There has been a lot going on in the past couple of weeks, and now that I’m done with my trilogy (!) I can poke my head out of my writing cave and weigh in! Most of it’s been happening over at Amazon, but when aren’t they making huge waves over little changes that leave all of us authors rolling around on the floor in a temper tantrum?
The first big thing was they raised the price of Kindle Unlimited. It used to be $9.99 a month and they raised it to $11.99 USD. I’m not sure why that gave every author I know a heart attack. Two dollars is nothing, especially since in the email they sent all their subscribers, they said their catalogue has grown to over four million titles.
Since the launch of Kindle Unlimited in 2014, we have grown our eBook catalog from 600,000 titles to over 4 million titles today, introduced digital magazine subscriptions, and improved selection quality across genres. Kindle Unlimited members have unparalleled access to read as much as they want from a rich catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and comics. We continue to invest in making Kindle Unlimited even more valuable for members.
Taken from my Amazon Email
Guys, readers aren’t going to care. As a reader who uses KU, I don’t care. Have you priced ebooks lately? Anyone? These days your KU subscription fee will pay for two, mmmaaaayyybbbbeeee three ebooks, if they’re priced low enough. Everyone’s prices are rising, and KU for a reader is still a great deal. If you’ve been considering pulling your books out of Kindle Select because of this small price change, I would tell you to take a step back and breathe. You all are going to make a major business decision over two dollars a month? (And I’m especially staring at the people who are paying Musk $11.00/month to tweet.) I hope not. But if you are going to go wide, publish with Kobo directly and enroll your books in Kobo Plus. They don’t require the exclusivity Kindle Select does, and if you’re considering signing up as a reader to save money, understand that their catalogue isn’t nearly as large.
Evaluate for yourself if keeping your books enrolled in Kindle Select is the right thing for you and your business. Don’t blindly follow what people are doing on Twitter and in your author groups. A lot of the reaction is due to the fact that AMAZON made this change. Authors love to hate Amazon, always accusing them of undercutting and cheating us. They added value and upped their prices–like any company does. Like Canva is going to do with all their new toys. I’m waiting for the email to come from them too. It’s what happens.
Another nasty surprise we woke up to is Kindle Direct Publishing raising their printing costs. This caused a lot of anger and resentment too, but someone I trust analyzed how much that means for indie authors, and the fact is, KDP upped printing costs by .15 a paperback. You need to take a look at your business and decide if freaking out over .15 is a wise business decision. I don’t sell many paperbacks. It’s not where my focus is. I market to KU subscribers. Any time I run an FB ad or mention my book on Twitter or anywhere else, I say it’s available in Kindle Unlimited. That is where my readers are. That might not be true for everyone. Authors who write poetry, kids books, and middle grade focus on paperbacks, and if you’re buying author copies in bulk, you can always print through IngramSpark. I think again, people are angry because this is Amazon, but you have to take a look at the industry as a whole. For some reason, I follow a lot of agents, and when they are telling querying writers to adhere to a certain word count because printing is expensive and it’s easier for them to sell shorter books, then it’s an industry problem, not an Amazon problem. Amazon is part of the publishing business, and the publishing industry is global. We are caught in the middle of the pandemic aftermath, and it seems a lot of people forget that. Are you upset about fifteen cents? I’ll give you the quarter I found between my couch cushions.
IngramSpark is dropping their publishing and revision fees this month. That was actually a very nice surprise, and I will be taking advantage of it as I haven’t put my trilogy on IS yet. (I abhor busywork and adjusting the KDP cover template to the IS template is a boring pain the butt.)
I wondered how they were going to recoup that loss, and they too, are going to be charging more. I can’t remember where I got this screenshot, but I shared with my friend Sami-Jo when we were talking about IS dropping their fees:
So while the free title set up and the free revisions are a good thing, they are going to make up that loss, and it will fall to us. I’ve never paid a fee; I’ve belonged to a group like IBPA or ALLi who includes codes as member benefits, or just waited until they had a promotion and used their promo days (a good time was always in December for their NaNoWriMo promo.) Amazon isn’t doing anything everyone else isn’t doing, so please breathe and conduct your book business accordingly.
So much talk about AI I’m going to scream. I’m never going to use AI to write my books.I’ve played with Chat-GPTand while it’s fun to chat with Al and bounce ideas off him from time to time, the last thing I’m going to do is give him a prompt and copy and paste it into a book that has my name on it that i’m going to sell. If other authors want to do that, that’s their choice, name, and reputation. My books come from my heart, and I pour a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and wine into my fiction. (Not so much the wine anymore. I’ve stopped drinking hoping to drop a few pounds this summer.) I enjoy writing. I love creating characters and putting them through a lot of crap before giving them their HEAs. Why would I outsource that? I get not everyone feels the same, and that’s fine, but I have started to include a disclosure on the copyright page of my books, and I did it with my newest release Faking Forever, which was out last week.
My copyright page is absurdly long because I give credit to everyone living and dead who in any way shape or form helped me with my books. Just kidding, but I add all the contributors for my stock images and chapter headers with DepositPhotos plus I give credit to my son and ex-fiancé for helping me with the imprint logo. And maybe one day I’ll update that too so I don’t have his name in my books anymore. Anyway, maybe no one reads copyright pages, but I like knowing that I’ve added it. I’m not going to write my books using it, but I can look at both sides and understand that there can be a place for it. Authors are going to have to do what they’ve always had to do: write good books and find a readership. I don’t think AI is going to disrupt this any more than COVID did when everyone was staying home and writing and publishing books because they didn’t have anything better to do. Publish good books, publish consistently, buy promos and invest in an ad platform. Start a newsletter and reach out to your readers. Let them get to know you as a person, and they’ll respond and connect with that.
Probably more went on, but this is going to be it for me this week, as far as commentary goes, anyway. While I “take a break” I’m going to re-edit The Years Between Us and reformat it using one of the newer styles that came with a Vellum upgrade. Depending on how I feel after that I would like to tackle my small town series and give them a facelift (especially covers because not being able to run Amazon ads is especially annoying), but I also want to stay on track with my rockstar trilogy to have that ready to rapid release by the end of August. There is always something to do!
It might be surprising to hear that your book’s back cover doesn’t have to be ugly. In fact, you can put as much time into the back that you do the front, and while your back cover may not get the love your front cover does, when a reader flips your paperback over, it’s a nice surprise to reveal a pretty back cover that they could potentially love just as much as the front.
Some authors may not put forth much effort or thought into their back cover as they are focused on ebook sales, and that’s something I think about too, since my books are in KU. No one cares about the back cover of a paperback they aren’t going to buy, and more than likely, if you’re in KU and catering to whale readers (let’s say, romance), unless you really knock their socks off, may not even remember your name once they’re done skimming, reading your book. I mean, that’s fine–I get page reads whether a reader devours and savors every word or they skim for the sex. But you know when a reader shells out POD prices for a paperback that they love you and your books, so why not reward them with something extra special? I don’t mean tucking a 20 between the pages, though that could be something fun to do at some point.
Here are some tips on how to make your book cover shine:
Don’t choose a solid color (and if you do, expect to add some embellishment or it will look plain [see below]). This is difficult if the image you choose for your front is vertical and not horizontal. This is what was tripping me up when I was doing my most recent trilogy. For the first round of model picks, they were all vertical and didn’t share a similar background that would make a pretty wrap. It’s especially disheartening when you’re doing more than one book and you need to keep their covers similar. Most, if not all, of my covers use a horizontal image so the back cover is taken care of. I would recommend finding a horizontal photo that can be used for the back, spine, and front. If that’s not possible, or you have your heart set on a stock photo that’s vertical, you can use up all that blank space with your blurb, your author photo and bio, maybe an author logo, and the book’s title. My book, All of Nothing, used a vertical photo for the front cover, but I was lucky and turned it black and white and was able to use a black color for the back.
The blurb sucks (don’t read it LOL) and I would move the placement of my author bio to the right of the picture, but my blurb fills the space because I spaced it out. Now I usually add the title of the book to the back as well, but this book is four years old and revamping the back cover isn’t on the my list of priorities at the moment (especially since the paperback is with IngramSpark and I would have to pay $29 dollars to replace the file), though looking at how plain it is, I suppose it could be.
