Completing any task which requires creativity is a dream for most of us and something daunting for others, but even the most creative people in the world have days where they have to dig a little deeper in order to find that creative genius.
So, how to do you keep it flowing every single day?
Well there are plenty of things that you can do right now to ensure that you keep your creativity flowing each day, here are our top ten ways to stay creative.
Get some sleep!
It may not be the first tip that you were expecting, but research has shown that we are far more productive, capable, and creative when we get a good night’s sleep. For most adults this should be between 7 – 9 hours (more for teenagers and less for seniors), now I’m not saying that you have to be in bed every night at 9pm, but if you want to be performing at your peak, you will need to ensure that your body and mind are both well rested.
This of course should be done at a level which is correct for yourself, but regular exercise will improve your thinking and creativity, recent studies shown a link between the two, it also leads to so many other benefits other than creativity.
Go to a gallery
Taking inspiration from others is a great way to build creativity, in some cases going to a gallery or looking at the work of others within your chosen field can give you the boost that you need. These days of course, it may be a little harder to visit a specific location, but there are always online galleries and sites to give that same inspiration. If you’re a writer, then read some of the classics, it’s so easy to download a great eBook directly to your cell phone or tablet and there is an abundance of great literature available for free.
Collaborating on a project with someone else can help you learn new techniques, give you further inspiration and regain that creativity (they’re also going to benefit from working with you too).
Listen to music
Music has a great impact on creativity, select the right songs and you’ll be surprised at how much more creative you become. If you have a subscription to services like Spotify, you’ll find dedicated playlists specifically for keeping you in a creative state.
Switch off your cellphone
For some people this is the hardest task, we are forever checking social media, emails, texts, phone calls etc. STOP, for a short moment (where safe to do so) just switch it off and have a moment without the constant interruptions.
Find some space
Now this can be different for us all, but having the right space for creativity is a very personal thing, for some, writing in a café with a coffee by your laptop is perfect, for others it has to be a quiet room with zero distractions. Given time you will have a good idea as to which environment produces the best results for you (mine is a quiet room), once you know which is best, use it!
Go for a walk
The temptation when working on a creative project is to keep going regardless, if you hit that creative wall then the best thing to do is stop. Go grab a coffee, go for a walk, a drive or simply just get out into the fresh air, a break for 30 minutes can make a massive difference.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to just create, it doesn’t have to be any good, you’re not going to show anyone (unless it’s amazing of course), but the act of taking the pressure off of yourself can kick start you back into the creative flow.
And no, you don’t have to shave your head and sit cross-legged by a stream in the Himalayan Mountains! Meditation is a powerful way of cleansing your mind and letting go of thoughts which do you no service, meditating for just 15 mins can bring you back on track and will make you feel a great deal better too. There are plenty of ways to learn, but having been on a course with Karen Denega, I can highly recommend her website for further details
If you’re self-publishing a book, you will find a great selection of print on demand services to choose from, they’ll offer varying options and services, but all of them will give you a path to getting your book in front of a reader.
From a design perspective (and by this, I mean your book cover design), each print on demand service will vary with regards to how the book cover is created, the size, margins, spine width, format and even color profile. As each service will print your book slightly differently, you will find that each option will need to be created differently too.
eBook Cover Designs
If we first look at eBook covers, they are normally always created using RGB color (as this is designed for the screen) and have resolutions from 72 ppi to 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Their difference can come in the dimensions of the image, if you look at the following covers, you’ll see that the eBook design for Kindle (KDP) is narrower than the cover for LuLu.
The dimensions vary slightly with KDP asking for their eBook covers to be 1600 x 2561 pixels, Smashwords and iBooks are both the same with 1600 x 2400 pixels working very well for their books, Nook eBook cover designs can be made to 1333 x 2000 and give a slightly wider feel to the design. However, Lulu’s eBooks are a great deal wider in their layout ratio and are currently sized at 1224 x 1584 (making the layout feel a little more like a square).
