Designing a Book Cover


I love telling stories, and I love writing stories. However, when I decided to try and sell my stories, I realised that I would need covers for my books. At first, I thought that the cover didn’t really matter, everyone has heard the proverb: “Don’t judge the book by the cover.” If the story was excellent, people would read it. Ah, how wrong I was!

In reality, people do judge the book by the cover. I have learned a few points about book cover design – mainly from Mr. P, the man who runs my local independent bookshop, as he knows exactly what will attract customers, and he has kindly spent hours educating me on all things book-sales-related.

One point is the spine of your book. If you plan to sell through shops, people will only ever see the spine of your book (unless you are a bestseller author in Waterstones, in which case, you don’t need to be reading this!) My first book had nothing but words on the spine, so I was advised to add pictures or colours, to make it more attractive. If you look at commercially produced books, most have more than just words on the spine.

Actually, looking at commercially produced books is an excellent way to learn. Another thing Mr P. told me, was that people buy books which look like books they have previously enjoyed. Is this true? Well, have a look at the covers of books next time you’re in a bookshop.

Lee Child (bestseller) tends to have a photograph of a lonely man on his covers. If you look, other publishers are now copying this.

In fact, some books that are in bookshops are barely discernible from each other, as the covers are almost identical.

Which means that I, as a lowly self-published author, need to take a look at popular books which are similar to mine, and copy their covers.

Now, Ploughing Through Rainbows is set on a farm raising cows. I therefore planned to use a photograph of cows on the cover.

After some honest feedback from family members (my family are not the sort who tell me everything is wonderful, they are very happy to point out my errors!) I realised this wouldn’t work. To begin with, there was nothing about the cover which linked with the title. My son then tried adding rainbows. I loved this, felt the cover was sorted. But then I mentioned the advice about having a cover that was similar to covers of famous books. We looked at a few.

Ploughing Through Rainbows is fairly similar to the books by James Herriot – it will appeal to intelligent readers who want a nice, feel-good book, and the story is about the people rather than action (no murders in this one). James Herriot books have a computer-generated drawing on the front, showing a pastoral scene.

When I looked at other books set in the countryside, they were similar. This was beyond my capabilities, so my son produced a cover for me. I think it looks great, I hope you agree.

 Thank you for reading. Do look out for my new book, it will soon be available from Amazon, and it tells the story of a mother learning how to parent four adult sons. It’s a book to make you smile, whilst also considering some gritty issues.

Have a good week.

Love, Anne x

anneethompson.com

 

Finding a Publisher…


When I decided to publish my first novel, way back in 2015, I sent the manuscript to a selection of publishers, and sat back to await their offers. Ah, would that I could return to those days of naivety…The sad fact is, people today do not want to pay much to read a book, they want cut-price bargains, special ‘two-for-one’ deals…or to read it for free as an ebook. This means that to cover the cost of editing, and type-setting, and cover photos and printing, publishers have to select their books very carefully. They then have to set a price which will cover their costs, even when the wholesaler has demanded a 65% discount, and bookshops have taken their 35% share…never mind that the publisher might want to eat occasionally.

Hence the sad situation we are in today, where publishers generally only publish books from known authors—people who are practically guaranteed to sell enough books to cover their costs. Which means that new authors find it almost impossible to find someone to publish their work. If anyone asks me how they should best set about ‘being a writer’, I would tell them to find a career either with a publishing agent, or in marketing. I find it telling that one of the latest best-sellers was written by someone with a career in online marketing—these are the people who publishers will be interested in.

However, I couldn’t be bothered at my age to start a whole new career, so I decided to self-publish my books—publishing Hidden Faces in 2016—which has now sold over 500 copies. (There is a section outlining costs under the ‘How to’ section of this blog.) I would though, very much like to be traditionally published, and recently, I thought it might be possible…

I finished writing Ploughing Through Rainbows in November 2018, and began to send it out to publishers (see yesterday’s blog for an insight into my state of mind!) However, I also sent it to someone else. A couple of years ago, a bookseller had been lent a copy of Hidden Faces, and she liked it sufficiently to send me an email, and also to order 40 copies for her bookshop. I decided to send her the manuscript of Ploughing Through Rainbows, in case she had any contacts within the publishing world who might be interested.

This led to the manuscript being read by a publisher, who sent me a 4-page critique, suggesting changes. I rewrote the book, and waited.

