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Tag: production

Partnering with Others: The Freelance Writers Den

Let’s be honest. One of the hazards of being a writer is working alone. A lot. To the point where your dog can actually become your best friend because they share all your deepest conversations and secrets. The problem increases when you are getting advice from your pets when it comes to business decisions, client […]

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Making time to Write

When I was young, I was told that I would never be able to make money as a writer. My stories were creative, cute, compelling, and any list of other words. But when I said I wanted to do it for a living, people laughed. Laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. Maybe they were […]

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Writing is a Business

As I often say, and as I stress in my new book, Writing as a Business, coming soon, writing is a business. If you have published a book, you now have a product to sell. That means you have started a business, and you are an entrepreneur. Congratulations! “But I am not a good business […]

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Business 101 for Writers: The Book Cover

So far in this series, we have covered a whole lot of ground. You have written the best book you can, revised it, and now you have hired an editor. Currently, they are working on one of the four rounds of editing your book will go through before a proofreader goes over it one last time.

If you are not writing your next book, you are sitting at home wondering what you should do next. The answer depends on your path to publication. If you are going the self-publishing route, it is time to source a cover by hiring a cover designer.

By the way, I don’t care if you are a graphic designer and if you design covers for other people as a part of your business (one of your multiple streams of revenue I am sure you have set up). You should never create your own book cover. Or at least most of the time you should not. I have known a few exceptions: authors that could both write a book and create a cover for it, and sometimes it turns out okay.

Most of the time it doesn’t. Your cover will come out very narcissistic and probably too busy. You will want to include too many elements of the story in one place rather than focusing on one central theme.

You should, however, know enough about cover design to know a good one when you see one. You should be knowledgeable about several design elements, and you should get second opinions about your cover before you give the artist the final yes.

The Bad

We will start with the bad, and sometimes funny covers people have either created for their own books or had their four-year-old sister create for them using a box of crayons. A cover can be awful for a number of reasons: font, the photo, poor Photoshop skills, lack or relevance, wrong genre, or even horrible typos.

The problem with the above examples? They are real, taken from Amazon and other sources. It’s not just that they are bad, but that someone thought they were good and good enough to publish.

Rather than just laughing though, focus on the different elements of each cover. Ask yourself what is wrong with them. Which elements are off? Is the font wrong? What about the photos used? Are they high quality? Cheap? Do they violate copyright laws? (more on that in a few moments)

The Good

There are also some great book covers out there. The design is simple, the font is ideal, they stand out on a web page, the images fit the genre and are appropriate, and the words are spelled correctly and there are no mistakes.

Look at the above examples. What elements stand out? What fonts are used, and what emotions do they evoke from you? Do those emotions fit with the genre of the book?

In today’s market, book covers must have some things in common, but they must be unique enough to stand out. You can buy a stock cover cheaply, but you might see another book with the same cover, just with the author and title changed. In fact, you might see several.

  • Your title should be short and accurately describe your story.
  • The picture should be clear and simple, relating to one main element in your story.
  • Your name should be legible and large enough to read.

Keep in mind that you are not the cover artist: you are the author. The cover artist is also a creative, so let them be. Come into the design process with maybe one or two things you would really like to see incorporated into the cover, and let them do the rest of the work. After all, that is their job, not yours.

How do you find a good cover designer?

These answers are really like the ones regarding finding an editor. You simply need to take a few simple steps:

  • Find covers you like in your genre from self-published authors, and ask them who they used. Word of mouth is still the best advertising, and the best way to find the help you need.
  • Search professional job boards or places like LinkedIn. Avoid Fiverr and cheap sites like that. You get what you pay for when it comes to book covers, and too cheap to be true means you will lose on quality.
  • Find covers on books you like, and look in the acknowledgments. Authors often thank cover designers there.

The search may take you some time. Look at sample work. Have the cover designer create a mock up for you, so you can determine if you like it or not. Just because a cover designer worked for one person does not mean they will work for you.

Remember, the cover is the first impression people will get of your book. Make sure it is a good one.

How much should I pay for a cover?

Okay, so here is the deal. If you are not paying at least $150 to $200, you are probably getting an inferior cover. It takes at least a few hours for the most talented of book designers to work up a mock-up or two, and then a few more to finalize the cover when they are done. They deserve to be paid for their time the same way you are when you go to work.

If you are paying more than $1500, you are probably paying too much unless you are paying for a hand-painted, specially created cover for a fantasy novel or something along those lines. If you do want that kind of cover, just understand a few things first:

  • Most books are purchased digitally now. It is unlikely your reader will be able to see or will notice tiny details.
  • You must make money too. If your biggest expense is the cover, you may have a hard time doing so.
  • Most great covers are simple: like many other things in writing, keeping it simple is a much better idea, especially early in your writing career.

Essentially, you should pay between $150 and $1,000 roughly for a good book cover. Anything outside of that range is probably due to special circumstances, and only you can decide if the tradeoffs of either side of the scale are worth it.

The Publisher’s Choice

If you are traditionally published or published through a small press, they probably have their own cover designers. You will have to go with their choice, whether you like it or not.

However, some will give you the opportunity to have input on what your cover will look like. Take advantage of this, but understand that the publisher will have the final say.

