Hello and welcome to the newest section of the blog: All Business
The purpose of this segment is to information, entertain, share experiences, and/or provide insights into the world of authorship from a variety of topics and points of view. Whether you are more of a hobbyist or write professionally, you will hopefully find the information presented here to be useful, humorous, or stand as a cautionary tale.
Any author may participate (email me if you are interested in contributing at email@example.com). If you have an idea for a topic or wish to see something specific presented, please let me know as well.
All Business: November 2022
Book Covers: Images and Fonts
The cover of your book should convey the right amount of information – not too much and not too little. When a potential reader sees your book for the first time, they tend to dwell on it for as long as ten seconds before deciding to investigate further or look elsewhere. Imagine a person scrolling through hundreds (or thousands) of choices on Amazon (or any other book site). Simply writing the darn thing isn’t enough. You should “start selling” by creating an intriguing cover.
Those first moments are crucial and can make or break a sale. If the person finds the graphic, font, or back blurb to be off-putting for any reason, they’ll quickly move on to the next book, whether in person or on screen. Of course, no one can make a cover that will delight every reader. But if we follow (or at least consider) some long-standing rules and tips, our books have a better chance of ending up in a new reader’s hands.
While an author with an established following will sell their books regardless of what’s on the front, it’s important for the majority of writers (especially indies) to present our work in the best light possible. You want your book to stand out from the crowd, instigating a connection to a new reader. A good cover can prompt someone to skim through the pages, read the back blurb, and invest their hard-earned cash in someone they’ve never read before.
Constructing the cover can happen in all manner of ways these days. You can hire it out to an artist, do it yourself, or combine both factors. I pay a wonderful illustrator who collaborates with me on mood, tone, ideas, and cover vision. She creates a few mock-ups, sends them my way, and from there, I can let her know what works and what does not. It’s a process that I’ve found helpful and as far as I’m concerned, she’s nailed my vision every time. (She’s done the artwork for Rage and Buried and created my Plump Toad Press logo. I heartily recommend her – Tami Boyce)
Obviously, you want the graphic and/or illustrations to look professional (if you choose to use them). However, and I can’t state this enough, it’s important to visualize how it will look as a thumbnail on Amazon. It’s going to be small. Really small. Yet, it needs to be clear and convey your book’s message/genre/target audience. (I write suspense/thriller):
Let’s look at an example:
Okay…what the heck is going on here? Besides for appearing cluttered and messy, the genre isn’t clear at all, nor is the target audience. While all of these elements might appear somewhere in the book, a potential reader would most likely see this and be confused. Is this a kid’s book? A mystery? What’s up with the enormous cookie that’s larger than the cat? Is someone being poisoned? And the feet? Is the steam coming from the cup or the foot and do we want to know?
We don’t need everything laid out here. Pick one or two elements and go with that. Also, look at the title and author’s name. They’re jammed up at the top and gives the cover a childish appearance. Your title AND your name are important. Make them stand out – clear and precise.
The style, size, color, placement, and font choice are also important. As cute as a curly font might be, it wouldn’t be a good move to use it if you are writing a serious thriller. And if you’re writing a kid’s book or YA, you might want to steer away from this font, or this one.
Let’s look at another example:
If you use a particular font for the title, stick with it for most other wording on the cover and make sure it fits the genre. This example is trying to be “clever” but comes across as kind of annoying, messy, and unprofessional (although I’m sure that some people will like this). The author or designer could have chosen one word to highlight (like creativity) by using a varied font but kept the rest of the title uniform. By doing that, it would make a thumbnail on Amazon easier to read. Notice the word “creativity”. Doesn’t it sort of look like weatiwity? And the word “the” gets a bit lost, especially if you’re looking quickly. The colors as the background are fine, but with the jumble and randomness of the title, it’s too much. The background is busy enough.
One final example:
See how the title and author’s name disappear? The main image is also impeded. Is this a book about gardening? A romance? It’s hard to tell because it’s too basic. Plus, it’s not eye-catching. Regardless of how well the book is written, I might never know because nothing about the cover pulls me in. Sure, the back blurb could come to the rescue, but if it doesn’t grab your attention to begin with, it’s likely to be passed over. Don’t force the reader to work too hard. Make the cover easy to understand and capture a reader’s attention. Remember –you only have seconds to make an impression.
