FAQ | Red Swallow Design

Do you have a money-back guarantee?
Honestly, weve never been in the position where someone has asked for their money back. But were not happy unless you are. The only time wed keep your deposit is if you disappear off the face of the earth mid-project.
Should I credit the designer?
Its common practice to credit the cover designer in the copyright section of the book, as well as in fine print on the back cover. If two people worked on the cover design (i.e. a designer and an illustrator), its common practice to credit both. Heres some examples:
Cover design by Jane Doe of RedSwallowDesign
Cover illustration by John Doe of RedSwallowDesign
Who owns the copyright to the art?
The artist (designer/illustrator) owns the copyright to all their work, including any rough-drafts or in-progress shots of your design. When you pay for your cover design, you are paying for the right to use that design for its intended purpose. Payment does not include the rights to any of the rough-drafts or in-progress shots of your design.
Why dont you offer multiple mock-ups of a design?
Many freelance cover designers offer a few different designs for the one book, called mock-ups. The downside is that these designers often build that expense into the overall cost of the job, making the design process more expensive than it should be. You are, after all, paying for more than one design- even though you only need one cover!
Also, from experience, Ive found that multiple mock-ups often make the process more confusing and complicated, rather than easier on the author. Kinda like when you have too many choices on a menu- its so much more difficult to make up your mind and pick a meal!
Were going to use our experience to make the best judgement possible when it comes to your book cover design. Any other designs we come up with would likely be inferior. Of course, if you really want us to provide multiple mock-ups, we can do that for an additional fee.
What are the rules to you using stock images and fonts in your designs?
Theres been some unscrupulous freelancers who save money by stealing their source images. This leaves YOU with the legal issues. We dont steal, period.We buy the license to every single image we use in our designs (unless your design is illustrated from scratch, as we automatically own the rights anyway). The license covers you for 250,000 uses total: whether thats ebook downloads or books printed, its all included in that 250,000. Once youve reached that limit, youll need to repurchase the rights to using those images. Thankfully, if you repurchase those rights through us, re-licensing is very cheap. If you want to purchase the rights to infinite usages, ask us for a quote. But thats usually more expensive, at over $100 per image used in the design.
For lower budget cover designs, we usually implement free font styles. But for premium fonts, we need to pay for licensing. The exact usage requirements can differ from font to font, so ask us for the details if weve used a premium font in your design.

About The Team | Red Swallow Design

Want to know more about the folk behind Red Swallow Design? Come now, step into our studio
Art Director / Illustrator / Designer:Belinda Pepper
My namesBelinda Pepper. Im the big cheese around here (at least, I like to think so). Whenever you read an article written in the first person, thats probably me, unless stated otherwise. I also oversee all the design work conducted under the Red Swallow Design banner.
Ive been an artist for over 11 years now, and have had my work appear in internationalpublicationsas well as on national television. Us folk in Australia got hit pretty hard by the Global Financial Crisis (our very own true blue apocalypse), and as a result, the job market became ridiculously unstable. I decided to pick up my britches and take my business online. As a way to pick up some useful skills, I spent a couple years absorbing myself in the internet marketing realm. Then, I launched head-first into my design career.
Artist first, designer second. It comes in handy.
Ispecializein covers created through a process of photo-manipulation and illustration.
Feel free to shoot me an email if you need to get in touch. Im pretty laid-back, so as long as my Aussie-ness doesnt bother you, well get along just fine!
You can also find me on mypersonal website,Pinterest, andGoogle+
Designer:Fiona Jayde
Hiya! My names Fiona Jayde. Im a space pilot, a ninth degree black belt in three styles of martial arts, a computer hacker, a mountain climber, a jazz singer, a master painter, a superspy with a talent for languages, and an evil genius. All in my own head.
In real life, I create cover art for amazing books, possess a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and blue belt in Aikido, am a web developer, love jazz piano, and can bench-press about 20 pounds (with effort). I learned English from reading Nora Roberts and watching Growing Pains, and when not plotting to take over the world, love fantasy art a la Luis Royo and Boris Vallejo and swear that someday Ill teach myself to draw.
You can find me on Facebook, or on my personal website.
Designer/Illustrator:Krisztina (Kris) Strzebonski
Hello, fellow creatives! Im a freelance graphic artist/illustrator in Australia who has developed skills through a lifelong passion for design. I have a formal education in graphic art and design, and I continued to push the limits of that knowledge as I threw myself head-long into my career and freelance work. I worked full-time, studied part-time and freelanced as a designer for four years straight so here I am now at your service.
I have been involved in a variety of challenging projects during my career, specialising in design for non-fiction book covers and interiors, magazines and various other publications. These involved photo-manipulation, graphic design, and my favourite hobby of all time. illustration. Time permitted, I enjoy challenging myself by competing in illustration challenges on Threadless.
You can also find me on my personal website.
Illustrator:Malcolm McClinton
Hi everyone, my name is Malcolm McClinton. Ive been drawing and painting science fiction and fantasy subjects foras long as I can remember, but drawing and painting was only a hobby, something I would do to relax. Most of my efforts were in academics. After earning advance degrees in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, I spent almost six years working out in the field, excavating. But, I experienced burn out and took a job at Dark Horse Comic.
I was reunited with my creative drive, and after three years I left to pursue my own painting and projects. I have been illustrating as a means of making a living ever since, which I consider my greatest achievement.
Ive been featured in Spectrum 16, I was on the cover and featured in Fantasy Art Magazine 2011 vol 69. I was the artist guest of honor at Anthocon 2013. I won Best of Show at the Foolscap convention in Seattle, and was given the Directors Cchoice Award at Orycon in Portland. Ive also been fortunate enough to work with numerous game companies and small-scale publishers.
You can find me on Facebook, mypersonal blog, and Tumblr.
Illustrator:Jeff Ward
Hi there, my name is Jeff Ward. As an illustrator of the fantastic, a lot of my initial influences were cinematic Star Wars being first on the list. Fast forward through time, that list has grown to include the fantasy masterworks of Tolkien and Hobb, as well as that of Science Fiction greats Asimov, Vonnegut, and Heinlein just to name a few. Ive also looked to master artists, from Frazetta to Dali, to Mucha and Bougereau.
I began painting mostly in acrylics and then oils. A few years later I started painting digitally, and now all my illustration work is digital.
As I continued to do art I started focusing more and more on fantasy, after finding out that I enjoy that subject matter most of all. Looking back, it does sort of make sense, as Star Wars was basically space fantasy, not really science fiction (midichlorians, I know but we wont go there).
Ive created art for DC and Marvel comics, Ad-Hoc Productions, as well a range of game companies and publishing houses. Ive also been fortunate enough to win Best Science Fiction Art for both the PhilCon and TropiCon art shows, and Best Airbrush Art for the Roc*Kon Art Show.
You can find me on Twitter, my personal website, or my blog.
Illustrator:Andr Castelo
Hi guys. My name is Andr Castelo, and Im an illustrator from Brazil. Ive always been fascinated by science fiction, fantasy and human nature. I absolutely love dragons, spaceships, explosions, but human nature as a whole feelings, things unsaid and hidden, secrets and lies have a special pull to me.
I find that the best illustration is the one that pulls the reader, that tells a story and, more importantly, leaves a lot unsaid. Yet, is inspiring and beautiful.
That is the kind of work I aim to produce.
Whenever Im not drawing or painting, Im clumsily working my way on top of a surf board and trying not to drink too much salt water.
You can find me onFacebook, or on mypersonal website.