Hire a Professional

I have used a few different cover designers through the years, and some have not been as good as others. Currently, I use Elle Rossi for many of my designs. Here are some ways to tell the professionals from the amateurs.

  • Amateurs are on Fiverr and other cheap sites, desperately looking for work.
  • Pros are busy most of the time.
  • Amateurs do not have a portfolio, a website, or references.
  • Pros have all the above, usually a portfolio hosted on a website, social media presence, and references they can give you. (Elle’s is EJR Digital Art)

A professional will offer you a quote, a mock-up or two for you to choose from and elaborate on, and will work with you until your idea is portrayed the way you want it.

Choosing a cover designer, like many other parts of the process, can be arduous and time-consuming, but is a step that is essential for you to get right. The first impression your readers have of your book will be one created by someone else. It is your responsibility to make sure they get the right one.

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Business 101 for Writers: An Introduction

Most writers write because they want their words to be read. Even if they say they don’t do it for the money, most if not all dream of making a living from their words. This means that eventually, those words have to be packaged in some kind of format that can be sold to someone, somewhere.

This is true whether you are writing books or freelance articles, blogs or your memoir.  Even if you already have a large audience, eventually you will run out of friends and family who will buy your work (in fact, they are the least likely to buy it) and you will need others to sell your work for you. You will need to adopt a no-nonsense approach to creating an online presence.

All that to say that writing is a business, and a business needs several elements to succeed. Jeff Bezos did not just sell his books out of his garage to friends and family. He built a worldwide empire. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs went through the same process I am about to outline for you in a series of blog posts, and they did not stop at any one of them. In fact, they repeated the process over and over again.

The business of writing and publishing has three unique steps. Each of these is made up of several parts as well. Most writers get stuck in one of these steps, often never even completing the first one. As a result, it is impossible for them to make a living writing.

In fact, every writer who has even sold one book has followed every one of these steps. Some have done it better than others, and successful writers who make a living from their words do all of these well.

courtesy pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay.

Production

This is the process of creating a book. It is not just writing, it involves rewriting, editing, proofreading, formatting, and packaging (i.e. a book cover). In the next number of weeks, we will examine all the aspects of production from the beginning. When you type “The End” of your manuscript, your journey has just begun.

Courtesy pixabay
You have to get your books to your readers

Distribution

Where and how will people find your book? You have to put it somewhere for it to sell. Amazon is just the beginning. What about your local bookstore, your library, or other websites? For people to read your work, it has to be available to them in a format they can consume: a book, a magazine, a website, blog post, or other form of communication you can sell.

Image courtesy Pixabay

Marketing

It is good to have your book available. However, you need to make people aware of where it is, or that it even exists, before you can sell any at all. This is called marketing, and depending on what kind of book or writing you are selling will depend on how you market it and make people aware that it exists.

Social media will certainly play a role in that. Along with your own website. But you must build a brand and brand awareness, just as any new brand or business would. Freelance writers use many creative means to market themselves. Many types of advertising are essential to this, but for writers, content marketing is an essential one.

It sounds so basic. Business 101 type stuff. To sell your writing, you must first produce a product, then make it available through distribution, and finally, you must advertise your work using the same marketing techniques any business would.

This series will be designed to get you unstuck and get you into the mindset that writing is a business, and if you are going to get paid, you need to act like any other businessman.

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Art as a Business

ArtbusinessI took a day off yesterday. In fact, I have been less busy the first part of this year on purpose. But I did a little “work” yesterday, if you want to call it that. I had a Skype call with one author who I greatly respect, and who does one thing we all want to do: sells books.

Then I had lunch with another author, new on this journey. We mapped out a couple of her stories, talked about plot, character, and the usual writer stuff. And we talked about streams of income.

Because at some point we all have to survive. Shelter, food, clothing, health, and Wi-Fi are all necessary, and in our present economy we must exchange money for those things, with few exceptions. So if you want to be a writer, a professional writer, you have to make money from your art, or have a day job, or do both. From personal experience, can I just add that option #2 sucks, and option #1? It requires that once you have “completed” your work, you realize it has become a product you must deliver to your customers. You have to know who they are, what they do, and where to find them.

publishing_businessSounds a lot like a business, right? Well, it is. Like any business, there are three steps: production (writing, editing, cover, and formatting); distribution (self-publishing, a publisher, affiliate sites, your website, etc.); and finally marketing.

A publisher can help with some of these things, and indeed they do, but in the end the author, and the tribe the author has gathered, are the best marketers of your work. The difference is simply treating books as what they are: a product to be sold. Not because we as authors are selfish and want to make millions on the backs of poor readers, but because we write to be read. And to be read you must be discovered. To be discovered, an author must market.

So stop thinking of marketing as some kind of betrayal of your art. Stop thinking that asking for reviews (in the right place and the right context) is some form of evil. Professional writers treat their work as what it is: a business offering a great product.

This doesn’t excuse you, as an artist, from being polite. Not spamming or bombarding your audience with links to your work, begging for sales. That is not the “how” of marketing, and there are many resources to help you understand that. More on that in another blog post.

As you start this new fiscal year, as an author, remember art is a business. Unless you don’t like eating.

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