Tag Archives: independent publishing

Typography: A Tale of Two Covers

Author, Jess Owen
Author, Jess Owen

A follow-up by Jess Owen to yesterday’s post on typography.

When I set out to self publish Song of the Summer King, I knew I wanted everything to look “traditional.” I wanted it to look polished and professional, like something put out by one of the Big Six. I invested in the artwork by hiring a freelance artist who’s well known for her fantasy, wild life and particularly gryphon artwork. I invested in an editor with a great track record who I believed understood my goals for the story. I had plans for a big Kickstarter fund raiser, and wanted to hire a printer instead of going POD.

With all that done, somehow, I still thought it was fine to slap some letters on the front in a free, “medieval-looking” font, and call it a day. Fortunately my friends had my back. Josh Essoe sent my cover art around for some critiques from some pros, and very honestly told me, “You’ve invested too much in this book not to get some professional lettering on the cover. Talk to Moses Siregar; he’s put the same kind of effort into his work.”

So thanks to the power of author friend networking, I contacted said successful self-publisher and he gave me the name of his typographer, Terry Roy. She seemed excited about the book, I liked her portfolio, and so she put together a package deal to not only do lettering on the front of the e-book and the hardback edition, but to handle the interior layout and format the books for printing and uploading to Amazon. And thank goodness she did.

I think sometimes we self-published authors think we have to do everything ourselves. But just as I would hire a professional to tune up my car, I now know the value of investing in professionals to wield their magic over my stories. It’s a matter of time, energy, and expertise.

I’m so happy with the final product and with the team that fell together to make it happen. I truly believe all writers need a master mind group to make their work really stand out, and I know for my book, I couldn’t have asked for more. Below you’ll find my cover before and after the professional typography and design.













Jess Owen has been creating works of fantasy art and fiction for over a decade, and founded her own publishing company, Five Elements Press, to publish her own works and someday, that of others. She’s a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Authors of the Flathead. She lives with her husband in the mountains of northwest Montana, which offer daily inspiration for creating worlds of wise, wild creatures, magic, and adventure. Jess can be contacted directly through her website, or the SOTSK facebook fan page.

Typography: It’s Not A Cover Without It

Illustrator & Typographer, Terry Roy
Illustrator & Typographer, Terry Roy

Guest Post by Terry Roy

Many authors go on the extravagant hunt for the best cover art out there. And while cover art is an important part of creating an attractive selling package (your book), bad typography can ruin it. Without typography, it’s not a book cover. It’s just a photo, an illustration, a painting.

What is typography? Glad you asked! It’s the art of arranging letters and words attractively on a page. Whether or not that page is a book cover or an interior narrative page, a billboard on a highway or stamped on a grocery bag you take home from the market. Most professional graphic designers are trained in this. Many others creating book covers nowadays are not. If you’re hiring someone to do a cover (to me, this means the complete package), or add typography to the image you want as the background for your cover, make sure you look at their portfolio and like what you see. Forget the pictures. Make sure you like what you see even if the titles and author names were on solid color backgrounds. Great typography design can carry itself, images added or not.

I can write pages and pages on this, but to keep it simple, I’ll distill it to basics.

1. When you commission artwork or start your image search, remember you need to display large, visible type on top of it.
Too many people sacrifice the visibility of the book title or author name so they don’t cover up the art. In my opinion–that priority should be the other way around. The art shouldn’t interfere with the stand-out impact of the author’s name and the title of the book.

2. The typeface you choose for the title can set the mood and tone of the book from the start. Choose wisely.
There’s a reason that many thrillers, spy stories, and suspense novels use a simple headline font like “Impact”—it denotes urgency, demands attention. Distressed or goth fonts get used on gritty, post-apocalyptic stories or dark vampire stories. (Be careful here, many distressed fonts won’t “pop” without a lot of help and unless you are a bestselling author, you don’t want your title blending in with the background art.) Fancy script fonts with lots of loops and swirls remind us of romantic invitations–so we see some of that on romance novels. These examples are generic. But please, don’t just pick a font because you think it’s cool. It has to match the story, and feel right with the title. Font sites often give you the option of typing in your title so you can preview it as you scroll through pages of choices. Just try it—see how it changes the mood and tone with each new look. (I spend hours trying fonts on titles, like some people try on clothes.)

