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)

Judging a book by its cover: Designing Book Blueprint (by Jacqui Pretty)

Today, we have a post written by an awesome client of ours, Jacqui Pretty of Grammar Factory. The post, about her experience of finding and working with us to receive a cover she eventually loved, was first published over on her site. Thanks to Jacqui for gracefully allowing us to repost this here. So without further ado, here it is:

Jacqui PrettyI have a mixed history with designers.

You see, my significant other is a former graphic designer. Today he’s a training manager at a software company, but tends to take on a lot of design responsibilities there on the side of his main role. As a result, any time I’ve wanted to create anything with a visual element (websites, brochures, business cards, etc.), he’s been the first one to raise his hand.

The problem is, I’m a word person, not a visual person. This means I struggle to explain what I want, because I generally don’t know what I want. My direction involves words like light, bright, quirky, clean and polished, rather than descriptions like, ‘I want an A5 portrait brochure with a two-column design where one column is white with dark grey text and the other column uses white icons against a blue or orange background.’

Unfortunately, he’s someone who needs those specific directions, which means any attempts at design collaboration haven’t been very successful. As a result, most of what you see online is a DIY job, while any printed collateral was designed by a lovely designer I found on 99designs who gets my vague directions and turns them into polished, professional brochures that still manage to be bright and quirky.

However, he’s not an experienced book cover designer. So when it came to designing Book Blueprint, I needed to find someone new who would be able to take my vague desires and turn them into a cover that I and my readers would love.

I originally connected with Scarlett Rugers through one of my clients, and she’s been the designer I recommend ever since. Why? She does good work, she has experience working with entrepreneurs rather than just fiction authors, and she makes things simple and straightforward with standard packages. She’s also well priced and was able to work to my tight publishing schedule, which was a plus.

 

The formalities

We got started by catching up for lunch where we talked about our businesses, my book and my concerns about finding the right cover. After the official bits and pieces were out of the way (payment of the deposit and signing of the Ts&Cs), she had me fill out a very long survey about my book and what I wanted.

Beyond the dimensions of the book and details of the package, some of the questions included:

  • Who is your target market?
  • Do you want the book to be legible at the size of a thumbnail?
  • Do you have a specific idea/design that you’d like to see?
  • What’s the impression you want to give your audience when they first see the cover of your book?
  • What don’t you want on the cover?
  • Which adjectives do you want to describe your cover? (Multiple choice)

The most interesting one, though, was choosing whether I wanted Scarlett to design something that was typical of my genre (business books) or something different and unique.

 

The designs

Scarlett got to work on June 1st and had three concepts in my inbox on June 10th.

When I saw them at thumbnail size, my heart sank. I didn’t like any of them. It was exactly what I’d worried would happen.

I took a deep breath, downloaded the designs and opened them up at their full size so I could give more detailed feedback.

Design 1

jacquipretty_bookblueprint_web1
While the colours of this were right on brand and I could see she was playing with the blueprint idea, this just didn’t look like a business book to me. The font of the author name and tagline was too informal, and the grid lines made it look more like a text book than a paperback.

In some cases it can be helpful to deviate from the standard designs in your industry. However, when I saw this, my worry wasn’t about whether or not my book would stand out – it was whether or not an entrepreneur would even recognise it was a business book.

 

Design 2

jacquipretty_bookblueprint_web2
My first thought was that this one was very … orange. Yes, I know Grammar Factory has an orange logo, but this just felt like too much. It would also clash with pretty much everything in my wardrobe (I like greens, purples and reds), which may seem like a silly concern, but if you’re planning to pose for photos with your book at events, it needs to be considered.

I also wasn’t a fan of the feature font. I understood there needed to be a feature font to help break up the cover, but handwriting fonts always make me think of memoirs. Once again, I was worried that this didn’t look like a business book.

Once I looked more closely, though, I noticed all the little notes around the key features of the cover. There was a testimonial from ‘Reputable person’. There was a note indicating that I was an ‘Experienced and knowledgeable author’. There were even measurements for the cover size! The more I looked, the more I realised that this was quite cool.

 

Design 3

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This design was fine. I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t love it either. It was just a bit ‘meh’ for me, though I would have been willing to take it as a backup if we hadn’t been able to find anything else.

