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Updated: Aug 29, 2021

So, you’re writing a book, have written a book and are about to publish it, or have published and just want to up your marketing game. This article will help you utilize one of the most powerful marketing tools available to authors: marketing graphics. It will also offer recommendations for design tools that will help form a cohesive look and feel for your business.


What are marketing graphics? They are visual aids that allow you to define your brand, communicate pertinent information about your products, and of course, help you sell your merchandise/services. Specifically, they can include logos, fonts, book covers, product/service pictures, reviews/ratings, advertising hooks, pricing, promotions, and other important details.


Common uses are for brand and product launching, rebranding, promotions, giveaways and contests, good old-fashioned “nudging” (remember, potential readers are born every day!), and other announcements.



To make this as useful to authors as possible, the following is organized for someone just beginning their writing and publishing journey. Included at the end of the article are links to sites you can hire graphic designers and specialty artists for all your visual marketing needs. For the DIYers, a short list of free software programs is included, as well.


Writing/Author Announcement - This may catch some of you by surprise, but simply letting the world know you are writing or beginning your author career is an important first step. Here is the announcement I made shortly before I published my debut novel (my real name has been redacted.)




Author logo - This graphic is important for your author brand. It should suit the genre of writing you will be be publishing in. To get some ideas, take a look at the logos of existing successful authors. Note: Both my author announcement and author logo were created using Canva, a design program used by many authors.


Take note of the font used for my pen name on the logo, as it was carefully chosen to appeal to my readers and easily identify the genre of books I write in. Although I have started with a romantic suspense novel, I plan to write in a broader range of contemporary romance, which this logo works well for.


Book cover - This will make or break your book and will also cause you some of the biggest headache in determining what is best to represent your story. Although you can do this with the help of templates from most of your publishing platforms, consider investing in a designer to take care of this instead. This image will not only be on your book but will also appear on your marketing graphics such as cover reveal, launch day announcement, and promotions and giveaways.


Cover reveal - Often a multi-day event, many authors ‘tease’ their readers by offering glimpses of their book covers months, weeks, or days before the book’s release.


Launch day - When authors hear of launch days, most will tell you it is the official day that their books are offered for sale to the public. However, they can encompass other scenarios as well: book versions, websites, series box sets, new pen names, et cetera. Make sure your graphics clearly show what you are launching. Here is the graphic I used when launching my website. I used the occasion to offer a giveaway.


(A quick note on the hair: I'm transitioning to my natural silvers. You can see my journey here!)


Giveaways/Promotions - As an indie author, you will give a lot of your books away. ARC and beta readers, bookstagrammers, contest and giveaway winners, as well as readers downloading on free promotion days are just a handful of those who will receive them. You want to present the information on how to sign up or access the deals in an attractive, persuasive manner, using marketing graphics.






This 3-day free Kindle promotion graphic garnered a lot of downloads when I posted it across several social media platforms.






I love my book cover but even I don’t think it was the main selling point of this promo graphic.


It may seem like a lot more work than you bargained for, but the returns are well worth the efforts for most authors. To assist you with the process, I’ve compiled a list of some programs, both paid and free, that will fulfill most of your graphic design needs. If you prefer to hire someone instead, I’ve listed a few places to find those professionals.


Graphic Design Programs


Canva: A common design program authors use to keep costs down by creating their own marketing graphics. Canva offer some images for free (check out their free vs. paid subscription plans) but you can also check out Shutterstock, iStock, PixaBay, or other royalty-free image providers (read license agreements carefully!) One of the useful features of Canva is that they offer blank templates for most of the major social media sites, such as Facebook posts or website banners, Instagram stories or reels, and Twitter posts. This will help you avoid unpleasant formatting issues and ensure your graphics look their best on each platform.


BookBrush: This program offers free and paid versions and was created to assist authors with their marketing needs. Fairly easy to use and worth a look.


Pixlr: This free editing software lets you remove backgrounds, lighten/darken individual pixels, and “repair” parts of images, among many other options. There are a few different versions, so make sure you find the one that offers what you are looking for.


