Archive for the ‘cover design’ Category

I’m thrilled to reveal Kikimora’s cover design, courtesy of Uncut ID, and to announce the ebook is now available for pre-order.

Kikimora by Emma Woodcock

As mentioned previously, it’s an ebook-first soft launch, to be followed by paperback in a few weeks (hopefully before Christmas!)

The first reviews are also in.

I’m really pleased with the cover design. It’s just what I had in mind: a cold, blue, snow-laden forest, and something mysterious lurking within…

This post from two years ago shows that I already then knew exactly what I wanted!

I hope you like it too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments?

For the past few months I’ve been hard at work completing a final edit of Kikimora. I’ve now made the last checks for continuity, spelling, grammar, formatting, etc…

Guys, it’s done.

In true difficult-second-album stylee, this one’s been a bit of a slog. I thought it would be easier the second time around! I thought: I know what I’m doing now. I know the pitfalls to avoid. I know how to motivate myself. I know how stories veer off track, and how to steer them back. And I’m doing something much simpler and shorter!*

Yeah well, apparently I don’t know Jack…

There have been setbacks aplenty; some personal, some professional (as in the job that actually pays me…) and some writing related. But finally the Is are all dotted; the Ts are crossed, and Kikimora is ready to go out into the world and seek her fortune. You can read the final, expanded version of the opening chapter here.

sunlight on water

A shady pool, as beloved by Rusalkas

I expect to publish Kikimora at the end of October. As with Darklands I’ll do a soft-launch first of ebook only, followed by a paperback within a month or so (before Christmas!) Currently I’m putting together some review copies, and my design consultant is working on the cover design – check back soon for a sneak peak!

To all those who’ve stuck with me, thanks for your patience. I hope you’ll enjoy the results.

* Kikimora has actually turned out exactly the same length as Darklands :-/

He could see Undine beneath the crystal vault

“He could see Undine beneath the crystal vault,” Arthur Rackham. Image source:

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realised what Pinterest is for! (not least due to my pal, Emilly Ladybird’s Dark Fairytales board, which she created for her book, Steampunk Apothecary).

I’ve spent a pleasant morning putting together a board of all things Kikimora – for my own research, inspiration and motivation, but hopefully also to whet the appetite of potential readers and give them an indication of what to expect. It encompasses images of traditional fairy tales, snowy forests, little cabins in the woods, steepy mountains, churches with onion domes, snowflakes, and various mythological creatures, including: Rusalka, Leshy, and Baba Yaga.

I’m really pleased with it, and wish I’d collated it before I began the story. I will definitely do it for my next book. It’s a great way to keep together a scrap book of visual inspiration and aide memoirs.

Who else uses Pinterest as part of the writing process? I haven’t really heard of it that much, but I thoroughly recommend it.

The free promotion of Darklands is going pretty well. I’ll have a full report on it later this week, but I’ve had over 1000 downloads from all over the world, and that makes me happy.

I’ve also found quite a few free books to snap up myself while perusing all the free book promotion sites.

One in particular caught my eye because the cover is almost identical to a photo in my collection – in fact I used it on a post about writing blurbs last year! The angle is slightly different, but I’m pretty sure that’s the same tree.

I snapped it on a visit to Yellowstone National Park two years ago, at one of the hot springs. Mammoth, I think. I know its a scenic spot, but what are the odds? Considering I live in Britain, and have visited the US twice in 40 years!

The book is Dead, but not for long, by Matthew Kinney and Lesa Kinney Anders, and it’s about zombies – hurrah!

Dead but not for long

Dead, but not for long, by Matthew Kinney and Lesa Kinney Anders

Dead tree in Yellowstone National Park

Dead tree in Yellowstone National Park

I’ve been greatly looking forward to the promised snow this week. Not for obvious reasons such as sledging or getting sent home from work. Not even for the hope of being snowed in with nothing to do but keep writing. The reason I’m so excited about the snow is that I want to take photos that I can use as the basis for Kikimora’s cover.

As discussed in a previous post, I have a pretty good idea of what I want on the cover, and snowy woods feature strongly.

It is therefore extremely inconvenient that I’ve come down with massive lurgy, and am unlikely to be going anywhere or doing anything this weekend. We don’t get that many good snowfalls in England, and if I miss this one there might not be another all year.

Fortunately, I did manage to get out for half an hour in my lunch break during the first snow earlier this week. I only had my phone with me, so the camera wasn’t brilliant. And, since it was still snowing at the time, the sky was grey and the light murky.The resulting photos aren’t that scintillating. However, I had always intended to monkey around with them, adding colours and textures and painterly effects so perhaps it wouldn’t matter too much?

Having already completed today’s 1000 words,* I decided to have a play around with a few pictures and see what I could do with them. These are only quick forays, trying out a few techniques, but I’m liking some of the effects I’m getting.

The snowy woods will be the background for a bright figure (possibly woodcut), so they don’t need to have much of a focal point themselves.

frozen lake

A frozen lake, much like the one where the Rusalka live

snowy branches

snowy branches

path through snowy woods

path through snowy woods

It’s also good to be able to witness a few snowfalls, since there are so many in my book. A bit of immediate, first-hand experience will tighten up my descriptions no end. All in all I’m making good use of the snow.

* And I’ve had great fun with the writing today. I’ve been reading The Golden Bough on and off for about 20 years, picking up fascinating little snippets and ideas, squirrelling them away – and every now and again finding the perfect place for them in some piece of writing.

Today I made use of an old custom of punishing gods that aren’t pulling their weight – by beating, berating and generally disgracing their statues.

Effectively, the people give their gods an ultimatum: If you want to be worshipped then you’d better start heeding our prayers. Otherwise you’ll be face down in the river, and you can stay there and think about what you’ve done!

I think this is a brilliant attitude towards religion. I wish more people had it.

You can read more about The Golden Bough here, as I decided it deserved a whole post of its own.

Darklands no longer pushed around by proper books

Darklands no longer pushed around by ‘proper’ books

After a month of wrangling and faffing, I finally ordered my proof copy of the Darklands new edition on Sunday – and the paperback arrived today – a fair bit speedier than expected.

I am *so* pleased with it. There was a slight concern that the quote on the front cover might not quite fit, what with print ‘gutters’ and suchlike to take account of – but it does. The front cover is lovely; the back cover vastly improved, and the spine is great. Darklands can now proudly hold its own on any books shop shelf in the land – no more being pushed around by sparkly, curlicue-ridden proper books!

Not everything went according to plan. As discussed last week, at a late stage of the editing process (ie, the last minute) it turned out I had to pay feedaread £39 to amend the cover, and another £39 to amend the inside. There was nothing wrong with the interior. I had just thought I might as well change it while I’m re-doing the cover. The only changes I wanted to make were:

  • Replace inner page title with a graphic in the same font as used on the cover
  • Alter copyright blurb to say ‘second edition’
  • Change one typo pointed out by an eagle-eyed reader (apparently Kings have counsellors (people who give advice), not councillors (people on a council). Who knew?
  • Alter the Kikimora preview at the end to give a brief blurb about the story before launching into the first chapter. I also wanted it to say ‘coming in 2013’ instead of  ‘coming in summer 2012’ :-S

I had already spent a lot of time making these changes and proof reading everything again and, although they were minor, I really wanted to keep them. However, life is insisting on hitting us with a lot of financial flour-bombs at the moment. Reluctantly I shelved the interior changes and saved myself a bit of money. So that’s 20% of yesterday’s vet’s bill covered :-/

The disadvantage to this is that it remains the same edition, just with a different cover – which I am already afraid could lead to confusion. I was surprised to see just now that Amazon is already showing the new cover for the paperback. Anyone buying it there might be even more surprised when they receive a copy with the old cover…! (they already have several in stock) Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing I can do about that at this point, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Now to order a big boxfull ready for the upcoming christmas markets. Next dilemma: how many to order? It’s a trade-off between lower postage on a large order or having the money in my account a bit longer… hmm.