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Why Is A Good, Professional Book Cover Design SO Important? | Red Swallow Design

Its the Chicago Auto Show- the largest auto exposition in North America. All the biggest auto brands step up to the plate with concept cars that make the black-tie audience drool. Sleek lines, metallic paint, the latest tech.
Then a debut car manufacturer comes forward with his ground-breaking concept. It looks like this:
Do you think hed be taken very seriously?
The publishing industry has changed dramatically over the last few years. You no longer have to have the backing of the worlds big publishing houses to have your work seen by the masses. This has lead to some truly inspiring success stories. I mean, what budding writer wouldnt want to achieve the success of Hugh Howey, E.L. James, and Colleen Hoover?
Unfortunately, many self-published authors are stepping up to the plate with products that look just as laughable as Mr Debut Car Manufacturers DIY concept car. Instead of drawing readers in as a moth to the flame, were sending them scurrying away like rats at a dump fire.
So why IS a professional-looking book cover design SO important?
Book Covers Sell Books!
You cant judge a book by its cover.
Weve heard it ad nauseam.
Maybe thats true (sometimes), but in the real world we constantly judge based on appearances, whether or not we should. And before you tell me that Im not giving enough credit to readers, its been repeatedly proven that the vast majority of readers do indeed judge a book by its cover.
A survey by The Book Smugglers had very telling results. When readers were asked whether a books cover played a decisive role in their decision to purchase a book, 79% of those surveyed answered yes. The same survey showed 40% of those respondents claimed that a book cover is often the only motivating factor in deciding whether to purchase a book.
If you were to rock up at a job interview, would you wear scuffed sandals and ripped jeans that expose half your butt-crack because you believe a future employer should look past your appearance to your true nature?
Of course you wouldnt! At least not if you actually wanted to land that job.
Amazingly, this is exactly what most indie authors do, despite the evidence they shouldnt.
According to a survey conducted by one of the industry heavy hitters, less than HALF of all self-published authors hire a professional cover designer.
Daggy jeans and sandals, anyone?
Of course, some new authors come to their senses, scrap their DIY covers, and put a professionally designed cover in its place. The ProActive Writer Blog points out that this alone is worth an 18% spike in sales.
Lets grab our calculators for a minute. Suppose your book has modest success and youre selling 1,000 copies per month at a price of $2.99 with a 70% royalty. If your cover design is poor, or even average, missing out on 18% of your potential sales means youre giving away $377 per month in additional royalties! Over one year, thats $4,521 not exactly chump change.
As much as we like to think that our readers will judge our work solely on its literary merit, the reality is that your books appearance will make a difference in what you sell.
FYI, you can get the full Taleist Self-Publishing Survey from Amazon.
Protect Your Reputation
If a good cover design sells books, then it follows that an ugly cover design will interfere with selling books. As if all the lost sales and unearned moneywerentbad enough, a cover design that sucks also makes a long-lasting bad impression about you thats awfully hard to live down.
Your audience isnt made up of average consumers. They already know that the booming growth of the ebook industry has flooded the market with lousy books. Maybe theyve even downloaded a few to their Kindle or other ebook reader device. Once theyve been burned a couple of times, they learn to look for something all those books have in common. More often than not, that something is bad cover design.
You dont want your writing lumped in with the amateurs and scammers, who are inundating the ebook market with low-quality writing in an attempt to make a fast buck.
Think of all the famous actors whose reputations cratered after accepting a bad movie role. For example, ask Kevin Costner how long it took him to fight his way back to respectability after starring in that infamous turkey, Waterworld. (Some unkind critics would say hes still trying to fight his way back!) Turkeys have a way of hanging themselves around your neck.
A professional cover design is reputation management for you as an author. It pays for itself, not only with your first title, but for all the other books youll write and publish in the future. Readers will recognize your good name.
OK Is Not OK
Have you thought about whether youre a professional writer or an amateur? Do you think it matters?If youre not sure, ask some readers which type of author they would rather read. Nobody is going to say, I prefer amateur writing over the work of a professional. When they think of amateur fiction, they think of laughably bad plots, unbelievable characters, and trite themes. In nonfiction, amateur writing means untrustworthy information and a structure thats so hard to follow it makes your eyes glaze over. Lousy grammar and punctuation are also hallmarks of amateur writing.
Guess what else is a sign of an amateur writer? Yep a book cover designed by an amateur.
An amateur writer is not something you want to be, and you dont want to be mistaken for one, either.
If youre still working on your first book, dont let your inexperience or your lack of a track record in publishing make you feel inferior. Right this moment, put on the mantle of the professional writer. Resolve that from now on, youre at least as good as every other writer out there, and youre going to take action on that belief. Let your belief in yourself as a professional guide your decisions about your publishing career. A book cover thats merely OK is fine for an OK writer, but its not good enough for a pro. OK writers are not who readers are actively looking for.
The Company We Keep
Authors who self-publish their work are called self-publishers, or independents (indies for short). The explosive growth in ebook readers and tablets has spurred a corresponding growth in independent publishing.