Adobe Spark, Illustrator, and Photoshop: Most of these programs are what many graphic designers, book formatters, and some savvy authors use to create high-quality digital art. Getting the hang of using layers can be tricky, but if you have the time, money, and skillset to learn, they offer a high return on investment. Note: Adobe Spark is free to start.


Gimp: Another graphic design program that allows you to work in layers. It’s free!


Pablo: If you are a ‘simplicity is best’ type of person, give Pablo a try. It is free and very user-friendly, allowing text placement over images in record time.


Snappa: Although free and paid users are allowed access on Snappa to the same templates, graphics, and images, free users are on a 3-designs-a-month download restriction.


Graphic Professionals-for-Hire Sites


Fiverr This is a well-known site to hire individuals for everything from developing a marketing plan to creating book covers. I have had varying results on this site, and a few vendors who disappeared after receiving payment without delivering the job. Fiverr only refunded my money in the form of a site credit, so caveat emptor. Still, there are some truly talented individuals at all levels of skill who can provide affordable products and services (some starting at $5, as the name suggests.)


99Designs The Vistaprint-owned graphic design service has designers for almost anything you can dream up: websites, clothing and merchandise, book and magazine covers, logos, and even packaging and labels. They offer a “contest” approach by allowing different designers to submit their interpretations of your design request and letting you pick the winner. You have 7 days of back and forth collaboration until you either select your design or receive a full refund (as with all the listed programs and sites, make sure you read their policies before placing an order.)


Upwork is a job marketplace that allows skilled workers be matched with client’s looking for those skills. You can find graphic designers at various budget and skill levels and hire them on a job/hourly basis.


As you can see, there are plenty of options to help ease the marketing load off both indie and traditionally published authors who still find themselves responsible for the majority of this critical aspect of their author business.



So, you’ve decided to have your audiobook created and after listening to scores of talented voice actors, have chosen the perfect one. Congratulations! Now the hard work can begin.


Ok, I know that wasn’t what you were expecting but trust me when I say that putting the time into the following tasks will make this process go a lot smoother. It will also ensure that your narrators aren’t pulling out their hair behind the scenes!


Know your audiobooks intended platforms


Do you plan on offering your book only on Audible? Or do you want to sell it through your author website and other platforms that do not require exclusivity? Different platforms will have different requirements and it is up to you to know what they are and communicate them to your narrator before a contract is signed or recording begins. This will save everyone time, frustration, and heartache (do not underestimate your emotional investment in your work!) and ensure you end up with a final product that will be accepted wherever you submit it.


Provide a fully edited manuscript


You may feel your manuscript is as polished as it could be. It’s been published in other formats after going through stringent editing processes, gotten great reviews, and all signs point to it being ready for recording. I can tell you from experience that if you have not yet heard your book read aloud, this feeling may come crashing down upon you.


While it is easy to skip over certain things while reading, it is more difficult to do so when listening to someone else read it to you. Even if your manuscript contains zero grammatical or structure issues, there are other things to consider.


Curse words, strong adult content scenes, ‘private’ thoughts of your characters, and even interjections (i.e. ah, eh, duh, etc.) and exclamations (Yikes!) can make or break your scenes.


Make a character list

Create a list of your characters and organize them in a spreadsheet or table that includes the following when relevant:


· Character Name and relevancy (i.e. Delia Damsel, main character)

· Age

· Gender

· Nationality if it affects narration (i.e. Australian accent)

· Speech inflections, impediments, and other special traits (monotone voice, child’s lisp, nervous stutter, etc.)

· Character traits: It doesn’t hurt to provide details about the personality of your character. Keep it short and precise so you don’t overload your narrator. An example of relevant information would be if the character is a villain-type and is from an affluent background, you can tell your narrator that Susie Slander is an entitled gossiper who speaks to everyone with disdain.


