What’s the “Matter”?

whatsthematterA book–regardless of ebook or print–is divided into three main sections.

  1. Front Matter
  2. Body of the Book
  3. Back Matter

Until you publish, you concentrate primarily on the body of the book–the manuscript, which becomes the body of the book. When you’re getting ready to publish is when  you get to start worrying about the front and back matter.

You will find that different publishers (traditional and indie) are very consistent with certain elements. For example, the title page is always front matter. But publishers are also inconsistent with certain elements. For example, the author’s acknowledgments might show up in the front matter OR the back matter.

As a self-published author, when deciding what to include in your front/back matter, we recommend you open up a couple of the print books and eBooks in your genre, from several different publishers, and see how they do it (what they  include, what order, etc.). Decide what you like best and borrow with pride.

To get you started we have a quick list with recommendations for both. Let’s examine the different elements that you could put in the front and back matter below.

FRONT MATTER

Title Page

Should include the title of the book, subtitle (if any), series name (if any), and author’s name. Some traditional publishers include the publishing house on this page.

Excerpt

A short (one page) excerpt from the book. Make it one which will hook a reader. Often placed before the title page.

Praise for the Author

Include early praise from ARC readers if you have it. Or, include praise for any similar books such as the same genre or series. Also, a good page to include any awards or other accolades.

Copyright Page

Tecnically the only elements required are the copyright symbol, your pen name, and the year. However, publishers may also include things like disclaimers, cover designer, editor, ISBN #, and more.

Dedication

Could just be a name, or you might write a paragraph. Author’s perogative.

Table of Contents

Self-explanatory.

Other

There are other elements which are more common to non-fiction, but we wanted to list them for your information:

  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Forward
  • Preface
  • Introduction

BACK MATTER

Author Acknowledgements

Your chance to thank all those folks who helped and supported you through the process.

Author Biography

Info about you, the author. Usually a good place to include links to where to follow you. Remember to type them out so they show properly in the print version!

Marketing Blurb

A blurb hyping up your next book. A list of available books. A list of where to follow you. You name it.

Excerpts from Upcoming Titles

If you’ve got an excerpt available for an upcoming release–especially for the same series–always good to include!

Other

There are other mostly marketing related things you can put in the back, which I wanted to list for your information:

  • Call to Post a Review
  • Call to sign up for your newsletter
  • Call to connect with the author via social media
  • Book Club Questions

 

Introduction to Print Book Self-Publishing

You wrote a book and now you are thinking about self-publishing, but don’t know what steps to take. First, it’s important to understand what self-publishing means and what options are available to you.

When self-publishing a book, you can publish it to eBook, to print-on-demand, or both. Last week we talked about eBooks. Today we’ll focus on self-publishing in Print.

Benefits of Self-Publishing a Print Book

Tablet computer and pile books on the background of the fireplacWhile eBooks make up the majority of self-published authors’ sales, the industry continues to beat us over the head with one simple fact: print publishing is not dead. A good portion of readers still prefer print. So, from a logical standpoint, having a print option available will help you reach more readers.

In addition, print books are useful marketing tools. Giving away signed print copies of your books is a common options for all authors. Having print copies for contests, for reviewers who only read print, or for conventions and book signing opportunities is also handy.

Plus, there’s the simple satisfaction of holding a copy of YOUR BOOK in your hand.

Print Book Options

You have two options when it comes to getting your book in print:

1. Traditional Press

Traditional presses still exist to help you print and distribute your books. In fact, most small presses out there use traditional presses rather than option 2 below. Traditional presses hold inventory, and work through bookstores. They can be cheaper per copy than print-on-demand. However, you have to commit to a minimum print run (1000 copies or more). This means a hefty up-front cost which you may never recoup if those print copies don’t sell.

2. Print-On-Demand

Print-on-Demand is just that. They hold no inventory. They only print a copy when one is ordered. This means zero up-front cost and no inventory to sell in order to recoup your investment. However, most bookstores don’t bother stocking print-on-demand books.

When deciding between these two options, you should consider the reasons you want/need a print book, the monetary investment you are willing to make, the pros and cons with both options.

Print-On-Demand Options

The majority of self-published authors go with the  Print-On-Demand option for various reasons. So, when going with POD, who do you publish with?

There are several companies out there you can use. We recommend CreateSpace which is a division of Amazon. Your print book will sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (website only). Just remember, as POD, your book will not be in bookstores.

Another option we’ve seen recommended is also publishing through Ingram Spark, a major wholesaler in the U.S. Ingram does not sell through Amazon, however, independent bookstores might be more inclined to work with Ingram to stock your book in their stores, potentially allowing you to reach more readers.

Formatting for Publication

Once you are ready to publish your written (and hopefully well edited) book, it’s time to format the content to get it ready to publish via the press or POD solution(s) you’ve selected.

The traditional press will format for you. But the POD companies will require you format your own book before uploading to them. (Note: Many do offer the service for a charge.) Each company has their own “rules” about how to format (tabs, spacing, font size, etc.) and even about what types of files to upload (.doc, .docx, .pdf, etc.).