If you add an author picture, add your bio. There’s no point in having your author photo on the back of your book if you don’t want to add a couple lines of bio to it. It will just be a floating head if you don’t. It’s not hard to say, Vania Rheault loves winter and lives with her two cats in Minnesota. When she’s not writing, she’s sleeping, and you can find her at vaniamargene.com. So many people agonize over what to put, but just think of two or three things that everyone knows about you. It doesn’t have to be interesting or insightful. If you balk at that, skip the photo. I also have an author photo and a longer bio in the backs of all my books. I remember when I was creating the back cover of All of Nothing I knew I needed to take up space, and one of my other standalones I wrote around that same time (Wherever he Goes) was easier to put together, though it had a vertical photo for its front cover too.)
You can tell I was working on my photo manipulation skills here, fading out the bottom for the title on the front and using the bottom of the photo for the blurb on the back. This is the original photo:
I still love everything about this book and consider it one of my biggest achievements though it sells like crap. Meaning, I haven’t sold a copy since July of this year. Which is more recent than I expected, to be honest.
Have fun with how your blurb looks! This might not be too big of a deal in person if you’re focused on digital sales, but if you ever do a book signing or a convention, the first thing a potential reader is going to do is flip your book over to read the blurb. If your blurb is a big block of text, no one is going to want to read that. As Bryan Cohen likes to say, confused shoppers don’t buy. Don’t intimidate them. Space out your blurb like the ones above, and keep your blurb down to 200 words or less. If you want tips on how to write one, look here. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-back-cover-blurb-that-sells (This is actually good advice for your book’s product page on Amazon, too. Make the most of the blurb formatter KDP has so generously updated when you publish your book.) I don’t have any examples from my own books for this–dual POV takes up a lot of room if you want both sides for the blurb–some authors give both, some stick with the male, some stick with the female. I am trying something else out for my new trilogy that I’ll be publishing in January–columns for the POVs instead of long paragraphs. This is how my blurb for dual POV looks for Rescue Me, the book I just released:
For their names, I used the same font as the title, and really, it’s a pretty plain back cover, all things considered. And these are the columns I’m going to try for the trilogy:
I’m especially proud of the ombre coloring of the text, and I’m excited to get these proofs. These are the prettiest book covers I’ve done in a long time, and though they may not be 100% billionaire, I’m hoping they convey the genre well enough they garner good sales. I won’t know until I release them, but I searched for “hotter” guys than what I put on my duet, so I hope it makes a difference.
Tell readers how to find you. I have always referred to the bottom left-hand corner of a book’s back cover as the crap corner. It looks weird blank, and over the years I have changed what I put there. I used to have my social media icons there, now I mostly stick to my website. It still looks bare, but it’s better that nothing. At one point I created a logo to put there for my new pen name, but the cover looks clearer without it (in my opinion) and I always use the same font as the front cover.
The back of your book doesn’t have to be dull–and maybe it shouldn’t be. If you ever hope to go to an author signing or convention, or simply want to give your book away, it’s fun to have the back cover look just as pretty as the front. It tells your reader that you care about the final product of your book. If you want more ideas on back covers, here are a couple of articles I found on the subject.
A couple more tips before I wrap up: You don’t need to make your font huge. It’s tempting since you have all that space back there, but you don’t need the astronauts in space to be able to read it. Your back cover really will look funny once you hold your book in your hands, so add what you can to the back and keep your font size to a minimum. The font size for the columns on Give & Take is 10.6 in Playfair Display and you don’t need anything bigger than that. Then two, if you publish through IngramSpark, they force you to match the price on the back with your list price, so you can’t suddenly decide to raise or lower your price without having to change the cover as well. I found that to be a huge PITA, so I stopped adding my prices to the back. If I were just publishing through KDP, maybe I would still since it looks professional to have the price back there (but I never buy the barcodes so I don’t have the price embedded into it anyway) but it’s not a big loss for the hassle it saves me.
Book covers from my friends that I like. All images taken from Amazon.com and these are not affiliate links.
I wish I had more to write about this week, but the problem is, I just haven’t been into listening to podcasts or reading the non-fiction books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. If it’s not happening on Twitter then I probably don’t know much about it which is sad, but the state of my life at the moment.
King’s Crossing I’m knee deep editing my King’s Crossing series and it’s slow going because all the “takes” and “makes” I thought I managed to get rid of before I formatted them and ordered the proofs. Well, I didn’t do as good as job as I thought. I probably got tired, and I can’t blame myself because holy God, there are a lot. If I didn’t have that to worry about, I think these books would actually sound pretty good. No typos, at least, still getting rid of some repetitive words, but after editing the first two books of my trilogy, I can definitely tell these are the first books I wrote writing in first person. I fell into a bad rhythm and editing it out, even after several passes, has been a lot of work. Still, seeing them in book form has been very helpful, and I’m confident after this final pass, they will be good enough to publish. I’m only on book two, and there are a lot of sentences I marked that I have to rewrite, but the story is good. The consistency (so far) is solid, and I’m very happy with that. I’m also happy with the logo I created using a DepositPhotos vector I found:
The “Book One” changes obviously, but after several failed attempts to create a logo with an X myself, I was so happy to have stumbled upon an X with a crown already made. I seriously love it!
Booksprout I went ahead and put Rescue Me on Booksprout. I did it over Labor Day weekend, which probably wasn’t the best time, but so far I’ve given away 24 out of the 25 copies they make available. The paperback is already on Amazon, no sales, of course, but that’s okay. I’ll put the ebook up on October 1 like I planned and hope there will be a few reviews when I do. I’ll offer a few copies to my newsletter, though last month I had 7 people unsubscribe. I don’t know yet if they are good subscribers or not. From what I’ve heard, the open rate is decent (40%) but I ran a giveaway and only one person entered. After hosting giveaways on here with little participation, that’s actually not surprising, but it’s too bad because it’s a really great prize! What I need to do is think about running my ad on Facebook again for my reader magnet and see if I can’t get some more subscribers, and also look into Bookfunnel promos since I’m already paying for that. If you want a copy of Rescue Me, a one-night stand, steamy billionaire romance with an HEA, then grab a copy. It’s offered through Bookfunnel and I limited it to the first 20 people who download. You don’t have to give me your email. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/z92k8x1a92. Here’s the blurb. I got a little help from S. J. Cairns, and I think it sounds pretty good:
Sam When my wife passed away, I buried my life with her. For two years, I lived like I was already dead. Until one night, when I meet Lily. Lying in her arms, I’m reminded of what hope feels like. But sometimes what could have been is stronger than what could be, and I have a difficult time letting my wife’s memory go. As I get to know Lily, I realize it isn’t only my past standing in our way, and what I’ll have to do to stop hers from destroying her future may very well destroy mine instead.
Lily Billionaire Samuel Sharpe is beaten down and weary, and when we meet in a hotel bar, there’s no way I can say no when he asks me upstairs. After a violent divorce, I’m struggling to find a fresh start, and a one night stand with the man who would turn out to be my boss isn’t part of the plan. My ex-husband broke me, and until I met Sam, I didn’t think anyone could put me back together again. I should have known my past wouldn’t leave me alone, and I can’t ask Sam to rescue me. Compared to his wife’s memory, I’m not worth saving.
Hardbacks With some persuading, I created hardcover versions for the two books in my duet. It didn’t take that long, and with some help from JP Garland, I was able to position the elements on the cover correctly, as the template is a bit different. I’ll write about it in full when I get my proof copies so I can post a picture. I placed the order today and it said they won’t come until the beginning of October, but I won’t forget.
IngramSpark I approved my duet paperbacks on IngramSpark this morning. It took a little back and forth on the second book with the cover as they kept saying my spine was wrapping onto the front, but when I adjusted it, it still wasn’t correct. I overcorrected then they said my spine was too narrow, but that seemed to knock me out of a loop and when I moved my elements back to where they were before, the cover was accepted. I don’t use the Expanded Distribution option on KDP as I feel IngramSpark is more professional if I want to have my books in bookstores or if one day I ever drudge up the courage to ask the indie bookstore in downtown Fargo to carry my books. I’m always amused when authors bring in their author copies from Amazon, like they don’t understand that Amazon is every bookstore’s competitor and booksellers really don’t want the KDP POD stamp in the backs of the books they’re selling. It’s just proof to me that indies need to keep an eye on their own business and do things the professional way so they look like they know what they’re doing. Publishing is a business, after all, and booksellers don’t have to waste time with an indie who isn’t professional. There are plenty of authors who are.
