Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Ebooks, Print, or Both? | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Ebook vs Print

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to go wide, rather than enroll in Amazon KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited. This time, it’s about my next big decision—should I publish ebooks, paperbacks, or both formats?

Ereaders and living on a sailboat

Several years ago, my husband thought he had come up with the best present idea ever—he was going to get me an ereader. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly respond with the level of enthusiasm he was hoping for. I’m one of those people who loves print books. I used to spend hours looking at my bookshelves, rearranging my books, and visiting bookstores to add even more books to my overflowing shelves.

Then we moved onto a sailboat in New Zealand. An extremely tiny sailboat. It was time to downsize and one of the casualties was my collection of books. That’s when I discovered the joys of ereaders. I could have tons and tons of books that took up no space whatsoever. I became a full-fledged member of the Kindle revolution. So when it came time to publish my first book, having an ebook version was a no-brainer.

But what about a paperback version? Did anyone out there even buy them anymore?

The case for publishing paperbacks

I knew I was going to publish a paperback version regardless of whether anyone would buy it or not. I liked the idea of being able to hold an actual printed book in my hands that had my name on it, kind of like a “trophy” in a way. Plus, my family had requested signed copies and you can’t really say no to your mom, can you? And, it turned out that buying your own author copies through Amazon isn’t all that expensive (you just pay printing cost, not Amazon’s mark-up), although you do have to factor in shipping.

But there are other benefits to publishing print copies of your book:

1 – Pre-Orders on Amazon

If you go down the ebook pre-order route on Amazon and you publish the print version at the same time, the “look inside” feature will be enabled and people can check out the beginning of your book which might tempt them to click the Buy button. {By the way, you can’t do pre-orders for print books on Amazon, something I found out about the hard way.}

People you’ve given ARCs (advance reader copies) to can post reviews on the paperback edition and they’ll show up on Amazon before your ebook goes live.

2 – Getting a Bargain

Amazon displays the print list price and the Kindle list price and notes how much you can save by going with the ebook. For some people, this might make them feel like they’re getting a real bargain. For example, the paperback version of Murder at the Marina is $10.99, while the ebook currently sells for $2.99, a 73% savings according to Amazon.

3 – Getting into Bricks and Mortar Bookstores

Some folks want to see their books for sale at their local bookstore. So, making a paperback or hard cover version of their book is important to them and by using a distribution network like Ingram Spark, it’s possible. Probably challenging, but possible. I can imagine that it would be pretty exciting to see your book on the shelves, but, to be honest, that wasn’t a driver for me for going down the print copy route.

4 – Selling at Events

I’m thinking that I might put a sign up offering Murder at the Marina for sale at our marina in the autumn when cruisers start coming back and getting their boats ready for the winter season sailing in Florida and the Bahamas. I don’t know if I’ll get any takers, but I can offer the books for a lower price than they would pay if they bought through one of the online retailers.

Other authors do something similar, bringing print copies of their books to conventions, talks they might give at libraries, local events, conferences, book signings etc. Some people like buying books directly from the author and getting a chance to interact with them.

What about the cost?

I chose to go through both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark for print-on-demand. {Print-on-demand means that when someone orders a paperback, they print it off then and there and ship it to them, rather than storing boxes of books in a warehouse waiting for orders.} I use Amazon KDP to distribute on Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute elsewhere (like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository). I’ll talk more about the set-up process in a future post, but for now, let’s just talk about the cost.

Amazon KDP doesn’t charge a set-up fee or fee for making changes, which is awesome. Ingram Spark charges $49 to set up your title, with a $25 fee every time you want to make a change. But they seem to regularly offer promo codes for free set-up. I happened to set up my book using one of these codes, so my cost was zero.

The only cost I incurred was for an ISBN (unique book identifier)—you need a new one for each edition you publish—which cost me $29.50 from Bowker (based on buying a block of ten). ISBNs are actually free for our lucky neighbors in Canada, but Americans have to shell out money for them. You can, of course, opt to use the free one provided by Amazon KDP instead, but there are pros and cons with that approach, and, if you go down the Ingram Spark route, I don’t believe they offer free ISBNs.

So, although I didn’t really expect to sell any paperbacks, I was okay with spending $29.50 to be able to hold a print copy in my hands and send copies to my family.

Much to my surprise, I found that a number of people (as well as one library system) have been buying the paperback version, despite how much more they cost than the ebook. I guess there are still people out there who’d much rather hold a real book in their hands.

Want to know more?

Just Publishing Advice asks the question, Should I self-publish in paperback?

Small Blue Dog presents case studies from several authors about their experiences publishing in both ebook and print formats.

Alliance of Independent Authors podcast on whether indie authors can make money with print books.

Description of how the print-on-demand process at Ingram Spark works on The Creative Penn

Derek Murphy on why you should launch your ebook before you think about creating a print version.

If you’re interested in digging into detailed numbers, check out the 2016 US Trade Publishing report from the Data Guy at Author Earnings.

Molly Greene looks at whether it pays to do print books.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive—Pros and cons of each option and why I chose to go wide.

What about you? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Pick up your own copy of this lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery (ebook and paperback) at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Release of Murder at the Marina & Thank You

Murder at the Marina Cover Beach Scene (2) (800x600)

Whoo-hoo! I released my debut novel, Murder at the Marina, on June 21st. It was the start of summer here in the northern hemisphere which seemed like the ideal release day for a lighthearted, humorous cozy mystery, perfect for reading at the beach or by the pool.

