Enjoy this week’s selection of articles and be sure to check back here again next Sunday for the 90th edition of Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies blog carnival! You can always access our previous posts if you happened to miss them using the following links:
Kristen Lamb on Kristen Lamb Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi Dreams or Delusions? The Real Odds of Author Success
“Many new writers have a passionate dream of being a full-time, well-paid, maybe even famous author…until we see the odds of reaching those dreams.”
Lisa Tener on Lisa Tener Book Writing Coach 8 Tips to Get Great Amazon Book Reviews
“One strategy that can help catapult your book to page one on Amazon results are your Amazon book reviews. Of course, your book needs to be categorized well on Amazon (with the right keywords and categories). It needs to be well-written, too! But after these “givens” reviews rock.”
A question I get asked often is about the difference between different formats of ebooks.
Well, we’ve talked extensively about the difference between mobi (Kindle ebooks) and ePub (everyone else).
But what about the other major format labels that are bandied about? Specifically, what’s the difference between ePub2 and ePub3, and should I care?
We won’t get too geeky here, but we should be able to clear up those distinctions pretty easily.
A Brief History Lesson: the Kindle, the iPad, and ePub 2
The ePub standard— the website in a box that I’ve been talking about here for a while — has been around since the early part of this century. Its first iteration, logically called ePub version 1.0, never really caught on commercially; it was primitive, but more to the point, there was not really a way to read or buy ebooks in ePub format. [i]
That changed in 2007 with the birth of the Kindle — which used the competing mobi file format created for old Palm Pilots. Attached as it was to Amazon, the Kindle created an immediate retail ecosystem for ebook readers and publishers. The ebooks were visually…. less than beautiful. Limited typography, no color, primitive layout, and low-resolution images. But the system worked. And readers loved them. [ii]
Then, in 2010, Apple launched the iPad, doing for ebooks what the iPod had done for digital music — creating an easy, attractive, legal way to buy and enjoy ebooks.
By this time the ePub standard had evolved considerably. ePub version 2.1 (aka ePub2) became the de facto ebook standard that was embraced by a number of retailers that followed Apple — Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony (again) and many more. Everyone except Amazon, who were happy with their closed Kindle garden.
Many of these new tablets could display in color. And the new ePub2 files, being based on the same HTML that drives the Web, allowed for much greater sophistication with regards to text formatting and layout.
Quickly, Apple and the other retailers took a bite out of Amazon’s pie; the folks up in Seattle decided that maybe it was time to make some new Kindles that could do the same things that the interlopers’ ereaders could. The result was the Kindle Fire, and a whole line of new Kindles (the Paperwhite, the Voyage, the Oasis) that read ebooks based not on the old Palm-Pilot format (which Amazon calls MOBI7), but on a new, fancy format called KF8. [iii] Which is, I am sure you will be shocked — shocked! — to discover, nothing more than their version of ePub. [iv]
ePub3 Is Born
In the early years of this decade, the International Digital Publishers Forum (the group who oversaw the creation of the ePub standard) continued to look at ways to improve the ePub format. This new iteration was called (logically) ePub version 3.0 (aka ePub3).[v] A number of innovations and refinements came along with the new version. Broadly speaking they included:
HTML5 and CSS3 adoption
Ability to add media (aka video and audio) as well as scripting
More sophisticated metadata
The ability to create fixed-format ebooks
I promise, I won’t get too geeky. Really. Suffice it to say that the newer language of web allows for much more sophisticated structuring and formatting of ebooks.
Just get a little geeky: the new version of HTML introduced a number of new elements — the building blocks out of which you create a web page or ebook. It also allowed for a number of functions that were specifically useful to ebooks.
For example, take the new <aside></aside> block element. It can be used instead of a <p></p> (paragraph) element to create a small section of text that isn’t part of the main flow of the narrative — for example, a sidebar:
Or, say an endnote that pops up on the screen, rather than taking you to a different page. [vi]
Other new ebook-specific elements include <chapter></chapter>, <section></section>, <title></title> and many more. These hold the promise of simple, self-creating navigation pages, easier accessibility for disabled folks, and more — in the future. But most of that functionality is current un-utilized.
The CSS too is much more sophisticated — and like the HTML can be used to make the ebook easier to read for the disabled, for example, or to display much niftier layout and typographic effects. [vii]
One of the most noticeable differences between ePub2 and ePub3 is that the navigation is handled not by an NCX document but on an HTML contents page. This page provides the drop-down navigation menu:
That menu is simply plucked from the very slightly specialized HTML contents page:
It’s just another page in the book — not an esoteric XML-based NCX document. Now, there are a couple of added bits to let the ereader know this is the table of contents: the <nav epub:type=”toc” id=”toc”> element, for example, and a <landmark> entry further down that identifies this files as the table of contents. Still, it’s much easier to pull together.
And you can (and probably should) generate an NCX anyway for backward compatibility (see below).
I still love this as an idea. Unfortunately, it has continued to be just an idea for most independent publishers for three reasons:
File size limitations — Most retailers are strict in their limits to the size of ebooks or (I’m looking at you, Amazon) take a cut off the top of every sale based on file size; images swell file size somewhat, but audio and especially video positively explode it[ix]
Privacy concerns — No retailer that I’m aware of allows custom scripting, because of the potential for huge security problems[x]
Retail limitations — All of the major retailers sell multimedia ebooks — from major retailers; only Apple and Kobo take them from independents[xi]
In addition, beyond the wow-that’s-cool factor, multimedia ebooks really don’t seem to have found a market outside of children’s picture books and some textbooks. [xii]
So we find ourselves still in the situation I wrote about on my blog in 2014, where multimedia in your ebooks is a nifty idea, but there’s nowhere to sell them profitably, and even if you could, there’s no proven market.
More Sophisticated Metadata
This is pretty esoteric, but ePub3 allows for a much richer, standardized amount of metadata — allowing you to embed everything from the title and author’s name (in last-name-first-name and first-name-last-name order) to the ISBN, the description, the publication date, the book designer’s name, the accessibility features, and much, much more. And all of it follows the bibliographic Dublin Core standard.
