Designing your own book cover, part 4

My easiest cover by far came with c3. It was the most difficult of my books to write, so maybe some sort of universal balance was at work. I’d barely begun skimming through the Shutterstock collection when I found not one but two backgrounds I loved. Which to use? I decided I’d send them both on to Jen at Mother Spider and let her decide.

I knew I didn’t want the image of Teddie, my hero, to be a photo. This was a book about out of body experiences, and a clear likeness seemed too stark. I wanted something vague, more like a sketch. She had to be young, dark-haired, and there had to be green involved.  I didn’t expect a lot of results when I combined all these search parameters, and I didn’t get them. However, the one image I got had potential.

This drawing of a young woman possessed the ethereal quality I wanted, but didn’t fit the cuddly softness I felt was part of Teddie’s personality. I played with it a little, and was happier once she had a rounder face and the soft brown eyes I envisioned.

The next challenge was to find a way to show an out of body experience in a single image on a book cover. I thought of showing her face three times, each one more transparent than the last. Also, I wanted a white bird because, well, it was symbolism I liked. I took all that and came up with the two straw man versions below and sent them off to Jen.

Jen did three brilliant things. First, she layered one of my backgrounds over the other to create an orignal and beautiful backdrop. Second, she got rid of the bird. Third, she rearranged Teddie to look back upon herself, conveying the idea of out of body in a way my linear images never could.

When this cover came back, I loved it instantly. She humored me by adding in the crescent moon instead of the dove, and we dinked around trying to match the font of my two-character title to the previous three books, but otherwise not a single revision was made. There was no doubt in my mind this was the cover c3 was meant to have.

Recently, I did some light editing and clean-up on all of my books, mostly to remove the links from all versions as they have become impossible to maintain. I decided if I ever wanted to make a tiny modification to the cover, now was the time.

Was there anything I wanted to change? Anything at all?

Well, I’d never been entirely happy with Teddie’s porcelain doll white skin or her sensuous lips. I thought a faint pink blush would make her look more human, and thinner lips more age-appropriate. I tried a make-over and was pleased with the results.

The new Teddie, and her beautiful cover, are shown to the left. It’s a joy when something comes so easily and works out so well.

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

Getting better at this #amwriting stuff!

on itunesThere are many small victories along the way when one self-publishes a book, and my advice to other writers is to find, embrace and cherish each one of them them. This takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and if you don’t let yourself enjoy the little milestones along the way it is easy to burn out.

For me, the first step with a new book is always publishing on Kindle. It is easy to make minor corrections there, Kindle Select offers publicity tools to use right away, and the process is quick and forgiving. At least, that has been my way for four books now and it looks to be how I’ll handle my fifth book this fall.

I owe a thank you to fellow writer Michael Brookes who alerted me early on about taking my kindle book and putting it out in paperback using Create Space. The formatting was a lot of hard work the first time I did it, but it was free if I did it myself and so I learned. When c3 came out in paperback a couple of weeks ago, it was my fourth time working my way through the process and the good news was that it probably took me a third of the time. That was cause for a celebration.

on Band NThen it was on to the last and ultimate challenge. Smashwords. For those of you not yet familiar with Smashwords.com it is a website where you can publish your own electronic book and buy a lot of others. It’s chief charm to a writer, however, is that it will take your ebook and distribute it in multiple formats to ten or more other sites. It will also allow you to easily give your book away via coupons that do not violate your agreement with Amazon or anyone else.

The downside? Because they redistribute your book to so many others, the formatting requirements are stringent and hard to follow. With my first three books I threw up my hands in despair and paid someone else to format them for me. BUT NOT THIS TIME!  (Forgive the caps, they were a sort of victory cry.) As of a few days ago c3 as formatted totally by me has successfully passed through the vetting process at Smashwords and been cleared for take off. Wahoo! It is already out there at iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Yes, this self-publishing process can make you absolutely crazy. It might anyway, but at least you’ve got to let yourself celebrate the little things along your path.

Homemade gravy and hand-built furniture

Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a week or so ago on a wonderful blog called Coffee Break.  My thoughts were inspired by a post I wrote on my x0 blog back in 2013, two whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.

We are a thousand miles from home, traveling to visit my husband’s family in a part of the country settled by Italian immigrants. A confluence of scheduling has left us with one night on our own.

Buca“Italian food,” he insists. “Absolutely,” I agree. He’s heard of a new place and we head over eagerly. What do we find? Buca di Beppo, a good Italian chain restaurant that also has a place about five miles from where we live in Texas. We have to laugh. No way.

As we go off in search of more interesting food, I think about my writing. Traditionally published novels are like chain restaurants, I think. Some are okay and some are great but they are seldom awful. You have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. Self-published novels are more like tiny mom-and-pop restaurants. Some are really bad and some are absolutely fantastic and there is no good way to tell the difference from a distance. Good or bad, the contents are always something of a surprise.

We stumble on a tiny place where the menu is hand typed, and the Pollo Maria Teresa that catches my eye is described with honesty as being a pasta dish served with chicken and “some lobster”.  I smile at the lack of polish. It’s like homemade gravy or hand-built furniture. One makes both with love and with all the skill that one can.

handmade furnitureEach of my self-published books has been similarly created, edited and rewritten to the best of my ability at the time that I wrote them. Then, because I wanted the product to be better, each was professionally edited with what I could afford. Although both I and my editor have gotten better with each one, my books don’t have the polish provided by industry experts. They are homemade gravy and hand-built furniture. They make no pretense to be otherwise, even though I hope that they can be enjoyed by those who also appreciate the style and predictability of chain restaurants.

The Pollo Maria Teresa arrives and it is wonderful. I smile as I enjoy some of my “some lobster” and I think that it is good to have variety in ones life.