If you are self-publishing, setting a price for your novel can be daunting. Do you set the price as low as possible in order to garner the most readers, or do you set a higher price in hopes that you will make some money for your labors? And if you do set a higher price in hopes of gaining an income, what is reasonable?

In this highly informative Huffington Post article, "Setting the Price for Your Novel -- What You Need to Know," Kristen Houghton lays out exactly how to price your novel. She also talks about discounts, how retail prices are calculated, and a lot of other factors that can affect the price of a book.

If you want to know which price gets the best performance in terms of maximizing readers and sales, Written Word Media has done an analysis. According to Written Word, if your only goal is to maximize the number of readers you acquire:
  • $0.99 is the most effective price point.
  • $1.99 is not far behind.
If your only goal is to maximize revenue on the day of a promotion:
  • Price your book at $4.99.
You will acquire far fewer readers, but generate the most revenue. And if you want to achieve both goals
  • but value acquiring new readers more than maximizing revenue, go for $1.99.
  • but want to maximize revenue more than you want to acquire new readers, price your book at $2.99.
There is no simple formulafor how to price your book, but between these two articles, you should get a good idea of how pricing works in real terms.

Setting the Price for Your Novel -- What You Need to Know

By Kristen Houghton

Think you know all about publishing your book? The writing, the edits, etc., sure. But there's more. Do you know how to price your novel so it will sell well? This isn't about publicity, this is about the actual book price seen by your readers. There's a whole new world out there for authors and we need to be on top of all the "my book" related parts of publishing. Careful pricing is one of the keys to success.

One of the most important aspects with which an author must deal is the aspect of dollars and cents; in other words the selling price of your book and the profit you will make. If you are traditionally published, no worries; your publisher will determine the retail price of your print novel as well as your ebook version. Publishers will tell you the price point of your book and you're pretty much set.

However if you're going the route of a boutique publishing house of which you are a partner, or you are self-publishing, you need to know the publishing basics. The number one basic is how to do retail pricing. It isn't complicated; it is simple math. The retail price is achieved through an appraisal of your book's target audience and factors in the competitive price at which books in the same genre are selling. A simple example is if you're a romance writer and a competitor's print book of a similar length and size is priced at $9.95. You can feel secure in pricing your own at the same price.

The second basic is knowing how to actually arrive at the retail price. That figure should be at least 2.5 times the single-copy printing cost. This allows for a reasonable margin that will cover book-related costs and your profits after trade discounts are factored in. The retail price also helps establish the net sales payment amount. That's the amount you, the author, make from each sale. To make a nice profit per sale, and staying competitive, you price your book at $12.95.

But, there are some other things to consider when you set the price for your book. Remember the word discounts? Here's how it relates to the retail price.

Find out more about how to price your book HERE.

With the end of summer comes a renewed interest in getting back to work.

For a writer, the work never really ends, but aside from focusing on getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper, getting your manuscript into the hands of people who will publish it entails a great deal of effort - as well as knowledge, preparation, and encouragement.

Fortunately, there are many conferences this coming month that will accomplish just that, as well as enabling you to get connected with the larger writing community. (Speaking of getting connected - check out Dragon Con. Even if sci-fi is not your genre, this conference sounds like a hoot!)

DragonCon, Sept. 4–7, Atlanta, Ga. HUGE sci-fi event, with parade, autograph sessions, live performances, readings, wrestling (!), workshops on belly dancing, writing (yes, there's even some writing), art show.

Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Sept. 11–12, Lexington, Ky.The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Presenters: Angela Ball, Bianca Bargo, Ann Beattie, Martha Billips, Emily Bingham, Meghan Daum, Kathleen Driskell, Joy Harris, Allison Joseph, Carson Kreitzer, Jessica Helen Lopez, Hannah Pittard, Sonia Sanchez, Jacinda Townsend. Numerous workshops.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, Sept. 11- 13, Westminster, CO. Keynote Speakers: Jeffery Deaver and Desiree Holt. Faculty includes a wide variety of published authors, marketers, editors, and agents. Opportunities to pitch projects to agents and editors.

San Francisco Writing for Change, Sept 12, San Francisco, CA. This event is for writers of nonfiction AND fiction who want to change the world for the better through their work.

Light Your Fuse Creativity Retreat, Sept 12, Bethlehem, PA. Writing workshop. "The event will focus on craft and motivation, and after our fabulous speakers do their thing, there will be brainstorming and writing sessions in a supportive, casual, and fun environment."

Slice Literary Writers’ Conference, Sept 12 - 13, Brooklyn, NY. craft workshops, panels, and one-on-one agent meetings for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers. Participating writers include fiction writers Ben Greenman, Julia Fierro, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Nicole Krauss; and creative nonfiction writers Leslie Jamison and Rebecca Mead. Participating publishing professionals include Sarah Bowlin (Henry Holt), Katie Freeman (Riverhead/Penguin), Brigid Hughes (A Public Space), Maris Kreizman (Kickstarter), Vanessa Mobley (Little, Brown), Benjamin Samuel (National Book Foundation), and Rob Spillman (Tin House); and agents Michelle Brower (Folio Literary Management), Lisa DiMona (Writers House), Kirby Kim (Janklow & Nesbit), Stephanie Kip Rostan (Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency), and Renée Zuckerbrot (Renée Zuckerbrot Literary Agency).

New York Pitch Conference, Sept 17 - 20, 2015, New York NY. Features publishing house editors from major houses such as Penguin, Random House, St. Martins, Harper Collins, Tor and Del Rey, Kensington Books and many more who are looking for new novels in a variety of genres, as well as narrative non-fiction. The event focuses on the art of the novel pitch as the best method not only for communicating your work, but for having you and your work taken seriously by industry professionals.Workshops, homework & pitch training, agent/editor feedback, market study, publication plan.

THE MAGIC OF 13 - SCBWI: Northern Ohio 13th Annual Conference, Sept 18 - 19, Cleveland, OH. Hosted by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Northern Ohio. Faculty: Nikki Garcia (Little Brown Books); Loraine Joyner (Peachtree); Maria Lamba (Jennifer De Chiara); Kendra Levin (Viking's Children's Books/Penguin Young Readers); Jodel Sadler (Sadler Literary); Vicki Selvaggio (Jennifer De Chiara) and many authors.

North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference. Sept 18 - 19, Crescent City, CA. Workshops on writing, poetry, memoir, editing, social media, marketing, fiction, submitting.

Brooklyn Book Festival, September 20, Brooklyn, NY. Readings, panels, workshops, and a book fair. Participants include poets Elizabeth Alexander, Tina Chang, Colin Channer, Nick Flynn, Saeed Jones, Gregory Pardlo, and Tracy K. Smith; fiction writers Daniel Alarcón, Carmiel Banasky, Paul Beatty, Edwidge Danticat, Andre Dubus III, Angela Flournoy, Ann Hood, Phil Klay, László Krasznahorkai, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Salman Rushdie, and Laura van den Berg; and creative nonfiction writers Kate Bolick, Sloane Crosley, Geoff Dyer, Vivian Gornick, and Jon Ronson. All events are free and open to the public.

The Florida Heritage Book Festival & Writers Conference, Sept 24 - 26, St. Augustine FL. Faculty includes Vicki Hendricks, Elizabeth Sims, John Dufresne, Laura Lee Smith, and more. Book Festival authors include Mary Kay Andrews, Lisa Black, John Dufresne, Scott Eyman, Jon Jefferson, Connie Mae Fowler and many more.

Be a Better Freelancer - Take it to the 10th! Sept 25 - 26, Rochester NY. Annual conference for freelance writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, graphic artists, website managers and developers, etc., with presenters offering guidance and tips on marketing, promotions, new skills and other business aspects of freelancing. Focus: Nonfiction.

Chicago Writers Conference, September 25 - 27, 2015, Chicago, Ill. Join other writers, editors, publishers and agents for a weekend of learning and fun! Panels, pitch sessions, and educational talks, along with a Friday night kick-off party. Sessions on publishing, self-publishing, how to pitch, craft of YA, meet the publishers, websites, nonfiction, and many more.

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity, September 25 - 27, Hunt Valley, MD. A writer's and fan's conference for genre fiction covering mystery, suspense, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk & horror. 

SF:SE 2015, September 25 - 27, Orlando, FL. Focus: Speculative fiction. Workshops, panels and editor one-on-ones, together with convention debauchery like werewolf LARPing, masquerade balls and a tattoo gallery. All events to be shared with authorial greats like Orson Scott Card, Jacqueline Carey, Peter V. Brett, Kelley Armstrong, and industry icons.

A Weekend For Words: 13th Annual Southern California Writers’ Conference, September 25 - 27, 2015, Irvine, CA. "Having facilitated some $4 million worth of first-time authors’ book and screen deals since 1986, the SCWC remains devoted to writers of all levels working to become both exceptional authors and modern, entrepreneurial self-advocates. Through our uniquely tailored, inclusive programs the SCWC empowers writers with the vital recognition, encouragement and understanding to better succeed in today’s ever-changing transmedia marketplace." Limited to 150 participants.

LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop. September 25 - 27, Tieton, WA. Faculty includes poets Elizabeth Austen, Ellen Bass, Sally Green, Sam Green, Tara Hardy, Christopher Howell, Talena Lachelle Queen, David Schein, Derek Sheffield, and Chad Sweeney.

Rom Com: Reader Weekend/University. September 25-27, Denver, Colorado. 60+ Authors of all genres of romance - Contemporary, Erotic, Historical, Inspirational, Sci-Fi, Paranormal, & Suspense. 20 Author-led games and events- Interact with authors. 10+ Intimate Chats. 

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. September 25 - 28, Whidbey Island, WA. Evaluation and discussion of book-length and chapbook-length manuscripts with poets, editors, and publishers. The faculty includes poets Joan Houlihan and Fred Marchant; and editors Rusty Morrison of Omnidawn Publishing, Martha Rhodes of Four Way Books, and Jeff Shotts of Graywolf Press. 

9th Annual Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference, Sept 26, Columbus, GA, "Whether you write prose or poetry you can explore capturing thoughts, observations, and reflections with the written word. The sessions will be criticism free. You will be exposed to various writers and their styles, and work on editing, polishing and expanding writings into something that is reflective of your personality and talents. You should leave with a piece of original work and a sense of writing as an avenue to discovering self."

2015 Flathead River Writers Conference, Sep 26 - 27, Kalispell, MT. Faculty: Margie Lawson, James W. Hall, Keith McCafferty, agents Annie Hwang (Folio) and Kerri Buckley (Carina). 

Chanticleer Authors Conference 2015, September 26 - 29, Bellingham WA. This conference is about increasing books sales and the business side of writing: Book Marketing, Branding, Promotion, Distribution,New Publishing Avenues and Social Media Mastery for Authors. Faculty: Harvey Chute of KBoards, Kiffer Brown of Chanticleer Reviews, Pamela Beason, Bennett Coles Promontory Press, Elizabeth DiMarco, Rochelle Parry, Wendy Delaney, Wendy DeWar Hughes, Robert Dugoni, Karen Brown, and others.

