Dear Beta readers, Photography, Marketing and PR

Dear Beta readers, Photography, Marketing and PR

(Yes apparently, that’s what you are. You can always rely on someone to come up with an important title for ‘mate-who-read-your-book-before-publishing’). You can put it on your CVs now. You’re welcome.

It has been nagging at me that whilst I sit daily at this computer, tweeting furiously at people I have never met, welcoming new friends on Facebook and Goodreads, heaping humble gratitude on followers of my blog…that I have been thoroughly neglecting my actual friends. All of you who helped to make me what I am today: An unknown author, with a self-published book which is currently gushing my money into CreateSpace’s coffers, and has yet to retail a single copy! A soon to be featured, slightly frumpy, middle-aged, glossy-magazine star! My, my, my, how far I have come.

So here are my thanks to you, the people who created this fabulous nonentity. My words are genuine even though my celebrity isn’t. To each of you who searched out the typos and dodgy grammar. Or highlighted characters who had mysteriously changed their name half way through the book…I thank you and remind you that when a copy of the book finds its way into your hands, it will be your fault as much as mine if there are any errors.

To my book cover design team; I apologise heartily for bombarding you with a thousand images I couldn’t then use. And for making you show them to all your friends at every social event before arguing with your feedback. And Committee ‘Name That Book’. Well! We talked ourselves around in circles, didn’t we? Until I went off-piste (pun intended) and thought up something random…which none of you like very much.

Photography – you restored my belief in my youth!  I didn’t know I still had it in me to mount the front of a tractor, and Photoshop is so much easier than plastic surgery! That particular pose may have appeared rather rigid and fearful, but it did at least mean that the 6” heels on the magazine shoot were a stroll in the park.

Marketing and PR…what can I say? I’ve been to a studio in Shoreditch (so I’m now uber-cool). I have a faithful marketing team who recycle my every tweet and post. If you share a friend group with both of us, I apologise again. You must be sick of the sight of me. I tweet “boo” and my team will have it re-tweeted in seconds. The blog is going ballistic, because you lot keep throwing it at people (248 views last week!) Ballistic in my world, that is. I suspect there are many bloggers out there who would chuckle at my meagre numbers.

You all know me very well, and therefore you also know that this tongue-in-cheek, ironic, almost thank-you is about the best you can expect to get from me. But I do mean it really. For listening to me drone on endlessly. For providing limitless enthusiasm.  For being there, and being my mates. From the heart of my bottom…I thank you.

With love

Sam Russell (Author)

p.s. In the interests of multi-tasking, the bulk of this email to you, my friends, may very well appear on my next blog post. Hard hearted and callous yes. But I did want to say thanks.

p.p.s Free, signed copy for each of you. Winging their way to me now. Aren’t you the lucky ones 😊

from my biggest fan (The Sister)…

I quite like being a beta reader. And it is a great blog post, as well as thank you, so definitely got to be used twice!

However in the interests of continued friendly criticism, I would like you to note that you as a person, and anything you create could never ever be given the title ‘nonentity’. Quite the opposite.

(Also your first bracket in this post is red ha ha! Can’t stop the proof reader ball rolling either, you have made us each something a bit different!)

I can’t wait to have the book, but as you already know I would have bought a dozen copies. No need to give us free ones, but yes to the signing!

With so much love and total admiration – next challenge see if it is possible to write a whole blog without dissing yourself! Maybe harder than writing a book?!

from the Mate since Primary School…

Hey you, it’s been a very interesting and gob smacking pleasure.  My mate who I shared my bean poles and flower pots with, so that we could show jump round the lawn, has only gone and written a book! A brilliant, beautiful and fabulous book whose title I love (believe the ‘barley’ was my contribution!!)  Have ordered a couple if copies to give to some special people and look forward to puffing out my chest with pride when they’re opened.  Much love and many congratulations on your brilliance.

from the Artistic one…

Thanks for that, being a non-blogger non-twitterer, barely out of the cave animal kind of mate I really appreciate it! I can’t wait to see you in all your sexy Jilly Cooperesque horsey/farmer’s wife with attitude and a brain apparel in the slightly frumpy glossy mag!!! It’s all too weird and thrilling, you do realise you have given no end of frustrated, isolated, and bored women a reason to carry on mucking out! 

