A great cover design May 26, 2015Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 6. Castle Tips.
Tags: advice, book covers, cover design, publishing, publishing process, self-publishing
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It turns out that despite years of concerted advice and insistence by the cliché, people mostly do judge a book by its cover. Cover design matters!
Over the next few months, I want to post a few articles on some of the different elements of book production and publishing. In the overall timeline of book production, cover design usually comes after such things as writing and editing the book, but I want to start with design because it is probably the most glamourous of all the steps in creating a great book. So let’s start with the icing!
If it really is true that people judge a book by its cover and that first impressions make a difference, then having a great cover is crucial to your book project. You spend months, maybe years, working on the content of the book, only to have people scroll on by because the presentation caused them to dismiss your book. How do you want your book to be perceived?
I think there are two main ways the right cover will help your book:
– It will represent your book accurately, convey an idea of the content effectively, spark a positive emotion in the reader, and package the product appropriate to the target market and genre.
– It will speak volumes (excuse the pun) about the quality of your book.
Even if you are self-publishing, there is absolutely no reason why the finished product shouldn’t look just as good as something that comes out of a commercial publishing house.
Getting it right
Not everyone has an instinctively good eye when it comes to design, but everyone can up-skill and do research. That’s why I recommend that the first step in getting a good cover design is to go to a bookshop or library (assuming that such things still exist in your neighbourhood!) and look at book covers. Look at the cover designs of recent and new releases. Get a feel for what is happening in the world of book design. Having looked at the designs of all kinds of books, narrow your research down to the particular genre and target market that you are working with. Collect designs that you like. I’m not recommending that you copy these designs, but you need to know what products in your market look like – even if it means that you go on to create something more effective!
Now go hire a designer. Unless you have an established talent for design yourself, and the technical know-how to execute the design, you are best to have a professional on the job. Maybe this will be your niece or nephew – but be careful. Putting aside the feel-good factor of having a relative or friend work on your project, professionalism and expertise are the main considerations. In choosing a designer, look at their previous work and see if their skills match what you are trying to achieve. Some designers are very versatile, but having said that, most designers have a particular visual style, so be conscious of their style and how it might impact your cover design.
A good relationship
Cost will be a factor in hiring a designer, but it’s worth spending some money. It may not be as expensive as you think. Negotiate a price, but don’t insult the designer by being a cheapo – they work hard and have the talents that you need – so pay them their dues. You can reach a happy outcome for both parties in terms of budget.
In briefing the designer, show them your research and tell them what you are hoping to achieve. Also be open to other fresh ideas that the designer might bring to the table. The unexpected, so long as it is still fit to purpose, might be exactly the right thing. The ideal working relationship will be one where you trust the designer to be the expert and be prepared to entertain their ideas, but also retain focus on where you are heading. If you don’t like something they’ve done, say so, but be open. See the process as a collaboration. The relationship will be difficult if there isn’t an element of trust and mutual respect – and that’s something to think about when choosing the designer initially.
Bonus insider info
Here’s a bit of bonus ‘inside’ info. I haven’t gone into the nuts and bolts of cover design in this article (perhaps another time), but I want to pass on a few important technical considerations. In today’s online book market, your book cover is often seen at ‘thumbnail’ size, ie the miniaturised product image that book and ebook retailers show on their websites. So your design needs to look good at that small size.
No matter what size the cover displays at, make sure the title stands out. Don’t overwhelm the typography with imagery. Your eye needs to land on the title first, before it tracks around the rest of the cover. When you look at the design, if it feels like your eye doesn’t know where to look or it is jumping around the cover too much without a clear focus, your cover is probably too cluttered or not well laid out. The various elements (type and image) shouldn’t be fighting each other.
Enjoy the process of designing your book cover and get excited about it – your book is getting dressed up for its big debut!
Feel free to post any questions (or requests for future articles) in the comments section below. And don’t forget, you can come to Castle for any or all of the services you need to make your book the best it can be – including beautiful cover design! Contact us.
Come on an adventure… March 27, 2015Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 6. Castle Tips.
Tags: books, New Zealand, publishing, self-publishing
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Castle facilitates adventures, and you can come along on that journey. Here’s how…
We’re in the business of books, and books are always designed to take people on a journey – whether that’s through the excitement and intrigue of a fictional or true life story, or through thinking more deeply about God, life, the universe and everything. We count it our privilege to provide books that take people somewhere.
Then there are the people who love reading but aren’t content to only tag along on another author’s journey – they have a desire to create a book of their own – and Castle provides adventures for those kinds of people too.
We’re still in the first quarter of 2015 (just!), and maybe this year you want to create the book that you’ve dreamed of or that other people have encouraged you to write and publish. Exciting times!