While every cover can be criticized and judged, there are guidelines and tips (many more than just these!) that will help make the process of cover creation easier, better, and will provide you a leg up.
How do YOU create your covers? Good or bad experiences? Let us know!
All Business – October 2022
Written by Sue Rovens
Stating the obvious here, but volumes have already been written on the topic of editing. They’ve been done by more established and more qualified people than me. Add in the blogs, professional classes, week-long seminars, and multitudes of speaker series, and you might wonder why I’d even offer my two cents on the matter.
I’ve come to find that while editing generally has some common themes and processes, each writer approaches their own manuscript a little differently when it comes to personal corrections. Therefore, I’m sharing mine. I’d love for others to share theirs as well.
Editing a manuscript is too large a concept to be taken in all at once. We understand that the process of editing can take just as long (or longer) than writing the actual book. The topic itself deserves a great deal of attention and discussion. And while these articles aren’t meant to be a stand-in for professional teaching or scholarly content, they might serve as reminders, introductions, or helpful supplements.
A general breakdown of editing:
Please keep in mind that this graphic is only one of MANY that can be found on the internet. What I’m sharing here is how I go about proofreading, which is the bottom section of the graphic above.
Normally, I edit the manuscripts of my novels around eight or nine times. I also have other people editing/Beta Reading in between my own developmental, structural, and copyediting passes.
While I am always on the lookout for misspellings, missed punctuation, typos, and grammatical errors, I set aside one round of edits to address ONLY these specific issues. I blow up the font to around 180 (or more) and read everything out loud (to myself…and the cats if they happen to be in the room).
I’ve caught more errors this way than any other. It’s amazing how many mistakes slip by even after reading it countless times. I normally consider my manuscript “done around edit number seven, but I will read through and scan another time or two for any incidentals that might have slipped by the other times. After I send it to my layout person, I still have managed to catch errors. She allows me three rounds of corrections (without charging more), and I normally utilize two of those rounds.
We’ve all read books by professional authors who have the backing of a major publishing house and editing team – and still find the occasional mistake or typo. It’s extremely difficult to catch everything. However, it’s critical to do everything humanly possible to rid your work of such blunders, even if it means eyeballing every single word in a larger-than-life font.
There are times when the wrong word will not be caught by a computer program. For example, the word “too” and the word “two” will not necessarily be highlighted as problematic. Both words are fine in and of themselves, but which one do you need? The number or the adverb?
Between reading out loud, blowing up the font, and staying extra vigilant on terminology and word choice, I’ve found that I have far less errors in the manuscript when I finally send it off to my layout person. When it’s ready to upload to Amazon, I feel 99.9% confident that I’ve done all I can possibly do to produce a work that is error-free.
How do YOU proofread/edit your own work before publishing it?
Written by Sue Rovens
The word itself has a variety of connotations, but in our case, I’ll be referencing what we all know and love, which is, according to the Merriam-Webster website, “The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items. According to our files, early swag was everything from promotional records sent to radio stations to free slippers for airline passengers. In short order, this particular meaning of swag broadened and soon referred to anything given to an attendee of an event (such as a conference) as a promotional stunt.”
Why would authors care about such a thing? Aren’t we supposed to be more concerned about selling our books rather than worrying about excess trinkets that might end up in the garbage anyway? I believe the answer is twofold – yes and no.
No, we shouldn’t lose sleep over pencils and pads of paper. But, authors, especially indie authors who don’t have a large agency at their back, need to be in the business of getting and keeping people’s attention. Sometimes that means providing “an extension” to our brand/books. Once a reader turns the final page on our hard work, what prolongs our name in the reader’s mind?
If people enjoy what we’ve written, the work itself goes a long way to help establish repeat business. But how many readers take the extra step and leave a review online or tell their friends about it? I’ve seen some numbers, and they’re not promising – 0.5 – 3.0 % of Amazon readers will post a review. That’s not many.
