So now that you have finally finished your manuscript what’s next? The likelihood is that you have trawled the internet looking for advice and possibly feel more confused now than you did beforehand, and with the masses of information available this is completely understandable too.
The information ranges from simply uploading it to your chosen publisher and waiting for the cash to come pouring into your bank account (information given by many ‘get rich quick’ sites and blogs), to paying vast sums of money to book advertising companies who guarantee (for a fee of course) that your book will sell X amount of copies.
However, for most authors you will be working on a specific budget, now if you’ve planned this it should include (as a bare minimum) editing, formatting and cover design, I say as a bare minimum because these three elements of your book are the most important. A good editor will be able to advise as to where your book needs to go to become the masterpiece it was destined to be, your formatting will make it easier to read and your book cover design will make it stand out and look highly professional to your chosen audience.
But you may think to yourself, ‘I’ve written it in Word and I know there aren’t any mistakes, I’m also very eager to get it out to the masses’, again, this is understandable but some restraint is needed (after all, you will have taken longer than a couple of weeks to write it). Getting your book to an editor is recommended by most professionals within the industry and something which can elevate your book dramatically in terms of impact and professionalism.
The good news is that there are plenty of editing services to choose from and you can even check out our own guide to some of the best editing services from our post in the Writer’s Room.
The formatting of your book is the next basic element and like editing is something which can have a dramatic effect upon your reader. Most people will have read books from the big publishing houses and as such will be familiar to a certain standard of layout, your book needs to embrace those high standards to ensure that the font style, font size, layout and overall format is easy to read and pleasing to the eye, it should look so good that the reader doesn’t even notice (a badly formatted book will always standout).
Next we come on to the book cover design itself, now of course you’ll expect us to go on about how you need the best book cover design for your work, and to be frank, you do! There are over 1200 titles being published by indie authors every single day in the US alone, you need to stand out (in a good way). Remember that your book cover design is not only the ‘face’ of your book but it is the advertising too, you have a very small window of time (and we’re talking fractions of a second) to grab your reader’s attention, you’re book cover needs to look professional and it needs to appeal.
Once you have these three elements then you can start to look at the active promotion and sales of your book, again, it comes back to ensuring that your manuscript is polished and will stand up to the reviews of customers and the scrutiny of any publisher or agent that you may wish to engage with. This isn’t to say that the early ‘trickle’ approach to promotion (telling your potential readers about it while you’re still writing it) doesn’t work, far from it, it’s just that when you are about to launch it needs to be the finished article.
The art of being creative (as many authors will tell you) is something which comes from deep within, however, like most art forms, your ability to create is a very personal one and something which I believe gets better the more time you spend and focus you place on doing it.
This casts a light upon the various classes that any writer or artist can take in order to grow themselves, I mention this because about fifteen years ago I was speaking to an author about the use of writing classes, he was of the mindset that ‘you either have it or you don’t, you can’t learn it from a class or a book’. Which to some degree is true, you can’t make the most intelligent person write a novel if their heart isn’t in it.
However, to say that any form of tuition with regards to art and creativity is a waste of time always struck me as a stupid thing to say, it’s like saying that with practice you’ll never see improvement, it just doesn’t ring true.
This of course leads on to another and deeper question – is your talent and ability, nature or nurture?
Well to some degree nature does play a role in your abilities to create, you will see talented authors who can write brilliantly with what seems like complete ease, then you’ll find others who work hard at every single page and take three times as long to publish. The same goes with any form of art, there are those with natural ability and others who just need some tuition.
The strange thing is that we place our own barriers when it comes to our own abilities, have you ever heard someone tell you that they simply can’t draw? The fact is that the last time they tried was when they were a child, because it may not have been the most exceptional ‘work of art’ (and what is from a twelve-year-old), they naturally made an assumption regarding their own level of artistry which followed them into adulthood.
When you look at your handwriting from that of your former twelve-year-old self to how you write as an adult you’ll see a vast difference, the flow, curves and overall structure will be easier to read and show signs your proficiency and maturity in this art form. Now this has happened because you kept at it from an early age, imagine what your art work would look like if you’d kept at that too.
In fairness life can be full of other priorities which see most adults failing to return to art, again, this is also hampered by beliefs which don’t bare true, but for those who do continue or make the start to get back into something creative, taking a class (in person or even online) can be the catalyst for improvement and ensure longevity.
