A Cover Story

Astute authors will recognise that irrespective of how good their story might be, it’s the cover which is the first point of contact with the reader (or ‘the customer’ if we’re honest).

I accepted early on in my writing career that if I wanted my books to be treated seriously then I’d have to part with cash, and not for vanity publishing—some people still do. In essence, I’d have to fork out before my hard work had produced any reward in royalties.

There are many more aspects which affect the success or failure of a book but for now, I’d like to stay on topic—covers.

It didn’t take much research for me to discover that poetry and short story anthologies attracted less interest than any other aspect of creative writing. Yes, as luck would have it, my first titles came into those categories, however, I’m a positive kind of guy and saw an opportunity. Here were two areas in which I could practice the dark art of cover design. Later, I would find another. 😀

My first novel took a year to write due to me also holding down a full-time management job. I produced my idea of a cover for Beyond The Law. Even with my artistic leanings, it was not an impressive sight, so let’s not go there.

For my next two novels, I bit the bullet, which is an option not many of my characters are offered. I paid a professional cover designer to cater for Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling. Both books sold steadily and a significant lesson was learned. I asked the designer to create a cover for Beyond The Law (later to be suffixed ‘Formation’. Like the other two covers, it was expensive, but the blow was softened when I saw the effect of a decent story married up to a good cover.

In less than six months, I received sufficient royalties from Beyond the Law to cover the cost of all of my first three covers. Needless to say, I went on to use the same designer for A Taste of Honey. When Beyond the Law – the trilogy was created with the addition of ‘Retribution’ and ‘Consequences I saw regular sales. 

I continued producing the covers for my short story anthologies as the books were published. Yes, they would sell, I thought, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant a hefty outlay on covers.

One interesting twist came when I wrote my magnum opus, A Life of Choice. This was a five-part, fact-based fiction series; a depiction of my military career, but I had doubts. I hoped it was written in an entertaining and engaging style, but it was simply a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t see it as a prize winner or a major money-spinner.

I designed the covers using the ‘Regimental Colours’ of the Royal Signals (my Corps), and I used a small representative graphic for each of the five stages. My theory was that the ‘colours’ would attract the eye of some of the thousands of Royal Signals soldiers past and present. Following a slow pick-up and a few good reviews, this series rapidly established itself as my top-selling story.

The only issue I had was the regular requests for it to be available in paperback. I experimented and it took several weeks but I managed to amend the end/beginning of the five parts to convert them into a paperback trilogy—the same story, in the same words but broken at different logical points in time.

I recognised a potential saboteur—overconfidence. I contacted my professional designer and gave her a simple brief, sending her photos of the three pieces of equipment to be featured, samples of the background colours and all the printed matter for front and back exterior. For example, apart from the blurb, each book in the trilogy has excerpts from three different reviews. It took a few weeks to get there and I was delighted with the designer’s solution.

An area that some indie authors fail to register is that paperbacks are formatted differently regarding the front and back matter. I took great care in presentation, as I’ve done with all of my paperback versions so that they mirror traditional books.

One aspect of this series I didn’t expect was how much it would be enjoyed by those who had never served. The primary target of any creative writer should be to provide entertainment and it gladdens my heart to know I’ve achieved my aim with this special story.

As if by magic, the paperbacks continue to sell. I’m delighted to report that they are a popular prize at the many military fund-raising events to which I donate signed copies of the trilogy. 

I recently felt that I’d gained sufficient knowledge and experience to try my hand again at the creative, challenging skill of cover design. It took a few days but I’ve refreshed the covers for the Beyond The Law trilogy. My versions are on trial for a couple of months.

Apart from poetry and short story anthologies, I said that later I was to find another area for which I could create the covers. Erotica is that area and not surprisingly there aren’t that many reviews although they are good. There are, however, plenty of sales. 😀

If you’re an author at whatever stage of your journey, please remember that a well-crafted book with a good cover is more likely to see a healthy return on the investment of your time and money.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.