Honestly, you’re probably not going to get terribly worked up about it, but it means that you can embed more information in your ebook that retailers and libraries can use later to find your book.
And you want them to find your book, don’t you?
One of the things that ePub3 allowed was the creation of fixed-format ebooks — ePub files that mimicked the look and layout of paper-and-ink books, but with the ability to add the sophistications that we’ve mentioned above — particularly audio (i.e., read-along tracks), video, and scripting to handle things like animation or the import of up-to-the-minute data, images, etc.
Having said that, not all of the retailers (and none of the aggregators) accept fixed-format ebooks.
I’ll discuss this option in depth next time out.
All of us have had the experience of a new app not working on our old computer — or our new phone not opening a favorite old file. In creating ePub3, the IDPF tried to make sure that all ebooks and ebook readers that met the standard were backward compatible — that is, most old ereaders can read a nifty new ePub3 file just fine, and most new ereaders can read an old ePub2 file without any trouble. Mind, the old ereader won’t be able to take advantage of all of the bells and whistles I’ve mentioned above, and the old ebook won’t suddenly gain new features on a new ereader.
But if you’re running a five-year-old Nook you should still be able to read the newest ePub files — and if you’re running a brand-new iPad Pro, it should read a ten-year-old ebook without trouble.
The Showdown: ePub2 vs. ePub3
As recently as 2016, I recommended that my clients stick to ePub 2 — precisely because of backward compatibility. Several of the major retailers still hadn’t adopted ePub3, and they used different versions of the standard, [xiii] but all of them accepted ePub2 files. So unless there was a compelling reason (i.e., you wanted to publish a fixed-format children’s picture book or a multimedia textbook, for example), there didn’t seem to be a reason to use ePub3.
At this point every one of the major retailers and aggregators welcomes ePub3 files. They’re more flexible, with the ability to add features (such as accessibility for the disabled or multimedia or fancier styling via CSS3). Even the major ebook creation and editing software works natively with ePub3 at this point.
ePub3 is the future. It’s time to embrace it.
Next time, we’ll look at a specific case where ePub3 offers options that ePub2 doesn’t: fixed-format versus reflowable ebooks.
[i] Sony, Microsoft, and Mobipocket (for Palm PDAs — remember those?) all tried to create such systems, each with a proprietary file format, but ultimately failed.
[ii] They still do; those old Kindles are nigh-on indestructible, with millions still in use.
[iii] As I’ve pointed out before, the .mobi file created by KDP or by Kindle Previewer is actually a MOBI7 Palm file and a KF8 ePub3 file smooshed together in a single package.
[iv] Specifically, ePub3. Shh. We’re getting to that.
[v] The version that most new-style ebooks use is actually some variation of ePub 3.0.1. There is a version 3.1… but it looks as if that version is being scrapped. Stay tuned.
[vi] To see how I created that effect, see the wonderful Liz Castro’s post, Creating pop-up footnotes in ePub 3 (and therefore in iBooks) .
[vii] You can have the fonts display differently for the blind or dyslexic, for example. For more, read the IDPF’s page on ePub Accessibility.
[viii] See EPUBZone’s ePub and Interactivity.
[ix] See my post on StillpointDigital.com about How Long Can Video in Ebooks Be?
[x] Apple does have a bunch of nifty pre-fab widgets that you can add with its iBooks Author ebook-creation app.
[xi] Amazon sort of says that it takes them. I’ve never seen it actually work, however.
[xii] And even those seem to have proven less effective than hoped.
[xiii] Actually, that’s still true. But less and less important.
We’ve all been there: a book we were excited about, one that we worked on earnestly.
But when it hit the market, all that came back was a big yawn.
No author wants to be in that situation, most of all a self-published author. We gamble our own time, money, and commitment to our books, and we really need a positive response sometimes just to keep going.
But there it is: your baby isn’t selling.
What went wrong? Is it something you can fix, or is it embedded in the DNA of your book, a flaw so grave it can never recover?
Take a look at this list and see if you’ve been guilty of any of these oversights.
And don’t feel too bad, we all make mistakes, miss important road signs, get confused on the journey to publication.
Take heart, one book won’t be the beginning and end of your publishing career, and there are essential lessons to lear from every book you publish, no matter how well or poorly it sells.
Here are some common reasons your book may not be selling as well as you’d like, and embedded in each reason is the key to how you might overcome that particular obstacle.
Why Isn’t My Book Selling???
You didn’t hire an editor—It’s easier than ever to locate editors, either through referrals, editorial websites, or the freelance markets that have arisen to fill the needs of indie authors.
Your cover is boring or off-target, or worse—While it used to be difficult to find cover designers and expensive to hire them, that’s no longer true. Today’s best designers for indie authors work more quickly, and with great knowledge of the genres they design for.
You didn’t do any marketing—Marketing isn’t selling, it’s letting the right group of people know about the ways your book will fill their needs, whatever they may be. It doesn’t happen by itself.
You marketed, but your marketing is all about you—Other writers may be interested in your process, your publishing timeline, or your biography, but until readers become fans, concentrate on their needs.
Nobody knows you published the book—Putting some thought, planning and effort into launching your book is a great place to start.
You only have 25 people on your email list (and you know them all)—The time to grow your is before you publish your book. Give yourself enough time to gather the community that will support your publishing.
The book has no “reason to exist”—Does your book stand out? Does it contribute something that wasn’t available before? Offer unique insights, research, or entertainment?
Your book isn’t available in the right formats—More than ever before readers have options as to how they read, and it’s up to you as the publisher to answer them. Determine the right balance to print, ebooks, audiobooks for your readership.
You forgot to research keywords and categories—Metadata in all its forms has become more and more important to making your books visible online.
Nobody understands your title—Don’t defeat your communication by getting too cute with titles. And for nonfiction books, realize how valuable an effective subtitle can be. These key elements are worth your best work.
You wrote it to appeal to “everyone”—You’ll sell more books if you can accurately identify the ideal market for your book.
Your 200 page paperback novel is priced at $29.95—Sometimes authors get so far out front of their project they lose touch with common sense. Study the pricing of books like yours that are selling well.
You wrote about a subject so obscure sales are negligible—This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as a publisher you need to have some feeling for the potential size of the market, especially when writing very specialized books.
You rushed to get your book out “in time” for Valentines/Christmas/the Olympics/your birthday—One of the best indicators of sales success is the quality of your book. Producing the best book you can is made much more difficult by artificial and, in the end, futile deadlines.
You expected to sell more books more quickly than is realistic—There’s no escaping our own way of defining “success” when it comes to book sales. What pleases one author disappoints another.
As in any effort in life, understanding your own goals will go a long way to making sure you get satisfaction of every kind from your publishing projects.
I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom:
“It doesn’t matter how you publish, most books don’t sell very well… As authors, we can be thrilled with a handful of sales a month or miserable with “only” 10,000.”—Hugh Howey, bestselling author
It’s March Break here next week, a.k.a. Spring Break. If it happens to be Spring Break where you are and you’re off on a travel adventure, be sure to stay safe, have fun and try to find some time to read this week’s great selection of informative articles on self-publishing.
Big Al on Indies Unlimited You’re So Vain: Vanity Presses Versus Self-Publishing
“Over the years we’ve have several posts regarding companies that some call vanity presses or vanity publishers. About three years ago we had an entire series of posts about these companies, called #PublishingFoul.”
L.L. Barkat on Jane Friedman Why Blog—From the Writer Who Said Goodbye to Blogging
“I promise it wasn’t a stunt. Since it’s been more than five years, I’m thinking you’ll give me that. … See, in late 2012, I said goodbye to blogging. I even wrote about it in a bold way here at Jane’s place. But, just this week, I started blogging again.”
Tim Grahl on Book Launch The Connection System Book Marketing 101
“Book marketing can be a huge, disastrously overwhelming topic that includes conversations about Twitter and Instagram and Facebook pages and blogs and podcasts and ads and a hundred other things.”
Scott McCormick on Bookbaby Blog Publishers Are Hiring Sensitivity Readers … Should You?
“The push for more diversity in publishing can sometimes be at odds with the “write what you know” dictum. Writers who want to make their books more diverse want to get it right, which is why authors looking to self-publish might consider engaging sensitivity readers.”
This week, the New York Times will launch its new audiobook bestseller list, which will appear online on March 8 and in print in the Sunday Book Review on March 18.
Libro.fm, which partners with the American Booksellers Association to offer independent bookstores the opportunity for audiobook sales, reports to the New York Times on behalf of the more than 400 bookstores participating in the Libro.fm indie partner program.
The New York Times’ new audiobook bestseller list will feature the top 15 fiction and top 15 nonfiction audiobook lists, based on sales from the previous month. The lists combine digital and physical audio sales.
If you’re like most authors, the long process of writing and publishing your book feels like you’ve crossed the finish line after running a marathon.
But unlike a road race, you’re not done. The success of your book depends on approaching people, companies and groups and asking for their help to publicize, promote and sell it. This is called pitching.
You can pitch story ideas related to your book to journalists who can give you publicity. You can pitch bookstores to carry your book so more people buy it.You can pitch trade associations to buy your book in bulk for their members.
But most authors hate pitching and many don’t bother at all. They rely solely on Amazon, where competition for book sales is fierce.
Here are nine things consider when it comes time to pitch your book—before, during or after your launch.
1. Start with Your 15-Second Pitch
Depending on what you’re pitching, the 15 seconds it takes could be among the most important 15 seconds in the life of your book or your career.
Before you pitch anyone, you must identify your ideal readers, journalists and other people and organizations who you will be pitching. They must be a perfect fit. Your pitch must explain what’s in it for them or their audiences.
Once you know this information, it’s time to write your pitch. Book shepherd Judith Briles, whose guest posts you read here, encourages you to use several statistics in your pitch. Here’s the before-and-after version of my own elevator pitch after I heard this advice:
“I’m publicity expert Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, and I teach authors, speakers, experts, CEOs and small business owners how to get thousands of dollars in free publicity and tell their story to the world, without an expensive publicist.”
Watch what happens when I add three numbers.
“I’m publicity expert Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, and over the last 22 years, I’ve mentored, coached and taught more than 50,000 authors, speakers, experts, CEOs and small business owners how to get thousands of dollars in free publicity and tell their story to the world, without a $20,000 publicist.”
2. A Print or Digital Journalist
These include reporters for the print or digital versions of newspapers, magazines, trade and professional journals, and print and electronic newsletters.
Different types of publications have different deadlines. You must know the deadline before you pitch. If you’re not sure, go to their website, look for a “Contact Us” form and ask.
You will see far more success if you pitch story ideas one at a time to each journalist instead
of pitching the same idea to 10 journalists simultaneously.
Don’t pitch your book. Pitch a topic or idea related to it.
3. A Freelance Journalist
Freelancers include writers, editors, columnists and contributors who are independent contractors and sell their work to media outlets.
A freelancer can use you as a source many times, depending on who’s buying their work. That means more publicity for you, especially if you respond quickly to interview requests and give them what they need.
4. A Follow-up Pitch to Journalists or Freelancers
Journalists are fond of saying, “We don’t like follow-ups.” What they really mean is, “We don’t like crappy follow-ups.”
I’ve followed up many times and gotten stories. As a blogger and newsletter publisher, I appreciate it when people follow up with me a few weeks after pitching an idea because too many things fall through the cracks on my end.
A crappy follow-up sounds like this:
“I’m just following up to see if you got the message I sent on Oct. 15 about….”
If interested, the journalist has to search his Inbox for the original email which takes time.
Instead, make it easy for him to say yes. Make it sound like you’re doing him a favor.
And make it super-easy. Forward the original email. At the top, write a few sentences reminding him that you contacted him earlier, and then offer something extra that’s related to the topic you pitched – something he can use if he covers your story. Those include things like a related video you’ve created, a link to a podcast, a quiz or a tips list.
5. An Article You’ve Written
One of the best ways to promote your book is by writing articles for print or online publications. These should be articles that tie into the topic of your book, either directly or indirectly, or articles that promote your expertise. You should write for publications that target your ideal readers.
