Why You May Need Different ISBNs

Cover illustration by Wesley Lowe. Cover design by Good Oak Press, LLC

Some first-time authors find ISBN numbers confusing. It’s actually quite simple. An ISBN is an identification number for a book.

Why you need an ISBN number

If you plan on selling your book, (and who isn’t?) the book seller will need the ISBN number. It’s also included in the barcodes. Every item we buy has a barcode number. I’m even seeing little barcode stickers on fresh produce. The days of cashiers punching prices into a cash register by hand are long gone.  An ISBN number is also required if you plan on selling your books online.

How to get an ISBN number

I purchase my ISBN numbers in bulk from Bowker. They sell them individually, or in lots of ten to one thousand. I prefer to buy mine in lots of ten. It comes to just under thirty dollars per number. The bigger the lot, the less per number. If you were to buy one thousand, each would cost a dollar and fifty cents. However, as prolific of an author as I am, I don’t think I could write a thousand books in my lifetime. Therefore, I will stick with buying lots of ten.

Please note the ISBN number is registered to the publisher. I registered a trade name with the State of Arizona when I started writing books. (As I was living in Arizona at the time.) Again, I highly recommend this, as it will make you look more professional. However, if you don’t want to take this step, you may want to consider partnership publishing. The partnership publisher will assign you one of their ISBN numbers.

Bowker has included other services since I first started working with them. They now offer copyright registration, cover design, as well as many others. I highly recommend them.

Some book selling platforms also offer ISBN numbers. This includes Amazon and Draft2Digital. When I left Ingram, I needed new ISBN numbers for my print books. Even through I purchased then from Bowker, Ingram was the original distributor. For whatever reason, it created an issue with Draft2Digital, but they offered me free ISBN numbers for their print editions. The Amazon editions still use the original ISBN numbers I purchased from Bowker.

When you need more than one ISBN number

Most authors will publish an eBook and print edition of their book. Some may also offer an audiobook. However, each edition requires its own ISBN number. Print editions may also require additional numbers, as a hardcover book differs from a paperback. While each version may have the same publisher, each edition is a different product. Therefore it is unique. The same rule applies if you were to offer a second edition of an older title. Because the content is different from the original, it will need a differet ISNB number.

Buyer Beware

There are, unfortunately, a lot of bad actors out there taking advantage of newbie authors. One common scam is to offer free or highly discounted ISBN numbers. The numbers are either fake, or they may have been assigned to a book which is no longer in print. Only buy an ISBN number from a trusted source, such as Bowker. As mentioned before, some distributors, such as Amazon or Draft2Digital may offer free ISBN numbers. However, there may be limitations to the distribution channels.

Make sure your happy with your title before you assign an ISBN

Once you assign an ISBN number to a book title, the title cannot be changed. I typically assign my print edition ISBN number to my manuscript while I am writing. However, I have not yet done so with the current book I’m working on. When writing fiction, you’ll find that characters can have minds of their own. This means they will sometimes take a story in a different direction than originally planned, as is the case here.  So, for now, I’m considering the title, Rivalry, as a working title only. Once the manuscript is complete, I’ll ask my editor if she thinks the title fits the story. If so, great. If not, then I haven’t blown $29.50 on an ISBN number which I may never be able to use.

Gayle Martin

 

From the Writter’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

No part of this blog may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form, or used in any matter by AI, without the express written consent Good Oak Press, LLC. Requests for permission must be addressed to Good Oak Press, LLC, P.O. Box 51244, Denton, TX 76206-1244

 

We’ll Just Split the Royalties

Photo by Pond5

One of the Facebook publishing groups I belong to seems to attract a large number of first-time authors as well as prospective authors. We all have to start somewhere, and I try to help out whenever I can.

The posts typically come from people who are even more clueless than I was when I was getting started, and trust me, I was pretty darn clueless. I’d written a historic cookbook called, Anna’s Kitchen,  and I thought I knew it all. Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since then. That said, I’m sometimes flabbergasted at some of the things people are posting, such as the prospective author who couldn’t afford to pay her illustrator, so she wanted to know if it would be okay to split the book royalties 50/50 instead?

Umm…no!

