Ugly Books—Get Out of Here!

Seriously, folks. It’s about to get real.

I recently scrolled through the online bookstore of a independent small publisher (who shall remain nameless) and I was shocked. SHOCKED by the ugliness of the books they publish.

People do judge the quality of a book by its cover.

Indie authors, please hear me out, if you get a publishing “deal” with a small publisher and their existing collection of books looks hideous to you then do not publish with them.

Some might argue that cover design is a personal preference but there is also a collective agreement that ugly is…well…ugly. We all know it when we see it.

Entire marketing careers are based on knowing what is appealing to the eye and what isn’t. 

As a self-publisher, you will have a much easier time marketing your book if it has an attractive cover.

You will have a much harder time marketing and selling your book if your cover is universally perceived as ugly. That’s a fact.

Seriously, this is your book and the culmination of all of your hard work. You do not want your book associated with other books featuring amateur book covers with clip art cut-and-paste graphics, do you? 


Please, tell me you don’t want that for your book.

In an overwhelming market where readers have to make a split-second decision based on a thumbnail sized version of your cover, you need to be able to immediately grab their attention.

If your book cover is ugly, well, then they won’t give your book a second glance even if your story is heartfelt, important, and compelling.  

I’m all for helping writers and children’s books make it onto bookshelves but there is a better way. The way forward is do design a beautiful book by understanding and avoiding all that makes a book ugly. 

What makes a book ugly?

  1. Bad cover design. I’m talking baaaaad, like it looks like it was designed in Word 2001 using clip art bad.
  2. Questionable titles. Dogs Pray was one title that had me shaking my head.
  3. Poor interior formatting. If I open up your book and your chapter titles are squished at the top, there’s zero usage of white space, and your margins are wacky, I’m probably not going to buy it.

You do not need to settle for poor quality cover art or text that appears in chunks on the page. Self-publishing on a budget does not mean we don’t care about the quality of our work.

If you don’t have funds to hire an interior formatter, then you need to learn the ropes yourself. In this free video tutorial, I go over interior typesetting and some basics about how to make a book look beautiful on the inside.

If you are not a graphic designer, please do not attempt to design your own book cover. I know that Canva has ebook templates and it is tempting to save some cash and do it yourself, but that’s a bad decision in the long-term.

Graphic designers can work with you to figure out the best look for the cover of your book.

This is your book, your baby, and you want to be proud to show it off and have people spend their hard-earned money on it, right?

Click here to grab my FREEBIE video training on what you need to know to design a beautiful book starting with the words to the spine.

Don’t settle for an ugly book. Design a book that is a pleasure to read and one that you’ll be proud to put your name on the cover.

What is Copyright? How do I register?

One of the most frequently asked questions in beginner’s writing groups is always about copyright—

What is it?

How do I protect my work?

Do I need a lawyer to file my copyright?

So, let’s start with the basics.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property of creative works. It grants rights to use or license the work exclusively to the author who created the work.

Basically, it prevents anyone from copying your work and saying it is theirs.

Copyright can be confusing because although it is set by country most countries recognize other countries’ copyright limitations.

Copyright matters are almost always handled in civil court cases, which means that it can be a real pain in the rear if you find someone infringing on your copyright.

Copyright in the US is generated as soon as something is created. That means that you do not need to formally register your work with the US Copyright Office.

It is possible for someone to copy your work wholesale, slap on a new cover, and say the content is theirs and it would be incumbent on you to fight them in court.

While you don’t need a copyright registration with the US Copyright Office to prove your work is yours, it is helpful to have in your back pocket should the need ever arise.

Filing a Copyright

If you live in the US:

  • Visit copyright.gov
  • Register with a profile
  • Complete your information (register a literary work)
  • Follow the directions
  • Pay the $55 fee per registration

Adding a Copyright page to your book

Copyright pages appear after the title page and before the table of contents.

