Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just¬† learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! ūüėõ

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL¬† When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

 

 

Everyone in this business has a business–Be careful what you pay for!

When I was looking to hire out for my trilogy covers, I became overwhelmed. Very quickly. We all look for products and services that won’t break the bank, but will maintain some level of quality.

Finding that balance is harder than keeping a kid from screaming in a candy store after you tell him no.

Quality that won’t break the bank that is delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Ugh.

quality cost and time¬†I’m a part of various groups on Facebook, and I’m not going to divulge any groups here. (I don’t want to embarrass anyone, nor do I want to get banned.) Not necessarily to look for products and services, but to keep my ear to the ground and learn tips, tricks, and obscure rules that may never occur to me know in the first place. Like, apparently it’s against Adobe Stock’s terms of service to use their stock photos on romance/erotica book covers. Who would ever think of that? (And who determines if it’s romance vs. women’s fiction?) When I went onto the Adobe Stock site, there was nothing that mentioned photos could not be used in this manner, but it seems to be common knowledge among the Facebook group I’m involved in. After a quick Google search, I did come across this discussion thread, and it appears the questions were answered by an Adobe Stock employee. Luckily, a lot of their pictures of kissing couples, after a quick perusal, seem to be available on other sites.

And that’s the point.

When you hire someone, you are hiring not only their skill, but their knowledge. It’s their job to know the rules, the guidelines, the terms of service.

skills-3371153_1920

Not long ago I was scrolling through my feed, and a post caught my eye. A woman was explaining that she and her husband were starting a premade book cover business. It turns out that they had used free photos from stock sites like Pixabay. I’ve only learned this recently myself that you shouldn’t use free photos on a book cover because the people in the photo may not have signed model release forms. Also, a lot of these photos have name brand items in the photo that cannot be used on a for-commercial-use item, like a book cover. So if you purchased a premade from someone who used a photo that shouldn’t be used–you’ll be the one to get into trouble, not the person who made the cover. I’ve heard other stories like designers on Fiverr who steal images to incorporate them into “original” covers.

Looking for someone I could trust made my head spin and my checkbook cry . . . and I gave up.

The indie publishing rush has opened up the arena for cheats and thieves, scam artists and simply people who think they can do something and charge you for it when their skills are less than adequate to get the job done.

In the case of the woman using free photos for her premades, that’s insulting anyway. Anyone can get their hands on a free photo and shove some text on it using Canva. Part of a designer’s fee should pay for a stock photo that hasn’t been around the world wide web a few thousand times. {Insert crass whore joke here.}

girl reading

We’ve all seen her before. Would you want her on your book’s cover? No matter how pretty her hair is.

But how do you know what you don’t know? Maybe I can help.

There are three major things an indie pays for:

  1. Covers for their books.
    Don’t simply pay and walk away; even if you’re extremely happy with what you’ve been given. Especially if you’re extremely happy and maybe want to make this person part of your publishing team.
    Ask where they purchased the photos. A cover could have quite a few elements that make up the whole. If you are in doubt if any image is okay to use, look at the terms of service and make sure the photos were used in a legitimate manner. It could take some digging but better to know now, than after your book is published. Copies of your paperback may never be recovered.
    Ask where they found the font. There’re plenty of places that offer free-for commercial-use fonts. Your designer could have purchased a font suite, or picked them up singly as the need for them arose. If you’ve hired someone to do your cover, it never hurts to be sure the font is okay to use.
  2. Editing.
    Someone really can’t, well I was going to say someone really can’t cheat you with editing, but of course they can. They can charge you for a shitty job. I’ve been a victim of that. Note to self: a writer does not an editor make.
    Editors are human–even traditionally published books are published with typos. But not all editors are created equal and some will be better than others. Always ask for a sample. Some will do it for free, some will charge you a small fee and then put that sum toward the total if you hire them.
    If they won’t give you a sample, steer clear. After the sample, take a look at it. Does it look like they ran it through Grammarly? Used the Hemingway App, or ProWritingAid? Does it look like an actual human read it and made real-life comments? And do those comments make sense? Did they maybe give you a link of proof to back up their edits? (I do this with my friends, especially if I had to look it up myself to make sure.)
    If this person’s rates are reasonable and you don’t have to wait five years to have your manuscript back, maybe it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on his or her work. Because you’re ultimately building a team to help you publish your future books. And someone who can do the work and charge a fair price is worth their weight in gold.
    You want people around you that you can trust to do a good job. If she gives off a good vibe, and the second opinion of her work pans out, you may have an editor you can trust for many years to come.
  3. Formatting.
    This one makes me mad. You know why? Because Vellum has made it super easy to format books–both ebook and paperback (they offer large print, too!). It will generate files for Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and a generic epub for places like Draft2Digital and Smashwords. They will also give you a fabulous interior for paperbacks with dropped caps for chapter starts, and options to have the name of the chapter in the headers, which will change with each new chapter title! Trying to do that in Word would make me an alcoholic! There is a small learning curve, and I had to Google a couple of questions that popped up when I did a friend’s book, but after a couple of books, you can get the hang of it pretty quickly and format a book in less than an hour. Especially if you have all of your front and back matter written, and your links are already gathered together into one place.
vellum formatting ad

A picture of what using Vellum looks like. Taken from their site.