That really is about all. Since my mind is a one-way track, I’ll be focusing on proofing the proofs of my series. I won’t be able to think about anything else until that’s done, but with as quickly as it’s going, I should be able to have them finished by the middle of October. Entering in the fixes takes longer than reading the proofs because for some reason, seeing a sentence that needs to be rewritten…i can’t wrap my mind around writing it in a different way. It’s just roadblock I need to overcome because of course there’s a different way to rewrite a sentence. There’s a million different ways to rewrite a sentence. After that’s completed, I will put all my attention on my trilogy because I want to get those out in January, and I have to still finalize covers and write my blurbs. With all that going on, I’m itching to get back to writing, but depending on how all the above goes, I may not be writing new material until next year. It’s just how my mind works. I’ve decided to go with it instead of fighting it. Besides, I like getting one project done and moving to the next. I feel more productive than having three or four things going on at once.
I hope you all have a good week! There’s not much of 2022 left. Do you have any goals you want to reach before then?
I write a lot about covers but the fact is, formatting your paperback book’s interior is probably the most frustrating part of publishing your book. While there are tools out there to help, even super awesome tools such as Vellum that will format your book almost perfectly with just a few clicks, there are things that can trip you up.
I ordered a paperback the other day and it was double spaced. I usually look at the interior of a paperback on Amazon before I buy because I have said many times on this blog that I don’t read books that aren’t formatted properly, but this was a friend’s book and I purchased it out of faith. Like some readers who won’t buy books if the cover is bad, I don’t like buying books that are double spaced or not fully justified. They look bad and poor formatting pulls me out a story before I even start reading.
Here are my top two reasons to format properly:
Professionalism Indies lament constantly about how difficult it is to get into bookstores and libraries. Part of the problem is their books don’t look professional. This goes beyond a bad cover. When a manager for an indie bookstore flips through your book, it needs to look like a book inside. Librarians also will be reluctant to spend their funds on books that do not look professional. Barnes and Noble won’t stock your book if it won’t fit in with the other books on their shelves. Your book takes up space–they want products that will sell. Not to mention, the product they stock reflects their reputation.
Cost KDP and IngramSpark charges you for paper. You either eat that cost as a publisher or your make your readers eat it by charging for extra paper. When your book is double spaced and/or your gutters and margins are too wide or even if your indents are deeper than they need to be (.50 as opposed to .25) it all wastes space. Draft2Digital tweeted a calculator not that long ago, and we can run the numbers. Say you have a book with a 6×9 trim size, it’s 350 pages double spaced and wide margins. You price your book at $15.99 USD. This is what you get:
Your author copies will cost you $5.61 and you make $1.59 per book. But what if you formatted it with single spaces and narrowed the margins? Say you can decrease your pages by 30. This is what you get:
Your author copy price goes down to $5.23 and your royalty goes up to $1.97. If you wanted to price your book cheaper to give your readers a break, you could price your book at $14.99 and this is what happens:
Your royalty goes down to $1.52, but you’re saving your reader a dollar because you aren’t charging them for paper. I don’t know how many pages you would save single-spacing a manuscript, but saving paper will always be cost effective and kinder to trees. Plus, shipping cost goes down because your books aren’t so unnecessarily heavy.
I admit, I don’t do fancy formatting. I use Vellum and it’s fast and easy, but I’m also using version 2.6.7 when they’re on 3.3. They’re always adding bells whistles, but honestly, I just don’t care. There is something to be said for a fancy paperback though, and I do get tempted to play when I see books like Sienna Frost’s Obsidian. Here are some pictures of her paperback interior that I stole from this tweet. (With her permission. The ebook is on sale for .99 from today until August 28th, 2022.)
You don’t have to go all out like Sienna did, if that’s not your thing. I put my time elsewhere, but maybe one day I’ll create collector’s editions of some of my books. For now, I use plain vectors from DepositPhotos as chapter header images, like the wine and beer glasses from Rescue Me as they met in a bar. Beer for his chapters and wine for hers.
The IBPA lists the publishing standards that are needed for a book to be considered professionally published. You can download the list, but sometimes it’s easier to pull a book off your shelf and just look at it. Look a what the copyright page consists of, what that publisher and author used in the front and back matter. In all the excitement of putting out our books, sometimes we forget what a real book looks like and it helps to have the real thing as an example. The guidelines are a big help, though, a checklist of sorts, and you can find them here. https://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standards-checklist-download
It’s all fine and good to have a list and know what you’re supposed to do, but having the means and the tools is something else entirely. I was lucky and my ex-fiancé bought me a MacBook Air and Vellum. I knew I would be formatting a lot of books, and between my own books and the books I’ve formatted for friends, I’ve saved a lot of money, despite how much a Mac can cost.
Since this blog is all about how to do things professionally but on a shoestring budget, here are some free or cheap ways to format your books:
Atticus Dave Chesson’s baby, Atticus, is a low cost answer to Vellum, available for both PC and Macs. I’ve heard reports it’s glitchy, but their customer service is very helpful. You can check it out here. At 147.00 and a 30 day money back guarantee, there’s not a lot of risk trying it out. https://www.atticus.io/
Reedsy Reedsy offers a free formatting tool. I tried it once a while ago, and there’s a small learning curve. Sometimes people just have a knack for learning new things and some people don’t. I don’t remember liking it all that much, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Free to use and the files are eligible to be uploaded anywhere.
Network Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to network. In some of my groups on Facebook there have been times an author has displayed frustration to the point of tears and there is always a kind soul who will help out. I’ve done covers for people when their ads aren’t working because of their covers, and I’ve edited and formatted for people too. The only problem with asking for a favor is that the file isn’t yours and any changes you make will make you feel guilty for asking. If you can find a way to format yourself, having control can be priceless. Anne Wheeler does book formatting using Vellum. She said I could post with her permission. Reach out to her if you have a book that needs simple formatting without a super short turnaround time. Carol Beth Anderson also does formatting using Vellum for $50.00/book. You can contact her as well. Nicole Scarano offers book formatting using Vellum. Unlike me, she updates hers and offers premium formatting. Join her Facebook group if you’re interested in learning more. (These women are friends of mine, but i haven’t used their services. My recommendation is not an endorsement and they are not affiliate links.)
The fact is, booksellers won’t take your book for their stock if it’s not formatted properly, libraries won’t want your book in their stacks, and readers won’t want to read. It’s not that difficult to properly format your interiors. It’s not being snobby to want the books you buy to look like books, because if an author doesn’t care about doing it properly, I shouldn’t care about reading it. I’m not going to make allowances and exceptions for an author who should know better, and neither do booksellers. There’s a tweet I responded to by my friend Anne I mentioned above, about the stigma self-publishing still faces, and there doesn’t have to be. (Though I know for a fact her books are beautiful!)
Authors can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Books are your business. Take pride in every aspect, and others will do the same.
Quick note: I use Canva Pro, and some of the features I talk about are not available in their free plan. Before Canva added those features, I taught myself a few things in GIMP, a free version of Photoshop. (Find it here:https://www.gimp.org/downloads/) It will be up to you to learn the things you don’t know. And as always, there are no affiliate links in this post.
While there are some things that still pertain to doing your cover in Canva such as making sure your stock photos are 300 dpi so your cover isn’t pixelated, there is a lot that has changed, too, so let’s dive in.
Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you have a formatted manuscript. This includes all your front matter and back matter, your dedication page, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. If you do it yourself with Word, Vellum or Atticus, InDesign or other, you can make changes whenever you want (and you probably will). KDP gives you a 10 page grace, so don’t go crazy. If you hire out, you’ll need the total number of pages of the formatted manuscript that you’ll upload into KDP or IngramSpark and the trim size you’ve chosen for your book.
Once you have that, you can download the cover template that will show you the bleed areas to stay away from when creating your cover. Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/cover-calculator and enter in all the information they want.
1. Paperback or hardback That’s your choice, and I would imagine the instructions on how to do the cover are the same. I’ve never done a hardback so I don’t know if it’s worth the time or not.
2. Because you’re not creating a coffee table book or a cook book that requires colored pages (those projects are beyond the scope of this blog post) choose a black and white interior.
3. Cream pages for fiction, white for non-fiction is usually the norm. Your page color is attached to your ISBN number, so you can’t change your mind after you publish.
4. Page turn direction is left to right, but if you choose the wrong one, the template will show you a cover with the back on what would normally be the front. Just go back and change it.
5. I choose inches.
6. Choose your trim size. Trim size is also attached to your ISBN so you can’t change the size of your book unless you republish. If you have a very long book, you may want to go with 6×9 due to printing costs in KDP. Look at what other authors in your genre are doing. Amazon makes it easy to find the product information of any paperback book. I used to go with 5×8, but under my new pen name I’m going with 5.5×8.5 for all my books. You’ll need to tell your interior formatter which size you’re going with as well.
7. Enter the page count. This determines the thickness of your spine. (Press Enter if the yellow button doesn’t light up.)
8. Click Calculate Dimensions.
With the new way KDP offers you the template, all you need for the canvas size in Canva are the numbers for the full cover. The width is 12.045 and the height is 8.75. Before, you used to have to do the math (adding the front and back covers and spine and bleed) to figure out this number, but not anymore.
Click download template on the lower left. It will come in a ZIP file. Open the file and save the PNG under a name you’ll remember so you can find it to upload it into Canva.
The template will have all the information you entered into the template creator and will remind you of the canvas size: 12.045 (width) x 8.75 (height).
In Canva, on the home page, you’ll want to do Custom Size:
There, you’ll enter in the numbers that the KDP template gave you:
Click Create New Design.
When you do that, you will have the exact sized canvas you need to fit the template you downloaded.
Adjust it like you would any picture or element you use in Canva.
And really, it’s that easy. No more math. No more guessing the canvas size. This is my template for the first book in my King’s Crossing Series. I’m using a 5.5×8.5 trim size, the pages of the book are 318 and I print on cream paper.
In my other blog post, I took you through the steps on how to use the template, and I can do that here. I’ll keep going with the first book’s cover.
Using the transparency, you can see the bleed lines I’ll need to stay away from when adding text. It’s why I build on top of the template, but you can always guess, and then using transparency, put the template on top of your finished cover and see if you stayed away. That’s a lot of adjusting if you’re not used to making covers, especially text sizing on the spine, but you’ll do what works for you.
Next I darken the image and add the guy. I pay for Pro, so I’m not sure what all the special features are available in the free plan but I think the background remover is worth the price alone.
Remove his background and darken him up. I play with the brightness and contrast until I like how he looks against the background.
Canva has a lot of cool elements that I’ve started using, and I don’t need GIMP as nearly as often as I used to. Because I like his size, but the photo is cut off toward the bottom, I needed something that would hide that and make the title font and my author name pop. So I found a black gradient element that I use and put it at the bottom.
This black gradient is perfect for what I need it to do:
Now I have space for the title and my author name. Canva Pro offers a lot of font options, too, and while I try to buy my own just for my own peace of mind, sometimes I do use theirs, but I always give attribution on my copyright page at the front of my books.
The font I’m using for the title is Better Saturday and Playfair Display.
This is why I build on top of the template. So I can see where to place the text so it’s a safe distance from the bleed marks.
When you’re doing the spine text, you can zoom in to see the bleed lines clearly.
Print on Demand is iffy at best, and I’m cutting it close with CRUEL. I’ll make that a bit smaller to give the printers some wiggle room. There’s always someone on Facebook complaining their spine text isn’t centered, but I’ve given up worrying about it. It’s nothing you can control. Just give the printer enough space to mess up so your text doesn’t bleed onto the back or front cover.
Add your name and imprint to the spine if you want and then do the blurb or whatever else you’re going to put on the back cover. I’ve only added my author photo with my bio one time. I also skip putting the barcode white box on the back. KDP will add it for you if you leave that space blank.
Keeping the transparency low on the background lets you see that the text for the blurb isn’t too close to the edges.
You’ll want to tweak it, of course, but when you change the transparency to 0 you can see how it will look when all the pieces are in place. (Oops, almost forgot the series logo.)
In the bottom left of the back cover, I call that the crap corner. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what to put there because there’s not a lot of room for anything, and with the barcode in place, the corner just looks empty. I’ve started putting my author website there for lack of anything better and I think it works okay. Like I said, I leave the barcode box blank. Both KDP and IngramSpark will add it if you don’t buy or make your own barcode. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur has a free barcode creator if you want to create your own barcode. You can find it here. Barcode Creator. (Okay, I lied. I added it so you can see what it looks like.)
One of the updates that surprised me was when Canva added the choice (for Pro Plan) to download in RBG or CMYK. IngramSpark prefers the CMYK and KDP, I don’t think, cares. I’ve always uploaded an RBG because that’s all Canva has offered in the past.
This takes some of the worry off using IngramSpark because I hated seeing their error messages even though I knew what I was doing was okay. My covers always came out fine (POD mistakes aside) so I never worried about it either way, but it’s nice to have the choice.
You can use this cover for IngramSpark, too, but make the text on the spine smaller. Their spines are narrower because of the kind of paper they use. IngramSpark also has a cover template generator, and if you want to make sure you’re in the bleed lines, you can download it and lay it on top your cover. If you want to keep both, duplicate your KDP cover and name them, indicating their appropriate platforms. Using your transparency, you can adjust the font and then delete it when you’re done.
As you can see, I would want to adjust the title on the spine because it’s narrower than KDP’s template. I haven’t found there to be any other difference.
Adjust the text so they are still centered, and you’re done with covers for both templates and platforms.
What I really love doing for a series is saving the first book as a jpg or png, and then laying that over the other books in the series so all the elements are in the same place. I was actually really lucky with the pages in my books, and I was able to use the same template for 4 of the 6 books.
That was convenient because I could duplicate the cover and then swap out the guy and change the titles, and I knew everything would be the same size and in the same exact place. I don’t always expect to be that lucky, though.
Here’s what the finished product looks like. The cover looks a bit washed out, but that’s the photo and I don’t think it needs adjusting in real life. I can move the black gradient over a bit though, closer to the spine, but otherwise, I think it’s pretty good.
I think I covered everything there is to know with the updates. If you have a cover from a designer and you need to resize it, entering the numbers and generating your own template for the numbers and plopping them into Canva is easy. Another update Canva Pro added recently is you’re able to upload PDFs, not just PNGs, JPGs, and JPEGs. I haven’t needed to try it yet, but I was excited about the new things Canva is adding for us! Canva Pro also has a resize option that I’ve used for my large print books and it works pretty well.
Atticus is a new interior formatting software created by Dave Chesson and his team at Kindlepreneur. Atticus is available for all computers, not only for Mac like Vellum is. You can find Atticus here. If you have a Mac and want to play with Vellum, you can try it for free. They’ll charge you only if you want to generate files. Find Vellum here. If you don’t have the cash for either, but still want to do it yourself, KDP also supplies interior templates with bleeds and gutters and front matter in place. Download the template with sample content. Delete theirs and copy and past your own into the template. You can find info about the interior templates here. (That is actually how I formatted my books before I bought Vellum.)
GetCovers is a cheap place (popular and trustworthy, they are based in Ukraine) to find covers for your books if you don’t want to make your own. (They also have a very informative marketing newsletter if you want to sign up.) I’ve started looking through them for practice. This cover was in one of their Tweets; I follow them on Twitter. I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate so I tried using only Canva tools. I could probably do better if I took more time, but I think I did a good job. Because of the elements that you’ll have at your disposal, you won’t be able to get everything right, but the practice is invaluable.
I’m writing a quick Thursday author update because on Monday I’m posting updated instructions on how to do a full wrap for a paperback in Canva. Both Canva and KDP made changes that have made my post from last year basically obsolete, and anyone who reads it now will be like, what? because the site where you can download your cover template has changed. So, you gotta stay with the times. (But no video as of yet. I know I promised, but making a video is nerve-wracking and I’m not excited to jump into it.)