Stepping stonesI first published Darklands as an eBook at the end of August 2011 (followed by a paperback in April 2012). I had always intended to do a round up of my first year in self publishing – the highs, the lows, the financial realities – but somehow, never found the time. So this is more like my first 14 months in publishing. I hope it might be useful or of interest to other writers looking at self publishing and wondering what to expect.

On the whole, I’d say I am pretty happy with how things have gone. But I would also say that I have severely readjusted my expectations from the beginning of the year. Reader feedback has been excellent, but sales have nevertheless been … s-l-o-w.

I have been extremely conservative about outlaying any money for services – possibly even too conservative (you have to speculate to accumulate, right?) This is mostly due to my paranonia about being fleeced by cynical snake oil merchants looking to milk the hopeful-writer cash cow…

I had no costs associated with the actual book production. My sister proof-read; my partner did the cover design; I did all the formatting and layout. Nor were there any production costs for publishing the paperback, or for the ISBN (though there are costs now that I want to edit the paperback. More on that below).

Even so, income has not exceeded outgoings, and I find I am out of pocket at the end of this first year.

The highs

Darklands has received seven reviews on, all five star; four ratings on Goodreads, average 4.5 stars. I have visited a secondary school to talk to the students about writing and self publishing. I have done three radio interviews on different local stations. I’ve done four interviews for book sites, and have a guest post coming up in December for the Speculative Salon. And last weekend I encountered my first fan! An unknown (and it must be admitted, rather drunk) bloke accosted me in the pub to tell me how much he had enjoyed Darklands (which he had read to his daughters). Awesome.

The lows, the reality checks and the nitty gritty

I’ve sent out review requests to over 20 book bloggers (all hand picked as likely candidates, and sent personal messages). Seven of those I contacted back in 2011 replied sounding positive, but only two actually reviewed Darklands (Thanks, Bookstack and Hey Tara!) Of the 13 I’ve contacted this year NONE have responded except by automated reply. I wonder at this difference. Are book bloggers just becoming so saturated by review requests that they don’t have the time/inclination to respond? Are my emails getting caught in spam folders (and is it possible my surname helps with that?!)?

I’ve sent out info packs to four local libraries. None have responded to me; and I can guess from checking the County library catalogue that none have ordered Darklands. I’ve written to my old school. As yet I’ve had no written response, but I did bump into the librarian a couple of weeks back, who expressed great interest, and promised to get back to me. I’ve written to my two local branchs of Waterstones, but again had no response. Maybe I’d have better luck in person – or at least, someone who’s a better salesperson than me might…

Over this first year I have sold a little over one hundred books – about two thirds eBooks to one third paperbacks (I don’t have a definite figure, because paperbacks I’ve sold through Amazon or other wholesalers don’t appear in any figures I have access to … until they do – which happens twice a year, and hasn’t yet! That said, I can hazard a guess at how many paperbacks Amazon has sold just from keeping an eye on the sales rank). My royalties vary between £1 and £3.

I’ve so far paid £470 in book related expenses. I’ve received back £270. I am currently owed £40, $17 and €4 by retailers (I’m not sure I will ever see the dollars or euros, due to the threshholds it is necessary to accrue before Amazon will make payments).

So what costs did I encounter, given that I’ve been so parsimonious?

In initial publishing excitement I spent £20 on Facebook ads the day the eBook came out (A complete waste of money. It didn’t even have any reviews yet. No one bought it except people I know). I bought 40 paperbacks, most of which I’ve sold (six still pending payment). I paid £88 to my publisher, Feedaread, for the distribution package which makes Darklands available to Amazon. I’ve also just paid them £39 for the privilege of producing a new cover (I had been intending to tweak a couple of things inside the book as well – mainly regarding the Kikimora preview at the end. But that would have set me back an additional £39! Eagle-eyed readers will note that the price was £29 when I discussed it a few weeks back. It’s gone up. Sigh) I’ve paid £25 to book a stall at a Christmas market in Derby. I’ve had smaller incidental costs, such as display stands and stamps (I’m not even counting the petrol I use driving to radio interviews, school visits, delivering books to the bookshop, etc). It all adds up.

