Now available for Kobo and Google Play and Apple iBooks

For those not sure if The Flight of Torque is something you’ll enjoy, I’ve put together a free sample. The Flight of Torque Sample gives you the prologue and first two chapters to enjoy. See if you become immersed in the story and want to find out how it all unfolds. This is a risk-free way to find out if The Flight of Torque is your kind of read.

The free sample is currently available free on Kobo, Google Play, and Apple iBooks. The sample is also listed on Amazon but not currently free. I need some awesome people to do me a huge favour and click the “tell us about a lower price” option from the Amazon page. Report the Kobo URL so that Amazon will price match the freebie version. Unfortunately, little ninjas don’t do this part of the process and it’s tricky to get the free listing with Amazon.

If you love the free sample, then you can pick up the full book from Amazon or sign up to be notified when the full book is available in your favourite eReader. I’ll release to other devices based on reader demand so even if you picked up a Kindle copy of the full book, update your reader details with your preferred format to increase its priority.

That’s it from me for now. Enjoy your reading!


Check out the sample for Free with Apple iBooks!

Currently not listing as free. Please use the 'tell us about a lower price feature' and give them the Kobo URL below.

Check out the sample of The Flight of Torque for Free on Kobo!

Check out the sample of The Flight of Torque for Free on Google Play Books

It’s ALIVE!!! “Your book is available in the Kindle Store!”

Wow! Now THAT is an email that I’d love to see in my inbox again and again. It was such a thrill.

After years working on this book, months of editing, weeks of nail-biting while it was with my pre-readers, a week of editing based on pre-reader feedback, and days of working out formatting and figuring out Kindle and CreateSpace submission process, I hovered over the ‘Publish’ button, terrified but also thrilled and really, really excited.

I drew a deep breath, clicked, and then did a weird little shiver and chair dance. It was submitted, and now I had to wait while it went through the review process.

Before reaching that point, I had done a tonne of research and laboured over every formatting detail. There are 20 copies of various FoT draft .mobi versions on my Kindle from testing it across multiple devices (my iPad, my iPhone, my MacBook). I was confident that I’d done everything right. Still, it was my first, so I was cautiously optimistic but also nervous.

Then the moment arrived. That email. I clicked the link and there it was. My book. My name. In all its Amazon glory.

Now, when you first publish, the Kindle version doesn’t automatically link to the paperback. I hadn’t come across that fact in my research so I went on a hunt to find out how to link them. Turns out it propagates by itself as Amazon’s little ninja nanites jump and flip around in the backend. No problem there. Yay!

So now you can get The Flight of Torque for Kindle or paperback. It’s part of Kindle Select so exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days. If you’d like the full book in your favourite reader, sign up here and add your preference to your reader details. I’ll let you know when it’s available. Meanwhile, you can read the free sample on your favourite device right now!

I hope readers love the book. I’m keen to hear your feedback so leave a review and/or drop me an email. I’m working hard outlining and planning the next in the Blood of the Nagaran series and your feedback may influence future books in the series.

This is just one of many milestones in self-publishing. Which milestones have excited you in your own publishing journey or which are you most looking forward to?

Paperback! 100 copies hot off the press!

FoT-Paperback-oncounterActually, they’re quite cool now. Beautiful glossy covers, all crisp and shiny. Clean, cream pages, nicely weighted and stylishly fonted with comfortably-sized text. On the back under the blurb is a bar code and inside are the copyright notice and National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry. In the back, sandwiching 30 chapters against the contents and dedication, is the acknowledgements and author bio.

I sent The Flight of Torque to CreateSpace printers on the 30th of June and ordered 100 copies for signing and local distribution. I don’t strictly “need” them until my launch party in November, so I cheaped on shipping. The shipping estimate said I could expect the books late August. A friend and fellow indie, Lizzie Midgley, had recently shared her troubles with Australia Post holding her books for several weeks after they arrived in the country, so I was prepared for a long wait.

Imagine my surprise when just three weeks later the courier rocked up with five large boxes. I dragged them inside, tucking them into the spare inches on the floor beside my bed, and eagerly sliced open the smaller box. I had ordered 100 copies and Amazon pack them 24 copies to a box so, 24, 48, 72, 96 – there were 4 copies in a box of their own. And that’s how I saw them, four shiny, new and with that ‘real book’ smell.

There is something magical about holding a book in your hands that you wrote yourself. Completion, pride, wonder. Wow! I finished it. “I wrote this!” It’s real.

So, now I’ve got copies if anyone would like one just contact me. They are $15 AUD each plus shipping. If you live Perth Metro, Western Australia, I’d be happy to drop it to you in person in exchange for a cuppa and a chat. I’ll gladly sign and/or inscribe copies that are ordered directly from me. Alternatively, you can order it from Amazon. You can also get the Kindle version for just 99c until July 31st.