But it’s not always easy to start or to know what the next step is without a bit of help and guidance.
Sometimes you might feel a little bit out of your depth – but what’s an adventure without a little bit of trepidation? All the best adventures start out with that first step.
Stepping out with Castle makes the whole journey that much easier – we can be your expert guide, and help steer you through the adventure of publishing your book.
Come on an adventure… Contact us.
Merry Christmas! December 23, 2014Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 5. News.
Tags: book, Christmas, publishing
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Christmas and Summer Reading Gift Guide 2013 December 6, 2013Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 5. News.
Tags: books, christian, Christmas gifts, gift ideas, New Zealand, publishing, self-publishing
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Here’s a round-up of new and recent releases from Castle that we think will make great Christmas gifts and reading for your summer holiday. As always, everything is home-grown right here in New Zealand…
Mrs Shepherd’s Oven, by Patsy Nealon. For kids, age 4-9.
Mrs Shepherd has pies to bake for her knitting group. She is not happy because her brick oven has fallen down. What will she do? The quirky and fun adventures of a family of shepherds whose story touches on, and coincides with, the Christmas story. Great reading for all year round, and for general (as well as Christian) audiences. Illustrated throughout with water colour cartoon pictures that kids will love. Softcover, 22 pages full colour. A Castle Kids book! NZ$17.95. More info, view a sample or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.)
Your Secret World, by Brian Goodwin. General adult.
This book examines your ‘secret world’ – the inner workings of your heart, soul and mind – and shows just how important they are in your everyday life. With compassion, insight and love, Brian Goodwin explains what ‘makes us tick’, looking at the things that spark our desire or hold us back, and opening us up to a heart to heart relationship with the Creator and others. Your Secret World draws on a wealth of biblical wisdom and the work of other Christian authors. Available as a printed book or ebook. NZ$26.95 (ebook US$9.99). More info, view a sample or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.)
The True Adventures of Lucy the Hen, by Daphne Joy. For kids, age 4-9.
In the chicken run, there is no one else quite like Lucy! Lucy is a very clever and special hen. In this beautifully illustrated full colour picture book, Daphne Joy tells us some of Lucy’s true life adventures. Each story concludes with ‘Learning with Lucy’ – bite-sized thoughts that apply the things that Lucy learns to our everyday lives. Softcover, 28 pages full colour. A Castle Kids book! NZ$14.95. More info, view a sample or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.)
To Rise Above, by Julianne Jones. Young adult and general adult historical fiction.
Katie, Samuel and Rhiannon have settled into a distant land but soon their faith will be tested beyond anything they had ever imagined… Julianne Jones’s superb second historical novel. A story of drama, romance and intrigue set in colonial New South Wales. Great reading for teenagers and adults. Available as a printed book or ebook. NZ$24.95 (ebook US$9.99). More info or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.)
Into the Heart of PNG, by Kay Liddle. General adult.
In 1952 Kay Liddle waded ashore on the northern coast of New Guinea – the start of a lifelong relationship with that remarkable country. This is Kay’s personal story of years spent in service and partnership. It is filled with the difficulties, challenges and rewards of a dramatic life of mission. It is also the story of Christianity taking root and transforming the lives of ordinary Papuans – sharing the Good News, seeing whole groups of people move towards God, establishing churches, and training leaders. Available as a printed book or ebook. NZ$27.95 (ebook US$9.99). More info or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.) Also available: Book Two.
Get Real, by Jill Stanley. General adult.
Real excerpts from an ordinary life in the hand of an extraordinary God. Jill Stanley’s real life story grabs and transports you from her quaint English village to Europe’s pulsating cities, and across both Atlantic and Pacific oceans to a remote island in the South Pacific. A transparent, brutally honest record of human passions, mistakes, flaws and sincere attempts to find lasting peace and truth. With hilarious adventures and powerful encounters, Jill will surely disarm and entertain you along the way. Available as a printed book or ebook. NZ$26.95 (ebook US$9.99). More info or purchase here. (Or ask for it at your local Christian bookshop.)
Introducing Castle Kids November 26, 2013Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 5. News.
Tags: children's books, christian, Christmas gifts, New Zealand, picture books, publishing
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Castle Publishing has great pleasure in announcing an all-new imprint – Castle Kids.
This idea has been in the pipeline for quite a while. Castle has a strong belief that New Zealand authors have a unique point of view, and we knew that while we had been demonstrating this in the area of general non-fiction for some time, we needed to expand this vision into children’s publishing as well.
