Creating My Cover (plus resources)

In my last blog, I had a bit of a ramble about covers and what I think makes good ones.

So how did I apply all that to my novel?

I found my cover through 99 Designs, but this process will apply if you use a specific designer (as I intend to in the future).

TONE

I thought about what I wanted my cover to say about my story. I knew that I wanted it to go with my title (The Edge of the Woods… fairly specific), but more than that I wanted it to evoke the feel of my book. Emma, my protagonist, lives in a village surrounded on all sides by thick woods, and has grown up hearing myths about the dangers of wandering into them. Although the majority of my book takes place in the village, the simultaneous call and threat of the woods are constantly there. So it made sense that the look and feel of the woods should be evoked on my cover. I also thought about colours. Blues are very popular in YA, and can evoke a sense mystery and magic, so I asked for blues with pops of gold in the form of fireflies, which are a frequently used symbol in the novel.

I received several mock ups of the cover featuring woods, but most felt too safe. They were pleasant woods, daytime woods, woods you wouldn’t think twice about going into. Or they were flat out horror movie woods – woods you wouldn’t need to hear stories about to want to stay clear of them. Only three designers really nailed the beautiful-but-deadly tone I wanted to to convey. (I’d like to show you the designs, but as I only own the winning one I won’t).

I went back and forward on including Emma in the cover. My own preferences said no, but I didn’t want to rule out a very popular marketing trend out of prejudice. So I included an optional Emma in my brief with a description (which I made up for the brief, as Emma is only described as being tall in the book) and waited to see what came in. Most were pretty, bland stock models staring bored into the middle-distance. But again, three (and not quite the same ones) designers used her in an interesting way that I felt added rather than detracted to the cover.

So I ended up with four finalists. Three featured Emma. Three featured the woods. Two featured fireflies. All conveyed the tone I wanted.

GENRE

So then it came to genre (fantasy) and target audience (young adults, primarily girls). And here I enlisted a test audience.

One cover was immediately put out of the running because it skewed quite young. It appealed to boys more than the other covers, but looked like children’s fiction. And while my book is appropriate for children to read, I didn’t want to turn young adults and older readers off. Another looked great and appealed to young women, but my test audience interpreted it as a historical drama rather than a fantasy.

So I was left with two covers I loved: one showed the woods and Emma, the other only focused on the woods. Both gave the tone I wanted, and both featured fireflies which gave the test audience a sense of magic. But in the end, I found that the cover featuring Emma actually skewed older, appealing to 30+ readers while the woods-only cover appealed unanimously to 13 – 25 year old readers. With their results in, the decision felt clear. Only one design ticked all the boxes and even fell in line with my character-free preference.

And here it is! And how I love it.

Cover KINDLEI know, you’ve all seen it. 

These are my woods, and this is my book.

TYPEFACE

I haven’t discussed typeface, which I should as it can make or break your cover. In the brief I specified that it should be clear and readable, pretty but not too ‘girly,’ and not exceed more than two fonts. The font on the runner up was difficult to read, and the fonts on the other two rejected designs complimented the children’s fiction and historical fiction feel of them. Both good title fonts, but neither appropriate to my book.

I love this typeface. I love that my name is simple and small, but readable. I love that my designer used the same simple font to balance out the flourish on edge – feminine but strong – and I like that she picked one word to focus on. I also like that she gave the weight to ‘edge,’ rather than ‘woods’ which reflects Emma’s position in the story. My designer had no idea about that of course, but she did a great job and made me very happy. The only real complaint I could have is the obscured ‘w’ but if I’m being honest it doesn’t bother me. And who doesn’t love an ood?

The original title was in light blue, which was pretty (and I still use in my banners) but we decided later to change it to white so it would really pop.

RESOURCES

Are you in the market for a cover? Is that the whole reason you clicked read more on this post? Well aren’t you in luck! I’ve come across some cover designers with great portfolios over the past few months and I’m going to share my favourites.

Now, if you haven’t heard of premade covers, you are missing out. Great for writers on a budget or for something as simple a short fiction, premade covers are, as the title so handily implies, ready made covers. You just chose your cover and the artist will swap out their interim title and author name with yours. You have to be willing to make compromises and go a little more vague with your imagery (unless you find THE PERFECT COVER), but they tend to range between $30 – $100, and some designers run specials so you can get them for even less.

My absolute favourite premade designer can be found at GoOnWrite, who offers unbelievably professional covers for $40 and updates regularly. Another great resource is the Cover Art Collective, a Facebook group which highlights premade work from various artists. And if you like the look of an artist’s premades, you can always click through to their site and request a custom cover.

