you will still need to register your works through the Copywrite Office (U.S) or the Intellectual Property Office (UK).

 How do you get one?

The good news is that there are a few options out there. If you plan on releasing one title or a thousand Thorpe-Bowker has multiple packages at whole sale prices as does Nielsen in the UK. Prices can start from $42$125 for just one, but the more you buy the cheaper they end up each.

Can you get free ones?

There are publishing houses like CreateSpace and Lulu that give you the option of using one of their free ISBNs or you can still provide your own. However be aware, if you use one of their free ISBN’s they will be listed as the publisher of record, even though you will still retain all your rights.

How many am I going to need? Can’t I just use the same one?

ISBNs, while handy for people to find your book, are also limited to their single book format i.e. Ebooks, audiobooks, hardcovers, soft covers are all separate formats. You cannot use the same ISBN for your paperback and your ebook and for the moment there is no such thing as an e-ISBN.

What about E-Books? 

ISBN’s are necessary for printed editions of your book but ebooks are another more shadowy story. At the moment you don’t need an ISBN number to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, Apple, Kobo or Google. In fact according to the most recent study by Author Earnings at least 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S alone do not use ISBN’s, making all of the industry marketing surveys carried out by Bowker, Nielsen, AAP and BISG grossly inaccurate.

shutterstock_171423347The beauty of the self publishing world is that there are so many different choices you can make while managing your project and ISBNs are no different, only you will ultimately know what’s best for your book. Knowledge is power in this industry and with the torrent of information out there staying well educated and knowing what is required in all aspects of publishing is essential for your success.

Check out the below links if you want more info on:

As Writers what are your thoughts on ISBNS? If they are mandatory should they be free? Or like much in the rapidly changing Publishing Industry is it time to search for another option? 





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?

CreateSpace dark printing example

Why did my book print so dark from CreateSpace?

You’ve uploaded your book cover, waited for the proof from CreateSpace, and got it in the mail. Major issue: Your cover is mostly black! The shadows are where shadows are supposed to be, but everything else on your cover has turned to black too. What the hell happened?

Printers are finicky things. Kindle is fine, and dark covers still come out clear. But CreateSpace printers have a tendency to print super dark on covers that have a generally low contrast quality. Instead of printing beautiful details, even if you’ve trialled it on your home printer, CS wipes it out.

I love the gloomy, dystopian, thriller covers, the answer isn’t staying away from dark covers. I’m not going to shy away from them because one of the main players in the self-publishing industry can’t calibrate their printers correctly.

How do I adjust my cover for CreateSpace printing?

First thing is first: Is your cover in RGB or CMYK colour? Although all printing should be done in CMYK. CreateSpace does it in RGB. For some reason, so long as your file is in RGB the colours will be more accurate. This makes Scarlett rage-sad.


You gotta blow up the contrast and brightness. You, unfortunately, have to make your cover glow a little bit.

When dealing with dark covers I send my clients two sets: the final images at normal contrast and brightness, and then an extra set with high contrast and brightness specifically for Amazon.

How do you know if you’ve brightened your book cover it enough?

Unfortunately I can’t give you an exact calculation as to the right brightness as it really just comes down to how dark each cover is. I’ve learned it along the way and now my estimates are pretty accurate.

But you know because you will order the proof. I know authors who don’t and this is a big mistake. Don’t assume it’s all fine, you have no idea how CS will print the colours. Order your proof until it is perfect. Don’t send out your books with errors. Ordering the proof is a vital part for checking both interior and exterior.

So if your cover is relatively dark don’t take a chance. Lighten it a little and upload it to see how it looks. It’s better for it to be a little too bright than a little too shadowy. And if you’re still unsure get in contact with me (email: contact (at) scarlettrugers (dot) com) and I’d be happy to have a look, and make tweaks if you need it!

Have you received proofs where they’re much too dark? Know of other issues with other POD publishers?

Here are the examples so you can see before and after. Take note: although these may not look overly different on screen, the second version of each cover is the level of brightness needed to make it look like the first version when printing with CreateSpace:

CreateSpace dark printing example

CreateSpace dark printing example


Should I design my own book cover?

YWriting a bookou’ve spent months and years writing and finishing your book, now is the time to think about the book cover. Do you hire a professional to design your cover for you, or do you jump in and do it yourself? Let’s cover the pros and cons of designing your own eBook cover (without any history or knowledge of design)…

Pros of designing your own book cover:

Cheap, don’t have to hire a professional.

– Might learn a thing or two for other book covers to design in the future.

