Writing

The Indie Author Cover Design Process

With my recent cover reveal for The Reanimator’s Heart, I have had a few people reach out to ask me about the cover design process, and I thought this might be easier than trying to string together several Twitter posts.

So far, I have worked with two different cover designers, both of whom I love (Cover Affairs and Crowglass Design), but they each have different processes. Before I get into this, I want to be upfront that I don’t think either process is better or worse than the other. They are just what works best for the artist. Also, I will not be showing the mock-ups and such that I’m going to talk about here. It’s like showing someone your first draft, and without permission from my designers, it would be very rude.

The General Process

  1. Go online and find a cover designer– sounds simple, but you have to keep in mind that you should find someone who jives with your genre, does good work, is within your budget, and can work with you during the time period needed for your book. This can take time, so I suggest doing your research ahead of your book being ready for publication. I found Cover Affairs by looking at books within my genre whose covers I liked. I asked the author who designed their cover (and/or checked inside the book for the cover designer info) and reached out to the cover designer. Sometimes you run into the problem of your cover designer being very popular and having openings 6 months out. You may have to wait to put your book out, or you might opt to find someone else to do your cover. This is why I seriously suggest reaching out months before you’re ready.
  2. Book your cover designer and settle on a deadline– Contact the cover artist, find out their lead times, settle on when you want to schedule it, and then go back to working on your book.
  3. Your cover designer will send you a form to fill out- Both cover designers I’ve worked with have sent me a Google Form to fill out, and the questions were fairly standard between both, so I will summarize the gist of it. Name, email, book title/subtitle/series (#), genre and subgenres, time period of the book, settings or specific imagery or objects that are important in the story, other covers you like or other book covers in your series, stock photos you might use for characters or elements you might want to include in the cover, general vibe of the book, back of cover blurb for the book, anything you do not want at all on the cover. Basically, your cover designer is trying to feel out what you want and the overall feel of what they’re going to create. This is also where you should probably tell your cover designer if you want an ebook, paperback, audiobook, hardcover version, etc. Tell them upfront, so they can find what they need (and so you can get an accurate bill/idea of cost). You can always add a paperback or audiobook cover later, but you will probably pay more as most cover artists would prefer to do everything in one shot.
    1. For my one cover designer, she worked off the Google Form and that’s it. For my other cover designer, he wanted to read the book to get the feel for the work. *Cue panicking as I wasn’t done and wasn’t expecting him to ask for it* Now, I know. It worked out though as he was fine with me sending chunks of it as he was working on the cover along with my Pinterest board and music playlist for the book.
  4. First draft mock up– this will probably be rough, so don’t panic. Your cover artist can do this several ways. They might send sketches, stock photos for your approval (Lou at Cover Affairs and I usually send stock photos back and forth until we find someone who works), or even rough cover concepts that are a patchwork of styles or ideas. You should send your cover designer feedback. Don’t just say it looks great to be nice if you don’t like the idea or it doesn’t jive with your book. At the same time, do not be a pain in the ass and shoot things down without looking for stock or giving direction. Sometimes you cannot find exactly what you want, and you need to compromise and pivot to a new idea. It can also be your wording in your Google Form that is throwing off your cover designer, and you may need to explain further what you mean. If you absolutely feel like you and your cover designer are not figuring things out, this may be the point to call it quits and find someone else. You might lose your deposit, but it’s better than paying in full for a cover you don’t like or that doesn’t fit your book.
