Tag Archives: self-publishing

Why Book Covers Matter

I’ve recently posted a couple of blogs about what goes into making a good book cover. It’s an obvious area of interest for any writer (especially if they’ll have to design it themselves) and it’s easier to talk about covers than about writing. “Today I wrote ten words and deleted nine of them” isn’t that interesting. Well, it is to me. But I’m special. My mummy says so.

Anyway over the weekend my brother asked me why I was “obsessed” with book covers. We can debate the semantics, but it raises an interesting question: why do book covers matter?

A writer could have written the greatest masterpiece history will ever see. But a reader won’t be able to see that. All they see is the cover. A bookstore browser will spend on average eight seconds looking at the front cover[source]. That might seem too short to worry about, but in eight seconds a book cover can:

• tell the reader that this is their kind of book;
• intrigue and encourage them into reading the back;
• impress the reader with its quality and suggest the content is just as good.

I know what you’re thinking: anyone can say that covers matter. But where’s the empirical proof?

Thankfully those chaps over at The Book Smugglers have conducted a survey of 616 readers. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I’ll summarise the best points:

• 48% said covers play a major role in their decision to purchase a book (though 41% said they played a minor role);
• 72% said “it depends” when asked if a good book cover could compel them to buy a book;
• an astonishing 40% said a book cover could be or has been the sole factor in a book purchase.

You’ll notice that none of these figures have blown your socks off. That’s because the cover’s job is not to sell the book. It’s to get the reader to pick it up. Those 72% who said “it depends” were probably thinking “it depends on the blurb and a sample of the writing itself”. The cover gets the reader’s attention. The content sells it.

And in a world that is seeing more and more books published, getting noticed is more important than ever. So I think my “obsession” is rather well-founded.

What are your favourite book covers? And have you ever bought a book based purely on the cover?

Authors Don’t Deserve To Make Money

Authors don’t deserve to be paid for their work. That appears to be what Matthew Ingram is saying. He clarifies his position in the comments, but his point seems to be pretty clear: because of the amount of free content available online, writers shouldn’t expect to make money from their work any more.

I couldn’t disagree with this more if I tried.

I don’t walk into a supermarket and take a loaf of bread without paying for it. Likewise, I don’t expect to read an entertaining novel for free. I expect to have to pay. The glut of free content on the Internet is irrelevant. Just because someone else is giving away their novel for free, doesn’t mean I have to. Two novels aren’t interchangeable.

An author can give away a novel of they want to. It’s their novel and that’s their right. But they also have every right to charge for it. They’re providing a service. They deserve to get paid.

It seems pretty simple to me.

Amanda Hocking's Hollowalnd

Speeling iz imprtunt

Let me get this out of the way; I gave up on reading Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland. I stopped reading because I wasn’t enjoying it. I found the plot pedestrian, the characters flat and forgettable, and the story entirely lacking in heart. But that’s okay. I don’t have to be a Hocking fan.

Having said that, and based on my experience of Hollowland, I think Hocking is very harmful for self-publishing.

I’m a tyrant when it comes to spelling and grammar. I can’t overemphasise how important they are. And, as tyrannical as I am, I am even more embarrassed and mortified if I make a mistake in my own writing. I think this reaction is completely justified. Writing, after all, is what I do. Hell, I’m paid to do it, and so I expect myself to do it well. How can I be taken seriously as a writer if my writing contains simple spelling or grammatical errors?

See where I’m going with this?

Self-publishing is still new and readers are asking themselves why they should take an indie author seriously. Why should they read a book that wasn’t good enough for a publisher? Indie authors are still having to prove that their worth is as good as their traditionally published cousins.

Amanda Hocking is touted as the self-publishing success story. She is the cream of the crop, a big name. And yet Hollowland is riddled with spelling errors. Not just one or two, but dozens.

That is unacceptable from someone who makes their living from writing. And if Hollowland is a reader’s first experience of self-publishing, what will they think? That indie authors can’t take the time, or don’t have the care or professionalism, to check their work before publishing it? Instant turn-off. Indie authors lose a reader.

Hocking doesn’t have to write the kind of books I like to read, and I wish her all the success in the world with her career. But I will not sugarcoat the truth; she needs to proofread her work. Because it hurts the burgeoning industry that she, however unwillingly, has become a figurehead to.

Is Apple Looking to Get Into Self-Publishing?

It’s being reported that Apple are hosting an education-focused event on January 19th, and a fascinating quote has emerged over the last few days: “GarageBand for ebooks”.

What does that mean?

We know GarageBand enables mere mortals like you and I to make a professional sounding song, allowing us to record live instruments as well as adding loops and editing tools. But for ebooks? Whilst ebooks can be difficult to format, it seems unlikely Apple would be happy offering a formatting tool. It’s not whizzy and exciting enough for Apple. And, let’s face it, formatting a document is neither whizzy nor exciting.

