Friday, May 6, 2011

Self Publishing Cover Art Design Part II by Katie Salidas

Self-Publishing Cover Art - Part Two

Tips for DIY cover design.
For the true DIY self-publisher, doing your own book cover can be another way to maintain 100% control over the product.
For that, you will have to have the software capable of manipulating photographs, and the knowledge on how to do it.
If you’re just starting out and want to create ebook only files you can download a free program called GIMP ( ) This image manipulation program will help you do the basic things you need to make a cover that can be used for ebooks. It works in RGB (Red Green Blue) only so it will not be able to create your print book files which require CMKY (Cyan, Magenta, Key (black), and Yellow). For print-ready files you will need something a little more powerful. The most popular would be PhotoShop.
Now, I won’t be going into detail there (if you want a Photoshop manual, I’d suggest hopping down to your local bookstore.) What I will do though, is give you some guidelines on the basic elements of a good book cover.
A book cover contain three basic elements: striking artwork, a bold book title, and a legible author's name. 
Let’s start with art. The first thing you should ask yourself is. what’s my genre?
When picking cover art, you need to use something that fits within the “norm” for your genre. Look at other books and see what overall theme or style they use. For example: Urban fantasy. Lately, the trend for urban fantasy is a kick ass female on the cover. She’s generally in front of or apart of some city view. How about Romance? Generally romance covers have a man and woman in an intimate setting. Simple enough, right?
These are the norms and what you want to use as your jumping off point for searching out your artwork. You want to make sure your readers, who expect a certain “look or feel” to know that your book fits with their standards. That does not mean copy someone else’s cover, it means use it as a springboard.
Once you have an idea of what you want, you’ll need to locate the artwork. There are many places online to find and purchase royalty-free images. Here are a few listings to get you started.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of photo’s out there for you to purchase. Prices and quality span the ranges through the sites but if you’re willing to spend the time looking, you can come up with some beautiful art.
Something to consider when choosing your art.
Because book covers are not just for hardbound and softcover anymore, you’ll need to make sure your artwork translates to the ereader screen as well.
Ebooks are all the rage and that means your cover has to work with ereaders which primarily have a gray scale screen. Certain colors (red for example) will not show up well on a gray scale screen. The same applies to many pastels. You’ll need to check out your artwork in a black and white or gray scale form before finalizing it. Don’t risk alienating readers because you didn’t ensure the artwork was compatible.
Along with that, please keep it simple. Many new self-publishers feel the need to make their cover stand out by encompassing every single element possible from the story. Less is more! Some of the best covers out there are ones with simple yet bold statements.
Beyond beautiful artwork, there is also the typography to consider too. Your title and author name needs to be clearly visible to readers. Remember your cover is the first thing they see. You want to make sure they can clearly distinguish you and your book on first sight.
Things to consider with font.
1. Organize size of fonts in order of importance. Title of the book should be the largest font on the cover. Author name should smaller. Any subsequent text or quotes you wish to add should continue to be smaller in size.
2. Select color of fonts to stand out, yet still feel like it belongs.
3. Organize placement of fonts to work with the artwork, not against it. Don't cover up beautiful artwork with your words. Yes, some things will get covered, but you do not have to plaster a title across the best part of the picture.
4. Don't clutter the cover with text. Only text that is absolutely necessary should be there. Quotes are nice, but limit it to one on the cover. Use your interior pages for continued praise of the book.
Pick fonts that are striking and bold enough to be seen in both large and small sizes. You have to account for the people who might pick you up on a store shelf as well as those browsing the virtual racks.
Amazon is one of the biggest ebook retailers and when browsing through their store book covers are shrunk to about 105x135 pixels. If your book cover doesn’t look good that small, it will turn readers away. Picking fonts that are strong enough and clear enough to be read at this small of a size is a must!
Do not pick more than 2 fonts to use on your front cover. You might think it’s cute to have different fonts for the title, author name, and various quotes, but trust me, it only makes your cover look amateurish. Stick with one, or two fonts for the cover. That includes front, back, & spine.
Once you’ve got your font picked out, placing it on the cover art can be tricky. You want it to fit nicely within the art or around the art without detracting from it.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to type placement on book covers. No matter where you decide to place the text, try to avoid running your text all the way to the end of the image. In print, you’ll end up cutting off part of the title in the bleed area. In ebooks, your title will just look crowded. 
Thank you Katie for sharing with us.  You have given everyone some things to think about definitely.  You can find more tips and hints to publishing and editing by visiting Katie online at Written In Blood

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Self Publishing Cover Art Design by Katie Salidas

Self-Publishing Cover Art - Part One

Book Cover Design.

Let’s face it; people do judge a book by its cover. Book browsers will only give a book a few seconds glance. Good cover can draw potential readers in whereas a poorly designed cover, can send them screaming for the hills.
This is what drives many people to pay hundreds of dollars to do a cover for them. I’m not saying that’s wrong. Just please remember your budget.
 Your cover should do three things: Advertise the book, showcase the author, and set the “feel” of the book.
That’s the first thing people are going to see when they look at your work. So it goes without saying, that you cover needs to really grab their attention. It needs to stand out among thousands of other books within its genre.
If you’re book catches their eye, it might get them to read the back cover, or product description (for online shopping). Beyond that, they may take a chance on a sample, or decide to buy the book right there. And that’s exactly what you want.
Remember this when thinking of cover design. It’s the most important visual sales tool you have, and worth spending a little extra time and a few extra dollars on. Cover art and editing are the two places where most of your budget will be spent (marketing being the remainder).

For most of us, cover art is something we will have to hire out for. We’re writers, that doesn’t mean we’re graphic artist. “Don’t quit your day job.” It’s okay to NOT be a graphic artist. If you don’t have the skills necessary to produce a professional-looking book cover, then you’ll need to get in touch with a freelance artist.
There are a wide variety of freelance graphic artist available who can produce a beautiful cover, prices however, will vary depending on the artist, so shop around. One thing to consider when looking for artists: you want someone who specializes in book cover art. Not all artist are suited for working on book covers. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Willsin’s World – Book covers & trailers
Phatpuppy Art – Beautiful artwork available for purchase and use as book covers.
Ronnell D. Porter – Book Cover Design
Intense Whisper – Book Cover Design
Extended Imagery – Book Cover Design
Those are just a few of the many designers out there. Do your research and ask around to find your designers. Social networking sites like Facebook are wonderful for this, there are lots of groups out there with aspiring novelist, they are a wealth of information and leads.
Once you’ve hired a designer, there is one important thing to remember. In most cases, you are purchasing rights to use their artwork. The art is not yours and yours alone. You’ll need to know if those are exclusive rights or if they are just general rights of use.
Exclusive rights means you are the only one that will be able to use that picture. Exclusive rights may have some limitations on them. In some cases, there are time limits. You may have rights of exclusivity for a year or more, or you may have permanent exclusive rights. This is an important thing to consider when paying someone to create your cover.
Tips for working with a cover designer.
Look for someone who wants to work with your vision. This is your baby and the cover is the first thing people will see. Have an idea of what you want and look for someone who can work with your idea. There is nothing worse than working with someone who wants to steamroll your idea with their own because they are an “artist.” If the artist is not someone you can work with, no matter how good they are, they aren’t the artist for you.
Along with that, you want to work with someone you are comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for changes if the artwork they present isn’t quite right. You need someone you can work with.
Always get things in writing. Even if it’s just an email, make sure all details of your agreement are on some form of written communication. This protects both you and the designer from risk. Whenever possible, a contract is best, but not all freelancers work with contracts. Having things in writing is a way to ensure that there is no confusion in details, rights, and payment.
Know what you need. Beyond the idea of what kind of art you want, your designer will want to know important details about the specifications about your book. I learned this the hard way. Know what your book dimensions will be before this step. Know the page count, know the size of the book, paper or Hb. Do your book layout first. Along with that, know your deadline.
Lastly, make sure your artist takes payment in two parts. This, just like getting everything in writing, protects you both. Half payment should be made when you hire/commission the artist, and the second half should be paid upon delivery of final product. Paying all of the money upon delivery places pressure on the artist to rush to give you the art so they can get paid. Paying all of the money in advance can hurt you as well. It means you are taking a risk that the art will be exactly what you want. In most cases, it will, but there are some cases where you and the artist might not see eye to eye and once monies have exchanged hands, things get hairy. So, remember, paying in halves is the best way to go. 
 Katie Salidas is the author of the Immortalis Series.  She offers editing and publishing tips on her blog and is a fantastic writer to boot.  Stop in and check her out at Written In Blood
Stay tuned for Part Two on Self Publishing Cover Art Design.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So You Want to Write a Book?

Whether it's


There are some things to consider before making this new venture.  First let's talk about the Muse.  Have you had thoughts running through your head about a great character,  or seen something as you pass by or see on television where you say,  "That would make a great story!"?  That,  my friend,  is your muse talking.  Some of us brush it off saying,  "Yeah right!  Like I could ever write a book."  Others of us run at full speed and just accept the fact that the Muse is aching to get out.  There may even be some of us that are scared to death to put our thoughts on paper thinking it's just an unobtainable goal or worse yet,  (gasp)  people will laugh at us. 

Well let me tell you some of the greatest books come from those that never thought they could do it!  

Decide what you will need,  a computer,  a journal,  coffee,  music,  silence,  night or day.  Then set goals for yourself.  How many words per day are you aiming for?  No matter what,  write everyday and reward yourself when you've met your daily goals. 

So what needs to be done for the creation of a good book?

First,  you need an idea/thought.  Ideas come from all around us.  Something we see while driving a car,  something a kid may have said during supper,  a television commercial,  a leaf blowing in the wind.  

The human brain process around 50,000 thoughts per day.  That is 32 thoughts per second.  Our brain is always working regardless of what we're doing.  An amazing organ the brain is.

Once you have a thought or idea,  then you need to decide where you want to take it.  Who will be your main character?  Will it be a man or woman?  What is he/she like?  Caddy?  Strong?  Sarcastic?  Beautiful?

Once you decide on your main character,  decide what type of book you'd like to create with that character. 
Maybe your character fits the bill of a romantic cowboy.   Maybe he/she is a vampire looking for ways to fit into human society.  Maybe they like time travel.  Create a resume' for your character.  What have they done,  what will they do,  where have they been and where are they heading in the future?

Now you have the character established,  what will happen to this character in your writing?  All books are the same in the fact that they have a beginning,  a middle,  and an end.  Usually if you have a character in mind,  you already have a plot forming.  All you have to do now is put it all together and make it believable.

How do I do that?

READ!  Read in the genre you are wishing to write.  This will give you the knowledge on how the story should look once it's finished,  but in your own words and your own writing style.

Then...  Start writing.  Introduce your character and build from there.  Invite the reader in,  creating an atmosphere that will leave them wanting to turn the pages.  Often times if you start out with an action,  you can build on that action to create a wonderful back story along with an exciting plot.  Depending on where you are going with it,  you may need to do some research.  Remember,  readers will know what's what and you want to have your facts straight.  The key is you want it to be believable and enthralling at the same time.

Write down your ideas on which direction you want the story to go.  Maybe you know it already,  so make an outline.  It will be easier to follow and help you keep the story flowing.  Once you decide on your writing style,  you may change from an outline to a free writer,  (as I like to call them).  As a beginner though,  I suggest an outline.  

Once you have your outline with the basic ideas of your plot formation,  you can start writing.  Even if you're still stuck on some ideas,  don't worry.  Trust me,  once you start writing you will be surprised how the story just starts flowing from your fingertips.   Write from your heart,  and write for yourself.  Don't worry about what other people may think,  and don't worry about misspelled words or grammatical errors.  This will be addressed later.

What happens if I hit a road block?

Ask yourself these simple questions.

  • How would you act in a certain situation?
  • How can I make this worse or better?
  • How would others react in real life?
Tension always drives a story.  Describe things as they happen not after.  What struggles are your characters facing and what would you do to overcome them?  Taking your characters more in depth into a tense situation will surely create the action desired to keep your readers wanting more.  Keep building anticipation until the very end.  

Don't be afraid to ask for help either.  Just because it's your story,  does not mean you can't toss ideas around with another person.  Get a writing buddy,  or a critique partner.  They can help you and support you along the way.  I constantly toss ideas around with other people,  I even got the plot for my next book from my readers who won a "Develop my next character" contest.  What great ideas they had too!

Once you have your story written,  now it's time to go back to the beginning.  This is where a great critique partner will come in handy.  You can go chapter by chapter,  which makes it so much easier,  and see where details need to be added,  maybe a new scene,  you may even have to re-write a scene or two.  More depth may be needed,  more back story for your character(s),  or even more action to heighten the story.  Once you have your story just how you want it,  find an editor.

The thing I'm finding most people hate,  especially reviewers,  is an unedited book.  These mistakes take away from the reader,  and your story.  You want the reader fully engaged in your book,  not cringing in the corner afraid to finish it because of the distractions caused by poor grammar and misspelled words.  Even the wrong word,  such as,  their vs there,  can be a huge distraction for the reader.  So please make sure you edit your book properly.

After you've finished critiquing and editing,  it's time to decide how and where you want to publish your novel.  Please refer to our workshop - "You've Written Your Book,  Now What?"

It will take some time,  but I promise you when you have a finished product,  there is no greater feeling in the world!

If you have any questions or comments,  please don't hesitate to contact us.  I am looking forward to your feedback and am always happy to help in any way I can.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Coming Soon...

I know it's been a while,  but we are getting back into the game.  We've got some great things coming up for you.  Here is what you can look for in the near future from The Flying Monkeys....

  • Writer's Workshop on Character Development
  • Writer's Workshop on Plot Development
  • Written Tutorials on how to structure your book
  • Live Workshops on Blog Talk Radio
That is just a few to mention as we are still designing what's to come.  We are going to be covering a ton of topics to help you become a better writer,  answer questions,  and teach you how to market your book.

Here is what we would like from you:
  • Writing Erotica
  • Writing Science Fiction
  • Writing Romance
If you write in any of these genre's and/or would love to share writing tips with our readers,  please send an email to with "Guest Blog" in the subject line.

If you ever have questions,  or are in need of a how-to,  and would like to see certain subjects featured here,  send an email to the above address.