Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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What are you doing while you stay home?

I’ve made close to 500 premade covers and sold a few, but I realised it was difficult for authors to find the right cover when there was such a mix, so I’ve finally sorted them into genres. It’s not easy though–there’s such a lot of crossovers. For example a landscape can be just about anything, but I’ve put them in Romance. Some images of people I’ve put in at least two categories, usually Romance and Mystery, or History. I have Sci Fi and Fantasy together because some can be used for either. I’m happy with the end result anyway; I think it looks pretty good and certainly easier to find the right genre. https://cmsgardnerblog.wordpress.com/premade-covers/

I also have trouble fitting my own books into genres when I publish them with Amazon, apart from my rural romance series, which is clearly romance. Some are historical but not only that and some are ghost stories, but not only that.

Now that Melbourne is locked down and the covid figures haven’t improved there I’m expecting all of Victoria will follow, but hoping that’s not the case. We’ve been advised to wear masks now but it’s not mandatory like it is in Melbourne. I haven’t worn one yet but I have one on order and it should be here today or tomorrow.

I’ve been doing some editing and very little writing. I started a new book, the 4th of my rural romance series, and I’m also writing an autobiography. It seems a bit weird and arrogant even to write about myself but it’s for my family, not the rest of the world, and it’s because I wish my parents and grandparents had done theirs. My 4x great-grandfather kept a scrapbook which is mostly newspaper scraps but includes some personal bits as well. He was Lord Mayor of Sydney and certainly had an interesting life. Mine’s not quite as interesting as his but it is more personal. It’s becoming a kind of a journal as well because I feel I need to talk about the BLM movement and Covid 19. That’s history that won’t be forgotten.

This is my Rural Romance Series, available at Amazon for kindle and as paperback and also, as an ebook at Kobo, Apple, and others At Books2Read. The first book, Stony Creek, is free and each book can be read as a standalone.

 


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Self-Publishing on a Budget.

I’m an Indie author and an editor and I’ve been writing this blog for years now, with the intention of sharing my experiences and helping other authors who choose the self-publishing path. It can be very expensive and some are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their book out there, as polished a version as possible. Some are unable to afford help, and unfortunately some books are published that are full of errors, which makes a lot of readers reluctant to buy any self-published books.

I’m not going to suggest you don’t need to spend money on an editor, but if you absolutely can’t there are a few options that will help. Text to Speech on Word is very good at finding typos and there are other programs like Grammarly. Do some research and try all the free options. Stay away from vanity publishers!

When you’ve done as much as you can get someone else to read it. Not your best friends unless you’re confident they’ll tell you the brutal truth. Find some beta readers who will tell you what they actually think. If several point out the same problems see if you can fix them, but if only one does and you don’t agree then leave it. It’s always worth having another look though. You can find Beta reader groups on Facebook.

If you rely on Amazon’s cover creator you can get your covers for free, but you might want to change them later. I started off using Createspace covers but have changed them all since then. Another free option is to learn how to use GIMP, which is free software along the lines of Photoshop. I use it every day now but I did find it very hard to get started and only managed because I have very intelligent sons!

You can get stock photos free and Pixabay is the best, in my opinion, because they have 300 dpi images, which is essential for book covers. If you want people on your cover though you need to make sure you have model releases, and you might have to use a more commercial stock photo for that. Some will sell just the one image if you find something perfect for your book. I’ve done that a couple of times.

What I’m doing now is making heaps of premade covers for other self-publishing authors, so I can save you all that trouble. All ebook covers are $25 AUD and paperback covers are $60 AUD. Premade Covers $25 AUD FOR EBOOKS AND $60 AUD FOR PAPERBACKS.


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Premade Covers

I’ve been making my own book covers for years and I’ve decided to branch out and try my hand at some premades. The ebook covers are all $20 AUD and covers for print (made on an Amazon 6 x 9 template) are $50 AUD. Book covers can be very expensive and so can editing; I’m attempting to keep my services at a reasonable fee. Lots more here.

 

pbgirlpurple6x9_BW_300 - Copy

Beautiful cover for print

dragon mum

Dragon mother

GUYWITHAXE

Murder

snowgirl

Ice girl

Portrait of a beautiful red-haired woman in green medieval dress

Queen

GIRL WITH MIRROR

Girl with mirror

10 cover womanviking

Female Viking Warrior

Beautiful Long-haired Girl In A Magnificent Emerald Fairy Dress

Girl in green

Elf Woman In Armor Holding Sword. Isolated On Grey

elf girl with sword

Noble fairy elf in the magic forest. Fantasy. Fairy tale, magic.