Art & Design by Terry Roy
Art & Design by Terry Roy.

Make sure your font choice–or the font choice of your cover designer– is legal to use commercially.
Please respect fonts tagged “for personal or private use only” and do NOT use them on your book covers. Often fonts at free sites were created to emulate a copyrighted, restricted-use font face. It is NOT okay to use these fonts on your books or anything you put out for sale or download in a public marketplace. (“Bleeding Cowboy”, which I see on a lot of vampire or paranormal books, is a good example. Lots of people are using it, but unless they got a licensed copy, or written permission from the designer, they shouldn’t be.) Go to a site like Fontspace and use the “Commercial Use Friendly” filter in the search. That way, free fonts that are cool to use on book covers and other projects will show up, without tempting you with the Personal Use Only fonts.

3. Visibility and Readability.
Now that you have the right font for your genre and title, and another for your name (a simple, non-fancy font will do in most cases) the third important thing is to make sure it’s clear, sharp, and readable. Remember, in the online market for both e-books and paperbacks, the reader is either spotting you first in a tiny ad or a tiny thumbnail image in a New Releases list. Even if your cover art loses fidelity at thumbnail size, the title, at least (if not also the author name) should stand out sharp and clear. Color choice is important here. It’s hard to go wrong with the classic choice of black (offset by white), or white (offset by black) when you’re just not sure. No matter what color you choose, contrast with the background is paramount. There should be enough contrast to “pop” that title even in small sizes.

Now… go out there and practice! One final tip I’ll leave with you today: study the bestsellers of your genre from the big name publishers. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, copy one of these covers. Import it into your graphics program and make it a locked layer. On a layer on top of that, challenge yourself to duplicate layout of the title, authorname, and any other print. You don’t have to match the typeface exactly, just get one close enough. (In graphic design courses, students are often challenged to duplicate the layouts on ads and product packaging–it’s a great hands-on learning exercise.) Even if you don’t want to tackle your cover typography on your own, studying what’s hot from the big pubs in your genre can give you a better eye for getting quality work from the person you hire to do it for you.


Terry Roy has been drawing ever since her fat little fingers could hold a crayon. Digitally illustrating and designing beautiful books, inside and out, since 1998. Her experience in digital art started in 1992 when the first MS DOS version of Photoshop was released for Windows computers. She can now be found at TERyvisions, and her blogsite.

Maximizing the Potential of Your eBook

Guest Post by Natasha Fondren

The question I get asked most by my clients is this: “What else, other than the text, should I put in my book?”

POD books and eBooks can handle extra pages, images, color, fonts, and content without any cost (up to a certain point, and even with Kindle, it’s marginal). When you’re done writing your book, you want to add content that will first, sell your book, and second, sell your other books.


In eBooks, the front matter serves only one purpose: to sell this book to your readers.

In bookstores, readers check out books in this order:

  1. They catch sight of the cover.
  2. They turn it over and read the back cover.
  3. They skim through the appropriate ad pages at the beginning.
  4. They turn to the first page of the text and read a bit.

With eBooks, it goes more like this:

  1. They catch sight of the cover on the website.
  2. They click on the title.
  3. They check out the average rating.
  4. They read the synopsis and maybe skim the reviews.
  5. They download a sample.

It’s important to note that once they download a sample, they haven’t yet bought it. You still have to sell your book with the sample: the first 10% of your book.


In a traditional book, the opening consists of ad pages, half-title page, title page, copyright page, list of other books by the author, dedication page, epigraph, table of contents, and sometimes acknowledgments.

In an eBook, we want to get rid of everything that doesn’t sell your book because it takes up space in that first 10% of your sample. First, the half-title page, a holdover from printing processes, is completely unnecessary.

The copyright page will not sell your book, nor will it magically prevent piracy. Send it to the back. The acknowledgments, likewise, should be sent to the back.

The list of other books by the author will only sell this book if you have a long list that proves you to be an author who’s had some practice at this. When in the front matter, this list does not sell those books; it only tells the prospective reader that you’ve some experience under your belt.

This list is better at the end, after they finish the book, when they’ll be looking for their next read. Probably they’ve already seen on the website that you’ve written other books, if you have.