The good news is, each POD company provides detailed formatting instructions. Many provide online tutorials. And most also provide an online tool so you can view your book page-by-page to check and make sure it’s perfect before you ever print a letter.

Print book formatting is much more complicated than eBook, because the eBook devices (like Kindles and Nooks) do a lot of the work for you. But with print books, you have to ensure every single detail on each page looks good. In addition, you have to set up details like page numbering (but not on things like title pages), mirrored margins, justification, the headers at the tops of the pages, and so on. Formatting for print requires some advanced working knowledge of Word.

If your book is straight text with no images, the formatting piece is fairly straight forward. However, if you have images (like a children’s book or a non-fiction book), the formatting gets even more complicated, and you may want to consider getting help.

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The below topics were also discussed in the eBook Publishing post as they apply to both and we’ve adjusted the information slightly to be specific to Print books…

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LEGALITIES

We are not lawyers, so this is NOT legal advice. Make sure you research all legal advice about your books thoroughly.

Your Rights

When you self-publish a book–eBook or print–regardless of retailer or distributor or print company you use, you retain ALL rights to that book. That means, if a traditional publisher comes knocking, you still have the right to “unpublish” your self-published work, and sign a contract to publish with that publisher. At that point, read your contract, because your rights change.

HOWEVER–because print copies of your original work now exist in the world, online distributors like Amazon will continue to offer the print version on their websites for those instances of used book sales. They will “unpublish” the book so that no new copies will be printed, but old copies they still must account for. Many traditional publishers won’t like this. Just be aware of the potential impact!

Copyrighting / Licensing

Your book is considered copyrighted as soon as you write it. You don’t have to put the copyright symbol on it. However, you definitely want to register your copyright as this makes it public record.

You can register your copyright through copyright.gov.

While we’re on the topic, beware of any copyright infringement issues you may have with your own work–both text and images. Make sure you have the right to publish everything in that book. This is an entire topic by itself.

More Info on Copyrighting

ISBNs

An ISBN is required for print books. However, most POD companies give you the option of using an ISBN they have already purchased.

If you’re US-based, you can buy  ISBNs through MyIdentifiers.com. Unfortunately, this is an expensive process for a block of ISBNs.

GATHER YOUR INFORMATION

check

Once your book is edited and the content is formatted for whichever option you will publish through, there is still some additional info you want to have at the ready for when you go to publish that book. Make sure you have the following:

  • Book Title
  • Book Subtitle (if any)
  • Series Title (if any), & Volume #
  • Edition # (if any – this is if you have multiple versions out there)
  • Publisher (if any, for self leave it blank unless directed otherwise)
  • Description (this is your book blurb)
  • Contributors (typically just the author, although you can put the editor, cover designer, graphic artist in if you wish)
  • Language
  • ISBN # (see above info)
  • Public Domain OR you hold the publishing rights (original work created by you)
  • Categories (differs by retailer and distributor – usually there’s a selection)
  • Age and/or Grade (optional, and not on all retailer or distributor sites)
  • Keywords (common search terms you think people would use to find your book)
  • Book File (formatted to the POD specifications, and checked a thousand times)
  • Book Cover File (also formatted to the retailer or distributor specifications – cover image sizes/types are fairly standard)
  • Pricing (your royalty % may differ depending on the price you choose)
  • Distribution (options will depend on the POD company you choose)

ONE-STOP-SHOP VS. FREELANCERS VS. DIY

Finally, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with information, let’s talk about how to get all this done–whether you do it yourself (DIY), contract a couple of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) to help you, or go with a full-service option.

Publishing an eBook is a multi-staged process:

  • Write the book
  • Edit the content of the book (plot, conflict, character development, etc.)
  • Edit the grammar (make it as clean as possible)
  • Design a book cover
  • Take Care of Legalities (copyright, ISBN, licensing, etc.)
  • Format the book for publication
  • Convert the book to Print-On-Demand format
  • Publish the book with POD companies

Depending on your experience and skill sets, you may do all these steps yourself or you may get help.

100% Free – Do It Yourself (DIY): In today’s world of self-publishing, the process to actually publish a Print book is “FREE” and relatively easy. The POD company(s) you publish with get a percentage of each Print book sold as their “fee” for allowing you to publish through them and for printing each copy. But beyond that, you don’t pay to publish.

Free/Paid Combo – Freelance Services:  You may want help with various other aspects, like the editing or book cover, or, especially for print, the formatting. There are tons of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) out there who can help you with different aspects of self-publishing as needed. From editing, to formatting, to publishing, to marketing, there’s help available for everything.

100% Paid – Full Service: There are several full-service vendors out there who not only publish your book, but have people to help with editing, creating the cover etc. They do this for an up-front fee. Just a heads up, the fee can be very pricey. In addition, some POD companies also offer editing, formatting, and publishing services for a fee.

Pro und Contra, gut und schlecht, ja und nein

Which to choose? 

At the very least, almost every self-publishing book and article out there will recommend you get help with editing and with the book cover. But the actual publishing–formatting, uploading (converting) can be done by you, the author, for free. And we highly recommend taking advantage of that option.