This thing is going places, the map has already changed, hey it’s smokin! It’s like one of those old treasure maps burnt round the edges, except this one is still burnin!

You da nuts.


from the Yummy Mummy Comedy Act…

Enjoying every bit of your ever growing fame and will insist on being on the front cover of “Hello” when you are its main feature!!!  Congratulations, have done nothing other than admired your steadfast enthusiasm, perseverance and slight madness for getting this far long may it continue babes.

Well, I’ve done it! I’ve linked my Twitter and Facebook accounts

Well, I’ve done it! I’ve linked my Twitter and Facebook accounts

Hurrah, I’m actually getting somewhere. Finally learning something about digital media. I know, it took me a while.

Look me up on Facebook or Twitter if you want to say hi.
Like my page – Sam Russell Author (only if you actually like it, of course!) Updates on the release of A BED OF BARLEY STRAW will be posted on the page.
And you lucky people can now follow my blog from either location! Thanks for reading –  I hope to meet you there.

Networking or making friends? Ever increasing circles.

Networking or making friends? Ever increasing circles.

One of the nicest things about my writing and publishing journey is the connections I have made with others.

Just when the process of marketing my book is becoming underwhelming (when only 3 people have read my blog and my clever tweet has passed unnoticed) someone really nice pops up and lifts my spirits. Just yesterday for example, a fellow author who I met on twitter helped me out with my ‘smiley faces’ (emojis – yes I know that now. I really was that ignorant when I entered this brave new world). The same gentleman has offered his assistance with my webpage (when I have girded my loins in preparation for that task). I have also traded pictures, gossip and book reads (“you read mine and I’ll read yours”- that sort of thing), discussed variations in landscape, language and weather between the UK and Canada, followed no end of interesting blogs and shared the experience of publishing a book with others following a similar path. I have connected and interacted (awful word) with countless colourful new characters, some of whose traits may appear in future novels.

As a marketing and networking experience I can’t tell you (yet) if my efforts to create a ‘media presence’ have had any success. But I have made friends, so regardless of sales figure outcome, it has been worthwhile. The downside if there is one, is that you do get drawn in. The distraction factor is massive. I am no longer sure if I am marketing or just being nosy. Furthering my knowledge or chatting to friends. I might simply be procrastinating. And then there is that disturbing comparison thing. I think you know what I mean: “Their blog page looks better than mine.” “They’ve got so many followers.” “Now that looks like a well thought through marketing campaign” (as opposed to my vague and confused meanderings). I try to fight it, but I don’t always win. I am naturally competitive. Character flaw number ? (does anyone who has been reading my blog since the beginning recall the tally? If not, please do some revision.)

This week’s motto: Learn, don’t envy.

A reminder to myself to put in the work. It would be easier if I knew exactly what I was supposed to be working on. Three new books in progress; the sequel to A Bed of Barley Straw, a brand new romance, and a shorter work of fiction. Launch and marketing for A Bed of Barley Straw is high on my priority list. Meanwhile, the farm accounts are in disarray, housework is nagging and the dogs need a walk.

But I’m busy blogging. And when I’ve finished here I probably ought to check in on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon. Ho hum.

What a journey it has been!

What a journey it has been!

The book is nearly there. About to be released. Final interior approved. Ticked off, achieved.

I found one typo in the final proof, and stressed over-much about whether I ought to go back for yet another round of changes. For $79, on a book that has yet to sell a single copy. I can’t of course, but that error is troubling me. I have promised myself that the first $79 dollars of profit (if I’m so lucky) can pay for the correction. And in the meantime, a prize to the first person to locate the surplus ‘was’.

