Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 020 with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

In our latest podcast, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews bestselling author and self-publishing expert Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Pamela has written the book on self-publishing, WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO? In the summer of 2013, she embarked on a 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, which she organized herself (with the help of her supportive family), so she has plenty of insights and advice for working successfully with bookstores.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Listen in to Episode 20 as Pamela shares her thoughts on:

  • Her mission to serve as an exemplary self-published author, in particular when working with bookstores, so they will open the door to fellow writers.
  • Stories from the road during her 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, including the day when a book club showed up to her Boston reading… despite tornado warnings!
  • Keeping it in the family – her husband, the five children between them, and her mom all joined her on the road to help support her work.
  • Looking at self-promotion with a long-term perspective. “I’m hoping for a 10-year return,” she says. Pamela recommends focusing on how to build your email list of people who welcome hearing what is next. Also, don’t abuse that list – send a maximum of 2-3 updates per year.
  • Promotion is 1/3 of the game in terms of your success. The other elements? Writing, of course, and giving back to the author community.What+Kind+of+Loser+Indie+Publishes,+and+How+Can+I+Be+One,+Too?
  • Pamela’s free strategy: giving away books is an amazing way to get those crucial reviews. Pricing the first book in your series for free is a great way to get started. Read her blog post on this topic here.
  • What she wishes she would have known when she started, including thoughts on exclusive programs, and why moving books in and out of various platforms hurt her more than the benefits of exclusive helped her.
  • Pseudonyms. Pamela believes, “I don’t want to make it hard for someone who discovers me, to discover other things about my writing that they might like.” However, that might not apply for writers who work in vastly different and contradictory genres, like erotica vs children’s picture books.
  • Hints about what’s to come in Pamela’s forthcoming novels.

PamelaPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. 

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Pamela’s website, and her blog

Grab the first book in the KATIE & ANNELISE series for free on KOBO!

Don’t miss Pamela’s guide to indie publishing: WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO?

Twitter: @PamelotH

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

 

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live (and even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog), feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform such as iTunes, etc using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

So, About That Cover: An Interview With an Author and His Cover Artist

We sat down with author Kyle West and cover artist Luke Atkinson to learn more about the adventure of getting a book cover designed. Here’s how it went:

Why do you think having a great book cover is so important when it comes to eBooks?

KW – After your story, your cover is probably the most important part of your book. It’s the first thing readers see, so it has to be downright amazing.

LA –You know the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately we live in a digital age that doesn’t allow that luxury. A great cover can give the visual edge your book needs to stand out in a sea of thumbnails.

How can I find a book cover artist? How can I tell if the artist is right for my books?

KW – Finding a decent cover artist is fairly easy with the Internet. Most (if not all) have sitesApocalypse (The Wasteland Chronicles, #1) displaying their portfolios that you can peruse, which you should definitely check out. If you browse the cover artist’s catalogue, you’ll know what kind of work to expect. Quite a few hang out in places like Kboards Writer’s Café. Usually, they’ll have lots of excellent pre-made covers to choose from, some of which can cost as little as $50 (or even less).

LA – Make sure you pick a graphic designer who can work with what you want. Designers have strengths and weaknesses, too. Try to pick one with a taste for art you are comfortable with displaying on your cover.

How did you find your cover artist?

KW – I was incredibly lucky to already know a cover artist. I met Luke Atkinson my freshman year of college, and we’ve kept in touch. When I was writing Apocalypse, the first book in my series, I remembered that Luke was pretty good at the whole graphic design thing. I asked if he was interesting in doing a cover for Apocalypse. We settled on a price and he got to work.

LA – Kyle and I had a unique situation since we’d known each other for so long which helped us be more open with our design direction.

What’s it like to work with a cover artist? What if I don’t like what the artist comes up with?