There are a lot of great contests coming up in September, some with hefty prizes.

The Sunday Times is offering £30,000.00 for a winning short story. Published books can win £10,000.00 and $35,000 in two of these contests, and there are also substantial prizes for short works.

The Silver Linings contest is giving $2000, and Life Lessons is awarding $3,000 for personal essays. There are also prizes for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

Good luck!

Good Housekeeping "Silver Linings" Contest. "Tell us about a time when a wrong turn took you to the right place or you found unexpected happiness at the end of a long road." Restrictions: Open to anyone age 21 or older who is a legal resident of the United States, the District of Columbia, or Canada (excluding Quebec). Genre: Story of 1,500 to 2,500 words. Prize: $2000. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Helen Schaible International Shakespearean / Petrarchan Sonnet ContestGenre: Poetry. Prize: First Prize $50. Second Prize $35. Third Prize $15. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Hudson Review Short Story ContestGenre: Short stories 10,000 words and under. Prize: First prize is $500, second and third are $250 each. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Payton James Freeman Essay Prize is sponsored by the Freeman Family and the Drake University Department of English. Restrictions: Open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Prize: $500 and publication in The Rumpus magazine. Genre: Unpublished non-fiction essay of up to 3500 words on the subject: THE STUPID LITTLE THING THAT SAVED ME. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Jerwood Awards for Nonfiction. Sponsored by Royal Society of Literature. Restrictions: UK and Irish citizens and those who have been resident in the UK for the past three years are all eligible. Genre: Open to writers engaged on their first commissioned works of non-fiction. Prize: £10,000.00 and two awards of 5,000 pounds each. Deadline: September 7, 2015. Read more details here.

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers ProgramRestrictions: Publishers recommend writers making a strong literary debut. Authors cannot submit their own work to the program; self-published writers and titles published via print-on-demand or available only as NOOK books are also ineligible for submission. Genres: Literary fiction, short story collections and literary non-fiction, such as travel essays, memoirs, or other non-fiction with a strong narrative will be considered. Books should be intended for an adult or a young adult audience. Prize: $35,000 to six writers. Deadline: September 10, 2015. Read more details here.

Princemere Poetry PrizeGenre: Poetry. Prize: $300. Deadline: September 14, 2015. Read more details here.

Drake Emerging Writer AwardRestrictions: Authors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must agree to attend and participate in the reading at Drake University in April 2015 to receive the award. Genre: First published book of poetry. Prize $1,000. Deadline: September 15, 2015.

Ethnographic Poetry Award. Sponsored by The Society for Humanistic Anthropology. Genre: Poetry associated with any of the five fields of anthropology: Archaeological, Biological, Linguistic, Sociocultural and Applied. Prize $100. Deadline: September 15, 2015. Read more details here.

Past Loves Day Story ContestGenre: Personal essay. Nearly everyone has memories of a former sweetheart. Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear, or both. Prize: First Prize: $100; Second Prize: $75; Third Prize: $50. Deadline: September 17, 2015. Read more details here.

Life Lessons Essay ContestRestrictions: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, age 19 or older at time of entry. Genre: Personal essay. Would your world now be completely different—even unthinkable—if, at some point in the past, you hadn’t made a seemingly random choice? Tell us about it. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: September 21, 2015. Read more details here.

Sunday Times EFG Short Story AwardRestrictions: Open to authors from anywhere in the world, as long as they have a previous record of publication in creative writing in the UK and Ireland. Stories must be previously unpublished, or first published after 1 January 2015. Genre: Short story. All entries must be 6,000 words or under and entirely original. Prize: £30,000.00. Deadline: September 24, 2015. Read more details here.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is held four times a year. Restrictions: The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits. Genre: Short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, Annual Grand Prize: $5,000. Deadline: September 30, 2014. Read more details here.

Lee & Low Books New Voices Award is sponsored by Lee &Low Publishers. Restrictions: The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. Genre: Children's books - fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Authors First Writing Contest is sponsored by Authors First, located at P.O. Box 4331, Stamford, Connecticut 06907. Restrictions: The contest is open to international submissions from aspiring writers anywhere in the world. However, if the novel or story has been published in any form (including any self-publishing outlets), then it is ineligible for entry in the Contest. Genres: Novels of at least 40,000 words and short stories less than 20,000 words. Prize: Novels: Publishing contract with The Story Plant, $5,000, An iPad Mini, One year’s supply of books from The Story Plant. Short stories: A contract to publish the story in the Authors First anthology (to be published by The Story Plant) with a pro-rated share of royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Eric Hoffer Award for Short ProseRestrictions: The contest is open to everyone. Genre: Works of short prose less than 10,000 words, previously unpublished, or published with a circulation of less than 500. Prize: $250. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Intergeneration Short Storytelling ContestRestrictions: The contest is open to everyone. Genre: Stories must be original, unpublished, and include at least two generations. Stories may not exceed 300 words (not including title). Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Iowa Short Fiction and John Simmons Short Fiction AwardsGenre: Short story collection. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. Prize: Publication by the University of Iowa Press, royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction ContestGenre: Short fiction. Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Student Travel Writing ContestRestrictions: Open to currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, students who have graduated within the past year, and students currently on leave from school. Genre: Personal essay about living/working abroad. Prize: 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $150; 3rd Place: $100; Runner-up: $50. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Here are six calls for submissions with deadlines coming up at the end of the month.