Custom covers cost more, especially if you want to make a full paperback version and/or audiobook cover (and Facebook/promo banners). Depending on the designer, a custom cover can cost you anywhere between $100-$1000. My favourite designers portfolios are: Art By Karri ($175 – 225), M. S. Corley (contact to negotiate price), Yocla Designs ($95 – 145), and Jason Gurley ($350 – 750). My designer, Destiny Marie, doesn’t currently have a website but if you contact me I can pass on her email address.

You can also find an artist whose style you love and negotiate to purchase the rights to an image they’ve already produced or commission new work for your cover. You’ll often have to come up with your own typeface to lay over the image, or you can see if another cover designer would be willing to negotiate a typography only price for you (if you can’t do it yourself – and if you don’t have decent photoshop skills, don’t!).

Any cover artist recommendations? Name drop in the comments! 

 

Cover, cover, on the shelf.

I’m a bookshop lurker. And a library dweller. Basically, wherever there are books, I’ll wander over and stare at them. It’s always been a thing, from when Mum was in charge of the creepy, crappy demountable library in the desert town (if five streets, one shop and one pub counts as a town) I was born in to visiting a book shop in almost every city I visit just see what they feel like. I like cosy bookshops better than shiny ones, overstuffed shelves better than orderly shelves and I like bookshops with dedicated Spec Fic and Young Adult sections.

inside crow bookshop

But this blog post isn’t a love letter to bookshops, though I could pretty easily write one.

An activity I’ve particularly grown fond of since I found myself in a publishing way is looking at covers. I always have, obviously, but it was more of a subconscious thing. I was looking at books to find a book to read. Now I look at covers to see what they’re doing, what they’re saying about the book or tone they’re trying to set. How professional do trade published covers look compared to some self published covers I’ve seen (often there’s no difference, sometimes the indies even come out on top)? How does a new-edition’s cover reflect what I know of a book I’ve already read?

It’s kind of fascinating, when you really get into it. Sometimes it’s disappointing. Other times it’s bizarre. But what it does tell you, more than anything, is how important a cover is to a book. And doing this really helped me identify what I wanted in my cover.

There’s an old saying, which everybody knows – and not just because about 70% of indie cover designers cite it on their welcome pages – that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. But that’s kind of the whole point of a cover: to give you vital information you need about genre and tone so that you know within a second whether or not it’s the sort of book you might be into. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, then the cover isn’t really doing its job.

The problem then is to convey genre and tone in a way that appeals to the target market. That’s a hard one, because different people respond to different things.

Let’s take me, for example. An avid book buyer of about seventeen years (choosing my own books), with a focus on fantasy and young adult and whose debut novel sits in both of those categories. I tend not to respond to characters on my covers, as they often seem to be portrayed as the same-looking conventionally attractive stock models with no personality indicators. I also like to come up with my own image of the protagonist, and if they’re already some bland beefcake/beauty it throws me off and colours the way I read them – if I get that far. I will make exceptions for illustrated covers or models who have some personality to them. I don’t really like silhouette covers unless they’re illustrated, and I don’t like covers that are so vague they tell me nothing.

Let’s look at some examples.

Zac & Mia is a really wonderful contemporary young adult book. I picked it up to read before doing a workshop with author A.J Betts at the Perth Writers Festival earlier this year. It’s a good thing I was going to buy it either way, because the Australian cover does absolutely nothing for me, nice as it is.

15757486

 

It’s very graphic and cool, but at best it tells me it might be aimed at young adults. What’s the tone? What’s the genre? The Canadian edition, however, gives me much more of what I need:

21416864

 

The whole thing kind of screams ‘young adult,’ and further than that the handwritten design implies quirkiness (the new international symbol of humour, I guess) and the love heart implies romance, sweetness and has elements of innocence. We have a genre and we have a tone. Job well done, Canadians.

Let’s take another cover that does absolutely nothing for me, the original cover of Throne of Glass:

Throne-of-Glass-BIG

Here we have my pet hate: pretty stock-art/model girl with a neutral facial expression. She implies young adult by default by her age, but I’m not sure whether the photoshopped dagger and glowing cityscape denotes fantasy or historical fiction, and personally I don’t really get a sense of tone. This cover doesn’t inspire me to look at the blurb, but it does kind of make me want to watch Xena reruns.