I am excited, terrified and knackered. Not by the writing or editing, but by the terrible thought of releasing the book to the world and having to market it. Marketing is exhausting, and uncomfortably needy. My inner voice is screaming “read it or don’t, I couldn’t care less.”  But there is a subversive whisper. “All that effort for a book that nobody knows exists. Bit of a waste of time wasn’t it?”

I am not yet convinced that Twitter is a useful platform. Interesting and quirky, if you are not trying to sell something. Possibly hugely productive for established VIPs, who have ??million followers awaiting their every tweet. Less so if you have to strive endlessly to get so much as a favourite, and haven’t even mentioned the name of your book yet (about to be remedied with the title of this post!)

My twitter feeds me endless plugs for books. I have registered the titles of two of them, and they were written by authors I have chatted with. I flick past the others carelessly, and I do not want to insult my small but friendly band of followers by plugging away relentlessly in every tweet. I will have to think of something. Original thought is sadly lacking at present, all used up my attempts to tweet something clever.

Next stage – I await a physical copy proof in the post. Can’t wait to see it and hope against hope that I love it when we meet.

I need to crank up my Goodreads and Facebook presence. Some progress made, I have accounts with both! And a page, work-in-progress, for the book. I do believe that lovers of romance will enjoy my book. The story is good, and I should know I wrote it. Plus, I must have read it close to twenty times. I know how it starts, develops and ends, and it still makes me smile.

Just the elusive customer to track down then. Final push, ultimate effort, fingers crossed. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads – I will be there – soon!

Rookie mistakes and pickled eggs – an original title

Rookie mistakes and pickled eggs – an original title

Catastrophe this week!

Well, ‘catastrophe’ might be stretching it a bit. Small, self-publishing hiccup (which felt catastrophic at the time) is more realistic.

I read Derek Haines’ blog on self-publishing ( Derek talks a lot of sense, which it isn’t always easy to hear. I keep reading him because he speaks the truth, and despite the fact that his words never fail to lead me ever deeper into the digital marketing swamp.

Anyway, I digress. The particular post I am referring to suggested that it was worth publishing on Smashwords in addition to Amazon. Smashwords publishes e-books in a format which is accessible to users who do not have Kindle. At least that is the gist of it, I think. There were actually a lot of technical words and ‘format’ types described, which passed over my head without causing my brain to take note. So I hope I have summarised correctly. I am digressing again. I blame it on twitter, I am no longer able to concentrate on any line of thought for more than 20 seconds.

Smashwords has a fine, clear website. Lots of easy-to-find instructions on how to self-publish, which are sorely lacking on CreateSpace. Also advice and general tips about writing your book, designing a cover, and selecting a title.

My title has been in place for some months now. My cover is signed off, my edited manuscript (with the name of the book featured on every page) was returned to CreateSpace for final publication over a week ago. It took me ages to come up with the title. I bounced various options off of friends, Googled phrases and meanings. Changed it, changed it back, and requested feedback from my editor. What I should have done, and didn’t, was search my title in Amazon. Under the books department. Rookie mistake.

Smashwords told me to do this, and I must admit my heart froze over momentarily. I delayed following their instructions for a full twenty-four hours before grasping the nettle and typing in the search. Hey presto! Fourteen other books with the same title as mine. Several of them in the same genre, which is not entirely surprising. It could have been worse. Smashwords tell me that if you use the words ‘star’ and ‘wars’ anywhere in your title, you are likely to return forty thousand items on any search. But fourteen books, on my primary selling platform, is not good enough.

CreateSpace told me that it wasn’t a great idea, to share your title with fourteen other authors. I think I knew that already, but I wanted to debate the issue with someone who knew what they were talking about. It briefly occurred to me that if one of the other books bearing ‘my title’ was exceptionally good it could even be a bonus. Readers might stumble across me on their search for something better and buy my book by accident. This is obviously a foolish form of marketing, although I believe China has used it to good effect. Given that the most recently published books appear at the bottom of the search, I imagine most readers would be worn out by the time they had scrolled down to number seven on the list.

