| Great StoryTelling Network Newsletter
Volume 14, Issue 4 – 15 April 2018
After the last newsletter was sent out, I received a response from a reader, Sreelata Menon. She wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about editors and agreed to share it with me. Click here to read her story. I also used this as an opportunity to start a column for readers to share their stories, i.e. a Guest Blog.
Meanwhile, Rohi and I have built upon what we shared last time. I share stories about the cover designs I created for my books and Rohi answers more questions about publishing eBooks. I could not upload this newsletter with all the images intact. As such, if you’d like to see the images, please click here to view the post on the website.
The next stage of the novel involves getting Advanced Reviews. If you’re interested in reading a copy of the novel now (for free) and providing an honest review of it, please send me an email at email@example.com.
[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you follow them and buy the stuff, I get a percentage of the payment made with no extra cost to you.]
Now that I have come to terms with the idea to self-publish the novel, I’ve got to make a few decisions. One of the most exciting ones, I feel, has to be deciding what goes on the cover. As I reflected on the cover designs for all my books so far, I can see that all my ideas, rationale and experiences have also evolved.
What does ‘cover’ mean?
I still remember that when I approached my first printer, I told him I needed help to create a ‘cover’. He had no clue what I meant. I had to take out a book from my bag and show him what I wanted help with.
“Oh, you mean cover design,” he said, nodding. “That, my designer can help you with.”
The moment I returned from that meeting, I researched the meaning of these words. I learnt that ‘bookcover’ was a term often used for ‘book cover image in library management software’. With hardcover books, the removable paper cover used to protect the book is called ‘dust jacket’. A ‘book cover’ was any protective covering used to bind the pages of a book. Once I understood what these terms meant, I began to analyse the details of what should go on the cover.
I started with what I shouldn’t have on the cover. There was a novel that I was so eager to read. The blurb stated that it was the story of one woman’s struggle in Malaya during the Second World War. The cover design, however, featured a Japanese woman holding one of those paper umbrellas. It made no sense at all and only served to annoy me.
Next, the cover must, at the very least have the title of the book and the author’s name. Everything else adds to this. The blurb is meant to tease and entice the reader into buying the book. The ISBN and barcode makes it easier for bookshops and libraries to locate and stock the book. The ‘puffs’ (comments made by others) means that a person whose opinion matters has read the book and endorses it. A publisher will place his logo for branding purposes.
That word ‘branding’ then hits on what most publishers will try to achieve – strike that balance between marketing and still staying true to the story inside. Most authors who have publishers will say something along the lines of ‘I am not a graphic designer. I am a writer. I leave it to my publishers to decide what is a good cover design.’ This, however, isn’t so easy when you’re self-publishing a book. From my experience, the main concern I had was money. How much was it going to cost to create this wonderful design that I liked and still fulfilled its purpose? Everything depended on the budget.
It’s All About the Money
When I finished the manuscript for ‘The Banana Leaf Men’, I had very limited funds. The budget for the cover design was RM1,000.00. Since the designer was going to charge me RM1,000.00 to convert whatever image I gave him into a format that was suitable for printing and typesetting, I had to think fast. I sat the dining table and, with pencil in hand, sketched my protagonist. Since the overall costs would increase if I used colour, I decided to stick with black white. The only concession I allowed was that the border and script would be burgundy in colour.
After this first foray into fiction, I worked on non-fiction works like ‘Mad Heaven’ and ‘My Cholesterol Journey’. For these, since I was not funding the project, the people who were the subject of these biographies had the final say. They used images of themselves and, naturally, there was lots of colour.
By the time I came to work on ‘Ladoo Dog’, two things had changed: I had a little more money to spend and eBooks were becoming more popular. Again, to get that actual ‘look’ I wanted, I created a painting of Ladoo. Then, I contacted Mitch Moccia of monstercovers.com. I gave him a basic idea of the colour I’d like to use and voila, he came up with a cover design that everyone loved. The cost to create this design was US147.00. When all the print copies were sold, I uploaded the JPEG format file to Amazon.com.
At the same time, Rohi suggested I do a reprint of ‘The Banana Leaf Men’. So, I commissioned Mitch Moccia and asked him to create this new, more colourful design for the eBook.
With ‘Knowledge of Life’, MPH Publishers were very kind and asked my co-author and I for our input. I remember being impressed because taking into account that all the stories were about Ayurveda, the designers had used the lotus as one of the main elements of the design.
Now that I’ve dissected all the cover designs I’ve been involved with in the past, I need to work on the one of the novel. It’s a literary novel and the examples I’ve looked at include ‘Shalimar the Clown‘, ‘God of Small Things‘, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin‘ and so many more. While all of them have their plus and minus points, none has served to inspire me thus far.
I clearly need some inspiration and would love to know your stories about cover designs for books. For those who’ve published their work, please share how you chose your designs. For those who are readers only, please tell me what made you like a particular cover design. You can either enter your comments in the box below or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Most writers are clueless about how to publish their first e-book and where and how?
Here are the definitive answers to the nine top questions about publishing your first e-book.
Q1. Where should you publish your first e-book?
You have four choices:
Q2. Should I publish my e-book on my own site?
If you publish on your own site, you retain full control of your e-book and can get 100% of the revenue. However, if you are a new author with little or no audience, very few of your prospective audience are likely to know that your e-book exists. You will have to spend a lot of time, energy and money to attract traffic to your website. That’s the reason why most authors prefer to publish their e-books on other sites.
Q3. Which are the top sites e-book publishing sites?
The biggest advantage of the following sites (except Clickbank) is that you don’t have to pay any money upfront. So you can publish your e-book for free. Instead, all these sites take a percentage from your sales revenue.
About eight in every ten English e-books are published and sold in the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) store. One of the biggest benefits of selling your books in the Amazon KDP store is the exposure to millions of potential readers.
Royalty: Amazon pays 35% for e-books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99. However, you can get a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
Apple accounts for ten percent of all e-book sales, which is small but significant and growing.
Royalty: iBooks royalty rates are a flat 70% for all prices and all territories. Publishing on iBooks requires the iTunes Producer program, which is only available for a Mac. Unless you have the software to make your PC run Mac programs, you’ll need to take one of two steps to get your books on the platform. You’ll either have to borrow a Mac to publish, or you’ll have to go to a third-party publisher like Draft2Digital or Smashwords.
Your book will be featured on BN.com and across all NOOK devices and apps, reaching millions of readers of all ages and interests. B&N Press e-books can be read on any device with the free Nook app or Nook Web Reader.
Royalty: Barnes & Noble Press pays author royalty of 40% for e-books priced between $0.99 and $2.98 and 65% for e-books priced between $2.99 and $199.99.
Kobo Writing Life is allows authors and publishers to publish and sell e-books to millions of readers in over 200 countries. Though Kobo has only 2% of the e-book market you need to consider this platform for international sales.
Royalty: Their royalty rates are 70% for books priced between 1.99 and 12.99 (USD) or 1.99 and 7.99 (GBP) and 45% outside of this range.
This is the original and oldest aggregator site with a larger reach than Draft2Digital.
Smashwords was set up by author Mark Coker in 2008 and allows you to distribute your titles to the many smaller e-book retailers like B&N, Baker and Taylor, as well as library networks like OverDrive and Gardeners.
Pricing: You’ll be charged 15% of the sales you receive (after the cost of the e-book retailers has been deducted).
Similar to Smashwords, this site converts your e-book and distributes it across iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and other smaller stores.
Pricing: Same as Smashwords – 15% of your sales revenue (after deduction of the cost of the e-book retailers).
It is a popular site for selling books and digital products. You can sell audio, video, and additional documents with your e-book.
Pricing: If you opt for the free version, you will be charged 8.5% + 30 cents per transaction. On the other hand, if you choose the premium version at $10 (USD)/month, you will be charged 3.5% + 30 cents per sale.
As a top 100 online retailer with 200 million customers, ClickBank sells digital products worldwide created by entrepreneurs. From advice for getting in shape to healthy cooking recipes and dating advice, ClickBank delivers digital lifestyle products to customers in 190 countries. Unfortunately, Clickbank does not sell fiction books.
