Book Cover Design And Entrepreneurship With Derek Murphy

There are two things that are non-negotiable in my opinion for indie authors who want to sell books.

derek murphy coversProfessional editing and professional cover design.

In today’s episode, I talk about book cover design with Derek Murphy, who designs all my book covers, plus we discuss the importance of artists also being entrepreneurial.

In the intro, I talk about my writing updates on Gates of Hell and One Day in New York, as well as the STORY conference I am going to with Robert McKee. I also mention the Christmas thriller giveway – win 12 print books here. I’m speaking in Auckland, New Zealand on Tues 16 Dec, click here for more details, as well as at PubSenseSummit in Charleston in March 2015.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!

Derek MurphyDerek Murphy is an author, cover designer and entrepreneur at Creativindie.com, as well as working on his PhD in Literature.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube, or read the notes and links below.

  • Derek talks about his background in writing, studying at Taiwan University and his life abroad studying and writing, as well as fine art. He explains how he started an editing business and then moved into book cover design. In terms of marketing, book cover design business builds by word of mouth, whereas many authors won’t talk about the editing process. He’s traveled a lot internationally although he is American, studying in Malta in philosophy and theology and is now doing a PhD in Literature. We discuss academia vs entrepreneurship, and how to foster the latter by learning over time.

It’s important for artists to learn how to sell, as well as create, if they want to make a living from this.

  • book cover designWhat are the trends right now in book covers? For non-fiction, Bebas neue is being used a lot, and in fact, using fonts and words is prevalent in non-fiction in general, instead of being image heavy. For fiction, it depends on the genre.
  • A big mistake for fiction authors with covers – trying to convey the whole story of the book on the cover with aspects of every scene, so it is very over-complicated. You really only have a couple of seconds to catch attention, and that’s the job of the book cover. It needs to convey genre, and be good looking so the reader knows they want more. If the reader is attracted, they will read title, book description and then get a sample.

person-on-coverUsing a person on the cover vs using a theme on the cover.

  • We talk about the different cultural perspectives on covers – American covers vs European vs Asian. Cultural snobbery around literary covers in Britain does impact the design but may mean they don’t sell as well in America. Think about your target market and browse the categories in the country store for that market and make sure that your cover appeals to that market. Right now, we can’t upload different covers by market, but hopefully that will come at some point
  • Big name author book covers and big name author websites – often they are not optimized to sell books, because those authors will sell books anyway. Over-complicating your covers and website is a bad idea for indies. The point of the cover is to get attention in the genre. The point of the website is to attract people to your email list and show up in search.

The most beautiful thing on your website should be your book covers.

  • On color palette, emotional resonance and genre. It’s basic color psychology, which works all over the place e.g. what colors are used in hospitals vs boardrooms.
  • Top 3 bad things about indie book covers. Colors are a really obvious issue, and a color wash to neutralize the elements will help a lot. The font choice and effects are also important, and using drop shadows to make the font stand out is a classic error. You should use shading and font book marketing is deadchoice to make it stand out. An another issue is the amount of text on the cover. You don’t want to cram it full of text, especially for fiction in terms of quotes, sub-titles etc. We talk about the eBook Cover Design Awards on The Book Designer which is a great site to find designers and see what works.

Finding and working with a book cover designer

  • It’s not necessarily about them being nice! You don’t want to be the one doing the design, you don’t want them to do what you want, because you don’t know about design. Trust your designer because of their experience. I have a list of book cover designers here. To get a good cover design, you will be paying quite a bit.

On becoming more entrepreneurial

  • This is critical for authors and artists. You need to think about the reader, the product, the marketing, the business side – once you’ve at least written that first book. Marketing doesn’t work if you have a product that nobody wants. Think about creating value for other people. How can you improve other people’s lives? How can you entertain, educate or inspire? Derek talks about some of the ideas he has at the moment – he’s an entrepreneurial machine! We also talk about fear of failure and how you have to get past that as an entrepreneur.
  • Derek talks about his own novel, Shearwater, and what he’s doing with his own books going forward.

You can find Derek at his website Creativindie.com and also at DIYBookCovers.com as well as on twitter @creativindie

Please do leave any comments or questions on book cover design below and join the conversation!

Risk-Taking, Author Collaboration And Marketing Ideas With J Thorn

It’s great to learn from successful indies who can share their insights into lessons learned on the journey. Today I have a laughter-filled chat with horror writer, J Thorn.

