Congratulations, you have just finished your book. You are now ready to publish and send your “baby” out into the world. Or are you? Check out this ultimate guide to pre-publishing a book to make sure your book is putting it’s best face forward.
The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Publishing A Book
The Book Cover
The first starting point is your book cover. You need to start having this designed as soon as possible. A book cover isn’t something you create in a day-in fact, you, as the author, shouldn’t be designing one at all. This is where you want to hire a professional.
Do Your Research
Go to Amazon and look at the top ten bestselling books in your genre. Is there a common thread? Maybe you see a bunch of covers with vampires if you write horror. If you write romance, perhaps there is a couple on every cover.
These things are essential to have on your book cover too; it shows that your cover belongs in your genre. Choose two or three covers that you like and ask your designer to “model” them when they design your cover.
Hire A Professional
Whatever you do, don’t design your cover yourself. Many authors feel like they can do everything and create their covers, which often leads to less than pleasing results. You will want to hire a professional. Where do you find a cover artist? You can find a fantastic cover artist on one of the following platforms.
Selfpubbookcovers-I LOVE this company and have bought three covers from them. Prices range from $69-$100 and over.
The best part is you can customize your cover, you get files for both print and e-book automatically, you can download instantly, and once you buy it, they take it off the site, never to be sold again. They also do custom covers now, which is fantastic.
If you have questions or an issue, don’t hesitate to contact the owner, Rob Sturtz. I have talked to him on the phone, and via email, he is terrific and a true professional.
JH Illustration-Illustrator Jeanine Henning did my children’s books illustrations. She is a joy to work with, very professional, and is happy to answer any questions you may have. She does both adult and children’s books and comes highly recommended.
Fiverr– There are a vast amount of illustrators here that draw in all different ways. Take a look and see if an artist catches your eye.
A Word About Stock Photos
You need to be very careful when it comes to stock photos. There are all kinds of gray areas here, and you don’t want to get into any legal trouble. Here is an excellent article about how to use stock photos and how to stay legit while still getting the book cover of your dreams.
Things To Consider With Your Cover
Look at the colors of the books in your category. Are they dark, or are they light? Do they have dark colors, bright colors, or pastels? What is the primary background color?
Make sure it looks good in Black & White
Did you know that most Amazon Kindles are in black and white? I had no idea; I just learned this recently. When people see the image of your book on Amazon, it is slightly bigger than a postage stamp.
This means that if you have the wrong color contrast, it can make your image look muddy or like a black square in black and white. Therefore, it is critical that your book cover looks good in both color and black and white.
The art and images you use must go with the title of your book. For example, no one is going to buy a diet book with candy bars on the cover or a book about baking cakes with images of vegetables. Make sure everything goes together.
Covers for a Series
If you are writing a series, make sure you have consistency. For example, I use the same artist to design my Boys Will Be Boys Series. Although the color of each book may be different, the characters ‘look’ similar in artistic style and the font is always the same.
Make Sure You Have Enough DPI
If you are uploading to Amazon, make sure your print covers are 300 dpi.
This stands for dots per inch, and if the resolution is any lower, your print image will look terrible, also make sure you have a back cover and spine designed too. If you are publishing an e-book, the image resolution should be 72 dpi.
If you keep these things in mind, you are sure to have the book cover of your dreams.
Let’s Talk About ISBN’s
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number and is used for print books only. When it comes to ISBN’s you have two choices, you can take the “free” one that Amazon (or your publisher of choice) assigns to your book or you can buy your own.
There is some controversy over this in the self-publishing world. There are two awesome people that I follow, and each has a different opinion on this. Therefore, I’m going to tell you what works for me and explain each person’s advice so you can make an educated decision for yourself.
When I first started publishing, I took the “free” ISBN that Createspace at the time assigned to me. This worked for a while, and I had no problems. That was until I wanted to publish my two children’s books with IngramSpark for my local Barnes & Noble to order them to carry in the store.
