Okay so I'm not gonna lie; this here is a wordy one.
This post is about my Design Services for Indie Authors, providing an outline of what I can offer a potential client in regards to Book Covers, Layouts and Marketing Material.
If you are unsure of the difference between myself and Indie Publishing services, or are undecided whether to pursue a Designer vs Indie Publisher, I have written a separate blog post -> here <- that may help you to decide.
So I am a Designer and an Indie Author, and therefore have a unique skill and experience set which lends itself particularly to this niche. Other designers can absolutely create for you a good cover and interior layout; I can do it in context, and help you to actually employ those assets once complete.
I know what it’s like to write your first book. I know what it’s like to write your tenth.
I know what it’s like to find a stupid mistake in one paragraph you’ve read over 20 times only after you’ve already sent it out to people, which will now make you look like an idiot. I know how lonely it is. I know how embarrassing it is, and how euphoric and then sometimes devastating it feels to actually complete a work.
I know how ‘author’ feels.
And I am actively learning whatever I can about the craft, the process, and most importantly marketing, as I can, because that is by far the hardest part of this game and I am in the same boat as you. Graphic Designers will not know about Indie Book marketing. Indie Publishers as well will not help you with marketing, other than to host you on their own store front for what that may realistically be worth.
My knowledge, however, is yours, because I am actively trying to learn as much as I can for my own use. The more I think about other people’s books, the more it frames my own in context.
So to talk specific process…
If you decide to go with my services, then the most optimised way I have found to go about it is:
You get your manuscript as finalised as you can. Use a proof reader if possible, especially for genre work. They tend to know how their specific genre flows. Now I personally don’t use a proof reader or editor for my books (for better and worse), but there are definitely benefits towards doing so, and many writers love their editor.
Decide on what it is you want. Are you after just an ebook release, or a paperback as well? Are you looking to just stick with Amazon, or are you looking to go wide (employing other services as well)?
Send the manuscript to me as an MS Word doc, Apple Pages doc, or any basic product of a word processor allowing for selectable text. These programs tend to pack the file up with a whole heap of clunky code, excess formatting styles and features under the surface that can get in the way. I use different software to format these things, so what I would do is strip the manuscript down to bare text and recreate all the formatting where I have complete control over the font styles and visual layout.
I will then discuss with you written concepts for the cover, taking into account target genre, demographic and budget, and will get on and design the ebook cover. This is the front cover for the paperback version as well, so it’s simply more efficient to focus on that first.
I will then create the ebook interior - For a Kindle ebook in particular this is a far more simple document. Kindle ebooks are kept purposefully low-spec and utilitarian in order to be more usable, allowing for text size adjustments and so on. Once I have the print layout optimised, it is a simpler process again to port it to the ebook and reformat the styles for that.
I then work on the print interior layout which is far more visual, and available to artistic interpretation.
Print book cover - Once we have the print layout completed, we also have the page count, so in turn the spine width. From that, I take the ebook cover design and adjust the size/layout to fit the print book’s trim size (5”x8’”, 5.5”x8”.5” so on) selected by you. I then create the spine and back cover design from that, using the Amazon cover template specifically made to that trim size and page count
You then take those files and upload them to Amazon Kindle Direct yourself, via the profile you have set up. You ‘proof’ the print copies (have one sent to you to check), set your meta-data and pricing, and launch. I will talk you through it. Once you have that up, we can make the adaptations and repeat the same upload process for IngramSpark.
You have a book.
Now comes the hard part, and we can talk next steps in terms of website or marketing content from there.
To produce all of the above for a 70-100k genre-focused work would be about a week. There would likely be iterations between us however, so I like to space out about two weeks all up.
However, the above is simply the most optimised approach, and may not suit your current standing, strategy or budget. When I was at the beginning of self-publishing, I would not have been able to afford the above all in one go. It was actually the reason I began to learn design; so I could do it all myself. I have since learned however the stark lesson of “authors should not do their own designs”. They are too close to their own work and do not possess the ability to view the work on a ‘clean eye’ for the first time, how a new audience sees it. They prioritise the wrong details and aspects of the work, which are usually meaningless to others who have no knowledge of that work.