And this what drives me INSANE! People are charging for this. I realize that everyone deserves compensation for their time. And if you purchase a Mac so you can use Vellum, you’re investing 1500 dollars right off the top for your business. But holy cow, if you hire someone to format your book and you know they are going to use Vellum, maybe you can network a little bit and find someone else who will do it for trade. Or if you already have a Mac and you know you’ll be producing a lot of books in the future, buy it yourself. You can take a look at it here.
Another way you can format your book is to use Draft2Digital’s formatting tool. You don’t have to publish with them to use the tool, but you do have to create an account, which feels like they are locking you in to use them to publish, but they aren’t. They format both paperback and ebook and there is no charge to use their service.
If you like Word and have a little knowledge about how to make the page numbers and End Section features work for you (the template adds them, but inevitably you’ll have to add chapters), you can try the template KDP Print offers you. This used to be the way to do it when you didn’t want to pay for a formatter, but it’s no longer the best way. Still, if you’re stuck using this, it’s better than not having a paperback option at all. There are scammers I’ve run into on Twitter who charge to do for this for you. I don’t know if they still do being that Draft2Digital offers you a free way, and almost anyone can find someone who uses Vellum because it’s that good. Once I pinned a tweet cautioning against paying someone to copy and paste, and a woman who did indeed charge for this simple formatting thought I was singling her out. I wasn’t, but she retaliated by giving me a poor review on a book of mine on Goodreads. She also charges for website building through Wix, and Wix, I’ve heard, is one of the easiest websites for a beginner to use. My friend Aila has a blog post about it, and she made Wix sound so good, I was tempted to change!

So, just be careful who you pay and for what. If you’re paying someone simply so you don’t have to do the work, that’s one thing, because we’re all willing to pay for convenience in one way or another. But sometimes it’s just easier to learn how to do things on your own.


Everyone from huge vanity presses asking you¬† to “invest in your book” to the person charging to copy and paste your book into a template provided by KDP Print for free are happy to take your money.

Trust doesn’t come easily to me, and I’d rather learn what I don’t know to stay in control.

There’s nothing wrong with charging for a service, just as there is nothing wrong with paying a fair price for that service.

Just be sure that the price balances the skill and you both walk away happy. Maybe a lovely business relationship will develop.


As a silly side note, I used a photo from Pixabay in a blog post last year. I said in the post I found the photo there, and since Pixabay offers photos free for commercial use, I was safe in using it for my blog. But I found an email in my author email (I rarely check that account) and this gentleman had emailed me about a photo I had used.

Hi there, 

Thanks so much for including one of my pictures on your page. I love seeing my work featured around the web.

This is the image the page is on: https://vaniamargene.com/tag/fear/

And this my image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/158456412@N05/40174218953/
Could you please link to https://www.mytradingskills.com as per my attribution credit request on the image?
Thanks very much and have a great day!
XXXX

Name: XXX
Title: Creative Director
Website: www.XXX.com

Imagine my surprise when I found that in my box. Of course, I changed the attribution in my blog post, just to keep feathers from being ruffled (who knows if he’ll even check), but could you imagine if his email had held any weight? I was scared for a second. So always make sure that the photo is safe to use. And that is your job, whether you hire someone or not.

I always give attribution to the photographer and print the photo ID in my front matter of my books. That causes some extra work for me because I had to swap out my files when I redid the covers for my trilogy. But I feel it’s best. I also credit using Canva.com to make those covers.

Cover all your basis, guys and gals, because we are in BUSINESS, and other people are in business too. Never think for one moment that someone will give you a pass if you make a mistake.

Happy and SAFE publishing!

Publish Safely!

photos taken from Pixabay and/or taken from and made in Canva.

 

The Sell More Books Show Summit 2019

sell more books show 2019

Two weekends ago I attended the Sell More Books Summit in Chicago. I’m still trying to catch up from being gone, writing-wise, but it was a wonderful experience.

It was hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral, hosts of the Sell More Books Show Podcast. I recommend listening to this as they go through the top indie publishing news of the week. While I was too shy to introduce myself, it was fun to see them in person.

