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Book Layout Made Easy with a Professionally Designed Word Template [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from Tracy Atkins who (along with The Book Designer, Joel Friedlander) has developed a series of book design templates just for indie authors. Read to the end for a discount code that’ll save you almost 50%!

Layout is for the birds.

As a self-published author, one of the hardest parts of getting my book to print was converting my manuscript into a fully formatted book. I came to find that laying out a self-published book correctly is one of those jobs that seems simple at first, but can take an incredible amount of time.

Getting all of the pagination right, finding the right copyright information, and just making sure your finished book is easy to read has left many an author reaching for a bottle of Aleve. It’s time consuming, frustrating and in the end, many of us are disappointed that our books don’t look as high quality as the ones sitting on the bookstore shelf.

In other words, doing DIY layout sucks even for experienced Word ninjas.Continue Reading

3 Reasons Why You Need a Compelling Book Cover (and 2 Ways to Get One)

You need a compelling book cover design.

*collective groan*

I know, I hear you guys out there. You’ve gotten the message from design advocates all over the web. Most prospective indie authors understand that they should create an effective, awesome book cover, but think that it’s too much work for too little reward.

Maybe you’re one of those authors. Have you convinced yourself that you like your default Createspace cover? That it gets the job done? After all, the content is the most important part of your book…right?

I hate to break it to you (please don’t shoot the messenger), but that default cover doesn’t get the job done and, while quality content is very important, no one will have the opportunity to read it if they’re not compelled enough by your cover design to learn more. You need a book cover that inspires action. Not convinced yet? Stick with me!

3 Reasons Why You Need A Compelling Book Cover

1. You are not a special snowflake.

A coworker recently told me a story of working at a music store in the early 90’s. On Super Bowl Sunday, Whitney Houston belted out her amazing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. On Monday, customers were lining up to purchase it.

Her record company was so taken aback by the demand that they had little time to produce the single itself, let alone fancy artwork for it. The tape had a plain white cover with the title and artist printed in a default typeface — the end. The result? It sold like gangbusters anyway because no one gave a hoot what the tape looked like — the song was that good.

Taking the theme to books, you’ll frequently see covers for classics that look like this. You know — Tolstoy, Austen, etc. Their books don’t have to look amazing because people are going to purposely seek them out and buy them anyway.

Sadly, you’re not Tolstoy. And that’s okay! I know I’m sure as heck not Austen. But recognizing this allows us to pair our books with effective cover design that speaks to our book browsers, converting them into readers.Continue Reading

Self-Publishing: Perils, Pitfalls, and Promise [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from Lisa Cohen and an entry in February’s Self-Publishing Writing Contest.

If you’d have asked me a year ago about self publishing, I would have given you all sort of persuasive reasons why it wasn’t right for me. A year ago, it wouldn’t have been right, not because of any intrinsic problem with going ‘indi’, but primarily because I hadn’t educated myself about the process.

Technology has driven the incredible rise of the ebook. Author tools, some free, others low cost, have made the barrier to self publishing very low, indeed. That is both a blessing and a curse. It means that the biggest obstacle to publishing isn’t price, knowledge, or equipment; it’s discoverability. When any ordinary Joe or Jane Writer can upload a file and in moments have an ebook for sale in multiple venues, what’s to stop that writer from doing so?

The promise of the author-as-publisher is very alluring, especially with the royalty rates as generous as they are on the self publishing platforms. It’s hard to justify holding out for the brass ring of a book contract when the typical hardcover will earn the author far less than each ebook independently released.Continue Reading

7 Tips for Great Layout Design

The post below was originally posted on April 20, 2010.

Fire your Book Designer!

I Shot The Serif. No, I’m just kidding. Please don’t fire your book designer (if you have one). They are amazing people who know exactly what to do to make your book belong on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Surprisingly enough, however, they charge for this service. The audacity! [AN: That’s sarcasm!] As such, we understand it’s not feasible for every author to hire a pro. It’s okay!

While it would take a year of blog posts to discuss every habit of highly effective book designers, the good news is that there are a few simple rules to keep in mind that will make a world of difference in how your book is perceived. This go-around, we’re focusing on body copy or interior layout design. That is, the “meat-and-potatoes” text in your book, where all the magic happens. Since this is where your readers are going to spend the vast majority of their time with your book, let’s be sure they’re not cursing the gods of printing when they do so.Continue Reading

5 Things Every Author Should Know About Design

Once upon a time in a far away land called Tallahassee, there lived two young maidens named Toni and Shannon who had so much fun in college that they ran out of money…so they had to get jobs.

That’s the short version of the story that led to mine and Toni’s first jobs in college as graphic designers for Lifetouch Church Directories and Portraits. Having had our experience with retail and wanting desperately to avoid returning to it, we happened upon a pair of jobs where we could work together creating beautiful designs for church directories. On the surface, it seemed like a dream.

In reality, however, it was a little different.

Most of the churches in our territory were not in the metropolis of Tallahassee, but in the tiny towns speckled across the rolling hills of South Georgia and North Florida where the sound of banjos echoed in the wind. We conducted our meetings in fellowship halls with blue haired ladies who had been on the Church Directory Committee since before we were born. In previous years their directories were made by cutting and pasting (literally–with no CTRL+C shortcuts) photos onto blank paper and handwriting captions below. Us trying to explain graphic design to them was like trying to explain string theory to a four year-old. They were sweet and patient with us, but we may as well have been explaining our services to them in Chinese.

Somehow we survived two years at that job and along the way learned some valuable lessons–especially when it comes to communication. Designing for someone else requires that you’re able to speak the same language. You don’t have to know how to design and the designer doesn’t have to know how to write, but you must have some common ground to get a quality product you can both be proud of.

So without further ado, I give you (drumroll please)….Continue Reading