On December 31st I ordered the proof for my first print-on-demand (POD) book, a short story collection titled The Year of the Elm (TYOTE). I’m using CreateSpace (CS) to manufacture the book, and CS gave me three shipping options for the proof. I chose the slowest and cheapest option: three weeks for a little over three dollars. I did so because I couldn’t imagine it would actually take three weeks for the proof to arrive, and it didn’t. It took eight days, including a long three-day weekend. [ Read more ]
The TYOTE POD cover
Having had the smarts to avail myself of the experience, insight, technical skill and patience of designer Joleene Naylor, I now have a cover for the print-on-demand (POD) version of my short story collection, The Year of the Elm. I’m not only satisfied with the result, I’m thankful I didn’t have to produce it on my own. Whatever time it might have taken to do it myself, and however much I might have learned along the way, I wouldn’t have been able to replicate the give-and-take that helped us arrive at the solution you see here.
All of the issues I wanted to deal with or resolve have been dealt with or resolved. The look of the POD cover is an evolution of the original e-book cover, but it also speaks more directly (albeit suggestively) to the contents of the stories. I can’t help but feel that it’s an improvement.
Total cost for all of the advice, artistic input, technical wizardry and plain old common sense that Joleene provided: $50. [ Read more ]
Cover Design Week Conclusion
This post concludes the extended two-week run of Cover Design Week. To see the previous posts, click the CDW tag below.
If you’re thinking about hiring a cover designer the critical first step is thoroughly considering your needs, abilities and tolerances. Because of the work I’ve put in I now know why I’m looking for help with the TYOTE redesign, and what it is I want to come away with when I have someone help me. This in turn helps me define the qualities I’m looking for in a designer, apart from any budgetary limitations.
As to who I’ll hire I don’t know yet. I received a number of helpful responses in reply to my request for recommendations, and I encourage you to ask for recs from people you know or writers whose covers you like. You may not get a response from everyone, but if you’re polite and patient I’m confident you’ll end up with designers worth considering.
Having previously noted that cost is not a useful metric for determining quality or effectiveness in a book cover, and that nobody really knows how a particular cover design will impact sales, the objective I’m now aiming for is a cover I like. Because every independent writer is also their own marketing department and sales force, I think it’s important to have confidence in the first impression my book will be making.
The obvious problem is that not only do some writers have no idea how to design their own book cover, they may not (or should not) trust their own eye when looking at the work of others. If you think you’re in that boat, ask a few friends or peers for feedback on designs you’re considering. (Do NOT put someone else between you and the person designing your cover. You will complicate the process, diminish the effectiveness of the collaboration, and learn little or nothing that will help you the next time.)
Finally, I think there’s an obvious point that needs to be made about all of this. No matter how much time and money you have, no matter how talented you (and your designer, if you hire one) are, there are diminishing returns to agonizing about your cover. And that point arrives fairly quickly.
While we’ve all seen covers we found horrendous, the truth is that most covers are acceptable. Your goal, then, should not be designing the perfect cover, but avoiding the unadulterated abomination.
— Mark Barrett
Contemplating the TYOTE Cover (Re)Design
This post is part of Cover Design Week. To see other posts click the CDW tag below.
Here is a large version of the cover of my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE):
You can see a smaller version in the right-hand column on this page, and on the Smashwords page where the collection is currently being sold. [Book removed 01/03/17.]
One of the few practical things I knew when I set about designing the cover was that the small image would be more important than the large image. The reason was that the cover would almost always be shown as a thumbnail to interested readers, rendering subtleties all but indistinguishable.
For that reason, along with aesthetic reasons I’ll get to momentarily, I decided to make the title of the work and my name clearly visible at almost any size, and to make the composition simple enough that it wouldn’t be corrupted by a reduction in size. Whatever you think about the design, I feel confident I achieved this practical goal. I did have to resign myself to the fact that the subtitle would not be visible at reduced size, but I felt that was an acceptable loss. Whether this calls into question the inclusion of a subtitle I’m still not sure. [ Read more ]
Cover Design Decision Criteria
This post is part of Cover Design Week. To see other posts click the CDW tag below.
In an earlier post I talked about how the value of hiring a cover designer is directly related to the potential time savings. For me the prospect of hiring a cover designer will save me time in a variety of ways, including some that are unconventional, or at least idiosyncratic.
I have a fair amount of technical knowledge. I’m reasonably comfortable with computers, and if I don’t have specific familiarity with a given application I can usually get it to do what I need in fairly short order. In putting together the e-book cover for my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE), I used an open-source application called GIMP, which is a free and fairly powerful image editor.
GIMP is not, however, easy to embrace. Even armed with a helpful book about the program I found myself bashing my head on my desk when trying to do simple things, including changing ColorA to ColorB. Like many graphics programs, GIMP uses a dizzying mix of image-editing terminology and application-specific geek terminology to describe various functions and aspects of the interface. If you don’t know which term means what, doing even simple things can become a nightmare.