Evolution (The Wasteland Chronicles, #3)KW – The first cover he made completely blew me away. It was hard to imagine that he’d made that cover from the stock images he’d shown me. The cover captured the dark mood of the series perfectly, and we continued to incorporate quite a few of the ideas from that cover to establish a brand. For all the following books, we used a similar typeface, silhouettes, along with images that convey the genre in an eerily beautiful way (the desert in Apocalypse, the contaminated tower in Origins, or the dragons and the sunset in Evolution).

LA – Kyle was willing to let me show my strengths while depicting a world he created. We branded the series to look alike, yet be different and interesting on their own.

KW – As we’ve worked from book to book, our process has evolved. It starts off with me hunting down a lot of cool stock images, always keeping in mind the plot of my story. Then, I paste the links of whatever grabs my attention in an email, shooting off a few potential ideas to get him running. Depending on the book, I’ll send anywhere from 10-20 stock images. I’m not sure whether other cover artists work in a similar fashion, but I think that’s helpful, in that it gives Luke an idea of what I’m looking for right off the bat – and of course, he’s free to do his own hunt for stock photos.

Luke then looks at the images, telling me what can and can’t work while adding his own ideas. Depending on the book, the cover gets sent back and forth a few times Origins (The Wasteland Chronicles, #2)– sometimes I have exactly what I’m looking for on the first go, but usually it takes three or four amendments, mostly minor details. I can be very picky, and a good cover artist will patiently make the changes you request.

Good covers have to strike the balance of being simple, yet conveying exactly what the story is about. If you try to do too much, the cover will appear busy and unprofessional. Luke had to remind me of that a few times when my ideas became too grandiose. Of course, the title should always be big and it must be clear what the genre is from the images used. And, as I said before, it’s important that the cover is beautiful.

LA – Don’t be afraid to tell a designer they are way off. Just remember: Be willing to accept a designer’s direction, too. They are the professional at this, after all.

Isn’t hiring a cover artist really expensive? Should I go with a pre-made cover, since they’re cheaper?

KW – The best artists are often quite expensive, but you should never skimp on a good cover. It’s the most visible part of your book, and without a good cover, your chances of selling well are extremely low. I feel like all too often indie authors try to cut corners on costs, which is one of the biggest mistakes that they can make when you’re talking about building a career.

Pre-made covers are excellent, and some can be as cheap as $25 or $35. Don’t limit yourself to that price tag, though. If you’re working on a series, pre-mades are not the way to go, since pre-mades mostly cater to standalone titles.

I don’t know anything about designing book covers. How can I give the artist the feedback he/she needs when I don’t even know what I want?

KW – Go look at the top twenty books in your main genre and subgenre onRevelation (The Wasteland Chronicles, #4) Amazon, and that should give you a benchmark. Most cover artists, assuming you hire an experienced one, already know the ins and outs. But even with a professional cover artist, sometimes you might not get what you’re looking for. In that case, don’t be shy about graciously asking them to fix the aspects you don’t like.

LA – There is always a sort of “meta-game” associated with graphic design. Sometimes simplicity says it all. Other times big and flashy wins. Find a style that works for you and your designer. Together you’ll create something great.

Can’t I just design my own book cover?

KWDon’t design your own covers unless your work is indistinguishable from a professional’s.

Any last tips?

KW – The key to a great partnership with a cover artist is lots of communication, professionalism, and knowing ahead of time what kind of covers the artist specializes in. And if the process goes well and you get a rocking cover, you’ll have an artist to turn to whenever you write your next book.

LA – Word.

kyle westKyle West is the author of The Wasteland Chronicles. From a young age he has always been a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Professional Writing. He writes full-time and resides in the bustling metropolis of Oklahoma City. He blogs at kylewestwriter.wordpress.com

photoLuke Atkinson is a graphic designer from Oklahoma City. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. He has been designing in print and web media for 7 years. His work can be found at lukeatkinson.me

 

Joanna Penn visits Kobo HQ!

Last night, the Kobo Writing Life team was thrilled to welcome Joanna Penn to our Toronto office. Joanna is a bestselling author-entrepreneur and professional speaker, and she shares invaluable information with the self-publishing community on her blog and podcast, The Creative Penn.

