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Almyrigan Hero said:
Well...I did enroll in KDP Select, actually, and a bit prematurely by the looks of it. I don't know exactly what Amazon would think of me distributing review copies on other sites, but if I'm not a marketing munchkin then I'm certainly not a legal eagle, so instead of tempting fate, I think I'll just put off those plans for the time being.

Meanwhile, though, I still want to at least develop a better placeholder; and no, I'm not too inclined to spend $80 - $100 on a premade that I intend on replacing in less than three months. I feel like I've got the start of something temporarily passible here, but I can't quite settle on a font that looks fancy enough to be fantasy, but still fits the whole title legibly in thumbnail size.


On another note, I should probably explain my ambitions and expectations a bit more thoroughly here. I am...sort of just writing for the enjoyment of it? I do want to make back more than I'm spending (obviously,) but I'm not necessarily expecting nor directly aiming to claw my way up the rankings or make this my primary source of income. For all intents and purposes, I'm just a hobbyist with mild ambitions and a vague hope that my book might happen into the right reviewer's hands.

I...could cough up $300 - $500 for a 'cheap' market-quality cover (and I still probably will, after my resolve finishes dissolving,) but as someone who's not necessarily looking at this from a business investment sense, it is a little bit difficult to wrap my head around that sort of investment. Sure, time is money, but money is also time, and it's gonna take quite a few sales for a low-to-no-profile indie book to absorb that kind of cost. Sales that, even after I have a good thumbnail, will probably require some fairly heavy advertising to get off the ground.

The point being, I'm looking for a balance. I'm not aiming to outbid the big leagues for the front page, not yet at least, I just want something that'll stand out (in an interesting way) amid the sea of cookie-cutter 'sexy photo model confidently staring at the reader while colors swirl in the stock background behind them' covers.
Yeah what you got there looks pretty sweet, but like a bloke above said, probably got to shrink the art down to give your title more prominence and not so close to the trim. And this here is just my personal opinion or taste, and black being my favorite color, I reckon a black, smoky style background or something to make the gold pop, any cover with those types of colors typically draw my attention for some reason.

But yeah, that design looks pretty sweet and you can craft graphics or images of that caliber by your own hand, I'd be designing my own cover too. On top of saving money, being an aspiring indie author, nothing truly encapsulates the process by doing everything single handedly. People will probably say, 'you can't do everything yourself!' but if you can, and the end product is attractive, well written, well, I tip my metaphorical bonnet to you.
 

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The latest graphic looks pretty good. I agree, shrink it down and nail your font for author and title. It reminds me a bit of Brandon Sanderson's Dawn Shard. https://www.amazon.com/Dawnshard-Stormlight-Archive-Brandon-Sanderson-ebook/dp/B08MXXWYT7/

For that matter, it's always good to take a look at the top 100 titles in your genre. After you get done with the artwork, take a look at the Fantasy Top 100 and compare their covers to your own efforts: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Fantasy/zgbs/digital-text/158576011/

All told, if you're just in it for a hobby and would like to play around in cover design, far be it for us to discourage you. Get something you're proud of up there and go from there.
 

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Nice improvement. I like that! I like that blue, which sets good with the gold. Just my opinion. I've never done a cover from ground up.
 

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It does look good. Reminds me strongly of the 1970's LOTR covers, but not the content, just the overall design.

The typography definitely needs work though. Much larger fonts, for a start.
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
Meanwhile, though, I still want to at least develop a better placeholder; and no, I'm not too inclined to spend $80 - $100 on a premade that I intend on replacing in less than three months. I feel like I've got the start of something temporarily passible here, but I can't quite settle on a font that looks fancy enough to be fantasy, but still fits the whole title legibly in thumbnail size.
That's much better! Now, what will make it look even better is if you shrink the image down to about 65% of the size you've got it there, so you can make the text larger and actually give everything room to breathe.
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
Allow me to be the dissenting voice here. I believe you're being misled on this whole cover design thing, not in a malicious way, but it's still happening.

This is because, frankly, most authors are poor arbiters of what constitutes good cover design. I don't say that to offend anyone, but let's be real about what really works. Always look at the top sellers in your genre. What do their covers look like? Be honest in your assessment as a point of comparison.

Shayne is an obvious exception here, as a pro designer, but generally speaking there's a reason pro cover designers are paid good money by authors. It's because most writers have no clue what works from a design perspective. That's not their milieu. But, yes, the world is full of authors designing their covers, and you can tell that they have, not just in looking at their poor/homemade design, but also in what they earn in terms of income.

What's worse is, a lot of people believe their covers look good when they do not. A lot of authors leave a lot of money on the table in terms of sales because they think their covers are up to par when they're not. Fact is, people are generally not great at judging or honestly assessing their own handiwork. It almost always takes an outside eye... an outside TRAINED eye.

