Pick Me! Pick Me!…Part 2

20150915_151737whitespaceSo, you took my advice and decided to hire a professional cover designer.  Good choice.  Now what?

Well, first you have to find a designer.  As in many things when first learning the ropes of self-publishing, Google is your friend.  There are TONS of designers and services out there, your task will be to weed through the list and find someone that is a good fit for you.

Keep the following in mind when making your decision:

1) Hire someone who has a proven track record. This could mean: a) Visiting several different designers and comparing their portfolios or b) Hiring a designer who created a cover that impressed you (the cover designer is usually listed in the front matter of the book, most likely on the copyright page).

2) Don’t take the designer’s word for it, get feedback from previous clients. Send inquiries to authors who had book covers designed by the designer you are considering. Visit the designer’s portfolio, get a couple author names, visit their websites and send inquiries. You’ll want to know if the designer is easy to work with, open to ideas, reliable (responsive and meets deadlines) and are the authors happy with the services rendered and final product?

3) Is the designer’s website professionally designed? If the website doesn’t look professional then how can you trust that the book covers will? The website should detail what is included in the design, what factors could increase costs during the project and what type of files you will receive at completion.  The website should also have a section where the designer displays their portfolio.  If their stuff doesn’t appeal to you, again, why would you hire them?

I honestly can’t say how I stumbled upon my cover designer Scarlett’s website, but I’m glad I did.  I was impressed by the professional look and feel of her site and by her past work.  What really convinced me though, were all the great articles on self-publishing she had on her blog.  You really got a sense that she knew the industry and had a passion for what she does.  Her website also did a great job of laying out what you could expect if you chose her for your cover.

Remember to start thinking about your cover sooner than later.  If you are planning on releasing your book next week, it’s really too late to be thinking about the cover.  Designers, especially the better ones, will book up fast so be prepared to wait for an available timeslot for your project.

Your designer will probably send you a contract to approve before they start.  They will also require a deposit up front before they begin work on your cover.  Once we had things finalized and the date booked for my project, Scarlett sent out a questionnaire for me to fill out.  In it she asked things like:

  • Who is your target market?
  • Do you want the book to be legible at the size of a thumbnail?
  • Do you have a specific idea/design that you’d like to see?
  • What’s the impression you want to give your audience when they first see the cover of your book?
  • What don’t you want on the cover?
  • Which adjectives do you want to describe your cover? (Multiple choice)

While it can be helpful for you to know what you want up front, the right designer should be able to take your vague ideas and give you something to work with. Try to keep an open mind.  The first set of concepts your designer shows you are just the starting point, from there you will work together to fine tune your final concept.

In my case, Scarlett sent two initial concepts:

lisaemme_deadandkicking_web1 lisaemme_deadandkicking_web2

I liked how Scarlett sent the concepts with the various different formats. On my own, I probably wouldn’t have thought about how the cover looked as a thumbnail or in black and white. I also had a little panic attack when I looked at her designs and saw the placeholder that said “This is where your tagline or testimonial goes…” .  Tagline?! I hadn’t thought of that. A little brainstorming though and I soon came up with taglines for all three books in the trilogy – Thanks Christina for letting me bounce ideas off you!

After spending some time looking at the two designs, I came up with a detailed list of what worked and what didn’t for me for both of the covers.  I then made a few suggestions of what I would like to see changed and sent it all back to Scarlett.  Armed with this new information, Scarlett made some changes and I received updated files a couple days later.  Although both still appealed to me, by this time, one design spoke to me more than the other.  I decided to focus on that particular concept and so I sent back a few more comments on changes I would like to see for the one concept only.  I even did a little cut and paste hack job and mocked up what I was thinking.  A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

remix deadandkicking_web2

When Scarlett sent the updated file back, I knew we had a winner.  I loved it!  But that wasn’t the end.  We still had the print cover which needs the spine and back cover as well.  Scarlett was spot on with her concept for the back and there really wasn’t much to change.


In order for your designer to get the dimensions right for the print cover, you will have to know what size your book will be (mine is 5.5″ x 8.5″ which is one of the common trade paperback sizes) and what paper – white or cream – because, believe it or not, that makes a difference.  You will also need to know the finished length of your book (how many pages) when it is formatted to your chosen dimensions because that will determine the size of the spine.

So that’s my experience in getting the final concept for the cover of Dead and Kicking developed.  If you really want to have a look inside what makes a great book cover, I recommend watching this TED talk by Chip Kidd, a book designer (among other things) and art director at Knopf.  Kidd is the genius behind such covers as Crichton’s Jurassic Park  and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. 1Q84 jacket removedjurassic

Pick Me! Pick Me!

pick-mewhitespaceThat’s basically what you want your cover to shout to your potential readers.  Let’s face it, we do judge books by their covers. If that wasn’t the case, everything, not just books, would come in plain, brown paper wrappers and PR/Marketing firms would be out of business.