I emailed Jeff Bezos’s email address this morning about my large print book. I submitted Captivated by Her in a large print edition, but KDP blocked it as duplicate content. I was a little pissy since I was able to publish two other large print books without an issue. So I wrote to his email address asking if large print was going to be blocked as duplicate content (which doesn’t make any sense to me anyway because it is) then why give us the option? There’s even a little box when you’re publishing asking if it’s large print. You can check it, and I assumed that publishing a regular print book along with a large print was a no-brainer. I guess not. In the email, I didn’t even ask them to unblock my book. I don’t care about that so much because I can publish them through IngramSpark (which is a hassle, but you do what you gotta do). I know on Amazon that can be hit and miss with availability, but it’s better than not publishing at all. I just wanted an explanation, and if they really don’t want us to publish large print, take the option away and force us to use IngramSpark. I hate seeing my blocked book on my dashboard, and I don’t want to do anything that will cause KDP to close my publishing account. I’ve always been on the up and up with them, and treat my books as a business. I just get mad when things don’t go how they should go. Anyway, I don’t expect a response. I’m sure Large Print books are not on their list of priorities, but at least i can say I tried.
I’m 30k into a new first book in a trilogy. I’ve got loose plots for all three books, and I’m having fun writing it. I was going to write the remaining four books in a different series I started last year, but the characters in this book wouldn’t leave me alone, so they’ll get slotted into my publishing schedule in 2024, and then I’ll have the other series to release in 2025. It’s a bit crazy that I’m that far ahead, but I don’t have to be.
I could release as quickly as I want, but there’s no point in turning on the faucet in a gush if there’s no one around to appreciate the water. I’ll slowly release while I gather email subscribers and hopefully readers. My launch (though I haven’t reached the 30 day cliff on Amazon yet) hasn’t done anything but with one book and it being half of a duet, I kept my expectations low. My plea to my newsletter subscribers who downloaded it as an ARC for a review went unanswered, and it doesn’t even have one to make the product page look nice. Maybe I should have gone with Booksprout after all. Oh well. We’ll see where I am next year at this time, though I don’t know if I’ll be doing much better. It takes so long now to build a readership, I may not be looking at any kind of momentum until 2024. But that’s par for the course in these times. I just have to work harder on building my list and learning how to take advantage of promos on Bookfunnel. Earning a reader’s trust takes time and lots of consistency. I’ll get there, I just hope I don’t burn out before I do.
My Facebook ad for my newsletter sign up is going well, and I have 218 subscribers. I’ll need to shut my ad off in a couple of days though since I’ll have reached a 100 dollar ad spend, and I don’t want to spend any more than that. I’m already paying for Bookfunnel, so I should explore that more. And I think I’ll turn off my FB ad for Captivated as well. I’m getting a few clicks but they are really expensive (26 cent a click), and my sales dashboard is a big goose egg for that book. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, but I want to save a little money to push the book when the second comes out. Pacing in a book is important, but it’s also important when you’re blowing your budget. My Amazon ads are also dead in the water, probably because I’m not bidding high enough for them to be shown to anyone. For right now, I’m using Bryan Cohen’s method of a thirty cent click bid, and that is not enough for a romance genre, especially one as popular as billionaire. After I shut my Facebook ads off I can create a few more on Amazon with a higher bid and see if that helps. In the words of almost every professional marketer out there: Test, test, test!
That’s about all I have for today. I’m happy to be writing again, and I’ll be busy with this trilogy until the end of the year.
Happy first Monday of 2022! I hope the start of the new year has gone well for all of you!
Two days ago I was thinking about writing another book. It would be a reader magnet for my newsletter, but in the end, I talked myself out of it. I’ve been saying for a while now that I want to start launching some of my books, and I can’t do that if I’m writing. In 2022 I’ve decided to play to my strengths, or at the very least, try to co-exist with them and I can’t write one book while writing or editing another. It will be easier for me to accept it and postpone something new because I’d never get any of my older books off the ground. So I gave myself a pat on the back, even though this book is all plotted out and I even played with covers. I’ll write it after my duet is set and ready to go, and not a minute before.
So, now that that crisis has been averted, I can start to drill down on what I need to get done for these two books. I’m still going to try to launch in April. Being that I still have to listen to both books to make sure I don’t have any typos and I still proofread the paperback proofs no matter what, a mid-April release day for the first book should be doable.
So here’s what I’m thinking:
This week I’m going to look at comparison authors and titles for ad keywords. I already have been doing this a little when I was doing cover research. Billionaire is all over the place now with everything from models in color, to black and white, to objects. I can’t get a bead on anything that’s trending definitely, except it seems a single male still graces more covers than a couple. I have a small list of the big-named authors that dominate the top 100 on Amazon, but I’m also going to dig deeper and make a list of mid-list authors that I may not have heard of that are still doing well. Publisher Rocket is great for finding out info on the “competition” and that software will let me know if it’s worth my time to add them to my comp author list.
I’ve said for months I’m going to create a list of newsletter promos that don’t require a minimum number of reviews. I’ve been sitting on this for months because I haven’t needed it, but it will be a great resources for people, so what I need to do is settle in with a snack, put on some music, and just get it done. I have list after list of promo sites, I just need to go onto each website and break them down. Starting up a new pen name without any reader group/newsletter/ARC giveaways pretty much guarantees me to releasing with 0 reviews. But even though I didn’t get the best results with Booksprout, I wasn’t writing to market as well as I could have been, so giving that site a try with my new books might be something I’ll consider. I have come to realize that if you use Booksprout correctly and publish frequently, it’s a place on its own where you can build a community of readers who will snap up every book you put up for reviews. Changing my mindset may be helpful considering it will take a while to build my own reader group, and nurturing a community on Booksprout may be faster, at least for this year’s releases. If you want to read about my Booksprout experience, you can look here. If you’re curious about the review site, you can look here.
So that’s what I have going on this week–mostly a lot of busy work while I give the books time to rest. During the last two passes I made some changes to the breadcrumbs I had to leave for the characters to solve the mystery part of the plot, and I want to give myself space so the next time I read them through I can see if the changes make sense.
In the meantime, I can nail down the covers I’ve been playing with. Because of the feedback, I switched out both of the models and changed up the background, so it was helpful. The covers for these two books hold a lot of weight because not only are they setting the tone for what’s inside, but they’re also setting the tone for my entire catalogue of books going forward and my author brand. There was no point in niching down if my branding isn’t consistent. That’s another reason why making a list of comp authors by hand instead of letting Publisher Rocket pull a list for me is really important. I need to make sure I’m aligning myself with the correct authors. Here’s what I have so far:
Part of the problem with asking for feedback is that people will throw out solutions like you know how to do those things. When you have limited capabilities like I do, it can be tough to follow everyone’s advice. I asked for feedback for the guy on Addicted‘s cover because I’m not 100% I like the shadow on his forehead, but when everyone told me how to “fix” it, I had no clue, so watch out for that. I can’t use photo manipulation software in a way a lot of authors and graphic designers can, I can usually only look for a different stock photo or try my best with what I know in GIMP. Chances are I’m making a big deal over nothing because both models have shadows. It’s probably more important that they look cohesive and that they belong together as a set.
Finally? A reader magnet? I’ve only been talking about it for months….
Talking with my significant other, he gave me the idea to go ahead and use My Biggest Mistake as a reader magnet. It’s a 74k standalone, and with the way I have my publishing schedule set up, I won’t be publishing it for a while. It’s already edited, formatted and has a cover. What this means is I would have to figure out BookFunnel in a hurry. I have the barebones of my newsletter signup worked out, though I do have a MailerLite course by Holly Darling that purchased on Black Friday for my birthday that I haven’t started yet, either. I have a landing page set up with the welcome email. I think all I would need to do is create an account with BookFunnel and download the book files and add the BookFunnel link to my welcome email for the download. I probably do have time to do all that, but it’s my nature to watch tutorials and see how others do it before trying to do anything myself. Considering that it’s my shortest standalone and that I don’t have plans to publish it anytime soon, I think it makes sense to use it as a reader magnet for the next little while. It doesn’t change too much for me, just adds more to my to-do list that needs to be completed by April because I’ll need to have it all in place for the duet’s back matter.
It really is no wonder why indies have it so tough these days. So much jumping through hoops to play the game.