If you’re new to pitching articles, don’t aim for top-tier publications like Real Simple or Inc. magazine because they use mostly articles written by staff writers or paid freelancers. Choose smaller niche publications that appeal to your ideal readers. Editors at smaller publications are more likely to accept your articles.
You’ll find publications galore in Writer’s Market 2018.
6. A Radio Show
A big mistake authors make when trying to get onto a radio show as a guest is the same mistake most of them make when trying to get any type of publicity. They pitch their books.
Deejays and talk show hosts don’t care about your book. Even if they schedule you to be on their show and you send a book, 9 out of 10 interviewers won’t read it.
Here’s what they do want: a sizzling hook that’s tied to your book or area of expertise.
Remember the AshleyMadison.com scandal in 2015? The website, which connects people who want to have an affair, was hacked. Its database of users ended up online. That major news story would have been the perfect tie-in or “hook” for anyone who writes romance novels or nonfiction about how to have a happy marriage. You don’t have to be an expert on cheating in a relationship. But you can be an entertaining guest who tells listeners how to bring romance back into their lives so they aren’t tempted to cheat.
Radio producers and program hosts want you to share your knowledge and explain what’s in it for them. If they have you on their show, guess what they will mention? Your book.
7. A Guest Blog Post
Writing for other people’s blogs is one of the best ways to bring new traffic to your own website or blog.
Many bloggers love using guest posts because the articles bring different perspectives to the blog. They offer expertise in areas the blogger might not be familiar with. And bloggers like a break now and then and welcome contributions from other writers.
If you haven’t started your own blog yet, that’s OK. You can still write for other blogs. The quickest way to find blogs in your niche is by searching Google: “top blogs for single dads” or “best blogs for Thai cooking” or “blog about teaching chemistry.”
Choose topics that will interest readers, preferably topics that tie into your book. Examples:
If you write Westerns, write an article about the history of cowboy boots for a blog devoted to Western clothing.
An author who writes sci-fi fiction can write about the best science fiction comics.
If you write about executive leadership, share tips about the most important things leaders do to start their day. Include examples from your book.
An author who’s an expert on gardening and has written a book on flowering bulbs can explain how to remove dahlia bulbs in late fall, store them over winter, and replant in the spring.
8. Review Request to Readers
When readers finish your book, remind them to review it.
You can do this one of two ways:
With a short handwritten note. You can use inexpensive 4-by-6-inch note paper, printed with your logo and full contact information, the perfect size for slipping into the back of the book.
Insert an 8-by-11-inch printed sheet or half-sheet that asks for a review and also lets readers know about other products and services you offer.
Insert these reminders into books you sell at book signings, at speaking engagements, shipped from your office or fulfillment house, or anywhere else. A few gutsy authors I know even visit bookstores, take their books off the shelves, slip notes into the back of their books and return the books to the shelves – while no one is watching.
9. Ask for a Book Blurb
A book blurb is a short promotional recommendation that explains why someone should read your book.
It appears on the dust jacket or back cover, and can be used in your marketing materials. If readers are uncertain about whether to read your book, several well-written blurbs might push them off the fence and force them to reach for a credit card or download a sample to their Kindles or iPads.
A blurb can be written by a famous person, or it can be a short excerpt from a book review.
Here’s a blurb on the back cover of The New Rules of Marketing & PR by author David Meerman Scott.
“David is informative, entertaining and inspiring! No one knows more about new ways to reach buyers. The groundbreaking strategies in this book reinvent the way entrepreneurs engage the marketplace and grow business.” — Tony Robbins
The people who you ask to write a blurb for your book don’t have to be as famous as Tony Robbins. But they must matter to your audience. Consider asking people whose names your readers will recognize. They can be industry leaders, journalists or influential bloggers. If you write fiction, they can be other well-known authors in your niche.
Templates for all of these pitches and more are in “19 Quick & Easy Ways to Pitch Your Book,” a learning tool that makes it easy to recruit an army of people to help you sell books. The package includes a 116-page guidebook that walks you step by step through my 5-part formula on how to pitch and trims weeks off the chore of finding the right people who will welcome your pitch.
Today I’m happy to welcome back self-published author and book marketing guru Dave Chesson. Today Dave has a great lesson on how to draw inspiration for your book cover designs from bestselling books. Enjoy.
Have you ever come across a book cover design so striking that you not only stop and admire it, but also analyze and learn from it?
The best book covers are more than just attractive adornments to the books we love. They also offer ideas and inspiration we can use to guide our own work.
There’s no limit to the vast array of inspirational covers out there. Books of all genres and types have covers that not only please the eye but also inspire the mind.
We’ll now explore the covers of three bestselling books, using their art as a basis for education, inspiration and, of course, appreciation.
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Wonder by RJ Palacio is a children’s book which has a moving message to match its powerful story.
The book’s main character, 10 year old boy Auggie Pullman, has a facial deformity. After being homeschooled for most of his life, Auggie joins a 5th grade class in school. Wonder tells the story from the perspective of both Auggie and his classmates.
Wonder‘s message of tolerance, compassion, and kindness touched over 6 million readers and was adapted into a critically acclaimed motion picture starring Julia Roberts.
Wonder‘s cover was designed by Tad Carpenter, although interestingly RJ Palacio was herself a book cover designer for over two decades before focusing on writing. As a result of her experience as both designer and writer, Palacio was able to provide instructions for the cover which gave the right amount of guidance while still allowing Carpenter to express his own artistry.
Wonder‘s cover makes use of a simple three color scheme, using blue, white, and black. The result is simple and easy on the eye.
The main image is an illustration of a slightly out of proportion head, with a single eye. The book title text appears in the shape of an eyebrow.
Both the author name and the book’s tagline appear in a handwritten font at the top and bottom of the cover respectively.
Overall, the cover is appropriate for the children’s book genre. The illustration directly relates to the theme of facial deformity, the use of the single eye relates to the book’s narration from multiple perspectives, and the handwritten style of the cover text is appropriate for the intimate, personal nature of the book.
