Whoever said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover ‘ never had to sell one. This is the boring story of the cover design of my book. How it started, where it went, and how it ended. Exciting stuff!
So, I knew I needed a kick-ass cover in self-publishing my first book. I scouted a few places that did professional book design. And, of course, they charged an arm and a leg to have a polished, professional-looking book cover. I decided to make it myself and to look for a stock picture that could convey as best it could the mood of my book. I chose this one.
It’s a nice picture of a house taken during the night. My book is a thriller/horror (it could technically fit both categories) about a home invasion. It was good enough. However, after I downloaded the picture on Amazon’s Kindle book cover templates, the software didn’t like it. The picture’s format didn’t fit the model I chose for my book cover, and so I had to settle for this book cover.
I initially liked it, and I thought it was unique, but I was delusional. How can you have a book without its title on the front cover? That will not fly on bookshelves!
After opening an account on Barnes & Noble, I was pleased to see that their book cover templates did accept my picture. I was then able to insert the title on the front cover. And this is the result.
I then used this template on Amazon Kindle, and to my surprise, it accepted the format. I later changed the font because I found this one to be too soft for a thriller. FYI, the printing quality of Barnes & Noble is better than the quality of Amazon. But Barnes & Noble does not send author copies to Canada. And buying my books full price was not an option economically wise.
Scouting bookstores here in Montreal for consignment contracts, I soon realized that ordering my printed copies from Amazon was not the way to go. The quality was not good enough to compete with the beautifully printed books of publishers.
I searched for a printing company with a good quality/price ratio in my hometown. After a few days, I found this little press above a viaduct with no place to park around. But their inconvenient location was soon made up by their print quality! Far better than Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My book looked professional and gorgeous. They were a dollar more per book than what Amazon charged, and their delivery time was 6-8 days, whereas Amazon was three weeks. It was perfect!
I had the choice between a glossy and a matte finish. I liked the glossy because it immediately catches your eye, but it breaks more easily. I settled for the matte finish, even if the colors were not as bright. I think it fits the genre and the smooth texture of the cover is pleasant to the touch. It was more expensive than the glossy one, but after reading articles on the matter, here’s what I found. You go with a glossy finish if you have a beautiful art design on the cover. The colors will pop out more. You go with a matte finish if you have anything else than a beautiful design on the cover. Or, you can go with whatever gives you joy, like Marie Kondo says. No one reached a clear consensus on this. Sorry, I can’t be of any more help if you are in the midst of this hard decision. You can always order two proof copies of each and see which one you like best, and to hell with mainstream ideas.
I ordered 10 copies to start. They are all gone! Each one of them is in bookstores or in the hands of clients already, and I’ve placed the order for 15 more.
Here’s hoping I won’t have to make any changes again. Unless it’s under a publisher’s advice! *wink, wink*
My ebook, Dark Was the Night, will be 75% off in Barnes & Noble until November 30th. I hope you pick up a copy, and if you do, please leave a review. We poor, poor indie authors count on your organic reviews to get noticed.
It’s been about two and a half months since I released my book, Dark Was the Night, on ebook and printed formats. I’ve submitted my novel for several reviews, and they have been good. I’ve been posting ads on Amazon, Bookbub, BookLife, and Publisher’s Weekly, which have resulted in precisely one sale. I’ve promoted my book on Facebook, Instagram, and my website. I’ve opened a Twitter account just to have another platform where to promote the darn thing. I’ve even had a book trailer made, which has garnered maybe 30 views. Granted, I’ve yet to promote it on YouTube, but still.
And what have all those efforts yielded? How many book sales to my name? Well, let’s do the math, shall we? Twenty-one books (a mix of ebooks and printed books) sold on Amazon, and seven of those I bought. Two ebooks sold on Kobo. I bought one, and my best friend bought the other. Two printed books sold on Barnes & Noble, bought by yours truly. And who the hell knows what’s happening in Google Play.
Right now, I’m scouting bookstores in my city that would be willing to display my self-published book. I sent emails to 15 of them. Two replied. One to tell me they don’t care about indie authors. The other said they liked to help local authors, but self-published books don’t get prime real estate in his bookstore. Hey, I’m not picky. At this point, any real estate will do!
Next week, I will physically present myself with my book to the other 13 places that didn’t bother to answer me because that’s what you do, right? You keep trying, and you keep pushing. But this is a full-time job, people. One I have been doing since my book came out on October first between the hours of midnight and 3:00 a.m., sometimes 4:00 a.m.
I’m exhausted and overwhelmed at the amount of work this is turning out to be. And if I’m being sincere, disappointed at the little results I am getting.