The last thing I’ll need to do is get all my files ready and submit a preorder for book two so I have have the link available to put in the back matter of book one. It’s not that I like preorders or think they’re beneficial, especially since my audience will be in KU and they don’t preorder books, but in this case, I need them up so I can claim my Amazon Author page and my Goodreads profile. It’s been so long since I’ve done either of those that it’s going to take me a couple days to figure it out again. I can also start running low cost-per-click ads to the preorder and test my keywords to see if I get any impressions and clicks. I’m going to release at full price, though I’m not sure what that will be. Prices are rising, and $2.99 books are considered on the lower-end of pricing. I may bump up to $3.99, maybe even $4.99 since I’m not targeting people who will buy my books, though if they wanted to, I wouldn’t argue. No, my target audience is the whale readers who devour books in KU. I’ll have to up my prices on paperbacks, too, because the of the paper shortages. It’s really too bad because I’ve always tried to keep my paperback books affordable, but IngramSpark is raising the cost of their fees. Between that and the cost of paper, it’s expensive to publish through IS these days. I know one thing, if you put your price on your back cover, IngramSpark makes you match the price in your account, so if you don’t want to keep tweaking your cover, don’t put the price on the back. I’m not even sure if I’m going to publish with Ingram with this new pen name. I probably will, but I just don’t know if the effort is worth it.
So, I have a lot to keep me busy, and of course I’ll keep you guys updated! I’ll have a lot of new experiences to write about in the coming weeks. I hope you all had a fantastic start to the new year!
Last night I sat in on a wonderful Facebook Beginners Ads class by Mal Cooper. She was great! It was a bit of a surprise because of all the webinars and classes I’ve attended that use Zoom, I’ve always been a behind the scenes participant, but with Mal’s class, our cameras were on, and at the end she encouraged us to ask questions (something I did not do, letting my introvert insecurities get the best of me and now I need to email my question). I’d never participated in a Zoom class like that before, but it was fun and after a couple minutes of indecision, I turned my camera on. Luckily I had showered and done my hair and makeup for the day. I feel more productive when I do that, and these day with social media who knows when you’ll need to pop on somewhere and say hi. Anyway, I learned a lot and it was well worth the fee.
There are two more webinars scheduled for this week but I’ll be working and I’ll need to watch the replays. I could probably spend 24 hours a day consuming classes and information!
I’m stalled a bit with my latest novel. I thought of a couple of things that would make the book better, and I’ve paused writing to fix those. I liken changing a scene to pushing over a domino. It can change a lot more than just the scene and can affect the entire book. A lot of writing craft gurus say to keep going and not edit as you go along, but I prefer to have a pretty clean first draft when I’m finished so I do go back and edit and fix inconsistencies as they arise. I still can finish a book in a decent amount of time and I don’t need to get it all on the page in order to finish a book. Life being what it is, I haven’t been able to work on my book much this week at all, but I should have a quiet weekend and make some good headway and probably finish it next week some time. With my appointments for my girly bits and my son’s wound checkups and scheduled dental appointments for both kids, somehow September has grown quite busy. Still trying my best, but my best feels like trying to run a marathon in quicksand and the more I try to work, the more bogged down I get.
I work well with lists, and find I don’t feel so overwhelmed if I can write out what I need to do in the coming months. Here’s a quick list:
Finish current WIP.
Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
Proof the proof of Faking Forever and make changes to the ebook and paperback interiors: a) add my newsletter sign up to the back matter b) add price to the back cover of paperback (check to see if I need a price increase for IngramSpark)* c) fix title name font size on spine
Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
Create a cover for it, front and back because I’m going to upload it to KDP so I can proof a paperback proof of it. It can stay in KDP because after it grows stale as a reader magnet I’ll publish it.
After I proof it and make sure there are no typos in it, create a Bookfunnel account and upload it. Ideally I would like to have 1,000 emails on my newsletter before I start to publish anything.
And last, but not least, before November, create a box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series, and run a .99 promo on it for the holidays. I’ll probably do a couple of smaller promos like Ereader News Today or Robins Reads. I’ve never tried them before. I did a BargainBooksy through Written Word Media that didn’t do too well for a .99 promo of Wherever He Goes. Their FreeBooksy is always great, but not sure if I want to give away a complete 4-book boxed set. Even .99 is low, but my royalties will come from the page reads I’ll get in KU, so maybe I will do free. Not sure. The books are already over a year old and I don’t know if I’ll write anymore 3rd person books. I’m more than comfortable writing what I’m writing, but never say never.
*IngramSpark sent out an email saying they needed to up their pricing due to rising costs in the industry, and they are slowly going through everyone’s books to see if their pricing will stay on the positive after the price increase. If your book is set to go into negative royalties, they’re going to ask you to up your price. Which isn’t a big deal normally, but IngramSpark forces you to match your price to the cover if you put it on there, which I do, right above the ISBN box on the back. So if I have to raise the prices for any of my books, I’ll need to make the changes on the covers as well, and resubmit. I don’t care if my books make fewer royalties–I rarely sell paperbacks anyway–and if my books can stay in the black, I’ll leave my older books how they are and price higher any books I publish through them from now on. If you want to read their announcement, you can find it here.
It’s difficult to know what to do first. It makes sense to publish Faking Forever so I have a buy-link to put in the back of my reader magnet so when they finish reading a free book, there’s one available to purchase. On the other hand, publishing it without a newsletter in place to announce the launch and depending on paid newsletter mentions like BargainBooksy, ENT (Ereader News Today, Robins Reads, Fussy Librarian, etc) and ads may not be enough to give me a good launch as a new pen name without a backlist. Mal said something that I agreed with in the Facebook Ads class last night too, and she said it doesn’t make much sense to put a book that’s going to be in KU on preorder because KU subscribers will wait to read it anyway. I guess I’ll be trying to get newsletter signups and promoting my reader magnet without a book for sale, but I’ll have it all ready to go into KDP so when I do decide to publish it, all I’ll have to do is press publish and approve proof. The only good I can see of doing a preorder while you’re in KU is having the buy-link to post in places. Something to think about.
Probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in the past five years I’ve been publishing is for me, at least, it just is not working to publish as I get books done. There is no consistency in a publishing schedule when I’ve done that. There are a couple of indies who do well publishing as they finish books, but I think those are the exceptions that prove the rule. The indies who make consistent money are the ones who are a few books ahead in their schedules. It’s tough because I’ve talked about this before: you have to be okay with keeping books while you stock up, and then you have kind of a conveyor belt feel to the entire process. I don’t want to feel like that, but I also don’t need the pressure of writing and publishing a book every four months without a Plan B. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get through some of my list and as I do hopefully I’ll find readers and starting an avalanche of readers, email subscribers, and releasing books won’t seem as daunting as it does right now.
What I’ve enjoyed this week:
The Six Figure Authors Podcast is back from their summer hiatus, and I enjoyed listening to their first episode! They talk about taking your writing from hobby to career level, and you can watch it here.
I also loved this episode of the Wish I’d Known Then podcast. Thomas Umstattd Jr. had a lot of interesting and possibly controversial things to say about treating your books like your business. There are so many writers and authors who don’t want to look at their books as a product to sell, but then when it comes to marketing, they don’t understand what to do. Give it a listen and tell me what you think. Do you agree with what he has to say?
Monday I’ll talk a little bit about writer’s block and why it seems I never suffer from it. Come back for those tips!
I wanted to put this at the top of the blog post, because if you don’t read anything else, at least read this. There’s apparently a wave of scammers out there who are claiming books through ACX, hiring narrators for books that aren’t theirs, and trying to make some royalties off the audiobook. Even if you don’t plan to make an audiobook (I’m not–I can’t afford anything like that right now) I’ve read in various author FB groups that you should go on ACX and claim your books so no one else can. I did last night–it took me about twenty minutes. Here is how you do it:
Go to acx.com and create an account. It’s just your KDP/Amazon credentials.
After you create an account, select ADD YOUR TITLE in the upper right hand corner.
Then you can search for your books under your author name or by book title. ACX was glitching for me last night and when I tried to select a title under my author name, it wouldn’t let me, but it would let me select the title if I searched by title and author name.
Click this is my book. On the next page, even if you have absolutely no plans to make an audiobook of this novel, click I’m looking for someone to narrate or produce my audiobook. Don’t worry about this part of it–it’s not locking you into anything.
On the next page, scroll down to the bottom and click the User Agreement box and click Agree and Continue.
After that, your book is claimed and there is no other steps you need to take. If you have other books, click Add Your Title at the upper right corner of the screen and start the process over again. If you have successfully claimed a book, the option to claim it will be gone, otherwise you didn’t claim it correctly and you’ll have to do it again.
