Guest Post: Submitting Your Own Manuscript? Here Are 5 Tips

Nowadays there are four main ways to get a book published.

A. Submitting it to a traditional publishing house. If they accept it, you’re golden. And while they’ll handle some of the marketing, you will still need to market it.

B. Independently publishing it yourself by working independently with editors, graphic designers, book formatters, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. And of course, you still need to market it.

C. Submitting it to one of those free online places.  Which presumably means you’ve already worked with editors, graphic designers, and book formatters. Fortunately, those free places do take care of distribution and sales for you. And of course, you still need to market it.

D. Submitting it one of those full-service self-publishing websites. They can handle all of the above, and maybe they’ll throw in a little marketing, depending upon who you choose. But you’ll still want to market it.

Regardless of which path you choose, there is one consistent component: your manuscript.  And it is in your best interest to make it the best it can be BEFORE you consider sending it (or uploading it) anywhere else.

rewriting

So, with that in mind, here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes time to finalize your manuscript for submission.

1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs. Traditional publishers probably won’t care, but it’ll wreak havoc with the other three, since in all likelihood, your book will be a different size than your 8.5×11 manuscript, and those hard returns will end up in the middle of lines instead of at the end of them.

2. Don’t manually insert hyphens.  Same problem as above. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it.

3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred. This doesn’t cause technical formatting problems so much as perception ones.

4. Spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having your manuscript professionally edited before publication (the traditional publisher will handle this, but for the other three options you’re on the hook, at least for paying for it), it is a good idea to run your spell check program on your manuscript prior to submitting it, just to fix all the “easy” mistakes.

5. Check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. One favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.

Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at Grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing a publishing process error-free and is handy for other marketing endeavors after-the-fact, like writing on blogs, for instance.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing professional editing with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.


brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Guest Post : How to Plot a Novel

Novels are about characters and relationships (or should be), but plots are about something that happens. How can you be sure that your plot is properly structured and that your characters are playing the proper role in the proper way? By using this fun and easy method:

person typing on typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Get an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and fill it with a Tic-Tac-Toe grid (or pound sign symbol, if you prefer).  Then enclose the lines with an outside box and you are left with 9 blank squares. Number the boxes from 1 – to 9 starting at the top left corner and going from left-to-right on each row.

Place the single major incident that happens in your novel in the center square, box number 5.  And since everything that occurs in a novel should somehow be connected to that one major event, this blocking scheme will help you place (and pace) appropriate characters, events, and twists in the appropriate parts of the story leading up to (and in the aftermath of) that event.  Boxes 1 -4 (the beginning portions of the novel) all must lead up to that major event.  Boxes 6-9 (the ending portions of the novel) involve the fall-out, climax, and resolution from that event.

Box #1 in the upper left-hand corner is typically where the protagonist is introduced, hopefully in a dramatic way that entices the reader. Box #2 in the middle of the top row is typically where the antagonist is introduced. You will also notice that since Block #2 is touching Block #5 directly below it and Block #1 to its left, that the antagonist must play a key role both in the protagonist’s character and in the major event of the story. Box # 3 in the upper right is where other major characters and perhaps (hopefully) the major love interest is introduced.  After all, what’s the point of reading (or writing) a novel that doesn’t involve love?

So in the top row of our grid we have The Protagonist, The Antagonist, and the Love Interest. Therefore, each major character plays the largest role in their own column.  Of course the protagonist is featured throughout, since he/she is the protagonist, but Blocks 1, 4, and 7 are his/her starring sections. The antagonist plays the largest roles in the middle column (Blocks 2, 5, and 8); and the love interest owns the right column (Blocks 3, 6, and 9). Not coincidentally, major turning points occur at the end of each row (always related to the love interest; it’s what the protagonist fights for, right?)

It could be argued that the center column is actually the most important, because that is the column where the major event takes place in Block #5.  Part of the point of this 9-block device is to ensure a book is properly paced, with sufficient build-up (ie, motivation), and sufficient fall-out, and all the emotional highs and lows that result.   But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the major event is in Block 5 that nothing happens until half way through the book.  The opposite is true.  Something notable must happen in EVERY single square (otherwise, why write about it?).