You will need to keep this in mind throughout this process. There will be ideas you may have for the cover that I may advise you against, and I do this based upon experience, with your interests at heart. Design is not simply the ability to visually balance things; it’s also very much about knowing ‘why’.
Anyway, so how I price these tasks separately are:
Ebook Cover - $400 (Additional fees may be incurred for illustration, Photography, stock imagery, 3D elements, so on.)
Ebook Interior Layout - $400 (1 service eg Amazon or IngramSpark)
Additional Service Ebook Layout - $100
Print Cover Expansion (from existing ebook cover) - $200
Print Interior Layout - $500
Launch Consultancy - $200
Note that if your manuscript includes a heavy amount of tables and graphics, this may incur additional fees. I’ll need to see the manuscript first before any quote is locked down.
Doing it all together using the optimised process I outlined would be $1500, so $300 off. This is simply because I know exactly what I need and when. It’s streamlined, so smoother.
If you want a more complex cover than a standard photo manipulation, then it may require the outsourcing of certain professionals like photographers or illustrators dependant upon art style. I can conceptualise and coordinate all of that, and ensure it all synchs in with the core cover design. Hiring professionals though costs the price of a professional. We’ll need to discuss that.
“But I’ve seen cover design services for much cheaper!”
“So… are you willing to renegoti-”
You can absolutely get covers and ebooks done for far cheaper than my prices. I’ve seen services offer as low as $100 for the entire thing, cover and ebook, and they even put it up on Kindle for you and charge an ongoing monthly fee.
Now to the uninitiated, that seems like a good deal. What they are doing though is using virtual assistants. They employ guys in India or China to take cover and ebook templates and simply change the details for like $20. So they do deliver; they get you the product, but they are very low spec. The cover is just a direct recreation of an existing cover which another 10 authors are going to have, and the interior a direct porting of the formatting you yourself have created in your word document. If you have not made your chapter heading a ‘heading style’, then it will not be a heading in the final release.
They then put the book up on the stores (which is otherwise free for you to do yourself), and then spend 5mins a month looking at royalties and emailing them to you. And you pay them for that privilege.
Avoid any kind of “cheap up-front, followed by subscription” services at all cost.
They will market their ‘small ongoing fees’ as an add-on, but make no mistake; that subscription is their primary focus. They will get your design work out of the way as quickly as possible so as to be able to rest back on that regular income. They keep it low so that you more easily forget about it.
If you’re on a tight budget, then I would advise looking for cover services offering around the $2-300 mark, because although they too tend to use templates, they’ll at least be making some effort to differentiate your cover from others.
So, why am I more expensive?
I’m actually not.
Traditional Publishers are normally paying thousands for covers; that’s why they’re good. The indie author services offering the $2-300 mark have simply industrialised things far more, and so therefore keep the client essentially at arms length as a priority. They cannot afford the extra time spent on getting to know the client’s work and perspective. They are absolutely still capable of producing a good cover (some of the time), it just wont be as personal.
I used to charge the $2-300 mark, but I was losing out from it because it’s simply not my style. What you gain with my services is all the extra support and communication I provide like what you’re reading now. All of this above has actually been stripped from an email discussion I had with one of my clients. This is how deep I go into things with you.
Others do not write out emails like I do, advise you like I do, step you through the process and actively try to strategise your approach like I do. Other services cannot afford the time. The reason I do it is because I enjoy and gain from doing it. I am an indie author myself, as I said, so pursuing your strategy helps me to refine my own.
So if that’s worth it to you, and you want to go ahead with my services, then work out the approach you’d like to take. Ebook only to start with? Or lay off for a time, get the money together while you research the landscape and strategy, and do it all in one go?
