When you start out with a hobby, usually it’s just you and whatever tools that you may have had on hand to accomplish your goals – whether it’s writing or BBQ smoking or most any other kind of hobby.
Once you get to a certain point you begin to get the idea that moving to a more public venue may accomplish yet more with your hobby.
With BBQ smoking, I chose to compete in contests to learn how to really cook and have a much better understanding of the process.
With writing it’s no different, but there are several options available to help that are free and easy to use.
For example I opted to move to Wattpad where I found a well organized method to expose my writing to others and begin to get feedback, participate in contests and better organize my work. There really are not a whole lot of rules that you have to follow as to how you write, what you write (within reason of course) or how you present it (again within reason of their membership agreement).
There are always rules as to what limits there are and they clearly lay them out in their agreement acceptance or FAQ pages.
Moving to a platform such as Wattpad can accomplish many things, such as giving you the courage to move yet further and begin to approach the idea of actually publishing your stories to a much broader audience, such as those who may peruse Amazon or other outlets looking for reading material.
This is where things begin to change a bit drastically as far as what rules and other norms that you now have to consider, in particular copyrights and other such legal terms for an example.
Now, if you are like me, you begin to research how others have done things as you begin to prepare your book – cover, presentation, content, webpages, blogs (much like this one for example 8)) and other bits and pieces.
Most everything involved in this process can and often does involve quite a bit of work that can be far and beyond the normal experience levels of someone who may be new to web design, art design or even project management.
Whats the best solution? Many may suggest professional services for particular parts of the process, such as your cover or editing.
An important issue with the option of involving a professional is the cost that will undoubtedly be involved. Another is finding someone who is reputable and will get you the result that you want within your budget.
Let me be clear, this is not a bad idea at all and something to seriously consider for most any part of the process.
However, should you be in a situation much like myself with a limited budget, perhaps looking into doing things yourself (DIY) can also be an option to pursue.
WordPress, for example, gives a great option for hosting your webpage and blog that can later be moved if you choose to self-host. Writers groups in your local area or on-line can also be helpful. Community Centers in most areas may even offer classes.
By far the most important thing to consider when designing a cover is due-diligence with what will be on the cover. A key word to consider is Royalty Free. What this means that you will not have to pay to use a particular image or even a font for your project.
If you find a photo or piece of artwork and can’t identify the owner, you will need to play a bit of detective using tools such as TinEye Reverse Image Search to locate the artist(s) who may have created it.
At all cost and to avoid interacting with lawyers it is best not to use something without permission. There are plenty of examples where it is cheaper to pay a high fine than fight something in court. Either way there will be significant costs to any part of such disagreements.
I once almost made the mistake of using an image of a bear for one cover that I eventually learned would have cost as much as two-hundred and fifty dollars (US) to use rather than the image I eventually purchased for roughly fifteen dollars (US).
Places such as Shutterstock.com offer images with proper licensing for fairly minimal cost that allow you to use them as you may need without legal worry. Their default license allows you to use an image up until 500,000 copies are made or sold of your product which does include e-books. At that point they offer another license that is reasonable and affordable.
Building the cover can still be a chore that brings with it much and many pratfalls along the way.
What font do you use? Is it free? Large enough? Size of title versus author name?
I happen to have a large library of books that I can look through to see how those who are professionally published have done things. Next, I went out on Amazon and looked through what is offered by others.
There will be plenty of websites, blogs, videos and such that talk about designing covers that will show you plenty of ways to approach the process.
And there are plenty on how to tell you how not to do it with examples.
Paint.net is a great tool for editing, combining or otherwise building a cover. Createspace.com also has cover building tools available.
In the end, either way that you choose to do it, the cover should be what you as the author want it to be. If you have to, stick to your guns but always leave the door open to possible suggestions that can allow you to keep what you want yet perhaps show it differently and possibly in a better fashion.
My first book, “Blood-Lines” is an example. There are key elements that I wanted in the cover and after many attempts while getting much feedback (mostly bad reviews), with the help of a friend and her simple suggestions I was able to get the cover to what it is now and retain everything that I wanted to have in it.
Does that mean those that didn’t like it before like it any better now? Maybe. Several have commented that the current version is much improved.
Editing is another area entirely.
It’s one thing to be an avid reader, entirely another to edit what you write.
Going rates for editorial services can lead one to do it themselves. I chose to do it myself due in part, once again, to my budget.
For a manuscript that runs 86,000+ words, professional editorial rates can be anywhere from two-thousand to five-thousand or more dollars (US).
The only advice that I will give is to be consistent in how you write your story. Watch your tense and keep things equal as best that you can in the presentation.
There are also beta reading services or other writers who will exchange such services.
What you can do is to research what to avoid happening through commentary of others that have reviewed books. While I usually skip one star reviews, they can often explain the faults found in a book that teach you what to avoid.
In the end, it is you that has to be happy with what you produce, happy with how it’s released and happy with how it’s designed.
It’s your dream and your efforts that have produced the end result.
But make your skin thick and prepare for bad reviews as there will be some without doubt.
Art is art, but everyone has an opinion on what art should be.
Do what you can with what you have available and are willing to try and you will hopefully get a result that at least you like and in the end that is what is important.
Using a professional or doing it yourself are both acceptable methods of approaching your publishing efforts.
I’m happy with mine and I hope you will be with yours.