That, however, is easier done with eBook than with print because of the additional formatting needs. If you are not an advanced Word user, we recommend you add formatting to your “get outside help with this” list.

Do you need help with editing or book cover, and for print, the formatting? For the average author, the answer is absolutely. As Authors On A Dime offers those services, obviously we recommend using freelancers to help  you with those steps. Going with freelancers:

  • Allows you to pick and choose which services you truly need.
  • Allows you to select a freelancer who YOU think will do the best work for your vision.
  • Will most likely save you quite a bit of money (vs. full-service) as well as time (vs. 100% DIY).

Our advice is to look at your skills and ALL the options before you decide on where you need help and who the best provider might be for that help.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Feel free to ask in the comments or contact Authors On A Dime directly. We’re happy to talk to you about any of this!🙂 Don’t forget to check out our full range of helpful self-publishing services!

We also regularly run a workshop on this topic: Get Started Self-Publishing! Check our workshops for the next opportunity!

 

Service Spotlight: Formatting for POD

welcome-open-for-business-shop-neon-light-signFormatting to publish an eBook is relatively easy, particularly if the book is text-only. You don’t have to worry about things like mirrored margins, how the pages are breaking, how the text is spacing out, orphan lines, etc. But with Print-On-Demand (POD) books, you have to check for all those things, and more!

Authors On A Dime offers a few different packages to help you get your self-published book print ready. Let’s look at the service options:

Formatting your content to self-publish a Print-on-Demand book includes the below formatting for Amazon Create Space:

  • Creating/formatting front matter as requested
    • Title Page
    • Dedication
    • Copyright Page
    • Table of Contents
  • Formatting manuscript content
    • Mirrored page format with margins
    • Chapter breaks
    • Chapter headers
    • Proper indentation and space between paragraphs/lines
    • Font size/style
    • Page titles (author’s name on even pages, book title on odd pages)
    • Page numbers
  • Creating/formatting back matter as requested
    • About the Author
    • Letter from the Author

You will be provided one document ready to upload in CreateSpace.

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The basic formatting package (see pricing below) includes all of the above. In addition, you can add formatting for other more complicated elements, including pictures, tables, and additional front or back matter pages. Those elements are added on an “as requested” basis for the additional pricing listed below.

PRICING

  • Basic Formatting Package / 1-250 page manuscript ($40/book)
  • Basic Formatting Package / 251-500 page manuscript ($75/book)
  • Basic Formatting Package / 501+ page manuscript (Custom Quote)
  • Additional Front or Back Matter Pages ($5/page)
  • Formatting Tables ($25/5 tables)
  • Formatting Images – $50/book (up to 5 images, more will require a custom quote)

TRY OUT THE SERVICE: You may “try out” this service by having us format 1 chapter for FREE–Basic Package level.  (Free 1 time only.)

PACKAGE DEAL: The eBook formatted version of your manuscript will be 1/2 price (on the basic package) if ordered at the same time as the Print-on-Demand formatting.

*Page count based on double spaced, Times New Roman, 12pt font, with standard margins.

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*To request other services, in addition to publishing services, click the “Request Services” link in the menu.

 

*We are not a publisher. We are authors helping other authors. Formatting for eBook is based on the guidelines provided by Create Space. We do not guarantee sales.

Introduction to eBook Self-Publishing

self-pubYou wrote a book and now you are thinking about self-publishing, but don’t know what steps to take. First, it’s important to understand what self-publishing means and what options are available to you.

When self-publishing a book, you can publish it to eBook, to print-on-demand, or both. Today we’ll focus on self-publishing an eBook. Next week we’ll talk about print.

Benefits of Self-Publishing an eBook

There are many benefits to self-publishing vs. going the traditional publishing route.

  • You are in control of all aspects including publication date and pricing.
  • You retain all rights, and can publish at any online retailer you wish.
  • You earn a larger piece of the pie (higher royalty %).
  • Implementing changes is easy and quick.

In addition, thanks to technology, self-publishing an eBook is a relatively easy, low tech option. There are tools and online services which help you format your finished book and upload it to retailers like Amazon where anyone can buy a copy of your work.

As always, there are pros and cons to both sides. For a deeper look, check out this article from Writer’s Digest.

So what do you need to know before jumping into self-publishing an eBook? Let’s dig into how this world works!

What is an eBook Retailer?

eBook Retailers are those companies which sell eBooks online. These include stores like:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Barnes & Noble Nook
  • Kobo
  • Apple iBooks
  • Google Play
  • There are many more eBook retailers. Some are even genre specific.

As an author, you have the ability to sell your work on these online stores. For this service, a retailer collects a small fee–typically a % of your sales.

*Note we said SELL eBooks. Beware of pirate sites which give away unlicensed eBooks for free. The author never sees a penny for their hard work thanks to these sharks. Be careful as there are also sites which highlight when an eBook is being offered for free or a discount. But they will always point back to legitimate retailers.

What is an eBook Distributor?

depositphotos_21584609_s-2015eBook Distributors are 3rd party companies (a.k.a. middlemen) who push your eBook out to many (if not all) eBook retailers for you. Distributors for books include:

  • Smashwords
  • BookBaby
  • Draft2Digital
  • And many more…research them well before choosing.

