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Love Garage

05.11.2014

LargeHorizontalPromoI had the privilege of working with E.T. (Liz) Crowe on branding her new series Love Garage – from the initial concept design to the cover design, book trailer and promotional graphics. While writing can be a lonely business, putting a book out into the world – from a book cover to promotion – can take many voices.

I have been lucky to work with extremely talented individuals in the various aspects of bringing The Love brothers to life, so I asked Liz if she’d be interested in doing a “talent interview” of the incredible people who helped her achieve her vision.

Below is the result:)

I’ll start with my own interview – terribly narcissistic I know, but necessary to maintain the timeline because Liz and I hashed out the ideas first.

Questions for Fiona (from Liz):
 
Liz: I sent you a terribly rambling email when I first reached out to you and you were quick to cut to the chase and help me focus on the task at hand (and I’m not newbie, just a self publishing rookie). Do you do a fair bit of hand holding with authors?
 
Fi: Actually your emails weren’t rambling at all! You sent me exactly what you were looking for, and made my job easier since I didn’t have to guess! I’m lucky in that I have a lot of contacts in the industry to help author achieve their vision. And yes, I do a fair amount of hand holding, although I look at it as both a partnership and a friendship with my authors.  I’ve been in the publishing industry for a long time, and I’m happy to help and offer suggestions from graphic design trends to marketing hooks.
 
Liz: What has been your most difficult cover to concoct/create in you career?
FJ: Hmm.. A good designer will make even the most difficult of projects seem easy. (Wait that’s magician right?). Although I was pretty sad having to take Scott’s tattoos off!
 

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Liz:Do you have a favorite cover/set of covers (besides, of course the Love Bros)?Facebook
FJ: Honesty, my favorite cover is the one I’m working on right now. I love that feeling of “holy crap, I just did that!”  (I might have a short attention span.. must investigate)
 
Liz:  Have you always been a graphic artist?
FJ: I would say yes, I’ve always been a computer artist. I used to draw in the MS Paint program on my old PC with nothing but the brush tool. I went to artschool where I didn’t learn to draw or paint, but I did learn Photoshop. I was a web developer for many years dabbling in design, and I channeled my creative skills into Bob Ross style paintings. Then one day, I did a virtual equivalent of tossing a book cover against the wall (it was a cover for my own book) and decided I can do better. I don’t know if I did any better at that particular time, but it was the proverbial fork in the road.
 
 

Questions for Liz:

1.Tell us a bit about the Love Brother’s series?

In all my 20-book backlist, I have never written anything set in my home state of Kentucky, as much as I call it “God’s Country” and swear that it will always be “home” to me. As I was pondering what to do after finishing up my 9- book Stewart Realty series, I had this idea about a family of brothers, each with his own distinct personality but all with the strong pull of family bond to anchor him as he tries to make his way in the world.

Then I made things a tad more complex by making them a feisty Irish/Italian heritage mix, then I tossed a baby sister at them.

Viola! Love Garage, book 1 is the name of the oldest brother’s successful mechanic business in “Lucasville” a fictional horse town, formerly 2 large horse farms, near Lexington. The family’s business is brewing beer, (Love Brewing) and each brother does have his own distinct story. The novels, Love Garage, Coach Love, Love Brewing and (coming later in 2015) Family Love all intertwine to weave a tale about family dynamics, and the strength of bonds you sometimes think you don’t want or need.

I am loving this family so much I’ve decided to write a FREE novella that will release Valentine’s Day.

“Safe Love” will be the real story of how Antony and Margot ended up together. Their story is a supporting one for Aiden’s in “Love Garage.” Margot is the newly divorced PhD social worker and hospital chaplain who did her doctoral dissertation on The Myth of the American Alpha Male: How Being Submissive Is Psychologically Healthy.  Yeah…she’s an “expert” in something Antony could use a lesson in, let’s just say….

(Oh, Fiona, we’ll need a cover for this one…Taria, can I get one more of the photos from ya?)

It’ll be a freebie! More on this soon!

 

2. When you contacted me to do the cover, did you have an idea in your mind about what you wanted the series covers and marketing materials to look like?

I did. I like very simple images, evocative ones that make you think about what might be going on inside the cover. While the books have a “romance element” to them I did sort of go with a romance-looking cover at least for the first one—frankly to catch eyeballs in this crowded book market. But if my beta readers and early ARC readers are any indication they think that “family saga” is a great way to describe this series.

