Finding and Working With A Freelance Cover Illustrator

If there is one thing self-publishers learn during their journey, it’s that developing a title to sell is complicated and difficult. Cover design is one of those elements that makes authors realize they are in over their head and need a little help. Choosing a cover designer has its own set of caveats. You have to find someone who does your genre, someone who you can trust, and perhaps most importantly of all; someone you can afford.

Learn the Rules

Your first step for finding and working with a cover illustrator is learning the rules of your genre. As the old saying goes you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover yet ironically that is exactly what consumers will do. The cover is the first thing people see of a title. It’s what draws them in or prompts them to pick up a book that they’ve never seen before to learn more about it.

Find out what has worked for other popular titles in your genre. Are there common themes or elements? This is why it’s also important to find someone who specializes in your genre. For instance if you find an illustrator or designer that only does fantasy covers (and that is the genre of your title) you’ll be much better off than finding someone who doesn’t specialize.

Take the Reins

You wanted to self-publish a book, do as much as you can yourself. When you hire work done (in this case with a cover illustrator), you should set clear expectations as to what work the illustrator will perform and what work you will perform.

You can save yourself some money and maintain more creative control if you do as much as you can on your own. Use the talents you have and trust in your own judgment. Leave anything you don’t feel comfortable doing to your illustrator.

Finding an Illustrator or Designer

Sometimes even knowing where to start looking for a cover designer can be a tedious process. Do you just start searching the web? Do you ask the people you know? Is there a central location where these kind of professionals hang out? Truth is it’s all of the above.

UpworkDon’t search the web blindly but do look for sites that have freelancer profiles. Sites like Upwork (who also now owns Elance and oDesk) have thousands of members.

The specialty of these websites is to match people looking for professional services with the people who can perform the work. Make sure you read up on someone before you hire and always ask for and follow up on references.

Another strategy is to tap your sphere of influence (i.e. the people you already know). Use social media to ask your network if they know of anyone. You might come up empty handed but you could also find someone you really trust that can do a great job for you.

You can also check out author, publisher or design related forums. These communities often have job or project boards where you can post requests for work. Sometimes just posing a question in the main forum will get you a handful of responders interested in working with you.

Working with freelance cover designers can save you a lot of money when self-publishing your book. The most important thing to keep in mind is to carefully evaluate anyone you have work for you. References are the most powerful tool because if others have had a good experience, chances are you will too.

What tips do you have for finding and working with a cover designer? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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The Life Cycle of A Book

Check out this fantastic infographic from PublishingTrendsetter.com. It shows the typical path a book takes from its creation until it reaches the end user.

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7 Tips for Promoting Your Author Site in Social Media

It’s undeniable that social media has become a cost friendly and effective way to promote virtually anything.  Most authors don’t have a very large marketing budget (if any at all) making social the perfect channel to build an audience for a title.  Check out these 7 best practices for promoting your title using social media.

Listen For Your Audience

Before you even start dreaming of content to post, you have to set up a presence on a network.  Avoid following the crowd.  Don’t just start participating on a network because it’s the most popular or because someone told you it was the best course of action.

Find out for yourself which network is good for promoting your title by listening.  Search networks for keywords or posts that are relevant to what you are promoting.  You might find that a really popular network is not the best place for you to be.  For example a publisher promoting a cookbook may find that Pinterest gets the most engagement for their content rather than Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Plant growing from bookGrow Your Network

Posting on a consistent basis is important but you should also focus on growing your following.  This probably isn’t something most people focus on when using social media for personal reasons.  When it comes to marketing a larger audience is better.

Find creative ways to get people to follow you.  On Facebook, you might try using a fan-gated application and offer free chapters of your book as content that gets unlocked by liking your author page.  A good practice on Twitter is to follow other people and/or companies as well as retweeting their content.  Placing links to your social media accounts anywhere you can is also a good idea.  For instance you can put URLs to social accounts on your website, on business cards, in email signatures, on third party business listings, stationary, or promotional items.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 RuleOnce you have a following, it’s important not to alienate them.  The 80/20 rule is a good one to follow at least until you get a feel for how your audience reacts to your content.  That is, 80% of the content you post should be non-promotional.  The other 20% can be.

