The Writing Addiction and the Barrier to Self Publishing
After months spent fully immersed in writing two volumes of a five volume book series, I had cranky first results and much more satisfying second results. Over time, I developed writer's addiction which limits the writer to three states of existince: intoxication, seeking intoxication or withdrawal.
My name is Xenonlit and I am a writing addict!
Writing did not turn me into an addict. The rewriting did that. I had to find everything that was wrong with the writing and fix it, and there will be no end to the flaws that I am blinded to right now. The flaws will become obvious over days, months or even years from now and that is why books have new editions.
My goal was to get over one great hurdle in life: to publish my first book and to present a body of work, not just one work. The art gallery owner wants many paintings to choose from, not one painting. The reader wants to know that there will be more books to come and that is why I wanted to finish two books.
I transitioned from business, military and technical writing to writing blogs. Then I transitioned into web article writing under tight editorial controls. Finally, I became a literary writer. I dusted off my writer's guide. I built living people who never existed before. I wrote about events and horrors that never happened until I made them happen. I began to study grammar, punctuation and style.
This writing was vastly different from telling Congress why jet fuel or a new fire truck needed to be funded five years in the future. The analytical work had nothing to do with inventing, then describing the infamous "Fuels Gain/Loss Tolerance Analysis". The reader had to be convinced, not entertained or transported into an alternate reality. That writing had to grab those congressional readers and make them feel the love for that jet fuel and fire truck!
With the first book, I learned about flow and basic storytelling. I had a kind volunteer editor who helped me to draw out the adventure sequences and to include a heart stopping foil or two.
With the second book, I learned about "killing all my darlings", as Faulkner and King advised. I had trouble with that idea until another writer explained that the “darlings” were not my wonderful characters, but the expository prose that I thought was so brilliant.
I murdered darlings by the dozens. Then I created new darlings. Some of my darlings joined the ranks of the Undead. They cannot be killed. I gave up on the idea of writing novellas. It was time for a full blown book.
Some literary editors are not aware that most adults can write stories and books. We have studied and done writer’s exercises. We are not going back to school for a year in order to self publishes a first book that will read like the editor’s dream book.
We have stories to tell and we will tell them in our own cracked and flawed voices. The process is to do something, not to compare ourselves to the great writers of all time. Who does that with their first efforts? That is a trap where the so-called “advisers” will never set us free to compete with them.
Do not be intimidated and do not cycle between external discouragement and self-doubt. Put a book together, do your best and publish it. Then you are published and that barrier is gone.
You can always upload an improved version. You can order in small batches. You can keep editing and improving. However, just as you would hang your first painting on your wall and find many things wrong with it over time, put your first book on the shelf. Read it, mark it up and improve it.
When that initial barrier is gone, the hard work begins. A wise retired editor told me that the next effort had to be much better. Therefore, I took three times as long to finish the second book.
I rewrote my first paragraph over 40 times. I edited a 60,000-word book thirty five times and excised 10,000 words. Then I added 10,000 much better words. In painting, amateurs think that they can start with a plan and get the exact results that they planned to have. Ha! Fat chance of that! We call that kind of work graphic arts and work for hire.
I write as I paint, with an eye open for the "incidentals" that show up. I enhance the accidentals and incidentals and they become major elements of the story. I write with a broad outline and never constrain myself with strictly laid out plots and outlines. There are no apps and plug-ins. Characters develop as they experience life.
Then I document my chapter maps and timelines to ensure that facts remain consistent.
The result is a good story and I am proud to be telling it. In addition, I am telling it with an old writer's life experience and with new literary writer's flaws and faults.
Until I become a veteran writer with years of literary writing and study completed, this is how I do it: one step at a time.
Be not discouraged and be not afraid to cross the barrier into becoming a published author, but do not do so without investing your best efforts.
The Frugal Writer: Cheap and Easy Book Covers
E-Book Covers vs. Print Book Covers
At some point, every writer will find a need to create an ebook cover when expensive software, time consuming professional design services and other costly production values are not an option.