 

IMG_59623. Do I remember you saying the male model Scott Nova is your muse?

Ha! Well, Scott has been known to PLAY my muse, Hans, the tall, sexy German in lederhosen holding a beer (photo proof attached). Scott is a great guy and a good sport (as one would be doing what he does) and attended the release party for my book GOOD FAITH (book 9 of the Stewart Realty series) in Ann Arbor and agreed to even show up AS Hans. It was a blast.

4. What did you describe to Taria from The Reed Files about your vision for the images?

Each brother has his “thing.” For oldest Antony, it’s cars, for Kieran, basketball. Third oldest and proverbial black sheep Dominic is a German-trained master beer brewer and Aiden is a bookworm/author. So I figured on 4 strong images for each book. One thing to realize though, each cover is not meant to convey what each book is “about.” All the stories intertwine but I wanted a uniform, familiar, look to them with clean lines, almost gray-scale which Taria translated perfect and you, my dear Fiona, later made even more perfect.

The Love Brothers: Family Saga with humor, heat and heart—not to mention beer, bourbon and basketball!

Check out Fiona’s amazing trailer (with video footage from the photo shoot):

 

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/CefA1aGVkpg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

Here are the goodreads pages each book (pre-publication):

Love Garage: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22294474-love-garage?from_search=true

Coach Love: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22877945-coach-love?from_search=true

Love Brewing: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23344944-love-brewing?from_search=true

Interview with Scott Nova (the Muse)

IMG_60071. How did you and Liz meet?
Liz and I met during an event called RomFest that was held in the Gatlinhurg, TN area and was a small, very personable get together for authors and readers. Liz and my wife hit it off quickly, and I was a huge fan of her “go after it” attitude. We quickly formed a friendship and I helped her promote a book release in her home town. Had an awesome time and learned a lot about the industry.

2. How does it feel to be an author’s muse?
I can’t tell ya in words to be honest. All I can do is show it in how much I put into the photos and videos that are used for her covers and promo trailer. But really…I’m honored. Because of how much I do in the romance industry, I know how each and every author relies so much on their muse. And for Liz to say that I am that persona, is, well…an honor.

3. How did Liz describe to you what she was looking for in the Love Brother’s Shoot?

Liz knows I’ve got a good theater background, and also understand her grit and that she wants grit in her shots for covers. So we went back and forth a bit in email and we nailed it. Along with Taria and I putting our heads together on it, we got some great shots.

4. When you pose for images and video shoots, do you think about the character you’re supposed to represent? Did you become each of the Love Brother’s?

Definitely!!!! That’s the best way to do it. I mean, when I’m shooting with a female I imagine that we are getting sexy together. I never lose focus that its a shoot and nothing more. But I love it when I get to act solo for a shot and it’s a shot for something gritty.

5. Can you describe the “shoots” for each brother?

I liked the garage brother….I love the automotive world so that worked for me. Basketball with a tank top was a bit daunting….only cause I don’t play and so poses were awkward at first. The other brothers came off pretty quickly….that were fairly simple.

6. How can folks get a hold of you to inquire about images?
I’m most easily contacted through Facebook and I can be found with Scottnovacm and Twitter is scottnovacm and the always lovely and super talented Fiona will be designing my new site soon and it will be scottnova.com. Can also email me at scottnova76@gmail.com.

***Interview with Taria Reed

IMG_06991.Have you ever had such strange bunch of props requested?

I can neither confirm or deny this allegation…lol. I WILL say that I got the oddest looks when I went asking around if someone had an old tire they weren’t using. Also the keg was pretty interesting. “Hi do you sell keg barrels? What size? Um whatever can fit comfortably under a guy’s arm…no I don’t need it filled with beer.” But usually once I explain that I need things for a photo shoot the odd looks turn into inquisitive questions.

 

2. How did Liz describe to you what she was looking for in the Love Brother’s Shoot?

Liz perfected the tell me what she wants without telling me what she wants method….lol. She told me what each brother’s niche was and from there I discussed things with her artist (the uber talented Fiona Jayde) and came up with a game plan. Some of the props were easy but others left us scratching our heads asking “what are we suppose to do with this?” There are only so many poses one can do with a used tire…lol.

 

3. What type of set up did you need to do to accommodate Liz’s request? (purchase of props, etc)

Well luckily Liz’s characters were everyday guys so I didn’t have to go hunting down elf wear or construct a space suit or anything. Each brother was fairly easy. A basketball for the coach, a tire for the mechanic, and a keg for the brewer. OK so the keg was really a cedar flower planter but we made due with what we had. Each character dressed the part and it all came together nicely.

 

4. This was the first time you shot video clips since Liz wanted to do a video trailer. How was that different from your regular shoot?
I’ve always been interested in photography so I took to it like a fish to water. Video is a whole other animal with similar concepts. It took me a few tries to realize I had to hold the camera horizontal (I shoot vertical for book covers) so the image will be situated correctly, the lighting is different, the camera picks up all sounds. EVERY SINGLE SNEEZE, SNIFF, THUMP, AND BUMP!! My first few attempts could have given you motion sickness because I couldn’t keep the camera still enough as I moved. Its really a hard job but I’m happy I can offer this little bit of “extra” to my custom clients. Liz was such a great sport in being my Guinea pig while I learn.

(Note from Fiona: I LOOOVED being able to do a video trailer with the same model and costume/prop/light as the book covers – it really made the whole thing cohesive!)

 

IMG_14715. Any blooper reels you want to share?
I won’t embarrass anyone with the video bloopers, but the photo bloopers fair game. I already warned Scott that the photo bloopers are totally being posted so glad I can finally follow through on that threat…lol. ENJOY!!

 

 

6. Please provide info about your custom and by request shoots, your website and other info where people can get a hold of you.

The Reed Files (www.TheReedFiles.com) offers custom shoots as well as special request images. Custom shoots are just that, totally custom. You can help select the models, wardrobe, props, etc. Special requests are new this fall. With a special request you can ask for a specific image from the shoot I have coming up with the models I already have booked. Both are great options to get what you want to help create an amazing book cover. Check out my custom image website for more information. (www.customcoverstock.com)

 

 

 

 Liz’s Interview with Daniel Dorse – the voice behind the trailer and the audio books.

1.How long have you been doing audio work? Do you do other acting? How did you get into it?
I started acting over 50 years ago, & over 35 years ago started doing VoiceOver work–literally thousands of radio & TV commercials, trailers, E-learning, promos, travelogues, documentaries, & audio animatronics–& also did stand-up comedy for a number of years.  I began adding audiobooks to the mix just about 3 years ago, & have since produced over 70 in nearly every genre of fiction–contemporary romance, mystery-thrillers, Westerns, sci-fi, medieval romance, Regency romance, erotica, children’s books, ghost stories, angels, historical fiction, fantasy, & more.

 
2. What is your favorite type of book to narrate and why?
While I don’t have a favorite genre (I like variety), I like bringing out nuances of character & dialogue found in contemporary fiction, & also like trotting out my British accents.
 
3. I’m a huge fan of audio books myself which is why I feel so strongly about getting The Love Brothers out there in that format as soon as I can. Do you listen to audio books? Do you have a favorite voice actor?
I tend to listen to audiobooks only when traveling (otherwise it’s kind of a ‘busman’s holiday’), but admire the work of some of my contemporaries, like Scott Brick, Jeffery Kafer, & Paul Heitsch.  It’s difficult for me to get involved in the story when others are reading, because I’m constantly thinking about how I would have read a line differently.
 

4. So…..how do you like the Love family’s story so far? What has been the biggest challenge bringing them to life?

I’m very much enjoying reading the Love Brothers, in part because of Liz Crowe’s skill in evoking the male perspective in the love scenes–erotic but un-cliched.  The biggest challenge is finding distinctive voices for the large cast of characters.  So far, so good.
5. How can folks get a hold of you to inquire about voice over work for book trailers or audio books?***
 
For a variety of audio & even video samples of my work, & to contact me, my web-site is <danielvox.com>, & samples of all of my audiobooks can be found at Audible.com, & searching by narrator name:  Daniel Dorse or Elliott Daniels.

****

LizCrowe-FJM_Low_Res_500x750 Love Garage

Book 1

January 5, 2015 (ebook)

March 14, 2015 (Print)

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22294474-love-garage

Blurb

Antony Love is the quintessential responsible oldest brother of a boisterous, Italian/Irish family, placed in charge at a young age by his parents who are busy running the family business. He manages his siblings with a fair but iron hand, until his life is shattered by personal tragedy leaving him the shell of the man he once was.

When outspoken matriarch Lindsay Halloran Love becomes ill, the youngest brother Aiden shows up at Antony’s garage, having dropped out of school (again), needing work and a place to crash. Antony provides both, with three caveats: “Don’t smoke in my truck, don’t be late for work, and don’t mess with my girlfriend.”

But Aiden Love, budding novelist, gets one glimpse of Rosalee Norris, young widow of Antony’s lifelong best friend and all bets are off.

Set in horse country near Lexington, Kentucky, The Love Brothers Series is a saga of family devotion that runs as wide and deep as the Ohio River–except on Sundays when brothers Antony, Kieran, Dominic and Aiden work out their frustrations on the basketball court, Love brother style.

The Love Brothers: A family saga with humor, heat and heart—not to mention beer, bourbon and basketball.

 

 

LizCrowe2-FJM_Low_Res_500x750Coach Love

Book 2

January 5, 2015 (ebook)

March 14, 2015 (Print)

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22877945-coach-love?from_search=true

Blurb

The smoldering intensity of first love ~ the forbidden fantasy of temptation ~ the cold hard facts of real life.

When one man’s hopes are dashed apart in a split second after years spent chasing a dream, he returns home to Kentucky furious at the world and everyone around him.

Kieran Francesco is the middle son of the volatile, tight-knit Halloran-Love family. His role as peacemaker and the one true athlete is well established. He now faces life devoid of the sport he adores after a horrific, career-ending accident, which places him in a new and entirely uncomfortable position—that of the brother with no future.

Over the course of a few tumultuous months Kieran is plunged back into life at the center of the Love family, where he must cope with one self-destructive brother, one ill-timed reconnection to an old flame and a series of bad choices that land him in more trouble than he’d ever known existed.

COACH LOVE, book 2 of The Love Brothers, a family saga of sibling loyalty that runs as deep and wide as the Ohio River—at least until Sunday, when Antony, Kieran, Dominic and Aiden work out their frustrations at the weekly Love brother pick-up basketball game.

 

LizCrowe3_b-FJM_Low_Res_500x750Love Brewing

Book 3

March 1, 2015 (ebook)

March 14, 2015 (Print)

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23344944-love-brewing?from_search=true

Blurb:

Every family has one—the black sheep, the problem child, the prodigal. But Dominic Sean Love could teach all of those guys a lesson or two. Stuck in the middle of a boisterous group of siblings, he’s given “acting out” a new meaning from the day he drew his first breath.

While he’s the one son who follows his strict father’s footsteps into the Love family business, he’s also the one who butts heads with him the hardest. Their epic clashes are the stuff of family legend. But they have made peace and work side by side to take Love Brewing to the next level of success.

Until Dominic does the one thing his father can never forgive.

Diana Brantley has been Dominic’s friend, girlfriend and ex-girlfriend so many times she’s lost count. When he shows up at the farm she’s slowly transforming into a wildly popular farm-to-table resource for restaurants all over the U.S. her first impulse is to shoot first and ask questions later. But she doesn’t. And their lives entwine once more, for good, bad and ugly.

 

 

 

As part of this cover/trailer/blurb/excerpt reveal there is a massive, 3-prize pack, multi-author giveaway. Here is the Rafflecopter embed link:

<a id=”rc-5071b5863″ href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5071b5863/” rel=”nofollow”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

<script src=”//widget.rafflecopter.com/load.js”></script>

 

Of Eggs and Baskets

28.10.2014

eggs

Many of you heard about the current scandal in Romanceland of a publisher suing a blogger. And while the logistics and finer points of the law suit are already discussed on blogs and twitter feeds, there’s one thing implied that I think is incredibly relevant to anyone in a “freelancer” position: multiple sources of revenue. Or put simply: eggs in multiple baskets.

A bit of background about me: before I became a full time cover artist, I was a hot shot web developer working the typical grind of unpaid overtime (otherwise referred to as salary). Two weeks after I came back from maternity leave, the company where I worked for six years, laid me off. (And yes, it was perfectly legal the way they did it.) This is where I decided  not to fall for the fantasy of depending on a single company or entity for my income  because  sh*t always happens.

In terms of publishing, we live primarily in an online world. We don’t personally know a lot of people we do business with, and it can be fairly hard to enforce an audit clause or sue someone for non-payment if their business is in another state, much less a another country. (Or someone could have an accident or a family tragedy and not be able to be online for a while. Short of stalking their personal friends, how would anyone really know what happened?)

Sh*t happens – and it’s best to think ahead. Yes, read your contracts, do your research, talk to happy and unhappy people who have dealt with a company. But in this world of many MANY different means of publishing, you have the means to diversify your portfolio.

If you are an author you can write for multiple publishing houses and self publish as well. No reason why you can’t have two different series at two houses – some houses specialize in a specific trope or subgenre, and it would be smart to tap into audience wanting what you got. Word of warning: some houses may try to prevent you from diversifying with first look clauses or other shinaniguns. First look clauses may be reasonable for a series, but in either case, READ your contract, and have that contract reviewed by people knowledgeable in the industry.  Shameless self promotion: I just interviewed the lovely LaVerne Thompason about contracts (and this self described recovering lawyer knows a thing or five!) in the November issue of InD’Tale mag, so do check it contracts are a topic of interest.

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Same diversifying scenario applies to artists and editors: there’s no reason to work for a publisher and have your own clients. Some houses may preclude that by non-compete clauses in their contracts, but there’s always room to negotiate.

Make a decision if the steady work offered by the publisher will be worth turning down other possibilities in the future. Sometimes you don’t have a choice to wait for a future “if” when you have an opportunity to have something “now” –  I’ve been in that situation. See if you can negotiate the length of the non-compete, or the category of professionals with whom you are supposed to not to engage.  In case of editors, you could theoretically agree only to not to work on a genre the house specializes in. And maybe you can negotiate to keep your current clients so not to lose that income in the future.

Finally, think outside of the book publishing world. Cover artists are also awesome graphic designers who could work for local businesses. I know some AMAZING editors who honestly would waste their time chasing down  commas and instead would be extremely beneficial  “book doctoring” manuscripts with suggestions of where to strengthen conflict, where to add character development, etc. Authors could write articles for various websites and online magazines. Yes, I’m completely generalizing, but the point is, there are opportunities, even if vetting and exploring them takes time. This is why advanced planning is crucial.

Those of you who are in a predicament now are no doubt rolling your eyes at me, thinking it’s easier to say then do. Yes, this is true – all this requires set up, planning and time, and those things are hard to come by when one is scrambling for their next monthly bills. Nevertheless, I do hope this will give freelancers some ideas how to protect themselves in an uncertain future and never find themselves scrambling because of a single entity or client who control one’s entire livelihood.

The phrase to strike fear in a designer’s heart

28.09.2014

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CritiqueNothing douses an artist, designer or any sort of creative person in a cold shiver of dread then the phrase “Let me run this by my friends and family”.

“But wait,” you say! “I need opinions from other people to see what I’m missing!”

Yes, you do absolutely! But allow me to explain from a couple of different perspectives.

When an author (or anybody hiring a creative) completes an art brief – be it a simple email outlining what they want for a logo, a web design or in my case, a cover art request, they do so with a certain vision. This vision may not be a good idea, and the designer will try to recommend other approaches, be it to make the book more marketable, or a website more useful.  Sometimes the ideas will be agreed upon, and sometimes the author will insist on what they want. In all those cases, the communication is one on one – designer to client.

Imagine a designer’s surprise when a concept comes back with critiques from five different people who weren’t involved in the initial conversation and now want to add things that may counteract each other? Suddenly, the designer needs to cull through different suggestions, pick out those that may not work for the existing design (sometimes things we visualize just don’t work in practice), and try to communicate to the author who is equally confused by the barrage of “helpful advice”.

Now lets take it a step further: how are those friends and family and the advice they give related to your product?

Well, you say, they are all readers! Wouldn’t they be my audience?

Sure – if they normally read/watch/enjoy similar genres without a push from you. If  your sis is a romance reader and you show her your mystery cover, her suggestions may not be the most helpful because she isn’t your target audience. She isn’t the one who will be trolling Amazon’s new mystery categories looking for something to jump out at her.

Similarly, author friends (or worse – authors in a critique group),  will throw suggestions to you based on their personal feelings and experiences. “Isn’t there a dog in the story? Why isn’t the dog on the cover?” Or “Author names should always be huge” or “You should have the title in this really pretty script font”. Some of these these may be very valid suggestions. But how many of you – especially those of you who are just wading into the publishing waters (small press or indie) –  know how to cull out gems from hay?

Allow me to be of help. Yes, you should absolutely seek out help if you aren’t sure about your cover (or any design). But choose wisely.

If you have an editor – an experienced editor who has many published clients in YOUR genre – they are a great person to get advice from. They know your book as well as you do, and they have the advantage of having some distance from the book and potentially seeing avenues you haven’t explored marketing wise. (This is the ideal person to consult with while in discussion with your artist about what you need them to create)

If you have author friends who are pretty successful in your genre, those are great people to seek advice from, because they’ve walked your walk and talked your talk. And paid the same dues you’re paying now.

If you know readers – readers who enjoy your genre – those are diamonds and should be treated as such.

And finally, when you send them your new shiny cover, don’t ask them “what do you think” or “should anything be changed?” Ask five people if anything should be changed and you’ll get 5 different answers. Instead, ask “would you click on this book?”. “Would you pick up this book from a shelf?” And if they say “No,” to any of these questions, ask the whys. Don’t try to find a solution before you know the problem.  Once you know the “whys”, you can go back to your designer armed with specific things to change, and rock solid reasons to change them.

To Print Or Not To Print? That’s a good question.

27.08.2014

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DivineWarriorx3dPublished at InD’Tale magazine in Fall 2013

There’s nothing like holding your blood sweat and tears in your hands in the form of a printed book. There it is, a physical manifestation of countless hours of work, rejection, fears, praises and doubts. Some authors don’t think it is worth it. Some authors won’t write a book without putting it into print. And while every author must decide that question for him or herself, allow me to present the actual logistics of what is involved in creating a print book.

Before we go further, let’s make sure everyone is one the same page if you’ll forgive the pun. When you write a book, you probably do so in a word processing software – unless you tap out a novel on your phone during lunch breaks. Once your book is finished and hopefully edited, someone (you, if you are flying solo, or a formatter who is hired by you or your publishing company) will transform your masterpiece into several digital files formatted specifically for Kindles/Nooks/Ipads/Kobos of this world. You will get a (hopefully!) awesome book cover for your book; then you, or another mysterious someone, will upload your digitally formatted book onto Amazon/Barnes/Itunes/Smashwords and you will be published in the virtual/digital/ones-and-zeros world. Matrix anyone?

Now let’s get physical, because you’ll need a whole different set of assets. To publish a book in physical form you will need a print-formatted manuscript and book cover. (Obviously I deal with the later, but I’ve roped in one of my friends and print-formatting junkies Tamara Cribley from the Deliberate Page to help with the former). You will also need a different ISBN number for a print book. (Actually you need a different ISBN for each different medium of your book. An audio book also needs a different ISBN).

Why do you need a “print ready” file format for your manuscript? Well, so your print book doesn’t look like crap 🙂 We’ve all seen books with margins too wide, double line spacing, huge fonts, or two returns to signify a new paragraph. And not to mention having a single line on a page before a break for a new chapter – classic what not to do.

To compete with the pros (New York or smaller publishing houses), you need to spend time and/or money. Time if you’re doing this yourself, or money to hire someone who can do this for you. Keep in mind, there’s “converting for print” and “formatting for print “ – and if you hire someone, know the difference to get exactly what you’re looking for. According to Tamara of The Deliberate Page,

“Some POD houses will allow you to upload your manuscript in a .doc or .rtf format and they will convert it into a printable format for you. The danger here is that unless your manuscript has been pre-formatted to very specific standards, set by your printer of choice, the final result will look nothing like the document you spent so much time on. Very likely, pages will flow differently, forced line breaks will fall in bizarre locations, and chapters will not start where you expect them to.

Your best option is to upload a formatted print-ready PDF. So what makes a print-ready PDF? Well to start with, you’ll want to make sure that the page size of your manuscript matches that of your final printed book. If your book is going to be printed as a 6″ x 9″ trade paperback, your manuscript should also be using a page size of 6″ x 9.” Next you’ll want to make sure that your margins are appropriate, both for the requirements of the printer, as well as your reader. Once you have those two parameters set, go through and re-format your copy. There are a lot of tricks of the trade, but we’ll leave those for a later time. Now, your manuscript is ready to be exported as a formatted PDF. What makes a PDF a much better option than a .doc or .rtf, is that what you see, is actually how your book will be printed, (assuming two parameters we spoke about are set properly). No crossing your fingers, hoping that the conversion looks “okay.”

There are some great resources available online that deal with formatting, but if you’re looking for a quick turn around, or just aren’t ready to learn all the minutia involved, a pro will give you print-ready files, formatted specifically for you POD printer of choice, without any of the hassle.

Once you have your formatted manuscript, you will need to create a print cover. This is where your cover artist plays an important role. Most of the time, when you hire an artist to do a cover, they will send you a high resolution “front” cover – a rectangular piece of art that when printed will measure at around 6×9 or 5×8 at print resolution. (This is something you may want to ask your cover artist about before they start on your project).

Print resolution means just that – an image suitable for printing. Ever print something crappy from google images? Aside from a debate on quality of printers, most web images show up crappy on paper because they are sized for screen viewing. Spitting something into print entails a much larger file size and quality to an image.

A print –ready image will be at a “high” resolution – 300 Pixels Per Inch or PPI (Sometimes referred to as Dots Per Inch or DPI) to be exact. You may be able to plug that image into your print vendor (CreateSpace or Lightning Source are the two big players of Print On Demand books), and use their software to hack together a back cover or spine. (Warning – time suck!)

Or, you may want to hire your cover artist to design a full printed book cover – what I refer to as a “print wrap” and what some call a “dust jacket” containing the front cover, the spine, and the back cover.

The front cover generally remains the same as that of your ebook – you want to keep continuity! If someone finds your ebook and decides they want to buy a print version, you don’t want to confuse them by showing them a completely different cover.

The spine may contain your name, the book title and sometimes a thumbnail of the cover. If your book is too thin, the spine may not have enough room to contain anything readable so it may end up being blank. (And if your book is that thin, you may want to think twice about investing into print. Will your readers shell out their money for a very short print book? Would it make more sense to bundle two novellas together into a collection?)

The spine of the book is directly related to the amount of pages in the book. To avoid the wrath and potential revision charges from your cover artist, make sure you have the print –formatted manuscript finalized to give your artist the final page count. (And it can’t hurt to pad in a few pages with an excerpt from your next book, especially next in a series. Always think of ways to include subtle promo!)

The back cover may contain a blurb about the book. You’ve labored hard on those flimsy three or four paragraphs so make them do double duty. You may also want to include any review quotes, maybe an author bio and picture, etc.

Once you have both these pieces in place (the print wrap and the print-formatted manuscript) you can mozy on to Lightining Source or Create Space to unleash your masterpiece onto the unsuspecting public. I won’t go into details as to how to do that, but start here: https://www1.lightningsource.com/tutorials/tutorials_title_set_up.aspx 
https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/

You will have to offset the cost (in minutes or dollars) of book cover creation/print formatted manuscript creation against the price of your print book. Is it worth it? It depends on what you hope to accomplish. There’s nothing like a feeling of signing your own book for an excited reader. But if all your books are sold digitally, there may not be a point in investing in print – at least for now.

Taking Stock

11.08.2014

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Previously Published in InD’Tale Magazine, Oct 2013
“OMG, that *&$%#ing BLEEP has my book cover!”

Welcome to the world of electronic and print on demand publishing. The above cry can be heard from authors around the globe – often times legitimately, and most of the time due to misconceptions regarding royalty free stock photography and reusable cover art.

How it is possible that two different authors have an identical book cover with only their names and book titles changed to protect the innocent? This can be a way for a publisher to release similar themed stories without investing into unique covers for each one. Alternatively, it can be artists selling something called a Pre-Made cover . While uniqueness is a virtue, so are savings when you’re on a budget. A pre made cover is a beautiful, professionally made alternative to custom covers, and in cases of “non-exclusivity” can be sold again and again.

Con? Someone else will have this cover.
Pro? Very affordable while adhering to professional standards.

You can find reusable PreMade covers at http://romancenovelcovers.com/ – run by the prolific book cover model Jimmy Thomas. For $45 bucks a pop you can’t go wrong. Just make sure you understand that your beautiful cover may appear with someone else’s name and title.

(There are other premade covers – such as those on my website, which are unique and are sold only once. So if purchasing a premade cover, know what you are getting!)

Another possible way for someone to “have” your book cover is because they’ve reused the same stock photography. Just to make sure we understand the term – stock photography means an existing photograph an artist can purchase license to use. Royalty Free Stock Photography means that one can purchase a license to use that image without paying royalties to the model/photographer every time their picture is reprinted on book covers, magazine pages, etc . This keeps the prices low but can also mean other people can buy the same picture for the same low price.

Quick side note for those of you who are thinking: I’ll just take pictures myself and avoid this whole hoopla. To those of you, (with the exception of professional photographers), I say: please don’t. Pictures you take with your cell phone belong in your family albums, not your book covers. Your handsome boyfriend may be the sexiest thing since Edward, but you need to photograph him in the right way to make sure he doesn’t end up with man boobs on the cover. (And trust someone who has done plenty of digital male breast lifts in her day, saggy man boobs aren’t sexy.)
And by the way, if your handsome boyfriend turns out to be a cad and you the next E.L. James, your boy toy may sue you for a fortune if you’re using his bod on your best selling cover.

Speaking of law suits, don’t even think about taking a picture of a celebrity and using it on your book cover. Not unless you’ve got mega time and even more mega money. Celebrities spend fortunes cultivating their image – and they get paid millions to endorse products. Just because their photos are easily available does not mean they are free for you to use to sell your book cover.

That leaves us with stock photography websites selling images – and while I encourage most of you to read the terms of service, most of these images come with a license to use and digitally manipulate, and a “release” by the model and photographer (basically releasing the image for your use).

There are tons of stock photography images out there, but finding models who fit a book’s genre, style and character description shrinks the pool of available imagery. I once had a client ask me to change a stock model on her cover because she saw him on the cover of another author – a completely different genre – and couldn’t think of this guy as anything but this (new) character. A blessing and a curse, to be sure.

There are a number of reasons why artists turn to the same photographs and most of them have to do with quality of images: while anyone can snap a picture, photography worthy of a book cover must be cultivated. Commercial stock photography website such as Shutterstock.com sell good quality images for $5-$10 bucks – and they wouldn’t be in business if such images could only be purchased once.

In addition to Shutterstock, a number of excellent photographers have heard the call for quality book cover worthy images. Taria Reed from TheReedFiles.com, the awesome folks of www.PeriodImages.com, Jenn LeBlank (who is also a writer!!) at www.studiosmexy.com and many others now provide affordable quality images.

These photographers provide harder to find images for popular (and sometimes risque!) genres such as interracial romance, gay romance, ménages, BDSM and more, as well as stocking up on “classic” clinch poses, and of course, suspense, physique, my personal favorite – swords, weapons and many others.

These images are a bit pricier then the big stock sites like Shutterstock, but they are well worth the money for authors looking for fresh faces and models. For a pretty penny, you can even buy exclusive rights to an image – guaranteeing a particular pose and its variations will not be seen on another cover.

In addition to scouting new models and putting up with unsolicited two cents from artists like me always asking for more, these folks also offer Custom Photo shoots. This is a service where an artist and author get to direct a shoot, guaranteeing the clothes, hair and outfits of their subjects will match their characters. And while for some this is a matter of making sure no one will have a similar look, others find this service invaluable when writing outside of trendy genres.

TheBrotherhoodHere is an image created for a custom photography shoot for author R.V. Myers. (The only character Taria didn’t photograph was the Dragon!)

So what can you take away from all this?

When are deciding on your cover art (whether creating it yourself or hiring a designer), decide if you will use a popular stock photography website (links below!), a specialized cover art stock photography site, of your budget allows an exclusive or custom “never to be used again” image.

Communicate your needs to your cover artist if hiring one, as that may impact their estimate: if an artist charges you $75 for a cover, I guarantee a $300 custom shoot isn’t part in their estimate. Similarly, if a cover artist charges $750 per cover, you can expect a cover to be completely unique in terms of characters, models and stock.

I leave you with a promised list of resources:

Big Stock Photography Companies:

Shutterstock.com
Fotolia.com
Dreamstime.com
GettyImages.com
Istock.com

Privately Owned Stock Photography sites specializing in Romance photography as well as other photography geared toward book covers:

TheReedFiles.com
StudioSmexy.com
RomanceNovelCovers.com
PeriodImages.com