There are many myths out there about writing and publishing books. One of the biggest, and most persistent, is that authors make big bucks from their book sales. Some who do, but they’re the exception. In reality, most authors have to have day jobs if they want to pay their bills. Their book royalties are, at best, income supplements.

Like any undertaking, there are out-of-pocket expenses which come with writing and publishing books, such as editing, proofreading, and cover design. Laptops and tablets cost money. Pens and paper cast money too. I understand that money may be an issue for many of you, and if it is, then you may be tempted to do it all yourself. My advice, however, is don’t. Very few people have the skillset to do it all, which means you will have to hire people to do certain tasks.

As noted, it’s easy for someone who has never written a book to assume their book will make a profit. They may think it’s perfectly okay to offer to share a portion of their future profits, or royalties, in lieu of paying for the work. It isn’t. The people proofreading your manuscript and designing your book cover have bills to pay. Asking them to work on spec is, at best, unprofessional.

What about asking your spouse, or your best friend, or your great-aunt Mary? Again, I don’t recommend doing this. Family and friends usually aren’t qualified to do the task, but if you need an editor, and your great-aunt Mary just happens to be a retired English teacher, then maybe you could ask her. Keep in mind, however, that she may say no, or she may expect favors from you in return.

The fact of of matter is that you have to pay your people for services rendered. If you can’t afford to pay them, then you can’t afford publish your book. At least for now.

Gayle Martin

 

From the Writer’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

No part of this blog may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form, or used in any matter by AI, without the express written consent Good Oak Press, LLC. Requests for permission must be addressed to Good Oak Press, LLC, P.O. Box 51244, Denton, TX 76206-1244

 

 

 

Another Self Publishing Advantage

Throughout this blog I’ve discussed many of the advantages of indie publishing over traditional publishing. Now here’s another item to add to the list. Owning the rights to your work.

First things first however. Before going any further, I need to state that I’m not an attorney. Nor is anything in this blog ever to be considered legal advice. This discussion concerns works of fiction, written of the author’s own volition. In this context it is common knowledge that the author owns the rights to whatever fictional stories he or she wishes to create.

The Problem with Traditional Publishing

The business model for traditional publishing is for the publisher to pay the author an advance against their royalties. In exchange, the author signs some or all of their rights to their work to the publisher. It all sounds wonderful. At least on paper. But when talking with traditionally published authors, I often hear the same story. “My name is on the book, but it’s not what I wrote.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when the author signs away their rights to the publisher. The publisher can revise or rewrite the story in ways that the author never imagined or intended.

Some authors may not care. As long as they’re getting their royalty checks, they’re okay with it. However, those of us who pour our hearts and souls into our work may find it problematic.

The Advantage of Nontraditional Publishing

Like many fiction authors, I put a lot of thought into what I write. For example, I may name my lead character Erica after a favorite aunt. She has  long blonde hair and brown eyes like my best friend in fifth grade. The story is set in Idaho because my family vacationed there when I was a kid. In other words, everything I write is there for a reason. I also have my own unique writing  voice. It’s like a signature and it distinguishes me from other authors. So the last thing I want is a nameless, faceless editor to come along and change Erica’s name to Sarah, and morph her into a brunette living in Boston. Nor do I want anyone taking away my voice. This is why I do nontraditional publishing.

Partnership Publishing and Self Publishing

There are two avenues for nontraditional publishing. Self publishing and partnership publishing.

Like a traditional publisher, a partnership publisher prints and distributes the book. Many, if not most, offer additional services, such as editing, proofreading, typesetting, and cover design, just like a traditional publisher. But unlike a traditional publisher, they do not buy the rights to the author’s work. All rights remain with the author. This means they do not make any changes to the content or story without the author’s okay.

There are a number of good partnership publishers out there. Unfortunately, there are others that are not. Therefore, it is up to you, the author, to do your research and find the right company. Fortunately there are resources, such as Writer Beware and Trust Pilot, which can help you weed out the bad guys

The other option is self publishing. In this model the author is in charge every aspect of writing, producing, and distributing the book. I tried self-publishing when I first started writing. We’ll just say it was a humbling experience. I then worked with a partnership publisher. Later on, when I understood how the business worked, I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. Having been a graphic designer before I became a writer, it was the right choice for me, but it’s not right for everyone. If it’s not for you, don’t worry. Partnership publishing gives you plenty of options without signing away the rights to your work.

