A Reincarnation

For a number of years, I ran a couple of successful email courses through The Scriptorium; one was called “The Two-Week Short Story” and the second was “Short Story Workshop for One.” People seemed to enjoy them and I received a lot of very positive feedback from students. The first was (rather obviously) a guide to coming up with a story idea and writing a quick, complete first draft, all in a two-week period. The Workshop was a method for writers who found it difficult to get feedback or critiques to work on developing the kind of critical eye needed to help them improve their stories on their own. The Short Story Workshop itself grew out of an article I had published in Speculations back in 2001, so it had already lived through one reincarnation. It occurred to me that they’d both probably translate well into short ebooks now, and that I might reach a new group of aspiring writers in that format.

Never one to let a good idea fail to distract me from what I’m really *supposed* to be doing, I set to work and did some revising, tweaking, and re-formatting. Also, cover design, since every good ebook deserves a good e-cover. I’m not quite ready to release the ebooks yet, since they need one more good going-over, but I’m thinking within a week or so they’ll be ready to go. But I can share those covers with you now (they might get a little more tweaking, but I think they’re pretty much done):

I expect to price the ebooks around $1.99, which will be a bargain considering the courses used to sell for $8.00 each! However, I did have the hassle of setting up the email schedule, so compared to that, selling ebooks is easy. I believe I’ll test these in Kindle Select at first, and then move to a broader platform after that, as my marketing experimentation continues.

If you or someone you know is looking for some story inspiration and motivation, or have a story that needs some intensive self-workshopping, I’ll be posting here when they’re released. Maybe you’ll find them useful!

Writing the Blurb

DSCN5084When I wrote my series of blog posts about mistakes made by self-publishing authors, one key stumbling-block I mentioned was the blurb. I picked out three major problems with blurbs in that post…in this one, I’m going to try to help you learn how to write a great one.

Earlier I said, “The blurb is your chance to sell me on reading your book.” That’s true–but how do you do that? There’s a lot going on in your book, I know, so how do we boil all that excitement down to a couple of brief paragraphs?

I’m going to propose a template here for a three-point blurb, and show you a couple of ways I’ve used it myself. I’m not saying these are the best blurbs ever written, but I think they’re solid and I’ve had readers tell me in both cases that they decided to read the book based on the blurb alone.

1. Start with your character(s). Who are they at the start of the story? Give them names, professions, status–whatever it is that makes them who they are and is important to the story. Do they have a goal, a dream, or a problem at the outset? Is there something about their world or situation that’s important? Can you also give a clue about the type of book this is?

Captain Luta Paixon of the far trader Tane Ikai needs to know why she looks like a woman in her thirties–even though she’s actually eighty-four. (character, profession, problem, genre)

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. (character, profession, setting, problem, genre)

2. As I like to tell students when I do presentations about writing, stories are fueled by TROUBLE. So add a sentence or two telling us what the character’s biggest challenge or challenges are going to be in this story. What’s the one (or even two) most vital problems that must be faced and solved or the story will fail? Why is there no easy solution? Does something happen that compounds existing trouble or creates a new problem?

The explanation might lie with her geneticist mother, who disappeared over sixty years ago, but even if her mother is still alive, it’s proving to be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. (possible solution, not easy)

But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes. (new challenge, upsets “normal” life)

3. The third point can do a few things: it can pile on further problems or complications; it can expand on why solutions are not easy to find or add further threats; it can pose a question that the story promises to answer, and the reader is now interested to see answered. You can also take the opportunity in this or any other point to give further clues about the tone, mood, and genre of the story.

With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the furthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart. (complications, further threats, more genre clues)*

With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own. (complications, further threats, tone)**

Very often, even if the question isn’t explicitly stated in the latter section of the blurb, it’s there inherently. (Will the character succeed?) But you may want to pose a more universal or thematic question as well. While some folks don’t like questions at the end of blurbs, I’m not convinced that they’re a bad thing if they serve to get the reader wondering and invested in the story.

A few things to remember:
For each of the three points, limit yourself to one or two sentences only. This helps you really focus in on the vital points of your story.

Be honest! Write the blurb for the book you’ve written, not something else. If the book doesn’t deliver what the blurb has promised, you’re going to have a disappointed or even angry reader, and no-one wants that.

