Thursday Thoughts and Personal Update

I think it was two weeks ago I blogged a list of the things I needed to accomplish in the short term to get the ball rolling on publishing some books. I am happy to say that I’ve managed to check of quite a few of those.

I proofed the proof for Faking Forever, put the changes into Vellum, generated new files and corrected the mistakes on the cover/full wrap–more on that. I created a Large Print edition and ordered a new proof of the regular print and the proof of the large print. Since I never used to utilize the back matter of my 3rd person books, it was strange to add a sign up link to my newsletter to the back matter of these. I should add a buy link to the next book as well, but I’ll have to go back and edit those as I have books available. For now the back matter only has one call to action, and that’s to sign up for my newsletter. Organic sign-ups are the best though, so I will be happy if I get any from that.

To ease some of the pressure of learning Bookfunnel and how to segregate lists in MailerLite, I decide to forego offering a reader magnet for the moment. I can write something quickly, maybe after Christmas, but I was putting too much pressure on myself when really what I want to do for right now is publish a couple standalones and start getting my pen name out there. I don’t know how Bookfunnel works, and I need to figure that out and spend more time in the MailerLite dashboard to figure out who goes where when they sign up for what. It will help when I get some signups, and then I can see what happens. I don’t want anyone not to be offered a free book because I don’t know what I’m doing. Needless to say, I decided to sell the book I’d decided to use as a reader magnet, but once I get the ball rolling and familiarize myself with my newsletter I’ll write something else. It was a blow, but at the same time a ball of anxiety loosened in my chest. I know offering a reader magnet is the best way to entice people to sign up, and I will get to that eventually, but for now. I just want to focus on getting some books ready to publish.

I also formatted My Biggest Mistake and did the cover. I have another blog post coming about this, but I asked for feedback on the blurb in my various FB writing groups. Here is the cover for this ugly duckling standalone, and the interior I formatted with Vellum:

Probably I’m not going to be able to use a dark-haired sad guy looking down again, since he looks similar to the cover to Faking Forever:

Initially I had my name at the top, above his head, but since I’m trying to keep more of an idea of branding for my books and not having to go back and redo anything, I moved my name to the bottom. I think it looks nicer. The proofs I have coming will have my name at the top, but I won’t need to order proofs again for such a small change.

I have seen other photos of the two men, and they are two different gentlemen (with some stock photos, you never know), but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind and go for a different look for my next few books. That should be easy to do since after I proof the proof to My Biggest Mistake, I’ll be starting to (finally) edit and get my series ready that I wrote last year during the lockdown. I am really excited to take a look at those books with fresh eyes, and it will be a challenge to do six covers, a trilogy for Zane and Stella and a trilogy for Zarah and Gage, but have them all feel similar since the story reaches over all six books. I should do the smart thing and hire out, but I like the control, and with so many scammers out there, trust is hard to come by.

This week I’ve been taking a break–it’s hard not be writing anything, but the proof for My Biggest Mistake will come Saturday, and after that I’ll be jumping into a few months of non-stop work. I’m trying to enjoy the time off, but not actively writing anything, especially since I know what I want to write next, (and it isn’t a reader magnet) is a bit strange. I’ve been reading a domestic thriller I bought a few months ago and I need to format and do a cover for the box set of my wedding series. I think that is the biggest item on my list I haven’t crossed off yet. It’s not hard–just moving Vellum files over to create a large one, but it’s busy work. I need to make a mug of coffee one evening, put on some music and get it done. I don’t want to wait too long–the Christmas books are already starting to pop, and I think I could get some good KU page reads and sales, especially if I sell it at .99 from October until December.

They’re all in KU singly, but I haven’t gotten many reads on them in the past few months. In fact, I’ve stopped looking at my sales dashboard, and only keep an eye on my ads to the extent that they are breaking even. I was going to try to find a different couple for the front so I can run some ads to the box set, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I tried looking for a different pose of the couple on the first book, but they are all in bed, or doing dopey things like being sad at a pregnancy test result. I could zoom in on their faces to take the “lying down” element out of it and see if that works, but as they are positioned right now, Amazon won’t let my ads go through, and it’s been very hurtful for the series as a whole.

That might actually work. It would be an easy fix to upload new ebook covers for books without having to change too much if the new cover could get through Amazon’s cover guidelines. All I can do is try to submit and see what happens. It would be nice to be able to advertise these this winter. I can add zooming in on their faces to my to-do list.

As far as health news goes, my infection is gone, but an ultrasound revealed an ovarian cyst that is making me feel not so great. So I have a follow up next month to see what’s going on with that. I’m not in pain, just a sense of discomfort most days and some bloating. I’m getting old though, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

I guess that’s all for now. Things are moving along, though this week slowly. It will be nice when things pick up. I didn’t want to start writing a book. Then I would be suck for six weeks while I finished it. I’m trying to convince myself that having a week off isn’t a bad thing, and today all I’ve done is take a walk and write this blog post.