So, which ever eBook publisher you decide to use, you should be aware of the impact that their format will have upon the book cover and it’s layout, you may find certain elements within your design becoming cropped out of the image when publishing across multi formats.
The layout of your paperback will be a little more similar across the range of publishers, a book with a trim size of 6x9 via KDP will still be 6x9 when printed through Ingram Spark. However, the spine widths will differ (even with the same page count), you’ll also find that the construction of the cover (especially if you are using their templates) will be different too.
Below are three templates used by KDP, Ingram Spark and Barnes & Noble for the same book, the template for B&N being more of a guideline for constructing the book cover itself. But the main thing you should notice is how all three publishers have different spine widths for the same book, this is due to the paper stock used by each, and it will mean that if publishing through different POD services, you will need different cover PDFs for each one.
Currently, the most popular choice for indie authors to publish their book as a hard back is through Ingram Spark, they offer a wide range of trim sizes, the option for dust jacket and case laminate, they also offer the option of both, this is where the book has a dust jacket and underneath this the book has a case laminate cover.
With a case laminate book, the cover extends past the edges of the book and is wrapped back around so that these edges fold onto the inside of the back and front pages and are glued in place (they are normally covered so that you don’t see them once the book is printed).
With a dust jacket the layout is of course a great deal longer and you should take into consideration the use of the flaps (both front and back), these are normally used to add an author bio and add more detail for the blurb itself.
The only other thing to point out with using Ingram Spark (for any of their printed books), is that they place more restrictions with regards to ink levels. With off-set printing, the book cover gets printed using four plates (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black), if you were to print a page with all four of these plates at 100% output on each, then the outcome would be a completely black page and you would be printing at 400%. However, if you tried to print with much more than 240% output on all four plates the page would stay damp and end up smearing.
So, Ingram restrict the amount of ink to be used when printing their book covers to 240% max, this means that when designing the book cover, you need to reduce these levels within the PDF. This is something that most book cover designers are aware of and create designs for Ingram to these levels.
Even with their restriction on ink, Ingram’s book covers always tend to print to a very high quality and we have always been impressed by their products.
Every author is excited when they complete their first manuscript, after all, there’s been countless hours, days, weeks, months and even years that have gone into its creation, but once the excitement wanes a little, every author then needs to go back and start the process of polishing (and in some cases, being courageous when doing so).
One small step at a time.
The first read through and edit you can certainly do yourself, but don’t try to take on more that one chapter at a time, editing your own book (when done by yourself) should be done in small chunks, if you try to persevere with editing huge sections at a time, you’ll miss elements that should be adjusted and cut corners through fatigue.
Re-read and re-edit
Once you have made edits to the book, go back and re-read what you’ve just edited, and allow time between completing the edit and then reviewing it (publishing a great book is not a sprint to the finishing line, take time, your readers deserve it).
Grammar, more grammar and spelling
This is of course the first thing that every self-editing author looks for, there are software applications like Grammarly and the inbuilt software within Word that will help with fixing those obvious elements that you may have missed the first time around, reading the manuscript again will always help find them.
Does it make sense?
Question what you have read and ask yourself if it makes sense, also, does it actually add something to the book itself (or is it just unnecessary ‘padding’?). How believable are your characters? Will they connect to your readers? What about sentence structure? Is your book made up of lots of very small paragraphs or huge blocks of text? How does it read? Look for crutch words or phrases, these often repeat themselves throughout your manuscript and become annoying to the reader, it’s wise to replace them (time to break open the Thesaurus).
Get it read
Once you have edited your own book, it is highly recommended that you get someone to read it for you, and use someone whose judgement you trust, you want someone who won’t tell you what you want to hear, but give constructive feedback. Most people have friends or know other writers who would be willing to help, you may have to return the favor (but even this is a great learning curve for you too).