When to Consult with an Attorney

Those with specific questions about copyrights should consult with an attorney who specializes in copyright law. I also highly recommend consulting with an attorney before signing any publishing contract, regardless of whether it’s with a traditional publisher or a partnership publisher. Licensing agreements can be complicated, and there may be loopholes in there which the author does not expect. You need to fully understand your specific legal rights before going forward.

Gayle Martin

Why I No Longer Use Ingram Spark

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Once upon a time, there were two book distributing services in the United States. Ingram, and Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes to schools and libraries. Ingram distributes to book sellers.

The book publishing industry began to change in the early 21st century. Personal computers were becoming more sophisticated and more affordable. At the same time, new software was allowing people to publish from home. It even had a name. Desktop publishing.

So along came Lightning Source

Ingram created subsidiary called Lightning Source, although I’m not exactly sure when this came about. However, I first heard of Lightning Source in 2003, after I wrote my first Luke and Jenny novel. My original publisher used Lightning Source for their distribution.

I began working with Lightning Source directly in 2011, when I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. At the time, they were a fantastic company to work with. They were there to help you succeed. If you had any question or concerns, or if you just needed a little help uploading a file, they were only a phone call away.

Then came Ingram Spark

A new subsidiary, Ingram Spark, came along a few years later. It worked with independent, or self-published authors, so I migrated to the new site. Same company, same great customer service. I had a long and happy business relationship with both subsidiaries for over a decade

Unfortunately, times have changed, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been for the better. It all started when I was having some serious log in issues with my account. No matter what I did, nothing would fix it. It’s a rather long, complicated story, so I’ll sum it up by saying that after much frustration and many emails back and forth, I was told the problem was fixed. Only it wasn’t fixed. The issue still persisted.

Why I Left Ingram Spark

Ingram Spark is longer the helpful company I signed on with back in 2011. They have discontinued telephone support. Tech support is only available by email only. Unfortunately, the more complicated the issue, the more difficult it is to resolve it by email alone.

The initial response to the emails I sent always asked me for information I had already included in the original email, along with a screenshot. For example, if someone named Bill responded to my first email,  I’d reply with a, “Dear Bill.” Then would repeat everything I had described in the original email, along with another screenshot. Next thing I knew, I would get a response from Sally, asking me the same questions Bill had asked. So where was Bill? I thoughtI was working with someone named Bill. So, once again, I’m having to rewrite my original question and attach yet another screen. The next response came from Marco, who, like Sally, had never bothered to read the earlier emails.

Having to describe the same issue over and over again only made matters worse, and after awhile you realize they don’t give a damn about helping you. As a result, the issue was never resolved. Sometimes you need to communicate in person, but I no longer had that option. There came a point when it finally became a deal breaker. Thankfully, there are now some alternatives.

I recently learned that one of my author friends has never used Ingram Spark. This came as a big surprise. He’s been writing books longer than I have, and he has built himself a good following. He distributes his books through Amazon’s KDP Publishing, Draft2Digital, and SmashWords. So, I’ve  changing course too. I’ve closed out my Ingram Spark account for good.

Kindle Direct Publishing

As we all know, the Amazon Kindle has been a game changer. I started publishing my ebook editions directly with Amazon shortly after the Kindle came on the market. The platform easy to use, and I could upload my files for free. However, I had never published a print edition with KDP Direct. That all changed with my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. When I uploaded the print edition to KDP Direct I found it was almost as easy as uploading an eBook.

I admit I was a little concerned about the printing quality, but after receiving my first author’s copies, I can find no difference between KDP and Ingram. Both companies produce good quality print books. The only difference is that Amazon does not charge you a fee to upload your files. You upload them for free. So why spend money when you don’t have to?

Amazon also has outstanding customer service. You can contact them by phone, email or chat. I’ve found their phone support to be friendly and helpful. No long waits on hold either. You enter your phone number, and they will call you back. They will also work with you until the problem is fixed.

Other Book Distributors

I’ve started distributing my eBook editions through Draft2Digital. They offer virtually the same eBook distribution as Ingram Spark. My eBook editions are now available for the Barnes& Noble Nook, Sony and Kobo eReaders, Apple Books, and others. There is no fee to upload your files, and their customer support is available by phone or email. Draft2Digital is also merging with SmashWords, and I will soon be distributing my print editions with them as well.