Later I’ll be creating author interview questions for Nina Romano, and there will be a giveaway…I’m thinking for fall… so stay tuned for that in coming weeks.

Thanks for checking in! Have a great rest of your week!

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

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

Book Covers. Yep, again, because I like talking about them. :)

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you guys know I love talking about book covers. I especially love talking about scammers trying to rip you off by slapping a pretty font over a free photo from PIxabay and charging you $50.00 for something you can do yourself in Canva for free. I recently called out a “designer” for doing exactly that, and the icing on the cake was another member of the FB group posted her cover with the same exact photo and said she, too, had been taken for a ride. The universe was on my side that day! I would post a screenshot, but the original poster took it down a couple minutes after. Hopefully in embarrassment with her tail tucked between her legs!

I know I can’t save the world, and if I tried, I wouldn’t have enough time to write. I do like talking about covers though and what draws readers to buy our books. I’m watching a replay of a webinar with Nick Stephenson, and like any webinar talking about sales, he goes briefly goes over a book cover case study with one of his own books.

Taken from Nick’s free webinar

What he said is that the first cover wasn’t doing a good job. So they tried book cover number two, and eventually number three. Number three had the highest click-through and he explained in the next slide why:

Taken from Nick’s free webinar

Apparently, the red title that is associated with thrillers helped, along with the placing the elements that draw the eyes toward the center of the book. I like the first cover though, and I wonder how it would have done had he just changed the butter yellow font color to the dark red that works with thrillers. I think the guy running through the tunnel draws the eye to the center of the book just as well as the silhouette on the third cover. What do you think?

But it just goes to show that even a perfectly good cover may not be doing its job.

If you want to learn more about what Nick is doing, you can check his website here. And if you want to watch any of his YouTube videos, you can check out his channel here.

Anyway, in the FB group I’m in, there was a thread about cover pet peeves, and I thought it was a silly thread because this is something that authors seem to forget. Your book’s cover isn’t for you.

Just like most people agree that reviews aren’t for the author, they’re for readers finding their next book, covers, also, are only for readers. If you get too precious about your cover, or you’re too attached, or you let pride stand in the way of sales, what are you trying to prove? And to who?

names protected to hide the . . .

Listen, if I have to find a picture of a pig and a chicken falling in love to sell my book, then that’s what I’ll put on my cover. I didn’t write my book so it would sink to the bottom of the charts because I cared more about my likes than what will sell my book.

Stock photo provided by Canva. Template provided by Canva.

Genres have cover expectations, and unless you have a solid audience already in place, you need a cover that will sell books. I’m not sure why authors have such a hard time understanding this. I know some of it is cash. Especially if you pay out and you can’t afford to swap. I mean, I’ve heard of that happening, and it’s too bad. But you’re not going to make anything off a book that has a cover on it that isn’t appealing to readers.

Authors can make fun of man-chest covers, or the boring couple with the script font on the front, or all the thriller covers that look the same (girl in red jacket running away from the camera in the fog), or all the Urban Fantasy with the tough girl holding a fireball, but in doing so it just closes their minds to the possibility that being the same as other books might not be a bad thing. And why make things harder than they need to be? Discoverability is difficult!

That thread just really boggled my mind like so many indie decisions do, I guess.

I want my books to sell. That means genre specific tropes, cover to market, good blurb, correct categories and keywords, a nice look inside without typos.

Readers have a lot of choices these days, over 8 million to be exact. Why purposely give them a reason to keep scrolling?

Okay, I think I’m done musing and I’m going to bed. One day I’ll probably get kicked out of all my Facebook groups, but I just can’t help it. I just shake my head at the authors who want to do it their way then end up crying because they don’t sell books.

Can you ever really have your cake and eat it too?

Let me know, because I don’t care enough to try.

Man chest? Yes please. 🙂 Stock photo provided by Canva. Font provided by Canva. Cover design by yours truly.

Happy Monday! Author musings and not much news.

I was supposed to be flying to Georgia today to help my fiancĂ© drive up from the Savannah area. I had a tooth start hurting, and because of my unwillingness to wait for a root canal, I’m getting it pulled. I was supposed to go Wednesday, but they had a cancellation and I’m going in at 3:00 today. Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous and because alcohol is a blood thinner, I can’t take a few nips before I head in. I don’t have much dental anxiety, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be a little scared to get a tooth pulled out of their head. I’m only happy he said he could do it and didn’t need to refer me to an oral surgeon. The sooner the better. The bright spot is, I can run errands afterward because my mask will hide the big wad of gauze I’ll have shoved into the back of my mouth. There is, my dear readers, always a silver lining!