Use your social accounts primarily as you would if you weren’t using them to promote a title at all.  Clever marketers find ways to post content that is related to their brand but not directly promoting products or services.  There isn’t really a set formula here.  Find a groove that works for you and stick with it.

Keep Track of Engagement

A graph from Google AnalyticsUse analytics to your advantage on your social accounts.  Look at the data each time you post something and learn about how your audience is reacting to it.  Do they share or don’t they?  Do they interact with your content or do they ignore it?  Which types of content do they respond well to?

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have their own analytics platforms.  They show you data on which posts performed well and which ones didn’t.  Use data like this as a guide to tailor your content for posting.  You can use sites like Bitly to make trackable links and if you are tracking traffic back to your site, Google Analytics is a great free resource.

Mention Others

A great way to get more followers, promote engagement and increase the chances that someone will promote you is to use mention and tagging features.  For instance you can mention others by user name on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  When you do this, the other person or company is notified.

Everyone likes to be recognized or mentioned in some way because it gets them more exposure.  Then they are more likely to do the same for you when the time comes.

Be Consistent

It’s important to remain active on a regular basis with your social accounts.  You don’t have to be posting several times a day but whatever schedule you set, stick to it.  To stay fresh for your audience and keep them engaging with your content, they need to see you on a regular basis.

Build a Community

Strive to build a community with your social networks.  The goal is to sell books but you can’t do that without an exchange.  Get people to engage and make it a two-way conversation.  Encourage your followers to participate and share their own experiences as they relate to your titles or the genres of your book(s).

How do you use social to promote your titles?  Do you have any ideas for our readers?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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5 Awesome Apps for Self-Publishers

The internet and technology have helped regular people side-step the traditional publishing process and become world renowned authors.  Of course this is a very small fraction but the barriers are coming down.  If you’re thinking of trying your hand at promoting your own work or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran, these 5 apps can help you along the way.

Lucid Press

This is a desktop publishing application  that resembles the features of Adobe InDesign (but not the price).  The app is heavily marketed as being great for producing documents to be displayed on mobile devices and other screens.  While it is effective for those tasks, that is not all that it is.

Users can also make stunning layouts that can be translated to print.  Just like in a lot of Adobe products there are layers, templates, text controls and other tools.  The sky (and threshold of your creativity) are the only limits.

Pages

Pages , which can be found in the Apple App store, is a word processing application for Mac platforms.  The app allows publishers to arrange the layout of their text, images and other components of their book very easily.

The real value of Pages however is the ability for authors to seamlessly create documents that are constructed for the ePub format.  Pages combines the ease of use of a word processing program (with features like track changes, comments, and footnotes) with the ability to arrange manuscripts in HTML and CSS format for conversion to ePub.  At the time of this writing the app costs about 19 dollars.

Write or Die

Sometimes half the battle with getting a book self-published is the struggle to finish it.  It has been said that procrastination is the thief of time.  Write or Die helps keep you on track if you’re having trouble finding the words, moving to the next step or if you’re just too busy to focus on finishing your book.

The app has three modes (gentle, normal, and kamikaze).  As you might imagine, each setting has its own methods for keeping you motivated.  At one end of the spectrum you will just get some “gentle” reminders about finishing your work.  At the other end the app will actually un-write your writing if you don’t get a move on.

Hootsuite

Many self-publishers have two things in common.  They market their titles themselves and they typically need it done in the cheapest way possible.  That leaves authors doing their own promotions online (one of the most effective ways to get a lot of exposure for cheap or nothing).

Hootsuite is simply a social media management tool.  One of the key benefits is that you can enter a post and then distribute it to all of your social media networks at once instead of manually going into each network to configure a new post.  Any time-saver for promoting your book online can be great to have in your tool box.  The basic program is also free.

Notes Plus for iPad

Writers often have thoughts come to them at strange moments.  It helps to have something close by where you can scribble out what you’re thinking.  Notes Plus is good for that.  The cool part is that publishers can then turn the scribbles they want to keep into text for their manuscript.

The app works best of you have a stylus for iPad as opposed to using your finger.  Even the best writers can’t make very good notes with their index finger.

Technology has made self-publishing much easier for the average Joe.  There are also tons of free or inexpensive applications to make the process of writing and marketing your work easier.

What applications have you found that make self-publishing a snap?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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