Unfortunately, any time theres a boom in a business sector, theres bound to be some bad apples attempting to hitch a ride. Independent publishing is on the verge of having a reputation problem because of all the hastily written books with lousy book cover designs that have invaded the marketplace.
For the first time in publishing history, theres no gatekeeper. You are in charge of all the decisions about how to design, sell, and market your book all things that traditional publishers used to do for those talented enough (some would also say lucky enough) to land a contract.
Right now, independent publishing could go one of two ways. If the market continues to become more saturated with lousy, ugly books, then readers will refuse to buy them, and the occasional self-published gem will get ignored right along with all the rest of the garbage. On the other hand, if indie authors step to the plate and make a commitment to releasing only the very best product, then readers will support them by buying their books and telling their friends about them.
Youre an indie author, and with no gatekeepers in charge, youre the one in control. The decisions you make about how to package your product affect your future, and also the future of the indie publishing industry as a whole.
Its like having your own business scratch that, you do have your own business. Happy customers mean success and more money, not only for you, but for your fellow indies who are struggling to overcome the stigma of self-publishing.
Dont be part of the problem! When you refuse to be an amateur by making your books professional inside and out, youre supporting the viability of independent publishing in the future.
When Good EnoughIsntGood Enough
Suppose you find a friend or online provider who knows a bit about Photoshop and agrees to design you a cover at a budget price. Is this good enough?
There are a lot of amateurs out there doing cover design, and sure, their work might be better than something thrown together for $5, or something you tried to design yourself (unless youre a professional designer, of course).
The problem with hiring amateurs is your competition.
Theres so much eye candy in the big book stores- online or brick and mortar. A reader who goes shopping for some ebooks to download is bombarded with titles to choose from. As an indie, youre competing with mainstream publishers who have design budgets in the five figures for a single title. Youre also competing with your fellow indies who have decided to play to win by investing in a professionally designed book cover.
Where does that leave you and your good enough cover that you ordered from a friend to save some money?
Its so incredibly hard to stand out in the online ebook stores nowadays if your book cover is only average. The increased competition brought on by the mind-boggling growth in the ebook market really has upped the ante its becoming more and more difficult to get noticed. A few years ago, good enough might have worked, but thats no longer true.
For example, do a search in the Amazon Kindle Store for public domain literature. Because these books are public domain, the publisher cant make money on them. With no profit to be made, professionally designed book covers in this category are the exception, not the rule, and some of those covers are, frankly, butt-ugly!
Now compare the results of the above search with my Pinterest board, where Ive pinned a huge collection of book cover designs and other graphic design pieces that I think are just amazing. My Pinterest page is where I go for inspiration. When I want to create a really stunning book cover for a client, something that will pull a readers gaze away from all the other bright, shiny objects on the shopping page, I look to the best of the best.
Look What I Read!
While Im talking about Pinterest, I think I should mention the social media factor in book cover design.
An amazing book cover not only sells books in an ebook store, but its more likely to garner some social sharing action on visual networks like Pinterest and Tumblr. Im not the only person who shares book covers on Pinterest. Most people who admire (and stockpile) brilliant book covers arent even designers. How would you like your book paraded in front of hundreds- possibly thousands- of social media junkies?
And when a reader shares a book in one of their social network feeds, what usually shows up most prominently? The book cover. If you have a terrible book cover, folk might be more reluctant to share with their friends (who wants to be seen as the person who reads amateurish books?), or at least opt-out of having a thumbnail included, which makes that social share practically invisible.
Awesome covers get shared more. See for yourself.
Book Covers As Advertising
Anyone who has been an indie publisher for long will tell you that its hard to promote a self-published book. Traditional publishers have all kinds of resources at their disposal that you just dont have. You dont have a team of traveling salespeople promoting your book to wholesalers and bookstore owners. You dont have co-op advertising agreements, and you dont have enough money to buy reviews in the high-end review magazines.
What you do have is your book cover. With one look from a reader shopping for that next ebook download, youve leveled the playing field between you and the big boys. A professionally designed book cover is one of the most powerful pieces of advertising you can buy for your book, and should be part of your overall marketing strategy.
Do Whats Best For Your Book
The only people who recommend the DIY route for all authors overwhelmingly belong to one of two categories:
They stand to make money from you avoiding the professional route. Either theyre trying to sell you a piece of cover design software, or theyre selling you some sort of course in cover design. Theyre going against common advice because they want to take your money.
Theyre newbie authors (or writer wannabes) who have amateurish cover designs, and think their minute success is the best they can hope for. They dont know any better.
Im not recommending professional book cover design just because I happen to be a designer. No, having a great-looking cover design is one of those things that people across all fields agree on. Writers, editors, marketers, book retailers, and readers all encourage new authors to put their best foot forward. Make your book look amazing, and youre one step closer to achieving literary success.
Do whats best for your book, and your writing journey.  Look for a good company that does web design in Cincinnati.