And that’s it. With box sets and single books, it took me a little bit, plus the website was glitching on me and it took a while to claim them all. I don’t have any plans to make audiobooks, and claiming them isn’t a sure-fire way to keep scammers from trying to make a few bucks off your books, but at least it’s a start. I found this out last night scrolling through my FB author groups. Indie publishing is rife with scammers, and it’s better to protect yourself–another reason to make sure you have copyright proof of your books available! I love Amazon and think they have given us some wonderful opportunities, but they are not perfect, nor is any business, and you can’t count on others to protect your work. Thanks to Julie C. Gilbert and her instructions on her website that walked me through the process.
With that out of the way….
Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve had a catch-up post because all I’ve been doing is writing, writing, writing, but I have slowly been working toward getting my pen name set up. I created a website that isn’t live yet because I’m waiting to get a couple of my books and blurbs ready to post, and I had my sister take a few author photos of me at the local park not long ago. I know some people don’t want to reveal who they really are, but in these days of ghostwriting, AI, and scammers trying to make a buck off Amazon, one way you can stick out is be your real self on social media. People connect with people. It’s another reason I picked my initials with my real last name instead of a completely different name to write under. I will always be me on social media: all my grumpiness, attitude, helpfulness and cheerfulness. I could never be someone else and I would never try. That said, I’m happy we were able to take a few that I like, and even though the sun was setting and it made me look orange, they came out well. I think black and white makes me look classy (and gets rid of the orange!). Here are a few. I like the black and white for the headshot, and for the back matter I’m going to use the full body shot with the flowers in the background.
With that out of the way, I was able to order my proof for Faking Forever, but I’m going to wait a few days before proofing it. I’m trying to streamline my publishing process so I don’t have to go back and redo anything. I’m going to make a patient effort to do everything at one time. The cover for KDP, ebook and full wrap/the paperback cover for IngramSpark/the Large Print edition for KDP. If I want to go one step further, I could offer the Large Print edition on IngramSpark, too, it would just take an extra few minutes to create the cover for it. It is time consuming to be the one to do all of it yourself, and I wish there was a better free way. For now I’m a one-person show and if I want it done, I’ll just have to make the time. Here’s a picture of the proof. I think it turned out really nice, and I can’t wait to figure out my publishing schedule and put it up!
There are some tweaks I’m going to have to make, but otherwise I think it turned out great! If you want to know the process I went through to create it, let me know, and I’ll blog about it. I don’t want you all to get sick of my cover posts!
I’m relieved to finally be making some progress in regards to publishing, though I haven’t made much headway with my newsletter (meaning, no signups!). Without a reader magnet, I don’t have anywhere to put the link up that will draw in readers. I’m part of writer Twitter and I haven’t tweeted out my newsletter link there, the same as Instagram. That’s the biggest problem I see indies have–they align themselves with other writers, and then they wonder why they don’t sell books. You may sell a handful here and there to your writer friends, but it isn’t going to be enough to make a career. I don’t promo on Twitter and it’s going to be the same for my newsletter. So, I’m going to have to offer a reader magnet, and it could be the ugly duckling trope I’d written expressly for that purpose after all, or this new one I’m writing that I should be done with toward the middle of next month. It makes more sense for the ugly duckling book to be my reader magnet because it’s finished and pretty much ready to go and I could start building my list for my releases that much sooner, or I could just depend on organic signups and put my link the back matter of my books and not give away a reader magnet at all. It’s tempting to do that, but building my list will take more time.
The problem is i haven’t published for so long and I’m writing books that I’m not sure are any good, (and no one really does until strangers read and review, so I know that’s not my insecurities.) that it’s frozen me in place. I don’t want to building my list and I don’t want to release my books. Except, you have to take a chance if you want a career. I mean, I know exactly why people only promo on Twitter. They don’t want to run ads or buy promos. Twitter is safe. Selling to your friends is safe. It’s scary to put your work out there and present it to strangers to buy and review. It’s easy to hide behind the obscurity of Twitter and say, “This is the best I can do” when you know deep down you could be doing more. I’m at that place now, where it would be easy for me to launch my books with no plan but a pinned tweet and say, “this is the best I can do”, but I don’t want to cheat myself out of the chance to make something with my writing. So. I need a reader magnet, and I need to stop hiding behind the guise I’m writing. There’s no point in writing to keep it all on my computer.
In other (personal) news, my midwife said my infection is gone! I had an appointment at the beginning of the month hoping to discuss other treatments and she said the tests indicate it’s gone. I’m not sure what that means for me as I still don’t feel 100% right, though I admit I feel better than I have since I found out I had my infection way back in March. I’ll keep taking my probiotics and vitamin C and giving my body time to take care of itself. It will be really nice not to have to think about it anymore, and a negative test result is a good start.
I suppose that’s it for now. Monday I’m going to talk a little about Facebook Ads. I’ve got some resources to share with you, so I hope you check back.
I’ve come across this question a lot these days, mostly I think because a lot of authors use Canva for their ebook covers and graphics for promos. Some bloggers have compared Canva to Book Brush, and while Book Brush can do many things Canva can’t, I feel that Canva is more versatile and I prefer to use it over Book Brush. Especially since Book Brush is more expensive and if you already pay for Canva Pro, you’re not looking to plop down another $146 (for their popular package) a year on another program.
I’ve never made a full wrap in Book Brush, though it is a feature they have available in their paid plans. I made my first paperback wrap in Canva not even knowing if it was possible. It was the old cover for Wherever He Goes and it was a complete experiment applying what I knew from making covers in Word before I knew Canva existed. I ordered a proof not knowing what to expect, but the cover came out beautifully, and since then I’ve done all my wraps in Canva and for a couple other authors too.
These days if there is trouble with a cover, it’s probably a KDP Print glitch. Their POD printers are overworked and underpaid just like all of us these days and I’ve heard reports of covers not printing well, interiors that are crooked, pages falling out of the binding, and even text of other books inside yours. That is a KDP Print problem, not a Canva problem. The only issue I’ve ever encountered doing a paperback wrap in Canva is that IngramSpark requires a CMYK color file while Canva saves in RGB as does GIMP. IngramSpark will still accept your file, but they warn you the coloring in the cover might be off. If this is truly a concern of yours, don’t use Canva for a full wrap. Learn PhotoShop or hire out. I publish with IngramSpark and in a blog post from a couple years ago, I compared the books from IngramSpark and KDP Print. While everyone insists IngramSpark prints with better quality, I did not find that to bethe case, and Canva had nothing to do with it.
That being said, there are a couple things you need to know before you do a full wrap in Canva.
Your stock photo must be in 300 dpi. I buy my photos from Deposit Photos, and lately when I download a photo, the image size is huge but the dpi is only 72. You have to fix this or your cover will come out pixelated and you won’t know why. You can download GIMP for free and use the SCALE IMAGE (under Image in the menu) to fix this, or if you already have Photoshop, adjust the dpi and save. That is the photo version you want to upload into Canva.
This is the screenshot from a photo I used to make a mock cover the other day. You can see that the dpi is only 72. And if you take a look at the width and height, sometimes that is too huge for Canva to accept and they’ll ask you to fix the size. The width and the height doesn’t matter so much, and you can change the width to a lower number. This is a horizontal photo and I chose 3000 for the width. Press Enter and it will automatically resize the height. With the DPI set to 300, export it as a jpg or png, it doesn’t matter, Canva accepts both. (If I’ve lost you on this step, you’ll have to do your own digging. I rarely use GIMP and this post is by no means a tutorial on how to use it, because yeah, I don’t know how to do very much.)
You have to have your interior already formatted for paperback. That includes the front and back matter, the font you chose, gutters and margins and all the rest. Unless you want to play, it’s helpful if this is the final version of your paperback interior. It’s already been through betas and your editor. It should be ready to publish. If it’s not, you can experiment with your cover for practice, but you need the final number of pages for your spine’s width. KDP Print gives you ten pages of wiggle room. That’s not much and more often than not, they’ll make you resize your cover using an updated template.
