Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 10 October 2011

How to Self Publish Books - Part Three

So, before we were so rudely interrupted by 'Da Dan Brown Code' Chapters Three and Four, we were looking at the self publishing process.  So far you've written your book, edited it to within an inch of its life, formatted it to suit the needs of Amazon and Smashwords and you've decided on how much to charge for the book.  But we're not finished yet.

Look at any book in a bookstore (remember them?) or search Amazon for books and you'll notice two things after the title and price.  The first thing you'll notice will be the cover. The second, if the cover hasn't made you move on, is the blurb that describes the book.

The old adage - never judge a book by its cover - may or may not be a truism, but in the real world, we all do.  Sure, when your book's a massive international best seller you'll be able to get away with a plain colour cover with a picture of an Arctic sea bird on (Penguin Classics, anyone?) but until your book receives that level of success you'll have to persuade people it may be interesting.

Book covers are very important - do not pass go until you achieve a cover that spins your wheel.

If you look at my book covers:

You'll notice that I haven't aimed for a 'house style'.  Some authors like to adopt such a style so that their books are recognisable as a theme.  In my case I made a conscious decision to not go for a set style as my books are all quite different in tone and subject matter. Compare that with, say, Dan Brown's books:

And you will see that there is a definite theme. 

Now, just because you've managed to write a novel or two it doesn't automatically follow you can produce a smart cover.  If you don't have the core skills then try to find someone you know who does - there's a lot of people who are skilled in this area and you should be able to find someone who can help.  I produced the first three covers for my own books using basic Microsoft Office software and Corel Paint Shop Pro, but struggled to achieve the cover I wanted for DLF as I wanted to show the three main themes of the book - fast cars, bullets and electronic technology.  In the end my Son-in-Law Adam Griffiths produced the cover you can see above.

One thing to consider about the image is making sure it's the right orientation and do follow the guidelines provided by Amazon and Smashwords.

The second thing you will notice when browsing Amazon or a bookshop is the blurb - the sound bite that tells you about the book.  Now, book cover production may or may not be in your skillset, but writing?  Come on, surely we don't need to ask?

Actually, we do.  Writing the blurb can be the hardest piece of writing you'll ever undertake.  In mainstream publishing the blurb is writtten by a marketing expert for that reason.  Most authors hate writing the blurb and given a free choice would let someone else write it every time.  However, there isn't a staff writer on hand to write your blurb so you're going to have to weave the words yourself.  Take a look at books you've bought recently, books that are similar in style and content to your own (What?  It's completely original?  Well I'll be..').  You'll see that the better blurb give a sense of the issues addressed by the book without spoiling the plot or boring the reader rigid.

Here's the blurb from Skin:

When Rory Callum walked into Kuwait, barely alive and the only survivor of an ill-fated Special Forces operation preceding the shock and awe phase of the second Gulf War, his lack of memory and the violent, unresolved murder of his colleagues ensured that, for Rory, his Special Forces days were over.

Some years later finds Rory working for Max on the edge of the law, often straying across it, as an undercover industrial spy, inserting himself as an agency worker to discover what next year's cornflakes marketing strategy is, or the launch details of a new promotion. However, his new task is more involved; a deep insertion into Korbins to find out what their new, secret discovery is.

Groomed and primed by the gorgeous but sexually disturbed and violently dangerous Melinda, who can manipulate identities and histories effortlessly, Rory finds himself employed as a trainer in Korbins and begins a process that results in him being targeted by murderous hired thugs, being chased by the Secret Service determined to understand what happened in Iraq years earlier and as an unwitting pawn for Fabin, a seriously complicated and evidently mad scientist in a fast paced and violent story that reaches all the way up to the offices of the British Prime Minister.

In the hard-hitting and complex ending Rory finds his memories released as he races to defeat Fabin and his ex Royal Marine employee, Ron Danvers.

This hard-hitting and complex story of revenge is based in the near future but heavily underpinned by the events leading up to the second Gulf War, which forms a significant back story. The pace is relentless and fast flowing as the truth behind the missing weapons of mass destruction debacle is revealed.

A read through that blurb tells the reader that we're looking at something with a military background, that there's intrigue, civilian violence, a dash of conspiracy theory and a dose of sexual tension.  It clearly isn't Chick Lit, for starters.  Couple it up with that cover picture of a Chinook in the desert and it should be apparent to the reader whether it is likely to be the kind of book they would want to spend some time with.

So now you've designed a cover and written a killer blurb you're nearly ready to publish your book.  If you're counting you'll notice you've covered a few jobs on the way - Author, Editor, Formatter, Cover designer and Blurb writer, jobs that, with the exception of the Author, you would expect someone else  to carry out if you were publishing conventionally.  And indeed some indie authors do pay others to carry out some of these jobs.  Whether you do that depends on your access to the skills needed and the depth of your pocket!
You can pretty well launch your book now, roll it out to the waiting world, make your fortune...
Well, perhaps.  We can look at that in Part Four.

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1 comment:

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