Joanna Penn speaks to a crowd of local authors at Kobo's Toronto headquarters.

Joanna Penn speaks to local authors at Kobo’s Toronto headquarters.

A packed house of local authors chatted with Joanna over drinks and snacks, then she took the stage with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to speak about self-publishing and answer questions from the audience. The advice she shared was incredibly helpful and inspiring, so we wanted to share a few key takeaways with you here.

  • Remember that this industry is global. You can build a platform from anywhere in the world and reach an audience in countries you may have never heard of before!
  • Book publishing and marketing are processes that take time. Set long-term goals—we’re talking years, not days. Don’t give up if you do not see a return on your investment immediately.

    Joanna signs Kobo's Author Wall of Fame.

    Joanna signs Kobo’s Author Wall of Fame.

  • It’s ok to fail. The Creative Penn is Joanna’s third blog effort.
  • Take your work and yourself seriously as a business.
  • Do a little bit every day.
  • Be true to yourself and what you love in terms of your writing and marketing.
  • Think about every opportunity for every book, including print on demand, audio, and translation. You can turn each book into multiple product streams, such that ten books multiply to become 50 potential income sources.
  • Publish directly wherever you can. Every platform—KWL, iBooks, KDP, Nook, etc.—is a potential business partnership and can bring you new opportunities for success.
  • The writing life does not have to be lonely. Get online and engage with other authors on social media, join ALLi, or go to a conference. Even if you’re introverted, don’t be afraid to join the author community.
Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

We are so grateful to Joanna for sharing her time and knowledge with us.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Grab J.F. Penn’s newest release, DELIRIUM!

If you haven’t listened in to our podcast interview with Joanna, you can do so here.

KWL is a proud sponsor of The Creative Penn Podcast, which we can’t recommend highly enough.

 

Joanna PennJoanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers on the edge, as well as non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

Twitter: @thecreativepenn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JFPennAuthor and  http://www.facebook.com/TheCreativePenn

Write Away

By Kerrie L. Flanagan and Jenny Sundstedt

Write_Away_FrontCoverWRITE AWAY: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers combines monthly insightful and humorous stories with tips, tools and interactions that encourage writers to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. From “Writing Naked” to “Writing an Effective Query Letter,” these essays remind readers of the unique nuances in the life of a writer and provide practical advice for strengthening skills and knowledge. Each month opens with a place to record goals and action plans. A back section provides resources and tools to help readers stay on track and stay informed. Inspirational quotes, reflective questions, and short exercises keep motivation and energy flowing. Here are a few excerpts:

“Time to Get Rid of Excuses”

By Kerrie

One of the biggest issues I hear writers bring up is that they find it difficult to find time to write. The bottom line is that if you want to be a serious writer, then you must make the time to write. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have the power to decide how we are going to use those hours.

If all you can spare is 30 minutes a day, then commit to those 30 minutes. Don’t let anything get in your way. Think about it—a half hour a day, five days a week, is two and a half hours a week, which then equals 120 hours a year. That is definitely enough time to make a dent in your novel or write a dozen poems or a few stories or a picture book or two or a dozen articles . . . you get the idea.

Here are some quick tips to help you find success in organizing your time.

  • Make a daily/weekly goal for the number of hours you are going to write.
  • Schedule your writing times and mark those times on your calendar.
  • Stick to your commitment. If someone calls to try to schedule something during your writing time, nicely say to them, “That time won’t work for me, I have a prior commitment.” No further explanation is necessary.
  • Reward yourself after one month of sticking to your plan.

What is one way you can be better about honoring your writing time?

“Take A Leap”

By Jenny

Poor February. It’s the little brother of the calendar, never quite matching up to the longer months. But every four years, it puffs up its chest a bit with the addition of an extra day. I love the novelty of Leap Day, even though it occasionally gyps me out of a coveted Friday or Saturday birthday.