So, again...

Do not listen to other authors when it comes to cover design, unless they happen to be one of those outliers who can do both. Just know that... THEY ARE RARE.

Show me an author designing her/his own covers, I'll show you an author whose sales performance you likely would rather not emulate. Yes, there are exceptions... but, not very many. Which is to say, odds are VERY good you're not one of them. That's okay, no big deal, everyone can't be good at everything, just hire it out to a professional.

And...

No, your cover design is nowhere near this, even after adding typography (which is a whole other, and yet no less important, skill-set, btw):



If you can't see the vast gulf in design quality between these two, then to me that would further exemplify the point I'm trying to make.

The people in this thread, I'm sure, are lovely people - believe it or not, I'm a nice person too - but, respectfully, anyone telling you to do other than hire someone to design your cover(s) for you is wasting your time and money.

Again, I'm not saying anyone here is misleading you out of maliciousness - I believe everyone means well. I'm just saying, they're giving you a false impression of cover design quality when you hold your design up against the top sellers in your genre (which you always should).

In the interest of maximizing sales, yes, spending $300-$500 on a cover that can stack up against the Top 100 in your genre is probably prudent. Doesn't necessarily have to be that amount, but it's probably in the ballpark.

AND AGAIN - HUGE CAVEAT TO ALL OF THE ABOVE:

If you're not in this to maximize sales, then go ahead and play around doing your own thing. But, if sales matter to you, do not listen to other authors outside of the extreme outliers.
 

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Discussion Starter #70
Oh no, I absolutely do understand that I don't have bestseller cover material (and for that matter I'm not going to pretend I expect my first ever book to be bestseller material;) in that regard, I feel like I've already endeavored to make my point clear. For the time being, I'm more interested in developing new artistic talents than maximizing profits. Heck, I'd honestly be pretty thrilled if I got in the top 1,000s, much less the top 100s. Yeah, that cover looks more professional than mine, full stop, not gonna deny it. All of these have technically been 'placeholders' so far, and I haven't spent more than a day on any given draft; I could certainly boost the quality way, way up with proper time and effort, although I do still realize that's not going to make it a big-league cover.

I think I'm going to go through on what I said before, and just start a separate thread on cover design. I've already explained a few times over that I want to at least give it a proper shot, but given the initial tone of the thread, I've understandably been getting a lot more "don't"s and "do"s than "this is how you should if you're gonna"s, which is more what I'm after at this point. Respectfully considering your recommendation, I've already undergone enough confidence whiplash that I now want to give it a full shake, if for nothing else than to test my upward limits. Even if only for the remaining duration of my KDP Select enrollment and the time it takes to get my first review. If I haven't stumbled on a sufficient design by that point, then maybe I'll drop the price of a current-gen gaming console on a drawing of a snake in a circle.
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
Oh no, I absolutely do understand that I don't have bestseller cover material (and for that matter I'm not going to pretend I expect my first ever book to be bestseller material;) in that regard, I feel like I've already endeavored to make my point clear. For the time being, I'm more interested in developing new artistic talents than maximizing profits. Heck, I'd honestly be pretty thrilled if I got in the top 1,000s, much less the top 100s. Yeah, that cover looks more professional than mine, full stop, not gonna deny it. All of these have technically been 'placeholders' so far, and I haven't spent more than a day on any given draft; I could certainly boost the quality way, way up with proper time and effort, although I do still realize that's not going to make it a big-league cover.

I think I'm going to go through on what I said before, and just start a separate thread on cover design. I've already explained a few times over that I want to at least give it a proper shot, but given the initial tone of the thread, I've understandably been getting a lot more "don't"s and "do"s than "this is how you should if you're gonna"s, which is more what I'm after at this point. Respectfully considering your recommendation, I've already undergone enough confidence whiplash that I now want to give it a full shake, if for nothing else than to test my upward limits. Even if only for the remaining duration of my KDP Select enrollment and the time it takes to get my first review. If I haven't stumbled on a sufficient design by that point, then maybe I'll drop the price of a current-gen gaming console on a drawing of a snake in a circle.
Yeah I think we've been saying "don't don't don't" enough in this thread to get you the idea. We've given you plenty to go on from a professional standpoint, but the whole thing turns on a dime if you're approaching this as a hobby. If you don't really care from a genuine aspect how much money you're going to make selling books, by all means continue. As you can see, Sanderson's cover indeed reminds me a lot of your latest effort. It's that whole dragon in a circle thing. Find the right fonts and proportions and it will start to take shape. On this I think everyone can agree, encouragement is due.

On the other hand, if you want to start on the road toward trying to sell books, then the advice given earlier stands. It's a completely different ball of wax depending on how serious you are about writing.
 