There were a lot of speakers, and even though I stay in tune with the self-publishing industry, I picked up a few things I’ll pass on to you!

  1. Amazon Ads are only good if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.
    This actually might be a no-brainer to some of you, but I just pulled my books out of Select and all my thoughts had been focused on Amazon.
    When you¬† run ads on Amazon, you are going for the double-whammy: sales and page reads. If you are wide, you’re leaving out a big chunk of potential readers if your marketing strategy is centered on Amazon Advertising.
    It’s a mind shift, for sure, but something I didn’t realize until the summit. Now that I’m wide, I’ll forget Amazon Advertising ads and focus on other methods with a wider reach.

  2. You need to write a series.
    I always knew that, but it’s different when people who are actually making money off their books tell you that.
    A series is good for marketing (pricing a first in series permafree for instance) and a rapid release can keep your momentum going. I don’t like writing a series, but being I’m about 1/2 done with a four book series, I’m taking my own advice when I preach writing to market. I prefer writing standalones, but I understand where a series is beneficial, and after a couple standalones to cleanse my palate I’ll get back on the series horse.
  3. You  can make it wide, it will just take a mindset shift and a lot of patience.
    There was a wide panel that consisted of representatives from Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Kobo. During this panel, they did say you could make it wide, and that’s what I needed to hear at this point in my writing journey. I’m not making sales on the other platforms yet, and my KU pages reads have dried up, what few of them there were. It’s a scary place to be. So it was nice to hear that with patience, going wide won’t screw me over. Just the opposite in fact–going wide can double your income.
    (For a good read on being exclusive and going wide, read this article by PublishDrive. :))
  4. But you won’t make it with one book if you’re wide.
    If you’re all in with Amazon and you have one book, you may be able to make some money. Jami Albright spoke about her publishing journey. She writes romantic comedy, and she’s published a series. She didn’t do a rapid release though, and she bought ads for a single book and did very well. When asked what she would do differently, she said she would have had book two done and ready to go. She might have made more with momentum, but she was still able to sell book one when it was her only one. If you want to check out her books, click here for her Amazon page. She’s in KU and said she has made 65%+ of her income with KU page reads. (And yes, she is one of those 6-figure authors we all hear about but never meet!)
    Wide is a different story. You need to think of your book as a storefront. If you went into a store and saw only one item on a shelf, you’d think that store was going out of business and you would high-tail it out of there. It would be even worse if that item is old and covered in dust. Which is what your book looks like if it’s the only one you¬† have and it was published some time ago. You need to keep filling your store with stock or you won’t lure customers to shop there.
    This is also difficult if your book isn’t up to standards. Then not only are you trying to sell a single time, that item is broken. Thinking like a customer, do you want the choice of only one damaged item? No. You’ll go to another store–and to a reader, that other store is a different author.
  5. Readers are different.
    Readers in KU plow through books. These readers aren’t developing a relationship with you. They gobble up content and move on to the next book, and you don’t care because you were paid for the page reads and nothing else matters.
    The team on the wide panel said you are more apt to develop relationships with your readers because they shop for books and read in a different way than readers who borrow books in KU.
    I don’t know if that is true or not. Perhaps that is why the newsletter concept is so heavily pushed. I know plenty of KU authors with huge mailing lists, and maybe that is their way of connecting with readers when they are all in with KU.
    I know when they say readers are “voracious” they mean they are plowing through books, maybe even one a day. I used to read like that when I had the time. I used to read Harlequin Temptations and Desires by the armful when I could get my hands on them at the second-hand shop for twenty-five cents a piece. It didn’t matter who wrote it, I just consumed the story and went on to the next. I can tell you what I¬†did do, though. I eventually learned who I¬†didn’t like.
    Anyway, whether you believe this idea or not, you need more than one book if you’re wide. Giving readers more to gobble up will always be a smart idea, whether they remember your name or not.
  6. You need to offer more than a book. Coincidentally, I wrote just wrote a blog post about this very thing, and you can read it here.¬†Chris Fox, during his talk, took it one step further. You need MORE. When you write in a series, you can offer a map and pinpoint where things take place in the story. You can offer pictures of what you envision their houses to look like, or the city they live in. Already authors add extra content to their back matter. Chris had special coins made in the currency of the world he writes in, and he is going to hide them around the city where he lives. Then he is going to create a geo-caching game that will allow readers to find them and keep them as a keepsake for his series. Not everyone has the funds or knowledge to do something like that, but his point was, going forward into 2020, you’re going to need more.