– You have full control over everything

– You can make tweaks and changes when necessary

– You have it within the time frame you want

Cons of designing your own book cover:

– It can look cheap, and have a detrimental effect on sales

– Having a cheap book cover means readers expect badly written work

Steep learning curve

– Designing it may take longer than actually hiring someone to do it for you

Understanding dimensions, pixels, and design basics

shutterstock_106841288_400x344DIY book cover design should only be undertaken if you have knowledge and skills in design. When your eBook appears on the Kindle next to everyone else in your category, readers will pick you based on two things: Your cover and blurb. Sure DIY is affordable, even free, but this is what you have to weigh up:

Free book cover design vs higher sales of your book.

Your book cover doesn’t have to be the best and there are enough quality premade covers out there now that you shouldn’t be asking yourself this question anymore. When I tell you to invest in a book cover I’m not lying.


Remember the Taleist Self-Publishing Survey shared the results and authors noted a 18% increase in their sales because they hired a professional designer.

What do you think is the success rate of authors who do the editing themselves, and don’t invest in a professional to clean up their manuscript?

What are your thoughts on DIY book covers in indie-publishing these days? Are they okay when authors do the design themselves?

I get asked all the time: What’s the most important element on a book cover?

the_war_on_words.largeI get a lot of e-mails from designers finishing school, to designers just entering the industry and have changed from a hobbyist to a professional, and there is one reoccurring question that comes up:

What is one thing that will help me create a good book cover?

You can’t ever just say it’s one single thing, design is such an all-encompassing experience. It’s like building a house, you can’t ask: what will help me build a good house? without expecting a list.

I’m going to tell you the one thing that is at the very top of the list. Often ignored, rarely thought out, and separate from the imagery. It’s seen as like a third cousin who lives out in the country, people don’t really want to talk to it.

What is it?


the_king_of_methlehem.largePurpose of type:

Pfft, game over, I can hear you saying. I just put on some Garamond, or even just Arial or Times New Roman and it’ll look great.

NO, it doesn’t.

The purpose of type is to support the design, enhance the message, while being completely undetected. When you open a paperback and start reading, it is considered good typography when you are never distracted by the font face and the layout, and it is an ease to read. This is the same with type faces on a book cover. It should almost remain invisible, but add to the beauty and grace of the cover.

If the interior of a paperback looked like this it would drive us mad and we’d have to put the damn thing down:


Think of it like… a bride getting her hair done for a wedding. The rest of her looks beautiful, from make up to dress, but if the hair isn’t done it’s alarmingly offensive. When it is done, it works together with the ensemble and never draws attention to itself, yet it can be complemented and singled out as beautiful on its own.


Typography rule 1: Keep it simple, and legible

The first mistake I see on book covers is the use of overly technical, decorative or distorted font faces. The author/designer thinks:

Well, the genre of the book is paranormal romance so I’m going to use some really curly font I found on 1001 fonts, because it looks paranormal-ish.

Like this:

vtks-38.regular vtks-beauty.regular billy-argel-font.regular

The rule keep it simple means: Let the image do the talking. Choose a font face which takes a back seat and doesn’t scream LOOK AT ME!!!! 

The rule make it legible means: Your readers have to be able to read it fairly easily.  The typeface is going to get completely lost if there’s already a lot going on in the imagery, so don’t be scared to pull it right back.

utopia.largeTypography rule 2: Don’t use more than three fonts, try and just use two

What is the main focus of your book cover, regarding type? It’s the title. If you decide on a decorative or distorted or flourishy font then use it for the title to bring it to attention. You can also combine a decorative font with a serif/sans serif font face in the title to create a bit of excitement, and you’ll see this done a lot in Romance.

The second focus is the author name. If you want to use the same or a different decorative font face for the name then you end up diluting the focus of the title. To support the title rather than fighting with it, go with a serif or sans serif font face. Your name can still be big if you want, but there is a hierarchy to everything.

Title is King, the name is Queen.

At the high court of typography if the Queen wants to look like the King then the people won’t know who to follow, or focus on.

The tagline needs to be smaller than the name and very easy to read. I suggest using the same font face as the name, if it is a serif or sans serif. Consider it a whisper, but it has to fit with everything else. By going for a third type face at this point can splinter the cover unnecessarily, especially if it’s a poor choice.

the_mad_ones.largeTypography rule 3: Your type should be a part of the design, not an afterthought. Integrate it.

A pet peeve of mine is when I see a piece of art work that’s been created specifically for a book cover, by an artist that is so talented I want to puke, and the title name and author is plastered on in five minutes, and it shows.