Several months later, the publisher replied, saying that due to the reduced market, they now ask the author to buy 500 of the books, at half-price, to help cover costs. This was somewhat of a shame, as one thing I hate about self-publishing is the number of books under my stairs!

However, the thought of being traditionally published was still enticing, so I asked for more details. I also did some research, and found that several smaller publishers ask the author to buy a certain number of books, usually at half-price. I sent a list of questions to the publisher, asking what the actual cost to myself would be, and what the print-run was likely to be (so I could see if he would actually extend the reach of my book). I also asked for the title of a book comparable to mine, so I could check the quality. I then ordered a copy from Amazon.

The price quoted was disappointing, as it was half the RRP of £12.99. Now, I know how this works, because do the same with my self-published books. If you sell through wholesalers and bookshops, they want a 65% discount, so in order to cover your costs, you set the price at about £13. However, when selling in person to customers, the actual selling price is usually nearer to £9. I was therefore expecting the price to me to be half of £8.99, not the recommended retail price.

The book arrived. Although it was published by the publisher, it was an Amazon Kindle book—like my travel book (The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary). To print a paperback Kindle book, you do not have to pay for them to be printed, nor do you have to order a specific number upfront—you could publish a book and buy just one copy. This left me rather bemused as to why I was being asked to pay such a large cost upfront—even given the editing/type-setting/cover costs, this still seemed unreasonable. Perhaps only the books sold through Amazon were printed by Amazon? Perhaps those ordered directly were printed traditionally? I ordered a second copy, via the publisher’s own website.

The second book arrived. Although it did not say it was printed by Amazon, it was the same quality. When I self-publish, my books are printed with pages in multiples of 16, so the paper is folded before glued to the spine, which makes for a lighter, more robust book. The Amazon books are good quality, they use a decent paper and a thick enough cover—but they are not as nice as books which have been printed traditionally. Nor do they cost as much. The type-setting was also disappointing, with Chapter One starting on page 5 (it’s a fiddle, and involves much swearing when I do it, but it is possible to add section-breaks to the manuscript, so that the title page and copyright pages are not part of the numbered pages). In my opinion, Chapter One should begin on page one.

I was now thoroughly fed-up. Not only was the publisher asking me to pay half the RRP of £12.99 for 500 copies, but the books were no better than those ordered individually through Amazon. I might decide to publish through Amazon—it is a good system—and it won’t cost me £3,000 upfront.

I have decided, with a heavy heart, to self-publish Ploughing Through Rainbows. It’s a good book—set on a farm, it shows the life of a family, exploring a few juicy issues along the way. I know it’s a good book. I know people will enjoy reading it. It will hopefully be available soon…

Tomorrow I will tell you what I have learnt about cover design, and which covers help to sell books. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

Thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x

Anne E Thompson has written several novels, which are available from bookshops and Amazon.
Anne also writes a weekly blog — describing her travels, her animals, and life in general — Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

When it’s time to submit your manuscript to a publisher…


In November of last year, I wrote the following blog. I never posted it, because after I had calmed down a little, I realised that prospective agents/publishers might possibly look at my blog, and if they read this they might decide I was unsuitable. However, due to a whole lot of different circumstances, I am now about to launch my book, Ploughing Through Rainbows, and as I eventually self-published it, I have nothing to lose. Anyone who has attempted to find a publisher will, I’m sure, relate to the frustrations expressed below. Enjoy…

November 2018: I have started to look at publishers, ready to submit my farm book. It is such a demoralising activity, as everything is stacked in favour of the publisher/agent (even though at the point of submission, it is the author who has done all the work!) Some publishers even seem quite aggressive, and the following paragraph is a good example of what the lowly author can expect to find on their submissions page:

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Please read before submitting: Do not query us on a title that is already published. If your book is available (whether for sale or free) anywhere, in any format, in any length, in any iteration, we are not interested in these titles. It will not change our minds if you agree to “unpublish” it in the event we accept the title. We take very few reprints as it is. Reprints are almost always from an author with whom we already have a relationship, and they are always titles that have been out of print and unavailable for a considerable time.
Sorry to be so blunt here, but the note we have on our guidelines page is increasingly being ignored and the number of submissions we are receiving on titles that are, or have been, self-published on Amazon, on Smashwords, on blog posts, etc. is increasing. To submit these titles does nothing but waste your time and ours.