Red Swallow Design |

Collectively, we have over a decade of experience in book cover design. We are not amateurs. You can trust us to create a book cover that will help your books sell.
Because we’re not based in an expensive CBD studio, our overheads are lower. We’re passing these savings to our clients. You get professional designs for a fraction of the industry rate.
Half of the team lives in Australia, whereas most of our clients are based in the US. What does this mean? We work while you sleep. Plus we talk in quirky Aussie-speak. What’s not to love?
We’re not a one-man-show. Normally the best freelancers have waiting lists that are months long. But because we’re a team, we can share out the workload. You get your job done faster, without sacrificing quality.
If you’ve unwittingly hired an unscrupulous freelancer to create your cover design, and they’ve used copyrighted images or a stolen design, YOU get lumped with the consequences.
With RedSwallowDesign, you can be certain that everything used in the creation of your design was acquired legally. No stolen designs, images, or fonts.

Publetariat – People Who Publish

As regular site visitors already know, Publetariat has been repeatedly targeted by hackers
over the past few months.
The most recent of these attacks occurred on 4/16/13, and has
broken the site in numerous ways.
UPDATE: Writer and web developer Shawn E. Bell has very
generously volunteered his time to resurrect Publetariat for all of us.
Shawn also offers author services for indie authors and small imprints;
please consider him if you need help with your books.
I also wish to thank the many others who came forward to offer help. This has been a devastating experience,
but I’m amazed and humbled by the way the indie community can pull together.
With Shawn’s help I hope to have the essential site back online soon, though it may be many more weeks or
even months before all desired functionality is restored.
Please be patient, and watch for a re-launch announcement from me on Twitter
and Facebook.
Gratefully, and Hopefully,
April L. Hamilton

Publetariat Founder / Editor in Chief

Indie Author Gallant Dill Reviews His Writing Strategies

Hi my name is Gallant dill and I am an indie author. Today I will be sharing a lot of tips I have on publishing content!

You can see a review video about me posted below.

I have been VERY vocal in my criticism of the many mainstream publishing outfits who’ve decided to form new, vanity publishing imprints in partnership with Author Services, Inc. (also known as “ASI” and “Author House”, among many other aliases). This begs the question: if those vanity partnerships are so wrong, what should publishers be doing instead?

I have the answer, and it’s pretty damned simple. You’ll see for yourself when I lay it out below: there’s nothing terribly Earth-shattering or insightful in it, it’s all just plain old common sense. But no plan, no matter how sensible, will ever get any traction with big publishers unless they can accept some attitude adjustment first.

Note that in this post, where I refer to Big Pub, I’m talking about the Big Five mainstream publishing houses.

Partnering With A Vanity Press Will NEVER Work
What you’ve decided to offer via your various partnerships with ASI is such a transparent ripoff of authors, you really ought to have known better. It’s painfully obvious to everyone (other than Big Pub, apparently) that this is a facile money-grab undertaken by outfits that are desperate to get a piece of the growing indie market share, but are so unwilling to invest anything of value or meaning in the endeavor that they’ve outsourced the entire enterprise to a disreputable vanity press.

ASI has been in the business of overcharging would-be authors for “publishing services” while also stripping them of their intellectual property rights for decades. Do you really have so little respect for writers that you thought we wouldn’t realize inserting yourself between us and ASI can only accomplish one thing: to further increase ASI’s already excessive fees to cover Big Pub’s cut?

Readers Are Your Customers
For many decades publishers have viewed booksellers as their customers, not readers. Publishers sold their books to booksellers, who in turn sold them to readers. This business model makes readers the customers of booksellers. It’s a business model that is now failing in the face of so much technological and cultural disruption, yet big, mainstream publishers seem at a loss to shift their focus from booksellers to readers. They’ve made careers of knowing what bookseller purchasing agents want, they’ve never had to give much thought to what readers want. That’s always been the booksellers’ job.