Because I had used the “free” ISBN, Createspace “owned” it and I couldn’t publish anywhere else with that ISBN. I had to un-publish my books on Createspace and ask them to “release” my books from their “free” ISBN’s. Although I thought this would be a daunting process, it went smoothly for all four of my books at the time.
Once they were released, I re-published them with my own ISBN’s and then I could publish them on IngramSpark with no problem. This is why I recommend buying your own ISBN’s and so does one of the people I follow, Alexa Bigwarfe.
I also follow an awesome guy named Jonathan Green. His take on this is to use the “free” ISBN for your paperback with Amazon and buy your own ISBN’s to use when you publish your book in hardcover and other print formats (workbooks, journals, etc.). Keep in mind; you will need to use a different ISBN for each format.
You can buy ISBN’s at www.myidentifiers.com and a pack of ten ISBN’s costs around $295.00.
Next Up, Back Matter
Every writer knows the importance of a great story, cover, and all the other elements that make up a good book. We spend hours writing, re-writing, and editing. We make sure our cover looks perfect. We scan our interior to make sure every typo and punctuation mistake is corrected.
Finally, we are done, and we are ready to send our file to our interior layout person to be formatted for e-book and print. Not so fast. There is one significant part that you’re forgetting. This is called your back-matter. What is back matter?
Back matter is the information you add so your readers know what your other books are, how to get in touch with you, learn more about you, etc. There are various parts to your back-matter.
If you don’t have your own back and make sure people know where to find you and how to get in touch with you, then who will?
Examples of back-matter.
About the Author
This is where you write your biography and tell people all about your writing journey.
This is where you list your other titles.
Book Club Questions
A fun way to engage your readers is to add questions at the end of the book for discussion. By doing this, who knows someone may choose your book for their book club, which can lead to several reviews.
If you have a passion for cooking and mention specific meals in your books, why not add some recipes too.
If you are writing a non-fiction book, you may want to add a link to a checklist or personal assessment for your reader to fill out and get feedback on.
Social Media Links
Add all the links to your social media accounts from Facebook, Pinterest, Google, your website, your blog, etc.
Mailing List Invite
Casually invite your readers to learn more about you and your books. (Ex: Please sign up for my newsletter to keep up on my latest releases, enter contests, learn more about my characters and more.) Make sure you have a link to subscribe to your blog in the back of your e-book. If you make people jump through hoops to do this, they won’t sign up.
This is a great way to get reviews. Put, “If you liked this book, please leave a review on Amazon.” Once again, make sure to put a link to your specific book page on Amazon. Don’t make people jump through hoops.
There are various elements to back matter, and you don’t have to use every one. If you are a new author and only have one book, make sure your bio, social media accounts, an invite to your mailing list, and a review request are included.
If you have several books, make sure you list them all, add your bio, add social media links, mailing list invite and review request. Book club questions, checklists/assessments, and recipes are just fun extras to make it enjoyable. Whatever you do, make sure you add this simple page to your book. It makes you more ‘human’ and ‘reachable,’ and your fans will love that.
How To Fix Errors In Your Book
So you just finished your manuscript. Congratulations!
You are ready to send it over to the person you have chosen to format it, right? Not so fast. Missed errors can be a common occurrence in books.
When you are pouring your heart and soul out, sometimes you don’t see grammatical errors or typos. Don’t feel bad; it happens to the best of us. Still, there are some things you can do to help catch those errors early, which will make the publishing process that much faster.
While you are writing:
Run your manuscript through Grammarly as you write it. Some people hate this tool; some love it. I happen to like it because it catches spelling, tense (noun/verb/adjective), and punctuation mistakes.
Have your beta readers take a look and help you find any errors.
If you are doing a children’s book, make sure your illustrator knows what you want your illustrations to look like in great detail.
When you are done, make sure you hire a professional editor to go over your work.
When you get your files from your formatter (interior layout).