Ingram Spark is by far the winner when it comes to convenience. Those who don’t want the hassle of having to upload their files to multiple accounts may think the forty dollar upload fee worth it. To each their own. Unfortunately, because of all the grief they have caused me, I’ve decided they simply aren’t worth headache, and I’d rather keep the forty dollars in my own pocket. I can only hope, for their sake, that they will take whatever steps are necessary to improve their customer service. They lost a loyal, long-term  customer when they lost me, and somehow I doubt I’m the only one. All I can say is I won’t be coming back.

Gayle Martin

UPDATE: Smashwords and Draft2Digital have merged. If you are using D2D they will now publish your books on Smashwords.

 

What Publishing Services Don’t Do

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

Once upon a time, I offered publishing services to other authors. It was an interesting experience, and I met some very nice people. I also learned about the misconceptions authors sometimes have about the services publishers provide.

What publishers do

Publishing services, sometimes called partnership publishing, print and distribute your book. Some may offer other services, such as typesetting and cover design, while others may not. I was a graphic designer before I became an author, so I offered typesetting and cover design. The only services I didn’t offer were illustrating and editing.

For the most part, my authors were pleased with my work. I would send them the proofs. Once the author approved them, I would publish their book. Then came the problems. Now that they had their printed copy in hand, they found typos and misspellings. And why hadn’t I caught those errors and fixed them before I published their book?

Because it wasn’t my job.

What publishers don’t do

When it comes to independent publishing, or self publishing,  it is oftentimes the author, and not the publisher, who is responsible for editing and proofreading their manuscripts. This is why you need to carefully review the contract before you sign it.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, It Takes a Team to Write a Book, there is a lot involved in writing and publishing a book. Editors and proofreaders are also needed. They are the people who catch your errors before the book goes to the publisher.

As human beings, it’s difficult for us to see our own mistakes. This is why we need a fresh pair of eyes to go over our manuscripts. I use both an editor and a proofreader before publishing my work. The editor does most of the heavy lifting. He or she looks for spelling errors, grammatical errors, continuity errors, and to insure the author is using the proper syntax. The proofreader comes in later to catch any errors the editor may have missed. Even so, we’re all human, and there will always be those few mistakes we all missed. The goal is to catch as many as we can.

Of course, if I happened to catch an error, I would fix it and let the author know.  However, typesetters simply don’t have time to read the text. They’re only concerned about how the text appears on the page, so please, don’t count on these people to look for typos and other mistakes. They’re not proofreaders.

Unfortunately, I soon discovered that it simply wasn’t profitable for me to publish books for other authors, so I no longer offer this service. However, it was still a good learning experience, so I have no regrets.

Gayle Martin

Selling a Book is Business 101

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Many newbie authors simply don’t understand how basic retailing works. I sometimes see posts on author’s forums from people who are most upset because Amazon is selling their books below THEIR price.

Let’s Take a Short Course in Business 101

You write a book. You then want to sell your book. (And who doesn’t?) There are different way to accomplish this, depending on the book format. These days most authors sell an ebook and a print edition. I’m now going to explain the differences in how they are distributed.

eBook Editions

For ebook editions distribution is pretty simple. You upload your file to the bookseller, such as Amazon KDP. You determine your retail price. Amazon will ask you what percentage of that price do you want them to pay you as a royalty. You make you selection, submit your file, and viola! You ebook is now available for purchase, at your price.

So, how are you able to do this? Well, simply put, ebooks are intangible. They’re an electronic file. Amazon didn’t have to purchase tangible, printed copies of your book for resale.

Print Editions

Print editions are different. They are a tangible product. It costs money to have them printed and distributed to booksellers. So, how does this work?

Most small press and independent authors use Print on Demand, or POD for short. Here’s how POD works. Once your book is typeset and your cover is designed, you upload the files to the distributor, which, in the United States, can be Ingram Spark, Barnes & Noble press, Amazon KDP, or Draft2Digital. You include your retail price, along with a discount, typically 55%. The discounted price is your wholesale price. Your retail price is, essentially, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, or the MSRP.

So what’s a wholesale price?