Identify unique words and phrases that may cause pronunciation errors



On the same spreadsheet or document that lists characters and their traits, include a list of words and where they appear in the manuscript that fit the following criteria:


1. Foreign words and phrases - even if these are commonly used in your country or region, do not assume that your narrator or your readers are going to pronounce them the same way you do. Figure out what your target audience expects to hear and then provide this pronunciation to your narrator.


2. Brand names - Although these can overlap with foreign words, such as “Givenchy” to American ears (hint: it’s not pronounced “gah vin chee”), there are some brand names that are simply easy to mispronounce (Weis Markets knows this.)


3. Character and location names - Much like the anxiety of teachers performing roll call at the beginning of the semester, narrators can struggle with the (often unique) names of the characters they desperately want to bring alive for you. Help them out by giving them pronunciation tips...a simple “Reine rhymes with rain” will do. This also applies to the locales in your story. There are simply too many unique and wonderful places in the world for any one person to be familiar with something like their pronunciation (much less their existence!)


4. Additional considerations - The English language can be difficult to master even for native speakers. Nothing proves this point more than homonyms/homophones and homographs/heteronyms. Let your narrator know about the ones that may be difficult to spot ahead of recording. Also, pay attention to changes in your tense which may affect the script in flashback scenes. For example, “I read to her to calm her nerves” can trip a narrator up if the tense is not readily apparent. Make a note in the comment section of your word processing program or list it on your audiobook notes spreadsheet.


Your format requirements


Apart from platform and genre-specific requirements, there are also personal preferences that you need to communicate to your narrator.


Ensure the script notes what you would like on your opening and ending credits. You will not need your copyright page, although you may want to include the copyright/publication dates.


If you want music in your intro and ending credit or sound effects throughout, this may be beyond your narrator’s capabilities. Speak with someone skilled with this to see if the narrator needs to do something that will allow them to add these effects for you later.


Although you can add a dedication, it is not currently an industry norm to include lengthy dedications, author acknowledgments, and author bios. Remember that audiobooks are often listened to by book lovers that face considerable time constraints.


Your narrator will thank you

By following these suggestions, I hope to save you and the voice actor you hire from common misunderstandings that cause delays and headaches.


The sharing of stories should be an enjoyable experience for all!



Updated: Jun 30, 2021





For the past couple of months, I have been working on a new format to offer my readers: an audiobook. What I quickly learned was that I knew nothing about them! As a member of the reading world that still remembers visiting a library for every school book report, I have been reluctant to trade my physical books for digital and audio versions. However, as an author who writes in one of the most heavily saturated genres, romance, it is essential that I reach as many of my readers as possible. As an indie author, I need to do that in the most cost-effective way possible. Considering all this, I knew it was time to do some research. Hopefully, what I found will help you.


Benefits

The first thing to decide is whether the format will be beneficial. You can judge this by your own criteria: profit, exposure, experience, etc. But the main thing to consider is whether your target audience will be looking for your product in this particular market. If they are, then make sure you show up.


Audience


Most of us know that audiobook sales have seen an impressive growth rate over the last several years, something that is forecasted to continue in the years to come. But, do you know if romance readers are interested in audiobooks? To date, the top performing audiobook genre is the Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, which captures about 37% of the market. Autobiographies and Memoirs frequently top the bestseller lists and non-fiction audiobooks still outperform fiction. When you consider that the majority of listeners are young adults aged 18 and over and affluent professionals under the age of 45, this news doesn’t come as a shock. What might, is the surprising lack of information offered about romance audiobooks and their readers.


What can be found are the top performers within the genre, with many also taking the top spots in other formats. Julia Quinn, Colleen Hoover, Sylvia Day, E.L. James, Nora Roberts, and Nicholas Sparks were all high on the bestseller lists between 2020-2021. If you think the readers of these big names may be interested in your story, and you have done your best to make it comparable in quality, then positioning your book alongside them is a good plan.


Platform


The following is not a comprehensive list but reflects audiobook platforms that came up most in my research.


Audible As in all online book sales, Amazon takes the prize for largest selection under their audio platform, Audible. Although it operates under a subscription plan, it is widely popular due to the over 200,000 titles available, some that are exclusively available through Amazon. Listeners can purchase a less expensive “credit-free” plan but many members opt for the benefits of upgrading to enjoy credits that can be used to get any audiobook for free, regardless of the price. Audible currently allows a free exchange for any audiobook that customers don’t like and has a 30-day free cancellation policy for all new subscribers.


Audiobooks.com Regarding the sheer size of audiobook selection offered, few can compare so closely to Audible. However, with over 200,000 titles in its library, Audiobooks.com can. Their return policy is not, at first look, as appealing as Audibles, however, since there is no guarantee and returns are allowed per company discretion. Heavy users miss out on savings, too, that Audible has built into their Platinum Subscription plan.


Google Audiobooks With no subscription requirements, Google Audiobooks is another popular platform for listeners. Google Play has offered audiobooks for years and has the advantage of being easily played on Google Home speakers, all with voice commands. Although they lack the credit system of Audible or Audiobooks.com, they offer frequent discounts, as well as a select handful of titles for free (freebies have auto-generated narrators.) They also offer a Family Library that lets users share their audiobooks.


Apple Books On the Apple books app, you can access audiobooks from the Bookstore and listen to them on your Mac, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Audiobooks downloaded from Audible.com can be dragged and dropped into Apple books. There has been talk about trouble listening to audiobooks on Google home speakers from Apple products, but Bluetooth capabilities have allowed a workaround solution. A simple internet search should assist with this.


Librovox Hands down, this is the best platform for anyone on a tight budget. Librovox offers audiobooks that have entered the public domain due to expired copyright protection—entirely for free. Accordingly, many of the titles were written several decades ago, but for lovers of classics, this adds to the appeal.


Kobo As in the eBook markets, Toronto-based Kobo has positioned itself as a rival to Amazon and other top competitors in the audiobook market. It offers a subscription plan, but for up to one-third of Audible’s pricing plans. If you aren’t sure about the value of their subscription service, you can try it out with a 30-day free trial period.


Devices


Smartphones make up the largest preferred way of listening to audiobooks (44%) while tablets, laptops, and personal shopping assistants (smart speakers) make up the rest. Smart speakers are projected to gain in popularity over the next several years. Some of this popularity was triggered by the pandemic, when audiobooks listeners who traditionally used their car’s Bluetooth capabilities to take advantage of work commutes, began working from home.


Cost


The biggest deterrent in using the audiobook format for most self-published authors is cost. The average cost of recording and editing an audiobook is currently $3,000-$4,000. Prices go up depending on what narrator(s) you hire and how much editing your audio files need. Costs go down if you decide to buy home equipment and use your own voice to narrate it. I’ve heard some authors have had success with Mac’s GarageBand for these recordings. However, equipment costs, opportunity costs, and the difficulties for some in finding a space quiet enough for quality recording, should all be carefully weighted.


Profitability


It is possible to have an audiobook recorded with very little up-front costs. Some narrators work off a contract that guarantees them a percentage of revenue, allowing some breathing room for the author that needs the product’s sales before they can afford the costs. Others allow you to pay all costs up front, including the performance and sound recording rights. However, finding quality narrators willing to work within this model is difficult. When you consider that selling through platforms like Audible will cut further into your pockets by taking 60% of each sale, you begin to see why the average audiobook price is between $20-$30.


Conclusions


While the increasing popularity of audiobooks, the platforms they are offered on, as well as the devices used to listen to them are all excellent reasons to consider offering your books in this format, they may not be the best route for an indie author to take. Careful consideration of what your customers are asking for, what your goals are for your author brand, and whether the high costs involved in having an audiobook recorded and edited, should first be made.


I concluded that the exposure and experience of going through this process was worth the price. As I am currently having my novel, The Raven’s Call, made into an audiobook, I will use next month’s blog post to dive deeper into what to expect during the recording and editing steps.