The cover of your book isn’t just packaging. It’s your front line marketing.  It makes a statement to the reader about what they can expect to find inside. Different genres tend to have different elements that are important on the cover.  Shirtless males with ripped abs scream romance or erotica, guns and handcuffs imply police procedurals.  Your book’s cover needs to appeal to your target audience. The trick is to make your book stand out but still keep it anchored to reader expectations.

A quick google search will get you heaps of advice, but when it comes to your book cover, my only advice is this:  DON’T DO IT YOURSELF!

Unless you are an experienced artist/designer, hire one. After all, you don’t want your book to end up here.

If you only have a small amount to spend on getting your book published, spend it on the cover, but if you insist on trying it yourself, here’s some good advice.


For my first book, Dead and Kicking, I hired the very talented Scarlett Rugers and I couldn’t be happier with the final product. The cover conveys just the right mood, a little dark, a little mysterious and like Harry, a little quirky.

In my next post, I’ll walk you through the process we took to get to the final product.

Do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain or have I just dated myself?

In a previous post, I compared the book blurb to a dating profile. I thought the comparison was pretty apt, but nothing is more like a dating profile than trying to write your author bio.

pina coladas

The author bio is yet another important, but often overlooked, element of not only your book but any of a multitude of author pages (for example on Goodreads or Amazon) as well as your own website.

Like a dating profile, you need to sell yourself to your readers. Your goal is to make a connection with them, showing who you are as a person. You want to come across as the type of person who would write a book they would want to read.

You really need three versions of your bio:
1. A version to put inside your book as part of the end matter. This can be a little bit longer, but still brevity is key.
2. A version to put on your website or author pages.  Again this could be longer.  It could even be the same as #1 above.
3. A shorter ‘blurb’ type bio for the back of your book.  Keep it short and sweet.  150 words or less.

Just like when writing the book blurb, your author bio should grab the interest of your reader. It should make it easier for your reader to relate to you. Above all else, be honest. The last thing you want to do is come across as someone you`re not – in this electronic age, it would be pretty easy to get called on fudged credentials or accomplishments.

To help you with your author bios, here are a few websites I found useful:

6 Secrets to Writing a Killer Author Bio
How to Write a Great Author Bio That Will Connect with Readers
Tips for Writing Your Author Bio

I hope I managed to accomplish some of these goals with my bio. I guess I`ll have to let you be the judge. Feel free to let me now how I did.

As an added bonus, here`s a few things you may not know about me (and probably will never end up in my bio):

  • I think a movie without popcorn is just wrong
  • I can’t ride in the car with the radio on without singing out loud
  • Spiders ick me out
  • I can drink a coke slurpee at 3 am when it’s -30 C outside
  • I can curl my tongue (it’s a genetic thing, I learned that in grade 9)
  • I think that pineapple on pizza is a waste of perfectly good pineapple (and pizza)
  • I can’t sit in front of a bonfire without poking at it with a stick
  • I’m not a big drinker, but have become a bit of a beer snob (I’ll take a good Belgian beer thanks)


*Readers Looking for Long Term Relationship

You’ve already heard about my struggles with editing, but today I’m going to share another stumbling block on my road to self-publishing: the book blurb.

The blurb, the dustcover, the back of the book description – Whatever you call it, the blurb is very important. It’s your frontline marketing tool. It has to grab the reader’s attention, set your book apart from the hundreds (thousands?) of others, and entice the reader to give your book a try.

I’ve written a book (heck, I’ve actually already written four books). You’d think I could handle writing a short description of it. Afterall, I’ve lived and breathed the story for months. But I’m here to tell you it’s HARD! How do you take your 50,000+ words and condense them into less than three hundred while making it sound exciting and interesting?

ladies-in-little-black-dressesThe more I think about it, the more I realize that the blurb is like an online dating profile. You may have got everyone’s attention with that sexy, little black dress (the book cover) but the blurb is your chance to show them that there is some substance there too.

Just like a dating profile should honestly portray your personality, your blurb should reflect the writing style of your book. Don’t make it sound like a comedy when it’s actually dark drama. Like the cover itself, your blurb is a promise to the reader. It makes a statement about what they can expect to find inside. Don’t break your promise or you’ll find yourself without readers (or dates).

Your blurb is your perfect pick up line. Clever and engaging and certainly not cliché. It should be tailored to the audience you want to date, er…I mean attract. If you say you like hunting and fishing in your dating profile, don’t complain when you find yourself stuck on a boat for six hours using live worms for bait. The same goes with your blurb. Don’t dress a romance up like a psychological thriller and then wonder why everyone is slamming your book for not delivering as promised in their reviews.

