Investing in an eye-catching book cover

This post is the fortieth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I discussed two components of your book cover – the title and your author name (and whether a pen name would be beneficial.) Today, I want to cover the designing of your book cover.

The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

Things you want in a cover:

  • Simple, easy to understand
  • Having an impact or something that grabs the reader’s attention
  • If it is for an e-book, make sure it looks good at thumbnail size.

Things to avoid:

  • Too many things on the cover/clutter
  • Bad layout where title and author names are in bad location or size. (If you are famous, your name could be bigger than the title but typically you want the title to stand out more than your name.)

Now you may already have an idea about what you want on your cover, but if not, you may want to visit a book store or browse Amazon to see what style of cover grabs your attention.

If you have the resources and the know-how, there is nothing wrong with creating your own cover if it looks professional and is eye-catching. But most authors are better off if they let an expect design their cover. There are a variety of different designers out there offering a wide variety of cover designs.

To find a list of cover designers, check out this list on Smashwords. From there, you can look at each designer’s portfolio and pricing. (Some of the more popular ones have really long wait lists for covers!) The process will go easier if you have an idea of what you want on your cover,  but if you have no clue, most designers will be able to show you a few options based on your story synopsis or sample chapters.

Unless you are going to pay someone to draw your cover, most designers are going to be working with graphics and stock photos. If you want an idea of what is out there, check out stock photo sites such as istockphotodreamstime and bigstockphoto.

There are even designers that have pre-made covers that they just drop in your title and name. I am not saying these are bad if you just happen to find something that fits your book perfectly but in general, I would rather have something designed specifically for my book.

Take some time to look at covers of popular books and find out what you like. Think about what you think will entice a reader to pick up or click on your book. And then take the time to create a profession design or have someone do it for you. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

This post is the thirty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

If you are going to publish a book, even if it is only an e-book, you will need a cover. If you are going with a traditional publisher, the design of your cover may or may not have your input. If you are going the self-publishing route, the cover design is up to you.

Before we go into the details of cover design, I want to go over two things that will appear on your book cover – the book title and your author name.

Book Title

Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. The title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short, so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover.

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person looking at your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a title that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same title, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And, of course, do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

Author Names/Pen Names

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you or search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well-known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check Amazon to see if there is already an author by that name. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

Now that we have covered your title and author name, next week, I’ll go over cover art and layout.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

6 book promoting tips

A lot of times as authors promote their book through trial and error they find things not to do. Maybe a blog tour doesn’t work out the way they planned or a holiday sale doesn’t bring in the sales they hoped for.

Learning from our mistakes lets us know what we shouldn’t do but doesn’t necessarily say what we SHOULD do. And the problem is what works for one author, may not work for another.

Sometimes it is the small things that you do as an author that have the biggest impact. Here are six book-promoting tips that should help all authors.

1.) Invest in a good cover – Yes, yes. We have all heard this before. But it bears repeating again. A good cover is one that is uncluttered and stands out when at thumbnail size. You have mere seconds to grab a reader’s attention.

Readers will not see this cover first.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcover

What they will see is this cover as a small thumbnail first.

thumbnail

2.) Include your other books and upcoming releases in the back matter – If readers have finished your book, most likely they enjoyed it. So now is the time to tell them about your other books. List series in order and let them know about upcoming releases. But don’t just tell them – provide them with links! And don’t forget to ask your readers to write a review.

3.) If writing a series, consider pricing your first book for 99 cents or free – I have tried many series because the first book was discounted. And you can bet that if I liked that one, I will be willing to purchase the other books in the series at a slightly higher price. And once they start reading your books they may buy other books not in the series.

4.) Include you Buy Link high on your page – When running a promotion, request that the buy link be at the top of the page near the book cover and not at the bottom of the page. You want it easy for readers to buy your books. I have to admit that the way I lay out my Friday Featured Author page, the buy link is always at the very bottom. But people shouldn’t have to scroll through the whole page to find it. So I guess from now on I will put it in BOTH locations so readers never have to hunt to find it.

5.) Promotion of a new release can never start too early – Some authors wait to release date or right before release day to give out details on their books. They may hold off so they don’t spoil anything, or perhaps they want to have something to announce on that day. But your promotion of your book should happen months before. You want to tease readers. You want the clamoring for the book to come out. You can do announcements on title choices or cover reveals. And of course, run excerpts of your book on your blog in advance of its release.

