The cover refreshes are my most popular posts—who knew? So I thought I’d do a behind the scenes on the process.
Why I’m Doing Them
The first reason is that I changed website addresses and it’s wrong in a lot of the books. I’ve been using a new template with the correct link, an updated bio, and links to my email newsletter.
I also updated the Books By with a more generous list of stories, complete with links. I learned my lesson on this one—the link has to go to Books2Read, not to a specific vendor. A book was kicked back by Apple because it mentioned Amazon.
The fantasy template has a sample chapter of Rogue God. The science fiction one will have Crying Planet. The only person who’s going to toot my horn is me, so I’d better do it!
I started just with the interiors for the first few books and then I realized the covers needed to be updated too.
Just like a traditional publisher, the covers have to be changed up every few years or they start looking tired and old. Tastes change. So did my knowledge.
The First Step
Each book is in its folder, so when I prep for publishing, I check the folder. Draft2Digital allows me to create an ebook I can post on the other three vendor sites. But in the early days, I created an Amazon document and a Smashwords document. So I’m cleaning out those old files.
Then I create folders for:
- Book Formats (for the epub, mobi and PDFs)
- Book Masters (for what I used to create the above)
- Cover Art
- Submission History
- Copy Edits
This is just to get everything consistent so I can find files. Organizing is very important in indie-dom!
Da Cover, Da Cover
Then I go hunting for a cover image. I’ve been using IStockPhoto lately since they have a huge selection of images. My focus right now is on the fantasy stories. Covers with character are trending, so that’s what I’ve been searching for.
It’s hard because I have to figure out what the right keywords are to discover the images. For the fantasies, I’ve been trying “medieval men” or medieval women.” Sometimes also “fantasy women” and “fantasy women warrior.” One story I used “princess warrior” to search.
I pass on a lot because they don’t look like they’re protaging. It’s one of the things that really starts separating one image from another. Some stories are stubborn, so I have to keep looking.
If I find something I like but it isn’t quite right, I go to images page and browse through the creator’s other images. Sometimes I can find one that’s just right.
I’m like a hoarder with the images. I’ll save a bunch of them to my board until my brain works out what it wants. Then I download the image and delete the others. Sort of like pantsing a cover!
I use Adobe PhotoShop Elements to build the cover. It’s a home use program like PhotoShop, but pared down. Works fine for book covers.
I use a template I created in the proper size (1600-2400). Guides are set up in the file for each boarder and at all the one-third points. The locations of the guides comes from DIY eBook Covers: Design Principles for Non-Designers (How to sell more books, 1). I know a lot about graphics from my day job PowerPoint days, but from this book, I learned something I did not know.
I’m a conveyor belt for the covers. It’s 30 minutes or less to build the cover. I drag the image onto the template. There’s always an adjustment to put the image in place. Sometimes I flip it. Sometimes I make it bigger. Sometimes I adjust the central image to be right on one of those one-third points (it looks so much more balanced).
Then I sample a contrasting color on the image for the text, update my name. I try to find a second color and use that for the title. Save it as a JPG, and it’s done.
This one’s also a conveyor belt on the ebook side. I have templates for fantasy and eventually science fiction, each with a different sample chapter in it.
Paste in the story. Make sure the scene breaks end correctly. Update the copyright information. Add the cover art information. And it’s done.
Print books are more complicated. I saved the temple from Amazon. Then it’s copy the story one chapter at a time. After that, I have to go through the entire book to match up the chapters and make sure I haven’t skipped any or duplicated any. It’s tedious enough that it usually takes me a few days.
I always end up putting this one off. My critical side keeps saying that’s really hard, but for the most part once I get into it, it’s about 30 minutes. I took a blurb class from Dean Wesley Smith last year—another reason for the refresh. I thought I was doing pretty good with them…and noooo. They’re so awful!
The most important thing about the blurb is getting out of fiction writer mode and into marketing mode. I think that’s why my critical side keeps stepping in. I have to reset my brain to do them. The key thing is to use the first page or first scene in a short story or first chapter in a novel—not try to summarize the whole story.
This is an area where I’ve learned a lot just since February. Which was when I went to Superstars. One of the writers there, James Hunter, introduced me to the concept of keyword stacking Basically, you’re on Amazon, filling out the keyword field. Type keywords until you run out of space. Then go to the next one.
I also hit Amazon for search terms. That’s how I came up with the title for the Digital Minimalism book.
And I was still finding two of the 7 categories were too generic. So I hit the thesaurus for some of the words and add those as well. That causes me to discover a common theme I have so far: Ambushes.
The blurb and the keywords are saved in the same file.
The story goes to Draft2Digital first. They allow me to create an ebook that I can upload on the other four sites.
Conveyor belt here, too. Copy/paste the blurb. Then the keyword strings. Upload the cover and the Word file. Save the three flavors of ebooks and publish.
Then it’s off to BundleRabbit, then Amazon, then PublishDrive (thanks for that site, Harvey!), and Smashwords. I have a list of what D2D and Smashwords publishes to so I don’t duplicate it.
Everything gets recorded on an inventory sheet. I mark off each book title as I get it up on each of the sites and when I refreshed it.
The most important thing about these refreshes is to keep things as simple as possible. Finish one and then move on to the next. With some 40 titles that need to be updated, it’s easy to get overwhelmed!