Get a free sample of The Flight of Torque by Rebecca Laffar-SmithIf you’d like to try before you buy you can get a free sample on your favourite device!

*Please note the Kindle version may not be free, check the price and please use the “tell us about a lower price” feature to share the Kobo URL.

International Standard Book Numbers for Indie Authors

YAY! My book has an ISBN!

Yesterday I acquired an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for The Flight of Torque. Actually, it currently has two ISBNs because every book is required to have a unique identifier for each format of that book, so I have an ISBN for the paperback version and another for the Kindle version.

I never really gave much thought to ISBNs. They were a handy thing if I wanted to find a specific book, and of course the barcode printed on the back of a book made it easy when shopping, but I never really considered where ISBNs come from and how books acquired them. As I’m approaching my July 2014 launch it’s something I’ve had to learn more about. What exactly is an ISBN and why do books have them? Where do they come from? How do indie publishers get them for their own books? These are all questions I’ve asked in the past few weeks.

What exactly is an ISBN and why do books have them?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This 10- or 13-digit number is a unique identifier so that a specific book can be distinguished from every other book ever published across the globe. Even if a book has the same title as another you can request the exact version you want with its ISBN. If your book is published in English and French you can use the ISBN to ensure you order the language you want (because you’d have a different ISBN for each language your book is published in). You also use a different number for the hardcover, the paperback, and each type of digital variation (mobi, epub, pdf). So, I currently have two ISBNs for The Flight of Torque, one for the paperback version, and another for the Kindle version. Over time I’ll probably create other versions of the book, and each of those will need their own ISBN.

Where do they come from?

ISBNs are governed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This agency governs their use and distribution across the globe, but each country have their own official ISBN distributors. In Australia, the distributor is Thorpe-Bowker Identifier Services. In the U.S. you would use the U.S. ISBN Agency by Bowker. In the U.K. there is the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency. You can find the official agency for your own country with the International ISBN Agency search feature.

How do indie publishers get them for their own books?

There are some publishing options where the ISBN is included in your publishing package. For example, you can use an assigned ISBN from Amazon CreateSpace if you choose to use their distribution. If you use the publisher assigned ISBN then the publisher on record will be the name of your publisher. For example, for all books published using the CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN the publisher on record, the imprint, will be “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform”. If you’re only planning to put out a book or two using an assigned ISBN is a simple, inexpensive option. If you’re intending to publish multiple books, however, you might want to build a brand as an independent publisher and therefore may prefer to provide your own ISBN.

That’s why I invested in my own ISBN through Thorpe-Bowker. When you buy your first ISBN or ISBN Bundle you also have to register as a publishing entity. This has an additional one-off administration cost. Then it’s a simple case of filling in the online forms to register as a publishing entity, claim and pay for your ISBNs, then assign those ISBNs to your books. With Thorpe-Bowker I have a control panel where my purchased ISBNs are listed and I can assign each individually to a new book or version of a book. I’ve done that with the two ISBNs I’ve assigned so far, one for the paperback copy and another for the Kindle edition of The Flight of Torque. My book then goes into the registry so it’s information can be found by booksellers, buyers, libraries, etc.

It has been very exciting putting these kinds of elements together. It definitely makes this book feel much more like a book to know it has an ISBN. One of the other things I’ll need to do at some point is register the book with the Cataloguing-in-Publication (CiP) for the National Library of Australia. All Australian publications are required to be registered with the CiP and a copy of the book must be sent to the National Library of Australia, and in most states also the State Library. It’s exciting to think of my book being available in libraries across the country.

Now of course I have to take the final steps to get the book actually into print. I’m getting fantastic feedback from my pre-readers and the edits are coming along beautifully. I’ve just got three chapters to finish with rewrites and I’m keeping ahead of my pre-readers with that so should have things finished and ready for print VERY, VERY soon! It’s so exciting!!!

So Excited! Posters, Postcards, and Publishing! Oh my!

I’m so excited! I’m finally on the home stretch with this book. It’s definitely been a long time in coming. There is still so very much to do but I’m committed to a July 2014 launch and that’s awesome! Yesterday was my birthday and I was thrilled that the large poster of my book cover, which I ordered a week or two ago, arrived in the mail. It made it like a birthday present to myself. It’s inspiring to have it up on my wall; blown up and crisp printed with my name across the top, big and bold.

The poster is the first of the marketing materials I’ve started producing. I only ordered one print this round because I wanted to make sure I would be happy with the quality of the resolution. It looks fantastic! I’m so pleased with the result. So, I’ll be ordering more and probably selling them too at some point although I’ll probably wait until the book builds some momentum.