But then, thank heavens, Bloomsbury re-issued Throne of Glass with this:

frontcover throne glass

 

Who is this awesome looking girl? Straight away we know this is a fantasy from her weapons and armour, and we get the idea it’s a younger, ‘cooler’ version of fantasy from the punk-ish twist on the traditional fantasy get up. But look at her face! That’s some grim determination. Immediately we can see that this is a woman who knows how to use those swords and won’t hesitate to do so. She’s beautifully illustrated and looks unique, which is impressive for a pale, white haired girl in the time of Daenerys Targaryen, and she makes me want to know more about her. All up, we can take away that this is a female-led adventure fantasy with a bit of a dark twist to it. I haven’t read this book, but now I really, really want to. And remember how I said I don’t like to have my character images dictated to me? Here I really don’t mind.

And what does this have to do with designing my young adult cover? I’ll tell you next time!

 

Now this is not a hard and fast guide to covers, or even young adult covers. These are just my thoughts and my process. Other genres have completely different rules and target audiences – erotica and romances probably should feature characters, literary fiction can be a little more artistic, and so on. You need to figure out your genre, your audience, your tone, and what you want your cover to say about your story.

But what about you, readers? What do you love to see in a cover? What are you sick of/wish you’d see more of in your favourite genres? 

 

Self Publishing: My Process So Far

Quite a few months ago a friend asked if I could write a blog post about my self publishing process once The Edge of the Woods was out. So here we are! My heavily summarised journey from person-who-would-quite-like-to-write-and-publish-her-first-novel to person-who-is-now-an-author-yay.

Note: most dates are approximate as my memory for time is completely rubbish.

July-ish.
WRITING.
Deciding to write a book. Lots of feelings were felt, optimism and joy at the forefront. Sat down at computer and vaguely remembered a romantic short story I’d written as a much younger person that even younger persons had reacted well to. I used the setting and conflict as inspiration. Assumed it would probably only be a novella.

My drafting process was pretty straight forward. I made a schedule: I had to be sitting down and writing by 2pm every day (I’m useless in the mornings) with two days allowed off per week (they could coincide with weekends but didn’t have to, and didn’t have to be consecutive) and I wasn’t allowed to write after 10pm. This ensured I didn’t burn out if things were going well and that I didn’t feel overwhelmed if they weren’t. I also wasn’t allowed to go back and edit, and I wasn’t allowed to read further back than a page or two or jump ahead and write out of sequence. It worked, and in August-ish I…

August-ish.
DRAFTING AND DECISIONS.
Finished the first draft! It was only 26k words, but I was very proud of myself. Of course on reading it back I felt a lot less proud. It was much heavier on the romance, and the story and my protagonist hadn’t quite found their focus. It was much more woods based, which wasn’t working.

Around this time I came across a blog about self publishing via Amazon and decided to read more. After researching, I decided it was the best option for me as I didn’t think any publishers would be interested in a novella.

September/October-ish.
DRAFTING AND COVER DESIGN.
Worked on the second draft, which was about an 80% rewrite. Many of the same ideas were kept but expanded, re-ordered and reworded. I grounded the story and pushed the supernatural element back a little, concentrating on my protagonists real life. The story clicked, and the characters flourished. However I still hadn’t settled on an ending I liked and I hadn’t made the supernatural element make sense to me. My supernatural love interest was much more of a black hat villain, but his motivation wasn’t working for me. This draft came to about 45k words.

I came down with the flu sometime during this period and decided to use it to find my cover design. I hadn’t yet stumbled across the kboards or any other self publishing community, so I had no idea where to start. Google only turned up Damonza (who is very good, but was out of my price range) and a few designers I didn’t really take to. So I decided to run a 99designs competition which, although the process was stressful and honestly not very fun, I found a small group of covers and designers I really liked, and whittled it down to one I was very happy with.

800x1100The cover as it emerged from the competition. 

November/December/January-ish
SELF EDITING, DRAFTING AND PROCRASTINATION.
After draft two was out of the way, I spent a very long time going over everything with a red pen and a lot of post-it notes. My goals at that point were to track character consistency and development, sort out the supernatural storyline, go deeper into the world I’d created and come up with a satisfying ending. It was easier to identify the problem areas and restructure some chapters than it was to write the solutions, but I got there in the end. Some areas of the manuscript remained entirely untouched, some were rewritten, some flat out deleted and one character I was very fond of but served absolutely no purpose and actually messed up the plot was cut and absorbed into two existing characters (Nicole and Roslyn). 