What is the relationship of the title to the image? Does it need to be in the same colour palette, placed carefully into the right corner, does it need to be big or small? Take care when choosing font faces and try different layouts. Just like writing you have to work through drafts before you find the right one.

we_must_love_one_another_or_die.largeTypography rule 4: Work with grids

Grids are used everywhere in design. You can head on over to The Grid System or Thinking With Type to see how extensive working with the grid can be.

Grids bring control and balance to design. Don’t be afraid of them but work within their boundaries. Set up some margins over your document and follow them to ensure the width and height of words, letters, and lines fall into the same structure.

You can follow this tutorial at typophile to figure out how to layout a grid in InDesign.

This tutorial shows you how to set them up in Photoshop.

the_thing_about_life_is_that_one_day_youll_be_dead.largeTypography rule 5: If unsure, get a professional to do it

If you’ve hired a professional illustrator for your cover, why aren’t you investing the same sort of time and money into a designer who really knows their typography stuff? Learning how to work with type takes time and experience, the greatest typographers can act like an invisible Superhero. They take out the baddies, but you never see them or hear about them.

It is the typography that can make or break a cover, in some instances. 

If you don’t have the knowledge, invest in it. I offer type-only book cover packages for a much cheaper price than my standard book cover packages.


This article is for those still learning design, or aren’t a designer and still want to give their book cover a crack. Once you get a handle on typography you can go ahead and break all of the guidelines I’ve mentioned here. Experiment with it, see what comes about. Learn from example and research other book covers, look to see how others have done it. You don’t have to start from scratch. You’re allowed to seek out inspiration, direction and motivation.

What are your experiences with typography? What have you learned along the way that you can share with others? What is a book cover you’ve seen where the typography makes or breaks it?

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?


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


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…


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?

Are book cover designers working for readers or authors?

The reader or the author
When I started designing I thought I knew everything. I thought I knew more than the author’s that I worked with, and I was the bees knees. But… with experience comes knowledge. The more I understand, the more I realise I don’t know shit! So I’m writing this article to share what I’ve learned with you, that there is no black and white answer. Yeah, there’s a lot of grey scale- but there’s a lot of good in that grey scale so don’t stop reading now…

Before self-publishing designers were hired directly by the publishing house and given a brief. Over time the book cover was designed and developed by the guidance of a head designer who knew about the publishing industry and how to communicate to readers.

When Penguin arrived on the scene in the early 1900s, with their simplistic paperbacks and clean outlines, it was obvious their trust in the book’s success lay implicitly in the literature between the two covers. Now a lot of the trust is gone. To an extent we must convince the reader that the work inside is a good one, so those simple, block colour, single type family covers don’t cut it any more.

Unless your name is known it is upon the shoulders of the designer to make the siren call to the readers. 

Why I’m asking this question: When an author comes to me to design their cover they often have an idea in mind. If they don’t, there is still a level of expectation remaining that I will do what they want, in a way they want it. They are, after all, my client and I’m here to work for them. But 90% of the time the author doesn’t know as much about book cover design as I do.

Case Study: Designing for the author

bookWhen the author comes to me it’s ultimately my responsibility to fulfil their needs. We’ve talked over ideas and I’ve gotten a general idea as to what they want for their cover. Some may even have a very specific idea for what they want which could be anything from a particular typeface, to a model, to a background.

The outcome for this case study is that the author is happy with the outcome.


The author gets what they want

They feel proud to share their book cover

They feel like they contributed greatly to the process

They understand the connection between the final design and their book, they understand the message

If they have a background in design or art, they will already have a good understanding about what is needed for the cover

They know their book better than anyone else, and can give an informed opinion as to what will work best.


Just because they understand the concept, doesn’t mean the reader will

The author may be stuck on wanting one single image, something they’ve put a lot of time and thought into, but may not be right for the design.

They run the risk of eliminating readers because of their biases, opinions, and personal judgements as to what they feel should or shouldn’t be on the cover.

Case Study: Designing for the reader

Although it may seem like the designer’s obligation is first to the author, we must consider the purpose of the design in the first place- which is for the reader. This requires a lot of trust on the part of the author, which is hard. No matter how great the artist, creating something from scratch is scary if you don’t know what to expect.


The designer draws from experience and industry knowledge to design a cover that will target your readers.

Will offer concepts about your cover that you may not have considered

Will draw off themes from your book that you didn’t realise were in there

Gives a third party perspective

Makes decisions on layout, composition, typography, colour and semiotics

Interpret your story into a visual medium in the most simple form, for easy understanding.


Well founded and considered opinions of the author may not be taken into account

The designer might believe the author doesn’t know as much as the designer does, when it’s important to take on all thoughts and ideas.