Not all of of these publications offer payment, but note that RHINO nominates winning poems for a Pushcart Prize and The Collagist prints excerpts from forthcoming novels (especially if you are publishing a novel with an Indie press).


Qu – Qu is a literary magazine sponsored by the MFA Department of Queens University of Charlotte. Genres: Fiction, essay or script excerpt under 8,000 words, or three poems. Payment: Prose $100; poetry $50. Deadline: August 31.

RHINO – RHINO is looking for previously unpublished poetry, translations and flash fiction. Genres: Submit three to five poems, three to five translations of poems, or flash fiction under 500 words. Payment: None, but all poems are considered for the Editors’ Prize, which offers cash awards for the top three submissions of the year. The First Place winner will be nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Deadline: August 31.

The Collagist – The Collagist is a monthly journal associated with Dzanc Press. Each issue contains short fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and one or more excerpts from novels forthcoming from (mostly) independent presses. Genres: Stories, essays, novellas, one to three short-shorts, or one to three poems, but only submit twice during each reading period. Payment: None, but if you have a novel that is due to be published in the next three months, The Collagist publishes an excerpt in each issue. Deadline: August 31.

Crossed Genres – Pronouns & Genders. Genre: Speculative fiction. "We want stories that feature, examine, explore, and celebrate the many and varied human genders; and stories that explore the ways in which pronouns are used to acknowledge, accept, oppress and deny gender. [NOTE: We’re looking for stories about humans. No shapeshifters or robots, please.]" Payment: 6 cents a word. This is a SFWA Qualifying Market. Deadline: August 31.

Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It –  This anthology is a compilation of personal essays inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's book. Genre: Essay of no more than 1500 words. Payment: $50. Deadline: August 31.

The Myriad Carnival – An anthology of ‘queer, weird and dark’ stories themed around carnivals. LGBT. Payment: $40/£24, plus 2 x copies of the anthology. Reprints accepted. Deadline: August 31.

You've finished editing your novel and decided to self-publish. Now you are faced with a choice. Should you spend the money on a professional book cover designer or design a cover yourself?

Unless you are a graphic designer, hire someone. People do indeed judge a book by its cover. And just as an attractive cover draws the eye, a dull cover can cause readers to move on to a more appealing image. Your best chance of making sure people stop to look at your book cover is to make sure it is designed by a professional.

Judging a book by its cover

The problem that faces self-publishers is how to evaluate an effective cover. "Good" and "bad" reside in the eye of the beholder. Depending on cultural tastes, what is considered "good" can vary widely. Standards also change over time.

Consider Baen Press, a publisher of speculative fiction famous for its ridiculous book covers. (Some of the most horrendous covers can be found on Good Show Sir, along with hilarious comments.) Those covers were not considered awful 30 years ago. (I know because I bought many of them.) Times change, and tastes change along with them.

PictureShumate thinks this is a bad cover, and so do I
In an article on Huffington Post, Nathan Shumate presents what he believes to be the 10 worst self-published book covers ever. According to Shumate, a bad book cover looks "amateurish." In other words, it looks as if the author designed it, which reflects what critics think of writers' artistic capacity (as well as industry norms in which DIY is considered déclassé).

But are professionally-designed book covers any better? Frankly, I can't tell the difference between what the NYT considers the best book covers, and what Huffington Post says are the worst. Books lists "20 Best Book Covers" that are only slightly less trendy. What is currently popular does not always stand the test of time, or of good taste, so I would caution you against anything that smacks of trendiness.

Ultimately, a bad cover is one that makes your eye move on. If you don't want to gaze at the cover, chances are you won't want to read the book.

What are the qualities of a good cover?

The basic components of a good cover are 1) being able to easily read the title and author and all subheadings, 2) an image that doesn't interfere with the written information, 3) a thumbnail that stands out, and 4) the ineffable quality of memorability. Just like a piece of art, a book cover should be memorable.

My idea of a memorable cover is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It is simple, evocative, and aesthetically pleasing.

The theme, expressed beautifully by the image, is spelled out below - for those who need words. And you can easily read both title and author's name. When I close my eyes, I can still see the image and the title. (Those not only stuck with me, they persuaded me to order the book.)

For more memorable book covers - and an analysis of why they do (or don't) work - see Joel Friedlander's Ebook Cover Design Awards.

The bottom line for good book covers is that they make you want to read what's between them.

How do you find a book cover designer?

There are many excellent book cover designers, but locating one who is perfect for your project can be a challenge. To narrow the field, go to Amazon and look at covers for books in your genre. When you come to one that is enticing (would you want to know more about this book based on the cover?) find out who the cover designer is. (You can type "cover design" and the title of the book into a Google search. Alternatively, you can type "cover design" into the "Look Inside" feature in case there is an acknowledgement.) If those methods fail, you can always contact the author (especially if the book is self-published; in traditional publishing authors have no control over cover art). Even if the artists you find through this method do not do freelance work, you now know what you like. When you approach cover designers, you can show them examples of the styles that appeal to you.

PictureAn example of a bad pre-made book cover
Another strategy is to conduct a Google search for "book cover designers." This will yield you 16 million hits and will make you want to run screaming from your computer screen.  But it is worth it to look at some of these sites. You won't necessarily find the best designers with this method, but you will get a feel for different types of design options - of which there are exactly two: pre-made designs and custom designs.