On the art/design side of the cover-design equation, I’m not an artist, but I have a fairly good eye, and I understand basic composition. Whatever you may think of the current TYOTE cover design, it’s pretty much what I was aiming for from concept to execution. Not only do I ‘know it when I see it’ (some people don’t), but I am also able to imagine what I want in advance or work toward it in the image-editing process. I may need to try a few things and discard them, but over time I’ll be able to focus my efforts and reach an acceptable result. What I cannot do is draw very well, but as image libraries continue to grow in size that skill is becoming less and less critical. [ Read more ]
Proofreading Your Own Work
In the previous post I mentioned various proofreading methods I considered for my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE). While the objective in all cases was the same — eliminating nagging typos and errors — each method had different strengths and weaknesses.
Because I knew TYOTE would be read by almost no one, and would bring in almost no revenue, I decided to pursue the option that promised to teach me the most about the proofreading process, and about my own ability to spot mistakes. Against all advice, and despite knowing in advance that I could not be one hundred percent successful, I decided to proofread the final draft of the collection myself. (Full disclosure: one other person gave the stories a proofreading pass early in the process.)
Having written professionally in a number of mediums I know I have a decent eye. Not great, but good enough to catch a lot of common errors. Still, like every writer, I have my nemeses. For example, I am constantly transposing ‘from’ and ‘form’, and no spell checker can save me from that fate. Even when I consciously watch for that mistake, slowing my eye to a letter-by-letter crawl, I invariably miss an instance. (Case in point, when I originally wrote ‘from’ and ‘form’ above, I wrote it as ‘from’ and ‘from’ — and didn’t catch the mistake until re-reading the sentence for the umpteenth time.)
Too, it’s worth noting that much of my professional writing has been script work, both in the motion picture and interactive industries. While I certainly don’t want typos in my milestone drafts, a typo in a script feels like less of a crime simply because a script is a blueprint, not a finished work. When I really came to terms with the fact that I would be producing a finished product with my name on it, my level of concern (and vanity) about typos markedly increased. Where I previously felt that typos in a script were unprofessional, I suddenly felt as if typos in my short story collection would be a personal criticism of me. [ Read more ]
The Year of the Elm — Available Now
I recently published a collection of twelve short stories on Smashwords. [Book removed 01/03/17].
The first three stories can be viewed free. The entire collection is $4.99, and available in a variety of formats.
Original post here.
— Mark Barrett
The Year of the Elm
That’s the title — and this is the cover — for the short story collection I’ve been working on, which I referred to in an earlier post by the TYOTE acronym. I put the collection on Smashwords last night. [Book removed 01/03/17.]
There are twelve short stories in the collection. The first three stories are free. The price for the full collection is $4.99, for reasons that have been exhaustively detailed in previous posts. (Regular readers are now laughing themselves silly or suffering flashbacks.)
I am making three stories available for three reasons. First, I like the idea that a prospective online customer can peruse part of a work as they might in a bookstore. Second, I believe self-published authors have an obligation to demonstrate that they can carry a tune before asking someone to pay for their work. Third, I intendThe Year of the Elm to create an overall effect, and I feel an obligation to make the structure clear to the prospective buyer. Reading the first three stories should do that.
The next step for TYOTE is to put together a print-on-demand (POD) version, probably through Lightning Source. I’ll have more to say about TYOTE, and about the process of publishing it myself, in subsequent posts.
On the horizon, my next project involves a novel I’m revising, and what may or may not be an innovative attempt to meld the strengths of the internet as a medium with the craft aims of traditional storytelling. I believe that all mediums are eventually turned to fiction, and my hope would be to show how that might be better done with the internet itself.
— Mark Barrett
The title of this post is the working-title acronym for my collection of short stories. I’m 99% sure the title is the one I’ll be going with, but until I’m 100% sure this is what I’m calling it.
It’s been interesting getting the stories in shape. I’ve pushed myself to make the stories good, and been pushed to do more by the finality of the act of publication — even if I’m only self-publishing them in digital form. Nobody wants to make an idiot out of themselves.
I’m pretty close to being able to put the stories up on Smashwords. I’ve worked through the formatting style guide, and I have a working comp for the cover art. I just need to do a final version of everything and a final read-through of the text and I think that’s it. (I’ll have more to say about the various steps in the process when I’m reasonably confident I didn’t mess things up.)
What I can say so far is that the impending act of publication has helped improve my work. Because I’m taking it seriously, that seriousness is producing benefits I hadn’t imagined. I’m not new to turning in final drafts of fictional copy, or scripts that will be produced by others, but this is a more solitary process, and I’m glad to find that it is not without rewards.
Even as I am starting to see the larger self-publishing movement as a fad or balloon that will inevitably go bust, I’m also utterly convinced that the internet as a distribution and publication platform is for real. I can put these stories where others can find them, and I don’t have to ask permission to do that.
As small as the collection is, and as limited as the economic upside might be, it feels like a big deal. Regardless of the outcome, I’m glad I’m doing this.
— Mark Barrett