‘The End’ is just the beginning

Editor’s Note — Writing a book ain’t easy, but at least most of us know what we’ve got to do to get to “The End.” What happens after you write “The End” — the publishing and marketing — is where a lot of us suddenly find ourselves lost and without a clue.

C. Lee McKenzie, a novelist who’s published indie and and also been published by traditional press has been down those confusing roads. She offers this advice on making it easier for your book to perform after you’ve written “The End.”

C. Lee McKenzie

C. Lee McKenzie

“The End” is just the beginning
by C. Lee McKenzie
Writing a book is not easy, at least not for me. I sit for hours (something that I truly dislike doing). I torture myself with self-doubt at just about every stage of the writing process. I turn down invitations from friends. My family often doesn’t see me for days. So when I finally do write “The End,” and I really mean it, then I should be ecstatic, right?

Well, not quite.

Now I have to launch my book into the world, so there are big questions: Should I sub to an agent? Should I sub to a major publisher who takes unsolicited manuscripts? Should I sub to a small press? Or, should I do it myself?

I’ve made this decision three times. Two of my books were traditionally published by a small press. The last book I put out there by myself. I’ve learned a lot about the publishing business, and most of it has been through the old trial and error method. I’m getting ready to sub another book, and so I’ve been doing a bit of research–that thing I do when writing is impossible.

I found a Mark Coker article that was very informative. Mr. Coker, as you probably know is the founder of Smashwords.com.

Mark Coker

Mark Coker

So when Mr. Literary Gary asked me to do a guest post, I thought I’d select the key points from this article, add some of my own ideas based on what Mark Coker wrote and share that today. I’ve marked my own ideas with asterisks. These are ideas based on my experience and not found in the Coker study.

So here goes.

If you can get your ebook into the top position as bestseller, it might sell double the number of copies that an ebook at fifth place sells. Mark Coker calls this the “power of the Viral Catalyst.”

So how do you get a book into first place? It ain’t easy, but might be doable if you:

Write a darned good book.

*Troll for some excellent Blurbs from well-published authors.

*Get the buzz going by contacting reviewers before your launch.

*Plan a dynamite blog tour that floods the internet with your cover, your interview, contests and giveaways.

*Get a following by publishing a second, third, fourth book ASAP, preferably sequels.

Write shorter book titles.

Know what price is most attractive. Coker says, “a $.99 book will on average sell 3.9 times as many books as a book priced over $10.00. A $2.99 book sells about 4 times as many units. Note how books priced between $1.00 and $1.99 significantly under-perform books priced at $2.99 and $3.99. $1.99 appears to be a black hole… $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books…” This information about pricing I found very interesting.

If you’re an Indie ebook author, you can expect to make more on royalties than traditionally published authors. So if you do sell to a publisher, Coker advises this, “…your e-rights are valuable. Don’t give them up easily.”

Coker’s last suggestion is to use common sense when interpreting the data. For example, if you have a three-word title that is right for your book, don’t shorten it to one or two. If you have 50,000 words and your story works, don’t expand it to make it longer. What he has set out is just data gathered at this time, and it’s very likely to shift.

In other words, be on your toes and keep up to date.

Here’s the Huffington Post article.

About C. Lee McKenzie
I’m a native Californian who grew up in many different places; then I landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where I live with my family and miscellaneous pets—usually strays that find me rather than the other way around. I write most of the time, garden, hike and do yoga a lot, and then travel whenever I can. My favorite destinations are Turkey and Nicaragua, but because I have family in England, Switzerland, and Spain I love going those places, too.


In my books, I take on issues that today’s teens may face because I believe talking about fictional characters helps young adults open up about the sensitive issues that they sometimes find hard to discuss. My first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. My second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. I’m published in three young adult anthologies. Recently, I took a break from young adult and published my first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead.


Cover story

Cover art by and courtesy of Laura Wright Laroche

You can get a great cover like this custom Laura LaRoche cover for your book, but it takes a little homework.

You can get a great cover like this custom Laura LaRoche cover for your book, but it takes a little homework.

Editors Note: Let’s say I’m a new author, just finishing up my first book and I need a good cover. But I don’t know any artists, or photographers, and have no such skills myself.

What do I do?

That’s the question I posed to book-cover artist and fellow author Laura LaRoche. I’ve read plenty of blog posts telling me how important a good cover is for your book — here’s solid advice from Laura on how to get one.


Start with asking other authors who they would recommend. Then search for the kind of cover design that fits your book. There are so many different talents out there creating covers that research is the best and most informative way to find the designer best suited to the author.

What kind of design is needed? Laura creates photo manipulations like the cover shown here.

What kind of design is needed? Laura creates photo manipulations like the cover shown here.

Common questions to ask before hiring a cover designer
1. What kind of cover is needed?
Is your book paranormal, fantasy, thriller, Christian? Ask designers if they are familiar with the genre needed.

2. What kind of design is needed?
Illustrated, photo manipulation, electronic graphics? Ask what kind of art the designers offer, and if it is right for your book.

3. What’s the price range?
Ask what the base cost is and if there are any other costs involved in the process.

4. Do they offer e-book and print?
Ask this question if you think you might need a print cover, either when you order or in the future. Not all designers offer both. Or they may not be able to make covers compatible with some print publishers. So be sure to mention which print site you have chosen.