Pre-made covers

Pre-made book covers are usually cobbled together using stock images. The way it works is you choose an image you like, the designer adds your name and book title, you buy it, and the image is then taken off the market, never to be used again.

Pre-made covers tend to be quite inexpensive. Cheap Book Cover Depot offers pre-made covers for as little as $5. Fiverr is another service that starts at $5. But while cheap pre-made covers are passable, they have a bland, generic quality that does not make them memorable. If you pay a bit more, you can sometimes find a pre-made cover that looks as if it were commissioned. (Big Sky Words has a list of 10 good pre-made cover designers.)

PictureA good pre-made cover from Go On Write
Of the pre-made cover designers, there is one who stands out. Go On Write offers pre-made covers starting at $45 that are more than worth the price. The designer, James, has real flair and a solid sense of design. Some of his pre-made covers rival any of the commissioned work you will find. (James also does commissioned work.) Take a moment to browse through the categories on his site. (And compare them to the image of Sci-Fi Book One. See the difference?) If you have to buy a pre-made cover, James is your man. (For more background on James, you can read a rather wild interview with him on Mumbleweeds.)

Individually commissioned covers

Covers that are individually designed cost more (in the hundreds) but will give you the security of knowing your book cover is the equal to anything designed by an artist working with a major publisher. There are two methods of obtaining a commissioned book cover: 1) competitive services in which you place an ad to be viewed by hundreds of designers, and 2) contacting individual designers directly through their websites.

99 Designs is a graphic design service that allows you to post your project in a pricing category ($299-$1199). Depending on your plan, a set number of designers - between 30 and 60 - submit their book cover designs. You have a week to give feedback to designers. After that you choose which design you want. In essence, 99 Designs is a contest.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this system. The advantage is that you get to compare a number of different styles and interpretations, which may broaden your horizons. The disadvantage is that you are under the gun in terms of time. Making a decision quickly, especially if you think the design needs tweaking, may not be in your best interests.

My personal preference is to work directly with a designer. Working directly with a designer allows you to hone your book cover until it is exactly what you want - and the final product will be unique. You will pay more for the design than pre-made covers, but the promise of complete satisfaction may be worth it. I've listed a couple of good designers below. Look at their portfolios and terms to get an idea of what a designer should offer.

Reputable Designers

Nu-Image Design

Dan Yeager is very professional and reasonably priced. You have to pay half up front, but he won't quit until you are completely satisfied with the final product. Turn-around time is very fast. The cover for my ebook cost less than $250. He also does full print set-ups.

To the left is the book cover Dan Yeager designed for me.  It is elegant, memorable, and the text is easy to read.

Ness Graphica

Alexander von Ness has almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. He is a multiple winner and finalist of international graphic design contests in the category of book cover design. I have not worked with him, but his covers are impressive. Like Dan Yeager, he will do limitless revisions until you are satisfied. Prices are generally in the $400 range.

Von Ness works quickly. He promises a first draft within three days.

Design for Writers

Andrew Brown is currently redesigning his website, but you can see examples of his work on his Facebook page.


Mark's List

Smashwords provides a list of affordable ebook cover designers - both pre-made and commissioned work.


While I don't normally recommend making your own cover, if you have an eye for design there are plenty of resources at your disposal.

Making Your Own Book Cover? Best Free Programs for Graphic Design

13 Sites Where You Can Get Fabulous Free Photos

Once you have finished your cover, however, don't immediately slap it on your book. Get a second opinion from a professional. Bioblosson Creative offers cover critiques, as well as cover makeovers at very reasonable rates ($30-$50).

Building on its previous year's high of $870 million, 2014 saw an increase in graphic novel sales to $935 million, divided equally among digital and print.

These figures are encouraging, because graphic novels may be the last great print holdout. (All we really need is one.)

Why am I such a fan of print? 

It is because there is something irreplaceable about the smell, feel, and look of a book on paper (or papyrus). Holding one in your hands, cuddling up with it, or flinging it across the room when the author fails to deliver a satisfactory ending, are all things that enhance reading, and make it an experience that cannot be replicated on a screen.

Also see:

Oni Press Opens Door to Graphic Novel Submissions - No Agent Required

7 Graphic Novel Publishers Accepting Manuscripts Directly From Writers

Graphic Novel Sales Hit $870 Million in 2013

From Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2015

By Calvin Reed

Led by increases in the book trade, combined sales of graphic novels and periodical comics in North America reached $935 million in 2014, a 7% increase over 2013, according to a joint report by comics trade news sites ICv2.com and Comichron.

Sales of graphic novels in the book trade rose 16% to $285 million, while periodical comics sales in the comics shop market grew 4% from $340 million to $355 million.

Digital download-to-own sales were estimated to be about $100 million in 2014, an 11% increase over 2013. Though the ICv2/Comichron report noted the rate of digital growth declined from the 29% (on sales of $90 million) reported for 2013. Once again the report noted that “digital appears to be complementing, rather than cannibalizing, print."

Comichron’s John Jackson Miller called 2014 the “biggest year for print since 1995, adjusting for inflation.” Indeed, the report noted growth across all formats, print, periodical and digital. Print (both periodical and book) sales grew $55 million to $835 million in 2014, up 7% from 2013.

Brenda Drake hosts the popular Tweetfest, #PitchMAS. During #PitchMAS, writers tweet their pitches along with their category. Agents following the feed then contact the writers who grab their attention.

Pitch Wars is a preliminary event in which writers apply for critiques from mentors. Published and/or agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to prepare it for agents.

This is an excellent opportunity to hone your work to perfection.