Murder at the Marina is the first in my new Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth. After Mollie’s husband, Scooter, presents her with a dilapidated sailboat for their wedding anniversary, she quickly learns more about boats, sailing, and murder than she would like. The series is set at a marina in a small town on the Florida coast populated with lots of quirky characters and where a surprising amount of people end up dead.

I wouldn’t be celebrating this incredible achievement without the help of so many friends and supporters. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way by the number of people who signed up to be part of my blog tour. In fact, there were so many people that it wasn’t just any old blog tour, it was a fiesta! Oodles of people raised their hands to read and review ARCs (advance reader copies) of Murder at the Marina on Goodreads and Amazon. Others shared details about the release on social media. And it was so gratifying to see all of the pre-orders that came in and the sales since then. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The feedback has been wonderful and inspired me to keep working away at the next two books I have planned in the series—Bodies in the Boatyard and Poisoned by the Pier. Of course, there are lots of other ideas churning away in my head, so there’s bound to be more installments after that.

If you’re curious what a day in the life of a book release looks like, check out this post on my other blog. The highlights included plenty of chocolate, some bubbles, and a bit of obsessive checking of sales and ranking stats.

Mollie McGhie Sailing Marketing Image

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Finally, I’d love to see pictures of you reading Murder at the Marina and share them on social media. Feel free to email them to me at ellenjacobsonauthor (at) gmail (dot) com or tag me on Facebook.

Check out these cool shots from Lucy at The Larks of Independence reading Murder at the Marina on a beach in the Bahamas with her adorable dog and from Sara at Sailing Illusion reading over breakfast in El Salvador.

Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouragement!

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery KU Wide Graphic

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about working with a professional editor. Once I had my manuscript edited and finalized, the next task on my To Do List was deciding whether to distribute the ebook version (we’ll talk about paperbacks another day) exclusively on Amazon through their KDP Select program or go wide and sell through other online retailers such as Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

There’s a huge amount of debate about of exclusive vs. wide, but, to be honest, it wasn’t a hard decision for me. More on what I decided later and why, but first off, let’s go through what exactly it means to be exclusive or go wide and what some of the pros and cons are.

KDP Select & Kindle Unlimited

Established in 2014, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon in certain countries. There are currently over one million titles available. For a flat fee (currently $9.99 a month in the States), users can borrow and read as many books as they want. For voracious readers, this can be real value for money.

When you publish on Amazon, you can opt to enroll in KDP Select and make your book available in Kindle Unlimited. It’s also added to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library where it can be borrowed by Amazon Prime members.

Each month, authors get a cut of the KDP Select Global Fund based upon the number of pages people read in their books. {For reference, in April 2018, the fund was US$21.2 million and the payout was US$0.0045 per page read.} Authors with the most page reads are also eligible for an All-Star bonus payment. Authors enrolled in KDP Select can also take advantage of promotional programs such as Kindle Countdown Deals.

It all sounds great, however, there is one big catch—you have to be exclusive to Amazon for a period of 90 days, which means that you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else. At the end of the 90 day period, you can opt to renew or remove your title from the program.

Going Wide

The other option is to not put all your eggs in one basket and “go wide” by distributing your books on other online sites, the big ones being Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Some Pros & Cons of Each Approach

KDP SELECT / KINDLE UNLIMITED

The Pros

1 – Amazon’s huge market share—Let’s face it, Amazon is enormous. It’s the biggest show in town. Enrolling in KDP Select and making your books available on Kindle Unlimited allows you to tap into a huge pool of potential readers.

2 – Better ranking and visibility—Amazon’s algorithms calculate book rankings based on both sales and page reads. You may have a better chance of ranking higher on Amazon if you’re in KDP Select, which in turn can increase your visibility.

3 – Promotional opportunities—Having a Countdown Deal or making your book free can be a great method for attracting new readers, increasing your rank on Amazon, and, if you have a series, hooking people into reading other books in the series. {Note: If you’re not in KDP Select, there are workarounds you can do with price-matching to get Amazon to make your book free.}

4 – Getting a 70% royalty on books priced less than $2.99—Many people price the first book in their series at 99 cents to draw readers in. If you’re not part of KDP Select, you’ll only get 35% royalty.

The Cons

1 – Getting kicked out—You’ll often hear horror stories about Amazon kicking authors out of Kindle Select, and in some cases off of Amazon altogether, for not abiding by the program terms and conditions. If your ebook is for sale elsewhere online, you’re in trouble. For many people, it isn’t something that they’ve deliberately done. They may have previously offered their book elsewhere and the listing didn’t get taken down or a pirated version may be out there. If you don’t get those listings taken down, you’re out. Amazon also tries to crack down on scammers who artificially inflate page reads. Unfortunately, some innocent authors have been getting caught in the cross-fire and kicked out.

2 – Losing potential income to scammers and cheats—While, on the whole, the indie author community is incredibly supportive of each other, there are some less than scrupulous people who are cheating the system. That means that they’re taking a share of the KDP Global Fund each month that they don’t really deserve. Essentially, they’re taking money out of your pocket.

3 – Cannibalizing sales—Because people can borrow your book, rather than buy it, you’re potentially losing out on sales. Hopefully, the borrows and page reads make up for it.

GOING WIDE

The Pros

1 – Multiple income streams—Because you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you have multiple income streams. If something goes wrong with one of them (maybe you’re kicked off of Amazon), then you haven’t lost everything. Granted, the income you receive from non-Amazon streams may be minuscule in comparison, but every little bit helps.