Swag is not just fun to hand out, but it can be seen as a tool. While our books are, of course, priority, the act of selling OR giving away that little extra at the point of purchase can help solidify our “brand”/name, and serve as a reminder of a good experience long after our book has been read and put on a shelf.
In my experience, I’ve found that people enjoy receiving swag. Every time I sell a book (during events), I always include a bookmark. One side features a picture of the cover from the book they’ve purchased, while the other side has my blog address. I believe the addition of my address is important, because this not only provides a further connection to my work, but also gives them an (otherwise unknown) opportunity to discover all the other author interviews I have listed as well. The circle of reader/writer has a chance to grow exponentially.
I used to put my bookmarks (and business cards and pencils) out for anyone to take during events. I know many folks still do that and if it works for them, that’s great. However, I ended up losing money and the ability to connect with readers when I did that. I found that some people would feel “obligated” to take a bookmark/business card because we briefly engaged in conversation. I certainly didn’t want to stop them, but I feel that most of those items ended up in the ‘circular file’ – thrown away.
I also had some folks take handfuls of pencils (which hit financially) because they wanted them for their own projects/school/kids. I’m all for taking freebies from tables, but they were carrying off almost half my stock at one time (and weren’t interested in my books at all).
While it’s true that swag is there for the taking, I now err on the side of practicality and cost effectiveness. Sometimes I’ll put out candy, but I don’t consider that “part of my business model”. It’s only when I go online, order stock, and pay the dreaded shipping cost, that I choose my table placement carefully with said products.
I’ve also found some reliable websites that I’d like to share with you. I can vouch for them that, as of this writing, I’ve never had problems or issues crop up with any of my orders:
Vista Print – https://www.vistaprint.com
Uprinting – https://www.uprinting.com
MOO cards – https://www.moo.com
Much more can be said about the topic of swag, and I’d be happy to share more of my own experiences and thoughts on the matter in another installment. If someone else would like to expound on their side of the swag discussion, let me know. The more information we exchange, the better for us all.
Thanks for reading.
The NEW segment of the blog – All Business – is sending out a call for ANY and ALL writers. It doesn’t matter what genre you typically write or if you do this part-time, I am looking for YOU.
All Business will be a monthly segment that will touch on a plethora of topics. The focus will be advice, past experiences, suggestions, tips, and/or a combination of all of the above. It can be serious, humorous, or plainly factual. It’s up to you and your writing style.
What it isn’t – complete and total self-promotion. You can certainly use experiences you’ve had IN the article, but save the promotional outpouring for afterwards.
Which brings me to the next point. Normally, I don’t allow pictures of authors in the Meet & Greet. This is different. You can promote your work WITH a few photos if you do an article. It will be posted at the end of your submission.
So, here’s the plan:
When new articles will be posted: Monthly
Who can contribute: Any writer/author of any genre or professional level
What length: Fairly Open (less than 3,000 words but more than 300, but not a hard and fast rule)
Why: To share information. To encourage other writers. To help those with similar issues or provide new ideas.
Likely Staring Date: September 2022
Pay Scale: None. But authors can promote their work(s) at the end of the article and include photos!
So – I need YOU! Send me an email if you are interested in doing this. Not a lot of time now? Fine! I can schedule you months out. I’m looking for the following topics, but if you have other ideas, let me know. No hard and fast rules, as I said. And since some of these topics are very broad, you can cover whatever angle you wish.
Topics I’d like to see covered:
Marketing / Promotion
Being a Vendor (pros and cons)
Publishing (traditional, hybrid, small press, self-pub)
Cost of publishing/printing/editing
Fiction vs. Non-Fiction
Pitching books to potential customers (how to close a sale)
Writing to fill a word quota
Contracts / Legal matters
Getting books into stores (brick and mortar)
Beta Readers (pros and cons)
Reviews (so. many. angles.)
Cover Art (hire it out? DIY?)
Again – these are ideas. Have something else in mind? Let me know.
Please send me an email if you are interested. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any questions? email@example.com