Solution to my hiccup is a title change, of course. Back to the drawing board. Further costs involved I would imagine, because both my cover design and editing services with CreateSpace have been completed and closed. I will end up paying that $75 dollars after all, but maybe it was worth holding off. Maybe it still is, in case there is something else I have failed to do.

The sting in the tale of this story, is that I have now discovered that every title you can think of has already been written by someone else. Search any random words in Amazon books, and you will see what I mean. Forget proverbs, sayings, idioms. They have all been done before. My searches became increasingly outlandish, I even typed ‘Pickled Eggs’ in a moment of madness – no direct hits! But I don’t think I can call my book that.

Mother and I were shouting random phrases that came out of the telly throughout the evening. The best phrase of the night? Wolf Hall’s original use of English swear words in a configuration never heard before, but very, very funny.

One reassuring fact was that the working title of my work-in-progress sequel only returned one hit, and that was a gardening book written in 1954. Maybe I am growing wiser, or perchance I simply struck upon beginners luck.

The book almost has a new title. I’m bouncing it off of friends and family, Googling phrases and meanings, asking my editor for feedback. And I’ve searched it in Amazon Books – no direct hits. Yes!

Drowning in the digital lake

Drowning in the digital lake

I confess to feeling a little overwhelmed this week. Digital exhaustion syndrome. Symptoms – sense of humour failure and general weariness.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to take a look at Goodreads, Facebook and free website creation, in an attempt to expand the marketing base for my novel. But my earlier statement that I am ‘technologied’ out proved to be very true.

Most of my weekend was spent in front of a computer. I worked out that free websites are not free, that Facebook is very demanding with its questions, and that Goodreads is a whole other community to connect and interact with. My interactions are already at frenzy levels. I had one of those moods on – you know the sort – where I didn’t actually want any more ‘friends’.  Certainly not friends I have to beg to like me, or perform to get attention from.

Five author bio’s required, profile pictures galore. There is a dearth of photographs of me in our house – I am the photograph taker. An even greater dearth of pictures of me that I like, and would be willing to share with the world. Not such an issue if I don’t solicit ‘friends’ to share them with, I suppose. I have cropped and snipped ferociously to extract my face from group shots, taken in 1997 or thereabouts, in which I looked quite nice. Then realising that when I am famous I will have to appear on TV, and that viewers will be saying “she looks a lot older than her profile picture” abandoned the pictures anyway. For now I am sticking with my wellies and books.

The ‘free’ websites were the most annoying. Don’t let me spend hours setting everything up on the promise of a stunning web address for just £1, if you are luring me in to a trap of £10 per month. As a matter of principle, if you attempt to trick me I will never buy anything from you. Just say it like it is – up front.

Technology wise, I am way out of my depth. I do not have the skills to set up a website. I have failed to link my blog to Goodreads and Facebook. I am scared of creating something that looks so amateur and naff it has a negative effect on my marketing efforts. Add ‘drop in self-confidence’ and ‘increase in cynicism’ to the symptoms of Digital exhaustion syndrome above.

I am ranting, I realise that. The hours I have spent interacting this week could have been spent on my book. Does digital marketing actually work? Can anyone tell me? This definitely isn’t why I started writing.

I know what I should, and must do. Organise, plan, set time aside for marketing interaction. Turn off audible notifications of tweets, re-tweets, messages and favourites received. Prioritise the book-farm-life on my schedule. It doesn’t help that I receive notifications on my computer, tablet and phone. Three beeps and birds/Fs/little envelopes for every communication. It is hard not to engage with each one of them as soon as they arrive.

I won’t direct you to my Facebook or Goodreads account, because as yet they do not contain a profile picture, ‘about me’, or in fact anything worth looking at. I won’t direct you to my website, either, because I don’t have one.

I’m off to schedule, prioritise and write. When I’ve finished this blog which, as yet, is not linked to anything.