2 – Building readership in international and emerging markets around the world—As big as Amazon is, it hasn’t taken over everywhere. If you’re focused on the US and UK markets, Amazon is a great way to go, but for other markets, you may find readers more easily through other online retailers.

The Cons

1 – Missing out on promotional opportunities and potential readers—There’s a reason by Kindle Unlimited is popular with many authors. The potential benefits are huge and, by going wide, you’re missing out.

2 – Managing multiple retailers—If you’re only on Amazon, then you only have to deal with Amazon, which makes things easier. If you’re going to distribute your ebook on multiple retailers, then you increase the number of details that you have to manage (e.g.,  pricing, ebook format, sales reporting, book listings and descriptions), especially if you go direct rather than via a publishing aggregator, which we’ll talk about in a future post.

3 – Harder to gain traction—It can be hard to attract readers outside of Amazon. If you’re going to go wide, then you need to play a long game and realize that it may take time to get your ebook discovered.

My Choice: Going Wide

Like I said above, for me the decision was easy—I chose to go wide. There’s something about putting all my eggs in one basket that makes me uneasy. Plus, I’m unnerved by the fact that there’s one dominant player in the ebook market. I kind of like to think that I’m helping to shore up other online retailers, albeit in a incredibly small way, by making my book available on Kobo, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and Barne’s & Noble Nook. In addition, I know that there are people out there who refuse to shop on Amazon or prefer non-Kindle devices and I want to be able to reach them as well.

However, I’m very aware that this might be a bad decision on my part. Cozy mysteries are a very popular genre in Kindle Unlimited. There are lots of cozy readers out there who I may not reach because they do all their reading in Kindle Unlimited and are unlikely to fork out money to buy my book. I’m also missing out on promotional opportunities which could help hook people into future books in my series.

With hindsight, perhaps what I should have done was launched Murder at the Marina in Kindle Unlimited for a period of 90 days to attract readers and get a better Amazon ranking, then removed it and gone wide after that. Maybe that’s the approach that I’ll take with my next series.

Want to know more?

Derek Murphy talks about how he was kicked out of Kindle Unlimited and lost $50,000 overnight.

Reedsy takes you through the two options in their Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution.

David Gaughran talks about the different marketing systems each choice involves—the “KU Hare” who takes a big monthly blast approach vs. the “Wide Tortoise” who adopts a slow and steady drip approach. He also shares stories about what can go wrong on Amazon here, here, and here.

It’s interesting to look back at some indie authors’ thoughts on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited back when it was established including this post by Hugh Howey and this one by Lindsay Buroker.

If you like videos and podcasts, check out Michael La Ronn’s take on whether KDP Select Is Worth It? on Author Level Up, The SciFi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast’s interview with David Gaughran about the Marketing Wide vs. Kindle Unlimited debate, Chris Fox’s Launch to Market video series and why he enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, and the Alliance of Independent Authors’ session on the pros and cons of going wide vs. exclusive.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

What do you think of the Kindle Unlimited vs. Going Wide debate? Where do you buy ebooks?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Editing | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Publishing Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to self-publish, rather than go the traditional publishing route. While some people who self-publish choose not to use a professional editor, I felt it was an important part of the process for me and something I was willing to invest in. In this post, I’ll go over the different types of editing, what I did in terms of editing, and how it worked.

Types of Editing

I’m one of those people who likes to put people and things into nice, neat boxes. I even got paid to do that back when I worked in corporate la-la land. Not actual boxes—that would be weird, even for me. And cruel—unless you put air holes in the boxes. No, these were Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator boxes. {You can read more of my musings on MBTI and writing here.}

But I digress. One of the things I found a wee bit frustrating when I started researching what was involved in hiring a professional editor was that everyone was all over the place with the terminology they used for different types of editing. What one person meant by one term was completely different than how someone else used it. Where were the neat, orderly boxes that my soul craved?

Based on what I gleaned in my research and talking to people, this is how I’ve categorized the different types of editing.

EDITORIAL ASSESSMENT

This is what I like to think of as the “Help! I’m not sure I’m on the right track!” type of editing. Early on in the process, writers may choose to have an editorial assessment. Their editor provides them with a letter which identifies their manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as in-depth feedback about things such as plot, characterization, structure, style etc. As a result of this assessment, they may make extensive revisions to their manuscript.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING (aka substantive or structural editing)

When a writer is further along in the process and has probably churned through a few drafts, then developmental editing might be appropriate. Like an editorial assessment, this type of editing also focuses on big-picture issues. The editor will usually provide you with an editorial letter along with margin comments on your manuscript.

LINE EDITING (aka stylistic editing or paragraph-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “copy editing”)

Line editing is less intense than developmental editing and more intense than copy editing. The editor looks at each line in your manuscript in detail. For example, entire sentences may be rewritten or reordered, word choice may be addressed, and some sections may be consolidated while others are expanded. I’ve seen this type of editing described as “making your prose sing.”

COPY EDITING (aka sentence-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “line editing”)

This level of editing is about providing a professional polish to your manuscript. Your editor will address things such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetitive vocabulary, usage, and consistency. He or she may do fact-checking. In my case, my editor pointed out that “Fruit Loops” are really “Froot Loops” and that it’s “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in Disneyland, not “Cinderella Castle.”

PROOFREADING

This is the final step before publication and involves one last pass to look for spelling, grammar, typos etc. that may have slipped through.