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Discussion Starter #72
I mean, I'm sorry if I came to the wrong forums, but I never claimed to be strictly professional, nothing about the site itself signposts that it's strictly for professionals, and I made my interest in designing my own cover pretty explicit from the moment the topic of cover design came up. I fail to see how exactly I've been leading anyone on, aside from...maybe flip-flopping a bit in terms of resolve on the subject? That said, if this place is for people looking to hit the big time, and I'm just not ready, then recommend freely. I'd rather be unceremoniously turned away to a site where I fit in better, than flounder around looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place and waste the time of everyone involved; you have all been fairly patient and kind, all things considered.

Edited to removed quoted post. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
I mean, I'm sorry if I came to the wrong forums, but I never claimed to be strictly professional, nothing about the site itself signposts that it's strictly for professionals, and I made my interest in designing my own cover pretty explicit from the moment the topic of cover design came up. I fail to see how exactly I've been leading anyone on, aside from...maybe flip-flopping a bit in terms of resolve on the subject? That said, if this place is for people looking to hit the big time, and I'm just not ready, then recommend freely. I'd rather be unceremoniously turned away to a site where I fit in better, than flounder around looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place and waste the time of everyone involved; you have all been fairly patient and kind, all things considered.
This forum isn't exclusive to pros. You're fine. Getting the best DIY cover possible is a reasonable use. Those who don't want to assist can read other threads instead.
 

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You could probably figure out how to do a cover that works. Why not? It's a learnable skill. But I'd recommend to not look at what Brandon Sanderson, Tolkien, GRRM, etc. have on their covers as your inspiration or model. Those authors sell on their name and reputation, not the cover. The popular trad authors could stick a plain white cover with their name and book title in black comic sans and still sell a truck load of books. You'd do better if you look at the top 100 hot new releases in your genre and find what other newer indie authors are doing with current releases that are becoming popular. Then do something similar but different.
 

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Diamond Eyes said:
You'd do better if you look at the top 100 hot new releases in your genre and find what other newer indie authors are doing with current releases that are becoming popular. Then do something similar but different.
I agree with this. The trend with trad published covers are ... a little boring (sorry, I'm definitely generalizing, but it's my opinion). Why? Because trad don't want to take the chances Indies do. They want their books to appeal to everyone. Why do you think there are so few images and mainly writing on those covers?

Almyrigan, I actually liked your first cover and the "dark" one. You could hire someone for a small fee to spuce something like those up a bit, font/or whatever, size, lighting, to match genre and fit the bestsellers. You actually can hire artists to work on typography only. My biggest problem with your first book was that the size did not appear standard. But, if you ask my opinion, your cover and writing seem creative. Use that with your marketing. Good luck, whatever you choose.
 

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We've seen pros not as good as amateurs and both amateurs and pros that should try something else. Also seen both pros and amateurs so artistic no one can compare. It's all in what you like and how much time you spend learning to express what you like and want. Don't let that deter you.  You're in charge, succeed or fail ...

I'm a pro photographer and a pro writer.  BUT, we all had to learn sometime, we all began as amateurs. Yes, I create all my own covers in my genre, action and espionage, but would never attempt the artistry required in Fantasy or SYFI. Some genre covers are more difficult than others, and the competition pretty fierce. Some readers probably like my covers, some probably do not.  Same with writing, some like certain authors and certain genres, some do not. Not every writer or artist will please everyone - take what you get, and run with it.  You only fail if you quit.  :) 
 

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What you're hoping for isn't new. Bookbub results without the Bookbub price tag. It doesn't exist. And despite that you might have been told it once did (back in the good ole days), it didn't.
There's a few things to consider before you dive off into the bottomless money pit that is book ads. The first and most important factor is whether your book is truly ready for the level of recognition you want? After a quick read through the first few paragraphs I could see right away that while there's nothing glaringly wrong with your writing, a good editor would have made several suggestions. For example: "tapping his fingers rhythmically". While not awful, it is amateurish in style. You shouldn't take that as an insult. It's an easy fix. "Tapping out a cadence" or simply removing the word "rhythmically" would do it. I'm giving you two quick examples off the top of my head, so don't take it as an actual editing suggestion. My point is a good line editor would have caught it.
The bar for indie prose is higher than it was when I started. You want success? Begin by finding yourself good editors. And don't worry too much about my criticism of that one line. I've committed worse sins over the years. What's important is that you strive to improve. This doesn't mean you have to be some sort of genius wordsmith. My own writing is not crammed with purple prose. And there are scores of writers far better than I could ever be. But there is a level of skill and competence that will separate you from the pack. Your chief goal should be reaching it. 
The next consideration is the story itself. Not having read your book I couldn't say one way or another how compelling the plot and characters are. But if the story isn't there, the book will fail, regardless how well written. This is where beta readers, critique groups, and developmental editing become important.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Indie publishing is a business. And a business requires investment. Editors, covers, formatting, ads, etc. can end up costing a small fortune. And that's not accounting for the years spent honing your skills. This is partly why many books never see more than a handful of sales.
I wish you luck.