Well guess what? Amazon, the biggest bookseller of them all, is eating your lunch precisely because it has only ever focused on what its customers—in this case, readers—want. Its in-house imprints are informed by reader tastes and wants, and if you want to survive, your imprints must be similarly informed.

Authors Are Your Lifeblood
It’s not just aspiring authors who are going indie in droves.Increasing numbers ofwell-known, mainstream-published, bestselling authors are jumping their mainstream publishing ships in pursuit of the greater control and profit afforded to indies. When JK Rowling decided to take her ball and go home, it should’ve been a wakeup call to your entire industry.

Popular,established authors don’t need you anymore. There is nothing you can offer the Rowlings of the world that they cannot obtain on their own more cheaply, more efficiently and faster than you can provide any of it.

And this is why continuing with business as usual is a slow suicide march for Big Pub:you turn away from anything you feel appeals to anything less than a NYT bestseller -sized audience for fear such books won’t earn enough to keep you afloat,yet authors who do succeed in scaling such lofty heights are as likely as not to ditch you as soon as they’ve gained a foothold with readers.

And your ill-advised partnerships with ASI have given authors and aspiring authors good cause to look at you with a very jaundiced eye. What more proof do any of us need that you don’t view writers as your partners, but merely as profit centers to be exploited?

When an author or would-be author asksyou (as they are starting to do with regularity), “What can you offer me or my career that going indie can’t?” you better havea goodanswer. Because right now, what you have to offer most first-time authors is ridiculously slowpublication schedules, unfair contract terms, laughable efforts at promotion, and advances so small that they maynot even cover one month’s expenses for a writer who toiled months or years on themanuscript you hope to profit from.

Either that, or the “opportunity” to have the bones of their dreams picked clean by ASI.

You DO Have Something To Offer, But It’s Not What You Think
Up until recently you’ve done a great job of convincing writers that what you have to offer is an odds-on opportunity for fame and riches, and that without you fame and riches are impossible things for any author to achieve.

When you lost your stranglehold on the distribution piece ofthe bookselling business, it was time to come out from behind the curtain and dispense with this Great and Powerful Oz shtick. Thanks to several well-publicized instances of indie authors reaching sales figures to match those of your strongest authors, and MANY well-publicized (withinindie author circles, at least) instances of indie author earnings FAR exceeding those of authors who’ve signed with Big Pub,the cat’s out of the bag and authors are paying very close attention to the man behind the curtain.

The good news is, enough writers have become self-publishers that as a group, they’re pretty well informed about the harsh realities of publishing and bookselling. They know from firsthand experience what’s involved in producing a book and bringing it to market, both in terms of effort and expense. They know it’s not free and they know it’s not easy.

The bad news is, they’re no longer buying what you’re selling because they also know it’s a myth: signing with Big Pub guarantees nothing in terms of a book’s success or failure. All that it does guarantee is that the book will be mired in Big Pub’s outdated, slow, inefficient production, distribution, sales and marketing processes.

Your Commodities Are Administration, Experience, Expertise And Connections
Your business model is in desperate need of a radical overhaul, todisplay what you bring to the table in sharp relief for would-be author-clients. Big Pub needs a Public Relations facelift too, to rebuild the trust between yourselves and writers: something it seems you’ve greatly undervalued, judging by how quick you were to squander it on the likes of ASI. Fortunately for you, acting on the former may ensure the latter takes care of itself—but only if you do it right.

I have blogged here before about the necessity for any indie who’s going it alone to have an entrepreneurial spirit and approach, if she hopes to earn a living on her book sales alone. Guy Kawasaki echoes the same opinion in his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book. But I’ve also acknowledged here that many, perhaps even most, writers have no desire to be entrepreneurs. There are plenty of exceedingly talented writers out there whose strengths in plotting and characterization far outstrip their skills in bookkeeping, administration, design, production or marketing.

You have people on your payroll right now, as I write this, who are seasoned experts in the very things those authors can’t, or don’t want to, do by themselves. These are the things you have to offer and you’ve come by them honestly,so stop trying to hide them like so much stagecraft.

How To Capitalize On Indie Authorship Without Being Evil

Here are the broad strokes of how, were I in your shoes, I would attempt to turn the Titanic around.

(Any Big Pub representatives reading this who’d like to fly me out to New York for some paid consulting time to have me fill in the details, I can be reached at indieauthor at gmail dot com.)
Up until now, in recent decades your business model has required Big Pub to be interested in only two kinds of books: easy moneymakers, and status symbols. Any book that came your way and didn’t appear to be either a likely bestseller or winner of a major literary award would be rejected, regardless of any other appealing qualities it might have.

This is why you haven’t published a Great American Novel in generations, yet have created a market environment in which the Snookis and Honey Boo Boos of the world will never have much difficulty signing a six- to seven-figure book deal. It’s time to let go of your self-assigned role of gatekeepers and arbiters of taste, because you’ve been exclusively in the business of selling product at a profit far too long to keep denying it. There is no shame in this; you’re businesspeople after all, not philanthropists. So own it.

Writers aren’t bowing and scraping to you anymore.You can no longer afford to sit on high like so many Pontiffs of Publication, reaching down to bestow your magical favor on the select few while brusquely relegating all other supplicants to the nearest exit.

You need to start PARTNERING with authors, forming business relationships that put the parties on more or less equal footing. You can no longer survive merely as book publishers, you must also become book producers.
Step One: Retool The Factory
If I can find freelancers to provide quality editing, cover design,interior layout and ebook formatting services for under $2500 total, and with turnaround times of 2-3 weeks each (or less), you should be able toacquire these same services at a comparable cost and within comparable timeframes.
If you haven’t got the in-house staffing to do it right now, establish a stable of trusted freelancers to whom you can subcontract the work at the same rates they’re already getting from individual indie authors. Alternatively, pay them higher rates in exchange for the right to keep them as dedicated resources, taking jobs only from you, to ensure they will be available when you need them.
There are PLENTY of skilled editors,designers and ebook conversion experts out there (many of whom were laid off from fulltime positions with magazines, newspapers and other publishers) who would welcome the chance to have a fully-booked work roster, as well as the opportunity to add the business relationship to their resumes.
You also need to keep some social media / web communications experts on staff. Their job would be
to engage in social media and web communication on your brands’ behalf, and to train / mentor your author-clients in the most effective uses of social media and web communication. This approach is considerably less expensive—and more effective!—than throwing money at the usual, old-school book promotion methods.
Step Two: Overhaul Distribution
Re-negotiate your contracts with booksellers to eliminate returns.Indie authors and small, independent imprints aren’t subject to those impossible terms, and now that chain booksellers are no longer the powerful rulers over your domain they once were, you are no longer subject to their unworkable demands.
You should get the same deal producers of every other product known to man get in the world of retail: the sellerorders as many units as they think they can sell in advance, andnone are returnable. The seller can discount any unsold product as he sees fit, holdingmonthly or end of season clearance and 2-for-1 sales, if need be. Once the product has left your warehouse, it’s no longer your problem.
Since brick-and-mortar, chainbooksellers are an endangered species, MOST of your print book production should be managed with a Print On Demand system, which would eliminatethe big chunk of your current overhead expense that goes toward large, upfront print runs.
Step Three: Overhaul Advances
Establish an acquisitions model that doesn’t require you to essentially sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into lottery tickets in the hopes that just a couple will pay off each year. Instead of acting as treasure hunters, ever on the lookout for the next blockbuster and willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars or more at a single title, acquirea wide range oftitles that can respectably clear the net profit threshold, and acquire them at lower cost to put that threshold within easy reach.
There’s no reason for ANY advance to ANY first-time author to EVER exceed six figures, and even six figure advances should be so rare as to be newsworthy. Historically, the great majority of books acquired in bidding wars have not earned out; but acquiring them has prevented publishers from spreading their capital (and risk) across many more titles with potential.
Get out of this downward monetary spiral and let your rivals take a bath on those bidding wargambles; it won’t be long before all of the Big Five stop acting like they’re on a bender in Vegas. A typical advance for a very promising book should be in the mid- five figure range, and many other books could be acquired with far more modest advances. Just think how many more titles you could acquire if you never paid any advances higher than $125k, and the great majority of your advances averaged out at less than $20k.
Step Four: Pluck The Low-Hanging Fruit
Successful indie books are hiding in plain sight all over Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Smashwords, Goodreads and elsewhere. These are authors who’ve already proven they know how to write and they know how to grow a readership all on their own; imagine how much MORE successful they might be with your help. They are a proven quantity too, so your investment in their books is very low-risk, nothing at all like acquiring a previously unpublished title you think may hold promise.
Acquiring previously self-published, successful titles allows readers to tell you in advance which books they want to buy. You should be seeking out the authors of bestselling and best-reviewed indie books and offering them contracts—but not in the way you’ve done itin the past.
Step Five: Overhaul Acquisitions
For every manuscript or self-published book that comes to you for consideration, rather than the simple math of your current thumbs up, thumbs down system, you should consider one of four possible outcomes.
1. Possible Bestseller / Award Winner – Offer the typical, negotiable contractfrom one of your flagship imprints,with a sizeableup-front advance and back-end profit split.The book will be published in both print and ebook formats, and the author will receive training and support from your social media expert team.
2. Possibly Respectable Seller, Midlist Type Title – These are manuscripts you’re currently rejecting on a daily basis, because you can’t see a way for these books to recoup the costs you must invest to produce them. Yet countless indie authors are turning modest to impressive profit on books that sell only in the mid-thousands of copies. After you’ve retooled the factory and made the other changes outlined above, your overheads should be considerably less than they are at present, bringing the bar for profitability within reach for far more books.
Offer these authors thetypical, negotiable contractfrom a new, boutique imprint, with amodest up-front advance andthe typicalback-end profit split. The book will be published in ebook formats only to minimize upfront costs, and the author will receive training and support from your social media expert team. Any book in this track that proves to be a hit could also be offered in print formats later, with terms either negotiated at the same time as the ebook deal or later/separately.
3. Modest Seller, Quality Work, Motivated & Social Media Savvy Author Who Could Grow – Offer these authors a negotiable contract for an ebook only release from a new, boutique imprint with no upfront advance, and a back-end profit split that’s higher than for acquisitions made under items #1 and #2 above. The author will receive the same training and support from your social media expert team as all your other signed authors.
For this type of book, you would essentially be taking what you would’ve paid as an advance and investing it in the production costs of the book.The backend profit split begins with sale #1 since there’s no advance to be repaid. You’re partnering withthe author in a way that helpshim to cultivate a larger following while minimizing your upfront investment and risk.
4. Unpublishable, For Whatever Reason- Reply with an honest rejection, do not offer to sell any professional services.
Step Six: Open A Totally Separate Author Services Division
Open a new business, totally separate from your publishing business, to serve indie authors who wish to remain indie. This business would offer paid pro services from the same stable of in-house or freelance /contract experts you employ on all other books. The key is to ensure your service offerings are priced only slightly higher than what those authors would have to pay if they sought out and contracted for the services themselves.
Your slightly higher price points can be justified on two counts. First, you would be offeringa one-stop shopof pre-vetted service providers, saving authors the time and trouble of locating and vetting individual service providers themselves. Second, you could provide a certification seal to service division clients, allowing them to place a seal on their book covers certifying the book has been professionally produced by the experts at [insert company name here]. This certification would be buyers’ guarantee that at the minimum, the book they bought has been professionally edited and designed.
Unlike your current ASI clients (if any), these authors are being allowed to remain completely independent and you would merely be offering services they would have to acquire on their own anyway if they intend to stay the course of top-tier indie publication. With this model, the author retains all rights to the work and there’s no backend split – you are offering ‘for hire’ services only.
To eliminate even the appearance of any conflict of interest, anyone to whom you offer ‘for hire’ services cannot resubmit the book for later publication consideration under items #1-4 above. No writer should be led to believe that if he invests in the for-hire services you have to offer, a publication contract will be forthcoming.
Step Seven: Lather, Rinse and Repeat. Class Dismissed.
April L. Hamilton is the founder and Editor in Chief of Publetariat.com, founder and Editor in Chief of The Digital Media Mom, and Editor in Chief of Kindle Fire on Kindle Nation Daily.