The difference between a distributor and a retailer is that you upload one single formatted version of your book at one online site. The distributor then takes that one copy and formats it appropriately for each of the individual retailers (most of whom have different formatting rules), and then publishes for you. In addition, they will track your sales, gather the payments from all the retailers, and send you one check.

For this service, a distributor collects a small fee–typically a % of your sales. Remember, the retailer still takes a % of your sales too, so this is additional money out of your pocket. However, the convenience of the service may be well worth considering.

Opt In Exclusivity Programs

Publishing with retailers is non-exclusive. In other words, you can publish anywhere you want, and aren’t just limited to that one retailer.

Some retailers have exclusive programs you can opt in to joining. An example is KDP Select for Amazon. In exchange for publishing your eBook exclusively with that retailer for a predetermined amount of time (like 3 months), you get access to certain additional services from them, usually marketing driven.

If you do opt in for a program like this, just remember you may NOT publish that eBook anywhere else (retailers OR distributors) for the length of the agreement.

Formatting for Publishing

Once you are ready to publish your written (and hopefully well edited) book, it’s time to format the content to get it ready to publish via the retailers and/or distributor you have selected.

Nearly every retailer and distributor will require you format your own book before uploading to them. Each retailer has their own “rules” about how to format (tabs, spacing, font size, etc.) and even about what types of files to upload (.doc, .docx, .pdf, etc.). In addition, books can render differently on devices. For example, you only upload one file to Amazon for Kindle eBooks, however, they have many different types of Kindles, and what looks good on one may look off on another.

The good news is, each retailer and distributor provides detailed formatting instructions. Many provide online tutorials. Also, if you go with a distributor, you only have to format once before uploading. They’ll do the rest of the work for you to make your book look good at each retailer.

If your book is straight text with no images, the formatting piece is fairly straight forward and easy DIY. However, if you have images (like a children’s book or a non-fiction book), the formatting gets more complicated, and you may want to consider getting help.

Converting to eBook Files

End-to-EndFormatting your book appropriately doesn’t make it readable on eReader devices like Kindle and Nook. The file needs to be converted to an appropriate file type.

The most commonly used file types for eBooks are:

  • EPUB – The most common file type for eBooks.
  • MOBI – File type preferred for Amazon Kindle devices.
  • PDF – Can be read on most devices, but does not convert nearly as well and can be difficult to read.

In general, you do NOT convert your book to the eBook file type. You simply upload a word document (in most cases), formatted to the retailer’s or distributor’s specifications. They do the work behind the scenes to convert your book to the appropriate file type(s).

In the past, retailers have NOT provided authors the eBook file itself. This can be problematic if you are trying to send your book to reviewers who want an EPUB or MOBI version which allows them to read the book on their eReader device.

Consequently, software and online tools such as Calibre, Sigil, and Scrivener sprang up which will help you convert your book to one of the standard eBook file types. With Word, you can also save the file as a PDF, however, the formatting doesn’t always render well in the conversion, so be sure to check.

In the last year or so, some retailers, like Amazon, have started providing the eBook file upon request. But not all do this yet.

The good news…rather than converting the file yourself, most distributors–like Smashwords–DO provide your converted book in all the various eBook file types. Again, they do the work for you in exchange for a % of your sales.

Legalities

We are not lawyers, so this is NOT legal advice. Make sure you research all legal advice about your books thoroughly.

Your Rights

When you self-publish an eBook, regardless of retailer or distributor, you retain ALL rights to that book. That means, if a traditional publisher comes knocking, you still have the right to “unpublish” your self-published work, and sign a contract to publish with that publisher. At that point, read your contract, because your rights change.

Copyrighting / Licensing

Your book is considered copyrighted as soon as you write it. You don’t have to put the copyright symbol on it. However, you definitely want to register your copyright as this makes it public record.

You can register your copyright through copyright.gov.

While we’re on the topic, beware of any copyright infringement issues you may have with your own work–both text and images. Make sure you have the right to publish everything in that book. This is an entire topic by itself.

More Info on Copyrighting

ISBNs

An ISBN is NOT required for eBooks to be sold through most retailers. However, some retailers and distributors do require one, therefore, it’s a good idea to have one so you don’t limit yourself.

Some retailers and distributors (like Smashwords) will assign an ISBN for you, but that ISBN is only valid for the version of the book uploaded through them.

If you’re US-based, you can buy through MyIdentifiers.com. Unfortunately, this is an expensive process for a block of ISBNs.