Another thing I’ve ordered and am eagerly awaiting are book cover postcards. On the front is the book cover image and on the back of the postcard is the blurb, website link, and QR code. These I’ll give away to help spread the word. I’ll probably also do up business card sized ones with a single teaser line, small QR and link.

Speaking of QR and link, I’ve started working on the design of the website. It’s weird being back in the Web design side of things because I’ve not done a lot of design work since I gave up freelancing in 2010. Sure, I’ve tinkered here and there on my own stuff but nothing where I felt so obsessed about the aesthetics and nothing where the actual design was my own creation. I mean, I tinkered with the new look of this blog and feel very proud of it but that was really just manipulating an existing theme to suit my vision. The Flight of Torque website is in another league to that. It’s just a splash page, but it needs to look awesome. It needs to be compelling and encourage readers to buy the book.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I just wanted to share how excited I am. As an indie publisher I’m fully engaged in every aspect of the books development and distribution. While I could outsource a lot of the design and promotion aspects I’ve been having a lot of fun with that so I wouldn’t want to leave it to someone else. I do, however, need to make sure I budget my time carefully. With only a few weeks until launch there is so much to do any very little time left in which to do it.

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Publishing Prior Amazon vs. Hachette

I have to admit, I hadn’t been keeping in touch with the industry news. In days past most of it just went straight over my head into the too-hard basket. Sure, I watched trends and I kept my ear out for authors who talked about their traditional contracts or their self-publishing experiences. What I never really explored was who is who in the industry. I knew the names of course, because which writer hasn’t dreamed that their books would be taken up by the same publishers as their favourite authors? But for the past few years I’d already been leaning away from traditional publishing. My business sense after years as a freelancer were already shaped to prefer independence and freedom.

One of the greatest advantages I’ve found from the Amazon-Hachette dispute is that it is lifting the veil to some degree. Yes, a lot of the discussion is shadowed by the lack of evidence directly from those involved. That aspect is completely understandable. Technically it is none of our business what Amazon and Hachette are doing under their sheets. Except that it is, because every one of us is directly influenced by the way the industry turns. In such a dynamic and radical time in this industry we’re all holding our breath to see which way things fall.

For writers, this discussion lets us see hidden sides (or at least widely unpromoted sides) of the traditional publishing industry. Only authors with contracts know their exact terms, and I’ve met very few authors who felt comfortable talking about those terms. I suspect most contracts have clauses preventing authors from discussing them. Since I’ve never had a contract from a traditional publisher I can only speculate. But here are some things I didn’t know before Amazon-Hachette and maybe you didn’t either.

1. The Big-Five

I knew there were some heavy hitters in the publishing industry. What I didn’t know was that the top hitters, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Hachette, are collectively referred to as the Big-Five (Big 5). They were six prior the Penguin and Random House merger last year. I’ve also learned that more than 60% of this years gross revenue for Big-Five published Kindle e-books was earned by established authors who had been with their Big-Five publisher since at least 2009. This is not encouraging news if you’re hoping to broker your first traditional publishing contract, especially if you compare it to Indie and Amazon published e-Books for which new authors hold more than 80% revenue.

2. Hachette Doesn’t Think Of Their Product As A Product

I don’t know about you, but I think of writing and publishing as business. This is an industry. Whenever I work with anyone I expect them act in a professional capacity because we are each in business. I want the people I work with to treat me and my services with the respect afforded to a business person. I want them to appreciate the products I deliver as consumer goods because that’s what they are. But, apparently Hachette doesn’t feel that way about the books they publish.

“By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.” Press release from Hatchette

Actually, books are exactly like any other consumer good. It is a product that is conceptualised by creative designers who labour for weeks, months, or years to create a product that best serves its consumer. It is then mass produced for its consumer and retailed in stores where consumers can purchase the product. Consumers purchase the product they want based on their personal preferences and budget.

There is nothing mystical and all-powerful about books. Yes, I love books, I’m a writer and I feel there is a great deal of value in what I do. I also love chocolate, and shampoo, and video games. The people who made those things have my high esteem because I would enjoy life a little less without their creations. These three things share their creator to manufacturer to retailer to consumer process. They are consumer goods, just like books.

Yes, books offer a great deal for the arts and culture and the future development of humankind. So does music, and movies, and food. That doesn’t make any of these things more than what they are. In these industries you get elitists who treat it like something sacred and for a select few decided by the size of their wallets, and you get business people who know how to satisfy the everyday consumer. Amazon is a business, it provides a massive catalogue of consumer goods to the global buying public. Hatchette, if you want to be a snob selling high-priced elitist art pieces you go right ahead and do that, but don’t expect anyone with solid business sense to change their business model to suit you. And, as a business person, I’ll definitely be choosing to only work with someone who understands that what I’m delivering is a marketable product and what I want from a publisher is manufacturing and salesman savvy to get that product out to consumers, the people who want to read it.

