Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Old Book, New Look.

new the inheritance cover This is the brand new cover for my book, ‘The Inheritance‘, the 2nd edition, or an update, on ‘Inheritance’, which I decided needed a make-over. For the first time I actually spent a little money (very little) on getting someone else to do the cover for me. I actually quite enjoy the process of cover design but it doesn’t always work as well as I hope and it’s difficult at times to find the right image. When my son suggested this site, www.fiverr.com, I decided it was worth $5 for a trial run and I am very pleased with the result. With the Aussie dollar so low at the moment it cost me a little over 7 AUD but I’m not complaining.

I know I’m not the only indie writer who doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on book covers but does want a great, professional looking cover and I think this is an excellent service. There’s quite a few designers to chose from, as well as other services, and different prices, but each one has to provide a basic service for $5. My designer says it can take up to 6 days but mine was back in 3–I also had the option to request changes but I’m happy with it just the way it is.

‘The Inheritance’ is about revenge first and foremost. Jo, a successful advertising executive, is suddenly dumped by her long term partner for a younger woman. When her uncle dies and leaves her his home she decides to start a new life in the country, with her own business. Rose Cottage seems ideal, in a beautiful setting just above Hope Valley and not too far from the city, but secluded and peaceful. Something happens to Jo though, as soon as she moves into the old stone cottage. She becomes obsessed with the cottage and nothing else, not even her career, matters anymore. When she finds a diary hidden within the walls she learns more than she ever wanted to know about the original inhabitants of Rose Cottage and her obsession will lead her to unimaginable horror.sanctuary cover 2014

I have a young adult sci-fi free on Amazon at the moment, ‘Sanctuary’. It’s set well into the future, when the sun has made it impossible for anyone to survive outdoors. While one high-tech civilization, Thrallia, lives in an enclosed environment above ground, they are mostly unaware of another more primitive society, the Centrals, who live underground in an old rail system. The Supers, who are the rulers of Thrallia, not only know of the existence of the Centrals, but have plans that will wipe out the other civilization altogether. Two young Thrallians find out the truth and realise they are the only hope the underground society has to survive.

You don’t have to be a young adult to read Sanctuary–I think it’s a good read if you like sci-fi that’s not too technical!

Sanctuary for UK readers.

Happy Reading.


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How relevant does your book cover need to be?

Is it important the picture on the cover of your book tells the reader something specific about your story or is only important that it’s an attention grabber? Should it just indicate the genre of the book? We all know what to expect if we see a couple on a front cover–depending on their posture it’s either a sweet romance, a bodice-ripper or erotica. Is it important the couple actually looks like the couple described inside? Sometimes book designers working with traditional publishers get it wrong and I’m not sure how much it matters to readers; if I’m engrossed in the story I’m not going to check back to the no-one covercover. A friend of mine has had several books picked up by overseas publishers who change the covers to what they feel best suits their readership and the covers sometimes seem totally irrelevant. As a self-publisher it’s all up to me and I do try to make the covers relevant to the story but it can be difficult. I do have some training in art and design but I prefer to use photos, some of my own and some from online. The beauty of this is that I can always change it if I find something I like better. Apologies to anyone who finds this annoying! I’m considering changing the cover of my children’s book, ‘No-one’s Good at Everything‘, which currently has a train pulling into a station. There’s two stories in the book, for middle primary kids–one about Billy, who is on a train with his mum until she disappears, and the other about Sophie, who isn’t good at sport like her friends and family are but she is very good at something else. Daffodils are relevant to Sophie’s story, hence the cover I’m now thinking of–the reason I’m considering changing it is that it’s been pointed out to me that the train I’ve used on the cover is a Canadian goods train, which would never be used for passengers in Australia! So does it matter? It’s a much better looking train than Australian passenger trains and it is a book for kids, after all. I’d appreciate your opinion on this one and if you have kids, I’d really love their opinions too! Thanks.


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Changing Book Covers on Amazon—again

One thing I really like about self-publishing ebooks is that I can change my mind as often as I like. It’s possible that’s not necessarily a good thing because I’m very indecisive and I do tend to change my mind, quite frequently. Luckily creating book covers on Amazon using their cover creating program is very easy and kind of fun. I enjoy that aspect of book creation–it’s the icing on the cake; after all those months of writing and editing and formatting it can be fun doing that final step of making a cover.

I should mention it’s not quite so simple if you want a print copy of your book, although if you’re going through Createspace, and you’ve managed to find your way through to getting the interior of the book formatted perfectly, you shouldn’t have too much trouble designing a cover using their program. If you’re using your own photo and fitting it into their design, which I find a good compromise between doing it all yourself or having them do it all, you just need to make sure the photo is high enough in pixels. I know next to nothing about pixels so I just keep making the photo bigger and bigger, (using Paint on my version of whatever it is, Office? Microsoft?) until finally it’s given the okay. Seems to work. All the print copies I’ve seen have been fine.