Pitch Wars 2015 is coming! Are you ready?

Posted By Brenda Drake on Jul 19, 2015

We’re so excited for Pitch Wars 2015! For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also critiques his/her writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Those entering Pitch Wars submit applications (query plus first chapter of manuscript) to our mentors. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for two months to get them ready for the agent round. Writers can pick up to four mentors to submit to. How will you decide what mentors to submit to?

Come back August 3 for our Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop. The mentors’ bios and wishlists will be posted to their blogs and linked from a post on my blog, and you can hop around and find the right matches for you. And visit the Twitter hashtag #PitchWars to get to know the mentors personally (virtually). The hop will go on until 8/17, which is submission day!!

This year, we won’t have alternates. Instead, I’ve added more mentors and there will be 92 mentee spots up for grabs. Applications will be sent through an easy submission form. The form will go live just after midnight (EDT – New York time) August 17 and remain open for 24 hours. What will you need to enter in the form? Your top four (max – you don’t have to pick 4, but you are limited to 4) mentors, your email address, title of the manuscript, category and genre, your query letter (sorry no personalized queries this year), and the first chapter of your completed manuscript (Word .doc or .docx format).  The sample chapter should be manuscript formatted pages (12pt, double-spaced). All of this will be fill-in-the-blank on the form.

Submission Guidelines:
  • Only Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult manuscripts will be accepted.
  • This is open to completed, full-length, fiction manuscripts only.
  • You may only enter one manuscript.
  • Only the genres requested by each mentor will be considered for the contest.
  • Writers may only apply to 4 mentors max.
  • Mentors will only consider the categories they’ve signed up for. (The mentors’ categories – MG, YA, NA, or Adult – are set.)
  • Writers cannot apply for a mentor that is not in their category or the application will be deleted.
  • No nonfiction, picture books, chapter books, or previously published works. (If you’re an unagented author and have self-published before, you may enter the contest with a never-before-published manuscript.)
WARNING: Just like an agent, mentors may request more pages or a synopsis of your manuscript to help them make their final decision, so get them ready! Mentors may also pass your application on to another mentor they feel would be a better match. If a mentor you didn’t apply to picks you invites you to be his/her mentee, you have the right to pass on said invite.

Please note: Being kind to one another is mandatory in this contest. Should I find someone isn’t being kind and respecting others, I will remove you from the contest. Also, if you are difficult with your mentor or if you aren’t working well as a team or if you don’t take any of your mentor’s advice, your mentor will have the option to opt out of being your mentor. Remember your mentor has other obligations like deadlines, book promotions, and family life, please be mindful of their time. They are only required to read your manuscript once and give an edit letter. They aren’t required to do line edits. Our mentors are very generous with their time, so please be patient. We’ve had close to forty successes from last year’s Pitch Wars and it’s because of our mentors and the care they take with their mentees that it’s been such a great success.

If you were a mentee in Pitch Wars 2014 you may not enter Pitch Wars 2015. If you were a mentee in 2012-2013, you may enter with a new manuscript. If you were an alternate in any of the previous Pitch Wars, you may enter the same or a new manuscript for Pitch Wars 2015.

!!!! If you make it into Pitch Wars, you may not enter any contests or query during the mentoring period and until after the agent round, which is November 3-5. If you are currently in a contest (such as Pitch to Publish running at the same time as Pitch Wars), you may not enter Pitch Wars. When in doubt, ask.

For those who do not make it into Pitch Wars (and those who want to join in), we’ll hold a Twitter Pitch Party on #PitMad September 10 from 8AM to 8PM EST. If you make it into Pitch Wars, you may not pitch in #PitMad.

There will be an “Ask the Mentors” event on the Twitter hashtag, #AskMentor and on #PitchWars, on August 10 from 12:01AM to 11:59PM EDT. Stop by and ask mentors questions as you see them join the hashtag.

Some our Pitch Wars mentors will be chatting live with the Whiskey, Wine, & Writing gang at 8PM EDT. Make sure to watch and get to know the mentors. Here’s the schedule:
  • August 4 and 11: Middle Grade mentors
  • August 5 and 12: Young Adult mentors
  • August 6: New Adult mentors (Mentors who are mentoring either YA/NA or NA/A)
  • August 7: Adult mentors
For my contest schedule go here.

We look forward to seeing you August 3!

Last week, I received an email from the Authors Guild which struck a chord. The subject was royalties for electronic books, which, as AG correctly points out, have been dropping even as the market for ebooks is booming. 

When I got my first publishing contract in 1997, the ebook split was 50 - 50. By 2006, when I signed my contract with Random House, the royalty was 25% of retail, and zero on deep discounts. I have no idea how much I lost through that arrangement.

What AG has done is to calculate what authors have lost. While publishers are not gaining as much as they did in the first heady days of ebook expansion (before Amazon forced them to lower their prices), they are still gaining - at the expense of authors. According to AG, authors are losing up to half of their ebook royalties.

Read it and weep... (or, alternatively, read it and self-publish)

Authors Guild, July 9, 2015

We announced our Fair Contract Initiative earlier this summer. Now our first detailed analysis tackles today’s inadequate e-book royalties. At the heart of our concern with the unfair industry-standard e-book royalty rate is its failure to treat authors as full partners in the publishing enterprise. This will be a resounding theme in our initiative; it’s what’s wrong with many of the one-sided “standard” clauses we’ll be examining in future installments.

Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights. Authors generally received an even larger share than the publisher for non-print rights (such as stage and screen rights) and foreign rights.

But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us.