Pricing: To sell your e-books on Clickbank, you have to pay a one-time fee of $49.95 (for product approval/legal compliance review). Clickbank then charges you $1+7.5% per sale. So Clickbank is only suitable for higher-priced non-fiction info-products.
Each one of these sites has their pros and cons. Fortunately, none of them require programming or any technical expertise. Set up an account on the site best suited to your needs and try it out for a little while to see if it’s right for you. If you have the relevant files and information ready, it will take less than an hour to publish your book.
Q4: Should you publish exclusively on Amazon KDP or on multiple platforms?
If you are just starting out and this is your first book, then it’s definitely worth using KDP Select for the first 90 days. It takes time to build your audience so it is better to start with a single store so that you can focus your book marketing efforts. Later, after you have written more books, you can sell your books on the other platforms. Successful freelance writers like Mridu Khullar and Meera Kothand have chosen to publish exclusively on Amazon KDP.
Q5. What is Amazon KDP Select?
When you enroll your book in KDP Select, you agree to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through Amazon KDP for 90 days. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.
In return, your books are added to the Kindle Lending Library in Kindle Unlimited, where Amazon Prime members can “check out” their books for free with no due dates. (You get paid royalties for every book borrowed based on pages read at the end of each month.) You can also choose between Kindle Countdown Deals or a free book promotion.
Q6. Should you publish directly on e-book retail sites or use an aggregator?
Most authors publish on Amazon KDP directly and use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords for all the other sites. For example, Joanna Penn publishes direct to Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life and iBook. She also uses Draft2Digital for Nook and other sites as well as Smashwords for some books.
If you choose to publish directly on each site, you have greater control over pricing and metadata. You can also take advantage of specific promo opportunities on some stores that are not available if you go through an aggregator. However, it takes time and effort to publish and update your books on all the different platforms. If you want to save your time and energy, you can use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords and they will publish your books on different sites in return for 15% of your sales revenue.
Q7. Can you publish print books as well as e-books?
You can use KDP Print (Beta) or Createspace for creating and distributing print books. Publishing a paperback can help you reach new readers. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties. That means you don’t have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory. You can also order proofs and author (wholesale) copies of your paperbacks on KDP.
Q8. How can you protect yourself from book piracy?
All the sites that publish your book have strong security systems in place to avoid illegal sharing of your e-books. However, there is no absolute foolproof way to stop others sharing your book with others. Most of your readers are not pirates and keen to support you. So don’t let fear of book piracy stop you from publishing your books. Also, people who pirate books are not going to buy your books anyway.
If you want, you can set up alerts with sites like https://www.google.co.in/alerts and https://mention.com using your book title or lines from your book. It is possible to get your pirated books taken down but there is no guarantee they won’t be put up on some other site.
On the flip side, authors are more likely to suffer from obscurity than from piracy. So if you are a new author, you need not worry too much about piracy. Interestingly, some famous authors have used piracy as a marketing tool. For example, Tim Ferriss launched his book, The Four-Hour Chef with a promotion on Bit Torrent which resulted in massive sales. Paulo Coelho released his book on Russian pirate sites, which eventually resulted in increased book sales.
Q9. How should you price your e-book?
You can change the price anytime, so start with something and move it if it’s not working for you. Check out the price of other books in the same genre. For example, if the top best-selling book in your genre is $9.99, you should price your book way below that price.
Another option is to offer your first book for free. This strategy is especially useful if you have written a series of books. Once they read the first book and like it, your readers will buy the rest of the books in the series.
If you want to offer your e-book for a discounted price on Amazon, you have to change it to the discount price and then change it back after the discount period is over. However, in Kobo and Apple iBooks, you can schedule pricing promotions and the price will automatically revert to full price after the designated discount period. If you want to make your e-book permanently free on Amazon, you have to make it free on Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords or Draft2Digital, and then request Amazon to price match it to $0.
If you have any more questions or doubts about publishing your book, let me know. I will be glad to help.
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