It’s far more likely that this will be an app for creating interactive ebooks. Interactive ebooks can range from children’s picture books with narration, sound and touch elements to adult books that incorporate sound and video. The iPad is a perfect platform for such books and could help Apple challenge Amazon for dominance of the self-publishing market.

What does this mean for writers and readers? Well, up until now, writers who wanted an interactive ebook would have to find and hire a developer to do all the work for them. But if they can buy an application from Apple that makes it easy to do it themselves, they can create that ebook for a fraction of the cost. So more creators can create the ebook of their dreams. And for readers? Just as with more traditional ebooks, readers will have the opportunity to enjoy a greater variety of books and often at a lower cost than those with expensive developers behind them.

Of course, this is all conjecture at this stage. But Apple have a golden opportunity to challenge Amazon’s dominance of the self-publishing market. Here’s hoping they take it.

Eyes As Clean As Jesus

Even the most Luddite of readers will have heard whisperings of the self-publishing revolution made possible by the advent of the ebook. Armed with a shiny new ereader I’m jumping head first into that revolution to see if it’s worth all this fuss.

First up was Cornerstone by Misty Provencher. Misty has quite the story behind her first novel. She found an agent to represent her not once but twice before deciding to go it alone (you can learn more at her website. But what about the novel itself?

Well, it’s a young adult novel following the ostracised Nalena Maxwell. Her father is absent and her mother spends all her time scribbling notes over mountains of paper. Nalena spends her time trying to fly under the radar until Garret Reese, hot young stud, starts talking to her. Nalena soon learns that she is part of a special community and, not only that, but she is special herself: a Cusp, an unexpected divergence who could herald great or terrible things. Oh, and her father has shown up.

Cornerstone is a nice little gem, the story unchallenging but with some wonderful ideas and imagery that prevent it from being a popcorn read. Nalena is a great protagonist, instantly endearing and easy to empathise with. We have all, to varying degrees, experienced the social exile she has to live in, and Misty’s prose is heartbreaking in its reality. Nalena is also easy to respect because she isn’t desperate to be accepted by anybody and everybody, just the people that matter. Misty has a talent for dialogue, too; it was delightfully frustrating to watch her characters fail to say what was on their minds just like real people do.

My only real gripe with the novel was a scene in which Nalena gets a spirit guide. Perhaps I was looking forward to the climax too much, but I found myself impatient whilst reading and it seemed that the guide didn’t have much of a role to play. But this is the first part of a series and I imagine the guide concept will play a greater role in later installments. So, really, I shouldn’t be complaining at all until I’ve read the sequels.

Which I will be reading. And if a book passes the sequel test, what better recommendation can you give it?

Cornerstone is available for the Kindle in the UK and the US and, if you’re in America, in paperback too.

Self-Publishing Isn’t a Dirty Word Anymore

When I was younger and full of my aspirations to be a published author (and writing a truly epic space opera that turned out to be rubbish) I read a lot of “how to write a novel” books. (Incidentally, you never grow out of this habit; I am forever reading interviews with authors about their writing processes and I am still slightly obsessed with the Guardian’s Writer’s Rooms series.) These used to all say the same thing:

Self-publishing is not an option.

Of course, back then, “self-publishing” and “vanity publishing” were interchangeable terms. Either referred to the idea of paying a company to print your book which you would then sell yourself. This selling could not take place in any bookshops and there was no Internet. It was generally accepted that this was a bad idea.

But the Internet has changed many things and the publishing industry is one of them. Print on demand (POD) companies like Lulu, Lightening Source and Createspace have sprung up which will print your books and ship them to you or to an online distributor such as Amazon. There are some small setup fees, but because they’re print on demand the author doesn’t need to purchase bulk orders of their book and then hope to shift them. The customer orders a book, the company prints it and passes the profit onto the author.

That’s not to forget the ebook revolution. This cuts out even the PODs by allowing you to offer your digital download directly or via Amazon. There’s no printing costs involved so, despite what the traditional publishers may suggest, you can sell an ebook for a lot less than a physical book and therefore entice more readers.

There’s a lot more work involved in the self-publishing option. Remember the traditional route to publication? Self-publishing cuts out the agent, the editor and the publisher. That means you have to edit, format and design the book yourself. And, of course, those guys take on the upfront cost; the self-publishing author has to pay that themselves. But, of course, by cutting these guys out they get more of the profit.

But is it worth it? Well, it’s certainly a viable alternative. Amanda Hocking is the breakout success of 21st century self-publishing; so successful she could quit her job and landed a contract with a traditional publisher.

Looks like self-publishing is no longer to be sniffed at.