How to choose a premade cover for your book

There are hundreds of designers vying for every author’s attention with premade book covers. And let’s face it, premade covers are a great deal all around. You can get a high quality, beautiful cover, sometimes from designers who are no longer taking custom clients, at a fair price that you can afford. Not only that, but it’s also a quick turnaround so you have your cover in hand within days instead of waiting months for a custom slot. You also know exactly what you’re getting before you shell out the cash. What’s not to love?

Sometimes though, when your choices are so broad it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decision for your book. How do you know if the cover you fell in love with will actually attract your target audience? And sell your book? That’s where doing some market research will come into play along with choosing a designer who specializes in your genre, or at least works in your genre regularly.

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1099’s and Cover Designers

First, I am not a lawyer, I am not an expert in taxes, and I’m not even an accountant. So all of the information below I’ve received from other professionals who’ve advised me of the following in regards to 1099’s, in addition to online resources. 

It’s that dreaded time of year again in the US. Taxes. You’re trying to figure out what all you need to get started or to send to your accountant. Your accountant may even be telling you that you need to collect W9’s and send 1099’s to the freelancers you’ve hired. In some instances this may be true, but in others, you don’t need to collect and send them. Below I’ll help you navigate based on what I’ve been advised.

Did you pay your designer (or freelancer) through a third-party (PayPal, Stripe, etc)?

If the answer is yes, then you do not need to obtain a W9 and please don’t send a 1099-MISC to your designer. Why? By using a third-party processor, PayPal (or another third party) is already reporting the designers income through a 1099-K, so if you report it too using a 1099-MISC, it’s considered double-reporting and that can trigger an audit along with a whole hassle of issues for the designer. The IRS will consider it as extra income and the designer would get penalties for “not reporting it” even though it was actually reported twice and not additional income.

Documents to back this up:

Here is the line about the 1099-K and how those payments made are not subject to reporting on a 1099-MISC:

Form 1099-K.
Payments made with a credit card or payment card and certain other types of payments, including third-party network transactions, must be reported on Form 1099-K by the payment settlement entity under section 6050W and are not subject to reporting on Form 1099-MISC. See the separate Instructions for Form 1099-K.

Now, did you pay through PayPal and pay them using Friends and Family?

First, this is a BIG no-no because it’s against PayPal’s terms of service, so if your designer is requesting this, this should be a BIG red flag to you. Always, always have your designer (or freelancer) send you an invoice for their work. Always. I cannot stress this enough.

In regards to taxes, if the designer has a business account it will report it on the 1099-K that PayPal sends, but if they just have a personal account it will not report it. In the case of the latter, you can send a 1099-MISC to the freelancer, but you’ll have to ask them before sending it.

Going forward, have your designer send you an invoice!!!

Did you pay your designer (or freelancer) by physical check or cash?

If the answer is yes, then you can send a 1099-MISC to your designer if you paid your designer $600 USD or more in cash/check during that tax year. Simple as that.


Troubleshooting KDP Error Messages

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) can be both a cute adorable bunny one day, and then a raging dragon the next, so take a deep breath, let it out, and look through the error messages noted below to see if you can locate the one the fire-breather is currently throwing at you.

These mainly focus on the book cover upload portion, but if you receive other error messages, toss them in the comments and I’ll add them, and the solution, to this post as well.

Error message: Adjust the design of your cover to accommodate a barcode size of 2″ (50.8 mm) by 1.2″ (30.5 mm) tall that does not overlap with another barcode.

Solution: Your designer has included the barcode on the back cover. Therefore, in the “Book Cover” section on KDP where you “upload a cover you already have (print-ready PDF only)”, there is a small box that needs to be checked that says “Check this box if the cover you’re uploading includes a barcode. If you don’t check the box, we’ll add a barcode for you.” Screenshot below.Read More »

‘A Daughter’s a Daughter’ Cover Makeover

Back in 2017 I was the feature artist for Booklife’s “Cover Redesign” feature which was printed in the monthly Booklife edition in Publisher’s Weekly magazine. One of the covers I redesigned for this column was a A Daughter’s a Daughter by Irene Vartanoff.

Book description: Three generations of women in a family struggle with conflicting needs, desires, and opportunities that put them at odds with each other. Widowed Pam Ridgeway wants to mobilize a charity to help laid-off workers after losing her own job in a mass Wall Street meltdown. But creating a new charity will thrust her into the public eye, which she’s always hated, unlike her estranged daughter and intimidating mother. Yielding to their insistence on publicity tactics takes Pam totally out of her comfort zone—until she meets Bruce, her mother’s handsome new neighbor at her Long Island beachfront home. Bruce is sympathetic, easy to talk to, and attracted to Pam. But Bruce has a secret agenda involving her mother and a mystery from the past. Pam’s daughter is a fiercely ambitious cable financial reporter with an agenda of her own about the hottie she works with. She fights to keep a lid on her desire, otherwise their passionate attraction could burst into flames in the newsroom and destroy their careers. Pam’s mother wonders why Bruce reminds her of someone from the past. In a long life filled with social activism, she has met many people, but there’s something about him…

Here are the two covers side-by-side.

The original cover gave off a more hardened, cold tone which was interpreted through the expression on the solitary woman’s face and that she’s alone on the beach. Her pose is even a bit stiff seeming. The author was looking for a lighter, more hopeful tone which is what I focused on for the redesign. We used bright blues, yellows and softer colors to give it that lighter tone.

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‘Misdiagnosed’ Cover Makeover

Back in 2017 I was the feature artist for Booklife’s “Cover Redesign” feature which was printed in the monthly Booklife edition in Publisher’s Weekly magazine. One of the covers I redesigned for this column was a memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House by Nika Beamon.