There are many points of inspiration to take from Wonder‘s cover. No matter whether you’re writing a children’s book or not, some of the ways you can apply ideas from Wonder to your own book cover include:
A carefully chosen three color scheme. Many books feature a vast array of covers, or realistic photography. However, Wonder is an example of how striking and eye catching the classic ‘rule of three’ can be.
Can you incorporate your book title into your main cover image? Wonder is able to make its title a cohesive part of its main image. You should only do this if it’s a natural fit, as it is here.
Matching your book cover text to the feel of your book. The handwritten style works well here because of the personal and intimate nature of the story. You should ensure the text on your cover is just as fitting for the written content of your book.
The Wealth Of Nations by Adam Smith
The Wealth of Nations is a classic and perennially bestselling treatise on macroeconomics from Adam Smith.
The book explores the reason why some nations are wealthier than others, the purpose of using money, and the role of free trade in a nation’s fortunes.
Adam Smith is famous for the economic concept of the ‘invisible hand’. While Wealth of Nations does mention this concept directly, it features more heavily in Smith’s other works.
Although The Wealth of Nations has been published with a wide variety of covers over the years, the above example is a result of collaboration between designer Emily Mahon and illustrator Ray Morimura.
Emily Mahon is a graphic designer who has provided art direction for books released by some of the biggest publishers in the industry, such as Harper Collins and the Penguin Group. Her covers have won awards for their striking and unique concepts.
Ray Morimura is a Japanese artist who studied at Tokyo Gakugei University. He is known for producing both classic oil paintings as well as his own style of linocut prints. His work for The Wealth of Nations is an example of his landscape style which he has described as “zen and spiritual.”
For The Wealth of Nations‘ cover, Emily Mahon has made ingenious use of white space over the top of Ray Morimura’s beautiful landscape illustration.
While Morimura’s visual art is more of a backdrop than it is anything directly relating to the topic of the book, it does manage to allude to the idea of a nation or place.
The most impressive aspect of this cover is Mahon’s use of white space in the shape of a hand. The hand is poised as if in a holding position. This white space serves as both an allusion to the concept of ‘the invisible hand’, and also provides space and contrast against Morimura’s backdrop to feature the book’s title and author text.
There are several ways you can use The Wealth of Nations to inspire your own book cover, no matter whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.
Using white space to contrast with a background image to draw attention to the book title and author name
Matching the style of background image to the feel of the book itself. This is a classic style for a classic book. It probably wouldn’t work as well for a contemporary book, and vice versa.
Making use of an illustrator, even if the overall cover concept is someone else’s vision.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose from Rupi Kaur.
Kaur’s book is arguably the most inspirational in this article as it’s a collection of poetry from a 24 year old author which went on to become a New York Times number 1 bestseller. Even two years on from its release, it’s still the 30th bestselling book on Amazon.
Most impressively of all, Rupi Kaur originally designed and released Milk and Honey through the CreateSpace platform before it was picked up by a publisher. Kaur is living proof of how self-published authors can experience real success by being true to their own creative vision without having to impress traditional gatekeepers.
Rupi Kaur designed the cover herself as well as writing all of the poetry and prose in the book.
Kaur has spoken about how she learned how to combine Adobe InDesign and CreateSpace to achieve her artistic vision. As she didn’t have the money to hire pro designers at the time, she created more than 50 original illustrations over a 72 hour period.
In a word, the cover of Milk and Honey is striking.
The cover uses a distinctive monochromatic look to emphasize the title and author name, both of which are written in a simple, all lowercase font.
Aside from the two pieces of white text against the black background, the cover features two illustrations of bees. The bees are positioned in such a way as to draw attention to the title and author name.
Kaur’s writing deals with both the pain and sweetness of life. Her themes tend to be very dark. This contrast between pain and positivity is represented by the monochromatic cover, as well as the bees, both capable of producing honey as well as painful stings.
Above all else, Milk and Honey is inspirational due to the fact it was entirely designed and released by the author, an unknown writing in a relatively unpopular genre, through the CreateSpace platform.
Aside from Milk and Honey‘s resounding proof that self-publishers can experience the highest levels of success, you can draw inspiration for your book cover from Milk and Honey by:
Matching the color of your cover directly to the tone of your book. Kaur’s focus on the light that can be found amidst the darkest times is perfectly complemented by her striking use of monochrome.
Using subtle layout choices to draw attention to the title and author name. The positioning of the bees is a lesson in manipulating the human eye to see what you want it to see.
Using symbolic cover art. Although this is particularly appropriate for a poetic work such as Milk and Honey, it can be an effective choice for any type of book.
Design Lesson Summary
Three beautiful and entirely different book covers have been used to demonstrate how we can draw inspiration from beautiful art we encounter. In summary,
Title text can be incorporated into your book cover creatively, in a style fitting the book’s tone, as RJ Palacio’s Wonder demonstrates
White space can be crafted in a way to allude to a book’s concept, as well as showcasing the title and author, as seen in The Wealth of Nations
Color choice and image selection can have a symbolic and thematic connection to the book, as shown by Milk and Honey
What are your thoughts on the covers for these three books? Which other books have you learned valuable design lessons from? Feel free to share your musings in the comments.
Dave Chesson teaches authors advanced book marketing tactics at Kindlepreneur.com. He likes sharing in-depth, actionable guides, such as his recent comparison of the best book writing software. His free time is spent in Tennessee with his wife and children.
Lots of information for you here today to keep you educated and informed, as always, about all things self-publishing related. Enjoy!
Sandra Beckwith on Build Book Buzz Are you uncomfortable with book promotion? Try this
“When you think about it like that — when you realize you are providing a service to the people you wrote the book for — it all becomes easier. You become much less uncomfortable with book promotion.”
Frances Caballo on Social Media Just for Writers Are You Ready for Video Because It’s Huge!
“Video, because people watch so much of it, is useful in marketing. At the same time, it’s important to keep your videos to approximately 90 seconds. Five percent of viewers will stop watching a video after 1 minute and 60% by 2 minutes.”
Stephanie Chandler on Nonfiction Authors Association Plan Your Book Launch Tasks
“To begin forming your book marketing plan, start by building a list of tasks. I call this a Book Marketing Action Plan”
Direct Selling by Authors to Readers is on the Rise
The number of authors and publishers selling their books direct to readers in on a dramatic rise.
Perhaps it is a reaction to Amazon offering their BUY buttons to the most profitable vendor. Maybe publishers are embracing the new direct economy, but more books are being sold direct to readers than ever before.
One of the fastest moving trends driving publisher profitability—as seen from the likes of Simon and Schuster and Penguin Random House—has been increasing their direct to reader marketing. Add to that the growing popularity of BookCon events marketed to young readers and the huge growth of attendance AT BookCon, publishers and authors should be educating themselves about this often overlooked segment of the market.
Man, Amazon is changing things up again and we have to make adjustments to how we work with IngramSpark and CreateSpace.
What They Did
Amazon is no longer listing books supplied from IngramSpark as “in stock.” In the past, Amazon would list IngramSpark sourced books as “in stock” because they knew that they could order the book and get them in a day. In the last few months, Amazon has changed this practice. They will only order enough POD IngramSpark sourced books to fill existing orders. Occasionally, they will order a few more when demand shows that they will sell them. Books that previously were listed as “in stock” are no longer and it is dramatically affecting sales.
Books that are also listed with CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) are not affected and shown as “in stock”. (Draw your own conclusions.)
Why We Use IngramSpark for Amazon
CreateSpace does not offer the option for pre-sales so those of us who want to sell and market our books leading up to a release date have to use IngramSpark. IngramSpark makes the book available to bookstores, Libraries, and Amazon ahead of time. For some folks this is a vital point in their marketing plans. Other people want to have hardcover books and CreateSpace does not offer that option. If they want a hardcover version of their books POD on Amazon, then they have to use IngramSpark.
What You Can Do Instead
After the release date, I council folks to then upload their files to CreateSpace. Once the files are accepted, contact CreateSpace and Amazon and ask them to source your Amazon listing through CreateSpace. If you upload the files and DO NOT contact Amazon and CreateSpace to ask them to start sourcing from CreateSpace, then it will be a month or more before the switch-over happens.
Speaking of Amazon, the searchability and findability of new books on Amazon has fallen UNBELIEVABLY. Amazon is trying to get folks to use the AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) which charges for keyword clicks and searches.
What They Did
For the last year, Amazon’s marketing keyword search bidding was relatively straightforward:
Find 1000 authors, book titles, keywords and phrases, and put them up in an ad campaign.
Set a small budget.
Tweak a few times until your have a good list and watch the money ROLL IN.
But now, the same budgets and keyword work is not resulting in the same profits. It may be that too many authors are competing for the same keywords. It may be that Amazon is purposely submerging the search results to encourage authors to spend MORE money per search. It may be that Amazon is no longer giving the independently published books the same chances against the big guys and their OWN published books that they were. (Again, draw your own conclusions.)
What We Can Do Now
Amazon suggests a starting budget of $30 a day and a per click bid of $0.50. DO IT. Start with their suggested budget.
Then, it is time to experiment!
Put 1000 search terms up and run an ad for a few days.
Then go in and increase your budget by 50% for the campaign.
And then bump up the bid for each keyword that is getting you a lot of impressions. (Increase 50% as well.)
What we are finding here is that an increase in expenditure is resulting in a higher profit margin.
If you have a new book and are not happy with the sales and exposure your book is getting, I would recommend that TRYING Amazon AMS programs might make a big impact on your book’s exposure.
I’m very pleased to welcome the team at Deranged Doctor Design to The Book Designer as guest judges this month. Deranged Doctor Design is a media and graphic design studio that has specialized in book cover creation since 2014. With five senior cover designers (each specialized in a specific genre), three supporting designers (in charge of promo materials) and two project managers (in charge of project management, booking and client communication), they have designed over 2,000 book covers and more than double that number of promo items.
I’ve added comments (DDD: ) to many of the entries, but not all. Remember that the aim of these posts is educational, and by submitting you are inviting comments, commendations, and constructive criticism.
Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Please leave a comment to let me know which are your favorites or, if you disagree, let me know why.
Although there is only winner in each category, other covers that were considered for the award or which stood out in some exemplary way, are indicated with a gold star: ★
Award winners and Gold-Starred covers also win the right to display our badges on their websites, so don’t forget to get your badge to get a little more attention for the work you’ve put into your book.
Also please note that we are now linking winning covers to their sales page on Amazon or Smashwords.
Now, without any further ado, here are the winners of this month’s e-Book Cover Design Awards.
e-Book Cover Design Award Winner for January 2018 in Fiction
Monique Piscaer Bailey submitted Ed. A matter-of-fact, funny frog book designed by Monique Piscaer Bailey. “I really wanted to keep the cover for Ed super simple, clean and fun. Here it is. ..”
DDD: A wonderful illustration and a fun book cover; I would definitely pick this off the shelf as it transmits such a positive message. Beautiful and unique.
e-Book Cover Design Award Winner for January 2018 in Nonfiction
Chuck Miller submitted Discovering Love Online: Love May Be Closer Than You Think designed by André Jolicoeur. “In the Prologue of the book, I tell the story of Brett and Brianna, two lonely singles seeking love online. In actuality, the tale is about how my wife and I met, and the caricatures on the cover of Brett and Brianna are actually the two of us. They are the Discovering Love Online brand.”
DDD: A positive, eye-catching and captivating cover with top-notch illustration. There is absolute parity between the content and the cover.
Adam Bender submitted The Wanderer and the New West designed by Ben McLeod. “I wanted a pulp or graphic-novel style that would tell readers my Dystopian Western would be fun, dark and modern. I found Ben Mcleod through Reedsy, and thought his gritty, epic style was the perfect match.”
DDD: We like the stencil-style art employed here by the designer, but we’re not sure that the composition communicates a dystopian element. While it does represent an adventurous departure within the genre, aiming for an effect so out of the ordinary might not bring the desired result. We feel that readers might not instantly recognise this as a dystopian western.