Not exactly encouraging, is it! In fact, there seems to be a distinct lack of information on what, exactly, the publisher is offering. They never seem to mention what they will do for the author – When (if ever) will they be contacted? What services (such as editing) will the publisher provide? When the book is published, will it be entered in competitions? How much will the author be paid? How will the publisher help to promote the work? Will the author be provided with copies to sell, or do they direct friends and family to the local bookshop? Will it even be in the local bookshop?

Some publishers and agents provide a form for submissions (which take about 2 hours to complete). Some ask for a single page synopsis, some want a two-page synopsis. Some want everything double spaced. Some want a particular font, or format; some want an exact word count. Some want a sales blurb, some want a ten-word pitch, some want a rhyming poem full of metaphors to describe your book. (Okay, the last one is a lie, but you get my point.)Why they cannot simply read the manuscript and decide whether or not to publish it defeats me.

So, the author is left wondering if it is worth jumping through all these hoops, only to receive a dozen rejection emails (if anything) in about 3 months time. Or perhaps it’s better to self-publish and have another 600 books in the cupboard under the stairs…

I hate this part of the process (in case you haven’t guessed that). I will let you know what I decide to do–though I have possibly managed to find a way to by-pass the initial submission stage…I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com
Why not sign up to follow today?

We All Need Encouragement (Even Authors)


When I began to publish my books – which is more scary than you might think, because writing is very private, and letting other people read your stories is the opposite – my family were brilliant. There was a lot of finance to sort out, and Husband helped with that! But my children and mum were also brilliant, encouraging me to go ahead and publish my work – and they still are today.

In 2017, I published JOANNA. I wanted to explore what it meant to think like a psychopath, and how it would feel for her family. My son helped me by making a short video, and he composed the soundtrack. I think it’s brilliant – what do you think?

An exciting, easy read novel (without any nasty bits!) You can buy a copy here:

UK Amazon link

Here’s what other people have said about JOANNA:

“Not a genre I would usually choose, but I loved it.”

I read it on holiday, my sister read it too, we both really enjoyed it”

“A great read when you want to escape for a little while.”

“Really interesting way of looking at what it would be like to have a psychopath in the family. And I liked the happy ending!”

“Joanna is such a complex character, the story really made me stop and think. I loved it, am looking forward to reading your next book.”

Have you read a copy? It’s available in bookshops, but here is the Amazon link in case you prefer to read on a Kindle. (It would make a great Christmas gift too…)

UK Amazon link

I hope you have some encouragements this week.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

Imagine if…


Before you read this week’s blog – a quick update on last week. The lighthouse took a week to recover, and then, when I replaced the battery, the light flickered into life and began to turn. Brilliant!

With regard to the chick’s gender – not so brilliant. It’s still too early to be sure, but yesterday, one of the chicks which I was sure was a hen, was trying to crow. It is possible the five of the six chicks are cockerels. Ah.

Imagine if…

When you were young, did you ever pretend things? Did you ever dress up and pretend to be something else? I did – whenever I could.

For example, I remember visiting Aunty Daphne once, my mum’s cousin, and she lived in this big old house, which had stables in the garden, and big flagstones on the ground. The adults spent hours (literally, hours) talking, and I used the time to play in the garden. In my mind, those disused stables were full of horses, and I ran around, bringing them hay, curtseying to the master of the house, dancing in the moonlight (even though in reality it was a sunny afternoon). I became a different person.

As an author, people sometimes ask me where I get the ideas for my novels, but this has never been a problem. Even when I was very young, my mind was always full of the “what if?” question. “What if I was lost on the moors?” What if a monster landed in the garden?” What if I didn’t really live here, and was simply hiding under the bed?” I spent a lot of time on that last one, and would spend hours reading books under the bed, not hearing my mother when she called to me, sneaking down to the kitchen – desperately trying to not be seen – and stealing slices of bread and apples, which I would scurry back upstairs with and eat under the bed; all the time lost in this ‘other world’ where I was an orphan, sheltering in the house to survive. I didn’t ‘pretend’ to be other characters, I sort of ‘became’ them. I think it annoyed my brother and sister intensely, and I am a bit surprised my parents never sought psychological help for me.

As a teenager, I tried to use this game of ‘becoming a character’ to act. I joined the amateur dramatics group in the nearest town, and tried to ‘become’ the characters in a play. However, I found I didn’t especially like following a script, being what someone else has imagined, so although it was an excellent experience (I found my husband there) I didn’t continue.

I have a million books in my head, waiting to be written. Each one begins with the “what if?” question. What if a foreign government crashed all the infrastructure in England – how would I cope? What if I became aware of a smuggling gang using the lane beside the house to exchange goods? What if I was a teenager, and the boy I fell in love with had a horrible accident and lost his legs? What would it feel like to have dementia, and be slowly losing my mind?