Open your .pdf (print) file and make sure everything from your headings to your paragraphs to your footers is in place.
If you are publishing a children’s book, read through and make sure your pictures are placed correctly in regards to the text.
When you get your proof copy (print)
This is always the exciting part, your book is finally in your hands, and all you want to do is hit ‘Approve’ and send it out into the world. But not so fast, my friend.
If you are publishing a longer book, sit down and read it over a few days. Check for margin errors, typos, grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This may seem tedious, but it’s imperative to your success. You want your book to look the best it can be.
You may wish to order two proof copies and have a friend read it as well. It is easy for us as writers to overlook mistakes after being immersed in our art for so long.
If you are publishing a children’s book, make sure your pictures are placed where they should be.
Go over it with a fine-tooth comb and make sure you are happy with it.
When you upload your files, you will be able to see an electronic proof of your e-book. Check it for mistakes.
When you are satisfied, approve it for distribution.
I always buy and download a copy to my NOOK and have my husband download a copy on his Kindle before I announce it’s available. That way, I can see how it looks on two different e-readers and find mistakes in each format if there are any.
If you are happy with it, announce to the world that your book is available. If not, have your interior person fix any mistakes and upload new files.
What You Should Know About Children’s Book Illustrations
Now it’s time to think about illustrations. There are many misconceptions about illustrations and illustrators. Today I’m going to enlighten you about what you should know about children’s book illustrations.
It always amazes me about what people either don’t know or what people think the standard is. I follow a fantastic author named Jonathan Green, who was recently talking about publishing a children’s book.
He didn’t know how much pictures for a book cost or how to find a good illustrator. Is this his fault? Not at all. He just hadn’t had the time to do much research yet and asked members of his ‘tribe’ about it. Those of us in his group was able to give him some feedback, which was great.
Then today on Quora, which is a question and answer forum, a professional illustrator told someone that they should expect to pay around $5,000 for the pictures in their book.
This person also preceded to answer that there are other illustrators out there that will charge less because they are desperate for work and you get what you pay for.
I about choked on my coffee. That is insane. I don’t know how this woman has any work. I’m self-published, and I could never afford illustrations at that price. Rest assured my fellow writers; it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can find great illustrators without spending your life savings. Here is what you need to know about children’s book illustrations.
Finding a good illustrator-You can do an online search for illustrators, and you will come up with loads and loads of answers. You can hire one direct, through an illustrators society, or on a platform like Fiverr or Upwork. Personally, it drives me crazy when people pick people who are on platforms like Fiverr.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone on there is crap. Granted, you have to do your research and choose the best option for you, but don’t let this scare you. I believe that if you look hard enough, you will find the diamonds in the rough. A friend of mine recently had her illustrations done by a guy on Fiverr. He did an excellent job, and she was happy with it.
There are a few places you can look for illustrators:
Hire someone directly from their web site
Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators
Facebook Groups (think Author and Illustrator groups)
Book Expos and Events
Other local authors in your area
Questions to Ask
How long have you been doing illustrations?
Did you have any formal training on how to draw?
What is your process?
How long have you been illustrating?
How much do you charge? (Some illustrators charge so much for x amount of pictures in a package while others charge by the illustration. Also, keep in mind that black & white pictures are less expensive than color.)
How many revisions do I get?
You can read my interview with Jeanine Henning, who did the covers and illustrations for my children’s books, Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green) and Brock’s Bad Temper (And The Time Machine) for more questions to ask your illustrator. If you like her style and would like to find out more, you can visit her web site here.
Matching Your Vision with Theirs
When Jeanine and I start a project, she sends me a spec sheet I have to fill out. I tell her how many characters, what each character should look like, how many scenes, what each scene should look like, and various other details. From there she does a sketch of my main character and sends it over.
Once I approve, she adds inks and sends it over. Once I agree again, she sends over the final illustration. This way, if changes need to be made, they can be done along the way. She does the same thing when she creates my covers. She is fantastic to work with, and we always seem to be on the same page.