There are piles of laundry in every room of my house. I’ve been ordering take-out three times a week for several weeks now. I feel like I am neglecting my family, and the guilt is eating me raw.
But then I remind myself that many authors started out this way, and then one day, they hit gold. It’s a long shot. I know. But it’s what keeps me going.
I will not sit here and pretend that I write just for the sake of writing. That what matters is the story. If the only thing that mattered was the story, I would keep a journal and keep my personal essays to myself. I want to make something out of this. Otherwise, I would not be here blogging in the middle of the freaking night to the ten people who were gracious enough to follow a nobody like me.
Having said all this, I am well aware that the odds of my book not being forgotten in the dark corners of the self-publishing world are stacked against me. Yet, every time I look at my name in print on the spine of my book, I smile. I wrote a book and published it! How many people can say that?
It turns out, a lot of people can say that! According to Amazon, around one million individuals can proclaim the same thing each and every year.
Check your ego at the door of the book publishing business and grab a number. You’ll be waiting longer than Beetlejuice in the Neitherworld Waiting Room before your number comes up.
Dark Was the Night follows a woman whose home is invaded by intruders and she’s forced to face her fear of the dark to save her daughter. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The inspiration for my story is two-fold. The main events of this story happen during one Halloween night, and the idea for that came to me many moons ago when I was home alone giving candy to trick-or-treaters. It was a Friday night, and Unsolved Mysteries was on TV. Already, the mood was gloomy. Every time the bell rang, I would get up, grab the big bowl of candy and open my front door without looking who was knocking. And then a spooky thought entered my mind. What is to stop anyone from barging in here the moment I fling that door wide open? How would anyone know…
Here are my latest book reviews for my novel Dark Was the Night. For those following me on Facebook, I know it’s the same stuff I posted there. I’m sorry, but I had not posted these reviews here, and I have followers here too. Albeit, they are only ten, but still. For the ten of you who’ve decided to follow this blog, you are very nice people.
These book reviews can also be found on my Books page, but I wanted to elaborate on one of them. I was riding the high five-star wave with the first few reviews, and how smug was I to assume that this review would be no different. But the book earned a four out of a five-star review. A solid review and I agree with the reviewer saying I didn’t really go into depths with the physical descriptions of my characters. I’m not big on descriptions. In fact, I hate long, elaborate descriptions that only drag the story.
Reading Tolkien was a torment for me until we got into the main plot of the story. I know, some people love descriptions. But I am of the position that some deduction must be left for the reader. In writing my story, I found that I struggled to describe my characters physically. I really had a hard time integrating their physical description without disrupting the natural flow of the story. I found it to be awkward and clumsy. What good is it to know that my protagonist has brown eyes if it doesn’t advance the story? If a part of their physical appearance is essential for the plot, I will mention it, but the rest can be easily deduced. A character with a kid who is 18 years old can easily be imagined with salt and pepper hair. Do I then need to enter into more specifics? I don’t believe it’s necessary unless that character had the kid young; therefore, I would mention that because it’s important to the story. But I think that characters also should be open to interpretation. Each reader has the right to imagine them as they see fit. I believe they can relate more to the characters if their physical appearance remains vague on the page but becomes well-formed in the reader’s mind.
But I understand where the reviewer is coming from. Some readers do like the visual specificities of characters. I will keep that in mind for my next book. And this is not to say that I am not pleased with the review. On the contrary, it’s a solid, honest and good review. I just thought I would comment on what the reviewer said about my lack of physical descriptions.
So, here you have them. The reviews from The Book Commentary and Literary Titan.
“Dark Was the Night is an exceptional suspense that shines in its prose and stylistic elements, a story that will keep the reader guessing at every twist and turn.” – Jane Riley for The Book Commentary
“Although I loved the plot and premise of this story, I would have enjoyed more details around the characters to give them more depth. That was especially the case when it came to their physical appearance. But I am glad to say this is my only complaint, and it does not affect my feelings towards the story as a whole.” – Literary Titan
Rivera crafts an absorbing thriller around a woman’s nyctophobia in her engrossing debut. Lucie Arnold seems to have it all: a solid marriage, a happy, energetic child, and a satisfying career. But her acute fear of the dark is wreaking havoc in her life. When three dangerous intruders force themselves into her house on Halloween night, Lucie knows she must get ready to face her fear if she wants to see her daughter again. Rivera layers her story with hidden depths, expertly mining Lucie’s nyctophobia, and her long-buried memories that refuse to come to surface. She does a skillful job of gradually unraveling Lucie’s tortured past while deftly juggling the fast-paced narrative. A mystery that starts with Lucie’s inability to face darkness quickly turns into a nail-biting, cat-and-mouse game between the violent intruders and a mother determined to protect her child. Fans of page-turning…
If you’ve known only rejection by every publisher and agent under the sun, and you’re wondering what to do next with that book you wrote. That story you poured your sweat, your blood and tears over. That kept you up day and night, away from friends and family gatherings. That plot hole that had you downing Pepto-Bismol like it was the antidote. That made you gain or lose 20 pounds, depending on your constitution. Had you staring at a bright, white screen or a dull white page for hours on end, forcing your mind to produce a smidge of an idea, and have it swim by that gelatinous goo that had become your brain. Then you most definitely do not want to toss all that hard work away, right?
So, here you are, thinking the hard part is over. You finished your book. To self-publish will be child’s play compared to the self-torture that is writing a book. Ha! Think again, sunshine! There is a reason, and a good one, that several players enter the arena when publishing a book. There’s your editor, copy editor, blurb writer, book designer, photographer, marketing expert, and probably a few others I’m forgetting. When you self-publish, guess who gets to do all of that work? That’s right! You! Tiny, insignificant you against the Titans in the business to try and get your book noticed. You might think, well, easy; I’ll hire all of those people. Unless money is not an issue, all of those beautiful people cost a pretty penny. So what to do? Well, not that I’m an expert or anything, but in the interest of full disclosure, here’s how I went about it if ever you’re interested.
Editing Editing is a long and painstakingly annoying task. Now, some of you might try to edit as you go along writing your book. Don’t. Do it when finished. When the creative juices are flowing, do not slow them down by editing. This is probably what’s going to take most of your time. My advice? If you can afford an editor, hire one. Or at least find a beta reader. I did neither. I edited my book alone. It took months. Months.
Copy Editing I don’t know how many times I reread my manuscript on my laptop, but you would think I would have spotted all the typographical errors present in my writing. Boy, did I have a surprise when I bought my first copy of my paperback book after it was published! Yeah. The book was out with all those embarrassing mistakes that I only noticed once my copy arrived at my house. I can only thank my lucky stars for not advertising early in the sea of books that Amazon publishes for anyone to notice. So my advice? Print your manuscript! Yeah. Sounds crazy, right? But believe me, it’s much easier to spot mistakes on paper.
Book Design The design of your book should reflect the story it carries. It needs to catch the reader’s eye. It needs to tell information about the mood and style of your book. It needs to stand out on a bookshelf because you’re competing against professionally manicured books. In my case, my book is a thriller that tells the story of a home invasion that happens one Halloween night. I had a clear vision for my book cover. And so, I naively thought I could pay for at least the book cover design. Guess what? I couldn’t afford it. So to the stock images, I went. There are several websites out there selling stock images. Heck, I sell stock images! So I selected a picture of a house at night with all the lights inside turned on. If you read my book, you’ll understand why I chose that picture—wink, wink, nudge, nudge. See what I did there? No? Sigh. Nevermind. Where were we? Ah! Yes. The cover picture. The image I selected gives you the impression that someone is spying on the house from the outside. It’s a good image for my book. Not exactly what I wanted, but it will do. For reference, here are some stock images sites where I might or might not sell images myself. Shutterstock Getty Images Can Stock Photo
So once you have your picture selected, what now? Well, depending on where you’re publishing your book, you can either use the website’s templates for the book cover or create your own. However, there is always a risk the picture you selected will not be compatible with the book cover design you want. That’s what happened to me with Amazon Kindle. The stock image I picked didn’t fit properly with the book design I wanted. Therefore, I had to either change the image or change the book design. I settled for the book design. And it turned out pretty good. True, the title does not appear on the front cover, but it makes it more interesting. Besides, on a bookshelf, you only see the spines of books.
Curiously enough, Barnes & Noble also has templates, and I couldn’t transfer Amazon’s one onto their platform. I had to create one using their models, and this time, I was able to put the title on the book cover. And yes, I used the same stock image. That paperback edition is still in review, and once it’s published, I’ll let you know. The only slight downside was that I had to assign it a new ISBN. No big deal.
The book design also includes the back cover, usually containing a brief author bio and book blurb. Both those items need to attract the interest of a potential reader. I am of the position that your author bio needs to include something whimsical or funny about yourself. You want your readers to be able to relate to you. As for your blurb, it needs to contain enough of your story so people would like to read it but not so much that you give anything away and still add a little mystery to the mix. It’s a delicate dance, and not all writers are good at it. I don’t think I am. But for my first time writing a book blurb, I think I did okay.
