150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered
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150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered

ALLi's Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Indie Authors and Poets

Alliance of Independent Authors, M.L. Ronn, Orna A. Ross, Orna A Ross

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eBook - ePub

150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered

ALLi's Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Indie Authors and Poets

Alliance of Independent Authors, M.L. Ronn, Orna A. Ross, Orna A Ross

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About This Book

Do you have self-publishing questions that you can't seem to find the answer to? We're here to help.

It has never been easier to publish a book, but with so many options, it can be hard to know whether writing advice is good or bad.

Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered is based on overwhelming data & analytics: 1, 000+ questions from our author members, 2000+ ALLi blog articles, 400 ALLi podcast episodes, our 24/365 Facebook community where members ask questions daily, and input from our world-class advisors from every corner of the publishing industry.

There's no question that ALLi hasn't seen. In fact, this book answers questions you may not have thought about yet.

In an engaging question & answer format, you'll learn how to:

- Sell more books effortlessly
- Design bestselling covers
- Win the war against writer's block
- Edit your book till it shines
- Improve your marketing and sales

And more, including a resource section with 75+ resources to help you keep learning and building on the information.

The advice in this book is best practice as honed by the experiences of our members and the thousands of authors–novelists, nonfiction writers and poets –who visit ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Centre each month.

We're the only non-profit organization for self-published writers doing this kind of work.

If you're ready to become a savvier author, grab 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered, and let ALLi show you how to turn your imagination into income.

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Part III

Book Design and Formatting

Cover Design

What defines a good book cover?
Let’s face it: as much as we try to live up to the mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do. Readers definitely judge books by their covers.
It’s clear that a book cover has a major impact on sales and can determine a book’s fate. Less clear, though, is what constitutes a good book cover. Every genre is different, every reader is different, and every writer’s circumstances are different.
Go to any online retailer and you will see books with terrible covers that are bestsellers and books with amazing covers that don’t sell. It’s especially frustrating to be in the latter camp.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years after working with designers on over sixty book covers:
  • It’s impossible to know if a cover will sell your book until you publish.
  • The books that do best tend to look similar to other books in their immediate genre and niche.
  • Book covers tend to work best when they are billboards rather than works of art. In other words, the cover should exist to show readers what the book’s genre and subgenre are rather than the story inside.
  • Simple is almost always better.
We could discuss color choice, contrast, composition, typography, and other design elements, but I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that having a certain design element on your cover will help you sell more books.
To give yourself the best possible chance of designing an effective cover, my advice is to find a competent designer with experience in your genre and see how readers respond. Over time, you’ll learn what works for your readership.
A book cover only has five major elements:
  • Title
  • Subtitle, tagline, series statement, or testimonial/blurb
  • Author name
  • Foreground
  • Background
If you understand this breakdown, then you can be more intentional about what you want your cover to look like, and you can make informed decisions based on other books in your genre. Maybe all of the covers in your genre have a certain type of background (like urban fantasy having a city in the background, for example, or space opera having spaceships). If you figure out what commonalities the comparable books in your genre have for each cover element, you can move closer to what the “picture of good” looks like in your genre. Just understand that this picture, however, is a moving target that changes as the years go by.


What’s the process of working with a cover designer?
The book cover design process has several steps:
  • You communicate your needs to the designer.
  • The designer locates material to use on the cover (they may involve you in this process, or they may not).
  • The designer provides you with a first draft. If the designer is illustrating the cover, the draft may be in black and white or grayscale; the designer will colorize the design once you approve it.
  • You provide feedback and the designer makes updates until you are satisfied or you exhaust the amount of revisions the designer allows.
  • The designer delivers the final product.
Overall, the process is straightforward.

How long does the cover design process take?
It depends on the designer. The biggest consideration to think about is the designer’s calendar. The good designers are usually booked several months in advance, sometimes more. I have a designer who books eight months in advance, and I know of designers that have waiting lists of eighteen months or more. Not kidding!
When the designer starts working on your design, however, you can expect to wait a few days or weeks to receive your first draft.
Once you receive your first draft and you provide feedback, most designers will turn around revisions in a few days, usually sooner. The entire process takes a few weeks on average, and much less if your book is a sequel in an existing series that the designer is already familiar with.
Now that we’ve discussed the timelines, there’s another important question you need to ask…

Should I design my book cover before or after I finish writing?
Writers fall into two camps. The first camp prefers to design the cover before they start writing or while they are working on the manuscript. For these writers, the cover inspires the story.
The second camp prefers to design the cover after the book is finished, mostly because they don’t know what the book will be about. Also, if you design a cover before you start writing and the story changes significantly, then you may have to redesign the cover.
I’ve done both, and I don’t have a preference. It depends on the project and how confident I am that the cover won’t change when I’m done with the manuscript.
Whatever you do, make sure you get on your cover designer’s calendar so you don’t create delays in publishing your book!

Where do I find a cover designer?
I recommend that you start with ALLi’s Service Ratings Directory as your first port of call. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk reviews service providers for writers and rates them based on whether they meet our Code of Standards. If they don’t, we’ll tell you, and why. With this directory, you can rest assured that the designer you pick will treat you fairly and do their best to provide you a good product.
I also recommend looking for designers that have experience in your genre. The best way to do this is to look at other self-published books in your genre that are selling well and that have decent reviews. Open the e-book sample and look for a designer name on the copyright page. That’s typically where authors put cover credits. Find a designer whose style you like and see if they are available.
If that fails, you can find good designers on freelancer sites like Upwork or Reedsy. You can post a job and invite designers to come to you, or you can request free quotes from qualified designers who might be a good fit for you. Make sure to review their portfolio to see if their design style aligns with your book, and also make sure that the designer has a track record of customer satisfaction.
If you find a designer who isn’t listed in ALLi’s Service Ratings Directory, contact our Watchdog and they will investigate them for future writers who work with that designer.

What if I can’t pick just one designer? Is crowdsourcing my book cover more effective?
There are websites that allow you to get design proposals from many designers at the same time. This is called crowdsourcing. You pay for the design you like best. At the time of this writing, 99designs is the most popular of these crowdsourcing sites.
I’ve talked to several authors who like crowdsourcing because it gives them options, usually at the same price you would pay a single designer.
You’ll have to gauge the quality of the designers and their work product to see if this method is right for you, as it is not for everyone.

What about premade book covers?
Many designers design premade book covers and sell them for a small fee. When you buy one, you provide your book details and the designer puts them on the cover and removes it from sale. You walk away with an original book cover at a fraction of the cost.
The quality of premade covers varies. Some are poor, but some are very good.
Premades are a respectable choice for an author on a budget, but there are a few things you need to think about:
  • Is your book in a series? If so, does the designer offer enough options to complete your series, or will you have to pay them to create extra designs? If you have to pay them to design something original in addition to the premade, it’s probably cheaper to pay for an original cover design that fits your book to begin with.
  • Premades are generally cost-effective alternatives for standalone books, or for authors who only plan to publish a handful of books in their lifetime.
  • If you plan on writing a lot of books, you’ll have a tough time making cohesive author branding for your covers if you use premades. You may have to pay to rebrand premade covers in t...

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