A ha’porth of tar.

Another day, another…cloud. But wait. Another cloud another silver lining – perhaps.

Over the weekend I found the time and motivation to have a go at formatting my Microsoft Word document into something that Amazon’s Kindle will display. I wasn’t looking forward to it because I thought that it might get a bit technical. However, it was pleasantly and surprisingly really simple and within a minute of pinging my novel over the internet to Amazon it came back, formatted, on to my Kindle e-book reader. This provided me with two sensations. The first was one of astonished amazement at yet another example of just how flipping amazing the technology is today. I mean I live now. I grew up with this stuff. I’m used to it. But technology still has the ability to utterly baffle and bewilder me. How does all this work? There aren’t even any cables involved. It’s all wireless. I wonder sometimes how a great innovator of centuries long gone would react to it all if he/she could be resurrected and shown a few examples. Could they cope with it?

The second feeling that I got was a bit warm and gooey down there. No, not down there. Just in the pit of my stomach. My book was on a Kindle and I could read it. And of course I should. I must. To ensure that there are no errors thrown up by the formatting, or otherwise, I must read the book again on the device that it is intended for. What a chore that sounds. I’ve read the damn thing three times in two weeks. I like it, and I’m exceptionally egotistical where my own ‘art’ is concerned, but I can’t face reading that thing again just yet. Actually, I won’t have to because I have a fly in my self-publishing ointment that is the new cloud in my life. (I apologise to myself for mixing my metaphors.)

A little while ago those of me who have been paying close attention to my blog posts will have seen me boasting about how I nailed my evocative and enticing e-book covers in a matter of hours and at no expense at all. How clever I was. And yet how conceited and possibly stupid too.

I’m a bibliophile. I collect books. I can spend a hundred pounds on a book and not bat an eye, if I really want it. I love everything about books: the smell (new or old – unlike people books actually smell better with age), the feel, the reading, the look of a superbly crafted and atmospheric dust-jacket….yes the dust-jacket. I always judge a book by its cover. I think that dust-jackets are as important to the book as, as, as…well they’re bloody important, I know that much. It’s often the first thing that people see and people do make a judgement of the book based on that first impression. So why oh why did I think that the dust-jackets of my e-books weren’t important enough in my grand scheme of self-publishing to warrant some investment in some professionalism? I’m going to put my books out into the big wide world where they are going to compete with all sorts of professional and brilliant artwork. I have to give them the best start that I can, the best chance that I can, to get them noticed by the casual browser with thousands of titles to choose from. Don’t I? If I get noticed maybe a few people will linger long enough to press download and then read me.

Back to my problem. When it came to downloading my e-book cover to Kindle Amazon would not accept the file because it wasn’t up to pixel standards. In fact it was humiliatingly short of pixels. Nothing to be done about it. I must abandon them. And after I’d stopped crying I started thinking about what I could do. I’ve ended up back on that dilemma’s horns again – invest in some software that will enable me to create industry standard e-book covers or bite the bullet and pay a pro to come up with something?

Naturally, I turned to my best friend – I had a scout around the internet, like you do, and found a couple of graphic designers offering this service (how much? I’m definitely in the wrong job). I also found this website http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/10/e-book-cover-design-awards-september-2012/

This was an eye-opener. It’s really worth a look if one has an interest in cover art. Every month the guy who runs the site judges the dozens of submissions that people send in for someone to be singled out as that month’s best. He has several months of e-book covers archived and it makes really fascinating viewing. The guy who runs it is a pro designer himself and he provides feedback on a lot of the entries and I learned a lot just from considering his comments with the artwork. He is good.

I’ve learned from this experience to appreciate even more the importance of, and impact of, a really well crafted and appropriate book jacket. What I’m thinking now is that I should find myself a professional e-book cover designer and start talking about deals for a three-jacket-order. It’s going to cost me (and realistically I can’t ever see me making any money out of my books to compensate for this outlay), but a) I think that my books are worth it b) they could give me the edge that I need to get noticed and c) I like the idea of having professionally and sympathetically created jackets for my series. OK it’s going to be considerably more than a ha’porth of tar but so what? I die a few hundred pounds poorer. Big deal.

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