Author Solutions, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

Over the past year, I have gotten to know, Adam Hall, who is a book designer for indie authors. His website,  is a showcase for his work, but Adam also does design for a variety of diverse projects and audiences. He has worked with both first-time and experienced authors on one book or a series. I asked him to share some of his insights recently about designing for books. His answers to my questions follow below.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

How did you start designing book covers? 

I got my start by doing a favor for a friend, Ernie Lindsey. He is an indie writer who has made the USA Today Bestseller list with his series, Sara’s Game. A few years ago he needed some help tweaking a cover. Ernie and I have now collaborated on about 10+ projects. Through his, and other’s encouragement, I decided to make it my focus in my design career.

“……a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”

 From your experience what are the keys to making a book cover design work really well?

The cover needs to convey the genre, and give a clue into the story. It doesn’t need to tell the whole story, but create enough intrigue to catch the readers’ eye. Focus on typography as much as the images. If the art is brilliant, but the title text is all wrong, the whole piece falls flat. The art and typography have to work together.

How does book cover design differ from other design projects you do?

In addition to book covers, I work with musicians and bands on artwork and websites. With music design you are basically marketing the individual or group. With book covers you are telling a story. It is fun to find that nugget in the story that you can use in artwork to capture that the idea in the book in one image. That makes book cover design more challenging than doing design for music, but that’s part of what makes it fun.

The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

What design mistakes do you see most often on book covers?

One common mistake is not considering all formats when doing the cover design. You have to make sure the cover looks great in thumbnail size AND full size. You only have a split second to catch a potential reader’s eye as they’re searching out that next book. The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

What tips would you give to first time authors?

I think two of the most important people an author can find are a good editor and designer. You have to trust both to make your work the best it can be.

When it comes to working with a designer, do your due diligence and look at a designer’s previous work. A friend of mine has said “a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”. I thought that was a brilliant point. Find a designer who can help make your cover one that motivate readers to buy your book.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

5 free webinars every aspiring author should watch

As part of my role with Author Solutions, I have the opportunity to give and participate in numerous webinars for writers and authors for The Author Learning Center, Hay House and iUniverse to name a few. I always enjoy the experience, but I have to tell you I think some of the best webinars available to authors are on the Archway Publishing website.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site

Full disclosure: I am always involved with approving the topics.and sometimes talk with the presenter to help shape the content, but each time I am always thoroughly impressed with the content and the topics that Simon and Schuster makes available to authors through Archway.

Here are the webinars that you can access for free to learn more about what it takes to publish a better book and market it more effectively.

  1. Secrets of an Acquisitions Editor – How To Get The Attention of a Traditional Publisher-Presenter: Michael Szezeran, Editor at Simon & Schuster
  2. Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make–Presenter: Abby Zidle, Senior Editor at Gallery Books and Pocket Books
    from Simon & Schuster
  3. Four Keys To A Killer Cover–Presenter:Jason Heuer, Associate Art Director at Simon & Schuster
  4. Best Practices For Authors on Facebook–Presenter: Susan B. Katz, Author & Strategic Manager at Facebook
  5. How To Capture Attention On Twitter–Presenter: Andrew Fitzgerald, Twitter Media Team
Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

4 takeaways from BEA (Book Expo America) that authors should know about.

Last week I attended the premier industry tradeshow, Book Expo America, also affectionately known as BEA. Here were some of my observations.

Book Expo America show floor

Lots of activity on the Book Expo America show floor (Book Expo America)

The death of publishing is greatly exaggerated.

While publishing has gone through significant changes the past year, the floor was still filled with lots of new books and authors. Then on the weekend, the doors were open to readers and the floor was filled with lots of eager fans ready to meet some of their literary stars.

Publishing is still a place for start-ups.

One of the more interesting sections for the trade show floor was dedicated to start-ups focused on the publishing industry. I did not get a chance to walk all the booths in Start-Up Alley, but judging by the amount of space they occupied, there were a number of new ideas trying to gain traction. Time will tell but it was encouraging to see investment in new ideas for readers and authors.

Using social media for discovery is a big topic.

As expected a hot topic was how to use social to promote discoverability. One of the most interesting new entrants is Bookgrabbr. According to their site, BookGrabbr is an App and web-based technology product designed to expand the brand and media platform of any author by creating and increasing visibility in the book community and securing new readers and customers for those authors’ books.

