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 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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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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Red Wine, Summer Storms and Createspace.

 

After a nightmare weekend of fighting with Word and Createspace over my lack of ability to format page numbers, I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my rural romance series (Red Dust Series).  The book itself has been a slow process, mostly because I’ve had problems with RSI, but I have to admit lack of motivation has also been a factor. Now at last I have my own office/study/den, whatever you want to call it. It’s a bedroom and still has a dressing table and a tallboy, but the dressing table mirror is no longer covered with my grandson’s assortment of stickers, and the tallboy—well, most of the drawers are still full of my youngest son’s indescribable stuff (e.g. two large chunks of pipe covered in plaster, paint and gold fabric, once part of his costume as the candle in Beauty and the Beast) but I have claimed a few drawers for writing and computer needs. Having my own space has made a huge difference to my motivation and I finished the book sooner than I thought I would.

The page number fiasco is something I go through every time I publish a book with Createspace and have to re-learn how to start the page numbers on the page where my first chapter is, not on the first page of the actual book. I don’t know why this is so complicated but maybe it’s not, it’s just that I’m only doing it once or twice a year and I always forget the process. I actually wrote some notes last time but of course they disappeared. I spent hours reading on-line lessons and watching videos and finally fluked it but I’m still not sure how exactly!

Then there was the cover. I bought a photo from istock which was close enough to what I wanted—storm clouds over a vineyard—and didn’t have much trouble building a cover for my ebook but I do like to have a POD available as well; getting the cover right for them—has to be the right

Sunset Vineyard

size, then you have to fit the text within a certain area—took me several attempts but I’m happy with it now.

So here’s a blurb and an excerpt from ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’. Those of you who read the last book in the series, ‘The Road to Karinya’ will remember Dan’s little sister Clare; this one’s about her, all grown up:

Book 3, Red Dust Series.  Australia, 1985

After a painful breakup with her long term boyfriend, lawyer Clare Sutton moves to Mildura to open her own practice not too far from Karinya Station, where her brother lives with his family. She’s thrilled to have her own office, even if she spends most of her days with paperwork, and is not looking for any romantic attachments.

On a visit to Karinya she meets Max Fraser, grape grower and budding wine maker. They become friends and he protects her on more than one occasion, because someone is stalking her, and although Clare’s work involves contact with criminals, at first she doesn’t take it seriously. It’s not long before her feelings for Max become more than friendship, but is it the kind of relationship that her brother has with his wife Prue? The kind that will last a lifetime?

In 1923, Fern is fresh from Sydney with her new husband, returned soldier George, to start a new life on a citrus orchard in Curlwaa. Their life is filled with hardships but their love for each other never dies and Fern has no regrets.

In 1985, now a widow, Fern lives in Mildura, next-door to Clare, and they become good friends. Estranged from her remaining family Fern looks on Clare almost as a daughter and becomes worried about her when she realises someone is watching her.

Readers of the other books in the Red Dust Series will know Clare and her family from ‘The Road to Karinya’, but each book can be read as a stand alone novel.

 

He had Prue in his arms by then and they were both grinning like Cheshire cats, clearly as happy in each other’s company as always. I was vaguely aware someone else was hovering in the doorway and I looked up to see who it was.

“Sorry Max!” Dan said and he gestured to the man to come in. “This is my beautiful baby sister, Clare.”

Max wasn’t my type, I thought immediately, which wasn’t a bad thing since I certainly wasn’t looking. He was gorgeous, but I preferred the leaner type, or, as friends at uni had said, I liked them lean and mean. Max, in his navy singlet and jeans, was all muscle. And very blue eyes. He was tall enough though and his hair was okay, sort of mousy blond—all in all he was a man who probably didn’t look as good in a suit as Pete did but then if Pete stood next to him in jeans and a singlet—well, that would just be hilarious. He’d look like a string bean. Max coughed and grinned and I realised I’d been staring at him—measuring him up like beefcake! 

 

this one           book2 karinya ebook

 

 

 

 

 


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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.


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Fun and Games with Amazon–again.

Why do I do this to myself? I should obviously wait until I’m 100% happy with all aspects of my book, including the cover, before I publish. I’m quite patient up to a point and then I think it’s all good but I tend to change my mind. I’m still waiting for CreateSpace to sort out my new cover for Not Guilty. Although they assure me it’s all done it’s not displaying on my author page with the new cover–the kindle version is. Weird.

So I decided to do the same thing with my new novel, Stony Creek. What a brilliant idea! I just wasn’t really happy with the cover and found something I liked better. After much mucking around I had a cover I was happy with and that CreateSpace accepted. Yay! But my author page now shows the new cover in the initial display but then the old cover when you click on the kindle. If you click on the POD you get the new front cover and the old back cover!Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

Weird or what? I’ve emailed Amazon of course. I’m also waiting for them to remove the odd phrases that somehow magically attached themselves to a couple of my books, again just on the author page. They’re described as Inspector Banks novels! They certainly don’t contain any reference to Inspector Banks and are not detective stories at all. Amazon assure me they’re fixing it but I don’t know why it’s taking so long or how it could happen. I’m sure the creator of Inspector Banks wouldn’t appreciate it any more than I do but there’s nothing I can do about it.

My thesis on Infanticide and Child Murder, Demented Mothers, is on a countdown deal for 0.99, starting on 25th November. It is a university thesis rather than a commercial true crime and is where my true crime book, Not Guilty, had its origins. For those of you who like the facts and the sources etc. I’m sure you’ll find this an interesting read. If you prefer more of a narrative I’m hoping to have the fictionalized version available before Christmas. More on that later.

Happy reading.


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More problems with CreateSpace.

I love CreateSpace–I really do, but why is it so difficult to make changes once your book is published? I’m not sure if the BookCoverImageconnectionsproblem is CreateSpace or Amazon or me. I had a small short story ebook published with Amazon, called Connections, for a while. Then I decided to beef it up with more stories and make it available as a POD as well, through CreateSpace. The system seemed very confused that I used the same name even though I had a different cover and it took several emails and quite some time before the cover matched the new content.

not guilty 2014 coverNow I have the same problem with Not Guilty, my true crime book. It’s always been a POD and an ebook and I just wanted to add a couple of things and do some minor edits but then I decided I wanted a new cover as well. I spent weeks mucking around with that, mainly trying to find out who I needed permission from to use photos. After one rejection I went with a photo of the court house where the trial was held and I’m quite happy with that. Finally put it up on CreateSpace and Amazon.

The ebook is fine but the POD, while it shows the new cover on my author page, shows the old cover and content when you click on it. So far I’ve written several emails, which is always a bit frustrating because it takes some time to get a reply, probably because I’m in Oz and they’re not. I even considered unpublishing it and starting over but you need to make quite significant changes to do that with CreateSpace, including changing the name of the book. Has anyone else had problems like this?

I live in hope it will eventually be resolved and at least I sell way more ebooks that Stony_Creek_Cover_for_KindlePODs anyway. I’ve also just published a new story, Stony Creek, which is free from the 18th to the 22nd November; it’s a romance set in outback Australia, mostly in 1970. Those of you who’ve read Not Guilty or Inheritance might think romance is an odd genre for me to dabble in but I do like variety and I have actually co-authored a couple of romances published traditionally.

My son’s getting married in less than two weeks and I’ve been looking around for an outfit for a month or two–pleased to say I’ve found something I’m actually happy with. Woo-hoo!