J ThornJ Thorn is a bestselling horror writer,  consistently one of the Top 100 Most Popular Authors in Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, with his bestselling books selling over 100,000 copies. J is also a podcaster, entrepreneur and speaker. His latest book is the Black Fang Betrayal.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube. You can listen below or on Soundcloud. Or there are show notes below the multimedia.

J and I have a complete laugh and discuss:

  • On genre and categorization. Why we need to put things in boxes, but how J writes stories, regardless of how they are categorized. You don’t have to write in a hot genre in order to sell, just write what you love, and readers will find you. If it has a demon in it, is it horror? It’s up to the author to claim the tag.
  • On being entrepreneurial. Taking risks, trying things out and then moving on if it doesn’t work. Iterations and pivoting apply to authors as well. For example, J started PremiumBoxsets.com to market multi-author box-sets but it didn’t work out, as box-sets have started to be less successful. You have to leave the ego behind and just take risks. Try things out, go play and just get on with it. None of us know what we’re doing – we’re just trying it.
  • Lessons learned from going indie: You have to make risks and you will fail most of the time. You also have to GIVE, authentically, without black fang betrayalexpecting a return. It’s not a barter. [I also believe that social karma and generosity are at the heart of the internet eco-system.]
  • The Black Fang Betrayal – a collaboration with 10 authors on one single story. It’s not a box-set, it’s one story managed and published by J. The writing part is the easy part. The management piece was positive, but a challenge!
  • On being control freaks and loving the freedom of being indie.
  • On branding and website. Rewriting bios and product descriptions. The pain of getting to a consistent brand. J’s brand is authentic as it’s who he is. As a heavy metal and horror fan since a teenager is natural. It’s taken a long time to be proud of who he is, but J talks about how all of our journeys are about reaching this point.

You can find J at JThorn.net and his latest book is the Black Fang Betrayal.

Self-Publishing And The Bookstrapper’s Guide To Book Marketing With Tucker Max. Podcast Episode 193

When an author and entrepreneur who has sold over 3 million books puts out a book on marketing, you know you have to learn more! Tucker Max on the show today.

In the intro, I talk about the introduction of pre-orders for indie authors on Amazon KDP, already available on iBooks and Kobo. I’ve used it immediately, so you can now pre-order my next book, ‘Business for Authors: How to be an Author-Entrepreneur,’ all the links here. I also thank my new backers of the show through Patreon and explain a bit more on how that works..

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and you can now support my time on Patreon.

tucker maxTucker Max is a multiple New York Times bestselling author with over 3 million books sold. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, running a publishing company and a marketing business, as well as other ventures. His latest book is “The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself.

You can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. We discuss:

  • BookstrapperTucker’s early experiences with rejection in the book industry and how he built a platform online, transitioning to being an entrepreneur and moving into the publishing business himself.
  • Why professional publishing is so important
  • Why some people still perceive a stigma of self-publishing, but readers don’t actually care
  • On asking permission
  • Tucker’s advice to writers starting out
  • How much of the marketing advice out there is espoused by people who haven’t sold many books. Be careful who you listen to.
  • The importance of deciding your definition of success
  • Marketing suggestions for introverts
  • What’s next for authors? Tucker talks about what he thinks is coming …

You can find Tucker at Bookstrapper.com and Lioncrest.com and on Twitter @tuckermax. You can find ‘The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself,’ here on Amazon.

Continue Reading

Book Marketing With Visual Content. 7 Ways To Stand Out With Images.

Think about how you surf the internet these days. Think about how you decide what to click on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

standoutNow multiply that by all those people who are overwhelmed by the amount of information and entertainment options online.

Let’s face it – in a sea of content, how do you stand out?

Visual images can be a way for people to make an instant decision over whether to stay and read any further. Posts with visuals also get more engagement on social media.

It’s the same concept as book covers – and we all know that people DO judge a book by its cover.

So what are some of your options as a writer to use visual content?

1. Use images on your blog posts

I see so many authors ignoring this basic advice and writing articles on blog platforms with no visuals on to entice the reader. This is a basic must-do for everything you write online.

You can get Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr so it doesn’t have to cost you money.

Use the Advanced search option and then make sure you link back to the image provider, or use Compfight to do the searching for you. All my own photos are available for you to use under a Creative Commons license on Flickr here.

2. Make shareable images using quotes from your books

pentecostquotesThere are lines within your books that will be perfect for sharing.

First you have to find them, and if you have enough sales, you can find them on your Amazon page, right at the bottom, where the most highlighted passages are listed. Some of mine from Pentecost are shown right. You can, of course, go through the book with a highlighter and find some you like.

Then you can use tools like Canva or PicMonkey to format the quote with a great image, or you can just use Powerpoint/Keynote and then save as an image. Post them on any of the social media sites with links back to your books, blog posts or profiles.

You can do this for other people’s quotes as well, for example, I did one for my podcast with mega-bestselling author David Morrell, the creator of Rambo.

davidmorrellquote

3. Use Pinterest for story-boarding, research and inspiration

I love Pinterest, and I use it mainly for my own story ideas.

I create a Board per fiction book project, and it helps me capture ideas and images, as well as provide an extra dimension for my readers. I always share the Pinterest Board in the Author’s Note at the back of my thrillers.

vikingspinterestRegister at Pinterest.com and download the Pinnable icon for your browser, then you can pin away when you’re doing book research. I start my Boards very early, so often they are named after my working titles, which generally change later. For example, my Ragnarok Board became ‘Day of the Vikings’ later.

For more ideas, check out A Guide to Pinterest for fiction and non-fiction writers by Frances Caballo. You can also find a whole load of ideas on Pinterest for using Canva to create book covers here.

4. Use infographics

These are perhaps best used for non-fiction books or for blog surveys or other useful information that begs to be shared. If you’re someone who loves to play in Powerpoint/Keynote or Excel, you can prep the data there and then use the previously mentioned tools to format it.

You can also use services like Infogr.am or Easel.ly, or you could hire someone from Fiverr.com or PeoplePerHour.com to create one for you. For more ideas, check out 10 tools for creating infographics and visualizations.

5. Share ad hoc pics on your social media timeline

When people tell me they don’t have time for marketing, I usually point them to a smartphone and taking pictures.

A picture creates a moment of connection, and someone will likely comment on it, favorite it or click to follow your profile because of it.

bristolsignThese are not pictures of you and your book! It is usually just something you see or that inspires you, for example, the sign on the right that I saw in a shop window in Bristol, UK, was retweeted and favorited 48 times. It took me about a minute to snap the picture and share it.

Attraction marketing is based on being useful, interesting, inspirational or entertaining – and you can do that with just one picture a day.

You might think your life is boring or mundane, but where you live might be fascinating to people on the other side of the world, or even in the next state. Try sharing aspects of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and see who discovers you.

6. Use SlideShare for your fiction or non-fiction book

There’s a whole article on using SlideShare for your book here.

But basically, you create Powerpoint/Keynote presentations that are heavy on the visual side and load them up to SlideShare.com. From there, they can be shared easily on any social media, and embedded within your LinkedIn profile. Here’s one I made for my political thriller, One Day In Budapest.

7. Create Book Trailers and Book Research Videos

Making a book trailer yourself takes some time and commitment, but it can be done!

I must admit to having some doubts about book trailers as an effective use of marketing budget, as I don’t see much evidence that they really impact sales. But I have recently come around to the idea as translations mean the same content can be used multiple times, and with a proliferation of books, it’s an effective visual differentiator. But be careful, there are services that cost a lot of money, and if you do it yourself badly, it can do more harm than good.

My trailer below in English is for Desecration, London Psychic Book 1 and I’ve used the same video for the German and Italian versions of the trailer, just by switching out the text. I also have Spanish coming too, so can reuse it all over again.

I outline the process for making a book trailer yourself here, and I made the one below for around $40, which included the royalty-free stock photos, video and music from Incompetech. I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money on this but if you are feeling visually creative, give it a go yourself!

For more information, check out the following resources:

What image marketing are you using for your books? What else can you suggest? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Nick Wheeler not different, just special

Self Publishing With NookPress And Marketing To Nook Customers

Barnes & Noble has been a well-known US book brand for many years, and the Nook has consistently been one of the top ebook retailers alongside Amazon, Apple and Kobo in the US.

NookpressBut up until March 2014, non-US authors couldn’t self-publish directly to the Nook platform. We could only reach Nook readers through other distributors like Smashwords. I struggled with price matching in the UK and since I wasn’t selling anything much on Nook, I pulled all my books from the platform in 2013.

But as soon as they opened up to UK authors, I jumped into NookPress and published all my books directly. In this post, I outline my experience with NookPress as well as things I have discovered about Nook marketing, plus, there’s a 25 min interview I did with Colin Eustace, General Manager of B&n Nook Europe with his thoughts.

Self-Publishing on NookPress Directly

I now publish direct on Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, iTunes Connect for iBooks and NookPress. The sites all have their idiosyncrasies, with some good and some difficult parts. Here are my thoughts on NookPress:

  • Nookpress account

    Nookpress Project screen with drilldown per book

    NookPress is currently open to authors residing in USA, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium. You can also publish in French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch as well as English and be paid in your local currency.

  • The platform is easy to use, with the same type of interface as KDP and Kobo. It has an overview screen, drilldown into each book for changes and a sales reporting screen with monthly downloads.
  • It requires ePub format for upload, but I have found that the same files that load perfectly well on iBooks and Kobo have a lot of errors on Nookpress. I ended up paying for my files to be fixed up, because I have no patience with formatting! Read the guidelines if you want to do it yourself.
  • A great feature is that you can make a change to the file within Nookpress without loading a new file. This is useful if you just want to alter back matter e.g. add in links to new titles.
  • After you have loaded the book, I’ve found that the Preview screen might not reflect what an ePub viewed on another device might look like. An improvement suggestion is for Nook to do the same as Amazon and have Previews by device so we can see what the book will look like on a Nook phone app, versus a tablet.
  • You don’t need an ISBN to publish on Nook but you can optionally add one
  • You can choose up to 5 categories directly, which can only be done with keyword optimization on Amazon, otherwise you only get the usual two.
  • You can list prices in USD, EUR and GBP. It would be great for this to be expanded as the markets are.

Nookpress desecrationMetadata is critical, as with any publishing platform, and I have found that my sales in one month going direct are significantly more than several years going through distributors. I can only put that down to the increase in metadata possibilities since my email lists are not generally Nook readers.

The actual Nook retail site has some of the same bugs as Kobo, in that if you click on an author name you get a lot of extraneous random books. Something like Amazon Author Central would be great to group them together. The review functionality is also missing, so it’s hard for customers to tell what’s good unless the book has been picked for merchandizing. But overall, it’s easy enough to use and the result of publishing direct is increased control, speed of changes and direct royalty payments.

Interview with Colin Eustace, General Manager of Barnes & Noble Nook Europe

I had a conference call with Colin Eustace and asked him a few questions about Nook and how indie authors especially can optimize their use of the platform. It was great to hear him talk so enthusiastically about the importance of NookPress and the company’s future plans for expansion globally. Colin talked about the partnership with Microsoft being important for the cellphone and tablet market, and despite the negative press we hear from the US, it seems that the view from Luxembourg is rosy!

This was an audio only interview, so you can listen below, or download an mp3 file here.

Tips for marketing to Nook customers

I have been searching for that elusive tip that help rocket my sales at Nook. But, like any book marketing, there is no magic bullet! The same Nookpress blogrules apply as to the other stores: Get your metadata right. Write a great book and add an eye-catching cover. Make your sales description brilliant.

Beyond that, remember:

  • Link to your book on Nook. Make sure your website is linking to the sales pages at Nook as well as Amazon. If you tweet book links, use Nook sometimes and not just Amazon all the time. (You know you’re guilty of that!)
  • Make your book attractive to Nook merchandisers by using a professional cover, appropriate pricing and, as on other stores, the more books you have and the more popular they are, the more likely you will get noticed.
  • Use the Nook pricing options if you do paid promotions, like BookBub. You can just tick the box for Nook and then update your price. It’s pretty quick to get price changes through.
  • Network with Nook employees at conventions and book fairs. Humanizing the people behind the store can often be a way to become more positive about your chances to sell more books on a particular platform. You might have a chance for a merchandizing opportunity too, but please be professional in any approach. Don’t just try to sell your book. Be a human and network with authenticity. I recommend the tips in the great book, “Opening up to Indie Authors” by the Alliance of Independent Authors for anyone trying to expand their reach into stores as well as libraries and more.

What’s your experience been publishing with Nookpress? Do you have any tips for growing the Nook reader base? Do you know any specific advertising or review sites for Nook? Please leave your comments below.