Don’t be satisfied with your first attempt. Rewrite, and rewrite again, trying out different elements or structures. Edit your blurb as carefully as you’ve edited your book. The blurb, as well as telling a potential reader what your story is about, also reveals how proficient you are as a writer. Make it sharp, clean, vivid and intriguing, and you’ll have readers wanting to know more.

*The full blurb for One’s Aspect to the Sun is here.

**The full blurb for The Murder Prophet is here.

Photo credit: pippalou

Interview with D. Emery Bunn

Today on the blog I’m starting what I hope will be an interesting series of interviews with other authors. First up is D. Emery Bunn. Emery is an author, editor, and engineer, though his pile of interests keeps on getting larger. He got his start in writing thanks to National Novel Writing Month, and is an avid supporter of free culture, the power of writing, and the creative arts. Darkness Concealed is his first novel, but he will be working on the sequel and a cyberpunk short story collection. He lives at his home in Clovis, New Mexico.

Darkness_Concealed_cover-(1500x940)Sherry: Hi Emery! Your dark fantasy novel, Darkness Concealed, releases soon. Can you tell us, first, a little about the book and what it’s about?

D. Emery Bunn: Darkness Concealed is a dark fantasy/mystery, with elements of horror, both psychological and physical, sprinkled throughout. It’s a story that feels dark, yet remains a hopeful vibe. And I could quote the synopsis, but what’s the fun in that?

The world suffers an apocalypse that it calls the Darkening. Well-named considering that the dawn doesn’t come, and the moon and stars bail out, too. In their place is a numberless horde of monsters, each of them more than happy to murder everyone they find, and tear civilization to shreds. Few survive the Darkening, but every other day for 149 years is peaceful and safe.

Nobody knows why the Darkening happens, and people have long since given up trying to find out when four strangers end up bound to each other by chance events. The strangers aim for the impossible: answering that “why”, no matter what it takes. And what it takes is more than they thought they’d ever be willing to give.

Sherry: It certainly sounds intriguing! Now, most writers–as readers–have a lot a influences over time. Who were three of your favorite authors when you were younger? What about now?

Emery: I started on “older” books at a fairly young age. I read Lord of the Rings, Dune, and the Foundation Trilogy at age 13. And in a lot of ways, J. R. R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and Isaac Asimov are some of the greatest influences. Tolkien for his world-building, Herbert for his philosophical depth, and Asimov for his ability to make everything relate to everything else.

More recently, I’ve also been entranced by the door-stopping work of Neal Stephenson. I’ve read three of his works, including the titanic Baroque Cycle, and still I want to read more. I love how he can go off on a seemingly random tangent, and still take you with him, coming back to the plot at another time that works for him and me. I don’t have anywhere near the confidence to do such a strategy, but it is intriguing.

Sherry: Although writing is usually a solitary craft, most of us have a “support system” of family, friends, and writing groups or colleagues. Who are your biggest supporters?

Emery: I have supporters everywhere. As crazy as it sounds, the people at my work are mind-blown that I’m writing and releasing a book. Every single one says they want to read it.

I’ve also got a large (and growing) support network on Twitter. The vast majority of my publicity push for Darkness Concealed was drawn by asking the people I knew best on Twitter if they’d be willing to help me out. I love interacting with everyone, and offering my own support in one form or another in return.

Finally, my family is supportive, though from a distance. I live on the other side of the country from them, so I don’t draw on them to help me keep writing as much as I would otherwise.

Sherry: That’s wonderful! So let’s talk about the publishing side of things for a moment. Writers have a lot of options today–what made you decide to go the “indie” route? What did you do to prepare yourself to jump into the process of indie publishing?

Emery: I have a very unique view on copyright: I loathe it. I decided early on that anything I ever release will be available, full text, as a free PDF the same day on my site. And that decision limits me to exactly one option: go indie and release it myself.

But beyond that, I love what independent represents, and what it enables. You can market yourself, your books, and your style of writing in any way you want. You can aim for whatever goals make sense to you. Myself, I’m not really worried about making enough to replace my day job (which I do like a good deal), but a little bit of extra money a month would be awesome.