This is also backed up by science, many studies have shown that when you practice something new for over 30 days continuously your brain starts to form new neural pathways, I personally taught myself to juggle in 30 days by practice and repetition (15mins per day for 30 days), now I can juggle without overthinking what my hands are doing, the neural pathways are there and as such I have a new skill (I know it’s not rocket science but it is fun!)
The same goes with art, the more you practice and the more skills you can be exposed to the greater your own abilities will become, you have to remember that it just won’t happen overnight (30 days continuously practicing will show improvement).
So regardless of your current skills and abilities, you are not yet the master of your chosen art form, but with practice and maybe even a little tuition you soon will be!
A book cover design for any author is a combination of extensive research and creative flair from the designer, however it is the research into the design and its drafts which can get overlooked when someone decides to make their own. It’s easy these days to go to the many stock imagery websites and buy a photograph and simply add your title, subtitle and author name, however this still doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have an effective design.
The stock imagery websites are great and will give any designer a wide choice of photography and vector images to choose from, but they are still aimed at a very wide buying audience of designers, advertisers, web designers and so many other creatives. This inevitably means that the images upon these sites need to appeal to a wider range of uses other than just book cover design.
So if you are choosing just an image you’ll need to be selective and of course do research into the ‘actual’ needs of your book, what I mean by this is that an open-minded approach to your cover should be adopted. Now most authors will be thinking “I’m open-minded with my book’s cover”, but when writing your book, you will have formed an idea as to what you want to see upon the front page (it’s hard not to), and this is where becoming objective is crucial.
When you understand that the primary job of your book’s cover is advertising it can make the design easier to create (giving you a sharper focus), this leads on to establishing what should and shouldn’t be upon the front page, taking thirty seconds to describe your book (and no more) will give you an idea as to the important aspects which should make it on to the cover. Now with a blank sheet of paper you should write down as many keywords from your thirty second description as you can, these words will become the basis of your development of the book cover design itself.
From writing down seven or eight keywords you should go on to develop each one of them, this should start to formulate ideas as to how the focal points of your book should come across upon the front page. For example, if one of the words is ‘romance’ then you could bring out words such as: couple, heart, love, together, happiness, light, flowers, sunset, rings, kiss, holding and so on. The more descriptive you are the better, from here you should develop images which can clearly represent your book.
When you know what you need upon the front page it still pays to keep it relatively simple, over-complicating your book with too many elements can confuse the reader and turn them away from looking any further into your work. A clean and professional image will do more for your book than something which is too busy.
So once you know what you want upon the design it will be a case of researching your own selection of images (if you have high quality photographs) or the stock imagery sites for elements which will represent your idea. Having knowledge of Photoshop will really help your work to stand out as you will find that any stock image will usually have a non-exclusive license (meaning that anyone can and will use it elsewhere too). Being able to either edit or combine several images and effects will help to ensure that your book cover design is unique, if you’re not able to do it yourself then it’s worthwhile getting a designer to do it for you.
From getting a design that you’re happy with you should next carefully consider your font, so many DIY book designs are let down by the wrong fonts (and choice of font color). Remember that your book will be shrunk to the size of a postage stamp when on line, so a font choice which is too small or a similar color to its background will not help your title stand out to the reader.
Try to use no more than three different fonts in your design, keeping the font for the blurb in a basic sans serif or serif ensures that your text is actually readable, for the front you should choose a font which matches the style of your genre and is clearly readable, the subtitle should be in a font that differs from the title and your author’s name should normally match the font used for the main title. When you try to use many different fonts on the front page your design will look confusing and speak volumes to the reader about the pages within.
With the color of your font you must ensure that your text for the blurb is clear to read, again, you only have a limited amount of time to entice your prospective reader to buy the book, don’t waste it by making your cover too hard to read. The front page is the same, you may want to vary the color of the title, subtitle and author name to signify the difference, the rule is to use no more than three separate colors (again, any more will lead to confusion).
The more thought and research you put into the design of a book cover will lead to a better looking and more effective design.
Any book cover design will have gone through many stages of focus and deliberation before reaching the book shelves and becoming the ‘face’ of its title, it is worth remembering that your cover is (as well as beautiful art) advertising and has the job of selling your book.
The reason that I point this out is because at times it can be forgotten, working with authors on hundreds of book covers has taught us that it can be easy to become acutely focused upon personal influences with regards to the book’s front page.
And this isn’t surprising either, when anyone goes through the process of writing a book it is very hard not to formulate an idea for the cover design, however, this can sometimes lead to designs which try to draw upon too many elements within the book itself or become so personal that the fundamental responsibility of the book cover becomes secondary.
And this is the crux for many authors, allowing a designer to take something which is very personal and interpreting it in a fashion which is both true and that sells.
This will of course be reflected by the designer you have chosen to create your own book cover, any designer worth their fee will care about the project because they have attached their name to the design and as a knock on effect it will become advertising for their own work too. Most professional book cover design services (whether they’re one-man-bands or small teams) will make this very clear by the authors and publishers that they have already worked with along with their experience within the industry.
So trusting your designer is not so much a leap of faith but fully utilizing the skills of a professional within the publishing/book advertising industry, and why wouldn’t you get the maximum benefit from the designer you’ve just hired? This is not to say that you shouldn’t bring ideas to the table, you (as the author) know the book more intimately than any other person, so when it comes to the concept and key focal point/message of the book you should make your voice heard.
Getting this information to the designer is another thing and at times it easy to try and say too much, whether you like it or not your book cover will only be looked at for a small amount of time before a reader decides to either pick it up or move on the next. So when you think about telling another person about your book what do you say?
Of course telling another about your book will very much depend upon who you’re actually talking to, if it’s a friend then you may spend forty minutes convincing them why they need to read your work, however, if you’re pitching your book to a publisher or agent then you’re more likely to have to condense your sales pitch down to something more appropriate. But it’s when you are forced to condense the sales pitch for your book that you bring out the most important elements.
So this is why we like to ask a client to sell us their new book but in thirty seconds only, when doing so in such a short time frame it brings out the very key elements which must be reflected upon the book cover, these can be adjusted of course but it will enable a greater insight as to the most important aspects of the book.
This along with a questionnaire brings out the aspects of the book which are important, for example: the author may tell you in the quick sales pitch that the hero is a woman in her thirties, she may neglect to say what her hair color or eye color is though, so teamed with a follow up set of more in-depth questions the specifics for those important elements can be gained too.
The designer will normally create three to four drafts from all of this information (along with many hours of their own research) for you, and from here you’ll be able to see which fits with your expectations and aspirations. Being open with your designer to ensure you get the best results is what you’re paying them for, so think about your thirty second sales-pitch and then give them the details, after all, you deserve a great book cover design.
Creating a draft for a book cover design takes many hours of design work, but what most authors won’t necessarily be aware of is the amount of research and development prior to even opening up Photoshop and beginning the cover.
When any new author comes to you with their book, they will have already formed ideas of what they would like to see upon the front page, this is perfectly normal as you can imagine, when you spend anything up to a year writing the manuscript you know the book better than anyone else.
From the designer’s point of view the first interactions with your author will be on getting as much detail about their work as possible, and for this part you really need to cover all of those minor details too. When an author tells you that the hero within the story is male, 35 and 6ft tall you still need to know a little more than just that.
Understanding those smaller details will (for example) ensure that the character upon the front page has the same color eyes as he does within the book itself. This means that the design is less likely to be affected by large revisions after the draft has been reviewed, it also ensures that the client is happy with the progress of the project and timescales are met.
In order to get these details (not only of the characters but of the book’s overall concept) we ask many questions and also use a tailored brief form to draw out the essence of the book, but one of our favorite things to ask an author is for them to sell us the book in just 30 seconds. Putting an author on the spot like that really gets them to pinpoint the most important elements within the book and as such the details which should feature within its cover.
Once we have all of this information we then set about researching the market for this specific genre and type of book, this has been made a great deal easier over the years and something that is straightforward to keep abreast of with the use of modern media and research tools. It is an important element of book cover design as it ensures that the design we create is both fitting for the book but appealing to the author’s desired audience.
From here we start the initial stages of brain-storming ideas for the front page, using the information from the research and that from the author we are able to condense the focal points of the book into elements to represent. This stage can take a day or two as it calls of the free flowing and development of ideas at their very basic to rough mock ups (normally hand drawn) which will be taken further in the draft stage.
When we start to actually create the drafts we will have already spent many hours developing the ideas and concepts behind those ideas, the actual creation process will still take time in order to create something that the author will be proud of (the best compliment we get is when an author tells us that it was too difficult to choose just one of the drafts!)
Publishing your own eBook has never been easier than it is today, with the use of Amazon’s KDP you can upload your manuscript and have it on sale within 24 to 48hrs, however, uploading your book is just the start of the process, marketing it is another ball game all together.