Those were the main takeaways for me from the summit. Admittedly, I knew a lot of what they were talking about since I listen to their podcast, and if anyone follows self-publishing news, then you know releasing quality content on a regular basis is a must for any author, in wide or KU, and that is going to be the backbone of your author business. kindle unlimted1

There was an interesting juxtaposition that occurred to me while I attended the summit.¬† The summit was sponsored by Vellum, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, BookFunnel, and Kobo. It’s interesting to me that some of the bigger names of the summit who have made it with their books are in Kindle Unlimited.¬† Chris Fox, Jami Albright, Bryan Cohen. The writing duo J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon. Cecilia Mecca. Elise Kova. I wonder if anyone thought about the fact that the summit was sponsored by companies that help indies go wide, while the big-named authors who spoke at the summit are in KU.
I’m not suggesting anything, of course. There’s nothing to suggest. I find it unlikely that Amazon would sponsor a writing summit, and there were a few writers there who are wide. It just makes me think a little, that’s all. Like, if there is such good money to be had going wide, why aren’t they doing it? Sure, there are authors making lots of money being wide like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Adam Croft–who is a big advocate of going wide. There are some that do a mix–have some books in KU and some wide. I would just keep my eye out and see if the top authors in your genre are wide or if they are in KU. If they are, and you want to try to copy their success, are you comfortable with allowing Amazon full control over your royalties? It’s food for thought. It makes me think about going wide, and if that was a good move. It’s tempting to want to exploit KU since it seems like good fast money if you have a decent backlist and a little money to play with for Amazon Advertising. We’ll see.


If you are interested in going to the summit next year, Bryan announced he would not be part of it (though he is speaking) and the summit is now going to be part of the Career Author with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon.  It will be taking place in Nashville in 2020, and it looks like tickets are already on sale. You can click here to find out more information about the summit of 2020. I heard that Joanna Penn will be there, so if wanting to meet her is any incentive, sign up now!

Would I go to another summit? Maybe. I feel like it was more of a networking opportunity than anything else, and since I’m shy and very much an introvert, I didn’t meet as many people as I wanted to. That’s my own fault of course, but paying $399-499 to sit in a corner isn’t the best idea. I’d like to try to go to the 20booksto50k convention that’s held in Las Vegas hosted by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle. (But again, they are big supporters of KU.) But because of personal issues, a summit next year may be out of my reach anyway. It takes money and time to attend, and I’m still kicking myself for not making the most of my time at this event. Especially with the open bar.

You never know. But if YOU have an opportunity to attend, you should go! And say hi to Joanna for me!

Until next time!

 

Writing Resources Non-fiction Spotlight: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors by Anne R. Allen

the author blog book coverI read Anne’s blog sometimes. Not as much as I should because she writes about some very important topics, and she’s a great resource for writers. Every so often I’ll tweet out a link to one of her posts.

So when I saw she wrote a book about blogging, I bought it ASAP, and one for a friend, too.

This book is great for the author/writer who isn’t sure if they should start an author website or a blog. It’s for the blogger who has been blogging for a while and who not seeing results (results like comments, subscriptions). It’s for the blogger that has lost his or her way. It’s also a wonderful source for maybe a more seasoned blogger who may need to get back to basics.

I belong to one or more categories. I’ve been blogging for over two years, and only now just starting to find some traction–and it’s very little. But Anne reminded me of a few things I’ve forgotten along the way. Simple things like tagging your blog posts with the titles of your books, or remembering to tag a photo with a description for your visually impaired readers.

Anne explains SEO and offers us blog ideas. Something we all need from time to time.

blogging for authors book coverI was delighted to see she knows Barb Drozdowich¬†and recommends Barb’s book about blogging.

I know Barb from Rachel Thompson’s #bookmarketingchat on Twitter, and I have also read her book about blogging. It’s just proof that we’re all friends here. ūüôā

If you’re interested in purchasing Anne’s book, click here and this will bring you to her website.¬†She offers links to all her retailers there.

If you’re only interested in buying it from Amazon, you can click here for the buy-link.

Blogging may not be for everyone, but knowing how to start, and how to do it right, can save you time, money, and lots of frustration down the road.

Thanks, Ladies, for writing these awesome books!

 

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

 

How Do You Make Your Book Stand Out?

We all want our books to stand out, and we all go about it in a different way.

Some spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a developmental edit to make their story and characters the best they can be. Some authors do fancy formatting.

vellum formatting ad

This is a picture of a formatting sample using Vellum. For more information on the software visit www.vellum.pub

Some authors do all of that.

Some authors do all of that and invest hundreds, even thousands, in ads.

Experts in book marketing would say you need to do it all to help with discoverability.

Readers may say to make them happy, all that would be a given.

And I’m not disputing any of that.

What I’m talking about are the extras.

Some traditionally published books have them already.