Choose the trim size you want and page color you want. I see this question all the time in the FB groups, and most say it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Though if you’re concerned with printing costs, the more pages you have–250+–the larger the trim size you want (6×9 is best) because more pages means higher printing cost. My novels run anywhere between 70k to 90k and the only thing that I use as a yardstick is this: My series books are 5×8. My standalones are 5.5×8.5. I don’t know why I do this, but it’s a system I’ve fallen into. If you write epic fantasy and your books are 400 pages, choose the 6×9.
This is one of Lindsay Buroker’s epic fantasies. Amazon makes it easy for you to check out what other authors in your genre are doing. You can see that this book is 528 printed pages and she chose a 6×9 trim size. Her spine is 1.32 inches. It’s a thick book. When you publish and set your prices, KDP Print will offer you a royalty calculator and you can price your book based on the royalties you’ll make when you sell a paperback. Price too high and you won’t get many takers. Price too low and you won’t make anything on the sale. Try to find a happy medium and fit in with what other authors in your genre are doing.
As for the color, I always choose cream for fiction. Seems the standard is cream for fiction, white for nonfiction. There may be exceptions, but that’s what I go with.
When you have the number of pages from the formatted file, know your trim size and page color, you can Google KDP paperback templates.
This is only for paperback. As of this writing, they are rolling out a hardcover option. It’s in beta right now, but offering a hardcover is what you’ll need to decide based on your business goals. I write romance and I focus my marketing on readers in Kindle Unlimited. A hardcover edition of my book doesn’t interest me, and if I ever wasted the time to create one, it would be for vanity purposes only.
Download the template. It will come in a ZIP file. Open it up and save the PNG as a name you’ll be able to find later. You can’t upload a PDF into Canva, only download, so the PNG is the one you’ll want.
Now it’s time to do some math.
When you want to do a full wrap in Canva, you need to know the canvas size. This is where I think a lot of people get tripped up. How do you figure out the size of the canvas so your template will fit? Your canvas size has to be the size of your book’s trim, plus spine width, plus the bleed. These numbers will change based on the trim size you choose for your books and the spine size. You won’t be able to use the same canvas size over and over unless you choose the same trim size AND your book is the same number of pages every time. That’s going to be highly unlikely, so it’s best just to realize you’re going to need to learn how to do the math.
We’ll start with the template:
The template will tell you how wide your spine is. You need this for the math. There is another way to figure out spine if you don’t download the template first, but this is the easiest way so no use giving you more math.
Then this is how you figure out the size of the canvas:
For the width of the canvas: The width of the back cover plus bleed, plus spine, plus the width of the front cover plus bleed.
If we use the template above as an example, the template is 5.5 x 8.5. This is what we add together:
That is the inch width you put into the custom dimensions box in Canva. The default is pixels, you’ll need to change it to inches.
If you need to see it in a different way, I made this for a friend:
The height of the book is 8.5 + the bleed .25 = 8.75. This is the number you put into the height box in the custom dimensions.
Hit enter or click on Create New Design and you have the canvas for a 5.5x 8.5 sized book with a .65 spine. It might not look like much, but now you can upload the PNG of your template and put that into the canvas.
It will take a little moving around, but keep as much orange as possible because that’s your bleed line. Anything on the orange or beyond has a chance of getting cut off in printing. The spine guidelines keep your text from bring printed on the front or back covers. Make sure the template covers the entire canvas.
You might have noticed I didn’t tell you your template needs to be at 300 dpi, and it doesn’t. You’ll be building your cover on top of this template and you won’t see it at all when your book is printed.
When I say that you’ll be building your cover on top of this, I mean you’ll be putting the stock photo and all the text on top of the template. What you use for your front cover and the back cover is going to be up to you. Some authors use a horizontal photo like the woman on the dock above and use it to create a full wrap from the one photo, like this:
You can see I flipped her and used a filter, but I used the whole photo for a full cover wrap. I built it on top of the template using the transparency feature and it looks like this:
Using the bleed lines, you can put the font where it needs to go. It’s not perfect–the author name isn’t centered and can come down more. When you’re done with the bleed lines, change the transparency of the photo back to 0 and this is what you’ll download. Download the file in print-ready PDF for your KDP dashboard when you upload your files for publishing.
Lots of people say they don’t know what to put on the back of their covers. The sky is the limit, really, from just the blurb to reviews of the book to your author photo. I’ve only done my author photo once, and that was for the back of All of Nothing:
The only thing I would caution you on is you don’t need to make the blurb font huge. It was one of my mistakes first starting out. And if you don’t want to put a white box for the bar code, you don’t have to. KDP Print will add it when they print your cover. Google for more full wrap ideas.
For the woman on the dock, I blew up the part of the water giving the back cover a grainy texture that matched the photo but some authors like the full photo wrap. It keeps them from. having to worry about getting the bleed lines on the spine perfect for printing. POD printing isn’t an exact science anyway, so chances are even if your PDF is perfect, the spine will be a little off. No matter how centered my title and author name are, almost 100% of the time they won’t be centered on the spine when you order a copy. Now that I’ve done it both ways, I think I prefer the full photo wrap.
I added a white gradient (that you can find in Canva) to the bottom to white out the dock a little bit making Penny’s name more readable. When it comes to cover design you know your own abilities. I’ve often said I’m lucky I write romance and can find a cute couple and slap some text over them and call it good. It’s not that simple, obviously, but if I wrote in epic fantasy, or even thriller, I would have to hire out. I’m not interested in learning beyond what I know. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.
Developing an eye for book covers takes time and a lot of practice. Sometimes what you think looks good on the screen won’t translate well to a printed cover at all and you’ll be back to the drawing board. If you’re tackling book covers for the first time, you may be investing in some proof copies just to see how your work looks printed. If your business model makes paperbacks important, then you’ll put a lot of time into learning how to make your paperbacks look amazing. Like I said before, my business model centers around KU readers and it’s more important to make sure my cover grabs attention at thumbnail size and indicates to readers the second they look at it what genre it is.
It might seem like I skimmed over the most important part: the math. We can do another book with a different trim size just for practice.
This is the template the first book in my Rocky Point Wedding series. The trim is 5×8 and the spine is .70 inches. If we do the math for the Canva canvas it would look like this:
5.0 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .70 (spine) + 5.0 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 10.95. That is the width you would need to put into the custom box.
The height would be 8.0 (cover) + .25 (bleed) = 8.25. That is the height you would put into the custom dimensions box.
This is the cover I did for the first book in the series:
I did most of it in Canva, though I added some transparent gradient in GIMP for blending the two photos. Everything I know I taught myself, and it’s not fair i’m trying to shove four years of practicing and learning into one blog post. You’ll have to do your own experimenting.
Some odds and ends I picked up on the way:
Don’t buy a bar code. You don’t need one. KDP Print and IngramSpark will generate one for you. I buy my own ISBNs though, and that will be a choice you need to make if you’re in the States and expected to pay god-awful prices.
Don’t use free photos from Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, et al. Cover your butt and secure your business and use photos that you pay for from trusted sites like Shutterstock or Deposit Photos. Same with fonts. Not everything is available for commercial use. Be careful.
Use caution when choosing the models on your covers if you write romance. Amazon has gotten very picky lately, and the cover for His Frozen Heart disqualifies me from being able to run ads on Amazon Advertising to that series. Needless to say, that sucks.
You can use the same canvas size for an IngramSpark template. The one difference between an IS template and a KDP Print template is the spine for IS is narrower. The only adjustment you’ll be making is your font size for your title and author name on the spine will be smaller.
Elements (font, symbols ) can shift when you download your PDF and they will look “off” when you upload to KDP. I haven’t found a solution for this except to overcorrect, save, and re-download so the elements are in the place they are supposed to be. When you download the PDF, check the file before uploading to KDP. You’ll see if anything has shifted and you can correct it. The KDP Print previewer will show you exactly how your book cover and interior will print. If you don’t like ANYTHING in the previewer, fix it because printing won’t change it.
There are videos on how to create a full cover wrap in Canva–and you might find them helpful–but the few I’ve watched leave out important steps like making sure your photo is 300 dpi. This is going to take some trial and error. I remember being soooo nervous waiting to see if the cover for Wherever He Goes was going to look good.
I think that’s all I have. I know it seems like a lot of information, but blogs and videos won’t take the place of practice. If you have any questions, leave me a comment. I’ll answer to the best of my ability. If you’re making covers with my tips, tweet me at @V_Rheault on Twitter. I want to see what you’re doing.