But before we get too far, there are some basics that the serious author should consider even prior to the launch of their book, these set the ground work or foundations of your presence as an author and build expectation. By generating interest before the release of your book you gain future readers and (hopefully) reviews to go upon the pages of the online book stores.
The first step in your marketing plan will be setting up and maintaining a social media footprint, the mainstream sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google + are great places to start and are all free to join. But please make the distinction between your social media pages as an individual and that of an author, it is best to keep them separate, by doing so you can tailor your author’s pages to reflect your book, genre and professionalism as a writer.
Ensure that your banners upon the top of each site (and your profile image) complement each other, a reader will expect to see consistency across them all. To a certain degree it pays to look upon your ‘branding’ here as though you are running a small business (after all, you want to make sales right?), by adopting a business-like approach you are able to step back and look at the bigger picture of selling your book within a highly crowded market place.
Your social media pages will have the underlying goal of helping you to sell your book, but you do need to understand that you can’t post non-stop adverts either, people get quickly turned off by the hard sell and will stop following you very quickly if that’s all they see. The best media pages inform and enlighten (and if they make you smile at the same time then even better), they should have some detail about what’s happening with regards to your book but they should also be fun enough for the viewer to keep reading, just imagine you’re chatting to a friend (you wouldn’t overload them with sales would you?).
From your social media you should start slowly informing your followers of the up and coming launch of your new book, you can even give away the first chapter to hook them (this has worked for so many authors), again, don’t go overboard with the adverts either.
Along with your social media you should look at starting your own blog, this is a great way to generate interest in you as an author, it also gives you a chance to show off just how much you know about the genre and subject you’ve written in. Getting a blog up and running is easy and normally free, but you will need to keep on top of it, adding well written posts will keep your reader engaged and build trust in your ability to communicate (they’re more likely to buy your book when they see how engaging you are as a writer).
Next is a website, these can be free from many of the online website building services, it is worth taking note that the free options usually have the name of the provider in your website name (ie: www.yourbookname.weebly.com), you might want to use a paid service and then you’ll have the option of just having a web address without the weebly.com added to the end of it.
Once you have a website up and running it is important that it reflects the style of your books, you should have a home page, about page, news, contact and blog too, these give you a great opportunity to promote and connect with your readers. Using an email building list is also a great way to help with future sales, however, you’ll need to offer something in order for a visitor to give you their email address, it could be for the first chapter of your book, once you then launch with your book you can email them to promote it and gain that sale.
Now that you have a great online presence it’s time to launch your book and get some crucial reviews, they say that when you publish you should aim to get at least 20 reviews from the get go, this helps in the ranking of your book but not only that it helps your buyer to have confidence in choosing your book (over countless others). Getting reviews can seem a little difficult but it can be easier than you think, firstly you should draw upon your friends and family to submit reviews, if you promote your eBook for the first few days for free you can ensure that everyone you know gets a copy and in return leaves a glowing review for you.
The free promotion for eBooks on Amazon can be a great way to get readers and reviews, use it wisely and you can elevate your book to another level altogether.
Looking at other areas online to promote your eBook is very useful, there are a whole host of online sites which specialize in promoting free eBooks and chargeable ones too, these will normally promote your book for a day or so, but be aware, lots of others use these sites too, your moment in the spot light will be very short using these services.
There are of course companies who offer book promotion and advertising services, they will actively promote your book to specific audiences in order to gain sales, these companies will charge a great deal for this service and so you must do your research before you chose to promote via these channels. They can work brilliantly but they can also be costly and without the impact you were hoping for, again, do your research before you part with any money.
A launch party or going to book fairs may not seem like the obvious thing to do when promoting an eBook but it can be done, you will need flyers, postcards, business cards and a banner to give yourself ‘presence’ whilst standing in the hall, conference center or book store. In order to either give away or sell copies of your book you can download copies onto promotional thumb-drives, it’s even possible to get them printed with elements from your eBook’s cover too.
The use of online forums to help promote your book and website has long been an established route for many authors, there are hundreds of forums online and plenty of topics for you to contribute towards, this shouldn’t be looked upon as blatant advertising or spamming but a way to connect with readers, help answer their questions and as a result help promote your book (don’t get it the other way around).
Promoting your eBook can be hard work and will require effort, but if you stick at it you will get results.
Book cover designers.