3. Big-Five Get Pre-Order Buttons; Indies (Generally) Don’t

Yep, sounds like a shoddy deal, but also sound business logic on Amazon’s side. The thing is, I didn’t already know that. It was one of the things I’ve just started looking into because I’m at the stage where I can set a publishing date. The book isn’t ready to print yet, but I know when it will be. Right now I could be collecting pre-orders, but as an indie publisher I can’t list my book (with Amazon) until I upload it. Yes, I do understand their are ways to work around this, but they aren’t straight-forward. It’s quite a few hoops to jump through especially since it doesn’t line up any serious benefits for me as the author. After all, I don’t need to have a rough idea of how many books I’ll sell because I’m not dependent on mass print runs.

From a business perspective I can appreciate Amazon’s stance on not giving indie publishers the pre-order option. After all, the majority of us are unproven. We have no track history of delivering our product on time and in acceptable quality. Amazon needs to look out for its customers. If an author decides they need another month Amazon’s the one facing angry customers for a book that didn’t turn up on the original release date. As an Amazon customer I know I’m grateful for that. I like having confidence that when Amazon says they’ll deliver, they will.

So, when Amazon withdraws the pre-order buttons from Hachette books I’m in their corner. The fact is, while these negotiations are going on, Hachette may or may not deliver the books. They’re a hostile company right now and no sane business trusts a hostile company to act in a selfless way. The ability to withhold their books is one of the few cards Hachette has to play and Amazon pre-empts their using it by reducing their need to make that commitment to their customers.

Speaking of pre-order, J.A. Konrath has some great points about why indie publishers don’t need it. To get it we have to pony up the book, so we might as well pony up the book and start selling it from day one instead of waiting a few weeks to build up steam. While we’re building up the steam, gathering reader reviews, etc. we can already be selling the book, and gaining more reviews directly from readers who wanted to buy the book. For those interested in pre-ordering my book, The Flight of Torque, feel free to drop me an email. If you’re willing to wait a little longer for shipping I’ll even sign your copy.

4. Big-Five Negotiate Directly For Co-Op Deals

Now I feel like this has to be the biggest draw for traditional publishing. They have the negotiating power to push their lists into prominent placement with the retailers and Amazon is no different. Apparently there are deals in place that get select titles from the Big Five into prime real estate on the website which of course would lead to improved sales. Indie publishers don’t have this option, we’re fighting tooth and nail for our placement everywhere, which is already harder to do because the Big Five tend to make deals with retailers that push us indies out of shop windows.

I’m only just beginning to understand the retailers catalogue issues. As an indie publisher my books don’t automatically just turn up at Dymocks or Barnes & Noble. Those bookstores are probably going to be hard sells. Does anyone know if Dymocks accepts indies at all? Thankfully, independent book stores are beginning to gain ground again. We can diversify. I know I’ll be heading into bookstores with my books in hand to find out what sort of deal I can negotiate for myself regarding placement. The dream that fired my drive for years was the idea of my name on the spine of a book in my favourite bookstore. I’m happy to hand them a book with a contract that says they pay me a percentage when the book sells and if it doesn’t sell they return the book to me intact (rather than ripping the cover off!!!). I think this is one of those areas in the industry where the field is changing dramatically. As indie publishers we have to be innovative in our marketing techniques, including being aware of how pricing affects the bottom line.

Lower Prices = More Money

That’s actually something I did already suspect (thus why it doesn’t get a number), but I liked having the fact confirmed in what I’ve been reading. In a recent Author Earnings Report “lowering average e-book prices correlated with higher per-title revenue. Increasing e-book prices correlated with lower per-title revenue.”

This makes sense to me, because as a consumer when I see an eBook listed for $14.99 I seriously hesitate (after all, that’s often the same price as a paperback, but I don’t get a physical object for my shelf). The higher the price the more I evaluate how much I really want the product. When I see a title listed for 99 cents I click without even thinking about it. When I see a title at $2.99 I have greater confidence that it’ll be a good book and worth that cost. As an author I am a little “sad” to feel my 100,000 word book might only be worth $3 to someone, but I force myself to remember that $3 to 1,000 someones = $3,000. The truth of Low Prices = More Money is in reaching a larger portion of the market. Lower Prices = Higher Sales. And honestly, I’d rather 1,000 people read my book for $3, than 100 for $9. I find this is the same with other digital products such as those in the music, video game, and app. industry too. If it costs a couple of bucks I don’t even blink, if it costs more than a few I often don’t make the purchase.