As for my trip, I rescheduled for next Monday, August 24th. Pray all goes well because between the two of us (me and my fiancĂ©) we have horrible luck. Case in point: who would have predicted he’d need to move in the middle of a pandemic. That’s something we didn’t need.


I am still writing, and last night after I transcribed the bit I was able to write at work I’m up to 45k for book 5 in my series. It’s going well–I still love the characters and the plot is coming along. This mystery/thriller stuff isn’t my cup of tea though. All the breadcrumbing and making sure if a character says something, (dun dun dun) someone, somewhere, follows up. I have a few subplots weaving through this book and keeping them straight is tougher than making sure my earbud cords don’t tangle. But it’s interesting to note that my skills are improving writing-wise, and I may not have been able to write a plot like this two years ago. It makes me think about a book I had to abandon about 3 years ago because like this series, there’s a bit of a mystery I just couldn’t figure out, no matter how much brainstorming I did. Now if I look at the notes, I wonder if I could fit together the pieces. I wasn’t ready to write that book. It could be after writing this series I will be.


I read My Dark Vanessa over the weekend, and if you haven’t read it, you should! I read that book faster than almost any book I’ve every dug into, even faster than when I started Daisy Jones and the Six and couldn’t put that down until I was done.

I just ordered Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, and I have Butterfly in Frost to read next by Sylvia Day. I am trying to make more of an effort to read first person present books while I write it in, and I wish I didn’t have such a hard time reading on my Kindle. I could get good use out of my KU subscription reading all the top 100 romance books on Amazon to keep up with what my fellow authors are doing.


Anyway, my ads are still doing well. I’m up 100 dollars this month so far! It’s a little scary thinking of all the money I’m spending, and I wish that Amazon would bill me at the same time they pay out royalties. It wouldn’t look like it hurts so much then. But surprisingly, or not, my biggest seller is The Years Between Us, after I redid the cover. I can’t express how important a cover is. Even if you think your cover is good, if it’s not selling your book, don’t be afraid to change it!

I will always be grateful that I have the flexibility as an indie to change things that aren’t working, and the humbleness to admit that the choices I’ve made may not always be the right ones. People can get so stuck with their choices thinking that once a choice is made there is no other way, but that kind of thinking keeps you from broadening your horizons and maybe finding a different path that really works.


As far as anything else goes, my daughter is starting 9th grade next month, and things are still up in the air. She chose to do the hybrid plan instead of all online, and I supported that. She didn’t do so well at the end of last year. She may be an introvert, but we all crave human contact. So this week I’ll be taking her to get her hair done and doing a bit of school shopping for some new clothes and school supplies. So I suppose it worked out that I had to postpone my trip, but I do miss him and I’m excited for the changes that will happen once we’re finally in the same town!


I’m watching the replay of the marketing webinar Jane Friedman put on last week. I linked it to you in last week’s blog post. She has a lot to say on marketing for both traditionally published authors and indies, and the very first thing she said was you have to make sure your cover, blurb, and the product as a whole are good. After you put your book for sale, your book is no longer just a book, but a product. I joined an Amazon Ads Facebook group after Bryan Cohen’s Ads Challenge finished, and lots of people forget that you need a good product. All the time I see, I’m tweaking my ads all over the place but I’m not getting any sales. So I take a look at their books and I can see right away. Poor cover, or the blurb is a big block of text. Maybe they have a genre mashup and they don’t have the correct categories chosen, and who knows what they’re using for keywords. I’m not saying I have it all together. My cover for TYBU is a good example. But, if you’re going to ask for advice, at least listen to what someone has to tell you. They could be right on point, even if it means more work for you.


I suppose that’s all I have for now. I try to give my readers some kind of value or tip, but while I still listen to a lot of podcasts and I’m in the middle of that webinar, I haven’t discovered anything to pass on. Bryan does have his next ads profit challenge starting in October, but God, for some reason that just seems so far away right now. And with David (please, God) finally here, I may not sign up for it. It’s going to take a bit to get him settled in and I’ll still be working and doing as much writing as I can to finish up these last two books before all the plot flies out of my head and I don’t know what I’m writing anymore. Sounds silly, but I don’t keep notes. I’m writing these back to back to back and all the details of every little thing are in my head. Maybe not the best way, but it’s my process nonetheless.

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead, and if you want to know how my dental appointment goes today, let me know and I’ll post a comment. Tell me something yucky you have to do this week!


Things I’ll be working on this weekend, and how I did something small for the reading community. #allinthistogether

Besides trying to get the last of my thoughts on the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media into this blog while they are still relevant, I’ll be working on a few other things.

I’m done editing the Tower City Romance Trilogy. I lost the Vellum files for the single books, but I did still have the boxed set file. That means I could extract the formatted books from the boxed set and turn them back into single books. I didn’t have to read through them again, but I’m glad I did. I found typos, lots of telling, some passive voice, and even some slight formatting errors. I think my books sound better, and they’ll definitely look better.