A print book cover is another quick publishing task and the summary at the end of this article provides a guide to creating print covers at CreateSpace for Amazon or on the home computer.
My ebook is at Amazon. I used Amazon's Create Space cover creator for my print book.
I used a very simple photo upload for the ebook cover that you see here. I did the e-book cover text and photo editing at PhotoBucket.
When a self publishing writer does as much of the book production process as possible, the art of those processes gets learned. We all know that knowledge is power. Best of all, writers can choose to get as much control over those affiliated book processes as they wish to have.
I have been doing graphic arts since the days of hand lettering and Speedball pens. When computers became widely available, I learned how to choose and modify fonts, to space the lettering, and to choose colors that obeyed the theories of color.
I have done more graphic arts work for free than I care to think about. But now, I have the freedom to snap a "once in a lifetime" photo with a smartphone, to upload it to a photo storage and editing site, and to put photos on the web or into cover creator at Amazon.
This blog will deal with the basics. Later blogs will go into more detail. These days, even basic cameras and photo editing tools are extremely powerful. The best news is that the basics cost little or nothing!
Let's start with the photo.
The book cover for The Demon Chronicles series begins with my love of crazy cloud formations. I have been taking cloud photos for years and have some incredible pictures as a result. The above cloud floored me and had to go into the collection.
At the time, I did not think of the cloud as representing "wings" because I had not thought of writing the book! But the visual message yelled at me as soon as I started to scour through my photo collection for a suitable picture.
The first step is to think of the biggest idea in your book and your title. Then take an original photo that shoots that idea right into the reader's eye and mind. Original photos are the best because you own the rights, you control the content, and you decide the way in which the eye discovers what is on your mind.
Cover Photography Basics
Notice the large space at the top of the photo. It is light, free of detail and will take lettering for the main title. Light tops and darker bottoms are the most visually pleasing form.
The cloud structure is just below the midpoint of the original photo. The goal was to have the cloud structure stand on its own as a major visual element and brand for the book. After cropping, the cloud structure ended up in the bottom third of the picture.
When taking photos of phenominal things, invest some extra time for a few photos that are book cover compositions in their own rights. Remember: clutter free and light at the top, a major visual element just below the midpoint, and the darker solids at the bottom.
You can easily crop, use tools to smooth out clutter, and choose fonts in Photobucket and other online, free photo editors.
Photo Cropping and Adding Text
Basic cropping and highlighting can transform a mundane photo into a compelling and attractive book cover. Identify the strongest visual element and use it to change a good photo into a brilliant book cover. Photo cropping helps to relocate the strongest element or remove unwanted elements.
In addition, write about the strongest element! Document why you think it is a symbolic representation of your book’s main theme.
My original photo had a large, dark area at the bottom of the frame, so I cropped it out, leaving the unusual cloud mass and plenty of sky. I moved the primary visual element--- the cloud mass--- to the midpoint of the picture for a more interesting composition. This also left plenty of room for the title text at the top.
If I had wanted a more ominous tone, I would have kept more of the dark ground at the bottom. This reminds us to be sensitive to the mood we create when we change the image.
You can also crop a major element of your cover photo and use it for print book spines, blogs, business cards and more! You can spread around the "visual brand" of your book in many ways.
The color palette is another important issue. The cloud mass has a unique pinkish cast. I used the blue sky, pure white clouds, and blue gray tones at the top of the photo for backgrounds, text colors and more.
The main visual elements are the book's brand, or logo. I used the upper sky and text for web banners, stationery and business cards. The cloud structure and text are good for t-shirts, coffee cups and more.
Just take a little time to imagine, to identify visual elements that turn into logos, and to identify a three or four-color palette. Have fun with the project!
The Title and Other Text
GETTING TEXT TO SHOW UP
Dark visual content is fine, but contrast it with the lightest possible lettering.