If the designer doesn’t have a lot of experience their interpretation of the brief may be unsuccessful.


I believe it is the designer’s responsibility to work with the author for the best outcome for the reader.

The reader’s delight is the true purpose of the project, not the author’s. But the author and designer must work together to get to that point, and have an open mind for it.

Each person brings their own knowledge and experience to the table, why discount it? This isn’t a war or a conflict but a great artistic collaboration. Great things can come out of it, so long as ears are open and everyone is open to change.

So when the author says,

“Look… I think it’s important to have the stencil typeface to show that it’s a military book, and combine that with the script type face, to show it’s romance.”

It’s important to listen to what the designer has to say. They can tell you why stencil and script typefaces don’t work together, and how tacky stencil font faces can be.

BUT I think it’s also important for the designer to at least give it a shot. They won’t truly know until they try it out.

So when the designer says,

“Look… I’ve used illustration on your chick lit book cover because it is an easily recognizable genre style and it shows a fun, frolicky side of your book. ”

It’s important to listen to what the author has to say. They can tell you why illustration might not be the best choice because, although they’re writing chick-lit, they know from the books that they read that photographs can be used just as well.

BUT consider the amount of research the designer has in the field, and that the book cover they designed for you has come together from comparison of others in your genre.

So when starting out with your designer it might be an idea to talk about who you feel is the priority in your project- is it you, or your readers? When you’ve figured it out, then you know how much input you should give your designer, and what kind of input.

Keep your readers in mind, figure out what they want and find out the best way to get there.

Do you feel it’s the reader or the author who the designer is working for? What’s your experience when designing a cover? Do you keep your readers in mind or find your own desires for the cover taking over?

How to let go of fear and self-publish anyway

Self-publishing is such a huge feat from beginning to end that it’s easy to surrender to your fear and put the project aside until you feel like you could face it again. If that ever happens. So how do we get through it? How do we finish our projects and have more self-confidence within ourselves so that we can do it again, and again?


I confess: Today I’m writing this in the darkness of my bed-cave because it’s been a pretty dark week for me and this is where I need to be if I want to get work done. I’m a perfectionist. Every day I work through huge amounts of guilt, anxiety and fear. Do you do that too?

I’ve also learned how to handle it so that I can get things done and accomplish the goals I want to. I’m very grateful I can do this, as I have friends who can’t finish projects they start, jump from one to the other, and are too afraid to commit. I’ve seen, and experienced, how debilitating fear can be.

Step 1: What is fear?

anxiouswriterFear is something that comes over us in times we feel threatened, and that something in our lives is at risk. This could be physically, mentally or spiritually. It could be logical or illogical. If you suffer from anxiety, you understand that is a constant propulsion of fear triggered by certain circumstances, but you actually believe the situation to be much more threatening that it really is.

If you understand anxiety/CBT talk: I catastrophize, all the time. I think things are much worse than they really are.

Step 2: Facing fear:

Fear is an experience. You can’t climb over it, sorry. But by understanding and knowing what role it plays in your life you can get through it and become friends with it.

“What is this bullshit Scarlett? Honestly?” That’s what I hear you saying but if you want to change sometimes you gotta give new ideas a chance.

So let’s think of the opposite- courage. What is courage?

“It’s when someone doesn’t have any fear.” WRONG. Courage is having fear and taking action anyway. In life threatening situations this is done in complete terror, knowing if you don’t take action you’ll die.


But let’s talk day-to-day situations: You haven’t finished your manuscript, or you haven’t got it ready for the editor, or it costs too much money, or you don’t think anyone will like reading it. These aren’t life threatening situations but triggers for fear. You have self-talk going on in your head and when you face the fact you have to finish writing your manuscript, the self-talk returns and may say any of these to you:

  • You’re not good enough
  • No one will like your work
  • No one likes you
  • Who the hell would want to read it?
  • You’re never going to finish it. You never finish anything.
  • You’re a joke. Why do you think you can be successful at this?
  • You’re not working hard enough

At this point your fear has a good hold on you. No matter how many times you tell it to fuck off, it’s still there.

Step 3: Letting go of fear:

You’re sitting at your desk, looking at the blinking cursor. It mocks you, right? It laughs at you. You’re knee deep in mental shit and you will meet the same fate as Artax.



Note: Sitting by the river is not the fate you will meet. Couldn’t post the real thing. Makes me cry every time.

At this point you’ve got two things you can do:

Letting go of fear 1: Figure out what you are scared of. Write down everything you fear. Then write down why you are afraid of it. On a scale of 1-5 (1: most realistic, 5: least realistic) number each thought. Example:

What do I fear?