 

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Discussion Starter #78
Yeah, honestly, that's why I'm waiting for my KDP select enrollment to run out before I really do anything in terms of marketing. Not gonna lie: in the most classic of all rookie mistakes, I skimped. Skimped on professional editing and beta reading, didn't even know about advanced reviews, was a bit too confident in myself and my immediate group, we were all a bit too eager to get started on the publishing journey...you know the drill. That sweet, sweet rush of having just finished your first serious work, followed by the creeping slow-motion crash of wondering how finished you actually were, once it's already just a bit too late to slam on the brakes. I'm just happy the air bags popped out before I started spending, honestly.

I'm still fairly confident in the overall plot and characters, all things considered. I'm not experiencing any sort of crushing hindsight embarrassment, aside from maybe a few cases of avoidable exposition or the odd clunky line (pacing is my main worry,) and while I aimed for originality, I didn't go at it from an 'as experimental as possible' mindset. That said, if the first reviews I get are bad, at this point...where exactly do I go from there? Are major revisions several months after a book's release acceptable form, or do I just 'make the sequel better?'
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
That said, if the first reviews I get are bad, at this point...where exactly do I go from there? Are major revisions several months after a book's release acceptable form, or do I just 'make the sequel better?'
Well, there're a few things that you could do, and I think it just all depends on how concerned you are with reviews.

-If you are very worried about bad reviews you could pull the book down and put it back up when you have a newer/more polished version. This might also benefit you if you are doing this as a series because readers do like to see that there are more books in the series, so if you are working on the next one you could release them pretty close to each other. The downside of this is that it's going to slow you down and gunk up your system with trying to manage edits, covers, and the next book at the same time.

- If you are somewhat worried about bad reviews you could leave it up and see what happens. I wouldn't start really pushing marketing until you have your newer version, but you could throw it out there, use your select free days, and see what happens. This would kind of let you work on things at your leisure, and honestly, if you are not marketing and if amazon doesn't for some random reason suggest your book to everyone, then it's a not much in and not much out situation. Maybe you get some reads here or there, but at least your work is out there. Then make a big push when all your ducks are in a row.

- If you are not worried about bad reviews too much, then just plow ahead. Bad reviews will happen, it's a fact of life, but at least you could see what a randomized audience thinks of your work. This would probably be the most uphill battle because you will have to address problems you have on the fly, people might be waiting for the next in the series, and oddballs out there will always find something they don't like about the book.

I think a rerelease of your final version would be the most professional play. Personally though, I've done a lot of updates and revisions with my book up, and haven't really had any problems. My reviews are mostly consistent even if I don't always have my best foot forward. But I might also be super lucky. At the end of the day it might be a question of what you want to get out of it. If you are dead set on being a pro writer, then it might not be wise to take a lot of chances. If you want to get your stories out there, have fun with it, and see what happens, then the worst that can happen is a few bad reviews.
 

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Almyrigan Hero said:
That said, if the first reviews I get are bad, at this point...where exactly do I go from there? Are major revisions several months after a book's release acceptable form, or do I just 'make the sequel better?'
One thing that's important to keep in mind is that your first book serves as your introduction to all potential readers, and as a funnel that will draw readers into the rest of your series. If it's not a compelling story, readers will be far less inclined to give the next book in the series a try. Also, when you put a higher price on it, people will likely expect more and hold it to a higher standard than if you were selling it for $2.99. Especially if you're planning to go wide - the people who frequent other stores seem to have a higher standard than Amazon readers do.

So, now that you've realized you skimped on beta reading and editing, this would be a really good time to do something about it. You've got roughly 2 months before your Select term runs out, which gives you plenty of time to take a second look at your work and see where it might need some attention. I would recommend hiring a professional beta reader rather than relying on favors - the pro readers will be more likely to give you solid feedback, and they'll get it to you in a timely fashion. I've never used Frostbite Publishing, but they've been around for years and have very reasonable prices. You also might want to give ProWritingAid a try. Until tomorrow night they have a 50% discount on the lifetime subscription. It's not as good as a real editor, but it can help with things like overuse of adverbs and doubled words.

I know you said if the first reviews you get are bad, but if you do get poor reviews to start off it can be harder to get other people to read the book, and therefore harder to get more reviews to help make up for those first poor reviews. So, since you have the time, and you're thinking that you jumped the gun, there's no reason not to use the time you have to give your manuscript a second look and try to give it a bit more polish.

https://www.frostbitepublishing.com/beta-reader/

https://prowritingaid.com/
 
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