6.) Work to market directly to your readers or potential readers – Instead of hoping someone stumbles onto your blog, consider doing a newsletter to keep readers up to date on your work. And if you do a new release contest, be sure to email the losers too. Not only can you tell them you appreciate them entering but the email can be a gentle reminder that your book is out and available for them to purchase. Anytime you can be proactive and reach out directly to your readers (rather than waiting for them to find you) is a good thing.

Promoting yourself as an author really is just a matter of trying to find out what works for you. I hope these tips will help. If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share them in the comment section. They just may help another author.

Investing in a professional-looking, eye-catching book cover

Two weeks ago I revisited one of my first posts about writing (Freezing time) or probably more aptly about finding the time to be a writer. Well, today,  I want to revisit one of my first posts on publishing – the all-important book cover.

SummonedFINALThe cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book (or in the case of e-books click on the image).

The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

The SearchIf you have the know-how, there is nothing wrong with designing your own book cover as long as it looks professional and eye catching. I actually have the skills to do my own cover (and did the cover for The Search) but for my other four fantasy novels, I have left the cover design up to someone with a little more experience.

You may go in knowing what you want or you may want to give the cover designers a few chapters to get an idea of your style and story. One way to get an idea of what you like, visit Amazon and see what grabs your attention.

Now unless you are willing to pay someone to draw you a cover, most designers are using stock photos and graphics.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverThe problem with writing fantasy is that many of the models in those stock photos are wearing modern clothing. Even the ones in “medieval” garb are not wearing what those in my story wear. It makes selecting artwork hard. If you want an idea of what is out there, check out at stock photo sites such as istockphotodreamstime and bigstockphoto.

There are several websites that offer cheap book covers that they have pre-made and just drop in your title and name. I am not saying these are bad if you just happen to find something that fits your book perfectly but in general, I would rather have something designed for my book that won’t be seen elsewhere.

To find a list of cover designers, check out this list on Smashwords.

Things you want in a cover:

  • Simple, easy to understand
  • Having an impact or something that grabs the reader’s attention
  • If it is for an e-book, make sure it looks good at thumbnail size.

Things to avoid:

  • Too many things on the cover/clutter
  • Bad layout where title and author names are in bad location or size. (If you are famous, your name could be bigger than the title but typically you want the title to stand out more than your name.)

Just remember whether you use a “stock” cover, design one yourself or have an expert design your cover, the main goal of the cover is to generate interest and excitement. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.

The all-important book title and covers…

As I work on the second draft of my novel, I have begun thinking about the cover and the title. Even though I have written about both subjects before, I wanted to revisit them since they are so important to the overall impression of the book. They set the tone and create an expectation for the reader.

Titles

I never had any problem with picking a title for the books in my trilogy. box setOnce I decided that The Elemental would be the name of my trilogy instead of the first book, the title Summoned just seemed most appropriate. Quietus and Destiny also were easy picks after I decided to stick with one-word titles.

But my latest book isn’t as easy. The working title has always just been Alexandria. On this blog, I have also referred to the working title as Finding Alexandria.

The other day, my husband suggested Heir of Alexandria. I thought that sounded good. But a quick search on Amazon shows that Mercedes Lackey has a series called Heirs of Alexandria. Darn. I would rather not have my title the same as a series of five books.

Of course Summoned and Destiny are titles that others have used, but I try to stay away from titles used by popular authors. I mean I would never name my book Gone with the Wind or The Hunt for Red October.

So I have considered Alexandria’s Heir or The Search for Alexandria’s heir. I don’t know. Nothing is really clicking with me yet.

Covers                                                   

Covers are very important as this is the first thing the reader sees. You want to select something that intrigues them enough to click on your link and read the book description.

The SearchThis means you want a professional-looking cover. Now I know enough graphic design to design my own (and did so for my short story The Search), but I choose to let someone else with a little more experience do the covers from my trilogy.

Unless you are willing to pay someone to draw you a cover, most designers are using stock photos and graphics. The problem with writing fantasy is that many of the models in those photos are wearing modern clothing. Even the ones in “medieval” garb are not wearing what those in my story wear. It makes selecting artwork hard. And don’t even get me started on finding a decent dragon artwork to use.

