Author Update (Yep, Again)

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:

Made with a vector from DepositPhotos in Canva

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?

Until next time!

Formatting your paperback book’s interior: tips and tools that can help!

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:

Word
Word is crude tool for formatting these days, but there are ways to make it work for you. KDP offers templates that you can use–simply delete their sample content and copy and paste your own into it. This is how I used to format my books before I had Vellum. Download the template with the placeholder text–all the margins, gutters, and front and back matter are in place. You do have to have a little knowledge of Word as I doubt you’ll have the same number of chapters as the template, but it’s better than starting from scratch. My friend Joe Garland has tutorials on YouTube that can help you, and Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur also just blogged about formatting in Word. He offers templates as well, so you could give them a try.

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.

Updated! Creating a full wrap paperback book cover using Canva (plus more screenshots!)

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.


Because of the changes KDP made to their template generator and the updates Canva added to their software, the blog post I wrote last summer on how to use Canva to create a full wrap paperback cover is basically obsolete. The good news is KDP took away the need to do any math, and I think that will make a lot of people happy. Oh, and the CMYK vs. RGB issue if you want to publish on IngramSpark is gone as well, since Canva (on the Pro Plan) added the option to download your PDF in either.

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.

This is what your template will look like if you choose the wrong page turn direction.

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.

I hope the new instructions are helpful!

Let me know and thanks for reading. 🙂


Quick Resource Links:

KDP Cover Calculator/Template Generator

IngramSpark Cover Template Generator

GIMP

DepositPhotos is where I buy all my stock photos for covers.

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.)

Canva Pro lets you upload fonts into your toolkit. I find lots of cheap fonts at Creative Fabrica, and there are some free for commercial use fonts at 1001 Fonts.
There’s a great gal in the Design Resources Hub group on FB who posts whenever Creative Fabrica has free or discounted bundles. You can join the group here.

Developing your eye takes time and practice. Looking at Canva templates and the top 100 in your genre on Amazon can teach you a lot. You can look up Canva Templates here.

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.

Author Update: Emailing Jeff Bezos and what I’m working on now.

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.

The books I’ll publish between now (Captivated came out June 1st) and the beginning of 2024. I’ll release them 2 months apart.

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.

I hope you’re having a great month so far!

Tentative launch plan for my duet: thinking aloud and plans for the next three months

It’s a nice thought!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. This week I’m also going to write my blurbs and try for feedback in the romance groups I’m most active in. I read T. Taylor’s 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE and pulling out the universal fantasies from my books and building blurbs around them makes a lot of sense. You can grab the book, and also join the Facebook group here. Asking for feedback has always been iffy for me a) because I’m not always as active as I should be and you should never ask for a favor unless you’ve already give one and b) a lot of what I’ve been told just hasn’t been helpful. I wrote a blog post about asking for blurb feedback and you can read it here.
  3. 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.

My inspiration quote for you for 2022 🙂

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!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts, Personal Updates, and what I need to finish by the end of the 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:

  1. Finish current WIP.
  2. Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
  3. 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
  4. Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
  5. Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts: Claim your book on ACX and where I am right now.

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.

Until next time!

Doing a Full Paperback Wrap in Canva for KDP Print (plus screen grabs)

Because KDP updated their template, this post no longer has the correct information in it. There are still a lot of good tips if you want to read through, but if you’re just interested in CANVAS SIZE for Canva, you can read my updated blog post here. Thanks!
https://vaniamargene.com/2022/06/13/updated-creating-a-full-wrap-paperback-book-cover-using-canva-plus-more-screenshots/

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 be the 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:

5.5 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .65 (spine) + 5.5 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 11.90 inches.

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:

Woman in white dress sitting alone on the pier. Back view (purchased from Deposit Photos)

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.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


Resources I’ve found helpful:

IngramSpark’s File Creation Guide

KDP Print’s template generator

IngramSpark’s template generator

Canva Book Cover Templates

Pricing Your Book: Who is your reader?

My local mall doesn’t have a lot to offer. You might think that’s crazy–why would the city mall in Fargo, ND be lacking? Joking aside, there aren’t many stores in the mall anymore. “Back in the day”, there used to be something for everyone: toy stores, candy stores, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores for every family income range. Back to school used to be an exciting day-long event.

Now, not so much.

The other day I noticed they are putting in a Sephora–that’s expensive makeup to anyone who doesn’t know.

Last month they opened an Athleta to replace Gap. That’s an expensive workout clothing store to anyone who doesn’t know.

