Writing

Indie Book Covers on a Budget

A few weeks ago, I talked about the process of having a professional cover artist create my covers. For me, this is the biggest expense I have when publishing my books, but covers matter and I know I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to cover creation, hence why I’m willing to save up and pay. My first covers were done by my partner who has a degree in art, but eventually, I felt I needed to update them to stay competitive. A lot of authors starting out don’t have that sort of budget, so today, I wanted to talk about ways to do this on a budget.

$200 or less

If you have a small budget for your book cover, I might suggest checking someplace like Fiverr to see if there are any good budget cover artists out there, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s a scam and what’s legit or how much the added fees will be once you get your cover made. There are also plenty of new cover designers who have fairly low pricing since they’re just starting out. Once again, the problem is that you are taking a chance that it may not be what you hoped or expected.

Something that can be very useful to new authors is premade covers. A lot of cover artists make “for fun” covers or extra covers that they sell on their websites as is. You basically plug in your title and author name, and it’s ready to go. Most of these are $150 or less with the vast majority on premade cover websites under $100. These covers are typically ebook only, and it will cost extra should you want the cover to be altered into a paperback cover (which is why I made the budget in this section this high). If you write cozy mystery, YA, SFF, and romance, you typically have a lot to choose from. There are plenty of websites that sell these, but one I particularly like is The Cover Collection. They seem to have a nice mix, and the cozy mystery covers are graphic and gorgeous.

The downside to a premade is that it may not be exactly right for your book and you can’t change it. The other issue arises if your book is part of a series. You can’t brand the books perfectly if different people made the covers, which means you may end up with disparate styles between books in the same series. Some people try to buy covers together at the same time or buy a premade and reinvest their book 1 money on a cover for book 2 that is made to match. You might also consider rebranding in the future when you have more money and just using the premade as a temporary cover.

No Budget

This always has me sort of tense up because I have seen some BAD do-it-yourself covers. I would suggest that if you aren’t halfway decent at Photoshop/CSP/other art or editing software, don’t try this yourself. Your cover is something people are going to see first online, and if it looks like a hot mess, they aren’t going to buy your book because they will [wrongly] assume the inside looks like a hot mess. If you have no budget, I might suggest bartering with a friend who has better graphic design skills than you. Please do not read this as go pester your artist friend. Most of them don’t make a whole lot of money either, so unless you’re willing to do something decently large for them (clean their gutters, watch their kids for a week, edit their manuscript, etc.), do not be upset if they say no. A simple but clean cover is far better than something that looks like someone did a bad job in Paint. Know yourself.

If you are going to forge ahead doing it yourself, I do have a few suggestions.

1) Look at covers within your genre on Amazon and other distributors. See what is often represented on those covers, the colors used, the styles of fonts, etc. Even if your cover isn’t perfect, you can at least sort of blend in. You don’t want to stand out in a bad way. It might also give you direction on what stock photos to look for, which leads me to point 2.

2) Look for stock photos. You cannot grab any old picture off Google and use in a book cover. Someone owns the rights to it, but using Shutter Stock or Pexels will give you tons of photos and vector art that is royalty free, meaning anyone can use it. You may need to alter them with editing software, but the photos are there for you to work with.

3) If you decide to go the Penguin Classics route and use an old painting, make sure you can use that painting on a cover. There’s a small issue with copyright when it comes to works of art. Museums and galleries have the rights to the images for many of them, so you may not be able to slap that picture on a book cover. A lot of museums, galleries, etc. do have websites where you can browse their pictures and see which ones are for commercial use. It’s a pain in the butt, but I’d rather not deal with copyright issues.

4) Show your finished product to other people to get their opinions before putting it on your ebook. Think of this like getting a tattoo. You want someone else to look at their artist’s portfolio with you in case they notice the flaws while you are enamored with the art. Your book cover will be out for everyone to see, so it’s better to catch a weird line or unreadable font now before it’s all over the internet. Be willing to take feedback from people because they will be your customers. The Courtney Project on Youtube has a great playlist of book cover critiques, which may be helpful in showing you what you should look for when making a book cover.

Final Thoughts

Your book cover is an investment in your brand and in your book. If I was going to spend money on one thing, it would be the book cover, BUT I am pretty sound with grammar and editing. If you aren’t great with those things, then, your money is better spent on editing.

At the same time, premade covers can be a great way to get a cool looking cover without breaking the bank. If you have no budget and want to make your own cover, I would definitely be realistic regarding your art/editing skills and make sure to follow the genre conventions for books within your genre in order to make something that will appeal to readers of your genre. Once you finish it, make sure to get feedback from others as you may not readily see the flaws in your cover design.

The Reanimator's Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart Cover Reveal

For the past month or so, I’ve been working with Crowglass Designs as he created the most perfect cover for The Reanimator’s Heart, and let me tell you, keeping this under wraps has been HARD. He is an absolutely fantastic designer who understood the mood and tone of The Reanimator’s Heart to a T.