The Book Designer – Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books

by Joel Friedlander on April 29, 2013 1 comment
I just got back from a fast trip to Chicago to attend the 2013 IBPA Publishing University, undoubtedly the biggest and most diverse live educational opportunity for indie authors and small publishers.
This years lineup of presenters and instructors was no different. The energy and optimism of authors, publishers, consultants, vendors, and teachers made me realize how lucky we are to be in the part of the book business thats actually booming.
Of course, even though I know there will be fun at these events, great networking, meeting new and old friends, and talking to lots and lots of authors, theres always something I come away with thats unexpected.
So heres my list this year of the things I learned at Publishing University that I didnt have any way of expecting:
Thomson-Shore of Dexter, Michiganlong a favorite short-run offset printeris now producing some of the best digitally printed books Ive ever seen.
Why it matters: Over the years authors have continually asked me about the possibility of producing digital color books, either as short runs or for print on demand distribution.
For the most part it has been impossible to get quality color printing from digital printers without paying very high per copy prices.
Although these books are not cheap, this is an encouraging sign that at least they are coming closer to reality.
[click to keep reading]
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Why I Created Red Swallow Design | Red Swallow Design

My name is Belinda Pepper. I have over 11 years experience as a professional artist, with more than two spent as a freelance book cover designer, specialising in designs for indie authors (aka. self-published authors) and small publishing houses.
The last year brought an absolute boom to the self-publishing industry. Thanks to the success of ebooks and print on demand (POD), its easier to publish your work now than at any other time in HISTORY. Pretty neat, huh?
Whats not so great is that my workload became so massive that I simply couldnt do it all myself. Authors were waiting 3 months or more before I could even start work on their cover design.
For someone with a chronic need to please, thats torture.
I started to turn clients away, forcing them to look elsewhere for their cover art. As a result, many were vastly overcharged, and received sub-par work in return. I was gutted. Unwittingly hiring an inexperienced designer is WORSE than creating a cover yourself; not only to you get an amateurish cover that wont help sell your book, you paid for it!
How do I fix this problem?
I pull together a team of talented professionals and create RedSwallowDesign.
If you want to learn more about the (somewhat quirky) folk behind the bird logo, feel free to mosey on over to the About The Team section.

The Downside To Using Stock Images In Your Book Cover Design | Red Swallow Design