With this draft coming in at 68k words it was officially a full length novel, but after all the work I’d already done myself I decided to ride out the self-publishing experience. I was already learning a lot of interesting things about the publishing industry and, however I decided to publish future books, I felt a well rounded knowledge could only benefit me.

January/February-ish
PROFESSIONAL EDITING AND BETA READERS.
Satisfied as I could be with my draft, I scouted out various editors and editing services and decided on BubbleCow (who now offer free pre-made covers from FAB cover design site GoOn Write with every edit). They took just over three weeks to edit my manuscript (one week earlier than they predicted) and I spent that time working on my blurb and starting a YA zombie dystopian novel I like a lot but can’t quite figure out how to crack. The editors report I got back was really detailed and positive, and I accepted most of the suggestions. It made the novel much stronger.

Next I sent the novel out to my trusty test readers (I hate the term beta reader, and no, I don’t know why) who each took two weeks to read through and send me their notes.

March
EVERYTHING WAS TERRIBLE
Went though a family tragedy. March sucked. Nothing was achieved.

April
PROOFREADING, COVER FINALISATION, FORMATTING AND GOODREADS.
I eased back into productivity with the final proofread, which a friend and I did independently and compared notes. Between us, the editor and my test readers I’m confident we picked up 99.5% of errors and if you show me one now (I do know where one is in the manuscript) I will actually spear tackle you.

Having decided later on, and at the insistence of friends and family (and a deep desire to have my own book on my shelf) I decided to publish a paperback version via CreateSpace. This required me to get back in touch with my cover artist and work on a wraparound cover. While we were at it, I’d noticed that the title didn’t pop as well as I’d like in thumbnail and we decided to make it white. The result was kind of perfect. I decided on a 5×8 book size as opposed to their default/recommended 6×9 as I find 6×9 books a bit clunky and hard to shove in your bag (if I could have gone smaller I would have), and cream paper over white as I wanted a more authentic reading experience. Both options increased the production cost, but I’m happy I chose them.

Cover KINDLEFinal cover. Very poppy. 

While we worked on the cover, I contacted Polgarus Studio and they very quickly came up with a simple eBook format and a very pretty paperback format. I needed a finalised paperback word count so my cover artist could figure out the width of the spine.

Finally, I set up a Goodreads page for the book, an author page for me, and began my giveaway. As I wasn’t sure when exactly I’d be publishing or when I’d have paperback copies with me, I set the giveaway to run until May 31st. It was slow going at first, but now has over 1700 entries and is on the front page of the most requested giveaways. Pretty cool!

May
PROOFING AND PUBLISHING
Despite a month long internet blackout (the previous months work was all done on my tiny phone screen), everything was finally ready to go! I uploaded the files to Createspace and ordered my proof copy. When that came the following week (perfect!) I decided on an official release date: May 20, the week following. This allowed me time to upload the files to Kindle Direct Publishing and let the paperback and kindle versions sync up, and time for the other platforms (iBooks, Kobo and Nook) to publish my books as they take a little longer. This way by Launch Day everything was ready and working.

And here we are! I ran a Facebook ad during launch week, and will run another sometime soon. I had an article in Birdee Mag and my hometown’s online newspaper, and am going to attempt sending out some press releases to local newspapers and radio stations, and I already have some really lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

And what have I learned?

So much, and probably still nowhere enough. I can say that I fully respect what publishing houses do and what they offer – this has been an expensive venture and I’m terrible at numbers and keeping track of things and figuring out this marketing stuff is kind of doing my  head in.

Will I self publish again?

Absolutely. I might still be figuring it out, but I’m having loads of fun doing it. And I’m a published author now. I can’t even tell you how much that means to me.

And now, back to it!

x

The ball is rolling!

Just got back from chasing some paid work in Melbourne. Talked writing, ate tiny cupcakes and filled my friend’s Netflix recommendations with terrible reality TV and teenage mysteries, so it was four days well spent.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 8.53.12 PMMelbourne. It’s got trams. 

Anyway, as I said at the very bottom of my last post, my edit notes came back! I was really pleasantly to surprised to find out that my editor loved the manuscript, and that her suggestions were pretty minor. They were all focused on the back end of the story, which I knew needed work, but it was great (and really interesting) to see exactly what she thought needed to be reworked and expanded and what she thought was fine to stay how it was.

So I’ve made those changes, plus a few more tiny ones of my own (I have a problem, and I will tinker with this novel until someone takes it off me and forces me to publish it) and it’s now with three test readers. They all enjoy Young Adult and fantasy books, but they all have different tastes and preferences so between them I’m hoping to get a good idea of whether the book is really working. And whether people I’m not paying actually like it or not.