Avoid fonts that are too thin and spidery for good visibility. Sometimes a font is too thick and heavy for a delicate background. Look for the best fonts and use italics, bold and other tricks to make the text interesting.
The worst photos for text overlays have contrasting light and dark elements all over the place. This will cause text to fade in and out and it is impossible to find a place where all of the text will be visible.
If the photo or painting has too much clutter, put the photo in a frame and place it on the page as a separate visual element.
Try color tinting the lettering to enhance the contrast. If the background is green, go to the red color spectrum and tint basic white text with pink, hot pink, red orange, or yellow orange.
THE BEST COLOR CONTRASTS TO USE
Green vs reds and oranges
Yellow vs purples, pinks and blues
Blue vs reds, oranges, pinks and greens
Purple vs yellows and oranges
Red vs greens and blue greens
Even a tiny little bit of color contrast in black or white lettering can go a long way toward making text pop out from the background!
The Finished Cover and Watermarking Your Original Art
As you see, the elegant and slightly exotic font, the odd cloud, the word "demon", and the beautiful sky gives a mixed message of menace and horror in a world where there is also hope, light and the wings of angels.
Take some time to review your photo collection. Scan your favorite print photos into your computer and upload to Photobucket. From your smartphone, simply choose the Photobucket option and upload as soon as you take a promising photo.
Play around with the editor at Photobucket and learn how to add simple text, borders, frames, cropping and other basic effects to your photo.
Remember that you can cancel the project if it is not working. You can start over. You must always save the results as "COPY" and to never replace the original with the modified photo! This leaves the original free for other uses, like resizing for blogs, your print book cover and other purposes.
Be Careful! Never Pull Photos From The Web Without Permission.
The odds are that the really good photos from Google Images or Picasa Photo are copyrighted. Those photos are intellectual property and they are owned by someone. You need to pay or get permission before you use those photos.
Stock photo sites will give out photos for free or for a small fee. Make sure to read the terms of understanding and check the site out before you pay for or use a stock photo. It is quite likely that crooked sites simply snag and sell photos without permission. You will be the one held liable for using stolen intellectual property.
If the photo is not "Creative Commons", contact the owner and ask for written permission. Offer to pay for the use of the photo. Make sure to store all written agreements and reciepts with your book's other important paperwork.
The Best Solution is to take your own photos. With digital and smart phone cameras, it's easy!
Watermark Your Photos and Art Before You Publish To the Web
A watermark will protect your original artwork from being stolen and used without your permission.The watermarked versions are good for blogs, Pinterest, publicity and other cases where the photo will be used to as a visual brand for your book.
Here Is The easiest, and I emphasize EASIEST way to watermark your original artwork:
Use the text tool at Photobucket to add your name or other information across the photo.
Use the transparency slider to make the text transparent, but still visible.
The first photo was watermarked with the text tool, easy as pie!
THIS IS WHAT THE PRINT BOOK LOOKS LIKE. I DID THIS IN CREATE SPACE COVER CREATOR.
NOTE HOW THE SAME PHOTOS WERE USED FOR THIS WEBSITE AND FOR THE EBOOK!
This makes it easy to carry a theme throughout the whole book product line.
The ingredients for a good basic ebook or print cover photo include: an account at a free photo editing site, a good smartphone or digital camera, a scanner for print photos, and time for learning and experimenting.
The rewards include: a better understanding of basic layout, style and design; better control over the face that your book presents to the world; and quite a bit of fun once the learning process is complete.
The process is not over! The rest of the story is a long and technical one.
The easiest way to create a full print book cover with a spine is to use Cover Creator at Amazon's CreateSpace. https://www.createspace.com/
Creating a print book cover from scratch is not for the faint of heart or weak of spirit! I used Create Space!
She is at Hub Pages and she has some good articles on more advanced print book cover work.
She will give you some great advice and has video tutorials for using Gimp or Photoshop to create the real deal: a book cover for print or ebooks using the technology that the big boys and girls get to play with!