And in no way does my goal limit any one else’s. Going indie can mean anything that you want it to, and I love that.

Sherry: And you’re in this for the long haul. I understand Darkness Concealed is the first book in a series…do you have a schedule in mind for the subsequent books to come out?

Emery: I can’t speak for the third book, but the sequel I’m tentatively planning to have out around July 2015. The first draft will be my NaNoWriMo 2014 project in November, the second draft will be January/February, third draft April/May, final editing late June.

IMG_20131213_205925375Sherry: We’ll be NaNoWriMo pals, then. ;) What else are you working on? Any other current projects?

Emery: During October I want to finish the second draft (and maybe third, we’ll see) of a novella called Nikolay. It’s set in my cyberpunk dystopia/utopia setting Normalization. Everyone is required to be mentally and physically “normal”, and the technology exists to make it happen in both directions (dampening, or enhancing). In return, life is very, very easy-going.

Some people don’t like that, and deliberately break the law by disabling their cybernetic dampening and installing enhancements instead. They live a shadow life, but they get to reach whatever potential they can manage without getting caught and shipped to the asteroid belt. Nikolay is one such person.

Sherry: Sounds like you’re a project-juggler like me. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What’s your best piece of writing advice for new writers?

Emery: Write a story you want to read. I did that, and no matter what feedback Darkness Concealed receives I will be happy with it. I’m mentally immune to the inevitable 1-star reviews.

For new writers, this is a long, hard road that there is no shortcut on. It might feel like a slog at points, but trust me when I say that the journey is just as fun as the result.

Sherry: Thanks, Emery! D. Emery Bunn’s novel Darkness Concealed releases on September 23rd, 2014. You can find out much more about the novel, Emery, and publication updates at his website, http://www.demerybunn.com. You can also catch up with him on Twitter @demerybunn.

Have a new project you’d like to talk about here? Let me know through the contact page!

The Murder Prophet Release

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt’s out!

The Murder Prophet released yesterday, and is available for instant download from Amazon.

It already has a five-star review from one of the winners of the Rafflecopter giveaway I ran a while back, which was pretty exciting to see!

There’s also still a giveaway running over on Goodreads if you’d rather try your luck there before plunking down your $3 for the ebook. ;)

Excerpt – The Murder Prophet

MP-cover-FINAL-webIf you missed out on last week’s ARC giveaway or didn’t win, I have a consolation prize for you today. The first chapter of The Murder Prophet is live at my website so you can get a taste of the book.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a quirky story, a mashup of urban fantasy (not the sort with vampires, werewolves, or faerie folk) and mystery, flavoured with romance and humour. If you enjoy things like Janet Evanovich’s Lizzy & Diesel books, or Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond books, or Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series, I think (without comparing myself to these authors!) there’s a good chance you’ll like The Murder Prophet.

Anyway, Chapter One is here, so check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 5

typewriterOne more hard truth, fellow self-publishers, and then I’ll stop haranguing you.

Obstacle #5 – You, the Author

This might sound harsh, but all the other obstacles we talked about really stem from one source—the author. Here’s what a lot of authors miss:

Self-publishing does not mean that you can, must, or should do it all yourself.

I think that’s what trips us up. You may be passionate about doing things your way, sticking it to the “gatekeepers,” or just sharing your story with the world. But don’t lose sight of the fact that publishers do not do everything themselves, either. They use editors. They use cover artists. They use book designers. They use marketers. They use people who are trained in these skills, and like it or not, your book is competing with those books for readers’ money and attention.

Yes, it’s possible to do all those things yourself, and do them all well. Maybe you can. But don’t expect to. Don’t assume you can. Instead, assume you have to educate yourself. You have to learn how to do these things, all of these things, well. And you have to accept that sometimes your best effort will not be enough, and you’re going to need help.

Let’s face it, as writers, we all have to have a touch of ego. We want to tell our stories. We want others to listen. We admit, by the mere fact of writing, that we believe we have something to say. But that ego can be our downfall. It tells us we can make a good book cover—or one that’s “good enough”–with no training or experience at all. It tells us that our writing is pretty darn good without any expensive and time-consuming editing. It tells us that if only we shout and shout and shout about our book enough, make our work “discoverable” enough, people will listen and feel compelled to read it, because it’s just that good.

That ego lies. Don’t trust it. View everything it says with suspicion. Assume you can’t do all those things yourself, and educate yourself if you’re determined to try. There’s a much better chance then that I’ll buy your book, and not put it down after the first five pages. And that other readers will follow suit.

The best news in all of this is that it’s not too late. Even if you’ve made one or more of these blunders, thrown these obstacles up in front of your potential readers, you can fix it. You can upload a new cover for an ebook. You can rewrite and change your blurb. You can upload an edited version of your story. You can start promoting more (or less!) or more effectively. You can decide to educate yourself or get help in the areas where your skills are lacking. If you’re in this for the long game, it’s never too late to improve.

Good luck!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 4

1164137_stacked_mailAre you mad at me yet? Do you think I’m being too harsh on self-publishers? I hope not. My goal is to help you make better, and better-selling, books. Keep reading for the next obstacle you have to overcome.

Obstacle #4 – No Editing

This is a big one. Huge. Overwhelmingly huge. Your future as a writer rests on this. Again, this is one of those admonitions that I’ve read over…and over….and over. And still a lot of writers aren’t listening.

I’m sad to say I stopped reading the last three self-published books I took a chance on. In one, the first three pages were entirely missing paragraph breaks. Yup, three pages consisting of one big paragraph. The content was pretty much just the main character explaining stuff that, at that point, had no relevance or meaning to me as the reader. Now, you may think I’m too picky, but for me, that was enough to kill the book for me. The lack of paragraph breaks, such a fundamental technical element of writing, told me that no editor had passed this way. The content was not vital, exciting, or interesting enough to convince me that I should persevere. I can and will overlook mediocre writing if the story is good enough, but if you lose my trust in the first few pages, it’s pretty hard to gain it back.

In another of those books, the first chapter was interesting, but it was liberally sprinkled with misused words and awkward, confusing sentences. It became too much work to keep going, so I stopped. Again, editing could have made the difference.

In the third book, I got a little further. The writing wasn’t bad, the story was interesting. But then things started to go downhill. Events stopped making sense. Characters acted without apparent or understandable motivations. The story went off the rails and again, I lost faith in the author. This book was in need of plot or substantive editing. As writers, we’re not always fully aware of points when the book on the page is not as clear as the book in our head. We need that second pair of eyes to find those things and point them out to us, so we can fix them.

You might say, “Well, so what? You bought the book, so the author got his/her money!” Indeed. But they won’t be getting any more from me, because they lost my trust. And they will also not be getting the good review that could have sparked further sales.

Editorial services are expensive, I get that. Not everyone can afford them. But they’re not your only option. You can swap manuscripts with writing group pals and edit each other. You can get some books on self-editing (I like this one) and teach yourself how to improve. If you can get honest feedback from friends and acquaintances who are avid readers, they might at least be able to tell you that your manuscript has a lot of spelling errors, or doesn’t hold their interest, or doesn’t seem “ready.” This kind of advice may be vague, but at least it tells you that there’s more work to be done. None of these tactics is going to produce the polished manuscript that a professional editor will, but at least you’re making an effort, and it will show in the finished book.

I know. You’re excited about this thing you wrote. You love it. You want to share it with the world. But here’s the hard truth: the world doesn’t want it straight from your keyboard. Look at this graphic from @TheUnNovelist. This is the truth of writing, and your writing won’t do well until you accept it.

There’s one more obstacle I’m going to talk about—the most important one of all. Come back for it tomorrow!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 3

promotion-clipart-canstock17025706Here’s the third in this five-part series of posts about the obstacles I see fellow self-publishers still throwing up in front of their potential readers. Today, it’s all about promotion.

Obstacle #3 – No Promotion/Over Promotion/Bad Promotion

This is for books I might find out about online, for example on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Well, obviously, if you’re not doing this sort of promotion, I’m not likely to hear about your book at all. There’s a slight chance that if it’s in a particular genre niche that I enjoy, I might discover it if I’m browsing that section. But the odds on that are slim, at best. Do you really want to leave it to chance?