Above all – and I don’t mean to sound like your Mom, but hey, mothers usually have good advice – don’t give it all away on the first date. Leave them wanting more. You’re writing a blurb, not a synopsis. You don’t want to summarize the entire story or drop any spoilers. You want to tantalize the reader, not give the game away. The blurb should be short and sweet. Your reader will probably only glance quickly at the back cover or their eyes might simply skim over the online description. In those few seconds you need to whet their apetite so they want to buy your book. You know how the old saying goes. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free!

To help you craft the perfect blurb, here are a couple of links that I found helpful:

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Blurb for your Novel
4 Easy Steps to an Irresistible Book Blurb

So how did I do with my blurb?  Did I pique your interest?  Did I leave you wanting more?  I’d love to hear from you.

This really has nothing to do with book blurb, but I thought it was funny. If you have ever tried online dating, I'm sure you'll get it.

This really has nothing to do with writing a book blurb, but I thought it was funny. If you have ever tried online dating, I’m sure you’ll get it.

Traditional Publishing – Why I’m Not Going There

There was a time when I thought I needed to be published traditionally.  That I would only feel that I had ‘made it’ as an author if my book was published by a mainstream publisher.  I thought I needed that validation.

These days, I feel like I should write a thank you letter to the publisher that sent me my very first (and only) rejection letter.  I was totally expecting it.  I knew that I would have to ‘pay my dues’ before getting that elusive book contract, but the more I researched and read on the topic of getting published, the more ridiculous it all seemed.  The submission process of most of the traditional publishers is a writer’s nightmare.  That’s if you can even find one that is accepting unsolicited manuscripts (i.e. submitted directly rather than through an agent).   And for what?  If you do happen to get an offer, the pittance you will earn in royalties is an insult to all your hard work.



I don’t need a traditional publisher to give me validation.  I’m going to let my books speak for themselves (although that doesn’t mean I won’t be busy trying to learn everything I can about marketing them) and the only validation I need will come from my readers.

If you are on the fence about whether you should self-publish, this article  by guest writer Ann Voss Peterson on JA Konrath’s blog may just help you to jump down on the side of indies.

Need Another Reason to Self-Publish?

People ask my why I am self-publishing.  This article sums up one of the biggest reasons.  Why would I go to so much work putting my ideas and thoughts on paper only to hand it over to someone else to profit from my efforts?  Do I really want to ‘sell my soul’ to a big traditional publisher just to get a feeling of validation?

swift kick

Check out Dean Wesley Smith’s informative article The New World of Publishing: The Real Price of Traditional Publishing 

Number One Rule When Self-Publishing?



I just finished a very informative series called Doing it Better by Polly Courtney.  In this six part series, Ms. Courtney states that

“As an author looking to self-publish, what’s the number one rule? Do what publishers do, but do it better.”

I couldn’t agree with her more.  I am a voracious reader and I’m always looking for new authors to try and I’m more than willing to give an indie author a go, but nothing turns me off quicker, and gives self-publishing a bad name, as a poorly delivered book.  Lack of editing, poor cover design, plot holes big enough to drive a truck, and flat characters that just don’t make the cut.  These are all signs of an author that rushed to publish, that didn’t take the time to do the work to ensure they were delivering the best quality product they could to their readers, or that didn’t want to make an investment in their own work in order to ensure that the quality was there.

If you are thinking of self-publishing, I highly recommend Ms. Courtney`s series.  The first three parts apply to authors like myself that are just getting into the business of self-publishing.  The final three parts….well, if you’re like me, you’ll watch them and laugh and think to yourself maybe someday.

Doing It Better:  Editing Your Book
Doing It Better:  Getting an Awesome Cover Design
Doing It Better:  Publishing Your Book
Doing It Better:  Getting Press Coverage
Doing It Better:  Making a Book Trailer
Doing It Better:  Holding an Epic Book Launch






Editing and the dreaded comma are the bane of my existence.



Remember in primary school where you learned about punctuation, nouns, verbs and adverbs?  Yeah, me neither.  It’s all a vague recollection now.  I do remember standing at the chalkboard (hmmm, am I dating myself with that?  Do they even use chalkboards anymore?) staring at a sentence with no punctuation and the goal was to identify the parts of the sentence and correct the grammar.  But that’s all I can remember.  I can’t actually remember any of the rules I might have learned.  Nope. Nada.  I’ve got nothing.

You would think that being a voracious reader, I would instinctively know what is proper grammar and maybe in some ways I do. I certainly know when a particular bit of prose stinks, grammatically speaking.  Some mistakes are so obvious, you wonder how an author ever let their book go to print with the error.

The main problem is that as an author you are too close to your own writing. You have read and re-read it over and over. You know what you meant to say and so you miss the glaring mistake. Reading your work out loud is a big help, but having a fresh set of eyes is the best thing to do.   Beta readers are a very important cog in the wheel.  Don’t try and publish without them.

I found this article online that offers some great tips about editing.

Check out The Ten Mistakes (that writers don’t see but can easily fix when they do) by Holt Uncensored.