Other cover-issues indie authors may wonder about
How do I identify and choose a reputable service? What’s a fair price? How
does the procedure work? Should I expect the cover artists to read my book
so they know how to represent it graphically? If not, how do they know?

To find a reputable service simply look at the cover designers’ web sites and see if they have testimonials to back up their work. Double check authors’ names on the designers’ sites with authors’ book sites.

Research for finding a reputable cover artist includes checking designer and author websites, Laura says.

Research for finding a reputable cover artist includes checking designer and author websites, Laura says.

How many covers do you see on the designer’s site? That’s important for checking experience. Then e-mail and ask for references, or look at their cover designs and directly ask any author listed in their galleries.

I find most authors don’t mind direct questions, and they are usually eager to share their experience about the designer they used.

The procedure is fairly easy. After an author contacts me, I reply with all needed info on what I can design and offer, the cost, how to pay, and turnaround time. Once I get started, I will send a cover design to the author for approval or changes. Once all is done and the author is happy, I supply a royalty-free cover license for the image.

That’s it, all done.

Pricing is difficult to estimate. It depends on what kind of service and detail work is needed. Illustrated covers tend to be the most expensive because of the nature of the art and time. Keeping that in mind, I believe a good price range for custom e-book covers is $25-$75. I know that’s a big gap in price, but authors’ needs will determine if they should buy on the low or high side of the spectrum.

I’m not sure if other cover designers take the time to read the book they’re covering. In my opinion, they don’t need to read it. I don’t, and it’s not because I wouldn’t love to. It’s because I wouldn’t have time to design multiple covers a week if I took the time to read each book. My backlog would be a year long.

So to answer the next question, how do designers know what to create if they don’t read the book?

Cover artists don't usually have time to read the books they illustrate, says Laura. Instead, they rely on authors to supply pertinent information.

Cover artists don’t usually have time to read the books they illustrate, says Laura. Instead, they rely on authors to supply pertinent information.

Again, I suppose each designer has a unique way. I ask authors to provide whatever they feel is important to the book and cover, including

-If it is a series
-What color scheme they like
-Do they have a website where I can read and learn about the author

So many things can influence the design.

Laura, as a cover artist, what have been some of your favorite or most challenging projects? Have you ever found it hard to come up with a cover for a particular book? What was your favorite cover experience?

I’ll start with challenging projects. I’ll finish with favorites. I have a few authors who pose challenges for me by giving me little info with which to work. (They know who they are! Grin).

Though I will expose two of them now with some examples of their designs.

First, there’s Zoe Saadia, who likes to ask with a giggle if I’m ready for a challenge.

Ed. note ~ By a curious coincidence, I just reviewed this book at Honest Indie Book Reviews.

Ed. note ~ By a curious coincidence, I just reviewed this book at Honest Indie Book Reviews.

When she approached me for her first cover design she was hesitant, but that faded quickly as I worked with her. She had an idea of the style she wanted, but no clue about how to portray it.

After several questions and a couple of changes, I created the first in her “The Rise of the Aztecs” series, The Highlander.

Needless to say, I’ve went on to finish this series and seven others for her. I love when she pounces on me with an idea, and she is a joy to work with. If you would like to check out her writing, here is her Amazon Author page.

Next author and definitely one of the most challenging is Robin Nadler.

Wow! That’s what I can say about her and her writing. She is one of the fastest writers I’ve met. She is so talented and challenging when it comes to her covers. When Robin asked me to design a cover for a series, I had no idea how many she would need. I gave some thought to how and what to create to make her series look unique.

Laura has covered all 12 books in Robin Nadler's 12-book "Family by Choice" series, starting with this one.

Laura has covered all 12 books in Robin Nadler’s 12-book “Family by Choice” series, starting with this one.

After some sample exchanges and a few changes, we had the look of what started out as one book, and is now 12; a series titled “Family by Choice.”

I’ve also created other covers and book trailers for her. If you would like to know more about Robin, her website is nadlersnovels.com.

While I do have other authors I would love to feature, I believe this will give most authors a chance to look at the different style and approach to making a series. I’ll include some other covers from different authors for a broader look at designs.

Okay, on to the next question — have I ever found it difficult to create a book cover for a book?

Yes, there have been times when it took several attempts to get it right. There have also been times when I offered refunds and pointed them in other directions for cover help.

Those occurred after we started, then realized they needed an illustrated cover, not a photo-manipulated cover which is what I offer.

Do I have a favorite book cover I’ve created?

I have deep admiration for each author I’ve covered. Each work is as unique as the author. I can’t pick a favorite. Each cover tells the story of all the author’s hard work inside, with the hope and expectation that the design will make readers want to pick it up.

I hope I’ve been of some help on how to choose a cover designer.

In a world of words anything is possible. ~ Laura Wright LaRoche

About Laura

Laura Wright LaRoche

Laura Wright LaRoche

I am a bookcover designer working with both traditional publishing companies and freelance authors. I love creating “one-of-a-kind” cover designs for authors. Being a published author myself, I know the difference good covers can make.

If you would like to learn more about me or would like to connect on social media, here are my links.
Website, www.llpix.com
FB Page, www.facebook.com/LLPix
Twitter, www.twitter.com/WrightLaRoche

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