Hopefully my sense of humour will have got its mojo back before the next blog post. In the meantime, ‘stick with the wellies and books’ is my new motto. I should give my phone to The Sister, who will be only too happy to hurl it in to a ditch for me. The computer to The Mother, who is an expert at ignoring messages. And the tablet to Youngest Daughter who will never allow me a look in once she’s got her hands on it. Maybe after I’ve looked at the 855 tweets currently showing on my twitter feed, I will do just that.

I’m twittering, and I know it

I’m twittering, and I know it

As suggested, by almost everyone I read who self-publishes and blogs, I bit the bullet and created a Twitter account.

Twitter, I discover, is frantic, scatty, insane. And slightly scary. But wow, who knew? (You lot obviously, because you’ve been tweeting for years). It is a miracle to me that, in an instant, I am linked to people from all over the world and all walks of life.

I am stalking the followers of other authors, and following them (as advised by my marketing research). How very un-English and rude. Every emerging author is doing exactly the same, so we are basically following each other. Trying to flog our books within a continuously growing loop of writers trying to flog theirs. Not that it isn’t great to be in touch with them, because it is. I have identified with their problems, discussed potential names for a racehorse with a very nice man in Australia, and ‘met’ lots of interesting people.

I am thrilled and excited every time I get a follow-back. Checking my follower numbers obsessively. Even more delighted when I gain an unsolicited follower, even though many of these have been from other authors, or people trying to sell me dietary advice, lifestyle coaching and beauty/fashion tips. How did they know I needed all of those things? I receive numerous affirmative, life enhancing quotes to guide me through my day. So many of them that I positively float to bed of a night, buoyed up on a glorious cloud of self-belief. And aren’t pets sweet?

I am talking in hastags. My children are rolling their eyes. Tense, daring, clever, addictive and frequently amusing. That’s Twitter, not me. I wish. In my dreams that would be a review of my book (with ‘raunchy’ thrown in for good measure). I’m sure Twitter is raunchy too but I’ve almost managed to avoid that so far. I say almost, because one author I’ve been tracking (who will remain nameless here) seems to have a lot of followers using their dicks as avatars. The modern form of flashing, without the cold draft? Or possibly a character statement summed up in a simple image?

Guiltily, I have un-followed three people. A character who’s tweets were too radical for me, a girl who was younger than her picture lead me to believe (I don’t want to be accused of pedalling smut to children) and a woman who’s constant tweets about her migraine were giving me a headache. Heartless, I know, but she’d had this migraine for three days and it hadn’t stopped her tweeting 30 second updates, or watching #CBB (Celebrity Big Brother, not Children’s TV, which is what I initially thought).  I made sure they had a billion followers before I un-followed them, because I would really hate to cause offence or trauma. Especially to the underage girl, who was apparently having severe parent trouble. That un-follow gave me a sleepless night, I wanted to write her a letter explaining that my un-follow was not personal.

I live in fear of re-tweeting something offensive or extremist because the message was attached to a cute picture. I tweeted a complaint to the Guardian when they failed to include the arrival of the contraceptive pill, on a timeline which did include the invention of the bra. Too late, I discovered that you can only see part of the image on your screen until you click on it. The contraceptive pill was clearly, plainly there. I tweeted an apology.

I am told I need a website and a Facebook and a Goodreads account. But I’m not entirely sure I can cope with further technological experiences at the moment. And my phone is already permanently glued to my face.

What? I’ve got to sell it?

What? I’ve got to sell it?

The Eldest Daughter works in PR. The Brother asked what the ‘target sales’ for my book were.

The what?

“If someone buys it, I will fall off my chair with joy.” I told him cheerfully. The Brother was happy with my reply, but the ED was more persistent. “Send me your marketing materials. Would you consider a give-away competition? What about press coverage?”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. My foray into authorship is so nervously tentative that I have hidden my novel behind a pen name (that is partly because of the raunchy scenes, which I quietly hoped my children and mother would never get to see). Too late for that. I will tell them I Googled ‘novel sex’ and copied somebody else’s words. Although that particular search might reveal more than I care to witness. I made that mistake when I wanted to buy rabbit toys for my daughter in law this Christmas (actual toys for an actual rabbit. Please).

