Posts tagged cover art
Didn’t wake up til around 9am. Still felt groggy and tired. Stayed in bed checking email and generally surfing the internet while feeling cruddy until around 11am. Then up, got a little housework done, fed myself and the munchkins lunch. Susan had left in the early AM hours for an Arisia meeting – she’s the Timelord for the convention this year (as in, keeper of the project schedules and such, but that really IS the title, which is just cool).
Then upstairs, where I spent the afternoon alternating between keeping the kids occupied, finishing email answering, keeping the kids from killing each other, and writing. Also had a nap in there somewhere in the late afternoon. I got about five hundred words in on “Ashes Ascendant”, and hit some sort of snag. Kept avoiding the writing to do something else. So I picked up another writing project for a bit, and got 2k words in there. Finished off the afternoon with some editing on Starship.
Then dinner for the kids and I – Susan wasn’t due home for hours yet. The kids went back to playing, and I went back to editing, followed by a bit more work on Ashes. Around 8pm, took a brief nap (still feeling massively congested and coughing a bunch now, too), and woke up a bit after 9pm when Susan returned home. Packed the kids into bed, and then watched a pair of episodes of Lost Girl with Susan.
She went off to tuck in a youngster who was having trouble getting to sleep, and has yet to return. I’m tired, and hit about the end of my rope for the writing. All told, not a bad day. Not a banner day for the writing, but one of my best ones this month, anyway, so no complaints! Tomorrow might well see the end of the first draft for “Ashes”. Two more chapters left to go. I’m basically at climax and denouement.
I’ve got the rough cover design done for “Ashes Ascendant”, too. I’ll post the final here once it’s complete.
Totals for Day 21
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 4000 words Month to date fiction: 28900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 366 words Month to date blog posts: 12284 words
Amazon announced today in their KDP newsletter that they have updated their recommendations for cover sizes for Kindle ebooks.
The new guidelines are a minimum of 1000 pixels on the long side – although they “recommend 2,500 pixels on the longest side to ensure better quality, and an ideal height/width ratio of 1.6.”
So to break this down, if you go with the minimum, your new image size should be 625 pixels wide by 1000 pixels tall. If you jump to the recommended level, to retain a 1.6 aspect ratio, you want an image size of 1562 pixels wide by 2500 pixels tall (roughly).
While the smaller size is pretty typical of what many indies are already using for cover images, jumping to the recommended level will often mean paying higher prices for art. Jumping an image from 1000×625 to 2500×1562 isn’t just a matter of expanding it in your image editor – that way leads to pixelated, ugly looking images. Instead, you need to go back to the source art and use larger source art. Both royalty free art sites and artists for unique art will generally charge more for larger images, and in some cases artists might not have larger source art available for an image.
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something indie writers need to pay attention to moving forward. Screen quality is only going to continue improving on ereaders, which means images with higher pixel counts are going to become desirable. Plan accordingly, and build your cover images with higher resolution than you intend to use.
A last note on this: these images are the display images Amazon uses to sell books on their site, NOT the cover image included in the book. In most cases, it is advantageous to include in the book file an image on the lower end of the spectrum, since readers will rarely actually see it there, and higher quality images result in a larger files size for the ebook. Since indie writers getting the 70% royalty from Amazon are billed a small amount for file downloads, the bigger the file, the less you earn per sale. Those pennies can add up in the long run, so best practice is to include in the book file a smaller file size of image than the one you’re using for display.
I’ve been speaking loud and long on this topic over on LinkedIn lately. It’s a growing issue, a problem I am seeing inexperienced writers facing every day. A week does not go by without me hearing from or reading some writer talking about how they “self published” their book through some subsidy press or another.
So I thought it’s time to have another talk about this.
First, some definitions:
Subsidy Press: A publisher who requires an author to subsidize the cost of producing a book. Generally speaking, these publishers charge up front for to format the book’s interior, make a cover for the book, and increasingly these days, to convert to ebook formats as well. Again, with a subsidy press, the writer pays for the work. Then the subsidy press uploads the print book to Lightning Source, and the ebook files to the various ebook retailers, in theory handling this “for” the writer, taking in return a share (generally 50-90%) of profits from sales.
Self Publishing: A writer is also the publisher of the book. This means that the writer is uploading the book to the writer’s accounts at ebook retailers, and that the writer is uploading the print book interior and cover PDFs to the printer. The writer’s publishing business name is the one which will appear on the spine of the book, if any does.
The two are not the same thing. It’s pretty obvious even at first glance that the latter method gets you twice to ten times as much income per sale – so the subsidy press must produce twice to ten times the sales, or twice to ten times the value, for it to be a worthwhile investment. Generally speaking, however, these presses do nothing to market a book after it is produced; they simply upload it to the various sites and let it sit. If the author markets the book, the publisher profits. If the author fails to market the book, the publisher still made their money being paid to produce the book in the first place.
But insidiously, these companies are increasingly calling themselves “self publishing companies” to hop on the bandwagon of writers trying to self publish. With self pub successes like John Locke, Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath – and bestselling writers like Barry Eisler and now J.K. Rowlings self publishing – self pub has become the “in” thing to do in many circles. So these companies attempt to take advantage of that and use “self publishing” as their theme.
They’re not self publishing. This is fraudulent advertising designed to take advantage of uninformed writers. No book produced and published by a subsidy press is self published. Subsidy presses are just another traditional publisher with very low standards of acceptance and very bad contracts for writers.