Getting back to ebook covers, again all you need to do is upload your own photo, if you want to use your own photo. They’re not nearly so fussy about pixels as Createspace and it’s very simple to select a design, upload your photo (or use one of theirs) and choose the colours and fonts that you want. You can play around a bit and, as I said, it’s very easy. If you don’t have your own photos you can download free ones from http://www.morguefile.com/archive; most of mine are from there. Of course if you do go through Createspace you don’t need to worry about your ebook version at all, they’ll put it through for you.

Sometimes when you are at that stage, having just completed your book and designed the cover, you might just want to get it done and out there to the world, so your cover design might not be as big a priority as the book itself. Number one reason why I often change mine at a later stage. Or you might not be able to find the perfect picture for the cover and if you come across it later you don’t have to live in regret, wishing you could do it again. You just do it! Again! Easy. Just go to your bookshelf and click on ‘Edit Book Details’ and upload your new cover with their cover creator.

beastfromkindlecoverMy latest re-do is my children’s fantasy, ‘Beast of War‘. It’s not the first time I’ve changed the cover on that–without paying for an artist it’s not easy to find something suitable for a story about three teenagers who aren’t human, on a journey to fight a beast! When I saw the photo of a run-down cottage in the woods I thought immediately it was perfect; there is such a cottage in my story and although it’s not a big part it is pivotal so I think it works. Of course I might change my mind in a few months, who knows?

Check out my new cover and tell me what you think.  Beast of War is free on the 8th and 9th of January and ‘Last Chance‘, another children’s story, is free 7th and 8th January.doglastkinblog

Beast of War UK Readers.

 

 

Last Chance UK Readers.


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Apologies to Createspace

It looks as if most of my formatting problems have been, and still are, my fault. As I’ve said before I’m hopeless at reading instructions–it’s just gobbledegook to me. I’m one of those people who has to learn hands on, which, in this high-tech age, is probably rather unfortunate! I generally stumble along and eventually the penny drops and I get to point B. Taking most of a year, though, is a bit extreme, even for me. So anyway, it turns out that after all my formatting woes with Createspace, they actually have a template; who knew? My latest endeavour, for which I’m still awaiting cover art, I just copied and pasted into the template and hey presto, it’s done! Almost. I did have to do the page numbers, which has been another source of angst–getting the numbers to start at the page I want, rather than the default first page. I did read instructions for that, which I found online, but it didn’t work until I fiddled around with the format page option as well. After I did that once, I was sure I’d remember the next time, but I didn’t. Then I eventually figured it out again and was sure I’d remember the next time and I didn’t. The third time I jotted down some extra notes and put them in my desk drawer so the next time will be easy, won’t it?

beastfromkindlecoverHaving so easily (relatively) formatted the new book I thought I’d re-format all of them, just to make sure they were all good. I know the kindle versions are fine but the PODs, although they’re okay, could maybe be even better using Createspace’s own template, I reasoned. I started with ‘Beast of War‘, a kids’ book I wrote a few years ago, and it was a complete disaster. Instead of the easy copy and paste I expected it came back with 5 errors and they were not easy ones. I tried again and then thought, ‘Bugger it. It was fine before.’ I have emailed Createspace and asked if we could just forget about all that–pretend it never happened and just revert to the copy that was already there! I’ve never sold PODs of that particular book in any case, only kindles, but I suspect they’ll tell me I have to re-do the whole thing. I think the problem is the original formatting. I wrote that, as I said, a few years ago and probably used a lot of tabs and so on instead of proper paragraph formatting, so I might have to nuke it. Won’t kill me anyway.

One of these days I’ll get back to some actual writing–I seem to spend all my time formatting and editing and creating covers. I do enjoy doing the covers–it’s both challenging and kind of fun. I dabbled in art and design for a few years, before I found I was better at writing, and while I would never in a million years paint my own cover art I have used some of my own photos. I’ve also found a good free source of photos online that I used for ‘Stony Creek‘ my most recent publication. I have mentioned it before but for those of you who missed it,  Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindleit’s http://www.morguefile.com/archive. Most of the others that are supposedly free aren’t and there’s lots of free pictures on this one.

Nine days till Christmas. I should probably start doing something Christmassy. We do have a tree up, so that’s something. And we’ve worked out who buys whose Kris Kringle this year. Now I have to find the perfect gift for mine, as well as something for our two grandsons. I have my mother’s present all ready to post at least–a copy of ‘Stony Creek’! Nice being able to give her something no-one else can. Hopefully I’ll have another one ready by the time her 94th birthday rolls around in April.

In case I don’t have time next week, Merry Christmas to everyone and stay safe.