Book description: When a lymphoma scare threatened the life of a journalist, she began a quest to find the correct medical diagnosis for the mysterious illness she’d battled for nearly 20 years. She turned to her favorite TV show, House M.D., for inspiration. She used her research skills to look for a “real life” Gregory House to give her some answers. In this brutally honest memoir, Nika Beamon reveals how she found the doctor who saved her and how you might be able to also.

Here are the two covers side-by-side.

The original cover did a good job of letting you know the theme (medical) and possibly the tone (emotional). However, it lacked readability for the title and author name, and relatability for the readers.

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‘Dog Sitters’ Cover Makeover

Back in 2017 I was the feature artist for Booklife’s “Cover Redesign” feature which was printed in the monthly Booklife edition in Publisher’s Weekly magazine. The first redesign I designed for this column was Dog Sitters by Rozsa Gaston.

Book description: When their friends take a cruise to Bermuda, strangers Hint Daniels and Jack Whitby are charged with looking after their dog. Then everything starts to go wrong . . .

In the leafy New York suburb of Bronxville, Hint is supposed to hand Percy off to Jack on day five of the ten days their friends are away. But at the handoff, the dog ends up running away. Neither is willing to tell their friends the bad news that Percy is missing. Instead, they spend five frantic days desperately searching for the Schnoodle, with wildly different ideas on how to go about it. Between Jack’s heavy-handed approach and Hint’s otherworldly style, their personalities clash. Before long they’re bickering furiously, even as romantic sparks fly.

Will Percy show up before his owners do? And what surprising discovery will Hint and Jack make while looking for him?

Laugh out loud at the heart-pounding misadventures of Hint and Jack as they search for the world’s most adorable lost dog.

Here are the two covers side-by-side.

Focal points and eye movement are two important aspects to any book cover design and tend to go hand in hand. One common mistake is, if you emphasize everything in a design, nothing stands out. Emphasis is relative because for one element to stand out, another must serve as a background. Therefore, some elements need to dominate others to create hierarchy within the design.

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Back Cover Design

Book Cover Design: What goes on the back cover?

A very common question that I get asked is, “What do you need for the back cover?”  The book description is a given, but there are many elements that can amp up the design to make it look more traditional verse self-published.

Most of the time the back cover gets overlooked as an important aspect of the design. Usually, you’re so focused on making the front cover amazing, that the back cover becomes a second thought. However, if you plan on putting your books in stores, bringing them to events – like book signings -, then you want to make sure your back cover lives up to the standards of your front cover.

The following is a breakdown of the different elements that can be included to make the back cover more professional.

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7 Common Cover Design Mistakes

Inexperienced designers, or authors who attempt to make their own covers, tend to make these same common mistakes which make it look like an amateur design.

Trying to match all of the details perfectly

For the most part, cover designers are working with stock photography, unless you happen to find a designer who can do custom photo shoots for you. Therefore, the designer can only use what already exists. If you want a particular item/person/animal on your cover, there may be times you have to compromise the exact details in order to create an effective cover. For example if you’re putting a dog on your cover, yes you’ll want to use the same breed the dog is, but the dog might not have the same markings as what’s described in the book. Most readers aren’t going to care enough to look back at the cover to see if the dog matches the description in the book. If you’re using a silhouette of a dog, sometimes you may have to use a silhouette that looks like it could be the dog even if it happens to be a different breed.

Also keep in mind that although designers can alter images, we can’t change an angle an object is pointing, or we can’t (at least not easily) change clothing, or the position of someone’s arm or body, so using an image that’s more powerful can be more important than using something that 100% matches your story.

That said, you don’t want to be so far off that you mislead your readers, so you have to find the right balance between the truth and a cover that will sell your book.Read More »

The Secret to a Great Cover Design

Hopefully you’ve realized that a book cover is a valuable asset to your book and can help determine the success of your book. Therefore, you decide you’d like the best cover ever. So, you start doing research and what you find are famous books by famous authors who’s covers are creative and sometimes very unique. However, these authors (or better yet publishers) can do this because their name is what is going to sell the book, not the cover. If they literally just want to put their name and title on the cover, they could and they’d still sell their book to all of their fans – but they might be missing out on potential new fans. The larger your established reader base is, the more risky designs you can try.

What self-publishing authors don’t typically realize is that the best cover might not be the most beautiful, unique, or innovative design. It’s the cover that is going to catch the attention of a target reader, communicate the genre, setting, and tone, and give them a general idea of the emotional investment they’re about to make all within 3-5 seconds. This is the first step to selling your book because if your cover is intriguing enough, they will click on your book and read the description. If your cover doesn’t convey the necessary ideas to the reader in those 3-5 seconds (aka an unprofessional cover), then it doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing book description ever written – because they’re never going to read it.

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Parts of a Book

Books are traditionally organized into three main parts: front matter, the body, and the back matter. The front matter can include: the book title, publisher, copyright, table of contents, introduction, and it gives the reader an overall tone of the story. The main body is your narrative, or in nonfiction it can be your arguments, data, and other valuable information. Your back matter contains source notes, appendixes, about the author and other resourceful information. These elements should appear in specific order, unless the author has a good reason to deviate from the order.

Below is a list to get you started. Not all books will contain all of this information, and some may contain additional information not listed. This list should help you organize your book into the correct sequence. This outline follows The Chicago Manual of Style 1.4 outline with a few additions. The indication of recto (right-hand page) or verso (left-hand page) only applies to print-and-bound books since most eBooks do not have left/right pages.

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