I know we’re not supposed to read reviews, but one in particular stuck out at me on Goodreads.

She said I ended my books too quickly. I felt that in book three, and to fix that, I’m going to write an extended Epilogue that will put a pretty bow on top of the trilogy.

The plan right now is to jump about a year and a half into their future and show the reader what happened to everyone.

Epilogues aren’t Band-aids, and I don’t have plot holes or loose ends (I would have fixed them in the editing if I had) but as with couples who were about to get married and have babies, this will be a nice closure. I’m not sure if I’ll just add that to the boxed set to encourage KU read-through, or tack it on to the end of book three.

I’ll write it first then decide. If things go to plan, I should be able to write 8-10k words at my work over the weekend, then type it out on Monday.


The next thing I want to do is submit a new cover for The Years Between Us. I think the cover is holding the book back. There are steamy scenes, and the cover doesn’t portray the heat level. So, I’m going from this:

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

to possibly this:

THE YEARS BETWEEN US

This isn’t set in stone yet, and it’s not a cover reveal. (I don’t bother with those.)

I darkened the bottom (that gradient is becoming a trademark I don’t want and something I need to stop doing for later books) because she has a garter on and a pretty little butt-cheek is hanging out, and I didn’t want it to show. I plan to pay for ads to these books and Amazon doesn’t allow for too much spicy. I found a lovely couple before this one, but he was holding a glass of champagne, and booze in AMS ads is a no-go. I didn’t want to change the cover then discover my ads wouldn’t be approved.

I like that their faces are in shadow–it’s difficult finding a stock photo that has an older man and a younger woman that does not depict and old man in a nursing home and his nurse. You do with what you can when you’re not willing to pay.

I may experiment with the placement of the title. Some people aren’t fans of words over the models’ faces.

Let me know what you think of the new one. My main concern it’s too much like All of Nothing. My skills are limited and it’s beginning to show. I love doing my own covers though, so after I get all these little odds and ends wrapped up that I started because of COVID-19, I’ll start teaching myself how to do more with covers while I focus on my first person projects.


How is everyone doing lately? Some states are opening up. I know I won’t be jumping in line to go to a restaurant any time soon. I’ve been happy as a clam staying at home working on my stuff. I hope you’re hanging in there!

As a side note, I gave away two Kindle Fires to two lucky winners of Brenda Novak’s readers group on Facebook. Some of their stories break my heart, and I wish I could have given more.

I encourage you, if you have Kindles or reading devices to spare, to look up Brenda’s group. It’s heartbreaking to me that people can’t afford a $50 tablet, but there really are so many who can’t. They appreciate anything you can give them so much. When I offered my two new Kindles, I received over 1,000 posts of interest. It was very difficult to decide who to give them to. I hope I was able to to turn two lives around; I wish it could be more.

I love this writing/reading community I’m part of and always look for ways to pay it forward.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Chat soon!


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A Rocky Point Wedding Series Update

Hello from chilly Minnesota! I’m glad I’m a writer with stuff to work on, otherwise I don’t know what I would do while I wait for the weather to warm up. According to weather.com, we’re not looking at higher (and by higher I mean, actually comfortable) weather until the end of March, but if the temperatures they’re predicting for that time of Spring holds true, I’ll be one happy camper. (Not literally. I hate camping.)

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Releasing this series is definitely giving me something to do.

I haven’t give you all an update for a while because I didn’t want to bore you, and I’m sure you all know I’ve been working diligently to get these done.

I just did the cover for book four. Books one and two are completely done. I’ve proofed the proofs, added the changes, tweaked the covers. Book three is almost done. I’m waiting for the second proof to come in the mail so I can look it over. None of the books are published yet, and I’m still wondering what kind of launch I want to have. Put them all on pre-order? Publish book one and put the others on pre-order? I’m not sure.

I do know I’m going to publish them three to four weeks a part and write like crazy on something else between releases. Whether I schedule those or drop them manually, I’m not sure yet. I don’t know if a pre-order will do me any good. I don’t have an audience, no one is really waiting for these. Book one isn’t going to create a huge splash, though I do plan to throw some money at it in some way, shape, or form. Since it is a series, and I have a little more faith in them than I do my trilogy (which is misguided, but it is what it is) I’m going to market these to an older audience and hope for page reads in KU.

Keywords for the Amazon ads will be important. I don’t want to target books written in first person. I don’t want to target books with young, coming of age/college-age heroines. My books have older characters (middle thirties) some of them dealing with divorces and second marriages. Some raising children as single parents. But I do have to find some middle-of-the-road comp authors because simply targeting Nora Roberts won’t work. Romance is competitive. I can’t spend a dollar a click to compete with other authors. So in the coming days I’ll be researching comp authors and putting together a list of authors and book titles to target in ads.

