Monday, June 4, 2012


If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

One of my pet peeves is an author putting out a product that isn’t professional. Your name is your reputation and it’s hard to build a name and brand that represents good quality and all too easy to damage with shoddy work. 

There should be certain expectations that come with the name on the cover of the book. The reader has the right to expect to get as good a story as they would if the book was traditionally published in both content, copy, and cover art. Content editing: does the story work, does it start in the right place, is the POV correct, is there enough tension, conflict, and motivation to carry the story? A good story is so much more than having a manuscript written without errors and in perfect English (copy editing). It’s about writing to entertain a reader and that’s much more difficult. Content is everything and that’s true whether you’re a small indie publisher or self-publishing a book.

In part One, Judi spoke about the whys of self-publishing and the need for self-published authors to put out a professional story and some of the downside.
 self-publishing isn’t all wine and roses. Self-published authors now take on the role of publisher as well as author. That means no advances and all the up-front costs: Editing (story, copy, line…), a cover, formatting, ISBN, copyright, marketing. You have to be your own editor, art department, publicist, and marketer in addition to being a writer and businessperson.”  

Judi Fennell continues her thoughts on producing a professional looking product. Especially when it comes to the cover art and the technology of producing a high quality book to sell. 

Covers are arguably the best marketing tool you have after word-of-mouth. If the cover is appealing, people will “pick it up.” How many times have authors complained that their cover looks nothing like the book? I actually had to change my heroine’s hair color based on a cover because the Marketing Department loved the image they’d selected for the cover. Okay, I went with it (heck, she was a genie—she could change her hair color at will if she wanted), but guess what?

They changed the cover.

Luckily, they used another model with the same colored hair, but there you go. My vision altered. (I do love the cover, though, don’t get me wrong. And I’m fine with the hair color change; it’s just part and parcel of the TP business.)

But when I set out to do my cover for Beauty and The Best I knew there were elements I wanted on there. Definitely the hot guy. He’s headless because, sadly the face doesn’t always match the body… But I got to choose him. (And, yes, it was tough. Seriously. Think about all the hours I spent scrolling through pictures of half-naked guys. It was rough.)

I wanted to show the humor and the guardian angel element. That would be the cat with the cockeyed halo.

I wanted a white background. My work has been compared to a lot of contemporary authors whose TP covers are white, and even though this book has the guardian angel slant to it, it’s essentially a contemporary romance.

I wanted to capture Todd’s art and the paint-splattered drop cloth that plays a nice part in the story. But I couldn’t put all of these elements together.

Enter my cover artist, Kim Van Meter.

I’d done research, looked at different cover artists’ work and their turnaround times, and Kim was the one I went with, but there are others out there who do work that is just as amazing. I love the cover and have gotten awesome feedback from readers.

And it looks FABULOUS in print.

Print, you ask? How do you print books if you’re self-publishing? Doesn’t that cost an arm and a leg? Don’t you need to store thousands of books in a warehouse somewhere?

No. You don’t.

I use Createspace for my print versions and, while the books are a little more expensive than TP print books, readers who want the books in physical form are getting an awesome product (if I do say so myself). It’s gorgeous.

So how does one actually self-publish?

Write the story. I can’t stress that enough. You can spend hours, days, weeks, on the other aspects, but if you don’t have the story, you’re wasting your time. Use beta readers to get the story as best as it can be. Then hire an editor. Edit your book. Make it the best it can be. Those people who do no promoting and their books skyrocket? That’s because they’ve done their homework on the most important aspect of this business: they wrote the best book they could.

Get a cover. Whether you do it yourself or you hire someone, make this cover PROFESSIONAL looking. I can’t stress that enough. Nothing says “cheap product” than a sub-par cover. Research other books in the genre you’re writing. Take a look at the best sellers. What is it about their covers that grab your attention? Who are the cover artists? What elements do you want on your book?

Deal with the technology. Or, if you don’t want to figure out formatting and uploading and ISBNs and Bowker’s site, and whether to do KDP Select or Nook First, or free books, or giveaways… hire someone.

*** Full disclaimer: I have a formatting site: Check me out. Many satisfied REPEAT clients and reasonable prices. Referrals for other services. Excellent turnaround time. And hand-holding all the way. ***

Self-publishing is a business all on its own in addition to the writing business. That’s very important to remember. You have to switch hats from the comfortable creative author hat to something that’s maybe outside your comfort zone. Join some indie and self-pub loops; the information you can find there FOR FREE is priceless.

But most of all, write. Having one book up is nice, but it’s the multiplier factor of having more than one, especially if it’s a series, that will bump up your sales to where you might be able to leave the Day Job and focus solely on your writing. I’m not there yet, but I’m hopeful.

Am I still pursuing TP? Yes. Why, if self-publishing can be the way to Day Job and artistic freedom? Because, as with anything else, having all your eggs in one basket might not be the best thing. Publishing is constantly changing; no one knows what will happen next. I’d hate to ditch the security of a Day Job for the Wild West of Publishing only to have a tornado come along and turn that Wild West into a dustbowl. But that’s my path; it might not be yours. I know other authors who say they’ll never traditionally publish again. Why give away 64% of their royalties? It’s a compelling argument and may change my mind as I bring the next books to market. (Look for If The Shoe Fits, book #2 in the Once-Upon-A-Time Romance series after Beauty and The Best, and Through The Leaded Glass, a RenFaire time travel romance coming soon!)

You can read a short excerpt Here.

Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad's hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she's more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she's still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends' books.

PRISM and Golden Leaf Award winner and ARe best-selling author, Judi loves to hear from her readers. Check out her website ( for excerpts, reviews, contests and pictures from reader and writer conferences, as well as the chance to "dive in" to her stories.


Tonya Kappes said...

I can't agree more! All of my novels have been professionally edited, not once, but TWICE! That is the hardest part about self-publishing. I'm in the process of having my first series re-edited.
I just blogged on the MANY HATS OF SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. My day job has become the part time job to my writing career. I'm not complaining b/c I love writing and would love to quit the day job;))
Covers really are very important. I made sure I spent a lot of research getting the best covers for my novels. I have to admit that I LOVE my covers!

Olivia Cunning said...

My latest dip into self-pub waters is at the editor's right now. What I love MOST about self-pubbing is that it doesn't take 2 years to get books in the hands of readers.

Julie said...

Just read both of these posts and feel like I've learned a lot! I'm trying to go the route of traditional publishing right now but there's so much to learn about all of the options, it's great to know more about self-publishing as well. Thanks for sharing, Sia!

Kat Sheridan said...

That cover is just gorgeous and one would never guess it's a self-pubbed book. Plus, being by Judi Fennell, I know it's got great content!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You certainly know what you are doing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Judi. Your suggestions on self-publishing make loads of sense. Authors need to have a brand which stands for a certain level of quality and style, and it's clear you're sweating the details to sustain those characteristics with your self-pubbed books.

Johanna Garth said...

I really wish there was some independent respected reviewer like Kirkus but for self-publishers. Sometimes it's so hard to know what will be quality and what will be dreck.

Judi Fennell said...

Hi everyone. Yesterday got away from me, sorry about that. Yes, I can't stress enough how important editing is, ESP. For self-pub ing.