Tricky Question of Cashflow: 2013 365 Challenge #87

"Driving to see the Pigs"

“Driving to see the Pigs”

I’m trying to justify the first big (relatively speaking) expenditure to support my writing. So far I’ve done all my own proof-reading (never a good idea), ebook preparation and cover design, sourcing cheap or free stock photographs from istockphoto. The most I’ve spent on a stock image is about ten pounds (although I’ve purchased a few).

However, after getting some constructive feedback on the first chapter of Dragon Wraiths recently it was highlighted that my cover doesn’t fit with my target audience. I like the dragon pendant image, and it goes with the story, but It didn’t cost me anything so I don’t mind redesigning it and hopefully boosting sales (which won’t be hard!)

Photo2834 (2)

“Look Mummy, no hands!”

After some research I’ve realised that YA books in my genre generally have a picture of a girl or couple on the front. So  I decided today to see if I could find an image that might do the trick. It’s hard getting the search terms right – I tried ‘first kiss’ and ‘teenage embrace’ and got some dodgy images, even on istockphoto! Since when did ‘first kiss’ mean between two scantily clad girls? I’m getting old!

Eventually I found the perfect shot. Unfortunately people-shots equals extra cost, as the model needs to be paid too.  And I had forgotten to put the price-filter on that guarantees I don’t fall in love with a picture I can’t afford.

Idiot.

When I clicked into my ‘perfect’ shot I nearly fell off my chair at the price. The smallest image is ten times what I pay for the images I use on the Two-Hundred Steps Home books. If I want to be able to set the book up for print-on-demand in future I need to fork out nearly £200 for the high-res file. In comparison I’ve made about a tenner so far from sales of the book!

Didicar Fun

Didicar Fun

I know anyone serious about writing needs to spend money, it’s just hard to justify when my husband and I are both unemployed. If I search long enough I may find another – cheaper – image that is equally striking. Or I may not. And if I change my cover I might make the money back in sales in a few weeks. I spent more money going to London for a job interview, so why balk at spending it on this?

Besides, the small image is slightly less than what it costs us to send two sprogs to nursery for a day. We tried to put them in nursery today, as we lose next Monday (bank holiday), but they were full.

So I may buy my perfect shot and consider it money well-earned by taking the kids to the Farm for four hours in the freezing wind. Time to take a gamble. Speculate to accumulate and all that! Okay, decision made. I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow… I’m so excited! I love doing book covers and I really love this image… Can’t wait to share it!

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“So, you’re becoming Mum for two weeks? How does that feel? Thought you hated ankle-biters.”

Claire willed a smile onto her face but suspected Josh could see the fear lurking beneath. “It’s fine. It’s only for a little while. And Sky’s six, that’s old and sensible isn’t it? For a child?”

She turned to Josh with eyes wide and pleading. He laughed, the sun catching highlights in his hair. He seemed to have discarded his Stig-of-the-dump disguise since Fiona’s arrival and Claire was conscious of a desire to feel how soft his clean hair felt under her hand.

“Depends on the child.”

Dragging her thoughts back to the conversation, Claire tried to remember what question Josh was answering. Oh yes, Sky.

“My niece is, um, a little bit highly strung.” She remembered the phone-calls interrupted by Sky’s screaming; the sweat-drenched awakening – the one night she had looked after Sky by herself – and couldn’t suppress a shiver.

Josh wrapped an arm around Claire’s shoulders and hugged her briefly. They both knew Fiona was watching from an upstairs window, as she sat feeding Lily. “You’ll be fine. Keep her entertained, keep her exhausted, and keep a ready supply of chocolate in your pocket.”

“Is that your advice as a parent or a doctor?”

His laugh jumped up like a spring lamb. “A parent, obviously. As a doctor I couldn’t possibly recommend chocolate-bribery. Talking of which -” He turned to face Lucas and Sophie, who were rolling around in the snow, making angel shapes and throwing icy handfuls at each other. “Okay, you two. We’ll be heading in shortly. Five minutes.”

He turned back to Claire. “It’s all about managing expectations. And when that doesn’t work, bribe them!”

They stood in silence. The air between them felt heavy, with the unseen shadow of his wife, and the louder presence of his two eldest children now stuffing snow down each other’s necks. She wanted to ask him how the reunion had gone, how he felt about the past, but the words seemed frozen by the icy wind swirling round the Hall.

