Month: March 2017

Optimizing your Online Book Description

Optimizing your Online Book Description

Use elements of web design to optimize your online book description and boost your Amazon sales.

Steps to Publishing your ebook

Steps to Publishing your ebook

You’ve finished writing and editing, but now you need to prepare your novel for ePublishing

Cover Design Mistakes

Cover Design Mistakes

Cover Design Mistakes that are costing you sales

You cover is your number 1 sales tool

Yes, it is. No matter how good your novel is, no matter how brilliant your back cover blurb is, no matter how many ARC reviews you have, a bad cover will cost you sales.

When people see a poorly constructed cover, they will assume the novel is also of similar quality. A prospective reader will always see your cover first. And not only will she judge the book by its cover, she will judge it harshly.

For the writer with limited funds, paying for a professional cover can seem like too much of a gamble. (How many do I need to sell now to break even?) But putting out a terrible cover will guarantee lackluster sales. If you can’t afford a pro for every novella you put out, make sure you are not committing these common cover design mistakes.

Typography mistakes

Text is art. Bad typography is the most common “tell” of the amateur cover. If you are serious about designing your own covers, study the basics of good type. If you are struggling with the basics, try a program like Canva

Mistake 1: Fancy Fonts

bad book cover-fancy font
Fancy fonts

Breaking out the scrapbooking fonts to make your cover look really special, really doesn’t. These two fonts don’t reflect the Sci-Fi thriller feel the rest of the cover is trying to portray. These fonts don’t match the cover image or each other. The results are confusing and messy. If you don’t have access to the correct genre font, don’t substitute another exotic font. Clean and simple block text would have sufficed.

Mistake 2: Boring centered text

bad book covers
Unconsidered, boring text

This text suffers from no formatting. The title is centered and allowed to auto format. The main element “Sarah” should be given a separate text box, allowing the size to be manipulated independently from the subtitle. The descriptive words in the subtitle could also be given some thought. “Wild” could be set in italics adding further interest in the title. Text is artwork. Give it careful consideration.

Mistake 3: Invisible Text

Bad Book Covers
Invisible Text

Every time I see this, I’m left scratching my head. An otherwise beautiful book cover ruined by the invisible text. (Did you even see it? It’s in the water.) A simple burn under the main title and a change in font color for the subtitle would fix this. What works for print doesn’t always work for online. Your text must be legible.

Mistake 4: Creative Typography Effects

Bad book covers

Look through the entire top 100 on Amazon and count how many books use type settings in unconventional directions. Very few. And it’s a good bet those were done by professional designers. Unconventional typography is tricky. More than one direction will make your text appear random. Waterfall text is almost impossible to pull off. I know Photoshop has it built in, but that button isn’t for you. Step away.

Photoshop Fails

If you have access to Photoshop, spend the time to learn it. Photoshop is a powerful, but complicated, program. While you many never use most of its capability, having the basics will save your hours of frustration.

Mistake 5: Montage Monstrosity 

Montage run amok

This cover shows the creator has just enough Photoshop skills to be dangerous. What exactly are these faces floating in? Montage is not only a quick way to move the story along, it’s also a quick way to move a potential reader along–to the next author. Keep it simple. Skip the montage.

Mistake 6: Busy Background

The previous example suffered from too much Photoshop. This one suffers from not enough. The text is lost against the busy background. As a result, the creator was forced into using the garish black text in an attempt to create enough contrast to make it legible. Note how the author’s name is clearly visible against the bright green. With a few simple manipulations, the dark tree trunks could have been lightened allowing the text to show.

DIY Images

With so many self-published titles on the market, the potential for multiple covers to use the same stock image has prompted many authors to seek alternatives. However, creating your own image isn’t always the best solution.

Mistake 7: The backyard photographer

Flat Photo

While this is a pretty photo, it falls flat as a book cover. Why? It has a shallow depth of field. The leaves, the woman, and the tree appear in the same plane of focus, and visually, they have the same weight. Rather than force your eye to focus on the main element: the woman, they compete with her. As a result, the text feels lost in an already saturated visual plane, making it into the chorus girl, not the main star.