Elf boy

GLADIATORbigstock--180681301

Warrior with shield

9 cover tatts (1)

Tattoo guy

8 iceman

Knight

Attractive couple relaxing in the countryside on a sunny day

Young Couple

6 cover redvic

Victorian Woman

5 cover princess

Young Princess

4.cover redheaddark

Dark Redhead

Smiling couple embracing in park on a sunny day

Smiling couple embracing in park on a sunny day

Portrait of happy couple relaxing on a blanket in vineyard

Portrait of happy couple relaxing on a blanket in vineyard

 


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Beta Readers–yes or no?

I’ve just finished my latest novel, House of Dreams, which has taken me around two years, for various reasons. I had an operation this time last year but I was also in a bit of a writer’s block phase for quite a while. I had an ephinany, watching something on TV, when I realised I had to kill one of my tradies!

What that all meant was that I knew my final draft would need a lot of work. I’d forgotten names and had to keep checking back–Did I actually write that or did I just think about it?–Did I forget I killed that guy and mention him again?—Did I mention this before?–Lots of things that I knew I could easily miss myself.

My two elder sisters read all my books, usually in paperback form, so of course after they’re published, and invariably find at least a typo or two. Neither of them are really computer savvy; one does have a laptop but really bad internet. I sent her a USB with my story on it when she agreed to read it for me, and she was my first Beta reader! I also found two more in a Facebook group and all three were helpful in different ways, so I would say yes, find beta readers if you can. No matter how many times you read through your book you will miss things. And of course get an editor, but you’ll make things much easier for them and perhaps cheaper for you, if you get everything as clean and tidy as you can first.

Again because it had been two years since I published my last book, The Letter, I was unaware of the changes that had been made to the software I’d used before to build a cover. If I had no sons to help out I would not have been able to make a paperback cover at all. I refuse to buy Photoshop, since I don’t make covers often enough to spend that much and also it looks way too complicated. I do use GIMP, which is free, but have been using Pixlr as well. To cut this story a little shorter–Pixlr has ‘upgraded’ to a service that doesn’t do what I need but fortunately I was able to do everything on GIMP, which is fantastic!

This was also the first time I published a paperback without Createspace–going straight on to Amazon. I actually found it pretty good, possibly easier than CS was. I was a bit concerned though when I noticed the page count on their site for my ebook was 70 pages less than my paperback! I’d already sold some by then and I emailed Amazon first, then went through it all again myself. I’m still not exactly sure but I think they changed the spacing between lines. They’ve fixed it now so I’m happy with it all, at last. Whew!

All my books are available on Amazon, most as paperbacks as well as ebooks.

https://author-christine-gardner.site123.me/

 


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Finding Lost Books and other friends

Do you have a book that you’ll never forget but you can’t remember the name of it, or the author? I like to try new (to me) authors and different types of books and those that have stuck in my mind tend to be by authors I haven’t read before. One that I only remember a little of was about people travelling to another planet by hot air balloon–I know, right? Sounds ridiculous but I enjoyed the weirdness, the fresh ideas of that book. I had no idea until yesterday even who the author was, since it was at least 2 decades ago that I read it.

I love Google and look up all sorts of things so I tried a pretty random search for a book ‘about people travelling to a different planet on a balloon’, without much hope, and found it! https://biginjapangrayman.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/the-ragged-astronauts-1986-by-bob-shaw/  Apparently I have quite good taste as it won an award and he was quite a prolific author. It’s probably one of those books that people either love or hate and I wouldn’t read it again because I might hate it now. I just really appreciate writers who can come up with bizarre ideas and somehow make them work.

Another book I loved years ago, for the same reason, and wouldn’t read again, for the same reason, is The Watcher. The name, strangely enough, popped back into my head a few years ago and that made it easier to find, although it’s not the only book by that title. It’s too weird to describe but well worth a read if you like horror/fantasy/psychological thrillers. https://www.amazon.com.au/Watcher-Charles-MacLean-ebook/dp/B006C3Q13O

There’s another book stuck in my head, something about people living on the edge of a chasm, but I can’t find it. There’s a number of books with Chasm in the title but I don’t remember enough about it–it may not even have that in its title.

I’ve also found, not on Google, but on Facebook, two people, one a cousin and one a friend, I haven’t seen in over 40 years, so the internet’s working well for me!