Most freelance book cover designers use stock images when creating a design.
What are stock images?
Stock images are photographs or illustrations that artists sell in return for a fee (one-off or ongoing, depending on the licensing). Not all designers are great photographers, and not all designers are great illustrators. So they instead purchase the licensing rights to use stock images. The most well known stock image agencies are Getty, Corbis, iStockPhoto, and Shutterstock.
The good thing about using a designer is because they produce such large volumes of work, they can usually purchase stock images at a discounted rate. But is stock imagery the best option?
It depends how the stock images are used.
Stock can be purchased by anyone who has the money. That means that the handsome cowboy on your romance novels book cover might also be on 5 other book cover designs. You should always get a guarantee from your designer that they will not reuse any stock images that have appeared in your design. This will reduce some of the problem. But this does not stop other freelance designers from using those exact same images.
Obviously, the best way to avoid this issue is to hire an artist who can create a 100% custom design (either by illustrating your cover from scratch, or taking their own photography). Understandably, not all authors can afford this option.But does this mean youre stuck with having an unoriginal cover design? Not necessarily. It depends on the skill of your designer.
Many stock images are very high quality. The photographers are skilled in use of lens filters, lighting and composition. The end result is an image that is of production quality without having to do anything. The problem? Many freelance designers are using these images as a short-cut in design. They do little more than add text. Admittedly, it takes some knowledge in design to make the text and image work together, but the result is a book cover that is essentially an unchanged stock image. A stock image that any other designer can also use in the same way.
Whats the result? Something like this:
Two different designers, one stock photo that hasnt been changed (beyond cropping it to standard book cover dimensions). Oh dear.
If you are buying a cheap book cover design, the chances of having the problem illustrated above is greater, because the designer simply cant afford to put in the extra effort required to make that stock truly unique.
A Useful Trick For Assessing The Uniqueness Of A Design
Theres a little-known function of Google Images that will help you determine the uniqueness of a designers book covers. You can test this technique on any image. Feel free to test it on the image above. Im using Google Chrome, so the steps may be slightly different if youre using a different browser.
1) Right-click on an image, and select copy image URL.
2) Go to Google Image Search.
3) Inside the search field (where youd normal type your search term), youll see a little icon of a camera. Click it. The Search By Image field will pop up.
4) With Paste In URL selected (its usually selected by default), click in the search field and hit Ctrl+V. This will paste the image URL you copied in step one. Hit Enter to search for that image.
Huzzah! What you just did was tell Google to find all other instances of that image online (that Google is aware of). What you should see is the exact image you searched for at the top of the list, followed by any other instances of that image.
If your designer used the stock images in a UNIQUE WAY, the only images that will show up is that designers cover (maybe they have that cover displayed in numerous portfolios online).
If your designer did very little to change the original stock images, you will see listings for stock image websites too. The image was so unoriginal that even GOOGLE could tell. Worst case scenario? Not only do you see listings for stock image websites, but you see other book cover designs or websites that have already used that exact same image.
This isnt a guaranteed method. Theres a chance the image has been used but Google cant find it. But Ive found that if you assess a number of different book covers from a designers portfolio, and virtually all of them are being pinged as unoriginal, theres a good chance that designer does little more than add text.
Here comes the question.
Are you okay with having a pretty- but unoriginal- design in return for a discounted price?
If youre really strapped for cash, getting a pretty but unoriginal design is much better than having an original but horrible design. But most authors would prefer to have their book covers look as original as possible, and for good reason. That means looking for designers who either use stock images in a unique way, or hiring artists whocreate your design from scratch.

How to Reinvent a Book with a New Book Cover – The Book Designer

Recently I was contacted by an author who had just won several awards for a book he had self-published. Ed Morler, a psychologist, is the author of a number of award-winning books, a real contribution to his field.
The author was getting ready to issue a revised third edition of one of these booksFinally Growing Upbut he was unsatisfied with the original cover. Since he had also decided to change the title of the book to more accurately reflect the direction of the new edition, he contacted me about re-designing the cover from scratch.
Although the author had contracted with a local artist to produce the original edition, the cover showed many of the flaws common in self-published books. Ive written often about these cover design mistakes and how to avoid them, and this cover gives a good way to look at a number of problems all at once.
Heres the original cover:
Click to enlarge
(By the way, the artist who produced this book may be just fine at all kinds of graphic design. Books are something of a specialty, although to the unaided eye they look dead simple.)
Heres what I saw:
The luckiest thing that happened when I began the re-design was that the author decided to change the title. This was a huge benefit, since the old title contained almost no useful information and did not seem very relevant to the potential audience of this book, a serious work of psychology.
The new title was much better at communicating the offer of the book. After spending some time looking through the book and thinking about the new title, Leading an Empowered Life, it seemed to me that the most powerful word in the new title was empowerment. I wanted to show the transformative power of the ideas in the book, and somehow imply the changes a person could experience by adapting them.
I wanted a clean and refined look for the book, which would also now have the imprimatur of three separate book awards on the back cover.
Using images from iStockphoto.com, I created a series of designs that attempted to express what the book offered, while also drawing the viewer in visually.
Here are the initial designs I came up with for the new edition:
As usual, during the design process there was a lot of going back and forth and trying different things. Eventually we narrowed the choices down and started to concentrate on what looked to me like the strongest cover of the four. The most powerful images are usually of the human face, and the direct eye contact of one of these images was striking. Eventually, all the elements fell into place. Heres the final version as it went to press:
Click to enlarge
Whats interesting to me is that the before and after versions of this book cover contain exactly the same elements: Title, subtitle, author name, blurb, photograph of a man.
Yet what a difference.
Investing in your book by getting a professional cover design is one of the best things you can do for your long-term success. This is especially true now that so many hundreds of new self-published books are coming out every day.
Its even harder to make your book stand out. Youll want to have an outstanding book, the best you can produce, of course, to start with. Youll make sure your book is properly edited.
The next thing, and maybe the most important in terms of marketing and sales, is to get a cover that will help sell the book.
You know, it doesnt cost any more to print your book with a great looking cover than it does to print an ordinary one. The design cost of your book cover is a one-time expense that can potentially be repaid quite quickly with increased sales.
Add to this the increased confidence you gain as you market and promote your book, and the advantages of a cover re-design can be quite real and very effective in helping you get your message out to the greatest number of people.
More on Book Covers
Book Cover Design, Fiction and Nonfiction: Whats the Offer?
15 e-Book Covers: Success and Failure in the Kindle Store
Top 8 Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishers
Complete list of all Cover Design Articles
Ed Morlers Sanai Publishing Website
Photo by iStockphoto
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