    1. Things to keep in mind with the first draft mock-up: does it fit your genre? Does it fit the vibe of your story? Does it make sense? I air on the side of your cover should be unique and pretty but still fit the general conventions of your genre. I do not like the naked people romance covers, but they do sell. If you’re trying to be very commercial, I’d say follow the trend to a T. If you’re in a looser, more niche genre, you generally have more wiggle room for what can/will be successful online. Look at your genre’s Amazon top 100 section to see what styles are popular. Your cover should make sense among those other books. Standing out like a sore thumb isn’t great because people might assume your book is a different/wrong genre and skip it.
  5. Second draft/real draft– you have locked in a design with your cover artist, so now it is time to sit back and see what they come up with. At this point, major changes should be done. You and your cover artist might have some back and forth conversations about minute details like font, flourishes, weapon/item options, dress color, etc. But the design should not undergo major changes at this point. Once your cover designer comes back with the second draft cover mock-up, you should be happy with it. You picked the first draft idea, you approved the smaller details, and generally when this is done, you should be looking at a nearly completed book cover. Don’t hesitate to ask for small changes, most cover designers are more than willing to tweak, but we are past big picture issues.
  6. Optional paperback cover– if you have a paperback cover, your cover designer will generally make the ebook, then extend out to make the paperback. Once the main design is locked in, they will then work on the back half. Please send them the most updated back blurb because if you are like me, you have messed with it substantially since they first started working on it and now what they have in their Google Form is outdated. Also, they will probably want a guestimate of the size your paperback will be in pages and inches (6×9 or 5×8), so they can format the spine and covers correctly. When you get closer to releasing your paperback, generally you reach out and tell them the exact page count, so they can tweak the cover perfectly to fit the size.
  7. Optional audiobook cover– your cover designer will make an abbreviated or truncated version of your front cover for the audiobook since it’s square instead of rectangular.
  8. Optional hard cover– I have not done this, but if you decide to you, you will need to tell them if it’s an Amazon hard cover (no flaps/wrap) or an Ingram hard cover (has flaps/wrap), and you will have to decide what goes inside the wrap part versus the back.
  9. Sizing problems– this happens without fail no matter how fantastic your cover designer is because the printing/ebook companies are a pain. Files are too large, the cover doesn’t fit right, something isn’t bright/is too bright. Reach out to your cover designer and tell them the specific error. Mine reply quickly, and the crisis is averted without issue.
  10. Set up your preorders, buy your author copy, profit (maybe)- remember that your book cover is what is going to help sell your book. It should be something you love and are proud of, and this is where the vast majority of my budget goes. Put your best foot forward, and lure in readers with your cover for preorders.
Writing