The Reanimator’s Heart is the first book in the Reanimator Mysteries series and will be out October 25th, 2022. You can preorder the ebook now, and the paperback will launch in October.

Check out the cover along with the blurb and the preorder links below:

Manhattan, 1897

A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.

Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is, until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.

But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.

CWs include but are subject to change/not limited to: Death, dead bodies, murder, violence, grief, gore, Catholicism/Christianity, on page sexual content, mentioned/remembered ableism against autistic people, blood, consumption of relics/human tissue


You can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart at

| Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Add it on Goodreads |

By the way, if you’ve read Kinship and Kindness, you may recognize some characters in The Reanimator’s Heart as both series share the New York Paranormal Society.

Once again, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you will share this post or pics of the cover if you’re excited about The Reanimator’s Heart.

Writing

Bookish Bitching

As readers, we all have things we see in a book that make us roll our eyes or want to immediately put it down. This week, I was inspired by Nate Philbrick’s 20 Bookish Pet Peeves to write my own list. It’s Monday, so why not bitch about it?

  1. Covers that change mid-series
  2. When paperbacks are released six months after the hard cover
  3. Ebooks that cost as much (or more) than a paperback
  4. Highly sexual book covers
  5. Poorly done photo-manipulated covers
  6. Publishers who give authors super short print-runs
  7. Love triangles
  8. Characters will oddly apt names, like a werewolf named Luna Woolf
  9. When side characters are more interesting than the main characters yet get very little screen time
  10. The “tragic queer” trope
  11. Invisible people of color (when characters are only revealed to be PoC by the author AFTER the book has been published and widely read, yet there’s no textual evidence in the book)
  12. Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus
  13. Complex female characters being called Mary-Sues because they can think and act like a capable human being
  14. Books that flat-line in the middle in terms of pacing
  15. Unlikable characters only being “bad guys”
  16. Lack of diversity in many genres (in terms of race, sexuality, gender-identity)
  17. Books with no back blurb, just “reviews” by big name papers or authors.
  18. Authors who put out one really great book and never write again
  19. Certain genres being seen as lesser or more important than others
  20. When the dust jacket won’t stay on your hard cover

What bookish things do you bitch about?

Writing

One Week Until…

eata final cover

In one week, the Earl and the Artificer is released! One more week to pre-order it at 99 cents.

I can’t believe the release day is nearly here.

While waiting for the release of book three, I have been hard at work formatting the paperback and doing a little updating of The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden. I know that when I formatted The Earl of Brass two years ago, I have no idea what I was doing, so I decided to reformat the paperback version and tidy it up. The new version should be on Amazon now ready to go. Not much has changed, but as the author, the places I screwed up are glaring to me and have been since I finished book two.

proofproof1

 

The same day, the proof of The Earl and the Artificer came in the mail and looks fantastic! I was so afraid it wouldn’t get here before the blizzard that’s supposed to hit today. The paperback should be available on Amazon in a few days, so stay tuned for more updates on The Earl and the Artificer.

 


 

If you’re trapped in the house from the blizzard or just want a new series to lose yourself in, try out the Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

The Earl of Brass

The Winter Garden

“An Oxford Holiday”

The Earl and the Artificer (pre-order, out January 30th)

Personal Life · Writing

New Year, New Books

Ahhh, another year as an indie author has passed. 2015 has been quite the year for me. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much, yet there’s so much more to do in 2016.

This year I released my second novel, The Winter Garden, along with a short story, “An Oxford Holiday”. While getting through another two semesters of graduate school, I finished writing The Earl and the Artificer and got to meet and hang-out with my best friend who came to visit from the UK. My boyfriend and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Honestly, this year has been pretty fantastic for me.

I’m a little afraid of 2016. This year I will finish my MFA in Creative Writing and have to look for a real job, which feels incredibly daunting.

Anyway, I have a few solid goals for 2016:

  • Edit, format, and publish The Earl and the Artificer (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3) by January 30th. You can pre-order it here.
  • Write more books! It’s a fairly obvious goal, but I’d like to write at least two books in 2016.
  • Write every day that I’m not editing. For a while this year, I was really good about writing at least a couple hundred words every day, and that really upped my productivity. I want to start doing that again once I plot out the basics for book 4.
  • Read the books I own. This may sound odd, but I bought a lot of books in 2015, and I haven’t read most of them. In 2016, I’d like to catch up with my reading and try to only buy sequels to what I’m currently reading and not buy twenty for every one I read.

I could go into a bunch of smaller goals I have, but I’m sure those will come up throughout the year. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2015, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.

Stay tuned for more stories, new characters, and future publications! I know 2016 is going to be a great year!