Gather Your Information

check

Once your book is edited and the content is formatted for whichever retailer(s) and/or distributor you will publish through, there is still some additional info you want to have at the ready for when you go to publish that book. Make sure you have the following:

  • Book Title
  • Book Subtitle (if any)
  • Series Title (if any), & Volume #
  • Edition # (if any – this is if you have multiple versions out there)
  • Publisher (if any, for self leave it blank unless directed otherwise)
  • Description (this is your book blurb)
  • Contributors (typically just the author, although you can put the editor, cover designer, graphic artist in if you wish)
  • Language
  • ISBN # (see above info)
  • Public Domain OR you hold the publishing rights (original work created by you)
  • Categories (differs by retailer and distributor – usually there’s a selection)
  • Age and/or Grade (optional, and not on all retailer or distributor sites)
  • Keywords (common search terms you think people would use to find your book)
  • Book File (formatted to the retailer or distributor specifications)
  • Book Cover File (also formatted to the retailer or distributor specifications – cover image sizes/types are fairly standard)
  • Pricing (your royalty % may differ depending on the price you choose)
  • Distribution (a single country, several countries, or worldwide where a given retailer is set up?)
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM) – yes or no. More info…

One-Stop-Shop vs. Freelancers vs. DIY

Finally, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with information, let’s talk about how to get all this done–whether you do it yourself (DIY), contract a couple of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) to help you, or go with a full-service option.

Publishing an eBook is a multi-staged process:

  • Write the book
  • Edit the content of the book (plot, conflict, character development, etc.)
  • Edit the grammar (make it as clean as possible)
  • Design a book cover
  • Take Care of Legalities (copyright, ISBN, licensing, etc.)
  • Format the book for publication
  • Convert the book to eBook format
  • Publish the book with online retailers

Depending on your experience and skill sets, you may do all these steps yourself or you may get help.

100% Free – Do It Yourself (DIY): In today’s world of self-publishing, the process to actually publish an eBook (put the book up on retail sites like Amazon) is “FREE” and relatively easy. The retailers you publish with get a percentage of each eBook sold as their “fee” for allowing you to publish through them. But beyond that, you don’t pay to publish.

Free/Paid Combo – Freelance Services:  You may want help with various other aspects, like the editing or book cover. There are tons of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) out there who can help you with different aspects of self-publishing as needed. From editing, to formatting, to publishing, to marketing, there’s help available for everything.

100% Paid – Full Service: There are several full-service vendors out there who not only publish your book, but have people to help with editing, creating the cover etc. They do this for an up-front fee. Just a heads up, the fee can be very pricey. In addition, some retailers or distributors also offer editing, formatting, and publishing services.

Pro und Contra, gut und schlecht, ja und nein

Which to choose? 

At the very least, almost every self-publishing book and article out there will recommend you get help with editing and with the book cover. But the actual publishing–formatting, uploading (converting)–through retailers and/or a distributor can be done by you, the author, for free. And we highly recommend taking advantage of that option.

Do you need help with editing or book cover? For the average author, the answer is absolutely. As Authors On A Dime offers those services, obviously we recommend using freelancers to help  you with those steps. Going with freelancers:

  • Allows you to pick and choose which services you truly need.
  • Aallows you to select a freelancer who YOU think will do the best work for your vision.
  • Will most likely save you quite a bit of money (vs. full-service) as well as time (vs. 100% DIY).

Our advice is to look at your skills and ALL the options before you decide on where you need help and who the best provider might be for that help.

Still Have Questions?

Feel free to ask in the comments or contact Authors On A Dime directly. We’re happy to talk to you about any of this! 🙂 Don’t forget to check out our full range of helpful self-publishing services!

We also have a workshop coming up in October: Get Started Self-Publishing! Sign up now!

What You Can Try for FREE with AOAD

Many glasses of different wine in a row on a table

At Authors On A Dime (AOAD), we understand how hard it can be to spend $ without knowing for sure the quality of what you would get in return. Authors struggle constantly with where to invest. Let us help you out with a list of services you can sample for free.

Come on over and try out any of the following:

EDITING SERVICES

editing-graphic.fwBeta Reading – Send us the 1st chapter or first 20 pages (whichever is shorter) for a FREE sample of the comments you’d get back with a beta read from AOAD. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Proofreading – Provide the first 3 pages, for a FREE one-time sample proofread of your material. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

PUBLISHING SERVICES

computer screen saying I love my job among other objects on the

eBook Formatting – Try out this service by having us format 1 chapter for FREE. This sample formatting is at the Basic Package level which includes chapter breaks, headers, spacing and indentation, and font.  (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Print-on-Demand Formatting – Try out this service by having us format 1 chapter for FREE. This sample formatting is at the Basic Package level which includes mirrored margins, page titles, page numbers, chapter breaks, headers, spacing and indentation, and font.  (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Blurb Creation – Try out this service by doing a FREE brainstorming session with us. 30-min Skype or up to 5 email exchanges on ideas, wording, flow, etc. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Synopsis Writing – You have written your synopsis but would like a second set of eyes to give you feedback on anything from how it flows, to whether you cover the important bits, to editing advice. You can try out this service for FREE the first time. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

GRAPHICS SERVICES

Abstract smoke

Book Cover Design – For your first book cover, we will do a 30-minute brainstorming session with you–looking at your book, ideas, and searching for images that might work–for FREE. No obligation to hire us for the book cover. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Banner Design – Need a banner for Facebook, your website, twitter, or other social media? We will let you try out this service by providing a free Basic-level banner on your first visit. Basic = text-only, basic font, graphic of your book cover or author logo. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICES

Social media concept

Social Media Calendar – 1st month FREE. We can work with you on what you want/need scheduled and when. We will then create the social media calendar for 1-month at a time. In addition, we can keep track of your calendar for you, emailing you weekly reminders of upcoming events and post needs. (Free 1 time only.) More info…

Blog Topic Suggestions – We have a generic list already started for you in this blog post. Want more tailored suggestions? We’ll provide 3-5 post topic suggestions to help you get rolling. Any help needed after the initial list of suggestions will move you into Brainstorming for a fee. More info…

Newsletter Article Suggestions – Want to write your own articles but don’t know where to get started? We’ll provide 3-5 post topic suggestions to help you get rolling.  Any help needed after the initial list of suggestions will move you into Brainstorming for a fee. More info…

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Shopping for a Book Cover Designer

There are a bazillion articles on good book cover design out there. Funny thing is, much like with editors, book cover designers all have different ideas and opinions about what makes a good cover. You’ll even find contradictory statements in the articles.

blue and gold old floral cover book

That’s because book cover design is an art, which means judgment is opinion-based. Subjective. Granted, the marketing aspect means that sales can also reflect a good or bad cover. However, if there were a perfect formula to generate sales, we’d all have the perfect cover for our books.

Which brings us back to cover design is an art just like writing a book is an art.

So…how do you find a quality cover designer who fits you–your story, your style, and your vision for the book?

Instead of thinking about this in terms of a book cover, think about it in terms of a tattoo. Imagine for a moment you’re getting a tattoo (one with actual thought put into it and not a drunken dare). If you want a tattoo of a flower, you’re not going to go to the guy who specializes in skulls. And if you want fancy lettering, you’re going to search for a tattoo artist who does great lettering.

With that in mind, let’s talk about what to look for when searching for your cover designer.

Research

Of course you can Google cover designers and start sifting through their work. That’s perhaps the fastest route to take. You will probably get lucky and find someone you like that way.

However, we recommend you do more than that. Start looking at covers in your genre. Search on Amazon and click on those which stand out for you. Ask yourself, “What about this cover do I like? What caught my attention?” Those questions become relevant when you start narrowing down your choices of designer.

Then, as you find covers you like, try to track down the cover designer. This can take a bit of digging. Assume that if the book is not self-published, the designer was hired by the publisher. A bigger publisher might mean the designer is in-house (exclusive to them). But many publishers hire freelance designers. Some list the designers who work for them on their website, or even include the cover designer’s name in the copyright info. If the book is self-published, and the author doesn’t thank the cover designer by name in their acknowledgments, go to the author’s website and try to see if they state the designer. Even email the author and ask who their cover designer is.

By taking this approach, you’ve already narrowed down the designers you’re looking at to those who create covers you KNOW you like and are effective (they grabbed your attention after all).

Basics

Now that you’ve got a list of designers time to really look at each closely. First, double-check that the designer hits the “basics”. Based on reviewing over 50 articles online, we’ve narrowed our list down to “all designers agree on these rules” – and it’s not a long list. 🙂

  • Title of the book must be large and easy to read
  • Cover must look good in thumbnail format
  • Limit the # of fonts used & be careful of fonts used
  • Avoid clutter–too much of any element is…too much
  • No clip art or personal photos (unless you’re a professional photographer and the book is about your photography)

Genre

The genre is key. A non-fiction self-help book would not work with a cover meant for a romance novel. Does the cover artist specialize in your genre(s)? Do you like their portfolio in the genre your book falls under? Do their covers in your genre reflect the genre well?

Mood/Feel

You’re probably not going to want a cover in all pink with lots of hearts for a thriller. What mood or feel does the artist tend to portray with their previous designs? Even an artist who specializes in the romance genre can still tend toward a particular mood–darker, lighter, mysterious, sensual, cute. Does the artist’s leanings fit with your book?

Specialty Elements

Does the artist specialize or focus on certain elements? Some artists really love to make the text stand out and are fantastic at it. Some focus more on the images being blended, or on a crisp single image with lots of white space. Does this artist focus on elements which are important to you or which would reflect your book well?

Evolving Designs

Just like in the world of books, the world of cover design is constantly in motion. Is this artist a “one trick pony” with similar designs for all their covers? Or do they truly make something unique for each book? Do their designs evolve as they go along?

Logistics

The following are a few logistical questions to consider:

How Custom Is Custom?

Does the artist use stock images? Do they reuse any images that went into your cover? Are the stock images they use showing up on a ton of other book covers?

Price?

This one is dependent on you and your budget. You are usually paying for both the images and for the artist’s time. So if your design is fairly simple, it might be less. Does the artist charge by the cover or by the hour? Can they estimate hours before they start?

What do you get for the fee? 

Some cover artists include both eBook and Print format in their fee, or charge you separately? Some include a bookmark design or banners for your social media? Are there any “extra” you’d like? How much do those cost? What rights do you have?

Turnaround Time

What is the cover designer’s schedule? How fast can they create your cover? If they are busy, sometimes this can be months. Make sure you’re planning ahead if you want to release at a certain time or do a cover reveal.

