Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Building Your Own Book Covers

If you’re an indie author you’ll know how important covers are and how expensive they can be. I’m a stingy indie author and a control freak so I like to do as much as possible myself. I also quite enjoy working with pretty pictures and I do have some background in art and design.

The most annoying thing about POD covers with Createspace has been the difficulty I’ve had in fitting the text into their requirements in the cover creator.  It always seems a bit squashed into the middle to me and when I had someone from fiverr do the text for my last book, The Letter, I was amazed at how close to the edges they were able to get away with. Passed through the system no problems and it’s beautiful! My artist daughter-in-law did the rest of the cover and I couldn’t be more pleased.

But–I wanted to go back and re-do some of the covers I was never completely happy with–they look fine as ebooks but the text on the PODs was a bit meh. Every now and then I’d have a look at different types of software that would enable me to use the Createspace template and I eventually downloaded GIMP. It sat on my computer and I stared at it for months. Well, not all the time. Every now and then I’d open it and try to make sense of it. I looked at youtube instructions and although I refused to admit it, I pretty much gave up. I’m one of those people who needs someone right beside me to take me through it one step at a time and if I’d known of a local class I’d have gone.

Fortunately I have five sons and one of them happens to know how GIMP works–unfortunately he doesn’t live nearby, but he spent 15 minutes with me and GIMP on his last visit and I’ve been working through it for a few weeks now. It’s not easy and I’ve made mistakes but learnt from them and refused to give up, so now I’d like to show off my new covers for my Red Dust Series. Stony Creek, by the way, is still free for Kindle, new cover and all! Check them out on my Amazon page. 

 

 

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Designing your own covers.

I’ve always designed my own covers and to be honest I’ve not been completely satisfied The_Letter_Cover_for_Kindlewith all of them. But the beauty of self-publishing is that I can change them whenever I like and as my capabilities improve I continue to do that. My best cover so far is the last book I published, ‘The Letter’, which I had very little input in! The idea was mine but my artist daughter-in-law took over the design and since I’d already paid someone on fiverr to do the text I went with that. It looks much more professional and I’m very pleased with it.

Not everyone has an artist in the family though and I like a challenge. I always found the worst thing about creating Createspace covers to be the space limitations–trying to fit the text inside the lines. I finally realised they have a template for cover design which allows much more freedom but you need editing software to use it. Photoshop is the obvious one of course but I’ve been looking into free software and GIMP seems to be the most popular.

I don’t know how many times I attempted to understand the written directions or youtube instructions but I’d almost given up until my son was here for a weekend visit. I tend to need to see things done rather than just read instructions. He spent around 15 minutes going through it with me and although I’m still learning I know the basics now and it’s not so scary! My first completed GIMP cover is a re-do of ‘Stony Creek’, the first book in my rural romance series, which is free as an ebook and also available as a POD. It might still be showing the older cover on Amazon but will show the new one when it’s downloaded. I’m pretty happy with this and now slightly obsessed with the whole design process and want to re-do all my books!stonycreeknewcover


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Indie Authors and Typos

I have written about this before but I’m one of an enormous number of authors who are self-publishing now, for various reasons, and I’m continually disappointed at the lack of editing in a lot of the self-published books out there. Yes, it’s true, almost any book you pick up at the library or a bookshop will have errors. I just finished reading one and I found one typo, in over 300 pages. I think that’s forgivable; I also presume my own books have errors in them, but I hope not. If they do I’m pretty sure they’re minor. The odd typo will get through many rounds of editing but honestly, some authors don’t seem to edit at all.

If you can afford it, of course you should hire a professional editor (Yes, I am one, but I’m only taking on Australian clients) and maybe, instead of putting out a book a month, take a little more time and make sure it’s as good as you can make it. Presuming you have Word or something like it, you’ll have Spellcheck etc., which is at least a start. There’s a lot it can’t correct though, and apostrophes in the wrong place are a major annoyance for me. I’ve been writing weekly hints on my Facebook page, so please take a look:  Editing Indies.

What really bothers me is when I start reading a book and I find a thankyou or some sort of mention of an editor who has worked on the book, followed by page after page of obvious errors. If you’re able to hire an editor, take your time and have a good hunt around. There’s plenty out there and some even have qualifications. Check references and ask for a free sample. Look at their books if they’re also writers. Before you send your story off to be edited make sure you think it’s perfect. Use Word’s Text to Speech–hearing your story read out aloud, even if the voice is a bit robotic, is fantastic for picking up those little typos that are almost invisible–like whole instead of while–one I found in my latest story. It’s a slow process but well worth it.

Take your time. It doesn’t matter if you write 5000 words a day or 500. What matters is that they’re your best words.

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Blasting Pirates

I don’t plan to start advertising businesses, apart from the unavoidable popups, but if I come across something I think is worth sharing, I will. There’s a company/program/app/whatever you call it, that’s still in the beta stage and is, I think free for now. It certainly cost me nothing, which will surprise no-one who’s been reading my blog for long! Anyway what Blasty does is find out where an author’s books are being pirated and then send alerts. All you have to do is go through the list and press the orange blast button. Fun! I was resigned to the fact that my books were vulnerable to piracy, but I had no idea how many there were out there. Blasty found over 100 and I blasted them all! This is my invitation link which is a little weird and I’m pretty sure I don’t get free Tupperware or anything else (if I do I’ll let you know–full disclosure!) but it might mean you get it free.