I’m terrified that I’m going to get bad reviews.

Why do I fear it?

If I get bad reviews everyone will hate me, and my work, and I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never be able to make a career out of it

Number: 5

Let’s analyse that fear. Is there a chance that I’m going to get bad reviews? Yes. Every author gets a bad review in their life. You can’t possibly cater to everyone, and to be honest, I don’t want to.

Is this something that should stop me from publishing? No. All authors experience this and they continue to publish. I’ll get good enough by continuing to write, to practice and refine my craft, and get better and better at it. I will not be great straight away, but I will get there.

Letting go of fear 2: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

You’ve probably heard of the book, but have you actually recognized what that means? To FEEL IT and DO IT ANYWAY? How can you do something while you’re in fear lockdown?

Because you think about this: What’s the worst that could happen? Honestly? Can you have the fear and decide to take action anyway? By taking action, you’re telling your fear that it can exist within you, but does not control you. Over time it will become weaker, while you continue to go ahead and finish writing your manuscript.

This isn’t an easy task, but at the time you have to recognize that your fear is there and is a very real emotion. It’s there to protect you, to shield you from things you experienced when you were younger and believes you’re still at risk. But you’ve grown beyond that now, it’s time to try just one thing to see if your fear really is telling the truth, and that you’ll fail miserably.

You might just be happily surprised. 


But you don’t know it unless you TRY. Just try it once. One day, when you feel that fear inside you say to yourself,

“Okay, there it is. Now can I do it ANYWAY?”

You have it inside you to do it. You have to try and trust yourself, that you are capable of handling whatever comes your way. Will it be worse than living the rest of your life in fear, regretting what once could have been?

How to set goals for your self-publishing career in 4 steps

ASMART goalss an author you’ve probably thought a lot about your success as a published author. But have you planned for it? Have you told yourself how you’re going to get there?

The clearer your goals, the faster and easier it will be to get there. If you want to have a life time of success first you must define what you believe success to be, and then outline a plan to get there.

I’m here today to help you do that, so let’s get started!

1. Be in the right head space:

I want you to be open to change. To have grand ideas and to make them happen we must open our minds to the possibilities. Do you know why daydreaming is so important? Because it sets a standard. And don’t ever think the benchmark can be too high, because if it isn’t high you won’t get there.

Purpose: In order to have great success you must imagine great success.

2. The end goal:

So what is your idea of success? Is it monetary? Is it spiritual? Is it how many people you reach, how many lives you change?

It will most likely be a combination of all these areas. So write all of them down in categories: Finance, Materials, Family and Friends, Spirituality… then once you’ve written them all down sort them into priorities. This will give you a clear layout of what you consider success to be. This is your benchmark.

Possibilities for the end goal:

  • How many books do you want to sell in order to be considered successful? How many books do you have to write?
  • Will you change anyone’s life? How?
  • Will you have enough money for a comfortable life style? If so, how much do you consider that to be?
  • Will you have awards? International acclamation?
  • Will you have great self confidence? Feel good enough to speak in public? Have pride?
  • Will you be able to support your family, and pay for your children’s education?

3. The long term plan:

Now that we have an end goal we need to lay some milestones for you to work towards. Think from now until retirement, until the last days. Think about what you want in all stages of your life. Do you have children? Where will you be when they finally move out of home?

So lay out some goals from now till the end. Every 10-20 years.

  • Where do you want to be in 20 years?
  • How many books do you want to have sold?
  • How many readers do you want to have received fan mail from?
  • How much money do you want to be earning, have in your bank account at that time?

Be thorough and clear. The more specific your plan the higher the chance of it happening.

4. The short term plan:

Your short term plan should be between 6 to 12, maybe even 24 months in advance. Each stage should follow these general principles:

Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. What does that mean?

Example of a SMART goal:

  • In eight months I will have published Oscar and Josephine, and will have sold 5 copies.
  • In four months I will have finished my current work in progress and have the first round of editing done.

Try for goals that can be broken up in to smaller pieces to be achieved. So long as you return to these and assess where you are at each milestone (six months, four months, a year) that’s perfect. It is not expected that you will reach all or even any of the goals by the timeframe you initially set. But the fact you have worked towards it for so long, and will continue to do so, makes your chances of success much greater.

Overall my suggestion is, think big but eat small. It is the many tiny crumbs that make up story. You now have to turn your writing brain on yourself and think of the real, and fantastic, career ahead of you.

What are some ways you’ve planned for your career? How often do you try and revisit your goals?