Say you have a baker for a main character. Some authors will add their own baking recipes to the back matter of the book along with a short explanation of the family history behind it, or a funny story.

Maps are always popular–especially if you’re world-building like in Game of Thrones. I know that I looked over the family trees a lot when I was reading them to remember who everyone was, and who the members of the families were.

In some contemporary romances, I’ve seen maps of towns where a series takes place.

I’ve never tried a recipe I’ve found in the back of a book, but I could see the appeal of adding a few. You could encourage book clubs to have a baking/cooking night along with their book discussion. Hey, even suggest what kind of wine would make a good accompaniment.

Some writers will add discussion questions. I’ve seen this a lot in traditionally published books, even in “lighter” books where I didn’t think a discussion was necessary. I wanted to add discussion questions to¬†All of Nothing, but I forgot. They may have been a nice addition to¬†The Years Between Us, too, but again, being excited I was finished with the book, I forgot to write them and add them into the back matter.

Something I have seen added to books are playlists consisting of the songs authors listened to while writing the book. I found in one “look inside” of a Kindle book, the author included the actual YouTube links to songs she wanted you to listen to get you in the mood to read the following scenes.

I caution against this for one, you need to make sure the music is free of copyright, and two, you never know how long those links will remain active. If the links are ever broken, will the author know? Or care? Will she edit the book to take them out or replace them? I don’t like to go back and go back fixing things. It’s always the next book for me. I wouldn’t want to keep an eye on my backlist like that. It’s bad enough keeping my own front and back matter up to date.

I’ve also seen back matter that included an interview or question and answer session between an unknown interviewer and the author. I think it was in the last Twilight book Stephenie Meyer answered questions. This could be an interesting addition to back matter as well.

In The Years Between Us, Zia held a showing at a gallery. I created an invitation for the showing in Canva and included it in the front matter of the book. It shows up black and white in the paperback and simple e-readers, but it will show in color on a tablet.

 

 

In this vein, I think I’ll make Marnie and James’s wedding invitation and include that like I did Zia’s gallery showing invitation.

One of my characters, Autumn Bennett, who will be my female MC in book four of my series, is a writer for the town’s newspaper. She writes for the Lifestyles section, but also blogs for their website. During the course of four books, she’ll blog about the wedding, and interview the bride, groom, and guests as human interest pieces. I’m thinking about creating those blog posts and offering them as bonus content in some way. That would be no-brainer newsletter content, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to start one right now. So I’ll be thinking how I want to share that content.

The real question that comes from all this, is . . . is it worth it? Playlists, poems written by your characters, invitations, motivational quotes, even pretty chapter headings–are they all worth it?

They may not be, money-wise. The more photos a Kindle file has, the more Amazon charges you to deliver the file to someone’s Kindle. Those pennies add up. (Hat tip to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for doing some quick math in Killing it on Kobo, as Kobo does not charge that delivery fee.)

Also, if the photo is a spectacular array of color, only a fraction of your readers will be able to see it in color.

Indies are constantly fighting for discoverability and adding bonus content like that hasn’t taken off quite yet. I think mainly because formatting extra content is so time-consuming–especially for a newbie author. And adding extra content would make it more expensive if you hire out formatting services.

I was lucky, and I formatted¬†The Years Between Us with Vellum. The software inserted the invitation with no problem, especially in the paperback. I didn’t have to worry about gutters or margins. All I had to do was make sure the invitation was 300 dpi for printing, and I did that in GIMP.

Vellum even allowed me to add the pretty chapter starts to Summer Secrets that I tried to do the first time around. I was too new and lacked the experience to insert them using Word and CreateSpace.summer secrets chapter starts

I also carry that image onto the back of my paperback books, and I’m really proud of that, too.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

But when it comes down to it, should you take the time to offer more content? Could that time be used to make another editing sweep, or start a new book?

Readers may appreciate the extras, but only if they enjoy the story.

The book’s recipes won’t matter if your baker’s story falls flat (pun intended) and your reader doesn’t make to the end to see them.

What readers want is a good story that pulls them in, and characters they’ll grow to care about.


 

As a side note, while I was typing out this blog post, I came up with another reason why indies don’t want to offer bonus content to the backs of their books.

Indies focus on a CTA, Call To Action. Indies want their readers to leave a review, or sign up for a newsletter, or buy the next book. Back matter is valuable real estate, and I don’t think most indies format their books with a lot of gunky back matter to get in the way of their important call to action.

And for what it’s worth, you need to be careful how much extra “stuff” you put backBe careful when considering adding bonus content to your book. there. We don’t hear much about the bookstuffers anymore, those pesky indies who would load up a Kindle file with 5-10 books to make a crap-ton of money with the KU page reads. But even if we’re not hearing about it much right now, it’s still happening. They know it takes a while for people to catch on to their new pen names.