Add if you’re still not sure
Once you’ve edited your manuscript as much as you can, it’s time to go to a professional editor. A good editor will be able to tweak your book from something good to something great, their insight and experience is invaluable to you and your book, a professionally well edited book will give your book a great chance of success.
Self-promotion for an indie author is an ongoing commitment that requires a great deal of dedication and diversification to reach (and grow) your audience. There are of course the more traditional ways such as social media, your own website, blog, book launch websites and promotional services to target readers, but have you ever thought about starting your own YouTube channel?
Starting a YouTube channel is a brilliant way of connecting with your readers, and for many, it’s a far more enjoyable way to promote their books along with talking about subjects connected to their style of writing, the subject matter and genre.
But the first thing that you will ask yourself is
“what on earth will I talk about?
This will depend upon what you’ve written, if your book is about travel tips in Europe for example, then hosting a YouTube channel which talks about specific travel advice aimed at those going to Europe would be perfect, you can essentially break elements of the book down into bite-sized chunks, this helps to promote your book and grow an audience.
Non-fiction books at first seem to be the easiest subject matter to turn into a YouTube channel, this is because you have an area of expertise that will be of an interest to a specific group, you can cover all areas of your chosen subject, and again, break down into smaller snippets which allow you to come up with new ideas for videos over and over again.
But, does this mean fiction authors will struggle to gain an audience if starting their own channel?
Of course not, the subject matter will be different to that of non-fiction, but you will have lots to talk about that an audience will love. For example, explaining the process of character development, over coming writer’s block, the publishing process, editing your book, having a book cover designed, where and when you write, software you use, story progression, the list goes on and on.
The next hurdle you may be thinking about is equipment, surly everyone who hosts their own channel has spent thousands on gear, right? Wrong, well, maybe the top YouTubers have but many don’t and their videos still look fantastic.
There are lots of authors who are producing great channels and only use the camera on their smart phone along with strategically placed table lamps for lighting (if you could see most YouTubers ‘studios’ you would be surprised at just how many are being highly creative with what they have and still get great results).
Having your own YouTube channel will help with your own exposure and it can also help with selling more copies of your book, but you will also need to promote your channel through other avenues until you get higher numbers of subscribers and views.
Can I also make some money from my YouTube channel?
Yes, it is possible to make money from your channel, we constantly hear of YouTubers who make millions while hosting a gaming channel from their bedroom studio, but to be fair, these are the extreme and you should always start your channel with the bigger picture in mind, your channel should you’re you to promote your book, but also allow you to connect with your audience and have some fun at the same time, if you are purely trying to make a quick buck, this may not be for you.
But before you start, it is worth checking out some current authors who have their own channels to get some ideas, here are five you should take a look at first and then maybe search for your own favorite author.
The Creative Penn
So, get started and let us know when you’re up and running, we’d love to see what you come up with!
Writing a blurb for the back of your book can be a very time consuming task, we’ve known authors take weeks and even months to write, rewrite, tweak, update, edit and finally publish a burb which is no more than 250 – 300 words.
And although this text is less than a standard page within your book, it’s importance in sales is so key that it is worth every minute of your time, ensuring that you have a highly polished and effective back page.
The first thing to remember about a blurb is that it does have a job to do, and this is to convince the reader to buy your book.
Keeping this in mind, there are elements within a blurb which you should consider, these will alter depending upon whether the book is a work of fiction or non-fiction, but remembering that either way each is still a sales tool will help.
Here are our tips on perfecting a great blurb for your book.
Blurbs for Fiction
Blurbs for Non-fiction
Book promotion as a self-publishing author is relentless, if you want to make your book a success (and why wouldn’t you?), you will need to keep chipping away at it regularly. The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can do, some may require an investment of funds and others are free, but either way, self-promotion on a consistent basis is the key to success.
So, what can you do to self-promote right now?
Here are our top ideas to get you started.