Just as an aside…
Website Development tends to be about $600 for design of a basic Wix or Squarespace based website. Price will vary widely depending upon needs. It could go as high as a few grand, so we’ll need to work out what you want. Note that this does not include the subscription costs of the chosen hosting service themselves.
So, in order to get this process rolling, what is there for you to do?
Make no mistake here; there is a lot you need to prepare and have covered for this venture into the self publishing. Writing was the fun part, now it becomes a business.
The basic things you would need to have ready and worked out, are:
Amazon or Wide?
You will need to decide if you are intending to stay Amazon exclusive, or are planning to have the book available in other stores as well, like Apple Books etc, via IngramSpark. That would require a different file type to Amazon ebooks.
I personally just use Amazon, as it is the cheapest and easiest option, offering 70% of the market. If you’re looking to start small, that’s probably the better bet for you as well.
Any cover designer and marketing service will need a synopsis of the work. This is a basic outline of the entire book from start to finish. This is not an emotionally-driven description, and it does include spoilers. It is to allow the designer/marketer to gain an idea of what they're presenting.
Do not expect the designer to read your book. It is actually a negative for them to read the book. It would bring them too close to it, and in turn compromise their grasp upon the uninitiated eye… as in, the eye of your audience.
Long Blurb and Short Blurb
This is the emotional spoiler-free description for the book. Take a look at other authors in your genre and see how they write and present their blurbs, both on the storefronts, and directly on their back covers.
For print books you need to choose a trim size from the available options. Most books are either 5”x8” to 5.5”x8.5”.
My own are the latter, here:
If you’re planning to only release through Amazon, then you do not need an ISBN. If you’re looking to go ‘wide’ (release across multiple platforms) however, then you will need to buy one for each version of the book, so that’s ebook, paperback, and hardback if you’re looking to do one.
Learn what categories best suit your work. Look up the potential competition and see what they are doing. Amazon allows you to have two categories, though a little known secret is that you can actually have 10. You just have to know how to do it.
These are what affect your exposure via the Amazon algorithm and search engines (one of the things anyway). It’s complex though, and you’ll need to read up on it.
I recommend the books:
Front matter and back matter content
Take a look inside other books and see what content they provide both before the story content and after. I’m talking things like Copyright text, ‘About the Author’ and so on. Most authors I have found forget to do this early on, and it becomes an extra headache.
Back cover content
Most commonly this will include the blurb, but if there are book reviews and publisher badges, website URLs and so on; they tend to go here as well.
Formatting of the Manuscript
You wouldn’t need to format the doc too articulately before sending it, more just simply make it easy to define where the chapter breaks are, and any potential scene breaks, like say a double space between the paragraphs.
I personally just use the following:
Simple little markers like that. Maybe just look into other books you like and see how they do it.
And you need to start thinking of marketing strategy.
Will you need a website? Do you have social media set up? You need to start learning and thinking about this stuff ‘now’ because it is by far the biggest wall you’re going to hit. I shot myself in the foot in a lot of different ways by not learning about this from the beginning. Right now I’m figuring out a strategy for myself to adapt existing abstract work, but you’re in a good position if you’re sitting on a clean genre-focused book. You can pinpoint things a lot easier.
A couple of things I’d advise to do along these lines is to look into online author communities, as they are a treasure trove of strategy and tactics for new authors. Facebook groups as well are very valuable for this because they are full of others in or who were in your same position. Those groups are the only reason I keep Facebook anymore.
A great individual to look into is David Gaughran: https://courses.davidgaughran.com/courses/starting-from-zero
This guy has good free resources like books (the one I mentioned above) and courses you can use to just gain a foundation fro yourself. There are obviously paid options as well, but just his free content and mailing list is really quite good.
So I hope the above helps. Have a think about if/how you’d like to proceed, and if budget and the process I’ve outlined works for you, get in contact and we’ll get something going.
In the meantime… Welcome to TackleTown. Good luck.