Now that we’ve discussed the columns, let’s discuss the rows. The top row involves the beginning of the novel, and if you’re a 3-act structure traditionalist, you would say Row 1 is Act 1, Row 2 is Act 2 and Row 3 is Act 3. In row 1 you introduce your characters, and lay the ground work and emotional motivations for everything that takes place in Row 2.  The plot-outline-blocks of this 9-Block device can help you determine where in the story each character should be introduced based upon that specific character’s involvement with the plot.  The middle row is arguably the most important (for the same reason column 2 is the most important) because it involves the major event of the story.   And finally, the bottom row (Act 3) involves the character’s lowest point, the turning point, and the dénouement (the final resolution), respectively.

Block #4 traditionally involves specific build-up and motivations to the major plot event in Block 5, which is the centerpiece of your plot. Block 5 is also the one square among all of them that is connected to the most adjacent squares, so important characters or events leading up to this plot point must be present in Block #2 and Block #4, while important consequences must be present in Blocks #6 and #8.

Block #6 in the middle-right is where another major turning point of your novel should take place, which is further complicated (and motivated/caused) by the major event that just took place in Block 5.  And, more importantly, that turning point in Block 6 should lead to the “emotional low” of your novel, when everything is at their darkest. This is Block #7.  A protagonist driven to his or her lowest point is sometimes driven to drastic measures and this is where events and characters introduced in Blocks 1 and Blocks 4 make another appearance, thus fulfilling requirements of foreshadowing, and demonstrating you are well in control of your craft as a novelist.

Typically a major twist leads to an epiphany and is what motivates the final climax (often some sort of emotional or physical confrontation), and this all occurs in Block 8. Given its direct proximity below Block 5, it’s probably no surprise that the epiphany or twist, as well as the climax, are all directly related to the event that takes place in Block 5.

The final block #9  in the lower right hand corner is where the dénouement begins and all the plot points are resolved, not out of the blue, but by connecting dots left in adjoining Blocks 6 (the second major turning point) and 8 (the results of the climax), while all involving the “love interest” or character/motivation introduced in Block 3.  Resolutions cannot occur without the proper foundation, and novels cannot end without making a statement (of some sort) about the nature of love.


brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.

In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Does Your Book Have a Book Video on Amazon?

Shopping and watching videos are among the most common activities people engage in on the internet. So it stands to reason that if you can combine those two activities, your chances for increasing engagement improve. Amazon has made that relatively simple by providing a number of different ways to add videos to help people shop for (and buy) your book.

The first way you can add videos to your products (or books) on Amazon is in a section on your Product Details Page called “Related Video Shorts.” This section appears directly below the “Product details” section. Next to the bold heading that says “Related Video Shorts” is a blue link that says “Upload your video”. When you click on that link you are taken to a category selection screen where you must choose the most appropriate category for your video.  

If you’re reading this blog, presumably your “product” is a book, so in most cases, the appropriate choice is probably “other” although if you have a non-fiction book and a “how to” video related to your subject (which you should), then the “how to” selection may be the most appropriate.

Once you select your category, a pop-up screen will appear showing a directory of your computer’s hard drive.  While not instantly obvious, this is where Amazon is expecting you to select your video file for upload, which it accepts in a variety of formats, although .mp4 is probably the best.  If your Amazon account is in good standing, your video will appear in the “Related Video Shorts” section of your product details page relatively quickly. Potential customers who are considering buying your book will then be able to see your video, which may help close the sale.

The next way to add a video is on your Author Profile Page. In the “Author Updates” section you will see the link.  This method doesn’t require you to select a category and appears to be less “restrictive” on the type and length of videos that are allowed.

The third way is using your blog and then setting up your RSS feed through your Author Profile Page. This is the least restrictive method, and you can upload any video you want this way, since Amazon doesn’t censor blog postings from 3rd party RSS fees. Of course, if you update your blog constantly, the video posting will quickly disappear from your Amazon Author Profile Page in preference to your newer posts.  A trick around that is to set-up a free blog (on WordPress for example) that is specifically meant for your Amazon Author Profile Page. Simply upload one posting of the video you wish to display on Amazon and don’t post anything else to that blog. Your video will reside permanently on your Author Profile Page because of the RSS feed setting.

Of course, all of this presumes you have a video (or videos) about your book to upload. There are a lot of methods to create those, but that’s a topic for a different blog posting.  Good luck!

youtube video illustration


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Copyright Infringement Rampant on CreateSpace

piracy

I don’t think it’s any secret that Amazon owns CreateSpace. I also don’t believe it’s any secret—especially after the author uproar that occurred in April—that CreateSpace no longer offers “creative services” such as interior book formatting, cover design, editing, or the like. When they ceased offering those services, they severed the one last component that identified them as a “publisher” instead of a “content curator,” which is the role CreateSpace now plays, and is a far cry from meeting the goals of writers who dream of publication.

