Tag Archives: cover

Need a quick, FREE cover design? Try Canva templates

Hi everyone,

You may or may not remember my endless trials and tribulations over design of Shizzle, Inc and Indiot covers, which have started with concepts by professional designer, went through a number of versions and online feedback. In the end, I have designed them myself, using Photoshop and images from Shutterstock. It was a costly exercise, to say the least, so it doesn’t surprise me when authors opt for a pre-designed cover, which a number of designers sell for just $50-100. At least you can see exactly what you are getting.

But what if you don’t have even $50 to risk? Until now, your options were limited. Either try to enter a contest and win a free cover design, or opt for embarassing yourself with one of those home-made covers that become the laughing stock of the Internet. If you are lucky, beg a friend for a favor.

Turns out there’s another option! Apparently, Canva has a whole range of pre-made, FREE cover templates. I have not personally used them, but Canva is a simple, drag-and-drop, design software that’s completely online and free to use, so it’s not much of a risk to try. You can choose from literally thousands of book cover templates, add your own text and be on your way in less time than it would take to read Adobe’s terms and conditions (and believe me, you have to read them, unless you don’t care that they will keep charging your credit card with the monthly subscription fee, and charge 50% of remaining fees if you decide to cancel.)

Have fun and let us all know if you’ve given it a go.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

My experience with a NetGalley co-op by Patchwork Press

If you’ve seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Websites, then you may have noticed my moaning about the $399 NetGalley signup fee. That’s just so you can give your book away for free to book bloggers and other professionals, in hopes that they will post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Needless to say, I was in no mood to take that big of a financial hit, until I came across another author mentioning Patchwork Press and the NetGalley co-op service they provide. Basically, instead of paying $399 to list one of your books for six months, you get to try the service for much, much less – in fact, a year-long listing through the co-op would cost only $360. You can try NetGalley for one month for just $50. It sounded too good to be true, but I can spare a fifty, so I was willing to try it.

I listed Shizzle, Inc for one month from late July to August. To simplify things, I’ve decided to break my review into two parts: my experience with Patchwork Press and my opinion of NetGalley.

Patchwork Press:

  1. First of all, the co-op is not a hoax! Yay! Shizzle, Inc was listed on Netgalley as promised (the listing is now archived). The reason you pay less is that (I assume), Patchwork Press (PP) pays a publisher fee and gets to list a large number of titles, at a fraction of a cost for each.
  2. PP has a responsive customer service – all my emails were answered promptly. There was a glitch when Shizzle, Inc was not posted on the day I wanted, but I got a prompt apology and the listing was extended as a bonus.
  3. Great customer service continued throughout, not just until I paid the bill – something was wrong with my epub file, but PP offered to sort it for me. I was given an option to provide a Word file, which they converted.
  4. PP did all the assessments of requests and chose who should or shouldn’t get a copy of my book. You may prefer to have control over this aspect of the service, but I was happy to let them use their experience and judgement.
  5. Every time a review was posted, I got an email from NetGalley asking if I wanted to have it added to the book’s page. I had to forward this email to PP if I wanted the review to be added, and they did so very quickly (in less than a day).
  6. There’s no option to use NetGalley’s marketing services, but I’m about to ask PP if that option exists but is not advertised by them.


  1. I don’t know how many requests Shizzle, Inc had, but I got 5 reviews in the span of a month – 4 positive and 1 negative.
  2. Turns out that people have the option to vote on the cover. This was an added bonus, as I’ve designed the cover myself and continuously worry if it’s good enough. The cover got 9 “thumbs up” and 1 “thumbs down.”
  3. I can’t weigh in on the marketing option (which is an additional $200 for your book to be included in a newsletter). NetGalley claims to have 30,000 subscribers to the newsletter, so I would imagine it would be a huge difference in the number of reviews.
  4. You may choose not to add the negative reviews to your book listing (as I did). However, you can’t control what gets posted on other platforms, so I got one negative review as a result. Bummer. But I did get four positive reviews, including one after the listing was archived. That’s an average of $10 per review, via an acceptable and perfectly legal platform.