Anyway, I wouldn’t want you think that offering bonus content was a fabulous idea and to get in trouble in any way for it. Offering a bonus novella in the back of your book, or offering the first half of a second book in a series, is too much. Put the novella for sale separately. Only add the first scene of the new book. It’s just a word of caution. Bonus content can be taken too far.

Please read KDP’s guidelines for adding bonus content.

While adding character profiles and outlines of the book before it came to fruition can sound like a great idea, keep in mind that as the guidelines states, it should enrich the reader experience.

I think that’s sound advice, especially since the reader experience begins with the story.

If you can hook them with a fantastic story, then all that extra content will be exactly that . . .

A bonus.

And maybe they’ll leave a five star review, too. Who knows?

Moving my books to IngramSpark. So. Much. Fun.

going wide girl on tracks blog post

If you’ve been following my blogs about going wide, I’ve been filling you in on what a pain the butt it’s been to move stuff over.

With my ebooks situated where they need to be (except for Smashwords, and are they worth it? I tried to look for a link to give you guys, but nothing came up since 2016? I don’t now if that speaks to their relevancy or not and it will have keep for another post), I’ll explain just what is going on with Ingram and if they are worth the hassle.

As always, you need to think of your business plan. If you are wanting a store to carry your books, or you want to hold a book signing, you may find some places that will take your books on consignment (meaning you buy your own author copies and give them to the store and you get paid when a book sells). This isn’t such a bad thing. But if you’re wanting to plan a book signing at a Barnes and Noble and they ask you if your book is available in Ingram’s catalog so they can purchase copies at the discount, if your books aren’t in there, you’re going to have to say no, and that looks unprofessional.

Anyway, so I began the process of moving my books over. Read on to find some differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark, and you can decide if it’s worth doing it in both places.


kdp print logo

KDP Print is a dream. I love it. They still aren’t as good as CreateSpace used to be. They held your hand, walked you across the street, opened the door to Starbucks, and bought you a cafe mocha. But KDP Print is pretty good, too. No live people to help you anymore, but if you upload a decent cover file and formatted interior of your book, there’s nothing to worry about. It was the hand-holding CS used to give you that everyone counted on. They fixed things for you when you didn’t even know it! I know they fixed a couple covers for me without telling me and pushed my files through the review process. That was awesome, but also scary as hell because holy crap was it a surprise when “my way” didn’t work anymore.

That was almost three years ago, and if you want to look at my disastrous attempts at making covers way back when, look here for a good laugh. Since then I have found better ways of doing things, but even with all I’ve taught myself, the transition from KDP Print to IngramSpark wasn’t easy.

Big differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark

The Templates are Different

The biggest difference is the cover templates are different. This is only because the paper they use is different, making the spine thinner when IngramSpark prints them. This makes the templates just a little off on the spine.

Can you fit your KDP Print cover over an IngramSpark template? Yes, yes you can. But be prepared for your book from Ingram to not look exactly right. The text for All of Nothing on the back cover is off center a little, and it is for Wherever He Goes too. Not so much that you notice it right away . . . but just enough that it’s probably nothing you’d want to sell, or in large quantities like a book signing.

Here’s All of Nothing. Can you tell which is which? I did fix the spine on the one so it matches the front cover (that was part of my consistency stuff was talking about before).¬† And the prices on the back covers are updated, too.

 

 

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I make my covers in Canva and I don’t have a good way yet of using a KDP Print cover on an IngramSpark template. There are just enough differences to make your cover out of whack. I have heard of authors doing it without problems, so maybe give it a try if you don’t mind being out 3.00-7.00 dollars for a proof copy.

If you can’t see the difference–IngramSpark’s copy is on the right. The text on the back is to the left a bit, and the pink color is brighter. Besides that, the books were the same as far as I could tell. I’ll go back and fix the text on the back cover . . . some day.

I don’t own Photoshop and I don’t know GIMP well enough to build my covers from scratch using it. Besides, why would I learn when I can make beautiful covers in Canva? I’ll continue to experiment and report back. (It takes a lot of work to be this lazy, yo.)

ingram all of nothing template for blog post

This is what IngramSpark will send you when you download a template for your book.

5.5x8.5_Cream_290

This is what KDP Print sends you. Very different.

It takes time and bit of know-how to figure out how to use the PDF that IngramSpark gives you. If you hire a designer and tell them you are publishing to both platforms, they will give you two files. I asked in a¬†Facebook indie book cover group, and it’s a good one to join if you want feedback on a cover or your blurb. There’s also¬†Indie Book Cover Design Group 101¬†that focuses more on how to make covers rather than just giving you feedback. They are both closed groups, so you’ll have to ask to join, but they don’t seem discriminatory. I mean, the let me in. Just kidding. They are very friendly, and I suggest you join both.