5. This is just the beginning

Not just for the industry upheaval, but for the Amazon vs. Big-Five negotiations. According to settlements made in 2012 each of the publishers involved must approach Amazon independently to negotiate terms over a staggered period to prevent further collusion for price-fixing. Hachette is the first to come up to bat and the results of their negotiations will lay a significant foundation for the other four. That also means this is likely to be the hardest fought battle with neither side wanting to concede any ground because of the effect it will have on the other deals.

In an industry already in flux over changing paradigms, technologies, and standards, battles like these become significant shaping forces. As authors we hold considerable stakes in the outcome but limited power in the proceedings. I hope Hachette is being forthright with its contract holders and I hope they are keeping the best interests of their business as a whole, that includes their staff and authors, in mind when managing these negotiations. I hope they appreciate that lower prices make books a commodity that is more openly accessible and that this helps the entire industry. More sales means more profits means more books for everyone.

If you’d like to check out some of the discussion happening I recommend these sources:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/amazon-speaks.html
http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/amazon-v-hachette-dont-believe-the-spin/
http://authorearnings.com/the-effects-of-the-amazon-hachette-negotiations/
http://www.thecockeyedpessimist.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/whos-afraid-of-amazoncom.html
http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2014/how-the-amazon-hachette-fight-could-shape-the-future-of-ideas/

What do you think about the dispute? Has it taught you anything about the publishing industry that you didn’t know before? Share in the comments!

Put Publishing In Your Own Hands

Book ShopThe dream for most of us who pour our heart into fiction works is seeing them perched on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. The first time I finished a manuscript this was all I thought about.  My days became consumed with searches for agents, queries, and preparing submissions. For a time, I could not work on a new book, because I was so consumed with sending the first book out.  The hurdle of writing a query letter alone took weeks, and I never did feel comfortable with the final product.  Agents and publishers want a condensed version of your work no longer than a paragraph or two that knocks their socks off.   Of course, this is subjective and with the downturn of the economy, you could spend your life trying to perfect this art.  Can you think of any other industry where the artist is expected to perform such a Herculean task?

It occurred to me, the only thing I genuinely wanted was a place to share my work – somewhere I could develop a readership. Ultimately, the most pleasing thing in the world is someone reading your work, and saying, “Wow! When is your next project coming out?”  We want fans, people who are excited to read our next creation.  The world of publishing is changing, and a lot of writers are beginning to question the way we go about getting our work to the world.

SmashWordsEnter SmashWords.com. Smashwords is a dream come true for Indie writers, and here’s how it works. The website allows you to download your manuscript, and the only immediate requirement is following the “Style Guide” so your work is formatted properly for eReaders, and computers.  The Style Guide hits on copyright issues and ISBN numbers. If you have any questions, there is a contact page where you can email the developers of the site. 

After your initial download, your work goes through what they lovingly call “the meatgrinder.” The meatgrinder will kick the file back to you, if the formatting is not right. Of course, the meatgrinder only catches the basics, if your work covers the general requirements it immediately posts to your personal page.  The formatting is not difficult.  You will need to set up a Table of Contents which has hyperlinks to the beginning of each Chapter, delete any erroneous spacing, and create a title page. 

At this time, you can price your book. The website allows you to charge as much as you want, or nothing at all.  Additionally they allow you to create coupon codes, which means you can put a price on your work, and then give discounts to anyone you choose (mine are $1.99 for instance, but I have given discounts up to 100% to increase readership).

Once your work is posted, it will be submitted to the Smashword Team. This is when a human finally takes a look at your manuscript.  The Smashwords team does not edit, or read your entire book,  but they do decide if it’s a fit for the premium catalogue. The premium catalogue is sent to Barnes and Noble, Koko Books, Amazon, Apple, and Sony. Each of these websites will post your work in their eReader stores if it is included in this catalogue! (The steps are simple – all of mine have been included). 

Smashwords is another place to develop your readership, and expose the public to your brand.  There is no better feeling than getting an email announcing that one of your books has been purchased. If you are unsure you can check my site out at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MOJAMES.

Good Luck!

Are you an indie writer? How do you publish your work?

Working with a Cover Designer [Interview with Kate Cowan]

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to cross paths with a talented artist, Kate Cowan. She was kind enough to answer some of the more pressing questions I had about the work that is involved in the cover design of a book. I am hoping to commission a cover artist in the future and wanted to know how the process unfolds and evolves.

R: Who is it that normally commissions a cover designer? I know authors will sometimes hire designers, particularly if they are self-publishing, but do publishers also have cover designers on retainer or is cover design something primarily the domain of the author?