I wondered why they put in an Athleta when we got a Lululemon last year. That’s more expensive workout clothes if you didn’t know. Pair those stores with a Dry Goods and a Francesca, and the only affordable place left is JC Penney with customer service so bad I don’t bother to shop there. I don’t want to go through the hassle of paying for something if I find something I want.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this, and my point is, if you’re financially challenged, you’re not shopping at my local mall. You’re going to bring your limited spending money to places like Kohl’s (don’t forget your coupon!), TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and Marshall’s.

This made me start thinking about where the mall finds their customers, and how indie authors find their readers.

Whether my mall has intended to do so or not, they are shutting out the little shoppers. Shoppers who can’t afford $100 dollars for workout leggings. Shoppers who could spend $100 at Kohl’s and buy three or four pieces of clothing–maybe more.

When you price your book at launch and you choose if your book is going to be in Kindle Select to take part in the Kindle Unlimited program, or wide (on other platforms like Books and Nook) you are consciously deciding where your readers are coming from and how much money they have.

In KU, readers pay $9.99 a month to read an unlimited number of books. Granted, not all books are in KU–a lot of traditionally published books are not, so a reader is sacrificing selection for value (though with the number of books published every year, month, and day that’s not much of a sacrifice if you ask me).

Anyway, so KU readers are one type of readership. They may be whale readers and read a book a day, or every two days, and their subscription fee pays for itself in a week and the rest of the month really is “free” for them. They may love indie authors and binge every book that author has written before they move on to another author. No matter how or what they read, they have limited income and $9.99 a month is a bargain.

Being wide cultivates a different readership, though you do have more flexibility with your prices and sales–if you choose to use them and many indies do not. When indies are wide they expect readers to pay for their books (duh). They can’t be borrowed like the KU model (unless you’ve enrolled your book in the program Kobo offers, but if I’m not mistaken you have to publish directly to Kobo instead of using an aggregator for the option to join).

Readers on other platforms may have more disposable cash and will buy your $2.99 book if they really want to read it. They won’t blink an eye at spending $11.97 for a four-book series at $2.99/each. Sometimes indies will do a permafree book, meaning it’s free everywhere, usually the first book in a long series to draw readers in, or they’ll run a .99 cent sale, but when you’re wide, you have to figure out your marketing strategy or no one will know you’re having a sale.

I’ll scroll through Twitter and see a book promo that makes me interested enough to click on it. Sometimes I’ll click on that link and see the book isn’t in KU, but the author hasn’t added any other store links to the tweet to indicate they are selling on other platforms, too. That ends up wasting my time, and other readers’ time when they have a KU subscription and are looking for books to read in KU. What’s the point of going wide if all you’re going to do is promote your Amazon buy-link?

This isn’t a blog post about enrolling into KU versus selling your books wide. There are plenty of those, and I don’t need to add my voice to the noise. But what this blog post is about is knowing who your reader is and guesstimating how much money they have to spend on books. With all the free content out there, and sales, too, a reader with a KU subscription or limited funds isn’t likely to spend $4.99 on an ebook. Especially if that ebook is only 50k words like a lot of romances out there. My opinion may be unpopular, especially with indies being told these days to “know your worth.” I know my worth, and I also respect my readers’ pocketbooks.

So what exactly am I proposing?

*If you’re wide, promote your books and all their platforms. You can use Books 2 Read, a universal link creator that will create a link to your book that will point your reader in the direction of their favorite retailer.

*Make your reader aware of sales. You can use social media for this, and your newsletter, but also use promo sites that let readers know your book is on sale. Some readers who like you when your books aren’t in KU or Kobo Plus have to wait until your book is on sale, and that’s the choice you’re making not enrolling into one of these programs.

*Read Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebvre. This is a great resources for reaching all the readers you can while publishing wide. Which is why you went wide in the first place, right?
Joanna Penn interviewed him recently on her podcast, and you can listen to it here:

*Research how to sell books at regular price. More often than not you’re asking readers to buy a book at full price. Some readers still have a hard time swallowing the idea of parting with money for something they can’t hold in their hands–like an ebook. Check out David Gaughran’s video on how to sell your book at full price:

*Research how to reach wide readers with ads specifically for wide books. David Gaughran also has a really awesome book on how to use BookBub ads, and you can find it here. Mal and Jill Cooper has a fabulous book out on how to use FB ads, and you can find it here.

*Make your books available in the library system. This is one of the sad things about having to be exclusive with Amazon while my books are in KU. I can’t add my ebooks to the library system. When you are wide, aggregators like Draft2Digital will enroll your books in library systems like Overdrive and bibliotheca. Ask readers to request your book from their local libraries.

*Go wide with your paperbacks too. Clicking expanded distribution on Amazon with your paperbacks is limiting and earns you less royalties than if you publish with IngramSpark. IngramSpark will distribute your paperbacks to all the online book retailers and also enroll your book into the library system.