My Editing Process

Once I figured out what level of editing I wanted—namely, copy editing—I made my first mistake. I googled “copy editors” and was quickly overwhelmed. There were so many potential editors out there, all offering different types of services with dramatically different rates and processes. How was a confused writer supposed to choose the best way forward?

Well, in my case, after scarfing down a few soothing Oreo cookies, I turned to some of my trusted writing groups and buddies for advice and recommendations. I then made a shortlist of potential editors and contacted them to request details about their approach, rates, process, how many passes they did, and availability.

Chatting with them via email gave me an idea of their style and whether we might work well together, but the most important thing I did was to ask for a sample edit. I was amazed at the differences between the samples I got back. If an editor responded with an overly effusive email telling me what a great writer I was and that there were hardly any suggested edits on my sample, I crossed them off my list. An editor who didn’t try to flatter me, had extensive suggested edits and provided rationale/explanation for the suggestions made the cut. Cause, when you’re looking to publish something, having someone who makes you feel good is way down the priority list. Having someone who can help make your manuscript the best it can be is what’s important.

The other key thing I did was look at books that editors had worked on. If they looked polished and well-edited, then that was a good sign.

After I found someone who I thought was a good fit, whose rates I could afford, and who could work within my time frames, I hit the go button, sent him my manuscript, and forked over some money (half up front).

I also pointed out particular areas of concern I wanted him to keep an eye out for. For example, although I write in American English, having been an expat in Scotland and New Zealand for twelve years means British and Kiwi expressions sneak into my writing. And, I sent him a detailed timeline (because I write cozy mysteries, it’s really important to map out the murder, alibis etc. and make sure the timing is right) and a draft style sheet with character names, descriptions, locations etc.

My editor did two passes, each of which took two weeks. I thought this was a really good approach. It’s so much easier to catch things if you have two rounds of edits. The whole process took about seven weeks, which included time in-between each pass for my changes.

My Editor

My editor, Chris Brogden of EnglishGeek Editing, was awesome. He was easy to work with, delivered on time, and provided explanations behind his suggested changes. I really appreciated his keen eye and thoughtful edits. Most importantly, he respected my voice and style, making my words even better.

Chris handles the copy editing side of things, while his colleague, J.H. Moncreiff, focuses on developmental editing. I haven’t worked with J.H. in her editorial capacity, but I can tell you that she is an amazing writer.

If you touch base EnglishGeek Editing, be sure to tell them I said hi.

Want to know more?

Writer’s Digest talks about 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You, But Should.

Jane Friedman is always a great go-to place for writing resources, including this post on How to Find an Editor as a Self-Published Author.

Reedsy has helpful tips How to Work with a Fiction Editor, as well as an e-mail course on How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript Like a Pro

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a helpful guide to Editorial Rates. You can find more information about how much you should expect to pay over at The Write Life’s post on Looking for a Book Editor?

If you like videos, check out Chris Fox’s How to Edit Your Novel series, How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor on The Creative Penn, and Jenna Moreci’s Different Types of Editors and How to Choose an Editor {Note: Jenna uses strong language at times, these may be NSFW.}

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

 

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive—Pros and cons of each approach and why I chose to go wide.

What are your experiences with editing?

Murder at the Marina - Pre-Order Banner (All ERetailers)

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Going Indie | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Indie Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Previously, I’ve talked to you about cover design, how long it took to get from Draft #1 to a final manuscript, and beta reading.

Today, it’s all about deciding whether to go down the traditional publishing route or try your hand at self-publishing (aka indie publishing). Let’s talk about what the differences between the two approaches are, the pros/cons of each, and why I chose to go indie.

What’s the Difference?

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

This is the process most people think of when they pick up a book in a store or purchase an ebook online. Once you have a completed, polished manuscript, you query agents, hoping to get representation. This is often a long, painful, and arduous process, littered with many rejections and can take ages before someone says, “Hey, let’s work together.”

Assuming you land an agent, you’ll probably end up doing more edits to your manuscript. Then your agent shops your manuscript around and hopefully you sign a contract. This step can also take ages. Then you do more edits and finally (maybe 2-3 years after you sent our your first query), you see your book in print.

SELF-PUBLISHING

This term makes many people think of vanity presses, and they’re definitely still out there. But nowadays, this is a legitimate and viable approach. Basically you’re responsible for developing your product (your book) and project managing its production (e.g., you have to hire and manage your support team such as book cover designer, editor, formatter), as well as doing some tasks a publisher would do yourself.

OTHER APPROACHES

Although we’re talking about traditional vs. self-publishing, it’s not actually as simple as that. It’s more of a continuum, with many publishing paths available in between. For example, some authors choose to pay an up-front fee to a company who will take care of the nitty-gritty of publishing their book, others may manage the process themselves, but use a service to distribute their book to online and bricks and mortar sales channels. There are also smaller publishers who accept submissions directly from authors, rather than via an agent.

Pros & Cons of Each Approach

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

The Pros

For me, one of the biggest pros of going down the traditional publishing route is validation. Like many writers, I have my moments of insecurity (usually cured by a generous helping of chocolate) worrying that my cozy mystery is absolute rubbish. Everyone is going to hate it, I’m going to get horrible reviews, no one will buy it etc. These are the types of things that go through my head.

But if you land an agent and a publishing deal, then other people are saying, “Hey, this is awesome! Let’s give you some money for it!” That kind of validation has got to be a great feeling. And readers are probably more likely to take a chance on your books.