We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture. The author writes the book, and by any fair measure the author’s efforts represent most of the labor invested and most of the resulting value. The publisher, like a venture capitalist, invests in the author’s work by paying an advance so the author can make ends meet while the book gets finished. Generally, the publisher also provides editing, marketing, packaging, and distribution services. In return for fronting the financial risk and providing these services, the publisher gets to share in the book’s profits. Not a bad deal. This worked well enough throughout much of the twentieth century: publishers prospered and authors had a decent shot at earning a living.

How the e-book rate evolved

From the mid-1990s, when e-book provisions regularly began appearing in contracts, until around 2004, e-royalties varied wildly. Many of the e-rates at major publishing houses were shockingly low—less than 10% of net receipts—and some were at 50%. Some standard contracts left them open to negotiation. As the years passed, and especially between 2000 and 2004, many publishers paid authors 50% of their net receipts from e-book sales, in keeping with the idea that authors and publishers were equal partners in the book business.

In 2004, we saw a hint of things to come. Random House, which had previously paid 50% of its revenues for e-book sales, anticipated the coming boom in e-book sales and cut its e-rates significantly. Other publishers followed, and gradually e-royalties began to coalesce around 25%. By 2010 it was clear that publishers had successfully tipped the scales on the longstanding partnership between author and publisher to achieve a 75-25 balance in their favor.

The lowball e-royalty was inequitable, but initially it didn’t have much effect on authors’ bottom lines. As late as 2009, e-books accounted for a paltry 3–5% of book sales. Authors and agents ought to have pushed back, but with e-book sales so low it didn’t make much sense to risk the chance of any individual book deal falling apart over e-royalties. We called the 25% rate a “low-water mark.” We said, “Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won’t put up with this: they’ll go where they’ll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work.”

E-books now represent 25–30% of all adult trade book sales, but for the vast majority of authors the rate remains unchanged. If anything, publishers have dug in their heels. Why? There’s a contractual roadblock, for one: major book publishers have agreed to include “most favored nation” clauses in thousands of existing contracts. These clauses require automatic adjustment or renegotiation of e-book royalties if the publisher changes its standard royalty rate, giving publishers a strong incentive to maintain the status quo. And the increasing consolidation of the book industry has drastically reduced competition among publishers, allowing them more than ever to hand authors “take it or leave it” deals in the expectation that the author won’t find a better offer.

The elephant in the room

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Amazon, which has used its e-book dominance to demand steep discounts from publishers and drive down the price of frontlist e-books, even selling them at a loss. As a result, there’s simply not as much e-book revenue to split as there was in 2011when we reported on the e-book royalty math. At that time, publishers made a killing on frontlist e-book sales as compared to frontlist hardcover sales—at the author’s expense—because, as compared to today, the price of e-books was relatively high.

When we analyzed e-royalties for three books in the 2011 post, “E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins,” we found that every time an e-book was sold in place of a hardcover, the author’s take decreased substantially, while the publisher’s take increased.

Since 2011, we have found that publishers’ e-gains have diminished. But the author’s share has fallen even farther. Amazon has squeezed the publishers, to be sure. The publishers have helped recoup their losses by passing them on to their authors.

These were our calculations for several books in 2011. The trend was obvious. Compared with hardcovers, each e-book sold brought big gains to the publisher and sizable losses to the author when the author’s royalties are compared to the publisher’s gross profit (income per copy minus expenses per copy), calculated using industry-standard contract terms:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -39%
Publisher’s Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +33%

Hell’s Corner, by David Baldacci
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -37%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +27%

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -17%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +77%

What’s happening now? We ran the numbers again using the following recent bestsellers. Because of lower e-book prices, the publishers don’t do as well as they used to, though they still come out ahead when consumers choose e-books over hardcovers. But authors fare worse than ever:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doer
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.04 hardcover; $2.09 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss= -48%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.44 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +7%

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.90 hardcover; $1.92 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss= -51%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.10 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.89; $1.92 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss: -51%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.09 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%[1]

Exceptions to the rule

It’s time for a change. If the publishers won’t correct this imbalance on their own, it will take a critical mass of authors and agents willing to fight for a fair 50% e-book royalty. We hope that established authors and, particularly, bestselling authors will start to push back and stand up to publishers on the royalty rate—on behalf of all authors, as well as themselves.

There have been cracks in some publishers’ façades. Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret. We’ve also heard of authors with strong sales histories negotiating 50-50 royalty splits in exchange for foregoing an advance or getting a lower advance; or where the 50% rate kicks in only after a certain threshold level of sales. For instance, a major romance publishing house has offered 50% royalties, but only after the first 10,000 electronic copies—a high bar to clear in the current digital climate. But overall, publishers’ apparent inflexibility on their standard e-book royalty demonstrates their unwillingness to change it.

We know and respect the fact that publishers—especially in this era of media consolidation—need to meet their bottom lines. But if professional authors are going to continue to produce the sort of work publishing houses are willing to stake their reputations on, those authors need a fair share of the profits from their art and labor. In a time when electronic books provide an increasing share of revenues at significantly lower production and distribution costs, publishers’ e-book royalty practices need to change.

[1] In calculating these numbers and percentages for hardcover editions, we made the following assumptions: (1) the publisher sells at an average 50% discount to the wholesaler or retailer, (2) the royalty rate is 15% of list price (as it is for most hardcover books, after 10,000 units are sold), (3) the average marginal cost to manufacture the book and get it to the store is $3, and (4) the return rate is 25% (a handy number—if one of four books produced is returned, then the $3 marginal cost of producing the book is spread over three other books, giving us a return cost of $1 per book). We also rounded up retail list price a few pennies to give us easy figures to work with.