Which is… terrifying.

Like, just yikes.

Anyway, I’ve given them a few weeks to finish, so until then I’m concentrating (slash distracting myself)  on some touch-ups on the eBook cover and expanding it to a spine and back for the paperback version, and working on a script for the Melbourne meeting. I’ll also be doing a talk for new writers during the week, so if I or my fellow speakers manage to say anything particularly useful I’ll post a summary here.

It’s all happening!

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 3.54.36 AM

PS. The No Scrubs Book Club did meet on God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, but it was also a clothing swap afternoon and we were particularly unfocused so didn’t discuss the book in too much detail. But we did unanimously agree it was a great read, with a wonderful style. If I get the time I’ll do a proper write up with my own opinions, but until then: Yay Vonnegut. Four stars.

ISBN Shopping (and other practical accomplishments)

This week signals the end of my calm, lazy month. At the end of the week I’m going to speak to a high school, next week I’m heading over to Melbourne to see about some paid work, and after that my notes for The Edge of the Woods are due back from the editor.

Scary. Awesome?

Both.

So today, even though I stayed in my pyjamas and hung out with my nephews, I managed to get some practical things done in preparation for the book.

To begin with, I set up a mailing list with MailChimp (which I’m honestly still figuring out how to use, but I have one, and that’s the important thing). It seems to be the most recommended of the mailing list sites, and the logo is a monkey in a hat. I don’t know about you guys, but animals wearing hats is a pretty good way to get my business.

tumblr_m2xj8s5lYr1r3n418o1_500
I’d vote for him.

After that, I bit the bullet and forked over some cash in exchange for ten ISBN numbers. This is an optional expense for self publishers, as Amazon and Createspace will supply a free one for you, but I wanted to cover my bases and make sure the copyright for my work stayed 100% with me. I got mine from Thorpe-Bowker, the Australian ISBN supplier. It costs $84.00 for a set of 10, though they charge a one-time $55.00 fee if it’s your first purchase. For non-Australians, you can get yours here.

And then, because I was on a roll and/or wanted to use an ISBN straight away now that I’d spent all the money on them, I set up a Goodreads page. Since the book is still a few months away from being published, I’ll use the page to (hopefully) drum up some more interest and organise a giveaway.

So there you have it. Productivity! And some things crossed off the to-do list.

As for writing, I’ve been tinkering with a few things to see what I’d like to focus on once The Edge of the Woods is done. I have 20,000 words of a Young Adult zombie novel done, and have started playing with a fantasy and a few fairytale shorts. My gut is telling me to go with the fairytales, as so far they’ve been the most fun to work on. But we’ll see! I know have to just pick something, but flitting between ideas has been kind of a pleasant change of pace.

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me in a while (though I’ll be back next week for Book Club), it’s because I’m working, working, working.

Happy writing!

UPDATE: About twenty minutes after publishing this post, my edit notes came back a week early and really positive. So I guess my calm, lazy month ends right now!

Workshop: Standing Out From The Crowd

The second workshop I attended as a part of the Perth Writers Festival, 2014, was Standing out from the Crowd with indie author Susan May. Susan has an incredible story, having only chosen to become a self-published author in the past year. She already has one novel, two short stories and an anthology for sale on Amazon, has almost 40,000 followers on twitter and is the tenth most searched author on Goodreads Australia.

The workshop revolved around marketing yourself as an author – whether traditional or indie. This can be started before you publish your first work, or after you’ve published several. She mostly shared her own experience and stories of her other author friends successes – from modest earnings to the runaway success of Hugh Howie (who she just worked on an anthology with).

Susan was incredibly engaging and inspiring to listen to. A complete go-getter, she’s funny, confident and business minded. A lot of what she said were things I’d heard before in my indie publishing research, but some was new, some gave better insight, and all of it was just really great to hear from a real person – and someone local! – who has braved indie publishing successfully.

As before, here is a summary of my notes. I hope they’re helpful!

  • Treat your writing like a business. Keep up with the industry, know what’s happening, what’s working, what’s no longer effective.
  • Become someone worth discovering. Readers want to connect with authors in a way they haven’t in the past. They want to know you. What’s your brand? What’s your story?
  • Your biography is important. Update it as your career develops. Be positive about yourself, include your smaller achievements until you can replace them with bigger ones. Have you talked at schools? Had any short stories or articles published? Taught a class? Everything counts!
  • Connect all of your social media to your website and author page. Learn to use each effectively. You don’t have to be on twitter, and it’s no longer effective as a selling tool, but it does allow your readers to engage with you and get to know you.
  • Join Kindleboards to get in touch with other authors and share tips and advice on what’s working best at any given time to boost your sales.
  • Your time is valuable – measure it. Time = words = money.
  • Don’t waste too much time on marketing methods that don’t show you a return. If everyone is doing it, there’s a good chance it’s no longer effective. Think outside the box, and don’t forget to think local.
  • Effective free marketing methods include: mailing lists, goodreads giveaways, interviews (radio, television & newspaper, blogs if they have a significant readership in your intended demographic and genre), talks (in schools or universities, at writers festivals, etc)
  • Some examples of ‘Good’ Marketing (i.e. a good return on your time and investment): Local interviews and/or podcasts, price pulsing/sales/free (controlling the price of your books to lure readers), discounted/free first book in a series (most effective when the series is completed, or there is at least a follow up book), mailing lists (linked to via your website, and in your eBook),  group promotions, box sets (joining with other authors of similar genre/demographic to offer a low priced deal, and hopefully sharing and expanding each others reader pool).
  • Some examples of ‘Bad’ Marketing (not a good return on your time or investment): hiring a publicist, any expensive advertising with no promise of a return (paid advertising is less and less effective), blog tours (unless you’ve ensured the blogs have a large readership, and cater to your demographic and genre), guest posts (same again), not getting paid for work in competitions or anthologies (don’t just give your work away).
  • Don’t go crazy with your money. Prioritise what you need to pay for, and find another (legal) way to get what you can’t. Do you know someone good with photoshop? Can you teach yourself to format? It’s not ideal, but you need to do whatever works best for you.
  • If you don’t ask for help or opportunities, the answer will always be no. Put yourself out there. Get in touch with authors you admire, ask local newspapers and radio stations if they’d like to do a piece on you.
  • Prepare a media package (which could also be posted on your website) to provide to anyone prepared to interview or write a piece on you. This makes it easier for them to agree, and easier to get the information about yourself you want out there. This media package could include: a blurb, an article already written about you (which you could write yourself, or have a friend write) featuring quotes, a page with your information, some photos of yourself you own and are happy for them to use in their publication, and a page with reviews of your book.
  • Set short term (yearly) goals for yourself. Deadlines are good incentives.
  • Your books are your best form of marketing. Write a lot of them. Each book increases your chance of sales, and don’t bother with marketing that takes too much of your attention away from your writing. Make each book the highest quality you can.
  • Publish short stories and novellas to support your novel sales. Price them accordingly, or offer them for free. They’ll keep your readers interested in between your novel releases.
  • Put lead ins to your next book at the back of previous novels. Don’t forget, you can edit books after you’ve posted them on Amazon.
  • It’s better to find success on your tenth book than your first.
  • Be cool to your fans.
  • Stay positive, stay creative.
  • Keep writing, and keep focused.

I guess in retrospect it was a very indie biased workshop. Which was great for me, as someone planning to publish her first novel via Amazon in the next few months.

Some people may not agree with everything Susan said, which is okay. She urged us not to follow her own path to the letter, but to go out and find what works best for us and to think outside the box. At the end of the day, there’s no one thing that will work. If there was, we’d all be famous. The most important lesson she left us with, I think, is that our time is our most valuable asset, and not to fall for ‘must do’ lists found everywhere on self publishing advice guides. You don’t have to go on a blog tour to sell books, you don’t have to make a book trailer, you don’t have to be a twitter mogul.

The only thing you have to do is write.

Ceinwen Langley, smiling politely

After having to take a selfie (well, two hundred and eight selfies, but I only used one. Eventually) to use as evidence of my face on a paid piece of work, I decided to bite the bullet and get some professional head shots taken.

Portrait of Cei Langley, Author

Fun fact: spending the morning staring at your own face in glorious HD will make you feel weird.

Portrait of Cei Langley, Author

But despite all weirdness, it was definitely worth paying someone (in this case, helpfully, also an old friend familiar with who I am and what I do) who knows their stuff when it comes to lighting, location, lenses and … I can’t think of another word for retouching that starts with an ‘l,’ but you get the idea.

So that’s another thing ticked off the list while I wait for my manuscript to come back from the editor. I’ve already plotted my next novel and started roughing out a draft, and, less productively, addicted myself to Scandal and devoured three books.

Next stop, figuring out the American Tax System!

…and Scandal, season three.