Friday, May 13, 2011

Cover, covers, covers

OK the old adage about how authors should leave the cover art to people who know better is only about 80% accurate. The thing is I AM an artist- trained and everything, and I know good cover art when I find it.

BUT for some reason everyone is treating Kindle like a dumping ground for back catalogues, short stories and the unpublishable novels (admit it, we all have at least one we want to put on Kindle...)

But, like the real estate saying "Location,location, location" in book sales it should be "Cover art, cover art, cover art."

There is no shortage of good artists out there willing to work and a dozen different stock art resources. Which is why THIS is such a travesty:

Catherine Cookson's estate put her back catalogue of books onto Kindle all of them with the same hideous cover. You'll have to cut and paste- the links are NOT working for me! If I make them links through blogspot they a invisible. If I just paste in the link they don't work....

You get the idea...

Now, the Cookson name may be well regarded and known enough that buyers familiar with her work will purchase regardless of cover art. But how many new readers will these bring in?

Now it is good of her estate to make the books available. She isn't an author I've ever read but I have heard the name. It's the execution that is so terrible. Covers sell books! And they sell e-books!

If you'd like to read the whole article on Cookson's books going onto Kindle go here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kindle Books of Quality: Interview with David H. Burton

In my quest to root out, find and share $.99 books of quality from Amazon I began the Kindle project with 5 $.99 downloads. David Burton's Scourge: A Grim Doyle Adventure was one of those books.

There has been a lot of debate on whether self-published books are any good. The debate is not a new one. However with the rise of the e-book the book market haz been flooded with easy access not only to self-published books, but has given un-published authors an easy outlet and the chance to live their dream.

But many people still argue that no good can come from the loss of the 'gate-keepers', agents, editors and publishing houses. And that certainly, any book self-published and un-vetted MUST be bad right? The answer to that is, in my opinion NO. Good books don't get published for a lot of reasons, not just because they are bad. Before there was only a narrow range of what could be done with a book that editors liked but didn't feel they could market. Major distribution certainly wasn't one of them.

E-publishing from both authors themselves and from small Indie publishers had the ability to get books out to readers on a grander scale than ever before.

My Kindle project is to find good books at the magical price point of $.99 of quality and then interview the authors to get their take on the Kindle and find out a bit more on the nuts and bolts of how to get an e-book out there.

1. What drew you to Kindle in the first place?

First I’ll give you some quick history.

For my first novel (The Second Coming), I went the traditional route and submitted to agents. I was picked up by a fabulous agent who specializes in fantasy/scifi (and she reps Margaret Weis). We went round after round with the book, and as much as we got great feedback from editors on it, they felt it was “too risky” to take on. After 40 editors we came to the decision that I should go out with it on my own to prove that I had a market for it.

With the second book (a children’s steampunk fantasy called Scourge) I decided to go it alone directly instead of go through the submission process. I really like the level of control I have in the publishing process as an indie author, so for now, this will likely be how I bring out all future books.

So, to answer your question, publishing directly to Kindle through KDP is a perfect method of getting books out to readers as an independent author. It’s a brilliant platform that spans devices and has the greatest selection. It’s a great place to be selling ebooks.

2. Why did you choose the $.99 price point? Do you feel the price devalues the writing or that people make assumptions based on the price?

I go back and forth between $2.99 and $0.99. The short story I have out (Simian’s Lair) is set at $0.99 and the other books I drop down to $0.99 every once in a while. My intent, once I complete the two series I have out, is to leave the first book at $0.99 and set the subsequent books at $2.99. It’s a trend that a lot of successful indie authors are doing right now and it seems to work.

As for the perceived value of price, it’s an interesting debate that’s happening in the community a lot these days. Some see $0.99 as devaluing their work or that readers grab it only because it’s cheap. There are others that see it as a means to get their name out to more readers even if it is an impulse buy. For me, I don’t mind dropping the price down to $0.99 every once in a while, but I think I prefer the $2.99 price point.

3. Why self publishing?

As I mentioned earlier, it was a decision that my agent and I came to based on what we thought was the best option to get my work out there. I think it’s one of the best things I ever did. I now have fans and people contacting me about my books. It’s very exciting. Whether or not I could ever make a living from writing, my work is being enjoyed and read, and that’s all I could ever ask for. :)

4. Did you format the book yourself or did pay to have it done? What were the challenges in either case?

I do the formatting myself using HTML. I learned a lot from author, Guido Henkel, on ebook formatting that works brilliantly. If you check out his blog, he has a great series on ebook formatting that everyone should read if they plan on going indie. (

Also, I have a web design background, so formatting the book with html and using tools like Calibre to convert it is really easy. I didn’t have any major challenges with it, luckily.

5. Tell me about you cover art!

Ah yes, cover art. I’m huge on covers. If a cover doesn’t grab me, I have trouble looking past it, so I knew I really had to put together decent covers if I was going to do this. Since I have a web background, I have some amount of experience in design. It took me awhile to find the right elements for my books when I designed the covers, but in the end, I did them for very cheap. There’s not much you can’t do these days with Photoshop, some good brushes, and royalty-free sites like Fotolia or iStockphoto. :)

6. Tell me about the editing process. Did you hire an editor?

At this point, I can’t afford the services of a professional editor. I edited the books myself with a red pen. I have a process I go through, and I’m pretty ruthless. And recently I’ve started gathering some readers that act as beta readers now for me to catch any significant errors that I might miss. If given the choice, though, I would love to be in a position to hire a good editor. I think it does a lot for your books.

7. How do you promote your e-book? Is it a challenge to find venues for promotion?

The one thing I find the hardest to do in this business is promotion. I have a hard time with the hard sell. I don’t like it, and I don’t do it well. That said, it has to be done in some format.

There are some free and paid venues that I’ve used to try to get word out there. Social networking is good too. I think, for me, slowly building up a readership and writing more books is really the best form of promotion I can do right now. It will likely take me longer than trying the hard sell, but I think that’s what will work best for me.

8. Tell us a bit about who you are and your path as an author.

I’ve been writing on and off for years. I dabbled in the old DelRey Online Writing Workshop many years ago. Then it became independent and I participated in that as well. It’s a brilliant forum for fantasy writers to hone their craft and learn from other writers. Eventually I moved on to the submission process and ended up where I am today. Throughout it all I kept on writing. That’s been the best way to really learn. I didn’t think I’d reach a point where I could put multiple books out in a year, but here I am. I just finished a new paranormal romance (Broken) that I hope to have out at the end of May and I have another children’s book (Billy Bones) that I hope to have out at the end of summer. It’s a very exciting time to be an author right now!