1. No Promotion. I heard an author complain the other day that sales of a recent title had dropped off completely. So on a whim, I went looking for the book. I had to search around on the author’s site a bit to even discover the title. I found it on Amazon—but it had no reviews. I found it on Goodreads—again, no ratings or reviews, and the author has not set him/herself up as a Goodreads Author. I looked back over the last week of the author’s Twitter feed—no mention of the book. Granted, I don’t know what other promotional avenues this author has tried. But apparently he or she has not made an effort to get some reviews—not even from friends or colleagues—and is not actively promoting it on Twitter or the website. These are pretty basic promotional efforts, folks. No wonder it’s not selling. Remember, readers have to find out about your book before they can read it.

2. Over-Promotion. The other side of the problem, of course, is those authors who over-promote. To use another Twitter example, when I’m deciding whether or not to follow a writer, I look at their recent Twitter feed. If I see five or more promotional tweets in a row for the same book, I generally don’t follow. I know that I’ll only be annoyed when the same same same tweet keeps showing up in my feed, and there’s no chance I’ll go check out that book. Which is too bad, because sparingly-used tweets can serve as a gentle reminder about books that look interesting to me. There’s a good chance I will at least go to the book’s page at Amazon or elsewhere and see what the cover and blurb look like. But flood me with promos and you turn me off.

3. Bad Promotion. This is what I call shoot-yourself-in-the-foot promotion. This is another thing that makes me sad. The writer who posts an unedited (or poorly-edited) chapter of a novel on Wattpad or a blog to “generate interest.” The writer who shares a sentence, rife with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, on Twitter. These efforts to create interest in the work actually have the opposite effect. They say “Stay away, bad writing ahead.” I’m not saying you have to post only letter-perfect material in every Tweet or Facebook update. But be sure that what you’re sharing is as good as you obviously think it is, or you’re only harming your reputation as a writer.

I know, I know. There are famous authors who share their first drafts, chapter-by-chapter sometimes. But keep in mind that by the time they get to the point of being well-known, these authors are writing pretty good first drafts. They have experience being edited. They likely have considerable editing experience themselves. Writing is a craft where, if you are constantly trying to improve, you do improve with practice. They can do it. Maybe you shouldn’t.

Admittedly, promotion is a delicate balance. The keys, especially in social media, seem to be diversity (using many different vectors), and a consistent message that doesn’t become overwhelming.

Also, be sure you’ve overcome obstacles #1 and #2 before you move on to promotion. When I see a paid ad for a book with a terrible cover, I feel sad again. You’ve actually paid to alienate me from your book.

Two more obstacles left! Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 4!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 2

blurb-shape-mdThis week I’m talking (okay, maybe ranting just a wee bit, but it’s for your own good, fellow self-publishers!) about the fundamental things many self-publishers are still doing wrong, resulting in alienated potential readers and harm to the author’s reputation. Part 1, on book covers, is here.

Obstacle #2 – The Blurb

When I speak of the Blurb, I mean the description of your book that you’ll upload to online sellers. This is generally the next thing your potential buyer/reader will see, after your cover. It’s usually a paragraph or two long and basically explains what your book is about. Sounds pretty simple, right?

And yet I’m amazed at the number of books I come across that are not just missing out on the opportunity to hook readers with their blurb, but actively turning readers away with it. Let’s look at the most common problems:

1. Bad writing. The blurb contains spelling errors, poor grammar, typos and other mistakes. It doesn’t matter how polished and perfect the writing in your book might be, I am never going to get that far if the blurb is badly written. This is your “advertisement” for your book. This is where you tell me what I’m going to get if I invest time and money to read your book. And I’m not going to invest either if the blurb is a mess. I will–I have to–assume the book is, too.

2. Incoherence. Even if there are no overt mistakes in the blurb, it can still turn readers away. If what you have to say in the blurb is confusing, convoluted, or a mismatch with the cover, your potential reader is likely to pass on it. You must craft your blurb as carefully and precisely as you’ve written your book—if not more so. Again, get others to read, proof, and give you feedback on your blurb. It should intrigue and introduce your readers to your book, not alienate them, and it should complement the cover of your book in genre, theme, and style.