Please don’t assume I know anything about the safety of this or any other program/app or whatever. I did do a little research but you should do some too. I can tell you I haven’t had any problems: https://www.blasty.co/invitation/2DRw3RpU

In other news, I’ve decided to ditch Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and am taking all my books off when their exclusivity runs out. I’ve already put several across to Draft to Digital, which makes them available on iTunes and Barnes and Noble, and more. They’ll still be on Amazon, for sale only on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 


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Buying Reviews

I’ve recently come across this phenomenon via Facebook and personally I find it sickening: people offering to review books for self-published authors for money, guaranteeing 5 star reviews. I saw one a couple of days ago stating they could put several reviews on the one book on Amazon, using different names and addresses! I have no idea how long this has been going on nor how many authors actually buy such ‘reviews’, but it makes me think differently now about those books on Amazon with lots of 5 star reviews. I know Amazon pulls reviews they’re dubious about and, like most self-published authors, I complain about that, but I sincerely hope they can put a stop to this practice, which makes those of us who only have honest reviews at a disadvantage. As a reader I’ll disregard reviews now.

I’m not so adamantly against the common practice of authors providing free copies to readers in the expectation they’ll write a positive review but it still seems a little off to me. There’s also quite a lot of trading going on–review for review–and I confess I did that once, trading a review for an app with one for a book of mine. Never again! The ‘reviewer’ clearly read only the outline and while the review was certainly positive it was totally out of whack and I have asked Amazon to remove it. Like all self-published authors I very much appreciate hearing from readers, and 5 star reviews certainly help sell books, but I’ll stick to the honest reviews from those who actually read and enjoyed my books! For info on any of my books please visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.

 

 


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Amazon-Friend or Foe?

A lot of writers hate Amazon–they’re big, corporate, money hungry and not at all like those small independent publishers who actually care about what they’re publishing, right? I can’t say I’ve loved every minute or that I’m thrilled with every aspect of the business but for a self-published author who doesn’t have money to burn Amazon is a godsend.

new the inheritance coverIt’s true they’ll sell anything–well, almost, and some of the self-published stuff is rubbish, I agree, but the same applies to small publishers who require hundreds of dollars from authors to produce their book. There are publishers who care about their books, of course; if they’re the ones paying the upfront costs it’s essential they publish only what they believe they can sell.

I’ve written about vanity publishers before and I won’t go into it again here; I sometimes feel as if I’m selling Amazon to writers out there and I have no intention of doing that. I promise I don’t have shares. I just want to let you know that it’s not so bad being a self-published writer on Amazon!

There’s also their Createspace department, where you can publish your book in POD form and they’ll distribute it to several other shopfronts for you. Then there’s Kindle Unlimited, which is a lending library. The customer pays a monthly amount and has to return the ebook, just like any other library, and the author is paid per page read. The amount, as far as I can ascertain, is not always the same, but at the moment my KU amount is about half as much per book as a sale would be, which is not bad.

Another thing I like is that it’s easy to make changes–for example I have a list in the back of each book, of all my other books, and when I publish a new one I add that to the list. I can also change covers if something better comes along, and fix typos if I discover them after my book’s published.(!) All in all, for me Amazon is invaluable and I’d be lost without it. Come and check out my Author Page or here if you’re in the UK.


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He said, she said.

what didWhen we’re writing, especially a novel, we seem to use ‘said’ an awful lot and, if we don’t, we try very hard to come up with alternatives, such as argued, yelled, whispered, spoke, declared and so on. The problem then is that using those kind of words can draw attention away from the dialogue they relate to. I completed a 2 year Diploma in Writing and Editing and we were taught that it’s better to use ‘said’ most of the time because it’s actually very unobtrusive. It becomes almost invisible to the reader, even though it seems overused to the writer, while substitutes can be used, of course, but too many actually detract from the story by being too ‘showy’.

A dialogue between two people doesn’t require ‘he said, she said’, every time each one speaks. We know if Joe said something the reply will come from Fred, because they’re the only two there. If the dialogue becomes too long it might become confusing but you can always include some action, such as Fred glared at Joe.”What the hell are you talking about?” Too much dialogue without action is usually a mistake in any case, as is too much action without dialogue. The same technique can also be used for larger groups of course, for example, Diane entered the room, “What are you two up to now?”

I’m not saying you should never use words like ‘whispered’ and so on, and you can easily overdo the action technique. Just don’t neglect that useful little word, ‘said’.

My ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar, punctuation, etc. is free permanently on Smashwords and will help anyone who’s not sure about the correct use of apostrophes and a few peculiarities in the English language. There are other books as well as websites with similar information; mine is easy to follow and attempts to explain things in a way that’s easy to remember as well. My other books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

Stony Creek book2 karinya ebook