I lucked out by finding someone who is so much fun, easy to work with, and who draws in the exact style I wanted. Make sure you know what you want, pick someone whose style you love, and you should be good. If you’re not happy, have the illustrator revise it. If it still isn’t what you want, you may have to cut your losses and start over with some new talent.
A Word On Cost
I’m not going to sugar coat it, publishing a children’s book does not come cheap. However, as I mentioned above, you don’t have to put your life savings on the line either. My first book cost me under a grand, and my second cost me a little over a grand for cover/illustrations.
Sure this is a chunk, but it’s a far cry from the $5000 mentioned above. Keep in mind that sometimes illustrators offer packages of pictures for so much and that black and white illustrations cost way less.
So there are ways to save money here and there. However, I’m not suggesting going for black and white when you genuinely want color. You have to do what is right for you and your project.
Despite the cost, children’s books are a lot of fun to do. Don’t let the financial aspect scare you away, there are lots of options out there, and you are guaranteed to find a great illustrator that meets your needs and budget.
There is nothing more exciting than to watch your characters come to life via someone else’s talent. It’s kind of like having a child via book form. What will they look like? For me, once I get the first sketch, it is usually love at first sight. With a great story, excellent illustrations, and a solid marketing plan, you are bound to publish a fantastic book.
Pen Name vs. Real Name
Pen-name versus a real name. This can be a huge dilemma when you are starting in your writing career. I have a friend who spent months agonizing over what she wanted her pen-name to be.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pen-name; many famous writers use both their real names and a made-up name. Nora Roberts writes as herself and also as J.D. Robb.
Why use a pseudonym name?
There are many reasons people use a fake name. Some of these reasons include:
Being able to write about controversial issues freely.
To protect their loved ones.
They want to write in various genres of books, using different names.
They want to add an air of mystery.
Writers and authors want to make sure that people remember their name. If their name is too unusual, choosing a different name is a smart move.
Some people don’t want to be known by their real names.
To differentiate between their freelance and author journeys. For example, as a freelancer, you may be Amy Taylor, but as an author, you are Mattie James.
How to pick a great pseudonym:
When many writers think of choosing an alias, they usually try to come up with something creative. We have all had to do this at one time or another.
If you’re like me, I have chosen horrible names with the words “writer” or “book” or “writing” in them because I didn’t know how to go about choosing a name.
I have had to do this for usernames on websites a time or two. Not only are these awful, but they also sound unprofessional. There is a much better way of doing this.
As some of you know, I have been following an author named Jonathan Green. He is a best selling Amazon author, and I find his advice to be very helpful when it comes to my writing career.
Jonathan also writes under various pen names, and here is how he chooses that name. He goes to the Census Data and looks up the popular names from the year he was born. He picks two and voila, he has a professional pseudonym.
Using Your Real Name
I don’t mind using my real name when I write. I would use an alias if I wrote something super controversial though. There are many reasons people choose to use their real name, things like:
One reason I use my real name is that I have dreamed about it my whole life. I have wanted to be an author since I was nine years old and when I held the first copy of Lithium Dreams And Melancholy Sunrise in my hands, I felt like I had accomplished something. It was a humbling and proud moment for me.
People like to be transparent with their audience. They want them to see who they are and know all about them. This is especially important for -non-fiction writers.
It builds trust. If people see your face and resonate with your writing voice, they will slowly trust you.
It sparks a connection with the reader.
You come across as approachable.
Here is a list of authors who also use or have used a pseudonym
As you can see, even with some of the most prominent authors on the planet, this is not uncommon.
Regardless if you write under your name or an alias, the most critical part is having a connection with your readers. Be as accessible to them as possible, and they will love you for it. In a world full of technology, having a human element is vital.
Getting ready for publication can be a daunting experience but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow this guide step-by-step, you should be ready when the big day comes.