Another huge pro is not having to manage the publishing process. Your publisher will provide a team of experts who will take care of formatting, cover design, editing, pricing, distribution etc. A publisher can also help get your books into brick and mortar stores, something which isn’t quite as easy as an indie.

The final pro comes down to money. The publisher typically pays you an advance and covers all of the publishing expenses. It’s not cheap to publish a book, so this is a definite plus for folks who don’t want to or can’t invest their own money.

The Cons

Many of the cons of traditional publishing center on things you give up. You lose creative control of your work. You may have to make changes to the manuscript that don’t fit with your vision and you may not have input on cover design, book title, marketing approach, pricing, distribution etc.). You also give away some of your rights. You’re basically “selling” your product to a publisher. They own it and can do with it what they want. Want to make an audiobook version? Want to publish it in another language? Want to distribute to overseas markets? Those may be things you don’t have the rights to do.

There’s also the loss of potential income. Royalty rates are significantly higher if you self-publish. But, on the flip side, you may not sell as many books if you go indie, so it may just be theoretical earnings.

And one of the things that some people don’t realize is that although a publisher will take care of many things for you, marketing support is often very limited for new authors these days. That means, if you want to sell books, you’re going to have to get out there yourself and promote your books and your brand all on your lonesome.

SELF-PUBLISHING

The Pros

The pros of self-publishing are pretty much the inverse of the cons of traditional publishing. There’s a faster time to market, you retain creative control, the royalty rates are higher, and you retain your rights.

The Cons

If you’re going to self-publish, you have to wear two hats—you’re a writer and a business person. With traditional publishing, someone else manages the business side of things (for the most part), but with self-publishing you have to make all of the decisions, you have to invest your own money, and you have to project manage the entire publication process, assembling a team of experts and overseeing their work. Depending upon your own comfort level, you may even do certain tasks yourself, rather than outsource them.

No one is telling you that your manuscript is good. There’s no agent or publisher providing support and encouragement. It’s up to you so to say, “This is good enough to put out there for the world to see,” and then make that happen. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

My Choice: Going Indie

There are three major reasons why I decided to go indie:

1 – It would take way too long to get a book published traditionally.

I’m not a very patient person. I always assume a diet will work instantaneously and am surprised when I don’t drop five pounds in a week, hate waiting for the next book in a beloved series to be published, and struggle waiting for the timer to go off before I take a batch of cookies out of the oven.

Waiting a few years to (hopefully) land an agent and see my book finally published really wasn’t on the cards for me.

2 – It’s not easy to land a cozy mystery publishing deal if you’re a newbie.

When I first started looking into which publishing route was right for me, many established authors were losing their contracts with well-known publishers in the cozy mystery genre (like Kensington). If established authors were struggling, what chance did I have of landing an agent, let alone get a publishing deal?

Since then, many of these authors have found new homes (such as Crooked Lane Books). {For some interesting insights into what’s going on in the cozy market, check out this Trend Report.}

3 – I don’t mind DIY and project management.

I’m one of those weird people who likes spreadsheets, project plans, and to-do lists. I also love learning about new things and trying my hand at some of the creative aspects of publishing (like cover design and marketing materials). That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a huge learning curve, things haven’t always gone to plan, and stuff has taken far longer than I thought. But, for the most part, I’ve been enjoying it and things should be simpler the second time around.

Want to know more?

There are tons of resources on traditional vs. self-publishing out there, but here are a few links to get you started:

Reedsy’s article, Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Which One is Right for You?, looks at the pros and cons of each approach and has a quiz to help you decide.

Janice Hardy has tons of blog posts on a wide range of self-publishing topics.

Jane Friedman has an excellent infographic which lays out five book publishing paths—traditional, partnership, fully assisted, DIY + distributor, and DIY direct.

Ros Barber has a thought provoking article in The Guardian about why she would never consider self-publishing.

Patty Jansen, an Australian scifi/fantasy indie author, blogs about self-publishing, including posts about her income.

Elizabeth Spann Craig is a cozy mystery author who has been on both sides of the fence. She has some great insights into the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing.

If you like vlogs, Jenna Moreci talks about the costs of self-publishing (warning—she uses strong language at times) and Kim Chance discusses the costs of traditional publishing.

Many members of the 20Booksto50K Facebook group share their self-publishing success stories and offer tips and tricks. (Note: you have to be a member in order to see the discussion.)

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a self-publishing advice center.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to sent to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive—Pros and cons of each approach and why I chose to go wide.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Beta Readers | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Beta

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Previously, I’ve talked to you about getting from a blank sheet of paper to a draft that I could share with beta readers. Today, I’m going to tell you more about my beta reader process from finding willing “test subjects” to read my manuscript, getting feedback from them, what kind of feedback I asked for, and what I did with the feedback I got back.

What are Beta Readers?

Writing can be a strange thing. Part of me wants to share the stories I’ve written, the other part of me would rather die than have anyone read my scribblings and {gasp} tell me what they think.

Eventually, I summoned up the courage to type <<The End>> on my manuscript and went in search of beta readers. While my husband had acted as my alpha reader and looked at endless early drafts, I got to the point where I needed feedback from a wider range of potential readers.

It was time for beta readers—people who would look at a polished draft and give me honest feedback about what they loved and what wasn’t working, identify plot holes, tell me if they connected with the characters or not, make suggestions about “little darlings” that might need to go, and point out things I couldn’t see because I was too close to the manuscript.

Finding Beta Readers

Once I realized that I would have a polished manuscript soon, I put out a call on my other blog—The Cynical Sailor—asking if anyone would be interested in beta reading for me. I was overwhelmed (in the best possible way) by the support and encouragement I received and offers to help.