So I have been spending some time looking at stock photo sites such as istockphoto and dreamstime. I would love to feature the necklace my character wears but again, there is no artwork that looks like it and I can’t draw. I guess I could look into someone else drawing it for me, but I am wanting to keep my costs low.

I also need to decide if I want to stick with the woman who designed my trilogy covers or go with someone new. She has raised her prices considerably since last time.

Ahh…so much to decide before proceeding. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions on such important topics, so I guess I will keep mulling over what I want to do.

Publishing your novel – recap

I am coming up on two years as an Indie Author. Summoned came out in August 2011 and was followed by Quietus in November of that year. The final book in my trilogy, Destiny, was released in November 2012. CIMG1036I also published a short story, The Search, in September 2012. I have learned a lot over the past two years and have written numerous blogs about self-publishing your book. Here is a recap of some of those posts…

Investing in an Awesome Book Cover – The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the link.  Click here to read more.

Setting the price for your e-book – You have spent months, even years, toiling over this book. You of course think it is worth just as much as any New York bestseller. The problem is you aren’t Stephen King or John Grisham. No one – or very few people – recognizes your name. Click here to read more.

Writing an awesome book blurb – A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having a book cover that entices the reader to pick up your book or in the digital age, click on the link for your book. Now that the cover has done its job, you need an awesome book description to entice the reader to purchase your book. Click here to read more.

Tips for drafting your author bio – Every author needs an author bio, whether it is for their book, web page, Facebook, author page or when appearing as a guest blogger. The purpose of an author bio is to give readers a clue about who you are and what you are about. Click here to read more.

Does your e-book need a table of contents? You have written your e-book and are ready to publish it. So do you need to include a table of contents? Well, that will depend on the type of book. Click here to read more.

Should you use a Pen Name? – Actors and musicians often don’t use their given names. Some authors also decide to publish under a pseudonym or pen name.  Click here to read more.

Virtual Book Tours: Are they worth it? A popular way to promote your book is to do a book tour. But with limited time and money, many authors opt to forgo touring to physical locations and choose a virtual tour. Click here to read more.

The Benefit of Joining Author Groups  – Becoming a self-published author doesn’t mean you have to navigate the self-publishing world alone. One of the best things I have found is all the wonderful support from other indie authors. They can help you promote your book, give you encouragement, discuss current publishing trends and advise you on which promotional opportunities helped them the most. Click here to read more.

Publishing your e-book through Smashwords – Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers. Click here to read more.

Hopefully, these nine posts can help you start your own self-publishing career.

Investing in an Awesome Book Cover

The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

If you have the resources and the know-how, there is nothing wrong with creating your own cover. I actually could have designed my own cover but instead decided to let a professional design it. You can get a list of low-cost designers from Smashwords by sending an email to list@smashwords.com.

From there I just went to several websites and looked at each designer’s portfolio and pricing. I wanted a good-looking cover, but I also didn’t want to pay a fortune for it. I chose Digital Donna to do my design. Working with Donna was easy and all done over e-mail.

I had some specific ideas in mind, and it will help you too to know a little about what you want on your cover. For me, I was looking for the things that would make me pick up this book, which means it needed to have a dragon, a cat and some hint of magic. (The cat, one of my main characters, didn’t make it onto the cover.) I also wanted a picture of my main character, Lina, using her Elemental power.

Unless you are going to pay someone to draw your cover, most designers are going to be working with graphics and photos. So before contacting Donna, I spent some time looking at some artwork sites – Dreamstime, istockphoto, and bigstockphoto – until I found the artwork of a woman who I thought looked similar to Lina. The hardest part was that since this is a fantasy piece, my characters are not wearing modern clothing. But this photo of a woman with her palm out was perfect. To add the aspect of Elemental magic, Donna placed a fireball in her palm.

To link all three books of the trilogy together, I decided to make the covers similar – mainly just changing which Elemental power Lina is holding in her hand and the title color. So the cover for the second book, Quietus, uses the same artwork but has Lina suspending a large ball of water over her hand. The cover of the third book will feature her holding a miniature twister.

I love the way the covers turned out and have had quite a few complements on them. Take some time to look at covers of popular books and find out what you like. Think about what you think will entice a reader to pick up or click on your book. And then take the time to create a profession design or have someone do it for you. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.