A perfect example appears in a recent article on the Publishers Weekly website, written by Kenny Brechner and titled “Pirating on CreateSpace,” in which he identifies very specific examples of flagrant copyright infringement by individuals (I wouldn’t call them writers) sharing (I wouldn’t call it publishing) content through the CreateSpace platform.  One objective of a publisher is to protect their authors, and also prevent circumstances like the ones reported by Mr. Brechner. Unfortunately, the exact opposite objective is true for a content curator like CreateSpace.  Since it’s “free” to “publish” content there, CreateSpace and Amazon value neither the content nor the authors who created it. Instead, their goal is to compile as much content as possible for the purposes of offering it—usually by giving it away or encouraging their authors to give it away through thinly-veiled “marketing promotions”—to lure new Amazon members into its Prime, Prime Video Streaming, and KindleUnlimited memberships (all of which require monthly/yearly dues, and none of which reward the content creators for their contribution).  

Since CreateSpace/Amazon uses content and its creators as loss-leaders for subscriptions, they are hardly compelled to prevent copyright infringement or acts of piracy. In fact, as you can see from Brechner’s Publishers Weekly article, it was only after the article appeared on a highly respected industry website that Amazon bothered to do anything about it … and the author himself was unable to get CreateSpace to take any action at all, though not from lack of trying.  And as you’ll see from the comments already piling up below the article, this wasn’t an isolated case, nor is it something that authors are willing to tolerate. Comments include phrases like:

“I’d say, Createspace should be embarrassed – beyond measure.” – GISELA HAUSMANN

“…this article is a wise word of caution to us writers.” – Carol Johnson

“Same thing happened to me. I discovered one of its CreateSpace books had pirated both some text and several of my photos from my website that included those texts and those photos selected from my traditionally published book.” – Mark Mathew Braunstein

In fact, the same thing happened with one of my own books, too: Publishing Gems. I discovered that it had been copied in its entirety through the CreateSpace platform without my knowledge or consent. Not only was CreateSpace selling the pirated version, but so were a vast number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers. When I contacted Amazon about the infringement, they were quick to remove it. When I asked them the name of the individual who was responsible for this act of piracy, they ignored me entirely. Then I started receiving emailed requests from all the Marketplace booksellers, notifying me that they had removed the stolen book from their virtual shelves, and asking me to “approve them” for continued business under the threat of cancellation from Amazon.  Here’s the interesting part – all their emails were nearly identical, as if someone from Amazon’s legal department provided them with the exact verbiage to use to request forgiveness.

Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that copyright infringement happens so frequently through CreateSpace that Amazon’s legal department has come up with an actual procedure to cope with it.

Is that the kind of publ—er, algorithm, you want handling your books?

computer piracy


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Using Book Videos to Market Your Books

youtube video illustration

Everyone knows Google is the #1 search engine. Any guesses for #2?

YouTube.  

Video is quickly become the de facto way in which people interact with the Internet, which means you are missing out on a world of opportunity if you don’t have at least one book video (and preferably more). The good news is that it is easier than ever to make videos.  In fact, you probably have everything you need in your pocket right now.

Every major social media site (SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook included) is jumping on the video bandwagon and most of them are following in the shadow of the one that popularized it all: YouTube.

Youtube is for authors, too.

The YouTube app makes it easy to record videos on your mobile phone and then upload them to a channel that you can create exclusively for your book. If you write multiple books, you may be better off creating a channel about you as the author and then include videos about all your books in one place, rather than uploading them across multiple channels, since managing multiple YouTube channels is more trouble than it’s worth.  And besides, you’ll already be busy uploading the same videos to Instagram and Facebook and other video sites, like Vimeo.

You can easily download the YouTube app from the iTunes App Store, but if you prefer not to use the YouTube App, it’s still easy to record videos on your phone and then upload them directly. Another alternative is a webcam. Nearly all laptops and tablets come with video cameras nowadays.  Just aim and shoot and upload. Of course, you can always go “higher-end” with a GoPro camera or something even higher-definition, although the price and the complexity makes it less worthwhile. Start small, start cheap, and as your experience with shooting videos grows, so too can your budget and quality.