My local mall has lost sight of who its customer is. Unfortunately because of what they offer (or don’t) I can no longer be one of them. I can’t afford to shop at most of their stores, and the one or two that interest me aren’t worth the hassle of finding a parking spot, navigating down the corridors to the store and then leaving again. Customers with money can browse the high-end selection from Lululemon or buy games and other computer/gaming equipment from Best Buy–an anchor store that replaced Sears when the chain went out of business.

When you sell anything, you have to know who your customer is so you can tell them about the products you have. Probably the most profound piece of marketing advice I ever heard was this: Don’t force customers come to you, you go to your customer. I don’t know who said it first, I think Craig Martelle said it in one of his YouTube videos–it could have been anyone in indie marketing space, honestly–and it’s true. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to books. My mall needs to show me they want my business by offering me stores I can afford to shop at. Since they aren’t, they’re telling me they don’t care about my business, that the customers who can afford to shop there are enough for them.

When you’re wide and you only put your Amazon link in a tweet, you’re telling a potential customer that a) you don’t care if they have a KU subscription or you’re hoping they don’t and b) you don’t care if they like to read on a different platform.

I don’t care if you’re wide or not, your business plans are not any of my concern, but if you are, I can’t buy your book, not unless you somehow let me know your book is on sale. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of reader my income has turned me into and there are a lot of readers like me out there.

What’s really interesting is that just this morning I was listening to Andrea, Lindsay, and Jo on their newest podcast episode of Six Figure Author, and Andrea polled her newsletter subscribers. She asked them why her newest series hasn’t done so well, and the resounding answer was that readers lost a lot of disposal income due to COVID. Also a lot of people just weren’t in the mood to read because the past year has been so stressful. If you want to listen to the podcast you can listen here:

Find your reader, market to them.


Coming up, I’m going to have an author interview with Barbara Avon and maybe a giveaway too! Have a good week, everyone!

Publishing Plan & Launch Plan: How they’re different and why you need both.

I’m struggling. I’m struggling for a myriad of reasons (some not related to writing–anyone know how to quiet an old cat at night?!), but the prevalent one for me right now is my publishing plan for the books I have written, and the launch plan I’m going to need to find readers for those books.

It’s tough because when you press publish, you aren’t guaranteed readers. It would be nice if we were, if we became overnight sensations, but that rarely happens and if it does, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes.

The difference between a publishing plan and a launch plan to me is when we talk about a publishing plan, I think about how many books am I going to be able to publish in a given year, two years, three? How far out am I looking when I plan how many books I’m going to be capable of writing? That’s different for everyone. How fast you can write depends on your living situation, if you have kids, if you have a full-time job. Obviously, if you’re single with no kids and you’re already a full-time author, you’re going to be able to write quicker than a woman with a husband and children, a job, and maybe a sick pet. It also depends on where you are with your craft. If you can write your first draft so that you consider it practically your last draft, you can publish books faster than someone who needs a few months of editing. It’s important not to over-extend yourself, especially since Amazon allows year-long preorders. Due to COVID they are giving you grace if you have to move your preorder date, or cancel altogether, but that might not always be the case. Before COVID, if you missed your preorder date, you were suspended from creating preorders for a year, and I would imagine that at some point, they will go back to those guidelines.

A launch plan for the release of a book can consist of a Goodreads giveaway, stacked promotions, newsletter swaps, and everything in between.

How to optimize those things will be different for everyone, and while you can grab tips for a great launch, genre, how well your book is written, cover, the size of your newsletter and the authors you swap with, your backlist, how much you can afford to pay in ad spend, even what’s going on in the world, and I have no idea how many other factors, can influence how well your book does on launch day.

Planning your publishing schedule while optimizing your launch can be a nightmare. When you look at your launch plan/publishing plan it’s important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.

Newsletter. This is definitely a weakness of mine. I don’t have one . . . yet. Not even one for my 3rd person books I can hit up on the off chance there would be some crossover readers. Some authors have a large enough newsletter their whole launch plan consists of sending out an email to their newsletter and that’s it. It’s enough to make them sticky in the stores and their loyal readers will leave reviews.

Networking/Swaps. This is another area where in the four years I’ve been publishing I have failed. I have writer friends, sure. But I had no idea how important it is to network with other authors in your genre. Without a strong newsletter I can use for reciprocation and without romance author friends who are willing feature my books in their newsletter, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers until I can pay those favors back with my own list.

