Kindle Publishing: A Diary–Day 7 Cover and book description

Dear Diary,

Yesterday’s short post dealt with the ebook title. Today’s to-do deals with the ebook cover and writing the book’s description. And then there’s book content quality.

To review yesterday, I played around with titles. I came pretty close to what I later chose to name my ebook. After “trying out” a bunch of possibilities–and checking Google’s AdSense and the Amazon Marketplace–I decided on Writing My Dissertation in a Page a Day. I think it’s a title that can reduce a would-be purchaser’s tension because the process is broken into little bits–a page a day. It is actually do-able at this pace, assuming no life-changing events interrupt the flow. And, of course, there are times when no writing can take place at all, such as when the proposal draft is out for review by the committee or the university review board. So that’s an appropriate title and a safe “promise.” I still need to decide if I want a subtitle, though…

So far, authors Lambert Klein and Amy McDaniel have really helped me with all the pre-publishing stuff. Both discussed the cover in length, specifically a unique cover design and fonts.

What should I think about when designing the cover? Because the thumb nails are so small, a big font should be used. San serif fonts work better for book titles, too, because there are no “extras” to interfere with the actual letters. The authors urge looking over the thumbnails of ebooks to see what stands out, and checking the competition to see what draws the eye. I didn’t think I would have to be an artist, too! Thankfully, both authors list tools and designers, if you’re as artistically challenged as I am, or if you want your book to look professional.

One “budget” design site is Fiverr where you can hire a designer for $5 (type “book covers” into the search element). If you’re writing a lot of books or formal reports that need covers, you can try myecovermaker, a software site that apparently is accessed by subscription and costs roughly $10 a month, but gives you both 2-D and 3-D renderings for each one. Or you can use graphic software, like PhotoShop, if you want to create your own design from scratch or a photo you have. (I’ve got some web design software, too. Wonder if that’ll work…)

Why use professional cover design services? Both authors say that the more professional a cover looks, the more likely the ebook is to sell. I suspect that has a lot to do with the “eye catching” aspect and thumbnail readability. Also, the pros know what they’re doing while I’d be guessing.

Having a cover before the ebook is written can be really helpful to keep me on track as well as motivated. I mean, if I have a really eye-catching cover, I would certainly want to share it with potential readers as soon as possible, right? It’s just that I’m not quite ready for the cover yet, as I just finished outlining the book. OK OK. It’s really because I’m so artistically challenged. I’ll probably work back and forth between writing and cover design–and, of course, writing the book’s description!

The book’s description seems the logical thing to write after title selection and cover design, whether the book is already written or not. With a finished book, the description serves as a summary and purchase lure. Before the book is written, it also serves as a focusing point for the actual writing. And since I already have a basic outline, the description and outline can keep me organized and motivated.

What are some of the hints for the description? The authors recommend a description that is short and to the point. (Uh-oh. I tend to be rather long-winded. A short description will take me a day to achieve!) Also to keep in mind: short paragraphs, bullet lists (if applicable), “powerful subheadings,” a review from a user of the method (or a professional, if possible). Hmm. Also, since Amazon only shows the first 10 lines of a description by default (meaning the buyer needs to click to see the full description), I should pack as much useful information into the first few sentences as I can.

Both authors also suggest checking on the publication’s clicks after it’s published. If it’s not getting many, play with the description; play with the title; play with the cover design. But only change one at a time, and watch what happens for a few days before changing something else. Talk about testing my patience!

Geez! By the time I get through all this, the book will be almost written! Maybe that’s the point? Does this help with the ebook’s quality?

Klein and McDaniel really stress quality. Quality is really important when it comes to what’s inside any book. With epublishing becoming more and more popular, I want anything I publish to be competitive and desirable. Both of these authors really hit heavily on writing and content quality–and that the author should deliver on the promise in the title and description. In addition, “quality” refers to the grammar used, the consistency of tone, clarity, and the order of the information that’s presented. No wonder both authors suggest using a professional editor to review your material before you publish it. There’s so much to consider if you want satisfied customers!

No one wants to read a book with questionable quality. In my first post on epublishing, I talked about how confusing this whole epublishing was, and then I got all bent out of shape because the author of the ebook I used was all over the place, and not at all organized. Sure, part of the problem was that I hadn’t read the full cover–the book referred to a type of epublishing: the serial. If I had looked at the subtitle more carefully, I would have realized that. But the disorganization of the material was not my fault. It might have made sense to the author, but I’ll bet she hadn’t outlined her “how-to” to make it easier to follow. I suspect she wrote the book the way she writes her fiction–having a basic idea, and then letting the story evolve. Well, that might work for fiction. But I like my how-to’s written in a step-by-step manner–or at least in some logical “doing” order.

The author I discussed above did not make the subtitle clear enough, leaving me with a publication I do not want. There is no clear order, and topics keep repeating for no apparent reason. I didn’t even know the key topic until I read about 20% of the book! Also, poor grammar and sentence structure is a big distraction to me when I read, and this book was full of such errors.

Klein and McDaniel, the two authors I’ve been referencing to guide me through this first epublishing experience–heck! my first commercial writing experience, period–present their ideas and experiences logically, in an order that makes sense and can actually lead to a finished product. Sure, they may vary in the exact order they discuss something; but they are pretty close together, and I can choose which author’s step I want to follow first–which order suits me better. For example, it doesn’t really matter whether I design the cover or choose the title first. In either case, I know what the topic of the publication is. The title and cover are both elements that can help draw buyers, and the title can focus my topic. Which is completed first is, basically, arbitrary as long as one follows the other–especially if I’m seeking motivation!

To date, I’ve covered all the things McDaniel and Klein agree on, even if the topics were presented in a slightly different order. Now I’m getting to the areas that are unique to each author, yet equally important in terms of my learning.

The unique topics McDaniel writes about include selecting a length for your publication type, formatting for the Kindle, test pricing, developing “brands,” and tips for actually writing. Klein, on the other hand, discusses tags and their usage, soliciting reviews, getting exposure, and using “Kindle Select,” which makes Kindle the exclusive seller of my ebook for 90 days (although I can promote it elsewhere).

In the mean time, I’m also going to check out the free Kindle Direct Publishing manual, or KDP. 

From the description for the KDP: “This document is more of a step-by-step easy to understand and follow how-to guide rather than a full-fledged introduction to publishing with on Kindle store.” It relates strictly to the publication of your book, with no real “tips” to make my book marketable. Clearly, I didn’t make a mistake in buying the other books.

As I said in Day 2, Diary, it was too early to look at the KDP back then, but I’m getting closer to needing it. I think I’ll keep following and telling you about what I’m learning from McDaniel and Klein, though. These two books have been amazingly informative and helpful so far, and make me want to learn more!

More to report tomorrow!


About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
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