It didn’t take much research to realise that, with the sheer number of books being published each day, a debut novel by an unknown author was destined to total anonymity. Part of me rather likes that idea. I wrote this book for myself, and I will have a copy on my bookshelf until the day I die. After my passing, the grandchildren (when they arrive – take note ED) will exclaim in wonder that Granny wrote a book. (Hopefully they won’t read the sexy bits. Although, I will be past caring by then).

My target sales crept up. One hundred books sold would put me in the top 10% of published authors (I read this – somewhere); that 90% of books sell less than one hundred copies. If this is true, it is tragic. Of course, some of those books will have been specialist or niche. Never intended to achieve mass sales. But just think of the number of wonderful stories which might be out there, that we don’t even know about!

I put the word out to extended friends and family. I reckon I’ve got twenty plus guaranteed sales, and I’ll probably buy a dozen myself.

Three hundred sales (I did the maths) would pay back the money spent publishing the book (although not the money spent buying a dozen back). Time spent writing has been a pleasure, so I don’t want payment for that. The husband might argue that the time could have been better spent elsewhere.

So, yay – I have a target. I simply need three hundred people to buy my book. If it’s a good enough read, and amuses them, maybe sales will grow from there? Or from the sequel (now underway) when I eventually publish that.

Easier said than done, though, finding three hundred people who want to buy your book. Back to Google, CreateSpace, @thecreativepenn, @JFbookman… I could go on. Hundreds of blogs, thousands of bloggers, millions of tweeters on twitter who are #writing #self-publishing #givingadvice about how to market your book. And CreateSpace tells me I should be one of them.

Gulp, here I go then. I am not ‘tech-stupid’, but I’m not “tech-savvy” either. And I am frequently ‘tech-frustrated’. I am too impatient (there we go, again) to spend time working things out and setting them up correctly. If my *avatar (*little personal picture – I have learnt that) doesn’t chose itself and load automatically, I am inclined to throw my hands heavenwards in despair and leave the Twitter/Wordpress generated, headache-inducing image in place. Consequently my blog is somewhat basic (I can see you, nodding). But it does exist. As for Twitter, well! That is a whole other blog.

And press coverage? Oh no, I’m not nearly brave enough for that. Yet.

Turkey and track changes

Turkey and track changes

I get over excited when a message from CreateSpace arrives. But the return of my first round of editing four days before Christmas wasn’t the best timing. I know what I should have done; I should have put the project on hold for a week. I had numerous family expecting turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day, and more people arriving on the 26th. I had enough on my plate (please excuse the pun.)

I couldn’t leave it alone. It’s an obsessive-compulsive thing (character flaw number…don’t know, I’ve lost count!)

A sea of red and blue and green corrections and comments. Glimpsed briefly, before Word decided it simply couldn’t cope with the volume of changes incorporated into the document and the programme froze on me. “Word is not responding.” Uh oh. I spent three days on Microsoft forums; asking questions, searching FAQs. I Googled my scenario in variously worded forms. I emailed everyone I knew who might be able to help, and drew comfort from the fact that I clearly wasn’t alone with the problem. A lot of people struggling but not many solutions I could even attempt, because the document wouldn’t load sufficiently for me to ‘copy and paste’ or ‘change view to draft’.

Finally a response from a very nice man on the Microsoft community forum, suggested I remove the ‘final paragraph mark.’

“The what?” I hear you cry. (That was what I was crying anyway). I still don’t know what the ‘final paragraph mark’ is, maybe you do? In an effort to locate it I managed to keep the document visible for long enough to find the end of the manuscript (don’t touch anything you don’t have to… exercise extreme patience after every scroll down.) I made several cups of tea while Word stopped responding. I figured the programme needed some time to think about its actions, and behave appropriately. I did the final correction first, in the hopes that would remove a ‘final paragraph mark’. And, lo, it didn’t freeze.