We have all heard the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover”, the point being that we should look a little deeper than just face value, however, at the same time we know that advertising (and this is what your book cover is) works. The leading brands in every avenue of industry spend a great deal of time and effort in creating advertising that speaks, and most importantly, relates to their audience, that connection is what can help to give the consumer the motivation in selecting their product (pricing is also a factor, but in a market where prices are similar, your advertising is what will make the decision for the buyer).
When you look at the publishing world and especially that of self-publishing, it is clear to see that the online bookshelves are saturated with indie publications. Bowker shows the amount of self-publishing titles have grown from 1.2 million to 1.6 million per year (this equates to over 4300 books being published every day), these numbers are astonishing.
With the massive increase in books being published the competition for any new or existing author is now vast, to think that on the day you publish your book, there will be another 4300+ titles also hitting the online bookstores. If you haven’t considered competition, maybe you should.
Choice is of course great for all of us as consumers, you can be sat in your pjs on the couch and in a second have downloaded a great book to read (I know I do this all the time), but when you scan through Amazon’s book store (making sure that you have narrowed the field a little with ratings and genre), you have an endless choice of books, and the very first thing that will grab your attention will be the cover.
If the cover looks unprofessional, rushed and as though corners have been cut, what do you think people will think of the book’s interior content?
When you go into a supermarket there’s a reason why people don’t buy odd shaped or blemished fruit and vegetables, we assume that if it looks odd then it’s going to be odd on the inside too, the growers and supermarkets know this, which is why everything looks highly manicured. We are all biased based upon the presentation of nearly everything, research shows that we make a lasting opinion of someone new within seven seconds of meeting them, further research indicates that this opinion starts to form within a tenth of a second. The point being, we judge what we view very quickly.
How you present your book will have an effect upon an audience, yes, the ratings will also help, but there are many other books available with five star ratings and great looking covers, so to compete effectively you should ensure that your book’s cover also looks professional and fitting for your chosen genre.
Along with a professional book cover design you should ensure that the title, subtitle, and blurb also hook your reader into wanting to know more about the book. A great title combined with an appealing subtitle will intrigue the reader, these two elements are important in selling the book and should be considered thoroughly before deciding upon. The same goes for the blurb, it has the job of further selling the book (now that they have it in their hands), you can learn more in our article on writing a great blurb.
Remember, we judge so much on first impressions, your book will be no different, so in an age of massive choice, give your book the advantage it deserves.
If you are trying to get your book published through the more traditional means of an established publishing house, you may find it incredibly hard to get it read by an editor if you’re ‘going it alone’. Most publishers rely upon literary agents bringing them manuscripts, these agents will have developed relationships within the publishing world, have specialized within just several specific genres, have their fingers on the pulse of current trends and understand how to best shape a book for an audience.
So, finding and working with a literary agent will give you a massive advantage when publishing your book, it will help in giving a clear path to not only polishing your work to its most professional version, but also with opening doors to the relevant parties who can make it a success.
Understanding you need an agent is one thing, getting one (a good one that is) is another.
The good news is that agents do in fact need authors, without authors they wouldn’t have a job of course, however, most agents get inundated with emails, letters and manuscripts from hundreds of authors every day, so you have a lot of competition even in getting an agent to represent you.
But first, you need to find an agent
You may or may not already know people within the publishing world, so you might want to ask those you do know if they have any contacts or recommendations. However, if you don’t get any luck here, don’t worry, there are other ways to find agents.
Firstly, you could try several publications which are more dedicated towards the publishing industry, books such as Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, Writer’s Market and/or Guide to Literary Agents both by Robert Lee Brewer are certainly good places to start.
There are also many websites which will give you the details of agents, sites such http://aaronline.org/, https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ and also https://agentquery.com/default.aspx are three sites which have used by many authors and are certainly worth taking a look at.
Many agents also attend book and literary festivals along with writer’s conferences, these are great environments for authors and are well worth going to (even if you’re not looking for an agent), however, it should give the chance to meet with an agent or listen to a talk given by one, this information is invaluable.
