My Independence Day

Being a Scotsman, and not an American, I don’t celebrate 4th July as Independence Day—mine would be Friday, 15th January 2021.

Why?

That was when I first published a book I’d written, edited, formatted, and for which I’d created the paperback cover.

It’s the dream of every writer to hold their work as a physical book in their hands, and for some newbie authors that desire tends to overshadow the need for ensuring a good product. I’m not a big fan of an eBook and a paperback being published at the same time by an indie author. Invariably, there will be minor issues with a book even after reaching publication. I prefer to have the book ‘in my hands’ on my Kindle to read it, yet again, but this time as a reader. When I’m content that I’ve done the job to the best of my ability, I then create the paperback edition.

This might sound simple, however there are some differences that many aspiring authors don’t seem to grasp in their rush to produce both types of book.

What’s the difference with the exterior?

A paperback cover should never simply be an eBook cover ‘stretched’ to fit. The two covers must be treated as different creations. Apart from the front cover and back cover, a paperback has a spine that is measured to take an exact number of physical pages.

There is also a back cover which contains the blurb, and a space must be allocated to allow for the barcode. Options include an author pic (which I don’t use), and excerpts from reviews (which I do use).

What’s the difference with the interior?

In an eBook, the front matter ought to be minimal—title, copyright, dedication, acknowledgments, contents, and prologue. The back matter might have an epilogue, endnotes, author bio, a word from the author, and a list of other titles by the author.

The author must bear in mind that the customer/reader is intent on reading the story as a priority with a Kindle, so anything else is simply supporting material and necessitates flicking through countless screens.

In a paperback, an indie author should think in terms of the industry standard. The front matter will have pages for title, copyright, acknowledgements, dedication, contents, and prologue. I tend to put my author bio and my list of other titles with the front matter, which leaves only any endnotes or ‘a word from the author’ as the back matter.

As with every topic related to indie publishing, it is all by nature a personal choice.

In terms of producing an author’s back catalogue in both eBook and paperback format, I have now (after much effort), produced most of my titles in both formats.

It took me weeks rather than days, but I eventually created a set of four paperback anthologies of my personal short stories. Rather than stay true to single genres, I opted for mixed genre, therefore allowing twenty tales per book.

What are the exceptions to my paperbacks?

I have up until now, not produced my poetry in paperback because they are bespoke collections. I am toying with the idea of creating ‘mixed anthologies’ of poetry, so for example I might end up with a series of books but each will include: Humour, Love and Romance, Natural History, Military Matters, Thrills and Chills, and serial poetry.

I have not, and have no intention of publishing my erotica in paperback. The titles sell well enough but have few public reviews. I believe that this stems from erotica readers enjoying the stories but with the confidence that it is done on an eReader, offering privacy.

We might go public with many things, but there are some aspects of our lives that we all want to keep to ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

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.