Likewise, in calculating these numbers and percentages for the 2015 set of e-books, we are assuming that under the agency model—which is reportedly the new standard in the Big Five’s agreements with Amazon—the online bookseller pays 70% of the retail list price of the e-book to the publisher. The bookseller, acting as the publisher’s agent, sells the e-book at the price established by the publisher. The unit costs to the publisher are simply the author’s royalty and the encryption and transmission fees, for which we deduct a generous 50 cents per unit.   

The Authors Guild | 31 E 32nd St | Fl 7 | New York, NY 10016 | United States 

Here are two new literary agents looking for clients. DongWon Song (Howard Morhaim Literary) is seeking science fiction and fantasy – especially epic fantasy or high fantasy. He is also interested in books about food, science, and pop culture. Laura Mamelok (Susanna Lea Associates) is looking for literary fiction, high-end commercial fiction, women’s fiction, literary crime/thrillers, and young adult fiction with crossover appeal. In nonfiction, she is looking for narrative nonfiction, current affairs/journalism, memoir, and humor.
Laura Mamelok of Susanna Lea Associates

About Laura: Laura Mamelok is a literary agent at Susanna Lea Associates, where she also sells foreign rights. SLA, which has offices in New York, London, and Paris, represents a range of fiction and nonfiction, both commercial and literary. Laura is French-American and has lived in both Paris and New York. She obtained her BA in comparative literature at Barnard College and her MA in comparative literature and film at Columbia University and the University of Paris 7. Prior to joining SLA in 2009, she worked as a literary scout for Maria B. Campbell Associates. She lives in Brooklyn.

What she is seeking: Laura is primarily interested in literary fiction, high-end commercial fiction, women’s fiction, literary crime/thrillers, and young adult fiction with crossover appeal. On the nonfiction side, she is looking for narrative nonfiction, current affairs/journalism, memoir, and humor. She’s drawn to international stories and settings, in both fiction and nonfiction. Above all, she is on the lookout for fresh voices, strong storytelling, and original ideas.

Submission guidelines: Queries by email only to lmamelok [at] susannalea.com. Please send a concise query letter, including email address, phone number, and any relevant information (previous publications, etc.), a brief synopsis, and the first three chapters and/or proposal. Please include the word “Query” in the subject of your email. She considers all queries received, but will respond only if interested.
DongWon Song of Howard Morhaim Literary

About DongWon: DongWon Song is a literary agent at Howard Morhaim Literary. He was formerly an editor at Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. There, he launched multiple New York Times bestselling series, including FEED by Mira Grant and LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey. He was the first hire at a publishing startup, Zola Books, and while there oversaw content and eventually became the head of product for the ecommerce and ebook apps. He is a graduate of Duke University with a BA in English and Economics.

What he is seeking: Science fiction and fantasy – especially epic fantasy or high fantasy for both adults and teens. He is also interested in nonfiction, especially food writing, science, and pop culture.

Submission guidelines: E-query along with three sample chapters (for fiction) or full proposal (for nonfiction) to dongwon [at] morhaimliterary.com. Average response time is 6 to 8 weeks.
The Amazon Wars are back! (You knew they weren't over.)

In this most recent skirmish, authors, agents, and booksellers have banded together to call for a Dept of Justice investigation into Amazon's monopolistic tactics.

In a recent ruling against Apple, even the judges expressed some doubts as to whether they were looking at the right target.

"Would it not matter that all those people got together to defeat a monopolist? It’s like the mice that got together to put a bell on a cat,” U.S. Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs told the Justice Department’s lawyer, Malcolm Stewart.

Apple is hardly a mouse. It has its own antitrust suit to deal with over iTunes. Nevertheless, Jacobs does have a point.

When Apple began its efforts to undermine Amazon, Amazon controlled 93% of the ebook market. That figure has since fallen, but because Amazon is secretive about its market share, nobody really knows how much it controls.

The truth is that the market rests in the hands of very few companies. Whether they collude or compete, the end result is always the same: Authors lose out.

Authors, Booksellers & Agents Call for DoJ to Investigate Amazon

By Judith Rosen

Publishers Weekly, Jul 14, 2015

Authors United, a loosely knit group of authors who banded together last year to apply pressure to Amazon during its then-dispute with Hachette, has called on its members to sign a new letter destined for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice.

Last fall Douglas Preston, the thriller writer who formed Authors United, aired his group's concerns about Amazon's domination of the retail book market in a meeting with the DoJ. Now, although the Hachette-Amazon disputed has ended, he said enough has not been done about Amazon's position in the marketplace.

In an e-mail sent Monday afternoon, calling on authors to sign the new letter, Preston wrote: “The settlement of the dispute did not change the fundamental problem: That one corporation now dominates the book market in the United States. We believe Amazon has used its power in ways that harm the interests of authors, readers, booksellers, and the publishing industry as a whole.”

Preston composed the letter to the DoJ, which will be sent days after Amazon celebrates its 20th anniversary, with the Authors Guild. The letter has also been endorsed by the American Booksellers Association and the Association of Authors’ Representatives.

“Today a single company, Amazon, has gained unprecedented power over America’s market for books,” it begins. “We are not experts in antitrust law, and this letter is not a legal brief. But we are authors with a deep, collective experience in this field, and we agree with the authorities in economics and law who have asserted that Amazon’s dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books.”

Read more HERE.