Anyway, I have read where you can cover up the ISBN that Ingram gives you with the template and they will add it for you, wherever you leave room on the back cover. I added mine in GIMP. This is definitely the hardest and most time-consuming part of the process.

The proofing process isn’t the same.

IngramSpark will send you an eproof of the cover that looks exactly like what you sent them. They certainly do not give you the bleed lines that I have come to expect from KDP Print.

2019-04-16

If you scroll down in the PDF, they’ll show you the interior, as well. But this is the proof of the cover they sent me. Kinda looks like what I sent them. So. Thanks?

Here’s KDP Print’s online previewer:

2019-04-05 (2)

For someone who has never submitted before, knowing where the bleed lines are would be a big help. I think this is so much better than what IngramSpark gives you.

When you submit your files to Ingram, be very careful. I was used to the way KDP Print does things, and they urge you order a print proof to look over your book in person. With Ingram, my book was already in distribution, and when I ordered a copy of my book, I thought I was getting a proof, but it was really an author copy. This could be a very bad thing for a new author who was counting on being able to look at their book first.

I can take responsibility for not reading clearly (or more like, not understanding what I was reading, wherein, it’s still my fault I wasn’t asking questions) but IngramSpark does not make things very easy, either. After a quick chat with an Ingram rep, it appears there is an option to not put your book into distribution. I suppose this is their way of making the book available to you so you can purchase ARC copies before the book goes live. This is just one area where it pays to read read read. Don’t do this in a hurry, and if you don’t understand something, bring up the chat box ASAP and ask.

Price Changes Take More than 72 Hours (and we all know that KDP’s 72 hours is really like . . . 4).

With IngramSpark, if you change the price of your paperback and you have the price on the back cover, they have to match. If you change your paperback price and then redo your cover to reflect the change, your cover may be unapproved because the prices won’t match. Price changes used to take effect on the first of every month. I recently read an article that said they changed this to weekly. I didn’t know this, and the submission for my cover of Wherever He Goes stalled because the prices didn’t match. They did on my end, but not on theirs. You can get around this by not putting the prices on your book. It’s not really necessary, and it gives you more freedom to change your prices if need be. I changed mine because I wanted to remain consistent and have a plan. I hope to have a big back list, and I needed a system I was going to remember.

KDP Print doesn’t care what’s on your cover. You could have a US price of $199.99 and sell it for $7.99 and no one is going to say anything to you. I know because my prices were all over the place. Ingram taught me professionalism in consistency, so that is one thing I can thank them for.

What else can help?

  • Keep communication consistent. If you have a general question that isn’t answered in their FAQs, the chat box is great. But if they email you, they want you to email them back. I tried to chat regarding my price discrepancy, but the rep told me to answer the email they sent me so information stays with the same person. That’s good to know so you’re not wasting everyone’s time.
  • Take your time and read.
    I have a ton of patience, but I had five books to move over and for some reason, I wanted it done yesterday. Even if my friend would have helped me with the covers (she ended up having a family emergency), what I didn’t know would have given me (and her) problems, anyway. Though not having proofs beforehand would have sat easier with me, since she knows what she’s doing. I know I could have slowed down. I would have known better about the distribution process had I asked questions and read that part better. I had kind of a “f#ck it” attitude with them that I’m surprised I had. I’d heard so much about how working with them was difficult, I got myself all worked up and caused problems for myself I might not have had otherwise.
  • You might get color warnings.
    IngramSpark likes CMYK. GIMP likes RGB. And that’s fine. Photoshop uses CMYK. I received color warnings and was told that because my covers were in RGB they may not print correctly. With the five author copies that came from IngramSpark, none of the colors came out weird. Clicking the “I know my cover could print like crap” box didn’t hurt the quality of my books. But the warning is big and bright and red, and it scared me. Just remember that Print on Demand isn’t the best in quality with either IngramSpark or KDP Print, and printing errors can occur no matter which service you use.

 

I was lucky and did all this in the month of March when they were running a free promo for NaNo participants. I was able to upload all my files for free.¬† If you are going to (re)submit files, I would look for some kind of code otherwise fixing mistakes you didn’t know you were making will be costly. Look for promo codes to bypass the fees, or¬†join the Independent Book Publishers Association. It states clearly that free title set up and revisions through IngramSpark are part of their benefit package. They offer a lot of other things too that are worth taking a look at. I’ve also heard that free title set up and revisions are free through The Alliance of Independent Authors, but their benefits package is not so clear, so you may want to email them and ask first.

