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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the point.

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

skills-3371153_1920

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

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

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

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

girl reading

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

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

There are three major things an indie pays for:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Hi there, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and SAFE publishing!

Publish Safely!

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

 

The Sell More Books Show Summit 2019

sell more books show 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Until next time!