# of Proofs

Do they do a few design concepts for you to choose from? Is there an extra fee involved for changes? How long do those changes take?

 

Conclusion

Your cover is often, if not always, the first impression a reader has of your book. This is why almost every “self-publishing tips” article out there stresses that when deciding where to spend your money as a self-published author, the book cover is one of the places to do so.

Hopefully these tips will help you find that perfect cover designer for you. Of course, we hope you’ll consider Authors On A Dime. Check out our portfolio and pricing options. Let us know if you have any questions. And happy cover designer hunting!

 

 

 

Publishing Tips: Writing the Blurb

Blurb MemeSome writers love to write the blurb, and some can’t stand this step in the publishing process. No matter if you love it or hate it, the blurb is one of the key elements which helps sell your book to new readers. Therefore you want to create the best blurb you can.

Oh, and by the way, many publishing houses have the author write the blurb. At smaller publishers, your blurb is often what ends up getting used with few to zero changes. Some bigger publishers have dedicated blurb writers, but they likely will start with what you already have.

THE POINT: Blurb writing is an important skill to develop whether you are self-published or traditional.

Today we’re going to provide a list of tips to help you write your blurb. We’ll be using the blurb from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code as an example to highlight our tips.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. Solving the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of da Vinci…clues visible for all to see…and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion—an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and da Vinci, among others. The Louvre curator has sacrificed his life to protect the Priory’s most sacred trust: the location of a vastly important religious relic, hidden for centuries.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who appears to work for Opus Dei—a clandestine, Vatican-sanctioned Catholic sect believed to have long plotted to seize the Priory’s secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s secret—and a stunning historical truth—will be lost forever.

In an exhilarating blend of relentless adventure, scholarly intrigue, and cutting wit, symbologist Robert Langdon (first introduced in Dan Brown’s bestselling Angels & Demons) is the most original character to appear in years. The Da Vinci Code heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller…surprising at every twist, absorbing at every turn, and in the end, utterly unpredictable…right up to its astonishing conclusion.

Publishing-Tips.fwLook at Genre Samples

The first thing you should do is look at successful books in your genre and read the blurbs. See if you can find similarities. Blurbs differ for various genres. For example, romance books often include a dual perspective in the blurb – both the hero and heroine get equal focus. But most other genres do not, focusing on one character’s perspective.

Keep It Short

Keep your blurb short. We’re talking 100-300 words total (and 300 is really pushing it).  If you are a new author, shorter is better so try for 150. Best-selling authors can get longer because they have an established readership and a recognizable name for new readers. Therefore, readers are more forgiving. Readers new to an author they’ve never heard of won’t have much patience with long blurbs.

BROWN EXAMPLE: The blurb above is 264 words. What do you think? Initially seems long? If you’d never heard of him, would you have read all of that? The portion that is just about the book’s plot (and not marketing hype) is only 198 words.

How Much to Reveal?

While there are some key bits of information to get across (see next tip) you still want to leave a mystery for your readers to discover. DON’T summarize the plot. The blurb is not a book report, it’s a marketing tool. DON’T give away spoilers or state the secret. Hint at it, sure. But don’t give it away. Make them buy the book to find out what happens.

BROWN EXAMPLE: References a secret about a religious relic, but doesn’t get specific about what relic or what secret.

Utilize Key Elements

There are key elements in just about every (good) blurb you read. Try to incorporate them. Just remember…this is not a book report. So don’t use the below in that way. 🙂

1. Introduce Main Character(s)/Protagonist(s)

Get the name in there. The majority of the time that’s all you need. Add personality hints, occupation, age, or other details only if it matters. We don’t need every aspect of their physical, mental, spiritual state (unless it’s key to your plot and could help sell readers).

BROWN EXAMPLE: The main character is introduced in the first sentence, “…Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon…

2. Work in Setting if Possible/Relevant

Again, this doesn’t need to be a glowing description. Give your readers an idea of where the characters will be. Is this futuristic and set in space? Is this a cowboy romance set in Texas? Is this is city life set in New York? If the setting is key, you might include more. But remember word count limitations. Include only if important.

BROWN EXAMPLE: Quick hitting, but effective. “While in Paris on business…” “In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond…”

3. State the Problem/Catalyst

Answer one of these questions: What starts the drama? What’s the issue? What does the main character need which they don’t have now? What opportunity or question or information is presented which changes the character’s world as they know it?

BROWN EXAMPLE: Established early… “the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher.”

4. State the Journey/Mission

What journey results from the above problem/need/opportunity/catalyst? What does the character need to achieve to fix things or change things or achieve things?

BROWN EXAMPLE: Comes right after the catalyst. “Solving the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of da Vinci…”

5. State the Conflict (Road Block)

What roadblock (person, external issue, internal issue, situation) is going to cause the journey to be more difficult?

BROWN EXAMPLE: Comes after establishing a bit more of the journey and a secondary character. “Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who appears to work for Opus Dei—a clandestine, Vatican-sanctioned Catholic sect believed to have long plotted to seize the Priory’s secret.”

6. What’s at Stake?

If the character fails in their journey what’s on the line? What are the consequences? (In other words, the key reason they bother to go on the journey.)