Smiling Archway authors packed the booth at BEA.

Smiling Archway authors packed the booth at BEA. One author even wore a Superman cape.

Archway Publishing authors were extremely happy.

At the end of the show, Archway Publishing hosted a reception for authors. As usual, the authors who attend BEA and the event, loved it. I heard two words consistently, “overwhelming and exciting”. That is how authors felt about the time at the Expo and at the reception. It is always a great way to close out the day.

authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing

3 statements I hear from first-time authors that make me cringe.

Over the years, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors and there are three phrases I sometimes hear that give me pause.Quote marrks

“The audience for my book is every man, woman and child on the planet”

Identifying your audience is one of the keys to creating an effective marketing plan for your book. If your target is too broad, it will be difficult if not impossible to be successful.  Plus, you set unrealistic expectations that will only lead to disappointment.  Instead you should:

  • Describe who you think will most likely read your book in terms of gender, age, occupation if relevant.
  • Write a simple statement as to why you think they will want to read your book
  • Identify where you think your audience looks for information. If they are engaged on social media, be specific about which platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Consider what events do they attend and can you have a presence there as an exhibitor or speaker
  • Think of anywhere locally where your target audience might congregate?

“My daughter is an artist”

Your book cover is first marketing decision, so having an appropriate and eye-catching cover is very important. Unfortunately, too often first-time authors make decisions based on personal preference or to be provocative. Knowing someone who can draw or who is a graphic designer is not the same as working with a cover designer. Cover design is a particular skill so you will want to make sure you work with someone or a team who has experience specifically designing book covers. You can find more information about good cover design in the post I did titled, Six tips from wicked good book cover designers,

“My job was to write the book. Someone else can promote it.”

Book Marketing sign postOne of the great myths among first time authors is that if they get published by a traditional publisher, then someone else will do the marketing for their book. The reality is no matter how you publish, you still need to be involved in the promotion of your book.  One of the key ways is to use social media to connect with and cultivate an audience. In fact, one the criteria most traditional publishers consider when acquiring a title is the platform of the author.  If you want to learn more about how to develop your marketing acumen, you might want to consider reading this post, Confused about how to do book marketing? Here is a simple way to build an effective marketing plan.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

Writing your second book: Westbow Press Mark Eckel shares how he got to the goal.

A few months ago, I interviewed Mark Eckel after he published his first book, I Just Need Time to Think. That manuscript was a compilation of posts Mark has written for his Warp and Woof  blog. I was interested in offering insights from him because I speak to a number of bloggers, but few actually get to the goal of publishing a book. I thought it would be helpful to share what Mark had done and learned from his experience to help others who want to turn their blog into a book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Now Mark has released another book, When the Lights Go Down. Once again, he has done something few authors accomplish. He has published a second book. So I thought it would be helpful to learn what he did to reach the goal of publishing another book and hear what advice he would give to aspiring authors. What follows are answers to questions I posed to Mark about his experience as an author so far. I think you will find his comments to be very helpful.

This is the second book you have self-published recently. What prompted you to write a this book?

I love movies, so I wrote a book! J For over 30 years I have been watching, discussing, and interpreting movies with my students. The book is full of stories from these encounters. But there is another reason: I have a large backlog of writing which needs the organization a book can provide. If one has a large amount of written material, writing a book becomes much easier.

What did you learn from writing you first book that helped you when you wrote your second book?

Cover design: Instead of choosing a photo for the cover as I did for the first book I let Westbow’s design group create the book’s appearance. Everyone remarks about how good the cover looks.

Editing: I had the Westbow editors do the edits for the first book and was so impressed I used them again this time. Even with the costs involved the book looks so much better ‘punched up’ by a good set of eyes who know the market.

Organization: Many people had commented about how much they liked my layout of short essays for the first book. I used the same approach for the second book with similar responses.

What did you learn about marketing your first book that you are using as you market your second book?

Professors. I sent a galley copy to a colleague who immediately adopted it for a class. I am using the same approach this time.

Students. Often the people I teach will want a copy of the book.

Conferences. When I speak to large audiences, the emcee is grateful to be able to hold up a copy of a book I have written.

Reviewers. I asked a good number of people to write reviews for the first book. In the second book I asked 16 people to contribute interviews which provides a built-in promotional-audience.

Foreword. I desire to have high-profile leaders create publicity for the book. The first book foreword was written by a college president, the second by a famous film festival founder. In both cases, all I had to do was ask.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found as a published author?

I never cease to be amazed at the response people have to holding a book with my name on it. There is an immediate attitude of respect folks give authors. My response is always the same: humble gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and the humbled by the possibility that the writing could benefit others for good.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

From self-published Archway author to Simon and Schuster: Virginia Castleman shares how it happened.

One of the great things about the Indie revolution is the only path to traditional publishing used to be work through an agent and have the book acquired. That has obviously changed as evidenced by this video. Virginia Castleman had a manuscript that bounced around among agents and publishing houses for years. Publishers were interested, but then they left the imprint and so she had to start over.

Finally, she decided to self-publish her book Strays with Archway Publishing and that’s how Simon and Schuster found her. Her book was acquired by Aladdin books and slated for release next year.  Listen to what Virginia has to say about her experience.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

7 simple things you can do to build awareness for your self published book

This past weekend I gave the evening keynote at the West Coast Writer’s Conference Indie Publishing Conference.  I always enjoy those times, because along with meeting many aspiring authors and sharing the 4 Paths to Publishing with them, I also have opportunity to learn myself. At lunch on Saturday, Bill Van Orsdel from Bookfuel, gave a really insightful presentation on book marketing.  Inspired by his talk, I wanted to share some simple things you can do to build awareness for your book before and after your title goes live.

  1. Communicate your milestones–It sounds simple, but every time you reach a milestone such as completing a draft or submitting your manuscript or holding a book signing, let your followers and fans know. It may not seem like much, but it will help you keep people engaged and anticipate what’s next with your book.
  2. Create an engagement contest–This is where you offer different potential titles or book covers and ask your community to weigh in on which they like best. This obviously is a pre-launch activity, but it can be a great way to build a base of potential book buyers.  This also assumes you have a blog where you can post options and let them vote through a poll or in the comment section.

    If possible test different prices to see if you can build demand for your book.

  3. Experiment with the price of your book or books–There has been a lot written about pricing e-books to gain readers and certainly that is worth trying, but you want to be sure you have a clear strategy and goal. You may even want to test giving it away for a short period of time or use one of the sites out there that can facilitate that for you. I also think it is worth experimenting with your print books as well.  I spoke at a conference a few months ago and had both of my print books there. I suggest retail was $10 each but you could buy both for $15. I sold more books at that event than any other.
  4. Offer a giveaway if you can–you may be able to facilitate this through your own website or blog or use a site like Goodreads, but this can be an effective way to help build your mailing list. Use social media to also promote it, but be sure you are clear on where you will deliver books to winners. On Goodreads, you can limit to the US, which may be a good idea if you want to limit your postage cost.
  5. Consider running a PPC campaign–PPC stands for pay-per-click and is the type of campaigns you run online through Google. This probably only makes sense if you have a non-fiction book with a specific topic that people would search for such as autism or financial planning. If you consider this as a marketing option, make sure you understand how this works and you set daily limits on your spend. I have seen people spend more money than they expected because they did not set up their
    Using trending hashtags can be away to tie your book to current events.

    Using trending hashtags can be away to tie your book to current events.

    accounts properly.

  6. Pursue events where you can promote your book–Seems rather obvious to make this statement, but it is worth noting, you have to find places to promote your book. They will not find you. Bookstores and libraries are the most obvious places to start, but get creative. Think about what other places might have a connection or interest in your book. I know authors who have done events at restaurants, hair salons and churches.
  7. Use trending #hashtags–Bill made this point in his presentation and I thought it was a great idea. For example if there is a comet that is approaching the earth and you have a science fiction book that involves a comet use that in tweets about your book. The key is pay attention to what is trending and create an authentic connection to the hashtag and your book. This is certainly more opportunistic than planned, but I suspect in the right situation, it would yield some great results.

I trust you found this list helpful. Are there other things you are doing to build awareness for you book? Share those in the comment section and I will post.