That’s not to say you can’t get help to self publish, though. There are numerous companies out there who will do the same work, for about the same up front fee, but then hand the files over to the writer. There are a goodly and growing number of individuals who offer these services as well. You pay the fee, they do the work, they hand you the files, and you upload the files to your account. You’ve self published. You keep all the post-retailer profits. You’ve simply outsourced some of the work involved in book production – and many publishers do that, from the smallest small presses like yours, to the largest NYC publishing houses.
Here’s my rules for avoiding problem-companies:
- IF a company is asking for you for money up front for your book, THEN that company should be giving you the completed files for formatted interior and cover, and YOU should be uploading those files to YOUR account on Createspace or Lightning Source, and YOU should be uploading the ebook files to Amazon, Smashwords, and Pubit/B&N.
- IF a company is asking for money to produce your book, AND that company is not providing you the files but is instead uploading those files to THEIR accounts, then that company is inevitably, in my experience, a bad partner. If that company is saying that they are helping you self publish, then they are a scam.
Scam is such a harsh word; but when a company is clearly using fraudulent marketing in their attempts to win customers, then I find it appropriate. Websters defines scam as “a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation”. And that certainly fits the bill for many of the companies involved in these deceptive practices. Avoid them at all costs.
For a book published *right now*, today, probably the answer is yes. Despite the fact that contracts are getting worse, and regaining rights on a contracted book today is very hard (often impossible), right now publishers still have exclusive access to big bookstores. Big Bookstores (and smaller ones) are still a very large percent of all book sales, so *right now* its still probably OK to take a loss in longterm income in exchange for the benefits of immediate visibility being in a bookstore gives your other, self published books.
The problem is, that’s quite possibly not true anymore for a book you *submit* today. It takes 12-24 months from contract to being in print. And maybe a year or more to get a contract. That’s 2-3 years (or more). A lot can happen in that time.
Borders is closing a bunch of their stores, and even odds might not exist anymore by the end of the year. B&N closed a net 7% of their stores last year, and is expected to close even more this year. The big bookstore chains are failing. Some folks are talking about ebooks hitting 50% of the market *this year* – which would simply kill the big bookstores dead, flat out. B&N would survive as an online store in bankruptcy, and Borders would flatline. It’s almost certain ebooks will hit 25% this year, which will cause a lot of bookstores to close AND cause a number of bankruptcies among publishers.
What happens to your book if your publisher goes bankrupt? They won’t all go under, but some publishing houses almost certainly will over the next two years. If you’re unlucky enough to have your book in production at a house when it goes into bankruptcy, then your book will be tied up in those proceedings for years more, before you’re able to shop it around all over again.
What do publishers offer, once the big bookstore chains are gone in two years or less? Editing, which writers can hire out. Covers, which writers can hire out. Formatting, which writers can hire out. Um…
Yeah, that’s about it.
A good book prep company costs you about $1000 to put a pro cover on a book and format it for you. On the cheap you can get that done for about $300, or less if you format yourself. Editing is expensive, with copy editing on a novel ranging from $250-$1000, and content editing being $2k+. But even if you go full out, you’re looking at maybe $3-4k for production costs per book – to produce something every bit as good as any large publisher can make today. So the math is easy, then.
And it does not favor the publisher.
All of this means that publishers are going to have to reinvent themselves in the coming years. Writers can get editing, formats, and covers anywhere, and bookstore distribution will no longer be a big factor soon. So – what can they offer? I think we’ll see publishers beginning to try to brand themselves. Something like what companies like Baen and Harlequin already have. Harlequin readers know what they are getting from a book. Many of them care less about the writer than about the label, knowing that a Harlequin book is probably going to be something they like. Baen readers are similar in SF. Baen publishes a specific flavor and style of science fiction, and readers know pretty much that if they like one Baen book, they will most likely like the next one too. Baen and Harlequin have build brands around their names, and if pushed a bit more this would add additional value.
I think publishers will be forced to move to 50% of net contracts for ebooks. Probably this year or next, we’ll see that become the norm. Already, most small presses are doing this, and as bookstores fade small presses are going to have a lot of other advantages over large presses (smaller staffs, less overhead, more nimble/faster movement of books, less hide-bound). I strongly suspect that some of the more pro small presses today will be large presses in five years.
Beyond that, I really don’t know. I know that publishers have some wonderful, creative people working for them. And I’m sure their brains are working harder on these issues than mine is. They’ll come up with ideas. Some will work, some won’t. The ones whose ideas work will still be in business three years from now.
Digital distribution of books *has* disintermediated consumer book publishers. It’s happened. It’s done. What we’re seeing now is the scramble as people a) realize that and b) figure out what they are going to do about it
Still playing with the art some. I rough-drafted a new layout, which I think might have more energy. Also tried tweaking the colors again. Just brainstorming various ideas. These new ones are just mock-ups – I haven’t scaled everything perfectly yet or redone the fonts. But they’re decent concepts, I think. Like these better? Or the original one?
Second draft of the cover art for By Darkness Revealed. Next version will see a few tweaks, but the art is almost there, I think. I’m pretty pleased with the overall effect, to be honest – simple whitespace, iconic imagery, bold and easy to read fonts. This is for the ebook cover – the print version will use similar art and layout, obviously with spine and back cover material as well – and the monster wraps around the spine onto the back, for the print version.
The image, of course, is the big nastie that Ryan has to face as part of the story. Or a stylized version of it, anyway. In By Darkness Revealed, Ryan Blackwell is a new student at the private military college Northshield University. Ryan has some past experience with magic, but what he runs into during his first months at the University challenge his skills and his willpower to their utmost. Because the campus holds an ancient secret, and something sinister stirs in the darkness…
It’s really nice to see things coming together. So, what do you think of the art? I’ve got similar art lined up for the next two stories, with a stylized image for the focus of each.