Mistake 8: Poser/hand-drawn fantasy covers

Poser Cover

Finding a decent stock image to use for a high fantasy cover is nearly impossible. Commissioning an artist to create a custom piece is expensive. What is a fantasy writer to do? Unless you have an art degree, do not create your own artwork. You cannot be “pretty good” at drawing, or “getting the hang” of Poser and pull this off. And don’t be tempted to ask your friend who likes to draw. Whatever you get back, you will feel obligated to use. You are much better off picking something abstract from your novel and creating a cover from that. No colored pencils, no cartoon boobs. No.

Image Confusion

While your cover doesn’t need to portray a scene in your book, it does need to accurately reflect your novel. The image and the title must work together as a cohesive pitch. It must also reflect the established conventions of the genre.

Mistake 9: Genre Confusion

Bad Book Covers
Genre Confusion

This is a rom-com? It looks more like my 8th-grade dream journal. While it’s a pretty cover, it won’t look like any of the books next to it. Readers will think either this book is mislabeled, or the writer doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Either way, they won’t bother to click because there will be plenty of other books to choose from that do look like what they are searching for.

Mistake 10: Random Image

Bad Book Covers
random image

Is this book about a bear? Where’s the home? And why is the heather blooming in November? While the cover does beckon the reader forward, it’s too far removed from the title to make sense. Your cover is a visual pitch of your book. It has to sell your book. It can’t do that with an image that doesn’t match the story.

Think of your cover as a visual pitch

These are only a few of the potential pitfalls authors fall into when designing covers for their novels. If you are trying to sell your novel with one of these covers, you are hindering your sales. Take the time to create a cover that looks professional. Study book covers in your genre and take notes. Learn to recreate those same types of covers in Photoshop (or your preferred program). If you don’t have the skills, reach out to the writer’s community and get help. There are so many resources available. Don’t let your sales suffer from a bad cover.

Example Cover Links:
The Good
E-Book cover Design Awards
T
he Bad
Lousy Book Covers
T
he Ugly (Parody, Not Safe for work)
Kindle Cover Disasters

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Query Swap Blog Tour

Query Swap Blog Tour

#QuerySwap needs your help

Selecting an Editor and Cover Artist

Selecting an Editor and Cover Artist

Tips from spec-fic author Franc Ingram on finding and working with professional editors and cover designers

Effective Promotion in Self-Publishing

Effective Promotion in Self-Publishing

No matter how good your novel is, no one is going to read it if they can’t find it. Marketing can seem like the most daunting task in self-publishing/indie publishing, but it doesn’t have to be. Author Megan Cutler takes us through the three easiest methods to increase your novel’s visibility and ultimately improve your sales.

A Beginner’s Guide to Promoting your Novel

In May of 2014, I decided to self-publish for the first time. It was terrifying. I knew how to write the book and format it, but there my knowledge ended. I did my research, started following other indie authors on twitter and tried to follow their examples. But I had no idea how much I had left to learn.

I did it anyway. Part of me knew that if I didn’t hit that publish button, I was never going to get serious. There would always be some excuse to put off all the learning I had to do. Perhaps there would be an excuse to keep flitting from project to project without ever finishing anything too. So I took the plunge.

I don’t regret that decision, but I do wish I could write a letter to my past self about everything I’ve learned since that day. The next best thing is sharing my knowledge with all of you!

Amazon Categories and Keywords

Once you have an awesome story, book cover, and blurb, you need to figure out how to list your book on Amazon. I’ve spent a lot of time pulling my hair out about categories and keywords and I feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of them.

First things first, you want to find out what category your book fits into. This is harder than it sounds. I was confident my first novel fit under Urban Fantasy, but after talking to other indies, I’ve come to the conclusion it fits better under Fantasy and Adventure. It’s important to know where your book fits because you’re going to want your cover composition to match the most popular covers in your genre. Otherwise, you won’t attract an audience, or you might attract the wrong audience (which could lead to negative reviews).

Readers use keywords to find your book. The trick is finding keywords that get a lot of results (meaning that they’re popular), but few enough results that your book will still rise to the top. The best place to start is Amazon’s guide to keywords; some categories require a specific keyword to get your book listed. After that, you want to make a list of all the terms that might apply to your book. Think about your settings, your character types and roles, your plot themes and your story tones. When you exhaust those, start thinking about what you would search if you were trying to find your book on Google.

With this list, you can start testing Amazon search results. Amazon’s autopopulation function is personalized, but you can still use search results to gauge how popular a search term is. If you hardly get any results, the term probably isn’t going to help people find your book. Likewise, if you get 40,000 results, your book might get lost in the hoard. Take some time determining the best search terms and use those. You can always adjust these later (in fact some people recommend shuffling keywords to reinvigorate sales), and remember that you aren’t limited to single words – you can use phrases.