The technical aspect is actually the easy part.  More difficult is deciding WHAT your video is going to accomplish, or what it is going to say.  While it is certainly simple to record yourself reading passages from your book, that may not make for the most exciting video to watch.  

Entertaining and/or educational videos are the way to go.

How-to videos, for instance, are very popular. This means authors of non-fiction how-to books have a large pool of content from which to draw.  Every chapter could be its own video; heck, perhaps even every page if you wish to make a series of shorter videos (which are more popular than longer ones, and drive more subscriptions to your channel to boot).  

Children are almost as popular as cats in videos, so children’s book authors … rejoice!  Let the little ones be your stars and reap the rewards for their cuteness. If you’ve written a cookbook, you’re golden. Film yourself cooking some of your recipes.  The point is, no matter what kind of book you have written, you can create a book video to market it. If all else fails, use stock photography sites to pull some still images down and edit them in with memes or quote cards and tell the story of your book or summarize its plot or message.  With the right selection of music, even these can be effective. Slide.ly and Animoto are two third-party video sites that make this process relatively simple and relatively inexpensive.

Once you make one video and upload it, make another one, and make it unique. Then, track the views and comments to see which type of videos are most popular with your audience.


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

The Importance of Interior Design for Self-Published Books

ebooks

The self-publishing industry has come a long way since the early 2000’s. Back then, self-publishing a book carried a huge stigma, but today, more books are self-published than traditionally published, and more self-published books are purchased than traditionally published books.  Yet, in many readers’ minds, the stigma still exists because self-published books are so often inferior to traditionally published books.

What can a professional self-published author do to overcome this mindset?

  1. Don’t worry about your publisher.  The vast majority of readers do not care who your publisher is. They won’t look at who published your book when deciding whether or not to buy it. So any fear you have about a stigma that is associated with your self-publisher of choice is unwarranted.  
  2. Invest in a custom cover design.  The first thing a potential buyer will see is your book cover. And the book cover is the single easiest way to tell if a book is self-published or not.  If asked, most people might not even be able to describe why a cover looks amateurish; but it doesn’t matter – an amateur cover will scream “self-published” to potential buyers and due to that stigma, they may shy away.
  3. Invest in professional interior formatting. The vast majority of self-published books are purchased from Amazon, and most of them feature the “look inside” element, which allows shoppers to view pages from within the book.  The interior of your book is the second way potential customers recognize self-published books. Interiors that are formatted by computers look like they were formatted by computers, and that makes them look like amateur, self-published books. Even worse, it looks like the author doesn’t care about what the book looks like.  If the author doesn’t even care what the book looks like, why should a potential reader buy it?

good-vs-bad-book-design_new

After the cover design, the interior design of your book is what separates most professional self-published books from “free” self-published books. Professional self-published books, like those published by full-service self-publishing providers, feature interior designs formatted by human beings.  “Free” self-published books, on the other hand, feature interior designs formatted by computers. The difference, when compared side by side, is staggering. Don’t allow your book to look amateurish and cheap by allowing a computer algorithm to format it for you. Your potential buyers will notice. They may not care who published it; they may think the cover looks great; but without a professional interior, they’re still going to know your book is self-published with just a glance. And, as a result, they’re going to think twice about ordering it.

Fortunately, it’s easy to make your book interior look professional.  Nearly all full-service self-publishing providers will professionally format your interior as a part of their publishing package fees.  And most will offer you the opportunity of “enhanced” or “custom” interior designs. Don’t pass on this opportunity lightly. While the standard interior formatting offered by most full-service providers is certainly better than anything a computer can do at those “free” places, enhanced or upgraded interior designs typically go one or two steps further – by integrating design elements, unique styles, and customizations to truly make your book one-of-a-kind. The improvement is usually worth the cost of admission.

Page-by-page custom interior designs are best suited for children’s books, or complex literature where the book itself is a work of art, like with some poetry or coffee table books. Rarely does a page-by-page custom design suit a typical black/white fiction or non-fiction work of average length (100-300 pages).  The result just doesn’t justify the cost.

When it comes to selecting a standard, included interior, do some research. Look at similar books in your genre and choose a similar style for your book.  While a cover should be unique and eye-catching, you don’t want your interior to rock the boat. Give the reader what they expect.