For some time, the Castle Kids concept had been awaiting the right product. We got our feet wet assisting Mike de Vetter with his wonderful Rose Princess book and with Lyndon Douglas’s remarkable Debbie Dart book. Then, this year, two books came along at around the same time that pushed the idea forward.
These two books are Daphne Joy’s The True Adventures of Lucy the Hen and Pasty Nealon’s Mrs Shepherd’s Oven. Both are beautifully (but very differently) illustrated and both tell the kinds of endearing stories that parents love to read to their children and that children love to hear.
DIY Publishing Power to You April 18, 2013Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 6. Castle Tips.
Tags: publishing, publishing process, publishing services, self-publishing
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With technology and the right services, all the tools are there for you to publish your own book – DIY is the way of the future and it’s here now. I know it sounds a bit dramatic and ‘salesy’ but it really is the truth – if you have the time and inclination you can get your book out there yourself, now. But DIY can be daunting and new technology can be a steep learning curve – and sometimes quality goes missing. In this article I want to talk a bit about the opportunities that exist for you to publish your own book, and also provide some advice for undertaking that journey…
Without wanting to give a full history lesson, it all started with the development of the personal computer and desktop publishing software. Digital publishing technology grew from there – the other important developments were digital printing and the ebook.
Digital printing (a form of glorified photocopying, with extremely high quality results that are as good and often better than older print technology) meant that smaller numbers of books could be feasibly printed. When I first started in the publishing industry 13 years ago, the only real option was offset printing on a traditional printing press. To make that feasible (ie, to make the cost per book realistic), you needed to print a minimum of 1000 books and preferably 2000. That’s a lot of books in the context of the New Zealand market, so the risk was significant. For a self-publisher or a small publishing company, that meant potentially ending up with a garage or basement full of books if they didn’t sell. With the advent of digital printing, the cost per book of printing a small number of books dropped significantly. So now it is feasible to print 250 copies (or even less in some cases). The initial risk is greatly reduced, and reprints can be done with a minimum of fuss if more copies are needed at any given time.
Meanwhile, along came ebook technology. This is a paperless technology and so the cost of printing is taken out of the equation completely. Amazon and others developed ebook readers that are wonderfully easy to use and so good that even die-hard book-lovers can be swayed by the availability and usability of ebooks. The ‘eBook Revolution’ it was called, and the buzz swept through the publishing world. Would this be the death of printed books? What would happen? eBooks provide another great opportunity for self-publishers. Having your book as an ebook is cost effective and makes it available to a potentially huge audience.
As the hype around ebooks begins to settle, here is my assessment of the situation: eBooks are here to stay, are the way of the future, and the forerunners to some amazing future technology. But printed books have a lot more life in them yet – and aren’t disappearing any time soon. For example, data shows that ebooks are massively popular for fictional books (ebook sales now exceed paper book sales) but in non-fiction, printed books still beat ebooks in terms of sales.
A Self-Publishing Strategy
The self-publishing strategy that we recommend is ‘ebook plus a short printed run’. So this means that you should have your book produced as an ebook (for future-proofing and availability) and also do 250 to 1000 digitally printed copies. The number you should print depends on how sure you are about how many you might be able sell. If, for example, you are out speaking to groups a lot and selling books along the way, then printing more copies might be a sensible idea.
So the time and technology is right for you to publish your book. And the tools are there for you to do it all yourself, but should you go it alone?
Recently I read an article about the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, which mentioned in passing that Chief Judge, Bernard Beckett, said, “the judges … noticed many books had ‘great potential’ but were let down by formatting, design, illustrations, and editing.”
And here’s the rub of the DIY, quick and ready, scene that we’re now in. Quality is slipping. I was at a publishing workshop recently where the expert (who was otherwise very good) told the participants not to worry too much about the quality of the formatting of their ebooks because… well, because no one really cares about the quality of formatting in ebooks.
Quality always matters – most of us would agree that when it comes to reading a book or ebook, if the formatting and editing is all over the place, it will detract from the reading experience and stand in the way of the message the author is trying to convey.
Enter Castle Publishing. At Castle we take advantage of all the wonderful tools and technology that now make publishing so readily available, but we provide the expertise and experience to make your book a high quality product. Our belief has always been that self-published books can match commerically-published books in terms of quality – that on the shelf, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. And ‘quality’ doesn’t have to mean ‘expensive’ – mainly it is about attention to detail and making use of the experience and expertise we have. Not only that, but we can guide you through what can potentially be a daunting process – you don’t have to go it alone.
Let’s face it, you’re pouring yourself into your book – you’re investing yourself in it – so it’s worth doing well. So step out, take advantage of the opportunities that now exist for you to publish your book, but get someone with publishing know-how on your team.