Your wholesale price is what resellers, or retailers, you know, book stores, pay for your book. They will then stock your book in their store.

So why aren’t they selling your book for your price?

The retail price is what the consumer, in this case, the person who wants to read your book, pays to purchase it from the bookseller.

The bookseller has overhead expenses, such as rent, utilities, and so forth. Therefore, he or she has to factor in their overhead and sell the book at a price so that they can make a profit. This price may be the same as your MSRP, or it may be less. If they can sell it for less, the consumer is more likely to buy. If they are having a sale, they may drop the price even lower. Either way, the final retail price is determined by the bookseller, not the author. The author’s price, which is printed on the book cover, is the suggested price only. There is no written agreement between the author and the bookseller to sell the book for the author’s retail price.

Your other option–print and distribute it yourself

If you’re not happy with the way books are printed and distributed you can print and distribute your book yourself. Some authors choose to do this, and depending on their readers, and how they distribute their books, they may do well. However, there are some disadvantages to doing it yourself. First, you’ll have to find a book printer and pay for a print run, which is typically 500 or 1000 books. That’s a lot of books, so you’ll need a place to store them.

Once you have your print books in hand, you can sell them directly from your own website at your MSRP. Again, some authors do this, quite successfully, but it does take a lot of work. Once a book is sold you’re responsible for the shipping, so plan on spending time waiting in line at the Post Office. You can also sell the book yourself on Amazon as a third party seller. However, you’re still responsible for fulfilling the order, which means you’re still the one who has to go to the Post Office.

So there you have it. If you want total control of the MSRP, and you don’t want anyone selling your book for anything less, then you’ll have assume the responsibility for the printing and distribution, and well as fulfilling the orders. Again, some authors, such as motivational speakers, do this successfully, as they typically sell their books at their speaking gigs. However, most readers prefer to buy printed books from trusted booksellers, such as Amazon.

Gayle Martin

 

Are You Ready to be Published?

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

There is nothing quite like the thrill of finishing your very first manuscript. If you’re like most new authors, you probably can’t wait to see your book in print. However, there are a number of steps you need to take before you’re ready to publish. The following checklist will help you determine if you are indeed ready.

Is there is a viable market for your book?

The old adage about there being an audience for every book is generally true, but some genres are more popular than others. That said, some niche authors do very well. I know a gay man who writes romance novels for gay readers, and he built a following rather quickly

Have you completed your research and listed all your sources in a bibliography?

This mostly applies to nonfiction works, although I included bibliographies in my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers. The series was written to teach actual historic events in an interesting and entertaining way, and the books were geared toward educators.

Have you gotten two to four manuscript reviews to use for your back cover blurbs?

It’s an important step which many new authors miss. Having a back cover blurb gives you more credibility. I’ll ask other authors for reviews and let them know there’s some free publicity for them, as their name and book title appears on my cover. Authors associations and online forums are a great way to connect with other authors.

Have you obtained written permission for all the visual references you’re including, such as photographs or charts?

This is a biggie, and never assume it’s public domain because it’s a historic image or it’s royalty free. Copyright laws changed dramatically in the 1970s, and some museums own the rights to images in their collections. Also royalty free doesn’t mean copyright free, so read the terms and conditions carefully when purchasing stock images. When in doubt, ask. Better yet, create it yourself if you can.

Have you used your spellchecker?

Seriously. Even the best of us make silly mistakes, and double checking your spelling will make your editor’s job a little easier.

Have you decided how to publish your book?

Gone are the days when big publishing houses dominated the market. Today’s authors have many options. Please refer to my post,  The Three Options for Book Publishing, for more specific information.

Are you prepared to deal with the possibility of rejection letters or receiving bad reviews?

Not everyone is going to like your book, and those who choose to find an agent or go the traditional publishing route will have to deal with rejection letters. However, you needn’t fear an occasional bad review. It means you are real, because not everyone will like your book.

Are you willing to accept editorial changes?

This is another biggie. Your editor is a fresh pair of eyes who goes over your manuscript to give it the polish it needs to help it become successful. They can and will make changes. Therefore, it’s important that you find someone you feel comfortable working with. Once again, author’s associations and online forums are good places to ask for referrals.