Overall, I would recommend trying a co-op service. Apparently, there are others out there, such as Victory Editing for as little as $40/month. If you know of any others, please let me know!

May the positive reviews be with you.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

ARCs and the new cover of Indiot

Another milestone ticked – I’ve sent ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) of Indiot to everyone on my “Permanent ARC List.” I was using MailChimp for the first time, so if you believe you should be on the list, but did not get an email from me, please let me know (email me on the address mentioned on the About Ana page). I will send a copy to you directly.

What is the Permanent ARC List? It’s the list of all people who have read and posted a review of Shizzle, Inc on Amazon. As a “thank you,” I will send ARCs of all Isa Maxwell Escapades to those awesome people – so if you’ve posted a review of Shizzle, Inc and would like to be on the list, please let me know.

Another milestone is that the cover and blurb on Amazon have been updated:

I wavered for so long with the cover design, it was a relief to just make the decision and move on. I may decide in the future to revamp the covers again, but I’m happy for now, so I can concentrate on writing and marketing.

And speaking of marketing, #ComedyBookWeek is blowing up – already 48 authors and over 60 books participating! If you have not yet seen it, visit www.comedybookweek.com. There’s still time to add your book or review of one of the participating books. I’m doing one myself, a review of There’s Been a Change of Plans by Amy Koko, and I can’t be happier about discovering a new favorite author.

Thank you all, and as always – please let me know what you think.





Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

My Never Ending Journey to Find Success with What I Love – guest post by Bryan Caron

My blog is supposedly about self-publishing, although that’s just the current flavor of my personal journey in pursuit of happiness. It has also become a platform through which I’ve “met” other writers and creatives actively pursuing their various original dreams and ideas. It has been a pleasant surprise to discover just how supportive these people are of me and each other, even though we’ve never met, and some I only know by their pet avatars.

So I was more than happy to host this guest post by Bryan Caron, who has generously volunteered his time to beta-read Indiot and provide thorough, constructive feedback. I was even happier when I saw the title of his guest post. It’s a look into the world of someone willing to take a risk to pursue a creative dream.

Before I get to the post, let me tell you a little more about Bryan.Bryan Caron_small

He is a published author of several books, with the latest one, The Spirit Of…, coming out today:

Spirit Of - Front Cover

Bryan is also a graphic designer – which, I’m sure, comes in handy. Below are some of the samples of his graphic work, more of which you can find on his website Phoenix Moirai.

Asylum Teaser Poster2    Cazo Dance Flyer - Front Release Postcard Buy

And now, without further adieu, please put your hands together for Bryan’s post!

My Never Ending Journey to Find Success with What I Love

For anyone who was a product of the 80s, you may remember having seen (and adored) The NeverEnding Story. For those who aren’t familiar with the movie, or for those who don’t remember, there’s a scene in the film where Atreyu (the warrior chosen to fight the Nothing threatening the land of Fantasia) and his horse, Artex, are caught in the Swamps of Sadness, where “everyone knew that whoever let the sadness overtake him would sink into the swamp.” Unfortunately, Artex almost immediately succumbs to the sadness. At this point, Atreyu might have given up. Artex was his only companion. Without him, Atreyu is alone, afraid and all but hopeless. But he doesn’t let his grief get the best of him. He soldiers on, and though his travel through the swamp continues to be rough and arduous (almost leading to his demise), his struggles are eventually rewarded.

I bring this up because the scene is a great metaphor for pursuing and finding success in doing what you love. The road can be very hard, at times lonely, and can sometimes leave you feeling hopeless. This is especially true if you’re an artist of any kind — whether it be as a painter, a musician or, like me, a writer. The number of rejections; the long hours of spilling your soul onto a canvas, never knowing whether anyone will ever appreciate it; days that go by without any sales; the worries that come with your everyday obligations and responsibilities to yourself and others; the sacrifices you have to make to scrounge up enough money to pay your mortgage — these can all be aspects of the Swamp of Sadness, seeking to envelop you to the point of giving up on your dreams and falling back on a heavily-traveled road most people find easier to traverse. But, when you have the strength to fight through it and believe in yourself, your talent and your passion, you will more than likely be rewarded in some way. Whether that’s monetarily or simply knowing that your words (or art or music) has affected someone so much that it helped them get through a tough period in their life, until it happens, we have to keep believing we have something to offer.

For me, pursuing a profession in writing and art is something I won’t ever stop doing. I’ve told this story before, but the first time I knew writing was what I wanted to pursue was when one of my English teachers assigned us to answer the question from “The Lady or the Tiger”. One page is all we needed, but the next day, I had seven college-ruled pages ready to hand in. From that day on, writing assignments that let me stretch my imagination were my absolute favorite assignments in school.

The road to achieving this feeling on a daily basis has been a long and winding one. I am obsessed with movies, and my college years started with a failed attempt at film school. But that experience led me to pursue an art degree, only to end up earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, and then return to school to gain my Associates in Computer Graphic Design (you know, to pay the bills), and use that to learn filmmaking and editing on the fly. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. We may never know the why, but our choices have meaning, whether it be to gain knowledge, learn a lesson, achieve a goal or grow stronger, everything that happens teaches us something and pushes us forward. Every step of my career has been frightening, exciting and at times overwhelming. But through it all, I’ve continued to grow, both artistically and professionally.

I don’t have to make millions of dollars with my art, but being able to write every day and make a decent living where I don’t have to stress everyday over paying my bills — that would be a dream come true. I haven’t found it yet, but I can’t see myself giving up just because it may seem easier to do. After all, the hardest things in life are often the most rewarding. When I decided to jump ship from the 9 to 5 cubicle to start my own business, I had very little money in my bank account and had almost no idea what I was doing. I still have very little money in my bank account, and am still finding my footing in regards to building the business, but the whole thing has been amazingly freeing, both personally and creatively. Now I get to design, write and film wherever I want and on my schedule (for the most part — there are still client expectations and obligations that I need to consider, but you get my point). It’s been two years since I started Phoenix Moirai and though I have to force myself to step out of my comfort zone almost every day, it’s been very rewarding thus far, and I am very much looking forward to what the future holds.

There have been a lot of technological advancements over the twenty years since graduating high school that have led to various opportunities I wouldn’t have had had I given up early on after receiving nothing but the word “No” from publishers and agents. Looking back, I probably wasn’t ready to achieve the success I was seeking at the time. And let’s face it… reading some of the work I wrote back then with the knowledge I have now, yeah, I can see why it was rejected. It wasn’t that it wasn’t any good; I just had a lot more to learn, and as I grew as a writer, experience gave me new insight. But between those first heartbreaking rejections and the excitement I still feel publishing a new novel of my own accord, I never stopped writing; I never stopped making films; I never stopped creating; I never stopped pursuing my dreams. Setbacks and failures are only failures when you let them hurt you instead of using them to move forward. Choosing to go into the graphic design field may have seemed like a step back for me, but doing so has opened so many doors in writing, film and design that I may not have found otherwise.

There’s a lot of noise out there nowadays. With Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Instagram and Pinterest and platforms that allow anyone to publish a book, it’s hard to to be heard; it’s hard to find an audience; it’s hard to break through and get noticed. Should that stop me? No way. It just means I need to remain patient, continue writing, continue meeting new people like Ana, and keep marketing and getting the word out the best I can. Until then, I will continue to work hard at my craft, continue to build my business, design, write, make films and keep my held up high so that when Falkor finally finds me, I’ll be ready.



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

The very latest cover series mockup

Thank you so much for all your comments! I have obsessed some more over the photos and composition, downloading mo less than forty fonts and a few dozen cityscapes and curvy women in beautiful dresses. I pushed and tugged the rip this way and that, and I am now excrutiatingly close to being done with it. As per usual, I’m not so sure about the fonts, although I think the title font is now the best I’ve managed to find in three days of going nuts with 1001(literally!)freefonts.com. The author/series name on the first one is exactly the same as title, only not in capitals. The third one has much planer author/series fonts.

As per usual, I’m not so sure about the fonts, although I think the title font is now the best I’ve managed to find in three days of going nuts with 1001(literally!)freefonts.com. The author/series name on the first one is exactly the same as title, only not in capitals. The third one has much planer author/series fonts.

What do you think? And thank you in advance 🙂

All three books together 29 May


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Please help me redesign the covers for Isa Maxwell series – including the third book!

First of all, sorry for the Rafflecopter giveaway starting later than I expected – forgot that it’s in the US. If you’d like to go into a draw to win a $20 Amazon gift card, please enter here.

Now, about the cover design – I’d like to thank everybody who’s helped me along the evolution of Shizzle, Inc Inc cover. I just had a look at the first mock-ups and some developmental milestones along the way, and I can’t believe how much the cover has changed. I did not have a clue at what I was doing, and thanks to you, I keep getting comments on Twitter that people have bought Shizzle, Inc based on just the cover alone.

I love that cover, and the one for Indiot, but the problem is, they don’t look like they belong in a series:

FINAL COVER September 5  FINAL Indiot Kindle cover revised necklace

That’s a problem because my marketing strategy is now relying on pushing the free first book in the series, in hopes that people get hooked and buy the second, and the third when I get to write it.

So this is what I’m thinking of doing instead, and by the way – meet the mock up for the third book in the series! I’ve decided to do a mock up of all three books at once, to see immediately how they will look next to each other. The new idea is to take the rip effect seamlessly across the entire series. In each book, Isa is on top, at the same scale, and at the bottom is the antagonist threatening to ruin her life.

What do you think about these versions? Version A has different title fonts and backgrounds, and version B has the same fonts and background across all three covers.


All three books together


All three books together same font

In addition, I would appreciate the input on:

  1. Author name font and size
  2. Series name font and size.
  3. Font for Shizzle, Inc – I will update the rip, and want to update the font, too.

Thank you in advance for your help! To return the favor, I plan to stage another free cover design giveaway shortly, so please stay tuned!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz have endorsed my book!

That, of course, is an outrageous lie. What’s true, is that I have come up with the craziest marketing idea to-date. See for yourself:

What do you think? So far these videos are responsible for exactly one confirmed sale – funny enough, from someone who was initially upset over my Twitter post of Donald Trump, but then got the joke, and the book!

I did it with a phone app called Face Swap Live. Youngsters at work were having a blast one day swapping faces, and once I saw it, I had to have it. I was on the couch that night, making myself look like Beyonce (that hair!), when it occurred to me that I could use it for business as well as for procrastination. Long story short, I made the videos above. I’ve played with lighting and makeup, so while it may look “slapped together”, each one took quite a bit of work. More will be coming, since you can literally import any photo you like. If you want to see what I come up with next, subscribe to my brand new YouTube channel.

Speaking of “any photo you like”, how about animating your book cover?

The possibilities are truly endless!

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

The differences (however slight) between CreateSpace and Lightning Source paperbacks

Have you worried yourself sick over which one of these companies to pick as your PoD? Well, the good news is that there’s no need to stress – if you are planning to publish a fiction novel without graphics (as in the case of my book), then, in my opinion, one is as good as the other.

I have now published with both, mainly to:

  1. Save on shipping costs. When I run Goodreads giveaways, I can now send a book to the winner directly from either publisher, depending on which option is cheaper. I also get to order cheaper, locally printed copies for my promotional mayhem in Australia.
  2. Lightning Source allows a “return” option, which means I stand a chance of having my book ordered by bookstores, even though I take a risk of them returning my books at my expense.

Publishing with both was extremely easy, although Lightning Source does charge a small fee upfront (was $50 AUD for me). There are very slight differences in appearance of the paperbacks, and I’ve tried to document them below.

Let’s start with the first impression. Can you spot any differences? The Australian Lightning Source (ALS) version is on the left, the American CreateSpace (ACS) one is on the right:


The ALS version (left) is slightly lighter/brighter – noticeable in the red and gold of the title. Ignore the spacing between my first and last name and the position of the small gold line near the spine – I did those tweaks. The slight difference in color can also be seen on the back cover:


In both cases the printing is crisp – any differences/fuzziness of the font is purely due to my poor photography skills. The interiors are also very similar, if not identical (again, ALS is on the left/top):


The paper feels identical, although maybe, just maybe, the ALS is slightly smoother and ACS is slightly softer. The only (annoying) difference was that ACS did not want to lie flat, whereas ALS opened easier. This may be due to the differences in binding.

Speaking of binding, this is where I finally noticed a difference. In the photo below ALS is at the back (so the top of the photo). The ACS is next to my thumb.


ACS is thicker! Not by a huge amount, but it is probably due to the thickness of paper, so please make your own conclusions. For me, this is good news for when I mail signed books – both can be mailed as a “letter” at 248 pages (6×9 inch format), but it may mean that if my next one is slightly thicker, I may still be able to pay cheaper postage for the thinner book. The thicker book, on other hand, may appeal to others as more substantive? Also, not sure if it will last longer – but does that really matter with fiction paperbacks?

One last small difference in binding is the groove along the seam. ALS is on the bottom/left:


The groove is much more pronounced on ACS and is further from the spine (which explains why it is harder to keep ACS open). Does this mean it’s a better/more secure binding? I don’t know, but so far it doesn’t seem like either one will be losing pages soon.

So there you go, more info for you to mull over. Or, perhaps, to ignore? I’d say take a plunge and publish with either one – you won’t be disappointed 🙂



Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

This is how to get your book into a bookstore’s front window

If you walk past St. Kilda Readings today, you may notice a familiar cover in its window:

Book in front shop window sideways

No, not The Martian! Right next to it, look!

Book in front shop window close up

Yep, there she is, looking a little freaked out to be in such distinguished company. How did she get there, you ask?

Turns out that all you have to do is ask.

This has gone a long way to power up my batteries – I’ve been feeling a little down lately and ended up reading a few ugly articles thrashing self-publishing, one going so far as to declare that self-published authors are “neither published, nor authors”. Well – up yours, dear critic. If it looks like a book, and it reads like a book, and, gosh darn it, people like it and are willing to display it on the top shelf next to a bestseller – well, that means I’m a published author. And the fact that I did it all myself makes it that much more special.

Aaaaahhh…Isn’t life grand?


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Design for the free cover contest winner revealed!

Whew! I was quite a bit nervous when I started working on the cover for the Free Cover Design Contest winner – Amir Ghazi of The World of Horror. I mean, I love Stephen King just as much as every other person on this planet, but I can’t come up with a horrific image! Not unless it involves a cockroach in a soup or something…

I’m relieved to report that after a couple of mock-ups and a lot of back-and-forth discussion, I came up with a design that made Amir happy. Here it is, in paperback wrap and Kindle format:

The Nightmare wrap - final.jpgThe Nightmare Kindle version - final.jpg

And the best thing is, after the initial jitters, I had a ton of fun working on it! It was practically an addiction for a couple of days, I’ve learned new tricks, and can’t wait to start working on a final version of the cover for Indiot. Originally I was going to run this contest again in maybe six months, but now I think I might do it sooner – so if you are interested in submitting your pitch for a free design, sign up for my Don’t Miss It list.

Let me know what you think!


Filed under Win a free book cover!