 

Round 2

I went back to Scarlett with my feedback – I wanted to develop the second concept, but make it blue instead of orange and use a more professional feature font.

She got to work and the next day had sent through some new versions of that cover with different fonts, one of which was this one:
jacquipretty_bookblueprint_web2_3
I loved it!

From here I went to my target market for some feedback on the tabs and got to see a rather vigorous debate unfold before my eyes on Facebook. The consensus was that if they were real tabs (i.e. if they marked out different parts of the book) I should go for it, and if they were just on the cover it would be better to go without. Given that real tabs would have drastically increased my printing costs, I went without.

This brings us to the final cover:

book_blueprint

Key learnings

So what did I learn?

  • While it can be helpful for you to know what you want up front, the right designer will be able to take your vague ideas and give you something to work with.
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t like your initial designs – they are just a starting point and help your designer figure out how to create something you will
  • Feedback from the market in the early stages can be helpful, but it’s only really necessary if you have a couple of designs you like and are trying to decide between them. If you have one you like, focus on developing that and then get some feedback once you’re comfortable with it.
  • There are only two people who need to like your cover – you and your target reader. No one else matters. Therefore, feel free to ignore everyone else’s feedback. No matter how well-meaning, if they aren’t your target market (meaning they wouldn’t buy your book or your other products or services) then their feedback isn’t going to tell you what your target readers want.

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?

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?

giphy

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?

 

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?

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.

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 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.

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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

 

What goes on the back of a fiction book?

You’ve uploaded your eBook to Kindle, and you’re organizing to print a paperback at CreateSpace, so what goes on the back of a cover? A blurb, a bio, a testimonial? Is there anything compulsory? Here’s the rundown of what goes on cover back matter.

blog_blurb_back_layoutThe Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter: Buy it here

  1. The blurb

The first, obvious, necessity. The blurb is the second step after the cover, for your audience to read up and find out more about your story. I’ve heard of blurbs running up to 400 words, but for a standard 6×9” paperback (and smaller) I would recommend 180 tops, 120 minimum. This gives you plenty of room for additional elements, and leaves you some nice space for the readers eye to travel, instead of it looking compressed.

For more information about writing a good blurb visit: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/11/16/how-to-write-back-blurb-for-your-book/

  1. An author biography:

A bio is good. It shares a bit about yourself, and gives your readers an access point to learning more about you. You can share your background, and then follow it with your social media and website links. A bio should be small and to the point, and normally goes at the bottom after the blurb. I’d keep it under 80 words if possible.

  1. An author photo:

This is to go with your bio, and should be a professional photo. If you’re choosing one which is taken from your phone, or a family member, ensure the lighting and composition is good and that you are easy to see.

  1. Testimonials & Endorsements

Testimonials and positive reviews about your book, and skills as an author, do wonders. The more reputable the source the better. You wouldn’t gain any traction with a testimonial from someone who hasn’t published themselves or has no reputation. Choose your sources wisely, but do choose them if you can. Stephen King would be awesome, if you can get him. David Tennant is also acceptable.

  1. A lead in line

Sometimes when you look at the back of a book there’s a single line that is placed at the top of the blurb, to lead into the first sentence. This could be drawn from a line from the book that summarises the plot well, or the overall theme. This could just be a punchy line or something quirky, a line that shares your character with the reader before they open to the first page. A single line works best, but if you find you can’t plump up your blurb and have a lot of space to cover, a couple of good lines works just as well.

  1. Barcode + ISBN

A barcode and your ISBN goes onto the back, bottom half. Sometimes to the left, mostly on the right, not in the middle.

Do I give the barcode and ISBN it to my designer?

In some instances, such as CreateSpace, you type your ISBN directly into their system when you upload your cover, and they will place the barcode on there for you. In others it may be up to you (or your designer) to organize your barcode onto the back. Either way you gotta leave room for it, so don’t fill up the whole back page!

  1. A mention of your other work.

If you are writing a series and want the reader to know of the other titles available, this is a great opportunity. If it’s not going on the back of the book, put it on the inside.

 

None of these points, except for the blurb, is conditional. The blurb guidelines I’ve supplied aren’t even a must-do, but you do have to have some sort of synopsis to entice your reader to read your story. They have to know what they’re getting themselves into!

Do you have any suggestions as to what should or shouldn’t be on a back cover? Seen anything that was truly awful?