 

The Earl and the Artificer (IMD#3) is available for pre-order on Amazon for 99 cents.

eata final cover

 

Writing

Incoming Rant: An Open Letter to Traditionalist Writers

To all the writers I know who scoffed, hesitated, or snickered when I said I was self-publishing,

Thank you for devaluing my hard work. In one instant, you went from supportive friend I was probably itching to talk to about my work to “that jerk” who once again reminded me of the ignorance of some writers. You are the ones who make me hesitant to admit that I am a self-published author when I am damn proud of my work and what I have accomplished in a little over a year.

Thus far in my fairly short career as an author, I have received tons of support from friends, fellow writers, and even people I met through Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even gotten messages saying how people loved my work or my characters, which made my day, but what always sticks out are the friends whose reactions surprise you by how subtly patronizing or rude they are.

They stare for a moment as the words “self-published” leave your lips, and with a small chuckle and glance to the side, they mutter, “That’s great.” Then either go off topic completely or ask you why you are not saving yourself for a traditional publishing contract like you’re supposed to do.

Well, I don’t want to. I want my freedom. I want to control all aspects of my work. I don’t want my characters homogenized or my work shelved after it doesn’t move twenty-thousand copies in a month. I don’t want my work’s worth to be solely valued for how much someone else can make off it. Yes, I could have possibly ended up with movie deals or a display in Barnes and Noble, but more than likely, that wouldn’t have happened even if I did go the traditional route.

I say all this, having repeated it numerous times before, and then you say the worst thing you could ever say to a self-published author. “But anyone can slap a book on Amazon.”

Thank you for devaluing all of the work I put in to making that book successful. Yes, anyone can slap a book on Amazon, but that doesn’t mean it will sell, and by saying that, I have to wonder if you have any idea the amount of work that went into slapping that book on Amazon.

First there were the hours I spent writing that book, editing it, having beta readers and an editor take a look at it. The amount of hands it passed through alone should be enough to impart some legitimacy to my endeavor. Then, I worked with an artist to create my covers, and I formatted both versions of the book myself (ebook and paperback). What takes an entire publishing team at least a year to do, I do in a few months. You have no idea how much I do, and I don’t think you care to know.

While you’re waiting for that agent or publishing house to respond to your query, I’m working on building my business. More than likely, I have never said anything negative about your thousands of query letters or that I think your time would be better spent self-publishing, gaining a following and presence, and working on your next book even if I’ve thought it. You may not know it, but a lot of authors self-publish and traditionally publish and they get those contracts because they have proof their books sell. I may have even sent you links to open submissions or contests to help you while you chose give me a patronizing pat on the head.

I have proof that my way is working. I have sales and fans and people who like my work. While you could say anyone can find someone who will like their work no matter how bad, just know someone could say the same about you.

Signed,

Your friend who chose the other path

Writing

Success and the Awkward Authoress

For a type-A personality, success is a tricky thing to navigate and define. I thrive off getting good grades and being told that I’m at the top of the class. In writing, I’m definitely not at the top of the class. I’m not even in the middle. I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, trying to pull my way up. It’s been quite a while since I haven’t been at the top or a competitor, and it’s disconcerting to know that you’re a nobody.

I know I’m a newbie to the world of self-publishing. It’s been less than a year since I published my first book, and I’ve not only had sales every month but I’ve gotten a few loyal readers who love my books and characters. There is no reason for me to complain, but part of me wonders if I’m succeeding or failing. In this industry, I can’t rely on grades to tell me whether or not I’m doing well. You can’t rely on sales rankings because while you made a sale, you may not have added a reader. You can’t even rely on reviews because you aren’t tailoring the story to the reader as you would an assignment for a professor. Some readers will love it, others will be ambivalent, and a few will hate it. People won’t get it, and you’ll be frustrated that they didn’t see your vision. You can’t go and say anything to explain your point of view, all you can do it hope someone else gets it. It’s frustrating. It makes you question if you’re doing as well as you hoped or thought you were.

The key is to define what success is to you. It’s so much easier said than done, but when you figure out what success is to you, you can determine whether or not you’re actually failing or simply lacking confidence. Do you want to sell a lot of books each year or do you want to gain a larger readership? Do you want consistently high ratings on your books or do you want to grow with each book?

As I’ve written more and gotten deeper into the publishing process, I have found that what I care about are: gaining new readers and improving the quality of my writing with each book. Unfortunately, you need sales to get readers, but I’d rather have ten very loyal readers than a hundred ambivalent ones. In terms of quality, I know my first book is not my best work, and I’m okay with that. I’ve grown since I published it a little over a year ago, and I should have. With each successive book, I should get better. I should improve and grow and experiment. That’s what art and writing are about. The good thing is I know book two is even better than book one, so I guess in that area, I’m successful.