If you choose to enhance or upgrade your interior for a professional format that is more customized to your book and vision, work with your designer closely, and heed his/her advice. After all, this is what they do for a living; they know what they’re doing and their recommendations are worth their weight in gold. If you have a particular vision that contradicts your designer’s recommendations, have a strong, valid reason for going against conventions.  

If you choose to publish with a “free” publishing service, format your book in advance and save it as a PDF file. Do not allow their computers to “format” your book for you. That’s a sure way to make your book look self-published and, worse of all, cheap.  While formatting a book in Word is acceptable, and certainly preferable to computers, the better alternative is to use design software like inDesign. This is what professional designers use and this is what professional publishers use. Yes, your book’s interior design is that important. Most writers do not know how to design a book in inDesign, which, of course, is why most professional self-published authors use full-service publishing providers.


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

The Importance of Book Covers for Self-Publishing Authors

Self-publishing has become so quick and easy that many authors are tricked into satisfying their urge for instant gratification instead of being encouraged to take a step back and look at their book as more than just a commodity to thrust into the marketplace with a computer-generated cover and a computer-generated interior. After all, it probably took you months or even years to write your book; don’t rob yourself of the satisfaction of distributing something truly amazing just because some sites allow you to “publish” it in minutes.  Computers don’t know what makes a good cover. Cover designers do.

When it comes to deciding on the cover for your self-published book, there is a simple rule of thumb: The easier it is, the worse it will be. If all you have to do to “generate” a cover for your book is click an “ok” button, you are doing your book and your writing career a huge disservice.  The cover of your book is arguably the most important element. It plays a role in your promotion and marketing. It entices buyers on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It attracts people at author events and book fairs. But it only does those things if it’s good.  And a good cover is never created by simply clicking an “ok” button.  

Most self-publishing service providers offer authors a choice when it comes to book covers.  They typically provide “free” cover options, and they typically provide “custom” cover options for an additional fee that ranges from $400-$1200 depending upon your service provider. Most of the “free” publishing websites don’t offer custom cover designs, but instead, point you in the direction of 3rd party cover designers. Their “free” selections are typically limited to words on a plain background. You may be able to customize the font and the background color, but that’s usually it.   Full-service self-publishers typically offer “templates” that can be customized with colors, fonts, and even images, usually for free. They all offer custom cover design options, too.

A custom cover is always the best option, but if a custom cover design is outside of your budget, there are still some important considerations when it comes to using one of the “free” covers provided by your publishing provider.

  1. Never accept the default.  Just about every self-publishing provider will provide you with a “free” cover that you can accept without lifting a finger.  Don’t! Remember the simple rule of thumb a few paragraphs up? The easier it is, the worse it will be. That’s not to say the default cover is bad – it might be very nice.  But hundreds or even thousands of authors have already selected it. You want to make sure your cover stands out. Change the background cover. Choose a different image. Change the font.  
  2. Speaking of background cover, give it some thought.  In all likelihood, the majority of your sales are going to occur from Amazon. Do some competitive research.  Go to Amazon and type a keyword or key phrase into the search box that someone might type to find your book. Look at the results.  Look at the colors of the books that appear in the results. Is there a common color? Do you notice any books that really stand-out?  What color could you choose that would increase the chances of browsers noticing your book among all those competitive books? That’s the background color you want.
  3. If your self-publisher allows you to change the default image of your cover for something else, you should definitely do it.  Again, the rule of thumb is to avoid what is easiest. It may take some time to locate the image you want, but it is time well spent.  You don’t want your book looking like all the other books that were published by authors who chose the default cover, do you? Even if you feel the default image works for your book, it is worth the effort to find a unique image instead. In most cases, your self-publisher will allow you to swap the image without an additional charge, but even if you have to purchase the rights to an image on a stock photography site, it’s still worth doing.
  4. Most self-publishers will allow you to change the font on your free cover, and if they do, you should take advantage of that option (since most authors won’t).  Look at the font choices that are available and select a font that represents the genre of your book. Romance book covers typically feature flowing script. Sci-fi fonts, on the other hand, are typically large and blocky. Conduct another search on Amazon to see the types of fonts that are used on books similar to yours.  Stay within the vein of your genre while still being unique.

These concepts are second-nature to most professional book cover designers, which is why a custom designed cover by a professional is always the best option.  After all, what’s the point of publishing a book if your cover isn’t going to attract anyone to it?

book cover design


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.