“We fly back after Easter.” Josh spoke as if answering a question and Claire smiled at his intuition. “We couldn’t get flights before that and it seemed silly to leave straight away. It may not be the best time to visit the UK but as Fiona has never been we’re hoping to see a few things while we’re here. We went to York for a few days and we were heading for Cambridge when this happened.” He gestured at the snow still lying thick on the ground, despite the bright sunshine.

Claire felt her pulse quicken. “I’m heading down that way myself, today or tomorrow. That’s near where my sister lives.”

“Maybe you could show us round, as a local? Can you get us into a College? To Kings?”

Claire laughed, despite the goosebumps popping up along her arms. “Anyone can visit Kings, you buy tickets at the gate. But yes, I guess Sky might like to come and meet Lucas and Sophie. What about Fiona though?” She swallowed. “I get the impression she’ll only be happy where there is 15,000km between us.”

Josh ran his hands through his hair and looked over to where the children were rolling a ball of snow to make a snowman, both of them pushing at the ball that was already bigger than Sophie.

“Fiona’s fine,” he said eventually. “You can’t imagine how hard it was for her.” His voice pleaded with Claire to understand. “She had no idea. Until she rang Christie and they said they’d never heard of me. She didn’t know what to think.”

I’m sure she did. She thought you’d left her for someone else. And then I turned up at the airport confirming her suspicions. She must have realised how similar we look. Easy to think Josh had replaced her with me – a slightly younger model unencumbered by children. He wouldn’t have been the first or the last.

Claire glanced up behind her, expecting to see an accusatory face pressed against the upstairs window. The panes of glass stared blankly back at her.

“It’s just one more day.”

She felt Josh’s hand in the small of her back and willed her body not to react. Funny how forbidden fruit always appears juicier. Gritting her teeth, Claire turned and looked into his earnest amber-flecked eyes.

“Sure, why not. I’ll show you where to get the tastiest Greek burger you’ve ever had.”

***

Making the goal visible: Self-Publishing, Book Covers and the Blurb

Proposed book cover for my WIP

I’ve read a few blogs recently on the topics of self-publishing, designing your own book cover and writing your book blurb.

It got me thinking.

Maybe what I need, to help me get to the end of my final revisions, is a nice visual goal. So I’ve wasted several days of precious writing time pulling together a book cover for either paper print or e-book publishing.

 I haven’t actually decided yet whether I am going to go down the self-publishing route or continue with the plan of applying to agents. I admit I still tend towards the latter, for two very important reasons.

1. I cannot afford to hire a professional editor, and I am terrified of publishing something full of grammatical or typing errors.

2. I am rubbish at self-promotion. I have set up various ventures in the past, all of which required me to sell my talents, and I know already that I’d rather pull out my own teeth.

I could add a third barrier, but it is one that should be surmountable, if I can get enough enthusiasm to do it, and that is the need to fill the gaping hole in my knowledge about social media. From everything I have read, promoting your book on social media sites and building up a following are both essential if you want to sell your book to more than family and friends. I can just about negotiate my way around Facebook, but even that is a challenge. I’m far too young to be such a Luddite, but there you are. I need the kids to grow a bit, so they can teach their old mum a few tricks!

I cannot describe how many hours it took me to find a photograph that encapsulated what I wanted to say about my novel. I wanted to catch the eye, to make sense of the title, but not give anything away about the plot. (I hate spoilers.) And I wanted to be able to afford it. The first image I fell in love with was about £80 for the size I needed, in case I have it printed. This one, thankfully, was considerably less. Thank you www.dreamstime.com

If you are interested in creating your own book cover, Keri Peardon has some very useful lessons on her blog: http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/how-to-make-your-own-book-cover-lesson-5/. I use Photoshop Elements (currently on a free 30-day trial which would be plenty for getting your book cover done).

As for the blurb, I’m sure I will do a few more re-writes before I’m happy. It’s not an easy thing, getting someone interested in your story without giving any key plot points away (did I mention, I hate spoilers?) 

There has been an interesting discussion on blurb agony over on Keri Peardon’s fab blog. Definitely worth a look.

Anyway, diversionary activity over, time to get back to editing, with my lovely new book cover to inspire me (if I can just resist the urge to tweak the colours, layout, font, text, images….)

Other great links:

http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/7-reasons-why-e-books-are-great/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/self-printing-home/self-printing-posts/ (Catherine is currently offering her book on self-publishing – The Best of Catherine – Caffeinatedfree on www.amazon.co.uk. Go check it out.)