In this area, I find myself battling logic and emotion. Logically, I know that most writers aren’t successful in multiple areas (readership, sales, improvement, notoriety, etc.) until they have at least five books out and do a lot of marketing and connecting. Emotionally, I’m upset that I don’t feel that I’m doing as well as I should. I also realize that no matter how many sales, readers, or 5 star reviews I had, I would still probably feel insecure. This state of mind always worsens when I’m feeling stuck in my current writing project, and guess where I am currently– floundering in planning my next chapter. In order to not fall into this trap (or at least not as often), writers need to define what success is to them and work towards those goals.

What do you define as success?


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Writing

March 2015 in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

While February was a transitional month as I switched from working on The Winter Garden to book three of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices, March was nearly wholly devoted to my latest project.  Beginning to work on book three has been a refreshing change even if it did take nearly half a month.  I feel much better about March than I did about February, and I hope that April will be even better. Continue reading “March 2015 in Review”

Writing

On Being a Female Writer

The other day, I was required to read Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” and A Room of One’s Own for my Women and Autonomy class.  I’ve read them both several times over the course of my schooling, but after publishing, I think they resonated more.  Both pieces discuss the issues and hindrances women have in the world, particularly the writing/publishing world, and despite the works being written about eighty years ago, I think a lot of the problems still persist.

Woolf discusses the prejudice women face when writing because the literary canon is male-dominated.  The publishing world was established by men, for male works, and often the only way for women to enter that field is through subversion.  In the 19th century, the Bronte sisters wrote as the Bell brothers in order to publish their works, and today, writers like J.K. Rowling use initials when publishing in fields that are “not for women,” like science fiction and high fantasy.  If Rowling was writing romance, chick lit, or bodice-rippers, then she could have easily used Joanna Rowling, but because she was writing a story about a young boy in a magical setting, her publishers believed her book wouldn’t sell as well with a woman’s name on the front. Pfft, I mean, women don’t write fantasy well, right? She adopted the initials J.K., which relate back to her real name, but they also harken back to J.R.R. Tolkein, one of the fathers of the fantasy genre.  When Rowling decided to branch out into crime novels, she switched pseudonyms to a outright male name.  Why would she do that if her name is already famous and would draw crowds? Well, crime fiction is another genre where women are often kicked to the curb.  Unless you’re someone like P.D. James (neutral pseudonym) or Sue Grafton (whose female detective hit me as a man masquerading as a woman), you will probably not be taken seriously. To break into this genre, Rowling and/or her publishers believed she had to be a man to do so.

Sadly, I have seen this in real life.  At a book fair, we were rained out, so I was parked inside next to a huge table of female romance writers.  As people walked past my table where I sat with my boyfriend (who came as a second set of hands and a coffee-runner), they asked about my little brown book… to my boyfriend.  Quite a few people thought he was the author.  I wondered why, especially when I was the one trying to engage customers. Did they think I was some lackluster Vanna White? My hypothesis is that my little brown steampunk novel is not what one would expect from a female writer. No stock photos of women in ballgowns or half-naked couples, which is what people seem to expect from female authors.

I recently read an article saying that in the New York Times’ book review section, books by men make up sixty-something percent of the reviews.  Why would there be such a disparity?  Men’s work couldn’t possibly be that much better than women’s writing, but the explanation may lie in what the New York Times deems worthy of review, literary fiction.  The definition they are using of literary fiction is a novel that doesn’t fit any genre conventions (no wizards, no space travel, no steam-powered devices, and no straight up romance. Plot vs. character driven is irrelevant at this point). It seems men write genre fiction and women do not. This little tiff between lit and genre can be seen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Buried Giant and how he made the comment that it wasn’t fantasy and that his previous book wasn’t scifi when the book had elements of it.  Ishiguro is automatically a literary fiction writer despite the fantastical elements in his work while a writer like Ursula Le Guin openly states her books are scifi.

Why is Le Guin okay with her books being “genre” fiction while Ishiguro isn’t? Because genre fiction is the niche women have carved for themselves over the last century.  Even though men still dominate certain genres, women authors are more likely to be found in the genre categories of Amazon than men. Even though amazing authors like Le Guin, Rowling, and Rice write in this area, the canon and literati consider it lesser than “literary” fiction.

The same is emerging with self-publishing. More women are self-publishing than men.  Why? Because they can subvert the traditional publishing industry, which has not been as open to them as it has been for men, and self-publishing is the niche where they can succeed.  Strangely, Woolf self-published all those years ago.  She had the right idea, and it’s lasted until today.

Writing

February 2015 in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

February was a meh month for all of my work.  While I finished the formatting for The Winter Garden in ebook and paperback and was able to move up the release date to March 15th, I didn’t get much done in terms of book three.  I did make a little progress with all of my projects. Maybe part of the problem is that my hands and mind are in too many places at once.

What I did accomplish: Continue reading “February 2015 in Review”