K: It really depends on the situation. I have one publisher who I work through, and in that case, the owner of the publishing house words as the middleman – I don’t actually speak directly to those authors. I think when a publisher is involved, they usually work with one specific cover designer.

K: I work with a lot of self published authors, too. They usually contact me through my Facebook page, but some contact me through friends of friends and so on. All it takes is a simple message on my Facebook to get in contact with me.

R: How do authors and publishers approach you for cover designs? What kind of information do you like to have up front before you can make a decision on taking a particular design project?

K: Well, I found the publisher I work with through a friend, who was friends with a woman who was opening up a publishing house. She suggested me as a cover designer when I was just starting up. The self-published authors normally post on or message my Facebook page, or message my personal page. Sometimes they find advertisement posts I’ve put up on other Facebook pages or groups… so, pretty much, all they need to do is talk to me! I don’t bite, so it really isn’t hard.

K: A lot of times, authors know exactly what they want, and I put it together. Other times, the authors don’t have any ideas. They give me a synopsis, pitch me their ideas and we work together to find a cover idea that will work for their book. And then there are times where what they author wants just isn’t right. As beautiful as some ideas sound in our heads, they don’t always look beautiful on paper, which is where I come in! But I always work with the author, or with the publisher, to find just what the author wants. And if what I’ve done isn’t just right, I’ll keep working on it until it’s perfect and the authors are happy!

R: After you accept a commission, what is your process from initial acceptance to a completed cover design or printed book?

K: The process starts with the author, of course! First we decide what s/he wants, and then I move onto DeviantArt to find stock images. I find pictures for the background, usually 2-4 images that I end up piecing together to make one background. I also need to find the right picture of the model.

K: Then I go into Photoshop, piece everything together, colourize everything (basically, making it look pretty) and I do a lot of things like changing hair, changing clothing colours, and adding a new sky or rain, or anything that’s going to set the right atmosphere. Then it starts going back and forth between me and the author, until they know it’s perfect for their book.

R: What sort of tools do you use for your work? Do you hand draw or sketch anything on paper or tablet? Do you have preferred software or hardware and how do these kinds of choices influence your work?

K: I use Photoshop CS6, Photoshop Elements, and a Wacom Intous4 Tablet. I am also an animation student, which means I know my way around 3D software (the programs they make movies like Cars and Tangled in). If I need to, I’ll model something in 3D and then use what I modeled as part of a cover, but only if I really need to, because it’s very time consuming. I do a lot of painting in Photoshop, to change things when they need to be changed, and occasionally will go with my sketchbook for ideas and concept sketches. But mostly, I work JUST in Photoshop.

R: I understand that aspects like colour and space can be psychologically meaningful in pictures. Are these psychological contexts something that influence you when designing or are designs based on other aspects like aesthetics or perhaps a combination of elements?

K: That’s a hard question for me… When I’m working, I’m still an artist. When I do covers, I’m kind of drawn into the art and the technical aspect of it doesn’t really resonate in my brain anymore. I never think of colour and space directly. I think of the cover/design as a whole, and I think to myself, ‘does this look right’? Or I think, ‘this would look better over here’, or ‘this colour needs to be darker to make the model’s hair stand out’. The ideas of colour and space definitely play a role when I design, but it’s not really in the front of my mind. The only thing in the front of my mind is how the image as a whole will look in the end.

R: It sounds like a lot of these aspects have become instinctual for you. What about font type and size? Are there psychological or aesthetics to consider in this design element? Who decides on these features and how do you choose the way these textual additions appear on the image?

K: The main rule of font is that it needs to be SEEN!!! Which means it needs to be big (but not take up the whole cover) and bright (but not, you know, hot pink, just brighter than the cover is). If it’s too small, no one is going to see it, but if it’s too big, it’s annoying to look at, for me anyways! If it’s black font on a black cover, no one will see it! Also, I know a lot of cover designers put plain font on a cover – I mean, they just plop some font on and they’re finished.
I don’t do that. I hate seeing font that’s just font. I like to add effects that really make the font pop. And as for the font itself, well, it depends. I just have one rule. Never, ever use Times New Roman.

R: What sorts of things make a design job particularly interesting or fun for you?

K: I really love the creative designs! Call me nerdy but I love the ones that are really paranormal or really fantasy looking. They’re so fun for me!

R: How did you get in to cover design for authors and publishers? Are books all you do or do you design for other things like websites, posters, etc.?

K: I only found this whole world of publishers and authors and editors and everything after my own novel, Garden of Eden, was picked up by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly publishing. I have a friend who is an editor, and she introduced me to a lot of my first customers. I’m so grateful to her! And right now I’ve only done book covers, but I would be more than willing to do posters, websites, or anything else if someone asked me to!