One hundred books in a year doesn’t sound much, does it? I had certainly expected and hoped to move more than that when I set out on this endeavour. But I underestimated many things about this process – not least how vastly over-saturated the young adult fiction market is, and therefore how competitive; how precise your marketing has to be (clue: mine hasn’t been so far).

One area I’m feeling increasingly uncertain about is whether Darklands really is young adult, or ‘middle grade’ (whatever the hell that is). I originally envisaged it as for 12-14 year olds, but several parents have told me their ten year olds read and enjoyed it. I just read this post on the difference between middle grade and young adult, but I can’t say I feel much wiser. A year ago I hadn’t the slightest notion that it would matter one way or another. I read books for any age group if they appeal to me, and always have. I’m coming to realise that it matters very much. But this subject deserves a whole blog post of its own, so I may return to it in future.

What are the lessons to be learned here?

Firstly, for all my social networking, tweeting, blogging, commenting on other people’s blogs – apparently I’m still rubbish at e-marketing. My best selling day was at Celebrating Cromford, standing at a stall – I’m hoping to replicate that success at the Derby Christmas market.

I’m still hoping to generate some word of mouth. I need to get the book out to more people. Those who read it like it, but most of the world is competely unaware of its existence. A bigger problem seems to be those who do know of its existence, but are indifferent. I think my new cover design (when it finally arrives. FeedaRead have been SO slow and awkward about the alteration) will help with this. The new cover looks slicker, more professional, and more enticing.

I really really need to get more reviews*. I’d also rather like it if they weren’t all five stars! It makes people suspicious – like my mum wrote them all (in fact I forbade my sisters from leaving reviews on Amazon, as I didn’t think it would project too professional an image to have reviews by people with the same surname as me!)

But how to get more reviews? There’s a polite suggestion at the end of the book that a review would be great. But I’m not going to harass my readers to leave reviews if it’s not the kind of thing they do, or they are uncomfortable about it. As discussed above, I’m currently having no luck interesting book bloggers. Maybe I should contact them all again, just to politely enquire if they received my initial email? But if people aren’t interested I don’t want to nag them. Indie authors have a bad enough name already. I don’t want to be annoying.

So how will my publishing adventure develop in 2013? I think the christmas market will be a good indicator of how well I can capture the public imagination. If you can’t sell children’s books the last weekend before christmas there’s probably not much hope! I’m also planning to publish Kikimora at some point in the new year (no, not summer 2012, like it says at the end of Darklands :-S). How will having two titles affect my marketing approach? How much smoother might Kikimora’s publication go, with all the Darklands lessons already under my belt?

In many ways, self publishing Darklands was completely a test; a proof of concept. I have been writing stories my whole life, but I had no idea whether I was actually any good at it, or if it was all just a silly dream. Self publishing has shown me that people enjoy reading my book; that it stands up as a story, that I can construct a proper plot that holds attention and keeps people guessing. I wasn’t sure of any of this 15 months ago – which is one reason I was so loathe to outlay any money up front.

But I suspect I have been thinking like an amateur, acting like an amateur, and selling myself short.

If I want to actually make this writing thing work and make any kind of real impact in the wider world then I suspect money will need to be spent on some kind of marketing and promotion (no, not facebook ads!)

Another area of complete ignorance for me to investigate. Woot.

Stick with me, and we’ll see how this indie publishing adventure pans out 🙂

* A recent post on a popular book blog said the author was happy to read self published books – so long as they had at least 50 reviews on Amazon, and 30 reviews from Goodreads friends!