Building a Newsletter and Street Team

Newsletters are hot right now. The fastest way to connect to your readers about new releases, after all, is having a straight line to their inbox. Many social media platform algorithms restrict the reach of your posts no matter how many followers you have, but nothing can prevent your readers from checking their email.

The best way to get a reader interested in your future work is to give them a taste of what you’ve already written. Many authors offer the first book of a series free to anyone who subscribes to their newsletter. Others will offer a novella that ties in with the series, but isn’t available anywhere else. What you choose to give to your subscribers will be largely based on what you have available – but again, you can always adjust it later.

You want to make your newsletter sign-up link prominent on your author website and your various social media platforms. If you can pin a post, you probably want to make your newsletter the pin. You can also use services like Instafreebie to attract new subscribers; while Instafreebie does charge $20 for direct newsletter integration, you can still use their service for free. Upload a preview of your book, or a short story, with a link to your newsletter sign-up in the front and back. You get a better subscriber rate if you pay, but the service is useful for spreading the word about your work either way. Another great way to grow your list is by doing newsletter swaps with other authors.

Megan’s Instafreebie link (click to claim your free book)

Once you have a subscriber base, you can use it to build your street team. This group will help promote your work by building buzz and posting reviews. How you communicate with your street team is up to you; many suggest creating a Facebook group. Start by putting a general call in your newsletter and see who’s interested. You can encourage people to join by offering incentives like review copies of your new releases or opportunities to serve as beta readers for your upcoming projects.

Blog Tours

When you’re ready, you’ll want to start building buzz for your release at least a month in advance. Some people recommend starting as early as two months. There are lots of ways to build buzz around your work; you can release a teaser excerpt or the first chapter. You can do a cover reveal, and you can do a giveaway.

Whatever you decide to do, a blog tour is a good way to promote it. The basic idea behind a blog tour is that other authors will show your stuff to their readers, and you return the favor later. Lots of places will organize a blog tour for you for a fee, but you can put one together for yourself if you’re willing to make connections and arrangements.

First, you’ll want to approach authors about hosting your tour. It helps if you have previous connections to them, via social media or participation in other events. Always check the guidelines on the author’s site to make sure you know their guest post policy. You may want to offer to host the other authors on your blog while you’re on tour so the event becomes an exchange. Once you have the dates and places arranged, you want to write a unique post for each stop on the tour (repeat content ranks lower on search engines, so make sure you’ve got a lot of topics reserved for your tour).

If you’ve decided self-published, keep in mind that it’s never too late to implement a new strategy. Book covers, blurbs, and category settings can be tweaked as needed. Your newsletter subscribers will never complain about more free content. Keep meeting new authors and learning from them.

The most important thing is to keep writing. Many authors indicate their sales picked up after releasing several books, especially if they were a series.

Success doesn’t happen overnight so keep at it!

Novel Promotion Links:

Amazon Keywords:

Amazon advice on keywords
Amazon’s list of categories with keyword requirements
The best article I’ve found explaining how to choose your keywords: 

(This link does have a product that it suggests using (kindle rocket), but the article is very useful on its own, and really helped me understand the process.)

Newsletter

Here’s a good resource for creating a reader magnet to build your newsletter: http://noorosha.com/rm-download/
And, of course, here’s a link to Instafreebie: https://www.instafreebie.com

Blog Tours/Reviews

Launching a Successful Blog Tour
Blog tours: is it worth it?

Street Team

https://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/street-teams-why-you-need-one-and-how-to-create-one/

meganprofilecircleMuse tamer, character wrangler, creator and destroyer of worlds, Megan Cutler writes the kind of science fiction and fantasy stories she has always enjoyed reading. She grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania and moved to Canada after marrying the love of her life. In 2013 she published her first book, Island of Lost Forevers, the beginning of the Mystical Island Trilogy. She spends her days honing her craft, trying to develop enough ice crystals in her blood to stop feeling the cold during Canadian winters and hoping to appease her characters enough that they will allow her to sleep.

Find Megan at

Blog: http://megancutler.net/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Megan__Cutler
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megancutlerauthor/

Island of Lost Forevers Purchase Link: