Tag Archives: design

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

Whatever you do, keep going

So, life has served me a curve ball, followed by an uppercut, and then a short left. I will explain later when I’m able to put it in words, but for now, I’d like to share a personal blast from a past with you:


This is a 12-year old relic of my attempt to become a professional sculptor – note the date in the upper-right corner. The numbers refer to the two miniature sculptures pictured, the one on the left is “-4” because I numbered #1 the first miniature I’d sold on eBay. The one on the right is #22 and once I finished it, it had won an honorable mention in an international doll competition:


The reason I wanted to show you the first photo, was to remind you (and myself) that the most important thing we, creatives, can do is to keep going. With each sculpture or draft, we are getting better and closer to that all-important goal of producing something beautiful, something of value, and something that can make us proud. When I made that “-4”, I thought I was pretty darn clever and good to make something that cute. My sister loved it. I now laugh at that memory. Nobody saw it, thank God, and I continued making more and more miniatures until I became a self-taught pro at making realistic faces that are no larger than your thumbnail. If you don’t believe it, have a look at my Purelines website, which somehow is still up. Yes, those dolls have real eyelashes, and yes, that’s my hand in the photos.

I went on to make more sculptures, with a burning desire to become a portrait sculptor. One of my favourites is of a famous actress I hope you can recognise:

Angelina in clay

I finally gave up when it became too obvious that people did not want to pay for sculptures, or rather to pay for the hundreds of hours it takes to make one. I hope to pick it up again one day when I have more time and less pressure to make a living. Until then, I will write books that don’t sell with the hope of one day becoming so damn good at this writing thing, my new release will become an instant success.

Even if it has to be a #22.



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

A few reasons why you may want to join KBoards

No, it’s not a kiteboarding forum. Maybe that’s why it took me until now to join – even though I’ve seen references to it throughout my 2.5 years of blogging. Or maybe because it looks so huge and intimidating on the first glance…see for yourself.

Whatever the reason, I decided to join last Monday, during my procrastination/self-torture phase, when I was trying to decide on an editor for Indiot. True to myself, I went overboard, reading just about every post, creating a profile complete with my books in the signature, and creating book pages for Shizzle, Inc and Indiot. It’s been a week, and so far I keep wondering why I have not done that sooner. You may be on KBoards already, but if not – here are a few reasons why you should join me:

  1. More visits to your blog – after a week and 45 comments so far (told you, I went overboard), stats show 72 referrals from KBoards alone during the same time.
  2. There have been new followers as a result.
  3. I feel incredibly motivated after coming across a post which asked full-time writers about the consistency of their income. Before, I was only aware of a few multi-millionaires that “made it” and a huge army of “shrimp” like me that are swimming around, picking up a few sales here and there. Turns out there’s also a “middle class” of writers that have substantial portfolios. Those writers, with 12-16 books to their name are making 100-500 THOUSAND a year. So what if it takes me five years to get there – the main point is that it seems possible with a goal, focus, and hard work.
  4. I have found a second editor, a young woman with incredible feedback by the members. I contacted her about editing Shizzle, Inc (yes, a fourth round, by a fourth editor!) and she offered me a crazy deal of $376 for the whole thing, because it’s already clean, and because I was willing to work with her schedule. This means a second edition of Shizzle, Inc will come out at the same time as Indiot goes live. It will be the same story, but with tighter and cleaner prose, and hopefully not a single Australianism.
  5. I have found a very cheap and seemingly good designer. Yes, I am going to try a third designer, hopefully in a collaborative fashion this time. I really like my designs and I have good feedback on them, but I don’t like my topography and even worse – I don’t know what to do about it. Plus, I have now accepted that my current cover for Indiot does not let people know it’s a sequel to Shizzle, Inc and that needs to change. I am now thinking of taking the paper rip concept across all the books in Isa Maxwell series, since in each installment her life is turned upside down by the antagonist – so on the cover, the rip will be between her and the antagonist. More on this in a couple of weeks.
  6. I’ve downloaded Scrivner! Then I cried, because at the first glance it (and the user guide) seems so complicated. But now I’m excited again! I feel like I’ve graduated into the class of professional writers, and the third book’s skeleton is already underway. I will definitely post my impressions after a few weeks, but so far I’m very hopeful – Scrivner will replace the first phase of the project, where I ruin walls with sticky notes.
  7. I’ve given other people advice, and they’ve thanked me, and what can I say – it’s like a fix for a junkie…
  8. I’ve learned a lot about book launches. Decided to lower the pre-order price for Indiot (Isabella Maxwell’s Escapades Book 2) to $0.99, because that’s what everyone on KBoards seems to be doing. It will stay that way throughout the first week of launch, going back to $2.99 (or $3.99, not sure yet) around 23 July. I got just one preorder during the last three weeks, so let’s see what happens with this low offer.
  9. It’s fun! New topics get posted every few minutes, and you just never know what new bit you will learn next.

That’s a lot in just one week, isn’t it? To tell you the truth, I’ve felt intimidated at times, because there are so many pros on there, but you get used to the signatures containing a string of covers after a while. Everyone is really nice, and a few people are even funny, which is a huge bonus in my book.

So go check it out – but do come back! This here blog ain’t no KBoards, but it is a place where you can watch a dark horse race for gold in real time.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

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!

Sequel to Shizzle, Inc – title and cover mock up reveal!

I was working on mock-ups for Amir, the winner of the free cover design contest, when it occurred to me that I should go ahead and create a cover for my sequel, even before it’s finished. That way I can do the same thing that Amir is planning on doing – pin the cover over my desk and use it as the motivation to finish the draft. Also, you guys were amazing in helping me develop the cover for the first book, so I feel comfortable revealing the rough draft and asking you for comments.