Stephen King said that reading books about ‘nasty things’ is the way we prepare our minds for when disaster strikes, like dipping our toe into something. It allows us to examine our fears in a safe place, and consider them, before we put them away again. I’m not sure about that. I think I just like living in a pretend world.

Of course, each story begins in my head, but to make them authentic, I need to do some research. So if I want to write a story about smuggling, I need to find police reports about what is happening, I have to find the transcripts of police interviews to learn facts, I have to check on possible routes, and actual ways and means. There has to be a smattering of real facts to hold together the structure of imagining. Otherwise it would be like telling someone what my dream was about last night – and we all know how boring that is!

Reading books is a way of experiencing other people’s “what if?” – I think it helps us to understand situations beyond our own experiences. Reading books differs to watching films or television or plays, because the action takes place in our heads, we hear our own voice speak the lines, we become part of the action. (This is why I rarely read supernatural or ‘spooky’ books, because I don’t want that stuff in my head.)

I wonder what your “what if?” thoughts are. Perhaps you should write them into a story. I did.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about some of the support I received.

Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x

This is the story I always promised myself I would write ‘one day’ while I was teaching in an infant school. A light-hearted novel about 3 teachers.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/0995463204/ref=tmm_pap_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1539091413&sr=8-1

What if…you were the mother of a psychopath? The story of Joanna and her family – an exciting novel.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/JOANNA-Anne-Thompson-ebook/dp/B071H3RCKC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1539091592&sr=1-1&keywords=joanna+by+anne+e+thompson

Counting Stars Link

Invisible Jane Link

CLARA Link

Hidden Faces Link

JOANNA Link

Listen With Your Eyes


Listening with your eyes

When you are an author, you are, in effect, a parasite of life. Every experience, every glimpse of people, is stored up, ready to use in a novel. Sometimes, when there’s time, it’s good to be able to simply notice. To walk through a crowd and store up memories. You don’t consciously decide that a stranger will be a psychopath, or that a young man will be a jilted lover, or the grandmother will be the wise woman in a story. But you notice, you listen with your eyes, and add to the store in your mind. So that when you are writing, perhaps months later, and you need a character, you have a whole bank of them, waiting, ready to be fleshed out with a personality and a backstory. It helps if you are alone, as chatty husbands can be something of a distraction. So when the family decided to build a sandcastle (yes, they are all adults) I didn’t object, and was happy to walk along the beach for a while.

Walk along a beach in the Algarve with me, and notice. The Muslim family, with the mother covered from head to toe in black, sitting, child on lap, laughing as the waves rush over them. The bronze grandmother, wearing not a stitch, her stretched breasts flopping as she walks. The young men in tight swimwear, throwing a ball between them on the hard sand; the pretty teenager, sucking in her tummy, posed to one side, hoping, desperately, that one of the men will notice her. The mother of twins, sagging tummy oozing over her bikini, not caring because the two boys toddling through the waves are her whole world. The English woman, with the sensible haircut, walking through the shallows, her whole body red with sunburn except for the two white lines she has exposed where her sun-top straps went. The young girl with the tiny bikini walking next to her muscle-bound lover, the twin peaches of her perfect bottom moving from side to side, perfect ovals beneath the tiny pants. The old man, in straw hat and baggy shorts, walking along the sand. The father laughing as his young son spits water, after being swamped by an unexpected wave. The mother wrapping her shivering daughter in a big towel when she returns from her swim. The couple under the big umbrella, on the striped mat, eating a tidy salad from a plastic container, before they return to their New York Times bestsellers. The girl collecting shells in a purple bucket. The boys digging a trench next to their sandcastle; and the young men; and the grandfathers; and the fathers—while their children, bored, have wandered away. The young father holding his podgy baby in the waves, while she lifts her legs and squeals at the cold. The pregnant woman walking with measured steps along the tide line, watching other people’s children playing, anticipating.

And then there are the sounds. The crashing of the surf as it hits the shingle. The crunch of footsteps as you walk. The roar, somewhere out to sea, of the speedboat. The chatter of language you don’t understand, and the wisps of English that float towards you as you pass. The shrill of seagulls from the cliff behind you, the cry from sellers as they stomp the sand, showing their wares.

