The Self-Publishing Panel (Highlights)
On January 11th I sat down with a group of independent publishing professionals to chat about self-publishing. The panel, which you can watch in its 1:11:36 entire length is posted here. It has a cute beagle in the background and a hilariously tropey book cover design. Today I’ve compiled the highlights of that chat here for those who cannot stream video with audio.
- Carly Strickland: Sunshine’s Night Out, illustrator and book designer
- Bobby Nash: Evil Ways, author (audio only)
- Teal Haviland: The Reaping Chronicles, author (audio only)
- Kyle Strickland: Say No to Sparkles, author and editor
- JL Bryan (Jeff): Jenny Pox, author
- Blake Northcott: Arena Mode, author (comments read on air)
Amy: One of the things that I find with Createspace is that sometimes our covers come a little dark the first time because they are a digital print run, and digital printers tend to print colors a little darker. So one of the things that we find is best to do is always order a proof so that when it comes . . . we can lighten it up a little and try again.
Carly: You said digital printing tends to print dark. Everything. Everything always tends to print dark, always. Assume that they’re going to print darker than what you see on your computer screen because you’re printing . . . it’s made out of ink and not light, the way your computer screen is. Always make it lighter. Just go ahead and do it before you order a proof.
Bobby: I have other author friends that we’ve taken to trading editing advice with one another. I will read their novel, they will read mine, and then well give editorial advice that way . . . I found that the barter system works really well when you’re working with other writers who have editing experience.
Carly: More my illustrations and stuff, to make sure it looks right, I try to look at it in the mirror or black and white, because that makes a big difference for art . . . if you’ve got, you know, if you’ve got your drawings or whatever and you feel this could be slightly better but I don’t know why, put it in black and white, flip it, put it upside down, turn it around, ’cause just looking at it from a slightly different perspective will really help in that way.
Jeff: I found that the feedback that I was getting from other authors was as good as what I was paying for from the editors so I’ve gone to mostly a barter system.
Kyle: The first step for me in the editing process is to look at the work as a whole and figure out what direction the work is going in . . . Look at it with different hats on. So the first hat that I look at a work in is basically– does it make sense? Is it following its own rules? And then I look at it through the lens of– is it following appropriate story structure? Is it entertaining? Is it going for something and not reaching it? Why would it not be reaching it? And then beyond that we start getting into little details. We start getting into how the sentences fit together and grammar. And so it’s really look at it big, start getting smaller and smaller and more detail as you refine.
Amy: I think it’s important to not try to edit for grammar and spelling while you’re editing for content . . . Even Stephen King novels have typos in them. You’re never going to be perfect.
Carly: After you’ve got your proof, read it again, because having it in a different format or– put it on your Kindle before you get your proof and read it on there instead of reading it on the same Word document– will help.
Bobby: Reading it aloud helps. Especially with dialog.
Jeff: I’ve used Claudia from PhatPuppy Art for several of them– the majority of them . . . I’ve looked more into the pre-made covers that are a lot cheaper . . . it’s just kind of an intuitive proccess. You get something that’s read for your sub-genre so people know what kind of book it is.
Amy: I use modelmayhem.com to cast local models . . . my tip for people hiring a cover artist is don’t get too locked into what you want because, if you’re not an artist– even if you are an artist– sometimes what you think you want at the beginning is terrible . . . the best graphic designer in the world if they have really strict parameters is not going to be able to make it work.
Bobby: If you’ve got something you’re happy with [indescribable] distance. And see if it still works from a distance because people are looking at thumbnail size.
Blake: Mine were all by Amir Seleha.
Cover Blunders to Avoid
- too many elements
- irrelevant imagery
- poorly Photoshopped images
- copyrighted images
- cheesy Photoshop filters (esp. to “hide” stolen images)
- difficult-to-read fonts
- cliche fonts (Comic Sans, Arial, Papyrus)
- low-resolution images (less than 300 dpi)
Bobby: With social media there are those authors who get on there and every post is buy my book, buy my book, buy my book. And I found myself ignoring [indiscernible] I wouldn’t even bother to read their posts because I knew what they were going to say.
Jeff: Rafflecopter giveaways will build up your social media following . . . try to find interesting things to post that would probably appeal to your readers but don’t have anything to do with selling your books . . . and when you do come out with something people will help share your stuff because you haven’t been spamming them all year with buy links.
Blake: Choose a target. Choose a Twitter handle . . . the more specific you are, the more likely someone will follow you . . . Be consistent . . . Reply. Especially when you’re first starting out, write everyone back. In my first year of Twitter/Facebook, I was probably writing 200 replies a day, easily. They don’t have to be long, but you must keep a dialogue going.
Amy: Writers are readers. People who ask me questions about writing, chances are they like to read books and are looking to buy books.
Blake: Conventions are a great way to meet people, make new contacts in industry and get in touch with any fans that are interested in your work! Its so meaningful to them to get a face to face opportunity to promote your work. I love meeting anyone who has read my books, and takes the time to come out and say hello!
Bobby: People coming to sit at their tables and sell their books is fine, people like that, but telling them you’re willing to do panels or, you know, whatever events during the day and go and do those things– that kind of makes you a little more valuable to the convention.
Jeff: (On perma-free) If thousands of people are downloading it every month, eventually someone will review it.
Blake: Asking for people’s input on Amazon reviews has been great for me. Some are positive, some negative. But I always think its important to appreciate the readers that take the time to post a review. Every time I get a 1-star review, the next day my sales go up.
Bobby: I do try to, when someone does review, I do try to share the review and thank the person for taking the time to share the review. Obviously, rule number one is don’t argue with people who don’t like your book. That’s very important, ’cause it will never go well for you as the writer. You’re immediately going to come off looking bad, so don’t do that.
Amy: If you argue with reviewers you will end up featured on a Goodreads community and everybody will blacklist your book . . . Some people just won’t like your book . . . there are these nice little things called QR codes, if you . . . just type in Kaywa on Google. It’ll generate a QR code for you and you can stick in in your book and people with smart phones can just scan it and go post a review on Amazon.
Teal: What seems to be doing the best so far, and I hate to say it, is paying for the Facebook ads. I’ve gotten a lot of good results paying for those Facebook ads and they’re very expensive, I don’t do them often, but that is what seems to be the best return of investment for me at this point.
You can hear all of the comments transcribed here, plus expanded versions of this advice by watching the video at Matter Deep Publishing.