Alex Bernstein submitted Miserable Adventure Stories designed by Alex Bernstein. “Cover is a montage designed by the author using Photoshop. Wanting a pulpy feel for the cover, we went to the source: public domain pulps from the last century. A special section in the book discusses the pulps and authors referenced, and websites where readers can learn more about the pubs.”
DDD: We love the retro feel here. However, the author’s name should be larger, and without the yellow stripe behind. The way it’s presented makes it look like afterthought.
Alexandra Brandt submitted Exile designed by Alexandra Brandt. “My first time designing a near-future post-apocalyptic disaster thriller cover.”
DDD: A very strong genre cover, with great font choices. The impression is highly professional. Perhaps showing more of the ‘disaster’ (ruined buildings and so on) would make it even more recognizable as a post-apocalyptic disaster thriller.
Alexandra Brandt submitted GROND: The Blitzkrieg designed by Alexandra Brandt. “Second in Sci-fi YA adventure series. The author had very specific wants/needs I tried to incorporate into the larger series design.”
DDD: Both the art and the chosen fonts communicate the genre very well. When an author has exacting requirements in terms of composition and wants these followed precisely, it usually doesn’t result in good cover. This is an exception to that rule. Congratulations to the designer who managed to deliver an effective, professional-looking cover in spite of the strict guidelines.
DDD: We love the font choice for the title, and the idea behind the composition is great. With a little more polishing this would make a fantastic cover. The author’s name should have been a little smaller because it appears to compete with the title.
Christina Michaels submitted Caught: A Historical Romance designed by Elena Karoumpali (L1graphics). “The cover matches the plot: the female lead (hat lady) takes revenge by having ships sunk. I asked for bright contrasting colors; the sunset/fire and the sea provide an eye-catching blue/orange. I did not want a visual break between the front and back cover. Note how her shoulder becomes the alley.”
DDD: A charming cover, on which the composition is first rate. Each element stands out incredibly well. ★
Dan Van Oss submitted Watching Glass Shatter designed by Dan Van Oss.
DDD: A confident genre cover, with superb text layout and font choice. The overall effect is quite good, but somehow it lacks a specific focal point (perhaps the red leaves should only appear on the upper part).
Dan Van Oss submitted Endangered designed by Dan Van Oss.
DDD: This cover and the next (Last Word) belong in a series, but apart from the subtitle (and title font) nothing connects the two. The composition as well as the overall feel are entirely different. Consistency, a must in series design, is not in evidence.
Dan Van Oss submitted Last Word designed by Dan Van Oss.
Donna Huston Murray submitted For Better or Worse designed by Alex Albornoz. “The designer lives in Venezuela. She found Eduard Moldoveneau’s photo of Philadelphia’s landmark Boathouse Row online. Luckily, I found him in NJ and was able to purchase the license. My series is set on Philadelphia’s “Main Line.””
DDD: A cosy mystery such as this requires a much lighter cover composition. The sky and the water are too dark. The font choice/treatment for the title looks too plain.
DDD: We really like the retro feel here. Great title font choice. Pops out nicely.
Erin Michelle Sky submitted The Wendy designed by Benjamin P Roque. “This was a 99designs contest, paid for by our writing patrons on Patreon. Our patrons chose B-Ro’s design by a landslide.”
DDD: A disturbing cover. Not sure what’s going on in terms of the action depicted. What’s the second man doing in the girl’s hair? If this was an attempt at the ‘double exposure’ technique, then it wasn’t executed successfully. Having just the girl on the cover would be a much better option. That said, the title design is good.
francheska fifield submitted Kemp designed by Lola Kyle. “It is part of a series so the font was an important decision since it had to work for every book in the series, each with a new plot and added characters. The cover was to represent one of the characters most important in this particular book in the series and the explosive changes that take place.”
DDD: The guy makes for a good focal point, but the two flourishes above/below the subtitle are too strong and draw the eye away from this main feature. The dark inner shadow/glow effect makes the title blurry and less readable, and should be removed.
Ibidun O. submitted Qualiteria High designed by Ibidun. “The eBook cover is composed of flowers. The eBook cover can be considered as a logo.”
DDD: This might work as a logo, but not really as a book cover. The author should consider browsing other titles in the genre, and book covers in general.
Ivy Logan submitted Broken designed by Mario Teodosio. “The cover reflects the fragility and and strength of Talia.In her final fiery confrontation with the dragon her face reflects a myriad of emotions- determination to protect the ones she loves, to avenge the family she lost, her resolve to do the right thing and also a degree of trepidation.”
DDD: An exceptional cover with a fantastic illustration. This has the feel of a best-selling work of Epic Fantasy.
J. C. Plummer submitted Robin Hood’s Dawn (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 1) designed by Damonza.
DDD: A remarkable cover. All elements blend together seamlessly, demonstrating particular attention to detail. ★
DDD: Wonderful colours and contrasts. There is an action feel, even though the main character’s not in motion. The palm leaves lend depth, and it’s generally evident that a great deal of thought was invested in composition. Outstanding attention to detail.
Jessica Lynch submitted Don’t Trust Me designed by Jessica Lynch.
DDD: This is a good thriller/mystery cover. A simpler title font would make it more readable.
Karen Dillon submitted Immortal Souls designed by Karen M. Dillon. “The image of the girl on the cover was digitally drawn using Photoshop CS5. The image colouration was then altered and a coloured smokey overlay was added to the image for effect.”
DDD: The subtitle is not readable and the cover doesn’t communicate the genre very well, though the illustration itself is good ( but it looks blurred somehow).
Keegan Kozinski submitted The City of Locked Doors designed by Keegan Kozinski.
DDD: An unusual and interesting design which is let down by bizarre text layout and title treatment, making it hard to read.
Larry Feign submitted The Fantastic Flatulent Fart Brothers Save the World! designed by Larry Feign. “With so many words on the cover–heading, title, subtitle, author, illustrator–and needing to represent so much action in the book, it took several tries before the illustrator and I got it just right to achieve a balanced yet wild and funny look.”
DDD: A wonderful illustration. We love the excitement and adventure it conveys. Not sure about black as the colour for the title on a children’s book.
Mallory Rock submitted The Ghost King designed by Mallory Rock.