R: If you could have any dream project or could be paid to design something you’ve visualized but not had reason to create what would you want to make and why?

K: I would LOVE to do a project involving animals. Odd as it is, I love books told from the point of view of an animal, like The Sight by Davies, or Promise of the Wolves. Also, doing a cover for a book that takes place in the past, like Medieval times would be great! Or a book about Fae would be fun… A lot of things sound like fun to me.

R: Thank you again, Kate, for taking the time to share your work and process with me.

If you’d like to get in touch with Kate, remember, she doesn’t bite, you can reach her though any of her details below.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/kcbookcoverdesigns
Email: kate.cowan.author@hotmail.com
Portfolio: http://kcbookcoverdesigns.artworkfolio.com

I’d love to get in touch with other cover designers or writers/publishers who have worked with cover designers. It would be great to gain insight into the other valuable people who make the creation of fiction such a fulfilling and glorious process. The writer is obviously a key component but without our agents, editors, publishers, artists, printers, booksellers, and everyone in between we wouldn’t have the incredible industry that exists today.

Beware Shady Vanity or Suspicious Subsidy Publishers

Dear Author,

Thank you for your recent submission to GiveUsYourCash Publishing. We enjoyed reading your submission and would like to include you as one of our published authors. Congratulations on becoming a part of the GiveUsYourCash family! We are thrilled to offer you a contract and upon signing, a royalty advance.

However, before we can continue with this endeavor there are a few minor problems that need to be addressed. Your submission has an engaging plot and in-depth character development. We did find errors that a professional editing service can help you eliminate. Some spelling and grammar issues are common with first time authors. We understand this and offer a comprehensive program for our authors. The program entitles our authors access to some of the best professional editors in the business!

Professional editing services can drain the finances of an aspiring author. Freelance editors can charge outrageous hourly rates. Honestly, how can you be sure that the editor is truly devoting the hours they have claimed to your work? With our professional editing service program, you will always receive top quality. Affordable top quality. Just pay a one time fee and gain total access to our professional editors for the life of your book’s contract.

When you receive your contract please sign and return within 7 business days. Your contract is important. Additional paperwork will be included in your New Author Packet. The forms included in your packet are a copyright registration form, an ISBN order form, and contract for the life of your first born. Please sign the last in blood, preferably drawn from the index finger of your left hand.

You may wonder why you need to register your copyright. This is a very important step in protecting your work from those who would steal your manuscript and try to pass it off as their own. Without a registered copyright you are at risk of losing everything you have poured into your novel. Don’t let this happen! Fill out your copyright registration form and include the registration fee when you return your contract.

The next form is to purchase the ISBN for your novel. An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. Without this number we will be unable to sell your novel. Every novel in the world must have an ISBN. This number will ensure that your novel will be placed on bookstore shelves beside the works of other authors that are profiting from their books, as you should be!

The final form is just a formality. Please follow the directions and return it with your other paperwork in the New Author Packet.

To expedite the publishing and printing of your book, fill in all forms with accurate information. Do not forget to include the fees required by each department. Omission of one or several will significantly increase the time it will take for your novel to reach our partner media centers around the world.

Again, thank you for submitting your work to GiveUsYourCash Publishing and congratulations on the acceptance of your novel!

Sincerely,

Wanda Yankyur Chaine

Executive Editor, GUYC Publishing

Recently I wrote this letter to a new author from a (fictional) vanity publisher, GiveUsYourCash Publishing. Some of you may be scratching your heads. I thought I would take a moment to be serious and explain.

Vanity publishers have been around for a long time. These publishers do not print and distribute books the way a ‘traditional’ publisher does. Their agenda is to print, bind, and return the books to the author. The author is then responsible for marketing their book to local bookstores or other media outlets.

While this practice is not evil, there are some vanity publishers that give this venue a very bad name. This post focuses on unethical vanity publishers. These shady companies actively advertise for authors. A new author with their first book may feel amazed when they receive their acceptance letter or email praising their work after submitting to such a publisher. Regardless of the actual quality of writing – anyone submitting will receive the same general acceptance notification.

Remember: the shady vanity publisher’s agenda is get you to pay for copies of your book. NOT to pay you or even to sell your book.

After your manuscript is accepted, you receive a contract that often asks for full rights to the work. What this means is that if the author ever tries to free themselves from the vanity publisher’s contract, they will need to buy back their copyright.

Marketing is left to the author. Even though the contract and other paperwork may infer the publisher will market the work, it is rarely true. Marketing costs money and unethical vanity publishers are not interested in spending money. Again, the goal is to generate income from their authors, not for their authors. The publisher may send a few copies of the book to bookstores or reviewers. This does not guarantee that the work will be reviewed or even placed on shelves. Most reputable reviewers will not touch a book offered by one of these vanity publishers.