Two hundred and fifty pages of tracked change edits to reject or approve. Plus the amendments my friends had pointed out. By Christmas Eve I had only reached the second paragraph, and I was still leaving the room to do a few jobs after every click on the mouse while the computer hummed and chewed and whirred and made up its mind whether to freeze or not. Technology eh? Couldn’t live without it.

On a positive note, Word grew more confident as I progressed through the pages. I had shot myself in the foot by not pointing out that the spelling should be British English. (The editor had asked for a note on the rules for the edit, but somehow that point escaped me). A lot of z’s to reject, and o’s to put back in. Some phrases that might be misinterpreted by American readers: “Bloody hard work” could read as “working until she bled” and “who could she ponce a horse off by Saturday” oh yes, I get that one.

I need to revise my punctuation around dialogue. I thought I knew how to do this until I started writing a book. School was a long time ago.

We got a Christmas dinner, and one on Boxing day. By the evening of the 26th I was desperate to get back to my manuscript.

The editorial letter included some lovely comments: “Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a heartfelt, entertaining and satisfying novel”, “Hettie is a convincing heroine, and Alexander’s growth and self-discovery is very gratifying.”

I’m learning to blow my own trumpet. Even if the voice inside my head is whispering “Ah, but you’re paying her. She’s got to say nice things.”

Second round of edits due any day now. Bring it on.

Judge a book by it’s cover

We all do, of course. I may have bypassed many good books because they didn’t look like ‘something I would read’. And that is a shame. It seems indie publishing has a reputation for amateurish book coverings, and, having now gone through this process myself, I can understand why.

My ‘vision’ for my book was a distant back view of a beautiful couple (heroine flame haired if possible) gazing out over a misty English valley. The book is set on a country estate in the Cotswolds. The story develops amidst horses, the countryside and dogs. In my mind’s eye, my cover resembled a modern day Jane Austen book. I described my vision in detail, on the telephone, to the USA (with the customary time delay throughout our discussion).

The concept I received depicted a decidedly middle aged couple. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to write that book. In fact I have given myself the giggles, planning in my head the words of a passionate mid-life scene:

“She knew he thought he was caressing her breast, as his fingers gently fondled her spare tyre and continued to search for a nipple.”


“A low groan escaped him as his back gave out.”

But this time, my book is about the beautiful people (I will write the other story if I ever get a following big enough to stand it). Not only were the couple depicted on my book nothing like my characters, the misty English scene was by definition colourless and uninteresting. Dull, dull, dull. I wouldn’t have bought the book with that cover. At the moment that is the only yardstick I have to measure success by.

My excitement at receiving the message from CreateSpace: “Your action is required to move forward with your project”, was soundly deflated when I viewed the concepts. The second concept (designed by them) showed a younger couple (better) galloping on horses (good idea)…wearing cowboy hats and traversing an American prairie. Oh dear.

I’m not knocking CreateSpace here. They listened to my ideas and tried very hard to interpret them without any visual stimulus and only spoken guidance from me. My fault, I panicked a bit. I had only paid for two rounds of editing on the concepts and had to decide which of those featured I would be going ahead with. To be honest I hated them both. I asked the design team to book a telephone conversation. Again they were efficient, encouraging and helpful. Editing changes could include a change of image. I could supply my own image, or search for one I liked from their library. Big sigh of relief.

Better late than never, I started doing some research. Searched thousands of images (bouncing them past my daughters for feedback) and found a picture I liked. I emailed the design team with images of covers I admired and would like to emulate. And I just managed to carry out all of the required changes within my pre-paid budget.

My cover is not perfect, there are a couple of details I would still change. I could have added another round of edits for $75. But I do not know if my book will even sell, so there has to be a cut-off point. Next time, if I use CreateSpace again, I will start the process by sending them an image of what I want the cover to look like, and move forward from there.

And I’m not a book designer or marketing expert. I do not know what the market is looking for. My ideas might still be awful!

Have a look, and see what you think (at the partial image which was all I could fit into ‘featured images’!). Just don’t tell me to change anything.