Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Self-Publishing - Choosing the cover design

Image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In keeping with my promise to up date you on the elements of the self-publishing process as I am experiencing it, I thought today I would focus on the critical cover design. This is (or should be) the lynchpin to your entire process. Without a great cover, you don't have an image to draw people in when you're doing your PR and marketing for your book. It has to stand out among not only the myriad of other independent authors who have decided to 'go it alone' but also those who are traditionally published, all vying for the fickle eye-balls of potential readers. A cover has a split second to grab the buyer's attention and draw the reader into the next phase - reading the summary if you're selling online, or the back cover if they're standing in a book store (which is a subject for another blog) and finally to purchase.

Hire a Professional Designer

Many indie authors choose to go with a self-publishing package that includes cover design (make sure you have input and control over the final decision and that you own the design), and others decide that they're going to give it a shot themselves. Unless you have a graphic design background or God has blessed you with creative writing AND design talents, don't do it. I know what I like when I see it and I've worked with many graphic designers over the years but I wouldn't even think about attempting to create my own cover design. I'll stick with what I do best.

So, with that in mind, I hired a designer named Graham Booth of Creation Booth Designs who had also designed the cover of my traditionally published non-fiction book, @Home in Dubai... Getting Connected Online and on the Ground. The process was agonizing because I really grappled with what the look and feel should be.  Graham was so patient as I kept changing my mind and he'd come back (6 times I think) with a new crop of suggested designs.

Test the Design with your Target Audience

Throughout the process I also 'test marketed' the covers with a group of friends and professional colleagues who are all the exact target audience for the book. With their thoughtful input and, honestly, my gut feelings, I finally chose the design. For those of you who are interested in seeing the final cover design for Mental Pause, check it out my 'cover reveal' blog at Mental Pause - The Novel.

So far I'm enjoying the process, however, each step entails an agonizing number of details (if you do it right), second guessing and a few panic attacks. I wish it was launching tomorrow but I'm going to take a deep breath and move on to the next item on the check list! 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Self-Publishing Step 1 – The Timeline

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net - David Castillo Dominici
I’ve discovered that the most important thing to do first, once one decides to self-publish (other than writing the darn book) is to put together a timeline starting with the desired launch date and working backwards to the current date showing on the calendar.  It’s a real eye-opening experience to realize how many moving parts there are to the process. Making sure you have everything slotted on the timeline is critical otherwise that deadline is going to whizz by while you're staring wild-eyed at the ever-growing ‘To Do’ list.

This really shouldn’t have been such an earth-shattering revelation for me since it’s what every good event planner or communications strategy developer does every time a new project presents itself.  Since that’s my background, it should have been a no-brainer!

It’s now been a little more than a week since I’ve made my pronouncement that I’m going to self publish my novel and my chosen launch date of March 8th seems a lot closer than it did at that time (there may have been some holiday spirits involved). However ambitious the timeline, I am still committed to making it happen, even if I have to launch in stages and use March 8th as the launch for the Kindle version and follow up shortly thereafter with the print version. 

So, here are my top 5 key elements that must be included early on the self-publishing timeline (the more lead-time the better):
  • Proofreading and editing (by someone other than yourself)
  • Gathering reviews for the back cover and other marketing (which I started ages ago knowing I would need them whether publishing traditionally or self-publishing)
  • Registering ISBN number and purchasing barcode (for print version)
  • Cover design (front and back if doing a print version) and inside layout and design for both eBook and print versions.
  • PR/Marketing plan (this is huge and there are several elements that need to be in place long before the launch, including your social media platform, which I’ve been building for about two years now… phew!).

I think I’ll leave it at that as I can feel the heart palpitations starting, so I’d best get back to work.  I’ll add more in my next post.  In the meantime, feel free to include your own list of the top 5 must dos!

P.S.  One element of the marketing plan that I have initiated already is a blog specific to my novel, where I’ll be sharing chapter excerpts each week leading up to the launch.  I have already posted twice: The Announcement and Excerpts from Chapter 1 so feel free to visit and sign up to follow: http://www.mentalpause-thenovel.blogspot.com