February 29 is a bonus day, but, as such, how should one choose to spend it? Is it a do whatever you want because nothing counts day (i.e., whatever happens on Leap Day stays on Leap Day), or is it a day to take a real shot at something meaningful? Or maybe a little bit of both.

We’re told how to celebrate most holidays, whether it’s with candy and flowers, fireworks, or green beer. But I say that Leap Day should be celebrator’s choice. So, writer friends, it’s up to you. If you’ve been working so hard on a manuscript that you’re revising it in your sleep, perhaps your Leap Day should be spent with crossword puzzles and a bottomless cup of tea, or a double feature of completely mindless entertainment at your local movieplex. Cheesecake for lunch is also a viable option.

But if your writerly self has lately been feeling hampered by self-doubts, intimidated by the prospect of success and/or failure, and generally reluctant to strike off in any direction, then perhaps February 29 is your day to take a leap of faith. Send a query. Enter a contest. Register for a conference or sign up for a pitch session. Write a first word, a first line, a first page, a first chapter. You may like it so much that you’ll want to treat every day like it’s Leap Day. Except for the cheesecake for lunch part.

My leap is sending off one of the short stories I’ve been sitting on for a while. What will your writer’s leap be?

For more helpful tips and motivations, get the WRITE AWAY eBook here!

About the authors

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW), writing consultant, and freelance writer with articles in regional and national publications including Writers Digest and The Writer.

Jenny Sundstedt is a member of NCW and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW Writer’s Conference. She writes long and short fiction, essays, overly ambitious to-do lists, and since 2010, has been a regular contributor to the NCW blog, “The Writing Bug.”

 

So, About That Cover: Book Cover Design Tips From a Merchandiser

By Shayna Krishnasamy, Kobo Writing Life Merchandiser

As the merchandiser for self-published eBooks at Kobo, my job is to judge books by their covers. Okay, that’s not my whole job, but you might be surprised at how much of my day is spent scrutinizing, arguing about, praising, sifting through, staring at, and judging (oh, and also mocking. Yes, sometimes a cover practically begs to be mocked) self-published book covers. Book cover design is an immensely important part of the digital self-publishing process. I really can’t emphasize this enough. A professional book cover will get your title the attention it needs and will make it more likely to be awarded merchandising space on our website, in email newsletters, and in promotions. An amateur book cover, on the other hand, will do exactly the opposite. That your book’s success depends so heavily on something that has nothing to do with its contents might be a hard nut to swallow, but it’s a reality that can’t be ignored. So, before you sit down to make your next book cover using a photo you took last summer of your friend Matt’s cottage, let me share with you my list of Dos and Don’ts of digital book cover design.

DO Your Research

Every genre has its book cover hallmarks. While you don’t want your cover to blend in with the rest so completely that it gets lost, you also don’t want to create a cover that is so different from the other books in the genre that it confuses the reader. The book cover, even more so than the title, is the thing that’s going to sell your book. You need to make sure the reader can tell, at a glance, what kind of story you’re telling.

The easiest way to make sure you don’t mislead the reader is to check out other books in your genre, both self-published and traditional, to get a feel for the kind of cover you want for your book.

New Adult Romance covers tend to feature couples and cursive fonts:

Between UsReckless TogetherPerfect RegretWait for You

But not always:

Kiss Me Like This: The MorrisonsDamagedLosing HopeTen Tiny Breaths

The covers of Thrillers are known to have weapons, buildings or vehicles, and apparently orange is a popular colour. Faces are less important:

Panic: A Leopold Blake ThrillerSaint DeathWild StormWasted Justice

Sometimes just author and title is enough:

Act of WarPersonalBad PennyInside Man

Whichever genre you’re writing in, you should incorporate at least some of these familiar elements into your cover to ensure the reader is getting what they expect.

DON’T Make It Yourself

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, and therefore know what you’re doing, do not make your book cover yourself. This is where so many authors go wrong. In order to save costs, because of a false sense of their artistic ability, or just due to a misguided belief that book covers are easy to design, so many authors end up designing their own covers, often with disastrous results.
I’ll admit, I did this myself back in 2010. Here’s the cover I originally made for my first novel, Home:

Home CoverI still like a lot of things about this cover. I like the image and the colour scheme. I like the font I found for the title, and the way I was able to fit it between the branches. But this is, very obviously, an amateur attempt at book cover design. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” like using Times New Roman font for the author name. The novel is a historical fantasy for young adults, which isn’t at all clear from looking at the cover. This cover is a good effort for a first try, but it is definitely not professional. It just isn’t good enough.

 

Here’s another example of the type of cover I come across all the time:

Bad cover (2)There are many things very, very wrong with this cover. To begin with, the dimensions are wrong. The image is obviously a personal photo taken while on vacation. It’s a beautiful photo, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make a beautiful book cover. The title is in some weird font meant to mimic handwriting. Points are awarded for not choosing Times New Roman and for the nice centering, but that’s about it. The colour of the author name makes it unreadable and it’s also placed way too close to the edge of the cover. And then there’s the cut and pasted dog.

I would never merchandize this book.

You want your cover to represent the brilliant book you’ve written, to draw in customers who might not have considered reading your stuff otherwise, to wow the merchandiser. If you’re considering designing your own cover, ask yourself if whatever you might create will have this kind of power. An adequate cover isn’t good enough for your book. You want your cover to be the BEST!

I’ll say it again: Don’t Make It Yourself. Hire a professional book cover designer.

DON’T Put It On Repeat

If you’re writing a series, it’s a great idea to use the book covers to link the titles in the series together. When looking at a list of your books on the retail site, you want the reader to be able to tell right away which three of your five books are a part of your series, especially since not all readers check if a series name is listed. Similar images, colour schemes and font choices on the covers can do this job quite well.

H. M. Ward (who, incidentally, creates her own covers, proving that there’s always an exception to the rule) achieves this quite nicely with her The Arrangement series:

The Arrangement 7The Arrangement 8The Arrangement 9 (Ferro Family)The Arrangement 13 (The Ferro Family)

What I don’t recommend is getting one cover professionally made and then using it for every title in the series by changing the book title only. I’ve seen many authors do this, and I believe it causes confusion with the reader and makes for ugly merchandising. If the series number (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, etc.) isn’t clear enough the customer can end up purchasing the wrong title. It also implies that you didn’t care enough about your book to get a new cover made.

Though repeat covers are by no means a deal breaker—they are far too common for me to exclude them from merchandising entirely—I feel that series covers pack the most punch if they are similar but distinct.

DO Reserve The Right To Change Your Mind

One of the great things about self-publishing is that the author has complete control over the book cover, which is certainly not the case with traditional publishing. Not only can you decide what your cover will be, but you can also change that cover whenever you wish. Naturally, you don’t want to confuse your readers by putting up a new cover every other week, but if you feel your current cover isn’t working, why not try something different? Do your readers continually mention that they were expecting your book to be more of a romantic suspense, when it’s actually a straight contemporary romance? Are you getting a lot of returns? Have you noticed that it’s hard to read the title when you’re looking at your cover on the retail site? All of these problems could possibly be solved by changing up your book cover. Even better, if you don’t like the resulting sales of the new cover, you can always change it back! Such is the freedom of digital self-publishing.

Do you have a favourite book cover designer to recommend? Let us know about them in the comments!

Shayna's PhotoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

How to Beat Boxed Set Burnout: Making the Summer Lovin’ Series

By The Summer Lovin’ Authors

Being an author means more than writing a book. Authors are businesswomen, just like any other person who creates a product for sale. Part of our business is delivering a high-quality product—in our case, a great book!—and another part is finding ways to enhance the reading experience for the reader.

When our group first began talking about writing a project together, it was in response to the prevalence in the romance market of themed box sets. Since box sets are a fabulous waysummer lovin to introduce readers to new authors at a bargain price, we started off considering that approach. However, the conversation quickly changed after we talked about how some of our readers were experiencing what we called “box set burnout,” which meant that they either purchased a box set but never read all of the stories because they simply found the number of books overwhelming, or they felt the set wasn’t as fulfilling a read as a single author’s series featuring recurring characters in the same setting.

After a little more discussion, we decided to address box set burnout by writing a linked series instead. The Summer Lovin’ series features six category-length works by six different authors, each releasing two weeks apart. All books are set in the same location—at Stone Cliff Resort in the fictional town of Deerfield, Canada (modeled after Banff)—and each book has overlapping characters with at least two other books, but could easily be a standalone read, as well.

Crashing Down, New Adult RomanceLosing ItLoving Lies

This approach allows us to create a better reading experience, not just by offering a fun way to introduce readers to new authors, but also by giving readers time to read and digest each book without feeling overwhelmed. We each came up with a synopsis and a cast of characters, (even the town itself became a character) then we used Springpad to set up an online group data storage system to make our bible. Using all this information, and sharing ideas back and forth on a daily basis, we honed the story lines until we felt we had built a solid world! Then, it was writing time. We each wrote independently, based on the plots we had discussed, and then read over one another’s work, tweaking characters and setting descriptions to make sure everything in the books flowed together. Writing this way can be a challenge, since everyone is very close to their own story, but we were all willing to make changes to ensure description/characters fit with the rest of the stories because we all cared about the final produce, and ultimately the reader experience.

Our cover artist, Croco Designs, created covers with the same Summer Lovin’ logo and summer-by-the-lake theme, and before we knew it, the linked series was ready to go!

Taming Tess, New Adult RomanceSurviving NikkiSaving Sullivan

We’re so excited to offer this series of six books by Cathryn Fox, Audra North, Renee Field, Jan Meredith, Lilly Cain, and Sara Hubbard.

Check out the Summer Lovin’ Series here!

Connect with the authors on Facebook here!

An exciting new initiative: Digital Book Day

“One day, one site, hundreds of authors and free books, all to celebrate our readers!”                         – CJ Lyons, founder of Digital Book Day

For three years, World Book Night was an effort to share the love of reading by giving away thousands of books in a single day, once per year. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, World Book Night announced last week that they would cease US operations.

Author CJ Lyons quickly stepped up to the plate to organize something unique and exciting: Digital Book Day, an initiative with the same mission – celebrating readers – but featuring free digital copies instead of print editions. It’s all happening next week, on July 14, 2014.

DBDsquare“When I heard the news that World Book Night USA was over, it saddened me, “ Lyons told Kobo Writing Life. “And it came on the heels of so much upheaval and distress in the publishing industry that instead of addressing the issue with more rhetoric and empty words, I decided to take action.”

“After all, thanks to digital publishing, authors (traditionally published or self-published) have a less expensive and more efficient way to gift books to readers via e-books. I myself have given away over 50,000 print and e-books in the past five years—and it’s always, always, always led to new readers finding me, not to mention a ton of fun for me to do, kind of like Christmas all year round! So I thought, why not a self-funded Digital Book Day?”

We applaud CJ’s efforts and the inclusive spirit of Digital Book Day. Any author can submit a free book HERE, and link to their preferred retailer – including Kobo!

By self-publishing with Kobo Writing Life, you have the ability to price your titles free anytime, with no exclusivity. If you want to offer a book free for a limited time for Digital Book Day, use our easy price scheduling tool to schedule that price change ahead of time. Readers, remember you can find amazing free books any time on our First Free in  Series page: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/Collection/free-first-in-series

Find out more about Digital Book Day here: http://DigitalBookDay.com

About CJ Lyons

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-three novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has

Author and Digital Book Day founder CJ Lyons.

Author and Digital Book Day founder CJ Lyons.

lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers’ prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

CJ will be giving away SNAKE SKIN for free on Digital Book Day. You can find all of her eBooks on kobo.com, including her latest release, FAREWELL TO DREAMS: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/farewell-to-dreams-a-novel-of-fatal-insomnia

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net

 

 

Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do

By Merry Farmer

I, Merry Farmer, am an indie author. And I’m proud of it, too. I was never really interested in taking a path to publication that went through the traditional publishing industry. Sure, it had and still has its advantages, but after a few half-hearted attempts to toe the party line, I knew it wasn’t for me. The feedback I was repeatedly given was that I was a great writer, my plots were interesting and my characters had dimension, but my stories wouldn’t sell. No one was buying medieval or western historicals. It couldn’t be done.

That was when my purpose as a writer was born. The refrain that has become my battle cry and the heart of everything I write is, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Nothing pushes a creative mind harder than being told that something can’t be done. I’m convinced that that is at least half of what has fueled the indie revolution, and I know that that’s what keeps me writing the books that I love instead of chasing the latest trend.

Self-published author Merry Farmer.

Proud indie author Merry Farmer.

When I first started publishing in 2011, the indie revolution was near its beginning. There was a lot of skepticism from high and low about the quality of the books that those crazy rogue writers would dare to publish. What ended up happening, though, is that without the fear of huge financial loss, writers like me were able to experiment with story and setting, with character and themes. Slowly but surely, new voices began to be heard amongst the tried and true staples of every genre.

I write historical romance, and while I love a good Regency era story, complete with dukes and dances, I always wanted to hear more about other eras of history and the richness of the lives of men and women who didn’t have title or money. I love a story full of tight historical accuracy, but I wanted to see what would happen if I wrote a tale with a modern twist set hundreds of years ago. When I published my first novel, THE LOYAL HEART, which is intended to feel more like the movie A Knight’s Tale than THE CANTERBURY TALES, I held my breath, eager to see how it would be received. I was told people would pan it, that it didn’t fit within the confines of the medieval romance genre.

You know what? People loved it! It turns out that there is a place for an adventure-packed romp in the world of traditional chivalry. So I decided to play with ideas and experiment with themes again with my Montana Romance series. I was told historical westerns weren’t selling anymore and that the late 1890s was far too late in the 19th century to appeal to the historical romance crowd. And what was I thinking, including an m/m romance in the middle of a conventional m/f series?

A sneak peek at book one in Farmer's upcoming series, GRACE'S MOON.

A sneak peek at book one in Farmer’s upcoming series, GRACE’S MOON.

Don’t tell me what I can’t do. The beauty of indie publishing is that it has allowed me to try out ideas that a larger publishing house isn’t prepared to take a risk on. I can’t say I blame them for not taking that risk either, but just because they aren’t prepared to put a chunk of cash behind an untried concept no longer means that that concept will wither. There are books being published now that can open whole new worlds to readers. The sky’s the limit now when it comes to creativity and experimentation. We truly are living in the Age of the Author now.

My next experiment? Publishing in a different genre with the same name, Merry Farmer. I have a sci-fi series, GRACE’S MOON, coming in July. They say you can’t publish different genres under the same name. They say your readers won’t follow you, that you’ll have to start the discoverability struggle all over again.

Three guesses what I say to that.

You can find Merry’s eBooks on Kobo through the links below:

THE LOYAL HEART

THE FAITHFUL HEART

THE COURAGEOUS HEART

OUR LITTLE SECRETS

FOOL FOR LOVE

SARAH SUNSHINE

IN YOUR ARMS

THE INDOMITABLE EVE

SEEKS FOR HER

SOMEBODY TO LOVE

 

Visit Merry’s website to learn more, and follow her on Twitter @MerryFarmer20.

Indie Insider’s Next Picks – June

insiders-logoCheck out the third monthly installment of INDIE INSIDER’S NEXT PICKS, a list of recommended indie titles and authors, by IndieReader in collaboration with industry experts (including Kobo!).

Indie Insider’s Next Picks is a great place to discover great books and new authors.

Check it out today to find the books everyone will be talking about tomorrow! Kobo’s picks are right at the top.

New picks will be available every month, so don’t forget to bookmark the link.

Find Indie Insider’s Next Picks here.

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