Ten people originally signed up as beta readers. One didn’t respond to follow-up emails, two people ended up not being able to help due to other commitments, which left me with seven beta readers. Then, one lady’s husband asked if he could beta read as well, which I was really pleased about as I thought it would be good to get a bloke’s perspective (my other betas were women). That brought me up to eight “test subjects.”

What I was particularly excited about was the diversity of my betas. Some were sailors (which was really important as I was writing a cozy mystery with a boating theme), some were writers (which was great as they were able to give feedback from that perspective and many of them were experienced betas), and one was a cozy mystery writer herself.

Asking for Feedback

Once I wrangled myself some beta readers, I sent them a document outlining what kind of feedback I was seeking in the following areas:

  • Plot, pacing, and conflict
  • Characters and dialogue
  • Setting and worldbuilding

I also asked for general feedback in terms of what worked well, what didn’t work as well, and whether the story would have benefited from the inclusion of iguanas. Obviously, the iguana thing was a bit of a joke, but it gave them a feel for the light-hearted, humorous nature of Murder at the Marina.

I know some writers send out a few chapters at a time, get feedback on those chapters, then send out a new batch of chapters. Other writers send out the entire manuscript in one go, which is the approach I took.

After taking a deep breath, I hit the send button and emailed my manuscript to my betas toward the end of November (in Word, PDF, or ebook, depending on their preference), asking everyone to get their feedback to me at the beginning of January. And they all did, which was fantastic given how busy people were over the holiday season.

I gave everyone the option to provide feedback whatever way worked best for them. Some people used track comments in a Word document, others summarized their feedback in a separate document. The feedback I received was terrific. It was detailed and specific, as well as full of helpful suggestions.

Processing the Feedback

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when someone gives me feedback on my writing is curl up in the fetus position and down a bag of M&M’S (plain, not peanut). Sure, I say that I have tough skin, but let’s be honest, it’s never easy to hear that your “baby” can use some improvements.

Even though you already know intellectually going into the process that it’s all about getting feedback to make your story better, part of you deep down hopes everyone will say, “It’s great! No changes needed! Publish immediately!”

Not that you’d believe them though. Cause that’s the thing with feedback—if anyone says anything positive about your writing, you assume they’re lying because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But when it comes to constructive criticism, you believe every single word.

Eventually, you run out of M&M’S and you have to process the feedback in a rational and constructive fashion. I compiled all of their notes into one document, categorized by theme, and identified whether it was something only one person flagged up or something that the majority thought needed to be addressed.

Then it was time to figure out what to do with all the feedback. I used these general rules:

  • If everyone thought something was an issue, I changed it. This was the easiest kind of feedback to deal with.
  • If one person thought something was an issue, but other people really liked it or were neutral and it was something I really liked as well, I generally didn’t make that change.
  • If someone had a great idea for the story, I made that change. Why pass up a great idea?
  • If a few people felt really strongly about something, even if it wasn’t the majority view, then I changed it. I figured other readers might hate it as well, so why not make the change.
  • If there was mixed feedback, I ate some more M&M’S while thinking about what to do. I effectively became the “tie-breaker,” either changing it or not. This was tricky. Who was right? Who was wrong? Is there really a right or wrong? You can see why I overdosed on chocolate.

Eventually, I worked my way through the feedback, made all of the changes, and sent the new and improved manuscript off to my editor.

Thanking Your Betas

I don’t know if I can ever thank my betas enough. I’m still in awe of the fact that people wanted to help and were willing to take time out of their own busy lives to read my manuscript and provide detailed feedback. Sure, I thank them in the acknowledgments section of my book, but it doesn’t come close to expressing how truly grateful I am for their encouragement and support. I wouldn’t be at the point of releasing Murder at the Marina next month if it wasn’t for them. Hip hip hooray for betas!

Want to know more?

Jane Friedman has some great tips on How to Find & Work with Beta Readers. I really like her idea of identifying your ideal reader as a starting point. Reedsy has a post about What to Expect from Beta Readers & Where to Find Them in which they discuss hiring beta readers through services such as Fiverr.

Writer’s Edit’s Ultimate Guide on How to Work with Beta Readers includes bonus tips on how to be a beta reader for other writers.

Jami Gold has excellent resources on beta reading, including a Beta Reading Worksheet. I drew on this heavily when pulling together my own beta reader guidelines. (You can see a copy of the beta readers guidelines that I sent out for Murder at the Marina here.)

You’ll find lots of great ideas for creating your own checklist at The Best Beta Reader Checklist Ever.

Once beta readers send you feedback, then you have to process it. Anna has useful pointers on Merging Feedback on Elements of Emaginette. The Kill Zone talks about How to Handle Critique, something that’s often easier said than done.

If you like vlogs, Jenna Moreci has several hilarious videos about beta readers. Be warned—she uses strong language at times.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive—Pros and cons of each approach and why I chose to go wide.

Have you ever been a beta reader? Have you ever worked with beta readers? What was your experience like?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

 

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Draft #743 | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Draft 743
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about book cover design. Today, I’m going to share how I managed to get from Draft #743 to a version that I could send out to beta readers. {More on beta readers in a future post.}

I can just imagine what you’re thinking. “Draft #743! How long exactly did it take you to write this book?”

Okay, let me let you in on a little secret—I’ve been known to have a tendency to exaggerate. I really didn’t write 743 drafts, although it sure felt like that at times. I wrote five. Let me break it down for you.

Starting a Blog

Once upon a time (2013 to be exact), I started a blog—The Cynical Sailor—which was focused on our transition from landlubbers to buying our first boat, cruising on it in New Zealand, selling it and coming back to the States in search of our next boat, and our ongoing liveaboard and cruising life. I shared my fears about sailing and tiny house living on a boat, our misadventures, and stories about our nomadic life.

People told me that they enjoyed my blog posts and strange sense of humor. Some even said that I should write a book. Sure, people say nice things all the time that they don’t really mean, but I got enough positive feedback and was enjoying writing so much, that I started to think maybe I should write a book.

Then my mother said, “You should write a cozy mystery, Ellen! It can be about a woman who knows nothing about boats or sailing, ends up buying a sailboat, and solves murders along the way.” You should always listen to your mother, right? Both of us enjoy reading cozy mysteries, so I decided to go for it. After all, wouldn’t it be fun to write a book your mom wants to read?

“Going for it” means something different in my world. I am a champion procrastinator, so “going for it” involves thinking about an idea, thinking about it some more, and doing nothing about it.

NaNoWriMo Attempt #1—Failure

My mother kept asking how my novel was going. I was running out of excuses, so I decided to actually go for it by signing up for NaNoWriMo in 2015. This is an annual event where people set a goal to write a 50,000-word novel during November. It’s a slightly deranged idea. Writing 1,667 words a day? Crazy! But crazy is good, or so I told myself.

I turned on my computer on November 1st with a vague idea about writing an epistolary cozy mystery. Epistolary novels take the form of written letters, diary entries, emails etc. I had just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and was a bit obsessed with the whole epistolary approach.

Turns out it was a complete and utter failure. I had nothing to show for that month that was of any use. I made the picture you see below to “commemorate” my lack of success.

The Stench of Failure

I then spent the next year starting half-hearted drafts, deleting them, starting yet more drafts, doing some more deleting, and eating a whole lot of chocolate chip cookies to compensate for my lack of progress.

NaNoWriMo Attempt #2—Success & Draft #1

In 2016, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again. This time I was a winner! I had made a good start on Draft #1 of Murder at the Marina during the month. (Don’t worry, I had ditched the whole epistolary thing by this point.)

Then I slacked off. I would periodically open up the manuscript and attempt to finish Draft #1, but my progress was slow. I finally managed to cross the finish line in March 2017. It was a bunch of nonsense and needed some serious editing, but I felt like I had cleared a major hurdle. I had a manuscript that deserved a number and, thus, Draft #1 was born.

After that, life intervened in the form of boat projects and cruising in Florida and the Bahamas between April-August 2017. As fun as it is to write in the cockpit in a pretty anchorage, I wasn’t able to focus as much as I would have liked, spending more time on blog posts than on my novel. I made some attempts to work on Draft #2 while we were out on the water, but it wasn’t until we tucked the boat away for hurricane season, that I got serious.

Edits Boat (800x449)

Getting Serious & Completing Drafts #2 and #3

While we were at the marina during hurricane season, I buckled down, did some editing, and finished Draft #2 during September. My husband read through this version, offered lots of great suggestions, and then it was back to editing some more.

Knowing that I’m very pressure-prompted and work better with a deadline looming over my head, on November 1, 2017, I announced on the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop that I would have a draft ready for beta readers by the end of November. {Gulp}

I had so many offers from people to beta read, that I had to finish up Draft #3. No excuses. And I did, typing The End on November 20, 2017. It was a good feeling. It was also a scary feeling because that meant I was ready to send it out for feedback. {Eek!}

So, to sum up, it took me from November 1, 2015 to November 20, 2017 to get from a blank sheet of paper to a beta reader draft.

But, Wait, There’s More

Of course, you don’t stop editing after your beta reader draft. I ended up doing two more drafts:

  • Draft #4—Quite a few revisions based on beta reader feedback (which I got back in January 2018). I sent this version to my editor on February 12, 2018.
  • Draft #5—Minor changes based on my editor’s feedback, which I received on February 25, 2018. I sent this version back to my editor on March 15, 2018 for a final pass.

Which takes us to the final manuscript, the one that will be published on June 21, 2018. {Yippee!}

Paperback version available closer to the release date (June 21, 2018). Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

If you’re a writer, how many drafts do you do before publication? How long does each draft take you?

Murder at the Marina - Pre-Order Banner (All ERetailers)

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

 

 

 

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Cover Design | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing Draft #743 to seeing my first book be released, including the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Today, we’re talking about cover design. Here’s what the cover of my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina, looks like. Seems like a fun read, doesn’t it?

Murder at the Marina Banner

So, how did I get from a blank sheet of paper to the design you see? The first thing I did was look at lots and lots of cozy mystery covers so that I could develop a design brief.

Step 1 – The Design Brief

Checking out best-selling books is a great way to get a sense of the look and feel that screams out “cozy mystery,” design trends, and what you personally like. Although, keep in mind that what you like may not be what sells. And you do want to sell books, don’t you? Trust me, although your mom says she loves your cover, she’s only going to buy so many of your books.

So, I had a look at cozy mysteries in my own personal library, books I checked out from the library, and covers on Amazon.

There are so many lovely covers out there. I was a little overwhelmed looking at them, so I grouped them into three categories to make sense of my options. {These are all great authors, by the way.}

First, there are those beautifully illustrated covers with lots of detail. Aren’t they sweet?

Mystery Covers - Illustrated (800x389)

Then there are covers that have more of a “cartoonish” feel. I think they’re adorable.

Mystery Covers - Cartoonish

And then there are the covers that have less detail, often with a single object featured such as the pastries you see on Joanne Fluke’s mysteries. The simplicity really grabs my attention.

Mystery Covers - Simple

What all of these covers have in common is that they promise a fun, “gentle” read. People that enjoy cozy mysteries have certain expectations—no graphic violence, explicit sex, or profanity—and the covers usually reflect this.

Based on my review of cozy mystery covers, I put together a brief of what I wanted my design to incorporate.

  • An illustration (you don’t often see photographs on cozy mystery covers)
  • Bright, cheerful colors
  • Sailing theme (my series is about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth)
  • A cat (a Japanese bobtail is featured in the series)
  • Simple design (although I love the richly illustrated designs, my eye is drawn toward covers with less detail)
  • Elements that I could use throughout my series to tie the books together

Step 2 – Hiring a Designer (or not)

There are two things everyone says you need professional support for—editing and a cover design. There are no ifs, ands, or buts here. Hiring an external team to help out in these areas is essential.

So what did I do? Yep, you guessed it. I designed my own cover. {Not to worry, I hired an editor. More on that in a future post.}

I can hear people out there screaming in horror. “What, you made your own! Don’t you know that people judge a book by its cover? Are you nuts?”

Yeah, I probably am nuts, but let me explain why I made that decision.

I checked out tons and tons of designers—there are so many great ones out there that you’re spoiled for choice. But the ones I liked didn’t exactly fit into my limited budget.

Next, I looked at pre-made covers. These are covers that designers have in stock. Your name and book title are added, perhaps with a few other minor modifications, and  it’s ready to use in no time. This is a great, quick, low-cost option and if I was writing a cozy mystery that had a paranormal theme, a young sleuth, cooking etc., I probably would have ended up going down this route. But what I didn’t see was anything that had a sailing theme that fit my vision. {Sigh}

I have to admit, I was a little down. But, after a few chocolate chip cookies and a bit of research, I decided to try designing a cover myself.

Step 3 – eBook Cover Design with Canva & Shutterstock

Have you heard of Canva? If not, go check it out. It’s a free app which is seriously cool and so easy to use. You can design all sorts of stuff on it from party invites, posters, social media posts and banners, and . . . book covers!

At first, I played around with the graphics they offered on Canva (many are free, some you have to pay for), but didn’t find anything that made my heart sing with joy. Then, I had a poke around Shutterstock which has heaps of images you can license.

After many hours searching through what was available, I found a cute “By the Sea” scrapbooking kit that had lots of nautical patterns and images. Naively, I thought it would work like clip art—easily manipulated images that I could paste into my design.

Nope. It was a vector file which I had no idea how to use or even open. I found a free program, Inkscape, which allowed me to work with the file, but, as I’m no graphic design expert, it was tedious and far from simple. However, I did manage to create the sailboat logo you see on the top of this website. Then I cut my losses and went for another search on Shutterstock for something else that might be easier to work with.

I finally stumbled across a cute picture of a sailboat on the water (the one you see on my cover) and the best news was that there was a similar image I could use for the next book in my series. {Bodies in the Boatyard coming your way later this year.} It was a JPG file, which meant I knew how to work with it. Sadly, the image didn’t have a cat on it. Sorry, Mrs. Moto.

I slapped the sailboat image into the eBook template on Canva (“slap” is a technical term for uploading), added some text and other elements and—presto!—I had a cover. Okay, it wasn’t as simple as that, but it was rather doable.

Step 4 – Print Book Design

Things were going so well. I had managed to design a book cover for the whopping cost of $19.60 (the cost of two images from Shutterstock). I was ready to pop the champagne when I remembered that I’d need another cover for print books. You know, a cover that has a front, back, and a spine.

No problem, that would be simple, right?

Wrong. There weren’t enough chocolate chip cookies on board our boat (I live on a sailboat, by the way) to help me figure out bleed. After much hair pulling, I finally figured it out. Turns out it’s pretty important. If you don’t get things aligned quite right, when they go to trim your book cover, important elements can get chopped off.

I ended up downloading a book cover template from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (they do eBooks and print-on-demand books), slapped it into Canva, messed around with my images and eventually got something that would work. This is what the rough draft looks like. I’m still playing around with the final layout, including the blurb, and I need to finalize my page count (this affects the size of your spine).

5.5x8.5_Cream_250

 

Murder at the Marina - Canva Screen Shot

There you go—four simple (or not so simple) steps to designing your own cozy mystery book cover.

And, don’t forget, Murder at the Marina will be available June 21, 2018. You can find out more here.

Interested in learning more?

Reedsy has some helpful articles including What are the Standard Book Sizes in Publishing and 7 Resources to Design Your Own Cover.

Elizabeth Spann Craig has a number of articles on working with a cover designer including Preparing for a Cover Design Meeting and Working with a Cover Designer: Time-Saving Techniques.

Janice Hardy talks about the process of making her UK book cover (Brits and Americans have different tastes when it comes to covers).

And check out these articles on Jane Friedman’s site—9 Tips to Building the Book Cover Design You Always Wanted and The Importance of Your Book Cover.

 

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive—Pros and cons of each approach and why I chose to go wide.

What kind of book covers draw your attention? Have you ever designed you own cover?

Murder at the Marina - Pre-Order Banner (All ERetailers)

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.