You can also look in books which are in your own genre, many will have details within their acknowledgements section, some will list their agents.
Social media is another way to find agents, it can also help give an understanding of their personalities and which would fit your style of writing best.
Once you have a list of agents who are relevant to your genre, you need to start reaching out to them.
But first things first, before you reach out to anyone, your book has to be finished and highly polished, if you send a manuscript (or chapters of one) which are incomplete, in need of editing and full of typos, your chance of success will be zero.
So, before you do anything, get your book edited, proofread, and refined to its absolute best.
Check each agent you plan to contact to ensure that you are doing so via their preferred method, for example, if they only except applications by email, don’t then send a 500 page manuscript printed on letter sized paper through the mail.
You should then send a query letter, this needs to be professional and be a one page pitch for you and your book, you’ll also need to include a synopsis for your novel which should be no more than one or two pages in length. For non-fiction, these synopses are a little more in-depth and should be more substantial in length.
You should also include a chapter of your book, for fiction it is recommended that you send the first chapter, with nonfiction you can send any.
Please remember that most agents will not accept a full manuscript being sent to them at first, send a query letter with samples, when in doubt, always refer to the agent’s own submission guidelines.
Be prepared for rejection, the best authors in the world have had to deal with this, it is normal, however, if you have sent out hundreds of applications/query letters and you’re still not getting anything back, you may want to go to your editor (or a new one) and get it reevaluated for any additional revisions it may need.
For many authors the current pandemic does nothing to help with creativity, when faced with a stressful situation the mind tends to concentrate on the more pressing issue, so for those who write as well as hold down a full or part time job, it’s understandable that your attention is preoccupied.
So many in our communities have been affected by social distancing and restrictions designed to keep us all safe , we stay within our house, for some of us we work from home, many are waiting for their employers to open back up again, and for some, the frustration of claiming benefit and trying to focus on an uncertain future is all that can be thought of.
However, we still need to give our minds the breaks they deserve, focusing 100% of your time on events that are far from your control will not help your mental health, investing time into something creative is not only a way to use the additional hours you may have, it is a break, a chance to become absorbed in something other than fear and the unknown.
When you apply yourself into something creative, when you truly focus on something which requires the beauty and might of your imagination, you open a door into world where you can focus on something else (even if for a short time).
And we need this relief, a distraction to create and for the briefest of moments let go of the continued news updates, social media rumors and misinformation.
Now is the time to be creative, to start that book you always knew you had inside or finish the one that’s remained saved on your PC for the past two years, it’s time to start painting, to draw, to sculpt, to sing and even dance, whatever your creative preference is, now is the time to embrace it.
For the majority of us the new ‘norm’ is one very different from a month or two ago, most towns, cities and countries are on lock down, those of us who can work from home are doing so, many brave essential workers are risking their health to keep us going and for others, their jobs are either gone or on hold.
This can be considered a scary time, and rightly so.
But whether we like it or not, this is the state of things and we have to adapt under the stressful circumstances. There is help out there and for many people assistance from government is on the way, systems are certainly feeling the pressure (and moving slower than ever before), but our support systems do (and are trying) to help us all.
The main message that we hear time and time again is to stay home and stay safe, quarantining can lose its charm quickly, but it is essential and most of us understand this. However, as hard as it might seem, we have to look for the opportunity for us all in these circumstances, and the one thing that being in quarantine does afford us is time.
Time, whether we are spending it actually talking to the loved ones we’re living with, or using Skype to talk to those who are geographically distant. We have time to read, to listen, to learn something new and to create, we can write, paint, draw, sing, dance and put all of our passions into something which becomes the focus of our fears, frustrations, hopes and dreams.
We now have time to reflect on who we are as individuals, who we are as creatives and who we are to those around us.
This current situation will pass, but we should also use it as an opportunity to come out the other side as better people.
What will you do with the time that you now have?
Book cover designers.
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