You can feel the sun, hot on your head. The trickle of sweat on your back. The grate of shells prickling your feet, the cold as the sea rushes over your skin. And the breeze, that blessed cool, that glides in from the sea and makes it all bearable, pleasant even, as you watch, and listen, and absorb all the life surrounding you; hold it tight, because one day you might need it.

Thank you for reading.

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

Costa Book Awards


I recently saw some information about the Costa Book Awards. These are awarded each year, and they are a big deal. There is a financial prize (from £1,000 to £5,000) but more importantly, they attract readers. The winners of the Costa Book Awards can expect mainstream bookshops to put their books where they are likely to be seen by people browsing. And readers are keen to read a book that has won a prize. The awards can turn an unknown author into a household name – at least amongst those who read.

I discovered that books can be submitted to the judges from publishers. Now, as I set up a micro-publishing house, rather than paying a self-publishing company to publish my books, I thought why not enter a book? I know that CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is by far my best book, and is as good as many popular books, so why not have a try? It has been professionally edited and typeset, it was printed by mainstream printers, I paid a photographer for an enticing cover, it is available through wholesalers, it has an ISBN number. If someone randomly picked it off a shelf, they wouldn’t know whether it was self-published or published by one of the major publishing houses. So I wrote to the person sending out the application forms, and she duly sent me one. Or to be precise, she sent one to The Cobweb Press, which has its own email account.

But then everything fell to pieces. There was a clause which read:
iv We regret that self-published books and books solely published online are not eligible. Self-published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book.

I was pretty sure this disqualified my book. But The Cobweb Press is a legitimate business, and I do employ editors, typesetters, etc on a freelance basis, so I had one last try, and emailed the helpful admin person to check. She informed me that if I published books by other authors, I could submit my book, but not if I only published my own work. I considered quickly publishing via Kindle a book by another author (I know a few) but decided that they would probably check, and it was probably deceptive of me, and I probably shouldn’t. So I didn’t. The Costa Book Awards will not be considering CLARA – A Good Psychopath? as a possible contender. Which is a shame.

I was particularly interested by a clause in the instructions which reads:

We ask that you take careful note of all conditions before submitting your title(s).   If you’re uncertain as to whether or not a title meets the criteria, then please contact me before submitting it. Very occasionally we’ve had situations where the eligibility of a book has appeared ambiguous.
 
When you submit any title, you are confirming that title’s eligibility.  Entries will be further checked by the organisers as the judging process progresses to confirm that they are eligible.  If, at this stage, it’s found that an entry is, in fact, ineligible, it can cause great inconvenience and disappointment so please ensure that all titles you submit are eligible.

Now, this implies that they have had self-published books submitted in the past. And they have considered them for a prize, not realising that they were self-published, but further investigation revealed they were not published traditionally, so they were disqualified.

My question is – why? Why is the book industry so intent on squashing the new author – unless they are linked to a celebrity or film producer, or have an actual human contact? Why do major bookshops and wholesalers and competition organisers refuse to accept that a book which is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book might not be inferior? I have had my books rejected from magazines when I have offered them for review:”Sorry, but we don’t review self-published books”, from some bookshops (though the major ones are beginning to accept them if you jump through enough hoops) and, most importantly, readers. People will ask, “Is it self-published?” and if it is, they walk away. Yet it is incredibly difficult to persuade traditional publishers to take on a new author unless they fit a very tight criteria, unless they are pretty much the same as books they are already selling. Which is rather limiting don’t you think? Do we want the world to be full of books which major companies have decided we should be reading – or do we want to select them on merit?

I understand that some self-published books are not edited, and are badly written. I realise that some do not have trade agreements with wholesalers, so if they were to become well-known they would be difficult for bookshops to source. However, as publishing houses become ever more restricted by falling sales, surely society should be looking in a wider pond for excellent new authors.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is not likely to be eligible for entry to major book competitions. Nor will it be reviewed by well-known magazines or newspapers. But it is still a book worth reading. As are many, many self-published books. Please remember, when you next choose a book to order from your library, or to download for your Kindle, or to buy for your holiday, some of the best books are the ones which are not traditionally published. Why not give them a chance?

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

Thank you for reading.

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at: anneethompson.com

 

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

This tells all the things I wish I had known when first diagnosed. A helpful book for anyone with a potentially terminal illness. It shows how to find a surgeon, how to cope with other people’s fears, how to not be defined by an illness. It also has a few funny anecdotes – because even when you’re ill, it’s good to laugh.
Available from Amazon (you can get it free if you have a Kindle).

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.