The dedication? As interesting as it is to you, it should only stay up front if it’s truly going to hook the reader into buying your book.

The table of contents is accessed through a menu button, so it’s unnecessary to put it up front unless it sells your book, as is the case in nonfiction (telling the reader what is contained in the book) or in some fiction, where the chapter titles are so interesting that they hook the reader.

So what does that leave?

  1. Ad pages
  2. Title page
  3. Epigraph
  4. Text

Ad pages go first, and these should be an invitation to the reader. While you should take advantage of this opportunity, do not let the ad pages dominate your sample; you want to sell your book to readers, then give them enough of your content to hook them into your story.

There are several potential items that can go in your ad pages (I don’t advise using them all!):

  • Reviews: If you have some exceptional reviews from respectable sources, or some funny, tongue-in-cheek reviews, then put two or three at the beginning. More than that, and you’re crowding out your sample.
  • Synopsis: Reminding the readers what the book is about is not only a good sales tool, but it’s also one of the ways the human mind learns: big picture to little details. When readers sit down to a book, they want to know what it’s about. While this information may be on the website, they may look at the sample days or weeks later.
  • Excerpt: A short excerpt, maybe one or two paragraphs, can work really well. There is an art to selecting just the right paragraph or two–make sure to get lots of feedback from your friends!
  • Letter to reader: This is a bit of an old-fashioned technique that I’ve only seen in romance books. It’s been used quite a bit, so it must have some effect. If you pick this, please make sure your note to the reader is super good!

The title page sets the tone for the book, so embed a nice font and have a care for the design. The epigraph, as well, can set the tone for the book.

The text should be inviting: a nice chapter header, a dropcap, possibly some styling in the opening few words all help pull the reader into reading your text. Book design is important!


If you upload a Word document or use a converter to make a Kindle book, then when a reader opens your book, it will open to Chapter 1, skipping all front matter, ad pages, and even the prologue.

If you hire a professional, they’ll make sure your book opens where you want it to–except the cover. On Kindle, the book generally refuses to open to the cover, unfortunately. (Please do write them and complain, though! Maybe they’ll change it!)


From the very second your reader reads the last sentence of your book, you need to sell your next book, or your backlist.
The back matter can contain:

Thank You: First up, it’s nice to thank your readers. Make it short and sweet; this is not an about-the-author page. Perhaps a sentence or two informing about (and linking to) what you’ve got in the back matter for the reader. For example:

“Thank you for reading Great American Novel! I hope you enjoyed it. A list of my other books is on the next page, and then the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Pulitzer Prize Novel, to be released in the spring of 2014.”

Second, offer a link to a very simple html sign-up form for your newsletter. (You do have a newsletter list, right?) This should be simple and ugly, easy enough for e-ink browsers to handle, such as my newsletter (free book on Indie Book Production coming soon to all subscribers!). Please note that this doesn’t have to be your only newsletter sign-up page, but for this purpose, you should stick to a sign-up page that can be handled by the worst of browsers.

A List Of Your Other Books: This can go before or after the next section.

Your Next Book: Like the sample, this should be in three parts:

  1. An image of the cover.
  2. A quick synopsis or blurb of the book that hooks the reader.
  3. An excerpt–you can make this substantial, such as the complete first chapter or two.

Other Ideas: I’ve seen some authors put a miniature version of their website in the back, starting with a home page that links to each section of the content that follows. Remember, the page count is nearly limitless, so be creative and give to the reader, and hopefully they’ll give profits back to you!

AND THEN . . .

After that, you can put an about-the-author page, so they know who you are. And then, (finally!) all the stuff you took out of the front matter that doesn’t sell this book or your next book.

the eBook ArtisansNatasha Fondren is the founder of the eBook Artisans. Whether you’re a traditionally-published author looking to make an out-of-print book available, an indie author releasing a self-published eBook, or a publisher looking to make a backlist available, the eBook ArtisansSM is passionate about making your print book or eBook a welcoming and beautiful experience for your readers.

Dos and Don’ts of Working with an Editor

Author, Joshua Simon


There are many things an indie writer needs to consider when looking for an editor. Is the editor capable of providing you with the service you need:  content, line, or copy editing? Does the editor have reputable references? Based on the sample, does the editor’s style suit your own? Can you afford the editor’s service?

I think every writer needs to carefully consider each of the above questions during the selection process.  Though this topic is crucial to every writer, it is one that has been beaten to death.  So, I thought I would discuss what I feel every writer needs to consider after the selection process is complete. Below are my top Dos and Don’ts when working with an editor.


  1. Do agree to terms ahead of time.

Be clear on expectations before work begins.

Do you want only that content edit or were you also expecting a copy edit as well?

Do you want the editor to provide a second round of edits in order to proof read your work after you’ve made the previous suggestions provided to you?

Do you need the editor to help you with writing the back cover, marketing materials, a press release, and text for your website?

Most editors probably won’t do all of the above but some might if you’ve discussed the scope of work ahead of time.  Don’t expect an editor to provide extra services (no matter how little) for free after the agreed upon work is completed. Their time is valuable and they have other clients besides you.

  1. Do meet your deadlines.

As I said, you are not your editor’s only client.  The time to schedule an editor is when your book is nearly complete, especially if you’re writing your first book.

Find out what your editor’s schedule is like and how long they think it will take to edit the book, and then plan accordingly. It is not unreasonable to wait weeks or months before an editor can start on your book. Expect the overall editing process to take several weeks or longer once the editor begins work. Variations will exist based on the length of the book, how good of a writer you are, and how many projects the editor works on at once.

As a side note, after you’ve had some experience in completing projects it will be easier to schedule an editor before actual completion.  Even then, I’d recommend giving yourself several weeks or even months of cushion.  It is much nicer knowing you’ve finished early and can get ahead on your next project rather than scrambling to complete something at the last minute and turning in shoddy work.

  1. Do ask for clarification.

Any editor worth their salt will clarify questions you might have on their suggestions. Otherwise, how can you determine if it is a valid change?  If an editor is unwilling to communicate with you in this way after giving you the manuscript back, I’d question using that person again.

  1. Do be prompt with payment.

But what happens if it costs more than I originally expected?  Too bad.

If you go to a car dealership and they give you an estimate for a brake job that later increases by several hundred dollars because things were worse than expected, can you get away with not paying them? Of course not. Can you imagine if your boss decided not to pay you promptly or not at all, and how that would affect your life?

For some editors, this might be their only source of income.  Therefore, don’t be late with their money.

If you decide their services were overpriced and not what you expected then the only thing you can do is not use them for future work.

  1. Do remember that a suggestion for change is not a demand for one.

As the writer, this is your story.  You need to be satisfied with it more than anyone else. Make changes only if you agree it improves the quality of the work. If you can’t make that decision on your own, bring in someone else to give you a second opinion.

I rarely disagree with my editor, but there have been a few times I decided against making his suggested changes.  This is partly because I had received differing opinions from my beta-readers and partly because the change would affect later parts of the story in works he had not yet edited.


  1. Don’t hand over a mess.

Your editor should not be the first person to read your manuscript besides yourself. Employ both alpha and beta-readers.  They will help you smooth out many problems long before your editor gets a hold of your story, especially in the way of content.  If nothing else, this step will help reduce the costs to you. The more time your editor spends cleaning up your mess, the more they will charge.

  1. Don’t expect your editor to do all the work.

Your editor shouldn’t have to re-write your book. They will rewrite sentences as needed, but they aren’t supposed to write chapters or sections for you (unless you’ve agreed they will act as a ghost writer).

  1. Don’t take it personally.

This is all a learning experience and a way to make you a better writer. I’ve improved significantly with each work I’ve turned into my editor, and a contributing factor to my improvement has been his feedback on each story.

Remember, an editor’s reputation will be held against the quality of your work as well. You don’t want an editor to blow smoke up your rear.  You want an editor to be honest about what is good and what isn’t so your story and characters can shine.

  1. Don’t be a jerk to your editor.

Like everything else in life, be professional. If I really have to explain what this means then you probably have bigger problems to worry about than everything I’ve mentioned above.

  1. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal.

You want a great book!

Joshua P. Simon is a Christian, husband, father, CPA, fantasy author, and heavy metal junkie. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and hopes that one day he can leave the life of a CPA behind and devote that time to writing more of the ideas bouncing around his ADD-addled brain. You can find out more about him at www.joshuapsimon.blogspot.com.