So after paying for printing, binding, cover art, and packaging – the author must now pay for marketing. There are ways to market without draining a purse, but even free marketing takes time and effort.

The number of books printed is often chosen by the author. A discount on printing costs is usually applied when a large number of books are created. What the author does not know is that if these books are not sold, by signing over all rights, they have lost the right to request the surplus books be sent to them. To acquire those unsold books the author must pay yet another fee!

Authors under contract with one of the shady vanity presses sometimes find out just how badly they have been taken in. These enlightened vanity published authors will then try to find a way out of their contracts. In almost all of these situations the author will receive an offer to buy out of the contract. Buying out of such a contract can range from as little as $150. Some authors have reported much higher amounts at which time they decided to let the book die a quiet death to pursue other projects.

In a nutshell? Avoid vanity publishers at all costs. Any publisher that advertises for authors and charges a fee for editing, printing, cover art, and distribution will sink even a modern masterpiece like a lead balloon.

How To Write A Book Synopsis: Tips & Techniques

How To Write A Book Synopsis: Tips & Techniques“The synopsis is your sales pitch. Think of it as the jacket blurb of your novel (the synopsis is often used in writing this, and by the publisher’s art and advertising departments, if the novel is purchased), and write it as though you’re trying to entice a casual bookstore browser to buy the novel and read it,” says Marg Gilks

The synopsis of a book is a tool for pitching and selling the book. It is a narrative summary of your book written in the same style and voice that makes your novel interesting and gripping. In a way, it’s like a miniature version of your book because it should include all the important aspects of the story in sequence and maintains the urgency and emotion of the story.

You want to give the person reading your synopsis (an editor or agent perhaps) a sense of the setting, tone, and pace of your novel as well as a clear sense of the book’s genre and theme. When someone has read your book synopsis they should understand what the story is about, who the main characters are and why we care about them, what those characters want and why they want it, what is at stake if they don’t get what they want, what or who is in the way of those desires, and how it all turns out.

When you write the synopsis of a book remember that it should tell the entire story, even how the story ends. It does not include cliffhangers or teasers. Instead, it reveals the significant events and motivations that drive the story forward.

You should write the synopsis in present tense and third person. The first time you introduce your main characters, type the name in capital letters. Do this only the first time and thereafter refer to the character in the same way by the same name to avoid confusion. Define the conflicts these face and develop a sense of sympathy for your characters that allows the reader to relate to your characters and invokes compassion. Follow the course of the story through logical transitions and connected paragraphs. Be aware of any themes or symbolism you’ve focused on in your book and pinpoint the important plot points, the significant events, and the way these affect your characters.

There are two ways to write a book synopsis. Some writers begin with the synopsis, detailing their plot points and writing out their projection in the planning stages of their novel. This gives you a firm foundation and outline for your book that can help guide your progress. When the book is finished the original synopsis can then be adjusted to accommodate any changes that may have occurred through the writing process.

The other involves reading through the finished manuscript and making notes to fill out a synopsis as one of the final stages before submitting your manuscript to agents and editors.

Finally, before you send your synopsis to an agent or editor be aware of any specific instructions or guidelines they may have. Some editors prefer short, single-spaced synopses while others prefer longer synopses that are double-spaced. The length of a book synopsis can range from one to twenty pages with many agents preferring approximately five pages. Marg Gilks says, “I personally consider two pages ideal, and have distilled synopses down to a single tight page.”

Take the time to edit your synopsis for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Your synopsis should be as carefully edited as your manuscript and contain as few errors as possible. Do not rush the process. Your book’s synopsis will stand in for your manuscript and represents you as a writer to the editor.

The synopsis of your book will become a great tool for you after your book is finished. Especially if you are writing a sequel or series of books that will focus on the same characters or similar situations.

The real test of your synopsis is how it hooks the reader. Just as you carefully craft the first sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter of your novel you need to bring the same passion and conviction when you write your book’s synopsis.

Writing a synopsis can feel harder than writing the book. But if you remember the tips and techniques we’ve talked about and put it into practice writing synopses of your own books, stories, or even the books other authors have written, you’ll gain experience and confidence in condensing a novel-length manuscript into a few pages.

Do you have any other synopsis writing tips? Share your own techniques in the comments below and if you’d like to learn more check out Jane Friedman’s Webinar at Writer’s Digest and these two great books:
The Dreaded Synopsis: A writing and plotting guide by Elizabeth Sinclair Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract: The Complete Guide to Writing Query Letters, Synopses and Proposals for Agents and Editors by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook