The Business Rusch: What Writers Need To Know

Business Rusch logo webOn Monday, I spent an hour talking with a very knowledgeable business reporter who works at a well-known business daily newspaper, one you probably read. I didn’t exactly speak to her on what’s called “deep background,” but that ended up being my function. She had found a blog of mine that pertains to an article she’s writing, and wanted an interview.

I won’t know whether she uses that interview—or whether the topic will end up to be the same topic she initially planned—for a while. She’s writing a long analysis piece, and I can tell you from personal experience that those morph the deeper the reporter gets into the topic.

Reporters are generalists. They have to be. Even reporters who specialize in a topic like business don’t know all  of business. They have to go nimbly from covering Dell’s decision to go private to the hacking of Bank of America to the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Apple and the book publishers. Reporters need an ability to quickly research a topic, enough to ask the right questions of someone they choose to interview and they need to know enough about that topic to hear when the person answering prevaricates or operates off a paid-for script.

It’s hard to do this well. I’m currently researching some events that took place in January and February of 1970. To do that, I’ve spent the last week reading old newspapers from the time, looking at stories that broke then, stories I already know the ending to, some of which didn’t get covered in detail because the detail didn’t become important until later, some that got abandoned when another story broke, and so on.

To be a reporter is to constantly feel like you have your hands on a runaway train, and if you let go, you will be left so far behind so fast that you will never catch up.

All of these thoughts went through my mind as the business reporter and I talked. Because, somewhere in the middle of the conversation, the things I had to tell her depended on a deep understanding of the publishing industry, something I couldn’t give her in one phone call.

I referred her to articles, and hoped they would be enough. I offered to provide links to other articles and to put her in touch with folks with a different expertise in the topic she’s focusing on than I have.

But none of that is enough. Because publishing is an old industry, with practices that developed over decades (in some cases, over more than a century). Outside of our small industry, those practices make little sense. Hell, let me be honest: Inside of the industry, those practices make little sense.

Dean and I write blogs that attempt to explain the industry, not just for indie writers but also for traditionally published writers. I’ll be frank: I think the traditionally published writers need a lot more help learning this business than indie writers do. Not because traditionally published writers are dumb, but because they’ve been encouraged for decades to outsource the business part of their careers to others.

Here’s the minimum traditionally published writers need to know about their business:

1. How to write a good book/story (we’ll call it the “work”)

2. How to get that work to someone who will publish it

3. Copyright

4. How to negotiate a good contract for the writer

5. Money management

6. How to hire good advisors—lawyers, accountants, and maybe, just maybe, an agent

7. How to manage a business

8. How to say no

Indie writers need to know all  of that plus:

9. How to run a business

10. How to do a cost-benefit analysis

11. How to design a good product—from e-book to print book to audio book

12. What makes a good product—from cover to interior to sound quality (for audio)

13. How to hire good assistants—from editors to cover designers to distributers/aggregators

14. How to get that product to retailers—from ecommerce sites to actual bookstores

There’s a lot more both types of writers need to know, but I’m not going to list it all here because I’m sure that by now you are overwhelmed. I know that I am.

I’m writing this on an afternoon, while I have a migraine (it’s not as bad as yesterday’s, which resulted in catching up on Downton Abbey. Work was simply not possible). I also need to go over a copyedit for one of my publishers, fix a novella for a different publisher, finish and upload this blog to my website, cook dinner (I think), exercise (if I can move my head enough to do so),  and continue that massive research project. This doesn’t count the e-mails I’ve been fielding on two separate Hollywood negotiations, as well as some other business-related e-mails for projects so far in the future (that would be next week) that I really don’t want to think about them now.

I’m sure you all have daily lists like that. In addition, most of you have day jobs and/or children who demand (and deserve) your attention. Plus whatever else is going on in your lives.

You look at the to-know lists I posted above and think, I can never do all of that. And in the aggregate, you’re right. You can’t do it all this week or next or the week after that. You have to do it bit by tiny bit, without neglecting your family, your day job, or the writing that means so much to you that you give up your precious free time.

You look at that list, and think, What she believes I should do is impossible. And that’s the point some of you smugly lean back and think, Thank God, I have an agent. Or, I’ll just hire someone to do all of my publishing work. Or, I’m happy I gave power of attorney to my accountant/business manager/foreign agent so they can deal with these matters and I don’t have to think about it.

These lists are why so many writers abdicate the tough job of running their business. Why so many have careers that implode or wonder why they’re not making enough money when others in the same category make more. Overall, it looks impossible.

But it’s not.

If you take the long view.

Let’s take you traditional writers first, because I said you need this much more than indie writers. Why do you traditional writers need it more than indie writers do? So many indie writers (55% percent, according to a Digital Book World poll) have chosen to self-publishing because they want control of their careers. Which means they’re already thinking about business.

Many traditionally published writers want someone else to handle all of the business details so that they can focus on the actual writing. The problem is that you can’t effectively manage someone—or even advise them—if you don’t understand what they’re doing.

For example, if an agent comes to a writing-only writer and tells her that a foreign publisher has offered $5,000 on an advance against such-and-so royalties, that writer has no way to know if the deal is good or not, if the offer is complete or not, if there is something left to negotiate or not. The writer must completely trust the agent, and that way doesn’t work. Even agents (at least the good ones) don’t like that. The agents (the good ones) know that they’re working for the writer, which means that the writer must make the decisions and the agent execute them.

If the agent makes the decisions, she will do something wrong. Same with the attorney, the accountant, or any other professional a writer hires.

This same rule applies to indie writers. If you hire someone to do your covers, then you have to know what a good cover is and what it does. Just recently, I got an e-mail from a cover designer who thought the new covers on my books unprofessional. The designer included a link to his business website, along with the very broad hint that I could improve my covers by hiring him. I went to his website, discovered that the designer had just graduated from college with a degree in design, and has started a book design business. All well and good. Even approaching me was okay, except criticizing someone else’s work as a way to get work isn’t the best approach.

The problem? His sample covers were not professional. They were close. They looked like something that you actually might see at one of the big traditional publishing companies as a trial design or a let’s-never-hire-this-person-again cover. A lot of those do get published because the publisher only has the budget for one cover, and most are professional-quality designs, just not good book designs. There’s a difference.

Writers who indie publish need to learn that difference.

Yes, it’s a learning curve. It all is. And as someone just starting in the industry, I’d feel terribly overwhelmed. Or if I were someone who had spent years focusing on writing only and decided to turn my attention to the business side of publishing, I would also feel overwhelmed.

Ah, hell. Who am I kidding? I do feel overwhelmed. There is so much information, some of it conflicting, on all of the changes in publishing that I know I can’t always keep up.

Fortunately, I have decades-long systems in place for learning about my business. I rely on those.

I know this isn’t a race, that I will make mistakes, that I will make ignorant mistakes, and that I can recover from those mistakes.

That enables me to focus on what I need to do every day, and continue to learn as well.

That’s why I recommend those of you who have purchased The Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press to read it slowly. You can’t absorb all of that information in an afternoon. You can learn it over months. You can then find ways to reinforce that information through quizzing yourself when you see a weird copyright story or a strange notice, and then researching it. Often that research will return you to the Handbook and you will realize that you had skipped right over that detail or hadn’t understood it the first time.

You’re also seeing me learn in real time, not just in my ever-evolving blog opinions, but also in the estate articles. There’s way too much for me to learn in a week or two, so I’m spreading it over months and sharing it with you in a once-monthly post. I need to learn it as I figure out what I want for my estate, and now that I have a cover-your-ass will in place, I can take my time to make sure I understand the concepts before I finish my plans.

Here’s what I believe you need to do to learn the business:

1. Realize learning is a process, not a goal. Things will change, and you will have to change with them.

2. Focus on writing. That’s your top priority in your writing career, whether you are an indie writer, a traditional writer, or a hybrid of the two.

3. Make sure you’re learning how to improve your craft while learning everything else.

4. Pick two other things from those lists above that you don’t know, and devise your own curriculum on those things only. Take as much time as you need, but never take time away from your writing.

5. Once you’ve got a handle on one of those things, pick the next thing you don’t know and start learning it. (Note I am not saying have mastered, just have a handle on).

6. Repeat.

7. If you think you know everything on a subject, you’ve stopped learning. Time to refresh that subject and start all over again. Remember, learning is a process, not a goal.

Learn in bite-sized chunks. As time passes, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve learned.

You’ll find yourself trying to explain this crazy business to someone and realize just how complex it truly is. You might still be able to explain it but you’ll also be aware of everything you left out, and how inadequate that explanation is.

Can you survive in publishing without learning all this stuff? Well, yeah. Kinda. Sorta. Depends on what you mean by survive. Can you luck into a bestseller? Sure. Can you sustain that bestselling career? Maybe. Can you have a career without a bestseller? Sure. Can you make a living from that career without learning this stuff? Probably not.

Can you survive longer than a decade without learning most of the above? If you’re lucky. Can you make a living wage during that decade without most of the above? If your income overwhelms the people who are taking little pieces off it without your knowledge.

Can you survive a serious downturn in your career without learning the things above? Nope.

Does every writer suffer a serious downturn? Yes. And one or two in a generation are lucky enough to survive without learning business. One or two. That’s like banking on the lottery for your retirement.

So go learn this stuff. One little piece at a time.

If you do, you’ll be around to read this blog or something like it ten years from now. If you don’t, I wish you good luck.

Because you’ll need it.

One of the ways I keep learning is by writing this blog. So many of you add things to the comments that I’ve never thought of, or you e-mail me links that open my eyes to new things. Plus, I always double-check my information before I blog about it, and sometimes I dump a blog topic when I realize I don’t know nearly enough (yet) to write about it. Then I go out and learn it.

Thanks for all the links, e-mails, comments, and support. Because this blog has to fund itself, I appreciate financial support too. The donations enable me to carve time out of my busy schedule to write the blog. Otherwise, I would probably put it off.

So, if you’ve learned something from this or previous blogs, please leave a tip on the way out.

And thanks again!

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“The Business Rusch: What Writers Need To Know” copyright 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.




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48 Comments

  1. And… your Freelancer’s Survival Guide is actually a very good place to start as well Kristine.

    I just noticed it came out in a third edition… buying it now.

    Over the last decade I’ve learned that writing for a living is a business, and always has to be treated like one. Always.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Joseph. I thought of mentioning it, then I figured the cover to the right could do the job. :-) And yes, writing is a business. Anyone who thinks otherwise won’t have a writing career for long.

      Reply
  2. I second The Copyright Handbook as an essential resources for every working writer. Keep it updated, too; not necessarily every year, but at least every three years, you should get the current edition and read it through. Most of the time, the changes are in details of procedures; however, I thoroughly expect the 2013 update this fall to include material from the Kirtsaeng case due out from the Supreme Court by the end of June (whether it is acceptable to import and resell grey-market books and undercut the US publisher’s price for in-substance identical materials), and every working writer needs to know how that turns out.

    I also suggest that Our Gracious Hostess’s separation of her fourteen-point list into two parts is a bit misleading, but probably only as a matter of emphasis and perspective. It is not that those writers who stick to commercial publishing don’t need to know points 9 through 14; it is that the focus is different for self-publishers than it is for those who consider themselves “only authors.” Each of points 9 through 14 is still absolutely necessary to the author’s own business, even if not as immediately life-and-death as to a self-publishers. Further, understanding those items from a commercial publisher’s point of view helps implement things that fall under points 1 through 8 — it’s hard to understand how to negotiate a contract that is good for the writer if one does not understand where the publisher’s business plan allows it to negotiate, and where the publisher’s business plan makes something nonnegotiable. Too, that last point is also an excellent marker for when to transition between commercial and self-publishing… and in which direction, and for which works.

    This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, folks. Even at their most intimidating — the depths of the Cold War, when those particular clichés were current — they were still sciences based upon an extensive shared (if poorly taught) body of knowledge. No such luck with publishing, which is founded on a centuries-old culture of secrecy and wisdom received from individual mentors; in that way, publishing is more like alchemy than chemistry. That it can’t be understood in the same way as a scientific body of knowledge, however, does not excuse one from trying to understand at least the corner one is in, and preferably the adjacent areas… and recognizing where one’s blind/restricted-vision spots are. (I hope I have mixed enough metaphors in this paragraph to convince you that I need more caffeine.)

    Reply
    • Thanks, CE. I left out so much. I figured it’s easier to go in smaller units. And yes, I learned all the stuff for indie writers as a traditionally published writer. But the top one is just “at minimum” as I said. That means there’s much, much more.

      I love your point on secrecy & alchemy. Brilliant stuff. Forgo the caffeine. :-)

      Reply
  3. Thanks for posting about this. I really do need to learn the finer details in the business of being an indie writer. It’s just all so daunting, but I like the bite-sized chunks approach. :)

    Reply
    • That approach works as long as you remember this is not a race and you don’t have to learn it all at once. I’m glad to help.

      Reply
  4. I’m exhausted just reading those 14 points. Not that I disagree with them. Hell, we even try and hit most of them. It’s just disconcerting to see the list. Thanks, Kris. I think I will go mix up a Mojito.

    Reply
  5. I guess I would add the concepts of learning time management and production management to the first list.

    Production management because you not only need to know HOW to write a good book, but also need to know how to produce books in the right quantity and on deadline.

    Time management because you need to know how you are spending your time, and how to focus it on activities that pay.

    Reply
  6. I know this isn’t the point of your post, but where did you find those newspapers from 1970? I have a personal interest…

    Reply
    • Go to your local library first, Michael. You can get any newspaper online, usually through the library’s service. Secondarily, all the major papers have scanned their archives online. You have to pay for anything before 1975 (generally), but you can do it. There are a lot of online resources. Of course, microfilm still exists….

      Reply
      • Don’t limit yourself to just your local library, either. Most major public university libraries have extensive collections of in-state newspapers, and of many not-in-state newspapers. For example, the University of Illinois newspaper library has practically every newspaper printed in the state of Illinois, and most of the major national and many major international papers, back into the 1850s.

        Reply
        • I’ve been worried about our ability to view a newspaper in the form and layout it was originally printed, as so many web archives for newspapers are a la carte by article now.

          Reply
          • Most newspapers are a la carte on their website. Most libraries have full page views. See if your local library has Proquest access. They have a section where you can click to see the full page–including ads.

  7. Yup, feeling overwhelmed. I’m trying to complete my first novel (daunting enough), but for somebody who doesn’t even own an e-reader and has never read an e-book, the thought of learning how to create and manage a product in e-space, as well as learn the business…whew, I’m tired already just thinking about it.

    But I *WILL* do it.

    Reply
  8. Thanks again for all the information you so freely share. I get asked by those wanting to try their hand at self publishing how to do it. I always direct them to your’s and Dean’s “How To Think Like A Publisher” blogs.

    I can’t possibly begin to explain everything I’ve learned over the last three years in one conversation, not to mention the experience you and Dean have from seeing several sides of the multi-dimensional publishing coin.

    There’s no magic trick to learning the business. You “do” and then you work on doing better the next time.

    Reply
  9. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by that list. Then I realized several points were required knowledge for everyone, not just writers:

    * Money management

    * How to hire good advisors—lawyers, accountants [snipping the part about an agent]

    * How to manage a business

    * How to say no

    Four out of a total of 14 points: that’s a good start towards financial success. And yes, some people manage thru life without learning any of them — but I expect they’d be happier if they had.

    Reply
  10. Your best advice about it being a process is right on. One cannot EVER learn everything. Not because we are not capable, but because it is constantly changing. When I sold short stories in the late 70′s through the ’80s I saw the paying markets for short stories dry up or go e-zine. When I began writing novels in the mid ’90′s the publishing world was traditional and the rules of that game, and the business decisions for that game, are completely different than they are now.

    The business understanding is changing even faster. There are many agents, editors, and traditional publishing personnel who also do not understand the business of publishing. They are all floundering as they continuously re-evaluate the changes of technology, the changes of author power, and their perceptions of the reader.

    This is even more reason for me to have some inviolate business rules for myself. Right now I have five inviolate rules. These may not look like business rules, but they are for me and impact every decision I make.
    1) No one will protect my interests like I can;
    2) Choose my business partners very carefully and re-evaluate them regularly (remember #1);
    3) Karma will always benefit me (or punish me) in the end (translation: the golden rule still applies in all my interactions);
    4) Change is constant. Learn as much as I can and accept I will make mistakes. Don’t spend an extraordinary amount of time beating myself up over those mistakes. Learn and move on.
    5) I can’t do it alone. I need a supportive village of friends, other writers, and business partners (see #2).

    I’ve always been an entrepreneur, even in Academia (not necessarily valued there). I spent eight years in the heady 1980′s in the software industry where software companies were gobbling each other up as fast as possible. But even with my years of business experience and entrepreneurial endeavors, nothing has prepared me for the clash of worlds and almost daily change presented by both traditional and indie publishing.

    It is exciting and scary. In the end, I have to believe it will be a new golden age for writers (like the 50′s and 60′s appeared to be). I just have to keep believing, following my rules, and taking advantage of opportunities, at the front end, that make sense (because the back end is too late).

    Reply
  11. Thanks. I’ve decided to do the writing thing, as opposed to just talking about doing it someday. I know some of the business stuff from other experience, but your checklist is great for filling in the gaps.

    Reply
  12. Hi Kris,

    Is it possible to add a way to subscribe to your blog via email?

    It seems like currently this is not an option.

    Reply
    • You’re the second person to ask, Yonatan. Looks like I’ll have to investigate. Thanks!

      Reply
  13. Kris, I’m commenting for three reasons:

    1] Usually your column entries pop to the top of your Business Rusch articles list and this didn’t when I did a page renew;

    2] This was a good encapsulation of what you’ve been advising for the past couple of years and I passed it on to my striving writer friends;

    3] If your present research indicates what I think it means, then I’m quaking with anticipation.

    JJB

    Reply
    • And I fixed the reason it didn’t show up. That’s what I get for posting with a migraine. :-) Thanks!

      Reply
  14. Would you have considered working with that designer if he suggested free remake of a cover he thought was unprofessional? I’m sure he meant no disrespect, but pitch would have been better off not given.

    Indie authors have a lot of problems with business side of things too. Most don’t want to learn it, a lot of them just want to make a quick buck with Amazon, without even realizing how long this journey is gonna be! Your blog is probably the best so far I’ve read about this (not Dean’s blog.. he said authors should do their own covers.. I’m pissed :D).

    Are there any other similar blogs by Authors similar to yours and Deans?

    Reply
    • I’ll let others answer you about better blogs. I read some, but I’m looking for different things than most writers do.

      As for working with a designer who criticizes someone else’s work, I might consider it. But as a sales approach, it’s not a very good one. You’re better off asking if the writer/publisher is open to having other designers work for them, and then offer to do a sample cover for one of their works–or just let them see your portfolio, which should show you to advantage, imho.

      And some writers can do their own covers, just like some children’s writers can and should illustrate their own books. And then there are folks like me, who simply want to write, really aren’t all that visual, and would rather hire the work out. Now, on audio books, that’s a different story. I have voice training, and would like to do a lot of my own work…if I only have the time. :-)

      Reply
      • I totally agree that writers can do their covers. The only reason I think authors shouldn’t – is time as you say. I mean author will be able to make himself a good cover (same as premade covers sold or average designer costing $100-200 per cover) IF he spends at least 3 months learning Adobe Photoshop 1-2 hour a day. By that time, you can get a pretty good cover that will not suck (but won’t probably blow your mind too). But that’s ton of time, which is worth more than those $200..

        So that’s why I was surprised with Dean saying that authors should be doing covers.. that’s all. Not gonna pretend making book covers or posters etc is magic of some kind of Godlike talent. :)

        Gotta say sometimes we designers lack social intelligence (me included) :P And things come out wrong way.

        Reply
        • Sometimes all us artists lack social intelligence, Adrijus. :-)

          I think Dean’s saying you can do your own covers if you have the inclination or the time or are unwilling to invest the dollars in a designer who might not come up with something you want. (Of course, you might not either.) He definitely knows it’s not a Godlike talent. He does a lot that work himself, and spends weeks teaching people how to do that, among other things. He just says it’s possible, not that it’s easy.

          Me, I’d rather write and hire someone else. And then hire yet someone else if I don’t like the first cover. :-)

          Reply
          • What stuck with me because he said ”Business owners are cheap” and that’s why DIY is for authors. It’s why I was surprised with his attitude (because owners aren’t cheap, saving, but not cheap). Maybe I was wrong and misread. :)

            Anyway, those who love design should design as it’s a way to get on different wavelength a bit.

            BTW, have there been issues for you with designers? I’d like to hear that. Maybe here or maybe in a post, whatever is convenient. I totally don’t get how designers can be stuck up or not re-make a cover that wasn’t what author wants. I’d also like to write about those kind of stories to have a resource for authors on how to work with designers.

          • I think he meant to save money. And yes, have you seen most of my traditional book covers? 99% awful, over 20+ years.His too. So that’s where he’s coming from. And yeah, designers can redo, but they might not have the skills they believe they have, so a redo isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes it is, if the concept is wrong but the design good. But if the design is bad, then no concept change will fix that. It always comes down to preference.

  15. Some of us enjoy playing with cover design, find it relaxing or even a tool to help figure out how we’re targeting a story. It’s also useful for learning what goes into making the covers that author wants, so they can know what to hire and what to avoid hiring.

    Personally, I’m quite glad I’ve spent the hours fiddling with GIMP. From doing that, I can more easily identify what I don’t and don’t want in a cover. I’m also coming up with series templates and such that mean I can find an image for a series story, plug it in, and have the cover ready in, oh, fifteen minutes. If that. And I can fiddle with covers when I need a break from writing or editing. It’s relaxing, and I enjoy it.

    Now, I understand why some folks find it not worth their time or energy, and if I had the cash to spend, I might be more likely to outsource it. But I don’t see myself ever outsourcing all of it. I enjoy it too much.

    Then again, I’m also the type of person who was dabbling at creating my own program to write a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story before Choice of Games (http://www.choiceofgames.com/) came out. I like variety. When I lack it, I go stir crazy. :)

    Reply
  16. Most of the covers honestly are either stale in a sense that design style used is old and can’t hold a candle to posters/CD covers/Advertising design standards and new trends. Few are great and covers by I.Tobin or Chip Kidd are good (mostly).

    It will change tho, new trends will come into cover designs too :) Altho I’ve gotten flack from some authors for suggesting it haha

    Thank you for your time! Looking forward to other articles;)

    Reply
    • Adrijus, “stale” is not a critique that is valid for book covers, imho. You also have to brand by genre and subgenre and have something that buyers will recognize. So you need to be working in all kinds of boxes and then add different elements slowly. Remember, the point of a book cover is not great design. It is to sell the book.

      Reply
      • I don’t see those would be mutually exclusive. :)Great design=attention=chance for sale (description and reviews then come in). ‘Boxes’ are fine because creativity is born out of constrains a lot.

        And it’s great that self-pub came in and now writers can test different covers and different styles. I have trouble believing people are stupid and won’t buy a book because a cover looks different from others in genre esp. Amazon listings for the genre and good title/description. I’d rather test that.