A Life of Choice—Reborn

Click the graphic for my author website

I can say with confidence that I will never apply as much effort to any other writing task as I have to ‘A Life of Choice’.

It was 49 years ago this week when I left home to start basic training with the British Army. My military career ended in 1992, after 23 years, and it was a couple of years later when I gathered information towards writing about that career as military memoirs. It would take many years before I’d gained sufficient writing knowledge and skill to produce an entertaining tale.

I tried the fact-based route first, both in the first-person point of view and in third-person. The end product was massive and carried far too much detail—it went into ‘storage’.

When I’d successfully written and published thrillers, romance, short stories and poetry, I turned once again to my magnum opus. I toyed with fact or fiction, and viewpoint. My choice was fact-based fiction, written in the first-person point of view.

By 2016 the first of five parts was published and was well-received. As each part went out, the reviews continued to be positive, so I sidelined my other writing projects. I still tried to read, review and help my peers with their projects. Apart from public reviews on my new series, I started receiving private messages via my author website—mainly from ex-soldiers (male and female), who wanted to pass on their gratitude for the accuracy and humour. Most of these guys were not comfortable writing public reviews.

My only concern was that many serving and ex-service personnel were not e-reader users and I have regularly received requests for a paperback version.

Five paperbacks would have been easy to produce, and would also be simple to ‘match’ on websites or outlets. Marketed as five paperbacks, the series would have been expensive to buy, so I set myself a series of tasks.

1. Perform a complete rewrite to tighten dialogue and deal with minor amendments.

2. Break the story to balance the chapters and create a consistent ‘volume’ for each of the five parts.

3. Select the appropriate places to break the story to make a paperback version as a trilogy edition.

4. Rewrite all blurbs for the five eBooks, and three fresh blurbs for the paperback trilogy.

5. Compose a disclaimer which could be used with internet marketing blurbs and within the books regarding the different editions having the same content overall.

6. Select excerpts from reviews to use on the back covers of the trilogy.

7. Build a catalogue of information to educate my book cover designer regarding the ideal graphics solutions. This was difficult because anything available now in photographic evidence is very different to the equipment I would have known in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and early ’90’s. We persevered, and the trilogy covers feature equipments which were landmarks in my story.

As I’ve done for my novels, I hired the talents of Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio–a designer who works tirelessly until the solution meets customer satisfaction.

 8. Organise the sequence of publishing—all five amended eBooks and the trilogy, only when I had the bespoke covers for the trilogy.

9. Create graphics to market the two editions separately and together.

10. Prepare my author website and this blog for when the new trilogy went public.

 

I commenced this renewed labour of love in June 2018. Once again, apart from helping other writers on individual projects, and managing a major task for the Indie Author Support and Discussion group—most of my efforts went on the conversion process.

How did I relax when it was getting intense?

Several times I pulled out one of my erotica projects—as difficult to write as any other genre, but light relief in terms of content. Occasionally I’d draw, paint, or read, but not as often as I wanted because I felt a sense of guilt for not ‘working’.

In mid-October, I completed the conversion of five eBooks into three paperbacks. It was around 7th November, when I completed the final formatting sequence for the revised eBook versions … and then I had another coffee.

The pricing of the paperback trilogy is more than I’d have wanted, but I reconcile my concerns knowing that each book is around 570 pages. It was vitally important that nothing was removed from the story. 

Useful Links:

My Author Website

Amazon UK – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

BookLinker-Universal – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

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Who might find an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of my paperback trilogy?

Apart from review excerpts by a selection of ex-Royal Signals personnel, and an ex-Army wife, I opted for snippets from fellow authors, namely: Frank Parker, Barbara Fagan Speake, Paul A Ruddock, John MW Smith, and Paul Rees—notably, all fellow members of the IASD.

Thank you for taking an interest, and passing a few minutes with me.

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