DONE with Editing

kindle wg

You cannot know how happy I am to be finished.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be finding typos from now until June like spinach in my teeth, but at least the major editing is done and the “final” file has been uploaded to Kindle’s website.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I have a love-hate relationship with editing.  I love being a rock-tumbler for my story and seeing how it polishes up by the end, but it is so hard to reread the same story twenty times and still be interested.  Editing can take me a while because I need to step back and not read about my characters for a while.  Continue reading “DONE with Editing”

Writing

The Editor’s Eye for the Writing Guy

Whenever I tell other writers that I have written and published a novel, they often ask me about the editing process.  For many, editing seems like a daunting and seemingly insurmountable task, but with the help of a beta reader or two, the process can become much easier.  I would like to share my process.  It is far from perfect, but it’s what I usually do and what has worked for me.

There are certain things that are needed before going into the editing process: a finished novel, an open mind, a critical eye, and the drive to get it done. 

  1. A finished novel is fairly self-explanatory.  I suggest it being finished only because I can sit and edit constantly and not move forward for months.  If you think of things you know need to be fixed, make a list and keep it somewhere safe where you won’t lose it (been there, lost several).
  2. Many writers see their novels are their children. No one wants to hear their children being criticized, but when it is in their best interest, you may want to listen to your beta readers and what they suggest.  You don’t need to always listen to what they say, sometimes it won’t work or it’s a personal preference, but be open about fixing things. Try not to get too attached to a certain phrase or metaphor.  In the editing process, as much as you love that line, you may need to cut it or tweak it.  I clung to an analogy comparing England to dingy mashed potatoes but realized the entire chapter needed to be reworked and obviously, the potatoes had to go.
  3. A critical eye goes hand-in-hand with an open-mind.  You need to be able to look at your own work and see the problems in it. Where are you lacking? Where is there too much? If you wrote the story over a long period of time, did you style change from beginning to end? There is no way that after a first or second draft your book is ready for publishing.  Look harder for mistakes and issues that need tinkering with.  One cannot always rely on their beta readers to find every issue, so being self-critical will definitely help when perfecting it before it heads into your readers’ hands.  As a reader, what would make you annoyed or want to change?
  4. Seeing a stack of two hundred and fifty pages laying on your table can be incredibly daunting.  How will you get through all of it with all your other life commitments?  My suggestion is to set a manageable goal for yourself each day or each week.  You won’t always accomplish it and other days you will exceed it, but just try to press on and get through it.  if you are having a day where you reread the same line over and over, step back and do something else for a while or try reading a different chapter. No one said you had to edit the book cover to cover, you can skip around.

My process for editing, can be a long one and a repetitive one to many, but it’s like a rock tumbler.  Each revolution through the story polishes it more and more.

  1. My first editing process (if I hold off until the end of the book) is making the edits I have on my list, things I know need to be fixed, which can include changing characters’ ages or descriptions, changes in continuity or style, passages you have been eying since after you wrote them. I may go through this process more than once just to make sure I got everything.  **As a tip, I like to print out my entire manuscript, then make changes with a red pen by writing in the margins or attaching pieces of paper where I have rewritten chunks of a chapter or scene.  If you tend to miss your changes, go over the pen with a highlighter (I prefer pink) to make the changes stand out.
  2. Leave your draft alone for a while.  Putting away, get some distance from it and make it so you don’t recite the memorized phrases instead of actually reading them.  If you haven’t given your book to a few people to read, you should do so now. Their feedback will hopefully be helpful during your next session. Make sure they will give you honest feedback and most importantly, they will actually do it. Explain to them what you want them to look out for and be specific, write it down even.
  3. Read your story, make notes on areas that need correcting or altering and if any areas are boring.  As you go through and tweak things (mine tends to be wording and adding more since I’m an underwriter. If you are an over-writer, you may need to prune your manuscript), highlight them and mark them in a distinctive pen on your manuscript. Take the feedback from your beta readers and see what they suggest.  If it should be changed, do it now. If you are unsure, save it and wait until you are all done and reread the story again to decide if it needs to be done.  Typically, I go through this editing phase about twice. When doing historical fiction or anything that needs research, make sure you fact-check what you are unsure of still.
  4. Leave it for a week or two. Now, reread it. This is going to (hopefully) be lighter editing.  Read it aloud.  Are there words that need changing? Is any of the dialogue stiff or awkward? Sometimes it may be beneficial to have someone read it to you in order to catch awkward parts that sound fine in your head, and during the reading process, you may also come across typos. 
  5. The final stretch! I call this typo time. I was a writing tutor, so I am familiar with most rules of grammar and can correct most of my work (I still need to look up lay v. lie and a few other rules that always need refreshing). If you have certain rules you know trip you up, make an index card of the rule to keep with you while you go through it again, but if you would rather have someone else deal with grammar, I would suggest finding a proofreader online or a friend who is willing to take a look at it. I go over my work with a fine-tooth comb and often hand it off to my mom who is good at catching mistakes I miss.  At this point, you are done fiddling with your text hopefully. Word changes may still occur, but remember the point is fine polishing, not overhauling. If you are still unhappy with it, I would go back to step 3 or 4 for another round or two of edits.

The point of this post is hopefully to empower you to be your own editor.  The input of others is important, but first and foremost, you should be writing a book you want to read. Take the process into your hands and be self-critical without being self-defeating.  It is your work, your book, and while an editor is a great tool, you should ultimately be responsible for perfecting your writing as it is a process through which you will grow to understand your flaws and what you need to do to become an even better writer.

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