Feel free to repurpose or edit this text for your book:

Copyright © (YEAR) by (YOUR NAME)

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For permission, contact the author.

If you are self-publishing an anthology or collection of stories

If you are working collaboratively with other writers, as I did, you need to collect their permission for you to publish their words.

I recommend doing this in a very formal way so there is no confusion about the exchange and so that they understand they cannot republish the same work they submitted to you for publication. (It happens, trust me.)

Many anthologies return all copyright back to the contributors 12 months post-publication but this is not mandatory. It’s a nice thing to do, though, and it’s good marketing for the anthology.

If you want to download my template contract I created for my contributors in the Knocked Up Abroad series, then fill out the form below and I’ll send it over to you.

 

Okay, here’s where things are less straightforward.

You can work with an illustrator in multiple ways. It totally depends on what the illustrator wants and what you can comfortably agree to.

Illustrator-for-hire method

In this scenario, you pay the illustrator a set fee for their work ($XX/image), and they sign over the copyright to you so you can use their work in your book. 

You should still credit your illustrator on the front cover of your book. Some authors don’t think they need to do this since they hired someone for the illustrations, but come on, wouldn’t you want credit for the work you’ve written? Yeah…credit your illustrator. Don’t be a jerk.

In this scenario, the illustrator grants you their copyright so you can publish it. Depending on the illustrator, they may turn over all copyright exclusively to you as the author, or they may retain partial copyright so they can create and sell those same illustrations in various products like greeting cards, posters, etc., on their website.

Most often, when you hire an illustrator as a contractor, they do not receive royalties but that is not always the case.

Think strategically about what works best for you and your book. There are marketing opportunities to be had on both sides of the equation.

Illustrator receives royalties

It is possible to work collaboratively with an illustrator where they receive a percentage of the royalties generated from the book. Usually, this set-up is only done with large print runs by traditional publishers. As a self-publisher, your print runs will probably be much smaller and you’ll not find yourself in a royalty-sharing situation.

However, if your illustrator receive royalties, they will also maintain the copyright of their illustrations. You own the copyright of your text and they own the copyright of their work.

Again, not a common scenario for self-publishers, but it’s possible.

Hybrid of both

Your illustrator might propose a hybrid model that includes both payment (possibly reduced) for their illustrations and a percentage of the royalties. There might also be copyright negotiations to figure out.

If you each maintain your own copyright, you’ll file a copyright registration of the text (excluding illustration/images) and they will file a copyright of the illustrations/images (excluding the text) of the work.

Bim, bam, boom, $55 later and your work is legally protected.

What to do if you see copyright infringement?

If you see that someone is peddling your work as their own, email them or call them immediately and let them know that they are infringing on your copyright.

If you have your copyright registration certificate, you can hit them with that and threaten them with legal action. I guarantee, they’ll take down or stop whatever they are doing immediately. 

In summary

Copyright isn’t a tricky legal matter requiring lawyers. You can file on your own with the Copyright Office and it’s very cheap to register your work even if  you technically don’t need to file anything with anyone.

I advise that everyone file a copyright registration for your work so that you are legally recognized as the owner and creator of your work. 

If working with an illustrator,  determine what makes financial sense for you and your illustrator, give credit in the most public way to all members of the team, and you’ll have no issues finding an illustrator who would love to work with you.

5 Reasons to Share Your Big Ideas

Doers are people who get things done. We all know who they are.

They are the person who is always busy launching their next project, speaking at conferences, and is rarely sitting still…ever.

They are agents of action.

As a writer, there is a natural tendency to shy away from sharing our ideas with these productive, efficient people with the fear that they will steal and act on our novel ideas.

However, in doing so, you are cutting yourself off from their valuable resources, networks, and the potential for a positive collaboration with someone who can help you take your idea to the next level.

It’s okay to share

The truth is, other entrepreneurs aren’t looking to steal business ideas from their friends. Has it happened? Sure, but in most cases, the value of someone’s business reputation is worth more than taking a blog idea for a few clicks or a new product venture from a friend.

Doers are acutely aware of:

A) the level of work required to take an idea to market,

B) they are too busy working on their own ideas to steal anyone else’s projects and

C) they don’t have the amount of passion that you do for your idea to bring it to fruition.

Let’s be real: no amount of clicks or shares on a plagiarized article is enough to justify ruining my ethical and moral code—resulting in a blackballing from the writing community and damaging my reputation.

When I conducted outreach to fellow writers and described my idea for an anthology, I was initially cautious about someone stealing the idea for themselves.

After going through the self-publication process myself and I experienced the exhausting grunt work firsthand, I finally appreciated the monumental amount of effort required to transform an idea in my head into a physical book on a shelf.

Nobody was going to steal that idea and beat me to market. It is way too much work.

What you get from sharing your ideas

A positive result from both of my anthology projects with other writers was that I developed an extensive network of people with whom I share my ideas for articles.

We serve as sounding boards for one another and help problem solve, critique, and provide helpful ideas when someone hits a stumbling block.

5 Benefits from sharing your big ideas

Here are five benefits you’ll receive when you share your big ideas with people who get things done. Surround yourself with doers, build trust and rapport, and you’ll see the advantages of sharing your big ideas with a supportive network.

  1. You’ll gain confidence and accountability.
    It is easy to hold onto an idea and not take the necessary next steps to bring your concept to completion. Those next steps are hard, but when you confide your big idea with a doer, they will give you the feedback necessary and resulting confidence to either change course or move forward.
  2. They can help you troubleshoot obstacles—both known and unknown.
    There is a steep learning curve when you enter any field, and brainstorming with someone experienced in that field can help identify challenges that you may not know existed. They can also help you avoid common pitfalls.
  3. They may know of other resources that can help you get to the finish line.
    Doers know other doers and tapping into their vast experience can help put you in contact with the right people to transform your project from “just a good idea” into a complete product.
  4. An insider’s perspective is priceless.
    Some days you need a safe space to vent, and no person better understands what you are experiencing than someone who has walked the path before.
  5. By having a sounding board, you can get experienced advice to see if your idea is possible before investing valuable resources.
    The expert opinion of someone who has been there and done that can help advise you on whether you can proceed with a green light or if you should pump the brakes.

You get out what you put in…maybe more

In summary, sharing your big ideas with people who get things done will benefit you tenfold. Don’t be afraid to give voice to your dreams and commit to taking them to the next level.

Share your ideas with a few friends, be prepared for honesty and hard work, and watch your dreams come to life.

What is a book blurb and why do I need one?

What is a book blurb?

Book blurbs are one of those things that many self-publishers don’t even realize are a thing because they are so fully integrated into the book reading process that we don’t notice them until they aren’t there.

Blurbs short testimonials of the book and they are featured on the front and back covers of books. Blurbs are what spur readers to buy your book.

Continue reading “What is a book blurb and why do I need one?”

Smart design for adding books to your website

 

Testing out the
Mooberry Book Manager—Plugin for WordPress

I’m testing out a new WordPress plug-in called the Mooberry Book Manager.

They make it easy to add your own books or any books that you’d like to feature on your website (perhaps you’re reviewing books) in a smart way.

Who is this plugin good for?

This plugin is perfect for authors, illustrators, publishers, and book reviewers—basically, anyone who wants to highlight and feature books for sale. Continue reading “Smart design for adding books to your website”

Createspace’s eStore is Closing but What Does it Mean?

Createspace’s eStore is Shutting Down

A few days ago, I received this email from Createspace:

“Hello,

To better serve customers and improve the online buying experience, we will redirect customers who click on your CreateSpace eStore links to their corresponding detail pages on Amazon.com starting October 31, 2017.

Continue reading “Createspace’s eStore is Closing but What Does it Mean?”