When I’m not on Facebook or Google, or learning French on Duolingo, or writing, I like making new covers for my books. Here’s the latest. You can find all my books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08herfleshandblood

 


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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 with 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!


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The Letter

It’s been a major effort but my new book is finally done and dusted and available on Amazon. ‘The Letter’ took me much longer to write than any of my other books thus far, partly because I had a lot of research to do and partly, I think, because it was the book I’d wanted to write for years. I’ve always been fascinated with history; loved it at school and also at university, but mostly I loved reading historical fiction. And still do. I don’t mind if it’s romantic or mystery or one of those family sagas. History at school was mostly about our British heritage–English royalty, which I would never write about myself but still love to read. At university I studied Australian history and in my Honours year I concentrated on Women’s History. That still sounds a little odd to me because of course it’s not only about women, but it was more a social kind of study–about people, rather than dry old politics.

I’ve written two books based on, or inspired by, my research on women who killed their children in the early 20th century, one fiction and one non-fiction, and I wanted to write a book about women on the goldfields in the 19th century. I studied that as well and had done heaps of research so a novel should be easy peasy, right? Ha! I spent hours researching specifics like what they ate on the goldfields, what they wore, what the town (Bendigo, where I now live) was like in 1855 and so much more. Of course every time I looked up something I’d find something else of interest and spend far too long reading irrelevant history, but that’s one of the benefits of indie publishing. No deadlines or if there are they’re self-imposed, so who cares?

I also had drama (of course) with the cover. I had an image I loved and a background I liked and managed to put that together, but decided to get someone else ( https://www.fiverr.com/) just to do some nice cover text for me. I quite like creating covers but Createspace covers are difficult and it was worth the few bucks I paid to get that done, but yes, drama. The morning after I sent the cover off to Germany for the text I woke up and realised I hadn’t checked the resolution of that background image. I jumped out of bed and ran (okay, now I’m just being dramatic) to my computer to check it. Not good enough!

It just so happened that my son and his artist wife were here for the weekend and I asked her to check the photo for me because I wasn’t sure. Anyway to cut a long story slightly shorter, she offered to do another image with one of her own photos and I emailed my German cover person and asked her to wait for the new image. There was some difficulty in communicating with her, mostly because she’s in a different time zone of course. We’re pretty used to that in Oz but when you really need some back and forth communication and you have a book ready and waiting for that final step it’s frustrating to say the least. I’ve been a wee bit stressed. So anyway the cover is beautiful and I’m happy with the book, so check it out. It’s available as both an ebook and print on Amazon.com, Amazon.UK and the new Australian store.

bookstandletterThe_Letter_Cover_for_Kindle


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Self-Publishing: Designing your own covers

inheritance-cs3rdBack to the trials and tribulations of self-publishing! One of the best things about self-publishing print on demand or ebooks is that you can always make changes. A tweak here and there, or fixing typos you’ve missed when someone else points them out to you after your book’s published! One of the worst things about self-publishing PODs or ebooks is that you can always make changes, which means, of course, nothing is ever quite good enough.

I’ve always had an interest in visual art and spent several years studying before swapping over to writing. That doesn’t mean I was good at it, just that I do have enough knowledge to make me frustrated at my limitations! So tweaking book covers is my weakness. Or is it my strength? I’m not sure on that one! I’ve been able to either use my own images or find free ones online until last year, when I paid a designer on fiverr.com for a cover for ‘Inheritance.’

Next I paid for an image for the cover of ‘Red Wine and sanctuary_cover_for_kindleSummer Storms’, and did the text myself; it was around $14, but I forget where I bought that. There’s a lot of online images available but often you have to buy a bulk number, rather than just one at a time. I have discovered one site I’ve used now for two new covers for old books, ‘Sanctuary’ and the POD image for ‘Inheritance’. They’re called CanStock Photo and both images I used were $7 USD each.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen of course you have to go through the whole uploading process again, which, after three or four years I still find very frustrating, but it’s worth it, if only because it makes me feel better. Until I get another idea. I’ve also built another new cover for the thesis I wrote when I was at university, 2005. It’s called ‘Demented Mothers’ and it is a thesis, not a light read, but definitely interesting. This cover has one of the mothers, Camellia McCluskey, in a ghostly effect using Pixlr, a free kind of photo shop, which is a lot of fun to mess around with.

‘Sanctuary’ is free on Amazon and Amazon.UK, from December 1 (USA time) to December 5.


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Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.