Another fun aspect of self-publishing is that different self-publishing platforms accept different formats of your manuscript. Swell, huh? Some take Word documents, others only PDF. Some insist you convert your file into an epub before submitting it. You need to make sure you have your manuscript under at least those three formats before you start hunting for a place to sell your book. It’s a lot of tedious and technical work, but you need to do it if you want your novel to appear on several book websites. And trust me, you do. The more exposure your book gets, the better. Remember the Titans? Yeah, there’s hefty competition out there.
Your Author Picture Your photo will appear on your book’s back cover for all to see and judge unless you’re publishing under a pseudonym. Again, this is an area if you can afford the expense, hire a professional photographer. You want a clean, neat picture that says: “Why, yes, I write interesting stories, and you should read them.” Since I’m somewhat an amateur photographer, I took my picture with my old Sony camera. I added a black and white filter to give it a little panache, sophistication, augustness. Either way, I’m proud of that picture that I took against the brick wall of my parent’s balcony right next to their garbage can. Fancy, huh?
Marketing And we have come to the whale of self-publishing. The mighty beast you need to tackle and defeat to get you and your book noticed out there in the raging sea that is the world of published books. Now pay attention because this is the most critical advice I can give you about self-publishing your book. Do not go into self-publishing if you do not have a budget established for marketing because you will get crushed by the competition with deep pockets. Announcing on your social media accounts that you published a book will get you nowhere unless you have an insane following. It’s time to swim in the big pond with the big fish and market your book where the Titans do. And to do that, you will need to lay down the cash.
Where to market? Amazon Kindle has an ad campaign for authors. Barnes & Noble has partnered with BookTrib. There, you can get your book reviewed and have it appear on their social media, where they have thousands upon thousands of followers. Kobo has partnered with BookLife, where you can have your book reviewed by a Publisher’s Weekly professional reviewer. Goodreads has book giveaways that put your book front and center to their followers. The options are endless. What you need to determine is how much you’re willing to spend on them. Who knows? You might end up with a bestseller.
To conclude, read as much as you can about self-publishing. See what worked and what didn’t work for other authors before you head out there. But most importantly, have faith in your novel and your ability as a writer. And have faith that an audience does exist for your story. If not, well, the good news is you’re a writer, and you can always write a better story.
Oh, and if you do all of this, remember, there are no guarantees that you will be a successful self-published author. There is an element of chance that enters the equation as well. I mean, I’m not. So far, I’ve only sold 13 books and five of those I bought.
That’s all I got for this post. I know! The shameful self-promotion! Disgusting, right? Bear with me this month, folks. I promise that by November, I will have moved on to other subjects. American Thanksgiving at the latest. Maybe after Christmas. New Year’s Eve, tops!
My book is now available in Google Play Store! I am hosting a promotion for all my followers starting this coming Monday, October 4th, and ending on Halloween day. You will be able to purchase my ebook via the Play Store for 50% off. Here is the link to use the promotional code:
So here it is, the self-promoting! Ugh. I’m not a fan of the “read me, love me” scenario, but let’s face it, if I wrote a book, I certainly want people to read it.
The journey here certainly has been an interesting one. Not wanting to repeat everything I wrote in my other posts (for the precious few of you who are following me) but I guess self-publishing my book was somewhat inevitable. A dark thriller written by a mom who only published personal essays about parenting is not marketable, especially if said thriller is not the conventional length.
So here I go with my marketing lingo. Dark Was the Night is now available on Amazon in paperback format and will be available as an ebook on October 1st on Amazon and KOBO. I am still trying to release it on other sites, namely Barnes & Noble, Google Books and Goodreads. Once my book is available on those sites as well, I will duly post a notification. Please, don’t ask why I decided not to release both formats at the same time. I’m not sure. But the paperback format is nice if I do say so myself.
They say if you’re an unknown author, your name should not be the prominent part of your paperback book cover. As you can see, my book cover is all dark but for the image of a well-lit house. The title of the book and my name appear on the spine of the book. I thought the design was attractive. In a later post, I will describe how I found my way around this whole self-publishing world. The ebook, being a digital book, has a slightly different book cover.
So, let’s continue the self-promoting, shall we? Below, you will find links to my Book Life page, where you can find a book blurb, a book excerpt, and links to the Amazon page to buy it. You will also find a link to my very first review by Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite. Not to toot my own horn, but this 5-star badge given to me by the Team at Reader’s Favorite should give you a hint about how that review goes.
So there you have it. The obligatory self-promoting of a self-published author. Wow, author. It feels weird to say it. I don’t really think I deserve the title yet. But somewhere out there is a book I wrote with my name on it. A whole story and characters and plot I invented. And I hope you give my novel (or novella) a chance, that is, if you’re really into dark fiction.