Have you planned a budget to cover expenses such as software, editors, and other out-of-pocket costs?

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, writing a book is a business venture, and you will have some out-of-pocket expenses. Even traditionally published authors have overhead expenses, such as computers and software. Grants, endowments or crowd funding may be available for those authors in need of financial assistance.

Do you have a plan for marketing and promoting your book?

Marketing the book is the author’s responsibility, even if you are traditionally published. Thankfully, there are many how-to books out there to help you with your marketing plan.

If you answered no any of these questions then you’re not ready to be published. However, this checklist may be a handy guide for doing what you need to be ready.

Remember, book publishing is a team effort. So for best results, you must be willing to work with others and be willing to consider whatever suggestions or advice they may offer you.

Gayle Martin

 

It Takes a Team to Write a Book

(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / rmarmion

According to an old political slogan from the 1990s, it takes a village to raise a child. Here’s a version for authors. It takes a team to write a book. So who’s on the team?

The captain

The author is the team captain. He or she is the star of the show. For some, the word, author, may bring an image to mind of someone in an isolated house by the seashore, working away at their typewriter, pounding out perfect prose with the very first draft. If only it were so. Most of us are working on laptops in our dens or bedrooms, when we have the time. For many of us, our jobs, families and social obligations take priority. However, those of us who are serious about our writing will make the time.

Team members

The beta reader. The first person on the team is the beta reader. He or she should be an avid reader, but not necessarily a writer. If willing, your spouse, your mom, or your best friend can be your beta reader. The beta reader goes over the early drafts to let the writer know if their story makes sense or if they’re communicating their point clearly. I’ve had friends and family members as beta readers, and they’ve all done a good job. .

Writer’s associations and critique groups. Not everyone will have someone in their circle who’s willing to give them honest feedback. If that’s the case, check with some of your local writers associations, and try to find a critique group. Critique groups typically meet once a week, either in person or online, and they’ll read, and critique, each other’s work. Like a beta reader, they can help save you the time, and the hassle, of having to do a major rewrite later on.

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend joining a writer’s association, especially if you are a new or first-time author. Some associations, such as Romance Authors of America, are genre specific. Others are open to the writing community at large. Typically, these associations will have monthly meetings with a guest speaker. They’re invaluable for learning your craft and networking with other authors.

The first officer

If the author is the captain, the editor would be the first officer. I’ve posted, many times, on this blog about why every author needs an editor. Simply put, your editor will go over your work and correct the gaffes, punctuation errors, inconsistencies, grammatical errors and other problems that you, the author, cannot see. It’s the editor who separates the pros from the amateurs.

Please note that unless your spouse, your mom, or your best friend has a background in journalism or teaching English, they aren’t qualified to be your editor. When it comes to editing, working with a professional is a must. I found my first editor through my first publisher, and my current editor through a writer’s association. Be sure to find someone you feel comfortable working with, and, most importantly, check your ego at the door. My editor and I have a great relationship. She fixes the problems without changing my voice. As an added bonus, she also makes snarky comments in the sidebar. Over time I’ve learned not to drink coffee while I review her changes, lest the coffee go up my nose.

The proofreader

The next team member is the proofreader. Proofreading is sometimes referred to as the second edit, as the proofreader goes over the final edited version of the manuscript to catch the errors that you, or your editor, may have missed. Typically, these are the tiny errors, such as a missing quotation mark. If your spouse, or you mom, or your best friend has a good eye they can probably do your proofreading. I would, however, advise against having your beta reader do your proofreading. For this job you really do need a fresh pair of eyes, and again, your publisher, or writing group, may be able to refer a proofreader.

Other team members

Depending on your genre, your team may also include photographers and illustrators. Some of you may be tempted to use your own visual art, but I would advise a word of caution. Unless you’re a professional, or have had some professional training, I would leave it to the pros. Drawing, painting and photography are disciplines which take many years of formal training and practice to master, and an amateurish photo or illustration can make you book look amateurish as well. Also be cautious with using stock images, especially for your book cover. You won’t have exclusive rights, which means another author can come along and use the same image for their cover.

And finally

The last member of your team is your publisher. You have some options here, and you may wish to read, The Three Options for Book Publishing, as it discusses those options in detail. Each has its pros and cons, and it’s up to you, the author, to determine which would be the best for you.