BROWN EXAMPLE: Final sentence of the blurb focused on the book (before the marketing hype). “Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s secret—and a stunning historical truth—will be lost forever.”

First Sentence Hook

New readers rarely get past the first line of your blurb, so make it count. Include the hook (usually the catalyst–see above) in the first sentence, or very quickly afterward.

BROWN EXAMPLE: Includes the first part of the catalyst (a murder). “While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum.”

Final Sentence Question/Cliffhanger

Use the last sentence to leave the readers wanting to find out what happens. Make it a cliffhanger. Or a common technique is to ask a question. Often this is where you would work in the “what’s at stake” portion of your blurb (see above).

BROWN EXAMPLE: Includes what’s at stake (the secret). “Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s secret—and a stunning historical truth—will be lost forever.”

Word Choice

Watch your word choice when writing your blurb. You have very few words to convey a ton of information, so make every single word count.  Keep in mind the following:

1. Active Verbs & Nouns

Use nouns and verbs which pack a lot of punch. DON’T use it, there, was, were (and those are the worse examples). DO use words that jump off the page. Your blurb is going to feel overly dramatic, but that’s the point. Hyperbole in a blurb is actually a good thing (if used wisely).

BROWN EXAMPLE: Here are a few verbs/nouns in the blurb above: stunned to discover, sacrificed, joins forces, secret society, protect, sacred trust, match wits…and so forth.

2. Adjectives that Add

Use adjectives in your blurb that add something important. Select ones that help you beef up the interest level, provide additional information, set the mood, or add to the genre or feel of your book.

BROWN EXAMPLE: baffling cipher, enigmatic riddle, breathless race, elderly curator, faceless powerbroker, labyrinthine puzzle, stunning historical truth…and so forth.

3. Genre Indicators

Use words which help you indicate your genre. Mysteries use words like shadowy, underground, attack, desperate. Military might use words like special ops, decisive, secure, battle. Romances might use words like dream, soul, fate, vow, beauty. Get the point?

BROWN EXAMPLE: Here are a few genre indicator words in the blurb above: murdered, trail of clues, plotted, secret society, hidden for centuries, decipher…and so forth.

 

4. Avoid Clichés

Try to avoid words and phrases that are so overused they bore readers or make them roll their eyes. Examples: “In a world,” “love of her life,” “must solve the mystery.”

BROWN EXAMPLE: Brown’s blurb never says they “must solve the mystery.” Instead phrases like “trail of clues” and “decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time” replace those overused phrases.

Think Quotable/Tweetable

Use shorter phrases. If you can make several of the phrases “tweetable” even better. By tweetable, we mean a short phrase which will stand by itself (without the rest of the blurb), and not only make sense, but catch reader’s attention. Phrases you would tweet. (By the way…agents and editors look for these quotable phrases in your query.)

BROWN EXAMPLE: Brown’s blurb is littered with fantastic quotable/tweetable phrases including:

Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher.
The Louvre curator has sacrificed his life to protect the Priory’s most sacred trust.
The location of a vastly important religious relic, hidden for centuries.
Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker.
The Priory’s secret—and a stunning historical truth—will be lost forever.

Don’t Compare or Brag

Let the big publishers add the “bragging” stuff –which you’ll often see for the best-selling authors. But if you are not a huge author, quit it. Don’t compare (“The next Dan Brown.”), because you want to be unique, and the comparison, as a relative unknown, comes off arrogant. Don’t brag (“This is the best story you’ll ever read.”), because that’s a turn off for most readers. Let your marketing department, once you’re big enough to have the attention of one, do that for you down the road.

Legitimate Extras

Yes, we just said don’t brag. However, there are some legitimate ways to entice readers that are more effective (i.e. not a turn off). These items should be included before or after the part of the blurb that describes the book itself. We recommend after, because, personally, we care about the book info, not the credentials. But that’s definitely a personal preference.

1. Author Credentials

Have you hit “best-selling” status on a major list (we are not talking about the Amazon free list for 1 day)? Have you won several awards? Adding a quick sentence like “From award-winning author Joe Smith…” can work well.

2. Author Quotes

Is a well-known author in your genre willing to read your book and provide a positive quote. By all means, include their quote in your blurb.

Write Several Versions

DON’T write one version and say, “Good enough.” Write a few versions of your blurb. Tinker with the phrasing for each and every sentence. Tinker with the combination and order of your sentences. Tinker with everything. Wait a few days, and then look at all your combinations with fresh eyes, and tinker some more.

Get Other Opinions

There are tons of ways to get other opinions. DON’T just run it by your mother/husband/best friend who may or may not read that genre and probably aren’t marketing experts. Offer up your 2-3 favorite versions for other people to vote (on your blog, on Facebook). Create a poll. Send it to author groups you belong to or author friends you trust. If you have an editor, run it by them. Even ask people for edits or suggestions.

Optional: Seek Outside Help

Authors On A Dime can help you with your blurb. Whether it’s editing the final version to make sure it’s perfect, or helping you write it from scratch. We would love to help! Check out more of our Blurb services now.