3. Invisibility. The author hasn’t even tried to write a blurb for the book, or if they have, they’ve simply provided a vague, generic description. “Detective X must solve the murder of Y before time runs out!” Well, that’s just about every mystery novel I’ve ever read, how about you?

The blurb is your chance to sell me on reading your book. Your chance to make me want to read it. Try to infuse your blurb with the excitement that made you want to write the book. What makes it special? What will keep me turning the pages? Be specific and try to make me care about the problem the character(s) face. If you can do that in your blurb and your cover is good, I’ll likely take a chance on your book.

However, the obstacles are not all behind us yet. Watch for Part 3 tomorrow!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 1

Hoe's six-cylinder pressBefore we get to this list, let me tell you where I’m coming from on this. I try hard to support and read independent/self-published authors. I have a self-pubbed book coming out soon myself. I’m not a literary snob or a believer in any “one true way” of publishing. Roughly 1 in every 3 to 4 books I pick up will be indie/self published. I’m happy to read them. I want to read them. I’ve discovered some wonderful books and authors this way.

But lately, I’ve been almost immediately putting down quite a few of those that I pick up—some after less than a chapter or only a few pages of reading. And many don’t even make it to the point where I will pick them up.

There are a LOT of books I want to read. I manage 50-60 per year and my shelves and e-readers are still overflowing. So despite my desire to support, I’m not going to waste my precious reading time, either. Your book has to pass several all-important obstacles for me to read it. We’re not even talking about whether I end up liking it yet, so you get that ever-more-important good rating/review. We’re talking about just getting me to read it, all the way through to the end.

Obstacle #1 – The Cover

We should all realize by now the importance of the cover in selling your book. The average cover in a bookstore gets about 8 seconds to interest a potential book-buyer—I’d hazard a guess that online, that window of opportunity is even smaller. I can’t even count the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that stress the importance of your book’s cover.

And a lot of self-published authors are still getting it wrong.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t create your own cover. Some writers have experience in website or graphic design, art, digital art, etc. You may be perfectly competent to create a good cover. If you have zero experience in any relevant area, you still might be able to do it, but realize that you must tread carefully and do your research. Either way, whether you take a crack at it yourself or hire someone, be smart about it. Here are a few things to think about:

1. If you are inexperienced and can possibly manage it, hire someone to create your cover. There are many options, from pre-made designs to custom artwork, at a range of prices. If you go this route, look over the creator’s portfolio and make sure they create the kind of covers that would make YOU pick up one of these books. I’ve seen some folks offering cover design lately that I shudder to think someone would pay for. Don’t go for cheap over quality, or assume that all designers are equally adept. You wouldn’t dress your new baby up in dirty rags to get her picture taken. Don’t cheat your book of a decent cover.

2. If you feel moderately qualified, take a crack at creating your own cover. If you go this route, do your research first. There are loads of resources online to help you. Like here, here, and here, just to start. And don’t neglect the fonts! A decent cover design can be ruined by the wrong font or not enough attention paid to fonts and title design. At the very least, check here and here before you proceed.

3. If you are self-creating, please, please, PLEASE get a second opinion on your cover when you’re finished. And a third. And a fourth, fifth, and sixth. And not just from people (family and friends) who are going to say nice things even if your cover looks like an incensed monkey threw poo all over it. Ask other writers and readers in your circles, online or in person. If you know an artist or graphic designer, run it by them. Ask for honest opinions and advice.

If you have none of these resources, put your cover on your computer screen and load up some websites or blogs that specifically showcase BAD covers. Compare yours to theirs and ask yourself honestly if you have committed the same types of sins. You MUST be hard on yourself. This is the very first obstacle you have to get potential readers/buyers past.

You may get mixed opinions on your cover—perhaps some people like it and some people don’t. For those who don’t, find out whether their dislike is based on personal taste (they don’t like the colours, or the mood, or it doesn’t look like a book they’d pick up) or unprofessional quality (the fonts are unreadable, images look pasted-in or don’t match, colours clash).

You need a cover that looks professional, and if you can’t create it yourself and won’t pay for it, it’s pretty much game over. Readers are not even going to give you a chance. This is a sad but true fact in the world of self-publishing, and you ignore it at your own risk.

Watch for Part 2 of this series tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the next obstacle!