Just a note about book covers and not believing everything you hear.

The amount of information out there is insane, right? You don’t know who to believe, what to believe, if anything is true, and I’m not talking about what’s on social media right now with regards to COVID, but with indie publishing. There are scammers out there, people who want to make a buck off of your inexperience. These people aren’t nice, and you’ll run into them time and time again joining FB groups and Twitter people tweeting their “services” such as they are.

But when you get up into the bigger indies, the ones who are making a bit of money and they turn to the non-fiction, or entrepreneurial side of things, you do expect them to know what they’re talking about.

I’ve mentioned Nick Stephenson on the blog before, incidentally when I was blogging about book covers not that long ago. Because I love all things book covers, when I got an email (yeah, I’m signed up to his newsletter) saying he could make a book cover in 10 minutes using BookBrush, I was intrigued.

I already know I won’t ever use BookBrush, I prefer Canva, and they’re cheaper. I know BookBrush is specifically created for authors and Canva is meant for anyone who needs to make a quick graphic design. I like Canva, know how it works, and I’ve loaded quite a few fonts in my kit over the past couple of years. I don’t think I’ll change anytime soon.

Anyway, so I settled in to watch it, and you can watch it, too.

I had a hard time with the video, and not only because it’s basically one big BookBrush commercial with a probable affiliate link included that he failed to mention was an affiliate link. I could be wrong, but why take the time to make a video and not include a link where he could make a bit of money if his watchers decided to try it out?

So, I watched it, and didn’t really like the cover he came up with at the end and here’s why:

  1. He advocated using Unsplash for photos, and anyone who does book covers knows that using free photos is a no-no. Especially with people in them. Websites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay do not collect model releases and these websites do not vet photos. There are things in these photos that are not for commercial use. I went to Unsplash and typed in tennis shoes. There were several photos of generic shoes, but there were also some photos that came up with Nike (the swoosh is a dead giveaway) and Adidas. To a newbie wanting to make a book cover about say, running or a personal journey or something, they might think a nice looking photo with a pair of Nike shoes would be okay because they found it on a free-for-commercial-use website. Do the same search on Deposit Photos and not one pair of Nikes shows up at all, or any logo for that matter.
  2. He chose Romance and that is a very nuanced genre. The couple he picked had all their clothes on, and in romance (read: reader) circles, that would indicate the book to be sweet and or clean. Heat levels are depicted by the amount of skin showing on a cover, and that’s something Nick didn’t mention in the video.
  3. He didn’t do a full wrap. I admit his way could be okay for a short story or a reader magnet that may not need the level of quality a book cover would need to promote sales. Reader magnets are supposed to bring signups to your newsletter though, and I wouldn’t imagine anyone signing up for a newsletter if the draw is going to be a short story with a crappy cover. So while you may not want to fork over $100.00 for a premade for a short story or novella that won’t go on sale, eventually your newsletter subscribers are going to be your bread and butter, and you need to treat your fans with the respect they deserve.
  4. Not all fonts are free for commercial use. I don’t know if the font he picked is included in BookBrush or if it’s free for commercial use. I looked at the site I commonly go to for free for commercial use stuff, and it is featured there.

Not all the fonts on that website are for commercial use. Only the fonts with the green dollar tag are. The other problem I had with the font is that it’s not very romancy. Yes, I get he was trying to make a point in that he could make an ebook cover in 10 minutes, and he did. But font is a big deal when it comes to covers and this one, even though it’s free, just doesn’t work.

I don’t mean to pick on him, and I did make a comment on his YouTube video, so don’t think I’m ragging on him behind his back. My comment isn’t as long as what I wrote out for you here, but enough that maybe I did slap him down a little bit. I don’t mind calling out people who aren’t being entirely on the up and up. Passing out bad information is bad, no matter who is doing or how cute his accent is. I know us American ladies are a sucker for a cute accent, but don’t let him talk you into using free photos. It’s just bad news.

Here’s my version of a sweet wedding book cover:

Stock photo taken from Deposit Photos. Title font, Calgary. Author font, Bodoni FLF Cover created in Canva

And it’s easy to see if it will make a good cover by plugging it into the 3d cover mock up creator by Derek Murphy:

With the photo I chose and the title, maybe it’s gearing more toward Women’s Fiction than sweet Contemporary Romance, but it just proves my point: you need to take a bit of time to think about your cover and put some effort into choosing the stock photo, font, and overall design.

I know he was trying to prove his own point: that using BookBrush is an easy tool and you don’t have to pay out hundreds of dollars for a simple cover by a designer. And that’s true, kind of. Someone asked in one of my FB groups what is the best software to make a book cover with, and lots of people chimed in with Photoshop, Canva, Affinity Photo, GIMP, the usual suspects. I told him I use a mixture of Canva and GIMP but I said it doesn’t matter what software you use. If you haven’t developed and eye for what looks good, you’ll always make crap.

If the shoe fits, don’t step in it.

Until next time!


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.

What do you NEED to be a writer/author? Pick and choose at your own peril.

So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.

You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.

So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.

And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.

His course is $397.00. You can check it out here if you’re interested.

My favorite Amazon Ads School guy, Bryan Cohen, runs an Ads Course, too, and his costs $397.00. During his ads challenges (the next one is in July) he’ll throw in some blurb writing or something a little extra to entice you to sign up. And that’s great. A lot of these indies who are offering courses try to throw in a little something for nothing. But where does it stop?

Adam Croft, under his Indie Author Mindset brand offers courses under $50.00. You can check them out here. I love his Facebook group, and I encourage you to check that out, and his podcast, too. Andrea Pearson, one-third of the Six Figure Authors podcast and Facebook group offers classes too, also in bite-sized fees, and if you listen to the podcast she just recently gave out a code for a percentage off. Her classes range anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00. Jane Friedman offers classes, as well. I’ve taken a couple and they are usually about $25.00. You can look on her blog to keep up-to-date on the courses she offers.

And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.

Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.

Then there’s ProWritingAid (lifetime is $224.00), the Hemingway App ($19.99 one-time fee), Grammarly (the premium is $139.95 a year).

Scrivener ($49.00).

Publisher Rocket ($97.00).

Let’s do promotions: A Freebooksy with Written Word Media is all over the map, with the popular genres around $100.00. E-reader News Today is between $50.00 to $140.00 depending on the price of your book. Book Barbarian runs about $50.00. Fussy Librarian is isn’t terrible, but you still have to sell books to make a profit.

Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)

Can we add newsletter providers too?

Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.

A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?

Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.

How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.

There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.

But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?

The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.

I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.

So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.

There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.

I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.

I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.

Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.

Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancĂ© bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancĂ©’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.

It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.

A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.

No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.

How much does it cost be a writer? Nothing.

Okay. Two dollars.

Tell me what you think!