Number of Books. This is one strength of mine, at least. Your launch plan will definitely look different if you haven’t banked some books, or if you don’t have a backlist written in your chosen genre. If you’re launching a new first in series, it’s better to have another book or two written so your readers know that more books will eventually come. Putting book two on preorder and linking the preorder to the back matter of book one can help. Fickle indie authors aren’t the only ones teaching consumers to be wary. Streaming platforms like Netflix can pull the plug on a new series before wrapping it up, and a lot of consumers now won’t try something new unless all the seasons (or books) are available. I know for me as a consumer, I was really disappointed when Amazon Prime released the first season of Carnival Row, but maybe because of COVID I haven’t heard of another season in the works. BUT as I have found out, rapid releasing when no one knows about you or your books doesn’t do anything and when I released my Rocky Point Wedding series last year, it didn’t matter how fast I released them–I didn’t have readers. I have this weird thing where I need to write a whole series first before I can even think about publishing. I many need to change my way of doing things to streamline my publishing schedule.

Ad spend. I’m fortunate that I have a little money for some ad spend. I can afford to book a promo with Freebooksy or BargainBooksy, ENT, etc. So far, if I put my first in series for free and pay for a Freebooksy with Written Word Media, I gain back my fee with sales and page reads. But that has never elevated my status or made my book “sticky” in the charts. I also play with Amazon Ads, but I’ve never worked with them to create second or third generation ads because I’d rather write more books than spend time playing with ads. Also, keep in mind that if you do plan to run ads at some point, your cover can’t be too racy. With stricter guidelines in place, Amazon has determined my Rocky Point covers are too sexy and they won’t let me run ads which could be a problem for you if you’re counting on an ads boost.


So, here’s my dilemma. First of all, I’m banking books as is my usual custom. I have six books in a series (serial, meaning no entry point except book one) that are completed. They’ve gone through a couple editing sweeps by me, and unless I’ve missed something, they sound strong: no plot holes, complete character arcs, etc. I spent the majority of 2020 writing and editing those. I needed a break, so I…

…wrote what I thought would be a standalone novel just to publish for the sake of hitting that publish button, but then I realized it could be a really cool book one of a series and while a paid beta reader read it and made her notes, I wrote book two of what will be another six-book series. That one has since been edited by me a couple of times, and is just sitting on my computer while I…

…thought I was writing a reader magnet for this newsletter I need to get going this year. The problem is, it’s a good book. It’s going to be a really good book, and I don’t know if I want to “waste” it by offering it up as a freebie. Obviously building up a newsletter is not a waste, and offering a full 85k book will be a good incentive to sign up for my newsletter. But, even though eventually I can put it up for sale, I would then need a new magnet anyway. So what difference will it make if I sell it now or later?

I’m at a loss, and while having 8.5 books on my computer almost ready to go (besides covers, formatting, and blurbs) is a good problem to have, I’m tired of publishing to crickets. I’m rebranding, writing new books under my initials instead of my first name, and if I can’t figure out how to make things better than the last four years, all I’m going to be doing is releasing books to no one. And let me tell you, I’m getting real tired of that.

Y’all, I’m tired of starting from zero. At some point, an author shouldn’t have to do that.

Another problem I’m having is that this is a new direction for me, and stockpiling books before I know if my style and voice are going to resonate with readers is ill-advised at best. Because now I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I can’t find readers, then ALL the books I have on my computer I may not have a use for. I doubt that will happen–I don’t write in a vacuum and someone has looked at all the books in some way, shape or form–but it’s something to think about (like there isn’t enough to worry about, right?)

That’s why I’m interested in releasing one standalone just to see how readers react. While it wouldn’t be a huge release, I know a little bit to at least get a few readers and if I add a cookie to the back, it might not be a bad way to start building my list with organic signups. On the other hand, if it makes more of a dent than I expect, I would want something to publish next in the not so distant future.

The uncertainty is enough to give me a headache, but I appreciate you listening to me brainstorm. I mean, there are things I can do. Hire a consultant for one. There are a few indie authors out there who will chat for an hour for a fee. I can ask for opinions in my FB groups, and I think I will be doing that. Maybe an experienced indie author can give me a few pointers.

I know one thing–I need to publish something, soon. I need the high. But like a drug hit, it may not be the best thing for me. Or it could change my life. You just never know.

Here are a couple things that can help you with a publishing plan:

This is printable! Save it and print it for your own use.

A Book Production Schedule for Indie Authors: IngramSpark Blog

As for a launch, I’ve never had a successful one. I’ve never put the time and the effort to set up blog tours, newsletter swaps, promo stacking, the list goes on with what you can do. Normally I press publish, run some ads, and then feel sad when my book doesn’t make the splash I was hoping for.

Since I’m starting at zero, this is worth another peek:

Screen grab taken from his website.

David’s course is free, and if you want to sign up, click here.

He also has an updated list of Promo Sites and you can find that here.

As for what else you can do for a launch, the resources can be it’s own blog post, and this is already a lot longer than I wanted it to be. I hope you find this useful, and thanks for tagging along on this journey with me!

Until next time!