DDD: A good idea but it could have been executed more effectively. Some kind of texture for the background would work much better than the plain gradient. Concentrating on either the crown or the axe would be better than featuring both.
Martin McConnell submitted Viral Spark designed by J. Austin Dellamano. “Those eyes. We went over the honeycomb pupils and lightning sparks about 60 times before we were happy with the result.”
DDD: The placement of the author’s name is peculiar and unnatural, making it hard to read. However, it does communicate the genre.
Matt Beighton submitted The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree designed by Matt Beighton.
DDD: An astonishing and captivating illustration which makes for a captivating cover. The title could be a little more readable.
Melissa Futrell submitted A Soldier’s Crest: The Dragon Knight Chronicles designed by Melissa M. Futrell. “The author wanted a dragon that also featured a woman warrior that was presented in his prequel to “A Soldier’s Crest”. The cover was created on Adobe Photoshop.”
DDD: The title treatment works well for the genre but the cover itself seems rather flat, in that nothing leaps out. Overall it’s so dark that you really have to look closely in order to discern what’s going on.
Michael Sussman submitted Incognolio designed by Juan Padrón. “I sought a cover that was as unconventional and mysterious as my novel, with several key elements: A book-within-a-book, a human eye to symbolize curiosity, and a mirrored title to emphasize the self-reflexive narrative and through-the-looking-glass absurdity of the tale.”
DDD: The idea behind the cover is great, but from a technical angle it should have been executed better. The text positioning is interesting, and we understand the underlying intention, but the result is that the title is unreadable.
Welcome to this issue of the Carnival of the Indies blog carnival. This issue is for February, 2018. We welcome your submissions on topics related to writing, self-publishing, book design or marketing books.
A collection of outstanding articles recently posted to blogs, your reading here will be richly rewarded.
See the end of this post for links to submit your blog posts for the next carnival, or for participating Bloggers and Featured Bloggers to grab your sidebar badges. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Kristina Adams presents Stop Romanticizing Your Writing Career posted at The Writing Cooperative, saying, “Writing a book is often seen as a quick win, but it’s just one part of a much longer term strategy. A lot of authors get disheartened – or even give up – when their first book doesn’t do as well as they expected, so I wrote this to dispel some common myths about writing careers.”
Amy Collins presents EBook Sales in Decline? Not So! posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “Recent reports to the contrary, eBook sales overall are not declining and BookWorks Book Retail Expert Amy Collins explains why indie authors should continue to promote their eBooks.”
Lois Hoffman presents Growth through Ghostwriting posted at The Happy Self-Publisher, saying, “What if you want to grow as a writer without exposing all to the world? Maybe you question if writing is a true fit for you. You enjoy writing, but wonder if you can carry the weight of producing solid content each week. Maybe you lack the confidence to use your voice. Maybe you have no idea where to start. Ghostwriting could be your unique transition to becoming a writer.”
Sarah Bolme presents Are You Thinking Like an Entrepreneur? posted at Marketing Christian Books, saying, “You may not think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but if you have independently published a book, you are. I often tell people that every book is like a start up business. A book needs a mission statement, a marketing plan, and a budget. As the producer of a book, these are your responsibility, making you an entrepreneur. Are you thinking like one?”
Marketing and Selling Your Books
C. Hope Clark presents How Do I Find Money to Write a Book? posted at FundsforWriters, saying, “You are going to have to think entrepreneurial to achieve funding for your book…unless you are willing to foot the bill yourself and hope that the book sells without that extra oomph of financial support. While this tiny editorial cannot begin to go into detail on each financial availability, it can list the possibilities to at least let you realize your options.”
Dave Chesson presents AMS 101: Advertising Your Books on Amazon posted at BookWorks Blog, saying, “BookWorks guest contributor Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur shows authors how to use AMS/Amazon Marketing Services to advertise their book(s) on Amazon in Part 1 of a 3-part series.”
Frances Caballo presents Want More Twitter Followers? Don’t Buy Them! posted at Social Media Just for Writers, saying, “Did you see the New York Times article on Sunday, January 28th? In case you didn’t, let me explain it to you. A teenager named Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota girl who uses Facebook and Twitter and often talks online about how bored she is or trades jokes with friends. There’s another Jessica Rychly on Twitter as well. This one, according to the New York Times, promotes Canadian real estate investments, cryptocurrency, and a radio station in Ghana.”
Glenn Miller presents Your One-Sentence Book Marketing Plan posted at Career Authors, saying, “Most writers don’t an extensive backlist or an established author platform. Most writers are intimidated by the notion of book marketing. So what are most writers to do? Here is one-sentence prescription for most writers.”
Iola Goulton presents posted at Christian Editing Services, saying, “The experts all say we need an email list. But what do you email people about? I signed up to a group giveaway to investigate what authors put in their newsletters—good and bad.”
K.T. Lee presents What’s the Best Timing for Self-publishing a Series? posted at ALLi Blog, saying, “Hi there! I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on my post regarding waiting to publish until 3 books are available. Of note, I also used the Spark template from The Book Designer to format my books! Thank you in advance, K.T. Lee”
Andromeda Huff presents The “Should I self-publish?” checklist posted at Writer Mom Life, saying, “Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and unfortunately sometimes people don’t realize that until they’re a few books deep! We created this checklist for those just getting started, so they know if they’re prepared for what lies ahead. And, if you’re struggling and can’t figure out why, maybe you’re just missing something that’s on the checklist!”
C. S. Lakin presents A Look at Masterful Voice posted at Live Write Thrive, saying, “I believe that if you sit down and try to come up with a “writer’s voice” for your novels, you will wander off track. Why do I say that? Because, to me, there is no such thing as a writer’s “voice.” I might write ten novels, and in each one, my “voice” might sound different. And should. That’s because every story is different, even within the same genre.”
Well, that wraps up this issue. I hope you enjoy some of the great articles here, and let other people interested in self-publishing know about the Carnival—Use the share buttons to Tweet it, Share it on Facebook, Plus-1 it on Google+, Link to it!
The next issue is March 25, 2018 and the deadline for submissions will be March 15, 2018. Don’t miss it!