This is part of the reason why it’s important to be a voracious reader in your own genre. You need to know who you’re competing with. You need to know where your book fits in so you can target those readers.

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Ignore the cat hair on my bed. I know for book three I needed to zoom in more on the couple, and that was one of my tweaks besides correcting the typos I found while proofing the proof.

I did get some feed back from a FB Book Cover group and they did say that they like these. I’m always making sure (lesson learned) that my covers fit in with what’s currently out there. There are so many sub-genres now, and these are going to be categorized as small town romance along with the plain contemporary romance. Amazon will let you put your book into 10 categories, but you do you have to email or call them and ask.

I’ll be happy when these are done. I feel like I’ve been working on them forever, though it’s only been 13 months. A series is a pretty big undertaking–especially when you decide to hold them all until they’re done.

What am I going to work on next? I do have my first person stuff I need to finish for a spring release. I’ve been going over books one and two so I can write three and make sure I have all the loose ends tied up. This is more of a romantic suspense and as I edited I made a list of everything I needed to remember for the last book. These first person ones are a bit on the long side–the second one, after a first sweep of editing, is clocking in at a crazy 89k. It’s the longest book I’ve written.

It’s different writing in first person present, though I feel like I adapted my writing style to it without much trouble. The first book sounds a bit choppy, and while I was editing, part of that was smoothing out sentences and paragraphs to make them sound more conversational.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to report. My back/neck/arms are doing well. I’ve been having a string of really good days. But it does take a lot of maintenance on my part, checking in with my body to give it what it needs. I wear my elbow compression sleeves a lot, also my wrist splints. I don’t often wear them at the same time, though. I haven’t had to shovel much this winter, which has been a blessing as well, so I hope the weather continues to cooperate with me.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Written Word Media survey and dissecting that as a new author. I’d like to do more youtube videos about book covers, too, but it’s hard for me to find quiet time. I have to threaten the kids to leave me alone for an hour. They ignore me any other time, but when I want to record, they’re all up in my face. Goofballs.

I hope you have fun weekend plans! Catch you here next time!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part four: Covers

I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you celebrated! I’m currently snowed in, and I’ve been working on some book-related stuff. I apologize for not posting last week, but let’s pick up where we left off . . .

The next installment in the Written Word Media survey looks at book covers. To recap, they surveyed indie authors to see how much time they spend writing, and how much they spend on products and services such as editing and marketing.

According to the survey, as you can see by the graphic, emerging authors do both almost equally–they design their own covers and use a professional designer. The 60kers and the 100kers use a professional cover designer way more than they design their own.

Marketing-Is-Hard-book covers 1

graphic taken by survey linked above

The article says the leap from emerging authors to 60kers is because emerging authors realize that without a professional cover, they aren’t going to sell books.

Of course, that’s true, and I’m not disputing it at all. But I have another explanation to offer. I’m not saying their conclusion is wrong. Emerging authors, after a bad book launch, probably do realize that their covers don’t cut it. But when you are an emerging author, it’s hard to know where to go for help. Quite possibly, emerging authors do their own covers because it’s quicker, easier, and they don’t have to worry about whom to trust. Indie publishing is a jungle. When an emerging author spends a couple years networking, they make friends, are put in touch with industry professionals, and can form relationships with people who know what they’re doing.

Especially with book covers, it’s imperative you find someone who knows where to find stock photos, and what fonts are okay to use and why they’re safe. There are so many people getting into the business who shouldn’t. They use free pictures from free sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I still do my own covers rather than trust anyone else. Some people are idiots, and I’m not paying for their stupidity or mine for hiring them.

I think another reason emerging authors do their own covers is because they like to be 100% in control. It feels good to publish a book you did cover to cover. Espeically if you can design a decent cover that earns you compliments. Granted, the emerging authors who can make genre-appropriate covers are few, but no one is saying they still can’t be proud. It’s a learning process.

What the survey does say though, is publishing a book with a bad cover will set you back, and you’ll end up redoing it at some point anyway. (Which is a good reason, in my opinion, not to pay for a high-priced cover. You may want to refresh after a couple of years.)

Of course, the 60kers and 100kers don’t have time to do their own covers. These guys are writing, and they probably don’t have interest in cover design beyond that it looks good and will sell their books. I would also hazard a guess that by the time you have twenty books out, you’ve developed a relationship with someone, or at least found a premade site that sells decent work.

The survey then goes into the cost of book covers. As you can see by the graph, 100-249.00 is the most popular price range for all three types of authors. $100.00 for a cover is at the lower end of the scale for something that needs lots of manipulation, and at that price, it may not include a full wrap for a paperback.

Cost-of-Covers-2

graph taken from survey linked above

The authors paying 0-49.00 might only be having the e-book cover made. Most, if not all, designers charge extra for the spine and back cover if you’re also publishing a paperback.