Some of you simply may not have the means to hire all these professionals. If that’s the case, and you can only hire one person to work with you, make it your editor. Your editor is the most important member of your team. He or she is the one person you simply cannot work without.

Gayle Martin

Consistent Book Cover Design

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, building your own unique brand as an author is essential. For those of us who’ve written more than one book, this includes having consistent covers. After all, what’s the first thing a potential reader sees? Your book cover.

Five Star Publications, Inc., published Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Luke and Jenny Visit Tombstone, the first title of my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers, back in 2006. As publisher, Five Star took care of the cover design. The illustrator and cover designer created a beautiful book cover, and I was quite pleased with it.

Unfortunately, when the time came to publish my second book, Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War: a Luke and Jenny Adventure I found out that the person who designed and illustrated the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral cover was no longer available. Thankfully, we were able to find another illustrator with a similar drawing style. However, no two artists are exactly the same. I loved the Billy the Kid cover illustration, but it didn’t match the O.K. Corral illustration closely enough to make the two books look related. I now had to make a decision. I could either have a book series with one cover which looked like it didn’t belong, or I could have the original Luke and Jenny book cover redone with a new artwork from the new illustrator. I opted for the latter. It really was my only option.

My covers were now consistent, which, in turn, made it that much easier to build my brand.

A few years later I published updated editions of the Luke and Jenny series, this time with my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. I could have redesigned the covers with new illustrations, but opted not to. My brand had been well established by then, and other than new ISBN numbers, and some minor copy editing, the books were essentially the same as the Five Star editions. The only change I made was to add the brown borders to distinguish them from the earlier Five Star series.

After completing my Luke and Jenny series I changed genres and started writing fiction for adult readers. This meant starting all over from scratch and building an entirely new brand, including creating a pen name, Marina Martindale, but the same rules for my covers applied. While I now write stand alone novels, I still work with Wes Lowe, who did the Luke and Jenny cover illustrations, and I still have consistency in the cover designs. It’s all about building your brand.

Gayle Martin

 

 

Stock Photos and Book Cover Design

Cover photo by Rob Resetar

I often see discussions from first timer authors in online forums or Facebook groups talking about book cover design. Some post about how easy and convenient it was to use stock photos for their book covers. Others think royalty free means copyright free. Some even think they can just Google the type of photo they’re looking for and download it for free.

The problem with royalty free stock photos

Stock photos are easy to find and relatively cheap. I frequently use them on my blogs because I don’t always have the time to go out and shoot my own photos. However, royalty free doesn’t mean the photo is free. You pay a one time licencing fee, and the fee may vary, depending on how the photo will be used.

The problem with stock photos is that you don’t buy exclusive rights. Other people can and do use the same photo you’re using, and this could include other authors using the same photo for their book covers. Imagine going to a book festival and seeing another author signing a book with the same cover photo you’re using. Yikes!

If it’s on the Internet it doesn’t mean it’s public domain.

There are people out there who honestly believe that publishing a photo online automatically makes it public domain. Therefore, they can download it for free and use it as they wish. WRONG! While I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving legal advice, it’s common knowledge that the rights to the photo belong to the person who took the photo. Therefore, if you use someone else’s photo without their permission, you could, potentially, find yourself in serious trouble. And who needs that kind of the grief? So, when in doubt, find out who the photographer is, and get their permission to use the photo.

My best advice would be to take the photo yourself if you possibly can. However, if you don’t have the skills to do so, or if the photo needs to be taken at a distant location, consider hiring a photographer to shoot the photo for you. If budget is an issue then ask around. Many of us have friends or family members who are into photography and who would be honored if you were use one of their photos for your book cover. Most colleges and universities offer photography classes, and students will oftentimes jump at the chance to do a paying assignment. Use a stock photo only as a last resort.

And one final note. Whether you are using a friend’s photo, or hire a professional photographer, be sure to have the photographer sign a release form granting you permission to use their photo, even if they’re letting you use their photo for free. Stuff happens, and you can find release form templates online.

The book cover I’ve included is one I designed for another author. I’m a photographer as well as an author, but none of the photos in my library were what I was looking for, so I asked a photographer friend. He had the perfect photo in his library.

Gayle Martin