        Could be wrong could, be right! I’m fine with both :)

        Reply
        • People aren’t stupid, but they will more readily pick up a book that is in a familiar brand than they do something unfamiliar. That’s been proven over and over and over again. So you must coax the genre/subgenre to a new look, not jump into that new look as if the past doesn’t matter. Great design, yes, but within something definable, so that reader doesn’t dismiss something innovative because their genre usually isn’t innovative at all. :-)

          Reply
          • The art is wonderful, Adrijus, but as you know, only the first step. With the wrong fonts, a poorly balanced title, a badly designed spine, the art won’t carry the cover. And I see nothing in the art that’s ground-breaking. Lots of book covers now use hand-drawn elements with photo manipulation, even some of my recent good covers. So…yes, good. But incomplete. :-)

  17. I worked in construction management for 35 years before getting serious about writing. To me that ment spending 50% of my effort studying, the business and the craft equally. One thing I learned about business is that business is business and the writing business is strikingly similar to the construction business. Not in details but absolutely in execution, practice, attitude and logistics. Every artist, any art, needs to learn how business works generally and specifically. A lack there of is why good artist fail. Becoming a freelance writer was part of my business plan with the long goal of writing and selling fiction. Any business person will quickly see the connection while business avoiders will not.

    Reply
  18. Sometimes color alone carries the cover, or one element etc. Of course it depends on how other covers look etc. And yeah, the more complete the cover is the better, but there those with no title on the cover at all. :)

    Appreciate the discussion. Hope your sales are doing great. Looking forward to more articles and of course, cover reveals for new books. ;)

    Reply
    • If you want the book to sell–which is, again, the point of the cover–then the book needs a title. Those books without titles? They always tanked the author’s sales numbers and sometimes the career.

      You’ll see more reveals soon. :-)

      Reply
      • I mean title is not on the cover, not that books don’t have title at all (wouldn’t be suggesting that :)) Seth Godin and S. Pressfield did it for Domino Project. I’d love to talk to them about it, maybe I’ll get to do it sometime.

        See you in comments ;)

        Reply
        • I know what you meant. People do this as an experiment every five years or so. Writers with clout get their traditional publishers to do it. It never works well.

          Reply
          • I see. Well, I do like those who push boundaries! No risk, no champagne! :) You win some, you lose some, I guess.

  19. Kris, most of the covers lately that I’ve noticed have been simple ones, whether they’re from authors who have traditional publishing contracts or not. (For example, a traditional publisher with a simple design for her trilogy is Ally Condie. One color’s in green, the next is blue and the final one is in red — this refers to three pills the people of Condie’s vision can take — and the design is stark and simple, with the author’s name being nearly as prominent as the name of the book.) Do you think this is a worthwhile trend? And would this be one reason why your husband felt that anyone, with sufficient time, could learn how to execute a competent cover? (Sarah A. Hoyt has discussed on her blog a few times how designing a cover works. She’s much more artistically inclined that way than I could ever be. But it doesn’t sound like rocket science from anything she’s said, you’ve said or that your husband has said, either.)

    I know you can’t speak for Dean, really. But this is the question that came to mind.

    I haven’t yet had to worry about cover art. I’m still in the copy-editing phase and going over changes (small press publisher, but a reputable one). But if you have any advice as to what I might want to look for — anything that’s really a bad idea, in your view — I’d like to know just in case. (I think my publisher will do her best or I’d not be with her, mind you.)

    Reply
    • A lot of covers have become simple, Ally, so that you can see the pertinent information (title/author) in thumbnail size. The more complicated covers don’t work really tiny. Some NY publishing houses are designing different covers for the print books than the e-book. Most, though, are designing simple covers which, yes, with a learning curve, anyone with a good eye and some time can pick up. It’s when you get to the really sophisticated stuff that years of design classes & work will help. But the simple ones work too–and might actually sell better in today’s market. Ask me the same question in 2015, though, and I might give you a different answer. :-)

      Reply

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