The genre you write in will also determine the cost. A fancy cover for an epic fantasy or a tricked-out cover for an urban fantasy or paranormal will cost more than a romance cover. There are simply more elements needed to have a girl wearing a plaid skirt holding a fireball in front of a haunted high school for an urban fantasy academy novel than for a couple kissing in field for a plain contemporary romance novel. That’s just the way it is. If you write a genre that includes any kind of magic, you’ll be looking at having a cover made (providing you have zero photo manipulation skills). You need to blend in with the other books in your genre and finding a stock photo that contains all the elements you need is probably slim to none. Especially if you’re writing in a series.

It would be to your advantage to look for a cover designer while you are writing your book if you’re writing in one of those genres. Collect covers you like for a frame of reference. Create a logline (also called a six second elevator pitch) so your designer knows what your book is about and then go ahead and start looking. Join book cover groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations. Sometimes putting your budget out there will help so you don’t fall in love with a designer’s work you can’t afford. Find out where they buy their photos of models. If any of them mention a free site, pass them by. Your fee should include the cost of a photo. Cover designers charging you for a free photo is nothing but a scam and it’s dangerous too.

What can you do if you are absolutely stuck making your own cover?

  1. Look at what makes a good cover in your genre. It’s not only the photo, though that’s a good part of it. Its font placement. Where the author name is on the cover. If there’s a tagline and where that is.
  2. What are the elements in your genre? Sci-fi needs spaceships. Fantasy–dragons. Chris Fox calls these symbols. What symbols do your readers look for in your genre? Look at what is selling on the top 100 in that genre on Amazon. List the elements they all have. Yours will need them too. This isn’t the time to be different or to “stand out.” Sorry.
  3. Realize you may be able to offer only an ebook for the short-term. Learning how to do a full cover wrap isn’t as easy as an ebook cover. You need spine calculations based on how thick your formatted manuscript is, and what you want for the back cover. Blurb? Author photo? Imprint logo? It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to practice and itching to press publish when your book is done being edited isn’t the time to teach yourself.
  4. Search stock photo sites to see what’s out there. My tips are for the person who has little to no experience with Photoshop or GIMP. The easiest way to do a cover is to find a photo that you can use without a lot of manipulation. My go-to sites are depositphotos.com and canstockphoto.com.
  5. Watch tutorials. There are a ton of tutorials out there for both Photoshop and GIMP. I have GIMP (which is a free download) on my laptop and there are tutorials out there ranging from isolating a color in a black and white photo to gradients to font manipulation. People are generous with their time–take advantage.

I’ve been told, and have seen other people be told, that if they can’t afford a professional cover, they shouldn’t bother publishing. That’s not particularly helpful, but you do have to consider what your goals are. Do you want to make covers for all your books going forward? Then you’re going to have to learn how. If you’re writing in a genre that requires fancy covers, you’ll be creating a cover to squeak by until you can afford something better.

I do everything myself, and over three years I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of an eye. It takes a long time, and practice. Instead of watching another show on Netflix, open Canva, put on some music, and practice. Canva isn’t just a software for design, they also offer “classes” that will teach you the elements of a good cover.

I do covers in my spare time. I practice font placement, choosing a cover-worthy photo, that kind of thing. I mess around with concepts for my friends. Even if they don’t turn out that great, practice is never a waste of time. You never know what new trick you’ll pick up. I scroll through stock photos and favorite photos that have potential for future covers. Mine or someone else’s.

Cover design is a career on its own, and you can spend as much time messing around with font as you do writing and editing.

But the point is, if you put enough time into it, you can make a passable cover yourself, if the genre you write in supports it. Women’s fiction, romance. Some mystery thrillers.

If you put out a homemade cover that doesn’t meet reader expectations, or doesn’t fit in with other books, realize that’s going to effect your sales.


Here are a few covers I’ve done, both for myself and others using Canva.com. I pay for a pro membership, and if you plan on doing a lot of covers or using it for graphics for marketing materials, it’s worth the fee. They add new features all the time.

I did these for the first two of my quartet. I haven’t done the third or fourth ones yet:

When you do a series, it’s important they look like they belong together. And before I ordered the proofs, I put the covers on top of another to make sure the placement of all the elements are the same. I might do a blog post explaining how I did them.

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Daisy Parker isn’t real. I was fooling around one night and came up with it. The photo is as-is and made in Canva.

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Stealing Home is one of my favorites. I learned how to do shadows watching a webinar hosted by James Blatch from Mark Dawson’s self-publishing podcast who was chatting with Stuart Bache, a professional cover designer. They were doing a kind of infomerical for a course, and you can check out the course here. I’d never done a thriller before, but I think it turned out rather nice, and when David did a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Savannah, GA, everyone was surprised it wasn’t professionally done. (This book is real and you can buy it on Amazon or borrow it in KU.)

do-you-trust-me.png

Do You Trust Me took a little work as this photograph was in color and I isolated the red blindfold in GIMP. The font needs work, but I was playing one night and came up with this in about an hour.

So far I haven’t bothered to open a premade business, or sell covers on the side. I help out my friends when I can, and I like to play when I don’t feel like writing or there’s nothing going on online (I’m not a big TV-watcher). I know what my limitations are, and when anyone asks me for help, I make sure they know it, too.

broken-tomorrows-fake-cover-1.png

I was playing and did this concept for a friend. While she went in a different direction, I think this is a classy cover for a women’s fiction piece. (This is a real book; you can buy it on Amazon and it’s available in KU.)

The point is, like learning craft, if you want to make your own covers to save money, keep control, whatever, you need to practice.

I did a video I posted to YouTube showing you how to use Canva template elements to start you off with creating your own ebook cover. I hope it helps!


 

Next up, the survey goes into every author’s favorite topic–MARKETING! See you then!


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Keywords for your books. What are they and how to find them.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about keywords. People may have differing opinions on where to find them, or how to use them, but one thing everyone can agree on is that they are pretty important. They help readers find your books, and in this age of publishing, our books need all the help they can get.

In this last mini-series post about how I revamped All of Nothing, I’m going to explore keywords and if I change anything in regards to my book’s keywords.  For a quick recap, if you want to read about how I changed the cover, you can click on the picture of the full wrap. (I still think it’s lovely!)

all of nothing second coverjpg

I also rewrote the blurb, and that garnered some interesting discussion. If you want to take a look at my process and how I did that, you can click here to read about editing the blurb.

So, keywords.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about keywords, so what are they, exactly?

According to an article on IngramSpark, keywords are “One or more words used to indicate the content of your book.” How do we choose the right ones?

The easiest, and cheapest (read, free) is searching on Amazon in the Kindle store. When you publish a book on Amazon, KDP gives you seven slots. That doesn’t mean that you are limited to seven words, and I only just learned this not long ago. (Evidence that you always need to keep learning because you don’t know what you don’t know, and something you learn in passing could change your whole life business.)

You can add more than one word to a space by separating words with semi colons or commas.

kdp keyword screen

It looks pretty intimidating, and if you look at this not even having one idea what to put there, the first thing you need to do is revisit the genre you’re writing in. There should be at least a few words that pop out at you, even if they’re generic and not that specific.

Anyway, so like I said in a previous post, I didn’t know bully romance was thing until recently, and it turned around the way I’m going to approach keywords and marketing for this book moving forward.

When you go to the Kindle Store (Dave Chesson of Publisher Rocket suggests using an incognito window for this) you can plug in some keywords and/or phrases to see what comes up.

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You can see in this incognito window that I started searching enemies to lovers. But you can also see what comes up that could work as keywords as well. Enemies to lovers romance kindle books would be a good phrase to use. Add free if your book is wide and permafree. There might be other phrases in there that could work depending on what your story is about. Enemies with benefits doesn’t quite fit my book, so I’ll leave that alone. What else did I search for?

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I searched for alpha next thinking I could go into alpha romance, or alpha dark romance. Alpha male romance works, maybe if, it isn’t associated with shifter romance. When you click on it, what kind books do you find? Will your book fit in? When I click on Alpha Male Romance, some books that pop up that All of Nothing would fit in with, and that’s the goal, so we can add that to the list.

What else can we search for?

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I can go with the tried and true contemporary romance, but that is a generic term and using up a space in your keywords may not yield results. We can always keep it in mind though, and plug up a space if we happen to have room at the end of the experiment. Not to write off the list entirely, if you happen to have a new release, it might be worth adding.

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I went a bit further and added “rom” for romance, and nothing extraordinary popped up, but contemporary romance with sex was an interesting return. That seems to be quite specific considering Sweet/Clean romance is having it’s 15 minutes and doing well; this would set my book apart. The word “contemporary” takes up a lot of space though, so I’m going to try to narrow it down before resorting to using it.

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But if you look for kindle books, adding that your book is in Kindle Unlimited may not be a bad idea.

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But let’s keep trying to narrow it down. Jax in All of Nothing is a millionaire. I toned it down, didn’t make him a billionaire. Sorry, Jax. But looks like that search may have had a good return, and I could add millionaire romance, even millionaire romance alpha male. Lots of characters though, so we need to watch our words.

What else can we look for?

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Dark romance gives us some return. Bully romance dark romance pops out at me. But there are some that would be good to keep in mind for other standalone books down the road like mafia, books where the heroine has been kidnapped.  Jeez, these sub-sub-genres are something, aren’t they? What could I choose from the list? The bully romance dark romance for sure.

At this point I think I’m running out of search terms.

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Bully pulls up a lot of terms that don’t particularly fit my book either, like high school, college, or reverse harem. All of Nothing isn’t paranormal, so I think besides the top search term, there’s nothing we can take away from this list.

