Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


1 Comment

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. 

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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


2 Comments

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

 


3 Comments

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.

 

 


1 Comment

More on Self-Editing: Text to Speech

I’ve just discovered a new tool for self-editing which you may already know about; I tend to not go looking for any secrets my computer may have unless it’s not doing what I want it to. I’d heard of software that could turn text to speech but had never looked into it and assumed it would be something I’d have to buy and install and all that stuff that I just don’t want to bother with. I often read some of my book aloud, particularly dialogue, and I have suggested to others it’s even better if you can persuade someone else to read it to you, or record it and play it back. Probably not practical for an entire novel though and my latest novel has grown to over 80,000 words, quite a bit longer than my previous ones.

Someone mentioned on facebook that there was a Word option for Text to Speech and I still assumed it was an extra that I’d have to buy, install, etc., but it’s not! It’s just there and is super easy to use. It’s probably best that I don’t try to tell you how to use it because explaining technology is not in my list of talents, but if you have Word just ask the help button and they’ll walk you through it. Take my word for it, if I can follow it, you can.

Tex (I decided to call him Tex, because, why not?) and I spent the weekend editing my book. He’s American, but not hard to understand, and has quite a pleasant voice for a computer, even if he does have trouble pronouncing the occasional word. He doesn’t understand Mmm, or Hmm, or Mr and doesn’t understand I want a pause when I use an ellipsis or a long dash, nor will he point out any errors to you. BUT he also won’t skip over the typos we all make, like you and your friends will (maybe even your editor). It’s just the way our brains work; when we see the word ‘out’, in a sentence where it should have been ‘our’, we just know it’s meant to be ‘our’ and may not even notice the mistake. Tex doesn’t notice it either but when he says it out loud, you will notice it.

Tex is certainly not the only self-editing tool you need–he won’t tell you if you’ve written the wrong version of too, or to, or the wrong version of your, or their, but just because reading aloud is so much slower than reading silently I did pick up several things myself that I decided needed improving and he’s my new best friend. I don’t usually have a problem with spelling or grammar but typos? Absolutely!

For some of the things Tex can’t help you with I have a free ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on Smashwords. It’s just a little one but there’s some things that will help if you’re unsure about punctuation or grammar. Especially the correct use of apostrophes–do you know what they’re actually for? A lot of people don’t! For all my other books please visit my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


Leave a comment

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.


5 Comments

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.