So here it is, the mock up for the second installment in Isa Maxwell’s escapades:

Indiot Mock up 1

This is very rough, with images I have not yet bought, so that’s why the resolution is bad and there are some remnants of Shutterstock watermark – that will improve once I buy and download full-size images. I would love for you to comment on:

  1. Title of the book. Isa continues to be…let’s say “naive” in India, hence the “Indiot”.
  2. The overall concept for the cover.
  3. Using “diamonds” for title.
  4. Making “N” in the title different. I will make it look like empty settings, from which diamonds have been stolen.
  5. Should I put “Isa Maxwell’s escapades” on the title? I kinda like the minimalistic look and that the covers are not too matchy, but everyone seems to love series covers that look like versions of the same and tell you exactly which book in the series it is…
  6. Anything else!

Thank you, as always 🙂


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

And the winner of the free cover design competition is…

…Amir Ghazi of World of Horror! Let’s hear it for Amir, whose pitch entitled The Nightmare gathered an amazing 527 votes!

vote results

Just to remind you again, this was Amir’s winning pitch:

The Nightmare by Amir.H.Ghazi

When fourteen-year-old Allen Foster is diagnosed with parasomnia, a sleep disorder evoking vivid nightmares, he begins journaling each haunting dream on the advice of his psychiatrist, keeping the notebook safely hidden in a floorboard — that is until a new family moves into the Maine house. When Rita, the daughter of the new owners, discovers the book and begins experiencing Allen’s old nightmares, she tracks him down in an effort to rid herself of the misery, only to find he has no memory of writing them.

You can read other pitches on Who will win the free cover design? or the original post.

Thank you again to all who have participated, either by submitting a pitch or by voting for your favourite. I will run another contest in August – if you’re interested, sign up for my Don’t Miss It list (see the banner on the right).

I now have the difficult task of reaching deep down, switching my brain from the usual jokey mode, to produce the creepiest and most striking cover this book so justly deserves.

Wish me luck!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Win a free book cover!

How to make a “floaty” banner in WordPress.com

Did you know that if you pay for the Premium account, you not only get rid of pesky third-party ads, you also get a list of benefits you are probably not using? Like CSS, or custom design?

I’m kind of excited and scared at the same time – I’m one of those people that knows how to drive cars and use computers, but not exactly sure how the cars or computers work. Still, I’m not gonna fall behind the times – I have to regularly force myself to try something new. Like buying a Surface Pro, even though it means a week of crying “Where did my file go?” and “I want my Grandpa PC back!”

This time it will be “Oh my God, what have I done to my website?”

By the way, have you noticed what I’ve done? It’s in the right top corner – see the invitation to buy my book? See how it won’t go away, no matter how fast you scroll? Cool, huh…do you want one for your website? I will walk you through it step-by step while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I started with WordPress support post on Custom design. I didn’t understand half of it, except that you can “try it now” without purchasing an upgrade, which is a good news for those with the free accounts.

I then read through some of the CSS Customization Forum, backed away from the computer, and cried quietly in the corner. That’s my process, okay? You should have seen how much I cried over essays in highschool…anyway, the Forum will be a good resource later on, when I start getting all fancy with my trickery. For now, I will climb the mountain  one step at a time. The first step I’d decided to take is create one of those (mildly obnoxious) floating invitations to buy your book or sign up for an email list. I have to credit alfageek with generously sharing the original code for an invitation to buy a book. Turns out that once you have a base to work from, learning CSS can be a lot of fun as you tinker with values and then refresh madly, to see what your tinkering has done.

Ok, now for the promised easy steps:

STEP 1. Make a widget of your banner – have a look at how to create a widget for your Amazon book or how to create a widget using Amazon affiliate link.

STEP 2. Once you have a working widget, go to the wp-admin version of your site, and click on Appearances-Customise-CSS. This is what my CSS looks like now, with custom code beginning on line 6:

CSS code

STEP 2. Copy this code and paste it to your CSS window:

#text-4 {
font-weight: bold;
position: fixed;
right: -2px;
top: 120px;
margin: 0;
background: white;
border: solid 2px #ddd;
padding: 4px;

#text-4 h3 {
font-size: 16px;
line-height: 140%;

STEP 3. Almost finished! Change number “4” in lines 6 and 17 above to the order of your widget in the sidebar. So, if your widget is at the very top, change it to read “text-1” and so forth.

THAT’S IT! Now, the fun part! Play with the code line-by-line and see what it does:

6. “text-4” refers to my widget being #4 in the sidebar. Change number to reflect the order position of your widget.

7. optional line – if you delete it, the font will not be bold.

8. “fixed” position means it will stay put while you scroll through the page.

9. “right” can be replaced with “left” – that’s where it will appear on the page. -2px refers to how far it is from the edge. Mine has a 2px (2 pixels) border around it, so -2px shaves off the border on the right.

10. “top” can be replaced by “bottom”. Play around with the pixel number until you get it to the exact spot you want.

11.”margin” – add a margin, if you wish. I have none.

12. “background” – I have white. Have a look at CSS Tricks for codes to some alternative colors.

13. “border” – change pixel number to make it thicker, or delete this line if you don’t want a border. Change color code to match your website.

14. “padding” – controls the amount of background space around the text. Increase the number to make your banner larger, while the text stays the same.

15, 16 and 17 – I have no idea, just leave as is or play with it.

18. “font size” – did not seem to make a difference, perhaps it’s a combination of font size and line height (line #19).

19. change line height to make font larger.

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing