Tag Archives: Hot Damn Designs

My Self Publishing Journey: Getting a Professional Cover

One piece of advice I’ve read in more than one place is that it’s important to have a professional looking cover if you’re going to self-publish.  A good cover tells the prospective buyer at first glance that you’re taking the production of your book seriously. Obviously, it’s no guarantee that the contents will be appealing, but it does give a certain amount of reassurance. It serves to draw the reader closer, makes it more likely that they’ll click onward to read the book’s description.

It’s quite possible to design a cover that will do fairly well in the online marketplace yourself. I know people who have done it. I also know people who have failed.  Since I also planned to do a POD release, I made the decision to hire a professional designer. I didn’t want to take the time just now to learn how to do it properly.

I looked at the portfolios of about half a dozen artists. I loved the cover Rae Monet did for VEILED MIRROR which is coming out next month, but in the end I decided to go with Kim Killion at  Hot Damn Designs.

I’ve never hired someone to make an image in my head real before, so the process of working with an artist was also a learning experience, though fortunately, not a painful one. Kim had me fill out a questionaire and then based on my answers came up with a cover. (None of these images may be used without written permission from the artist and the author.)

I made suggestions for changes to the background and the title. Kim came back with an updated cover.

This is where I almost faltered.  This cover was close, and I almost accepted it.  But Kim hadn’t said anything about how many iterations were too many, and I remembered that I was paying for this service. So I clarified what I wanted and asked for changes.

I’m so glad I did, because Kim came back with a cover I love.

This experience has taught me a few things.

  • It’s good to have clear guidelines so you know what to expect before you start.
  • Ask (politely) for what you want. Ask more than once if you have to.
  • Know what you want.
  • Give your artist links to pictures that will help guide her.
  • Give your artist plenty of time to get the work done.
  • Get your cover done early. It’s great advertising, and great motivation for you!

 

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My Decision to Self-Publish

The commitment to self-publish came slowly to me. As is my nature, I had to collect lots and lots of information before I could make the decision, and while I was researching the publishing landscape changed tremendously. What was once a questionable move became an obvious choice to me and many others.

Still, there are many who doubt.

One of the most persistent objections I receive to me, personally, self-publishing is, “Oh but your stuff is too good to self-publish!” This invariably comes from other writers who have only published with traditional or small publishers. They’re happy with their experience and think I should do as they are doing. They believe that I’ll do my work a disservice by publishing myself. The (usually) unspoken assumption is that no one will find my excellent work swimming in the cesspool with all the other sloppy self-published crap that’s out there.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But not much.

And, in fact, some of the indie published books out there are poorly written, proofed, and formatted. The woman who just did my mammogram volunteered that observation without being aware that I planned to self-publish.

The irony is that if I followed the nay-sayers’ advice, if I held out for traditional publishing because my work “is too good,” I would only perpetuate the underlying assumption that all self-published work is sub-standard. That only losers who can’t get published any other way self-publish. And obviously, if you can’t sell to a traditional publisher, your work must not be very good.

News Flash! If you still believe that, you haven’t been paying attention to how publishing works today. Editors are generally good, hard-working people who want to find great books for their publishers. Traditional Publishers are mostly huge corporations that see books as product, and want to see huge growth in sales. Modest growth is not good enough anymore. Editors hands are being tied. To a large extent, editors alone do not decide if a book is to be purchased. If the marketing department doesn’t see your book as having break-out potential, no matter how good it is, you don’t get a contract. I know more than one solid, mid-list author who can’t sell their next books.

Does that mean your work isn’t good? No. Does it mean there aren’t readers who would love to read it, if they only had the chance? No.

Let’s all agree: bad writing is bad writing, and shouldn’t see the light of day. Nor should bad covers or bad formatting. Mike Stackpole says it very succinctly:

Don’t mistake what I’m saying above as an endorsement of willy-nilly publication of whatever’s been scribbled down. Self-publishers owe it to themselves, their careers and the readers to make sure their stories are the best they can possibly be. If you need an editor, beg, barter or pay for someone to edit your work. If you need covers, use a professional graphics designer and professionally produced art to get a great looking cover. The idea that “someone will buy it” isn’t good enough. You want your work to stand out, to be the choice, not a choice from a bunch of lackluster offerings. All writers must constantly remember that any offering will be some reader’s first exposure to their work. If you’re not taking your best shot, you’re just telling new readers that they should look elsewhere in the future.

I’m of Scottish descent. My parents grew up during the Great Depression. I hate spending money on myself, but I don’t mind investing in a mutual fund that will pay me dividends. That’s why I’m investing in my career. I could design my own cover, and I think I’d do a pretty decent job of it, but the money I’d save wouldn’t be worth the time it would take me to learn how to do it well. So I’m hiring Hot Damn Designs. In my opinion, Kim’s work is worth every penny.

I could ask a slew of beta readers to help me proof my manuscripts that have already been through two critique groups, but I want the confidence that having a freelance editor’s eyes on it will bring. I want to be sure, especially with this first (self-pubbed) book, that it’s the best I can make it.

I could learn to format my books for Kindle and Smashwords, but I’d rather be writing my next masterpiece. I’ve talked to too many writers who say it’s a pain in the butt. So I’m hiring someone to do that, too.

Tim Ferris calls it outsourcing. I call it the best use of my time.

Ultimately, it will be the readers who decide if what I’ve created is worth their time and money. It will take time for them to render their verdict. Self-pubbing is a marathon. It takes time, and the release of several books, to build a career and show whether it’s moving in the right direction.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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