But I have a few characters left. What else can we look for? I tried bully sex, but those kinds of books I don’t need my book associated with, so we’ll skip that. (Yeah, it’s important to click, and find out what kinds of books are coming up in the search, too. Especially in romance there’s quality, and then there’s quality. I’m not going to call anything trashy as we all have our things.)

We haven’t tried the basic steamy romance and this is what we get:

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Not much comes up here, accept bully romance again, and that can’t be discounted. There are a few more genres that we’ll need to avoid, but the list is interesting, and it gives us something to play with.

This is the cheap and easy way to figure out a limited amount of keywords.

What’s important to note too, is that based on keywords, Amazon may slot your book into categories that are not available to choose from when you publish. If you have a category that you would like your book listed under, you can always email them. But that’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, even the sub, or sub-sub genres to help narrow down your audience.

It’s obvious that I didn’t have any of the correct keywords for All of Nothing, since Amazon has left it in the most boring and generic category of romance books. That doesn’t do me or sales any favors.

all of nothing rank

Pretty freaking embarrassing, if you ask me, and now that the cover, blurb, and keywords are fixed, I’m hoping that I’ll see some traction in the coming months.

What did I come up with for keywords then?

keywords KDP filled

I think I filled up the slots pretty well, and if my book starts selling, they give Amazon a few sub-genre categories to put my book into, too. I do have to warn you that even if you change your keywords, and you hit Publish thinking that they’ve been accepted, they may not be. I hit Publish after filling those spaces out, but I won’t know they’ve been approved for a little while. I may be able to edit this blog post to let you know if they have been, so I’ll keep my eye on my email to see if they publish the book or they flag any of these words.

Edited to add: They did accept all my keywords without a problem! 


What’s the deal with programs that will pull keywords for you if finding free keywords is so easy?

When you start using programs like Publisher Rocket (this isn’t an affiliate link–I get nothing for telling you about this program. All I know is Dave Chesson is a really nice guy and works hard keeping this software working and up to date) you’re looking for a lot of keywords . . . for ads. When you start looking for keywords for Amazon Ads keep in mind they give you room for 1,000 words. You need a lot of help coming up with that many words, and using a software that can scrape your words together for you can save you a lot of time.

Keywords can make a huge difference if your ad converts to clicks, and using keywords is a way to help with that. I barely dipped my toes in the water when it came to Amazon Ads way back when I was trying, and I wasn’t using a program like Publisher Rocket to choose keywords, either. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not utilizing all the space Amazon gives you.


 

So there you have it. How I revamped my book All of Nothing.

For some of you, this would include an edit as well, and if you want to learn more about relaunching your book, either read Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist (Write Faster, Write Smarter Book 6) by Chris Fox, or Ads for Authors Who Hate Math: Write Faster, Write Smarter.  In the latter book he goes a little into how much you should do to revamp your books (time vs. cost) so the ads work, because if anyone has heard Chris talk he is always very clear you need to start with a good product. (These aren’t affiliate links either, but I have read both of those books, and they are worth your time.)

Will all this work? Only time will tell. The cover is better, the blurb an improvement (I think, but that remains to be seen) and we’ll see if KDP approves my keywords and go from there. Could the book use an edit? In terms of getting better as a author, any past book an author writes won’t be as good as the newest release. That’s how it is, and I’m not going to stress about it. It’s a solid book in terms of plot and story. I’m sure it has its share of filler words, or a garbage word slipped by me here and there that I didn’t find and delete. But I did run it through a couple of betas who didn’t have anything bad to say, so I’ll take that as a small win and keep on going.

If you want more information about keywords, Dave Chesson has his own channel on YouTube, as well as Chris Fox. Taking time to listen to what these guys have to say is never a waste.

Thanks for reading!


If you want to know more about Dave and his thoughts on keywords and categories, you can listen to his interview with Joanna Penn here.

Here’s another article by the Book Designer on KDP keywords. Words Gone Wild: KDP Keywords Revisited


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All of Nothing’s make over.

I first blogged about All of Nothing getting a face lift last week, or was it the week before? I’m not sure, but you can look here, if you’d like to read the initial post. I said I was going to go over what I’m going to do to breathe a little life into the book.

The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

To this:

all of nothing second coverjpg

I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.

At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.

The first cover I came up with looked like this:

all of nothing second cover FULL TITLE

No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.

It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.

But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.

I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.

all of nothing take two

That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.

Going through DepositPhotos one day I came across this couple:

couple in elevator two

A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.

I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.

Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!

Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!

Author Interview with tom willoughby


Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂

thank you for your patince

 

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the point.

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

skills-3371153_1920

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

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

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

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

girl reading

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

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

There are three major things an indie pays for:

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

vellum formatting ad

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Hi there, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and SAFE publishing!

Publish Safely!

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