I’ll keep offering all my books through Ingram. I want to perfect my cover process–the easier, the better. If you’re wondering why I never mentioned the interior of my books, I format using Vellum. Out of everything I do for my books, at least I know the formatting will come out looking good.

If you don’t think you’ll ever ask to have a local bookstore carry your book, or if you think you’ll never do a book signing, I can’t say for sure if Ingram is a benefit. I like to try things. Partly because I’m curious, partly because I’m stubborn, and partly because I like to pass information along.

But one thing is for sure–no matter who prints your book, it’s a thrill to hold it, isn’t it?


Still working on my Wedding Party Series!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

My Going Wide Adventures–ebooks (and last post)

I started the process of going wide some time ago, and I can say that for now my ebooks have been successfully published wide.

I got tired of waiting for my trilogy to drop out of KDP Select, so I took some advice and emailed Amazon and asked them to be taken out. I made it easy by giving them the ASIN numbers for the books. They were very prompt and my trilogy was taken out of Select the next day.

canceling select blog post picture

I didn’t waste any time publishing my trilogy on Draft2Digital and Kobo. When I uploaded them onto those platforms, I priced Don’t Run Away for free. Amazon won’t let you do that; they prefer you enroll in Select and use their free days in your marketing plans. Kobo and Draft2Digital had no problem with pricing my book for free, and after Don’t Run Away was published, I emailed Amazon with the buy links to Kobo and Barnes and Noble proving Don’t Run Away was free, and they price matched. blog picture kdp free book

don't run away free amazon buy page

This will be my permafree book to hopefully draw readers in to my other books that they’ll want to buy. I hate that Don’t Run Away has so few reviews, and I still have that one stinker of a review saying she hated it because of the swearing. So I think I’ll be concentrating a little bit on some cheaper promos to see if I can’t bump up those reviews a bit. While this blog post is about my process of going wide, not marketing strategy, I have to remember that Amazon isn’t the be all end all of my sales any longer. Any promo is good though, so I’ll still throw a little money at it anyway. The trilogy is strong, I think, and when it was in KU I got decent read-through. So we’ll see.

books on draft to digitalbooks on draft to digital2

You can see I haven’t made any money, but going wide is a process, and I haven’t done any marketing yet.

Kobo is the same.

books on kobobooks on kobo2

Besides emailing KDP to pull¬† my books out of Select, things went fine, and emailing KDP wasn’t even a big deal–I just felt bad doing it. But as I tell my friends, this is a business, don’t take things personally. I’m sure the KDP rep who pulled my books out of Select didn’t give a crap what I was doing, he was just waiting to go to lunch. So, no harm done.

The Years Between Us will be released soon. The pre-order ends May 1st. I needed a bit of time to get ahead with my series, and I hope by the time The Years Between Us is released, I’ll have book two almost done.

I don’t have the paperback loaded into Ingram Spark yet, only KDP Print. I’ve already gone over the proof, so all I need to do is hit publish when the ebook is released. The Years Between¬†Us is on pre-order through Draft to Digital as well as Kobo, and you can pre-order it at any retailer here.

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

I use Universal Book Links¬†to create buy links for my books. They’ll pull from everywhere your book is sold and when a reader clinks on the link, they will be directed to a retailer page so they can choose which vendor to purchase your book from. When I clicked on the buy link for The Years Between Us above, this came up:

universal book link result

Then all your reader has to do is click on the logo of the store where they want to buy your book. That way you don’t have to have a million different buy-links when you do an ad or something. You can thank the team at Draft2Digital for putting that together for us indies.

The other thing I did was email Kobo and ask for access to the promotions tab. The promotions tab is for Kobo readers only, and allows you to ask the Kobo Writing Life team for consideration for certain promotions the website hosts. You need to email them for access though, as it doesn’t automatically pop up when you list your books for sale there. I’m excited to start making use of those promotions, and now that I’m done with some administrative work going wide created, I can spend more time marketing.

I only put my six contemporary romances wide. I did that because 1) The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book and could use a good editing sweep, which I’m not willing to take the time to do right now, and 2) Summer Secrets is erotica and not the genre I’m going to write ever again. They aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, either, because I didn’t want to get anyone grumpy at me for only have part of my library in KU. I could always put them wide and make them permafree, but I don’t think that would do much for me as I don’t intend to write those genres again, and while Don’t Run Away will always be free, the main point of going wide and writing in one genre is to find a readership and sell books. Selling books usually, if you do it right, means making a bit of money, and who doesn’t want that?

If you have any questions for me about going wide, please let me know! I’ll cover paperbacks in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

 

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