Guest Post: Author David Eccles – Shout This Book Cover Design Secret: You Don’t Need Photoshop!

I’m honored to have friend David Eccles, author of Darke Times and Other Stories, guest posting on the blog today. Getting into the indie author scene has given me a chance to network with some amazing people, and David is certainly one of them. From Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, David has an eclectic reading and writing mind. I’m thoroughly enjoying his new book and am happy with the topic he is discussing today, as it is an important one for all self-published authors. Enjoy!

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Before I begin my article in earnest, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Allen for inviting me to guest on his blog, and for providing us indie authors with much needed and much valued information and guidance.

I know that Allen has plans to feature his cover artist, Jennifer Jordon in future articles, because a beautiful cover can and almost certainly does affect a reader’s decision to purchase an author’s book. One would be wise to read Jen’s articles which will give us all an insight into how a true professional goes about the task of creating a pictorial masterpiece from our literary efforts.

In most cases, it would indeed be wise to shell out money and have a cover artist produce your cover for you, but what if funds are tight, you’re a stubborn so-and-so like me (I’m also broke, by the way) and you feel that you have the necessary skills to produce a decent cover yourself? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at designing your own!

Ah, but Photoshop is expensive, I hear you say. No problem! You don’t need it!

It’s true that while Adobe Photoshop is probably the most well-known and the most widely used piece of software when it comes to image manipulation, there is no point in parting with hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned money if you can achieve equally good professional-looking results using non-proprietary software that is open source, cross-platform, and free!

I’m a huge lover and frequent user of the Gnu/Linux platform, and I dual-boot my computers with both Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux so that I can make the most of what software is available.

For image manipulation, my software of choice is the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), because it’s cross-platform and freely distributable, it’s packed with features and can do nearly all that Adobe Photoshop can do. Screenshots here. Using a plug-in called PSPI increases its functionality and enables the GIMP to use lots of Photoshop plug-ins too!

It is way beyond the scope of this blog to go into any sort of detail as to what one can achieve with GIMP, but there are multitudes of forums and tutorials on how to use it, there is a comprehensive separate installable user manual, and there is a very active community who are always working to improve and develop the program further. The learning curve is quite steep, but after only one afternoon of playing around with it I managed to produce some surprisingly good results, including the cover of my own book! It’s not perfect by any means, but it was good enough to pass the manual review at Smashwords and be accepted into their Premium Catalog!

I blogged about GIMP on my own website in an article called Digital Painting on a Budget, also mentioning free 3D rendering software Blender, and followed it up with a sequel, Digital Painting on a Budget, Part 2, where I introduce another free program designed for creating vector graphics, Inkscape, and a low-cost alternative to Wacom graphics tablets from a company called Monoprice.

This short article is meant merely as a primer to give the reader a little information about freely available alternative software that in the long run will save any author who wishes to go it alone and design his/her own book cover a lot of money. Please keep your eyes open for a detailed in-depth look at cover design in future articles by Jennifer Jordon on Allen’s site.

Click the cover image or the text link to be taken to the Amazon website where you will be able to purchase my book, Darke Times and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen pieces of flash fiction and short stories in genres ranging from general fiction to science fiction, bizarro fantasy, horror, horror erotica and full-blown (if you excuse the pun) erotica.

Darke Times and Other Stories is also available on Smashwords, Kobobooks and at all of the usual places that Smashwords distributes books. I’ve been fortunate enough that since my book’s launch date eleven days ago on the fourteenth of July, every review has been a five-star review, including glowing reviews from horror author John F.D. Taff and YA author M.C. O’Neill, and I’ve been guest blogger on John’s website, with more guest appearances to come elsewhere on the web in the very near future. It’s a great time to be an indie author! Thank you for your support. You can be sure that I’ll give you mine!

  Eccles DarkeTimes

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What Your Support Means To Indie Authors

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Authors have many different reasons for taking the self-publishing route. Maybe they’ve tried traditional publishing but got rejected. Maybe they didn’t get rejected but realized the possibilities present in self-publishing that might not be there from traditional publishers (percentage of profits). Maybe the authors simply want a way to share their work without having to go through the long process of submitting and having it sit at the gatekeepers desk for months or years.

No matter what your opinion of self-publishing, I think we can all admit that there is some seriously good work out there from the indie author scene. If you don’t think so, then you likely haven’t bought any indie work. As I’ve said before, there are many pieces of bad work out there, but who cares? Just like in music and movies, there will always be less than par work that gets into the mix. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t make my work look worse. If an author spends the time and puts forth a professional effort, as we have advocated, then the work will stand out. Many self-published authors take the time to do it the right way. I know that there are still some of you who will argue that unless a traditional publisher has vetted the work then it can never be as good. Fine. I promise that you are missing work that is often of higher quality than what is on the shelves of your chain book stores.

So, what should we do when we find work that is fantastic come out of the indie author realm? Well, we owe it to the author, and to ourselves, to let as many people know as we can. I’m talking, Tweet about it, Facebook about it, and tell your friends. Most importantly – LEAVE A REVIEW!

As I was reading some indie work yesterday, my main thought was about how much of a difference we can make in each others lives. 99% of self-published authors are nearly broke, but took the time to get their work out to the rest of us. It means something to the author, and if we find that it means something to us, we can truly make a difference in that author’s life. Let me do a little story and some math for you. Now, this may seem like I’m only writing this to make profits for indie authors. I’m not. I want you to know what a difference your support can make (because often, other indies don’t support self-pubbers).

Let’s say Ralph (nobody in particular) puts out his science fiction self-published book. If it had been printed, it would run about 300 pages, the normal size for a science fiction book at the local store. Ralph has two kids, a wife, and works 50 hours a week to support his family, but has always had a passion for writing science fiction. He decided to take the plunge and write a book. He writes it, re-writes it, gets it professionally edited, re-writes it, gets a professional cover done, gets it just right for Kindle (or other platform) and finally hits the publish button. Any of that sound familiar to anyone out there? He took the right steps to give us his story.

We buy Ralph’s book for $2.99, less than a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. We start reading it and quickly realize that, dang, this Ralph guy has written a really good book! Upon realizing this, we should now have a responsibility to Ralph, particularly because he is an indie author. When we finish it, we need to review it. It needs to be a quality review. Something more than “Awesome book.” Write a paragraph encouraging others to buy Ralph’s book. Send out a link to Ralph’s book on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Even if only one or two of your friends pick up a copy, that is still a few extra dollars for Ralph. Let’s say that twenty people pick up Ralph’s book on day one and Ralph gets about $2.05 per copy sold.

20 x 2.05 = $41 – Ralph can take his family our for dinner or pay more on his credit card.

Now let’s say that each of those 20 buyers gets one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Now he has sold 40 copies.

40 x 2.05 = $82 – Ralph starts to feel good about his work and starts a second book, as well as pays down some more debt.

Now let’s say that some reviews start to give his book a boost and all the previous buyers get one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Maybe Ralph gets up to 250 copies sold

250 x 2.05 = $512.5 – Ralph used this to make his car payment, allowing him to possibly spend some more time with his family instead of at work.

How many of you would have your lives transformed just by having an extra $500 or so? All of us.

Most indie authors aren’t looking to become rich. They are looking for just a little extra to help out around the house. There are so many ways for people to make a difference in the world. In fact, because there are so many ways, many people get overwhelmed and do nothing. Instead, let’s play to our strengths – writing and communicating. We are in the indie author scene! Let’s use it and make a difference for our friends and fellow authors. 

When we find great indie work, we CAN absolutely ensure that the author gets that little extra to help them out. Imagine if Ralph’s book hit one of Amazon’s best seller charts for a day because of your help and he sold 2,000 copies. Suddenly he can take a vacation. You helped Ralph take a vacation and all it cost you was $2.99 and some tweets. The indie author scene can be transformed by all of us taking simple steps and recognizing quality work. We may not all be the next Hugh Howey, but dangit, we can still make a difference around the house. Take care.

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Self-Publishing Cover Secrets and Help!

Okay, this time I promise not to take such a long hiatus. I miss talking to everyone on a regular basis. I’ve been busy (even though that is not an excuse). My book, Journey of the Kings, is now finished and Kindle ready. I am now waiting for my wonderful artist, Jennifer Jordon, to finish the cover.

As she is working on the cover, I wanted to start a series of blog posts (maybe only a few, but who knows) about the process of creating the cover. We all know that one of the most important parts of the self-publishing realm of books is the cover. I’ve written about it, and any two minute Google search will give you any number of people espousing the importance of having a great cover. First impressions…we know they matter. How many indie authors, maybe even you, have said that if they could do it again, they would spend more time on getting a professional cover for their book.

Not that little Suzie’s art work or Grandma Pat’s skills aren’t up to par. We all know people that can produce art, but do they have the knowledge and skill set necessary to produce a cover for your project? Think about it. How long did it take you to write your book? You had to plan it out, write it, edit it, re-write it, give it out to editors, re-write, etc. THAT IS A TON OF WORK!

All said and done, we know how much time and effort we have invested in our books. Our books become part of us. Along the way, we dream of people choosing our book to read out of the thousands upon thousands they could pick from. Why, after all that work, would you slap a half-ass cover on the front? If you do that, I promise that all of your work will be for nothing. The only super-successful book I’ve seen with a questionable cover is Wool by Hugh Howey. We’ll chock that up to a minimalist success.

So, Jen Jordon will be helping me with a series of posts about the process that she is taking to create the cover for my book. Yes, she is a great friend of mine, but I didn’t choose her for that reason. She has an MFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina (GO GAMECOCKS) and I have seen almost all of her work in person. She doesn’t just specialize in one type of art. Jen has delved into a wide range of techniques that make her someone we (indie authors) want working with us. She knows the many processes and techniques that might need to be used for cover work.

The first post from her will be coming soon. It will probably have to do with the mindset she is taking to work on my cover. It is a science fiction book, so I would imagine her approach would be different than if she was working on a romance novel (maybe my next book will be erotica…make it a little awkward for her).

We also want you to ask her questions. If you have anything you want to ask Jen, about her artwork, experience, or cover work, ask in the comments. She will be more than happy to answer any question you have.

In the meantime, check out her pages! Her contact information is there, so if you would like to get a hold of her to help with your cover, let her know. You can also ask me to contact her for you if you would like.

Jen’s Website

Jen’s Facebook Fanpage

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Jen and I from about 5 years ago

My Review of “The Settlers” by Jason Gurley

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Now that I have finished reading The Settlers, I am glad I didn’t stop. I say that because I did initially stop. In fact, I made it known on Twitter that I stopped. There were no quotation marks around the dialogue. I’ve never read any book without them, so I got nervous. I decided I had to continue, and I am sure glad I did because the dialogue in this book was fantastic. I mean, it made the book.

The Settlers is a story about a group of people that are facing the greatest challenge that humans have faced. Sure, the premise is one that we’ve hear before, but it is nonetheless still based in reality. We are damaging Earth. In this book, it seems that that damage hit a tipping point and our world is rapidly spiraling out of control. Entire landmasses are underwater, and the Earth is falling apart. At least, the parts that we have inhabited for so long. Something has to be done to preserve humanity.

So humans start to build large space stations that orbit around the Earth. At first, the stations are thrown together rapidly, owing to the nature of the emergency on the planet. Gradually though, humans begin to perfect these stations. They become complex and extravagant. At some point, the crisis on Earth is solved and it seems that the planet is still habitable, but people keep coming to the new stations. Might as well, they are like small countries floating around up there.

Where The Settlers really gets interesting, and where Gurley shows his obvious love of sci-fi classics, is how these stations operate, particularly with the Argus station. This large space colony is set up to operate based on a governing system that rings familiar with elements from 1984, Brave New World, and many others. Heck, I couldn’t help but drift back to my ancient Greek philosophy class from college. It was as if Plato himself had written a modern version of The Republic. There is a sanctioned class system that includes who works what type of job as well as reproductive rights. The station goes as far as admitting that they are creating a different type of human; a smarter type of human.

Gurley does a fantastic job with the characters, though we only get to follow a few through the entire book. I found myself getting to know each one, which is no small feat considering how little time he actually gives you with each character. What made me feel particularly involved was his use of dialogue. Once you figure out how easy it is to read without quotation marks, the words flow through your mind as if you are actually talking to the characters. The dialogue was beautiful, and I actually made that exact note at one point in my Kindle. Here is one line that I highlighted that stuck out to me

Rivers are like thread…They stitch place together. They are seams that connect very different lands. I think it is lovely that you are an anthropologist. What better name for a woman who might herself be a river through time?

I’m not sure why that stuck out to me early on, but I knew that the rest would be amazing. Gurley relies on character dialogue to carry the book, which is very hard to do. Aside from character development, I think dialogue is the next hardest thing to perfect in a book. The job is accomplished here.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to start the next book. The Settlers ends with two of the main characters encountering a pretty bad situation, and I can’t help but think back to an earlier part of the book when one character said

Equality, he would sometimes say, is a myth even in cultures that acknowledge and promote it.

The entire book is set on the backdrop of equality, or lack thereof. Gurley experiments with the concept, and leaves the book heading in a direction that makes me want more. Sitting here now, he has made me wonder if it is better to live in a place where the government openly denies equality, or one that says everyone is equal but in fact they never will be. Basically, would you rather someone lie to your face, or do it behind your back?

Thanks for putting out such a great book, Jason Gurley. I look forward to the rest.

Click here to see his book on Amazon!

My Review of “Longevity” by S.J. Hunter

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Longevity perked my interest because of my minimal background in law enforcement. In fact, the first page really had me interested. Chris, the main character, is about to run into a burning building and says, “I’m responsible for anything that might be lying around intact enough to tell us if there is a ‘why,’ even if it hasn’t happened yet.” My first thoughts went to Minority Report, so I decided I had to keep reading.

Longevity is set about a hundred years from now and early on in the book we can see that something has radically altered how humans live. Turns out, we have discovered how to stop aging, at least as far as our looks and health are concerned. People still count their chronological age, but continue to look and feel like they did at whatever age they were when they began their “resets.” The problem, and the main focus of the book, is the Laws surrounding the process. Apparently it was decided early on that there had to be set limits to how many times a person could reset themselves before they eventually had to age normally. Making the choice to have children also lowered the amount of years you could have as well.

As would be expected in such a situation, some of the wealthy people in the world would be able to afford to live indefinitely, and think that they should have the right to do so. Most rational people know that this would lead to a very privileged society and that those people would pretty much become the world leaders – and stay that way. It really paralleled some future version of what we see in society today – the wealthy get whatever they want at the expense of everyone else.

Chris has worked in Longevity Law Enforcement (tasked with enforcing the longevity laws) since its inception (he’s been on the job for eighty years or so) and does not particularly like having partners. Unfortunately for him, Livvy transfers into the department just to learn from him. Her background in tactical and homicide is very different from LLE and she has some issues adjusting to Chris’s style as a partner.

Both Chris and Livvy are thrust into a case dealing with an old nemesis and that is when the book really takes off. From the moment they realize who is involved, they are continually chased by the bad guy and every time I turned the page I was waiting for gunshots. It was fast paced, and took place over the course of only a few days.

The concepts Longevity brings up may seem to be far-fetched, but with the way medical science is progressing, it is only a matter of time until something similar happens. Heck, plastic surgery and pharmaceuticals do a decent job of making the rich look younger. I can definitely see Hunter’s vision here, and I hope he takes it farther. I love dystopian books, and I could see him taking this story that route.

The only issues I have with this book are relative minor. Hunter’s paragraph structure was odd for me, but I recognize that every author has a different writing style, so I didn’t care. Also, there was a lot of repetition of the concepts surrounding the law enforcement methods and a few other things. Truth be told, this may come in handy for some readers who have a hard time picking up on some of the concepts, but I understood after the first few times. By no means should either of those things keep you from buying a copy of this book. It is good and is another example of why I love self-publishing. In fact, I already bought the second book in the series!

Check out the book here

My Review of “Poor Man’s Flight” by Elliott Kay

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In my quest to review other self-published works, I came across Poor Man’s Flight by Elliott Kay. I know nothing about the author, but he sure did have me intrigued within the first few minutes of reading it. I will do my best to not have too many spoilers.

Poor Man’s Flight, set in a future realm in which humans have spread across the galaxy to other systems, parallels many problems plaguing us today. The main antagonist, Tanner Malone, is finishing high school and hopes to head off to a university soon thereafter like the rest of his friends. Unfortunately, he is not able to pass the big culminating test to place him high enough to enter school without having to gain an excruciating amount of debt. For this society, it seems like going to a good university, on loans, and getting a good job with the loan holders is the only way to make a decent living. People get stuck in a perpetual circle of debt-payments-more debt. Talk about similarities today’s world. Every kid nowadays is told they have to go off to college or they won’t succeed. Average student loan debt crushes modern day grads. In the book, Tanner, on the advice of a friend of his, enlists in the Navy to assist with some debt and help get himself reset to enter a university.

On the other side of this book, we have a ruthless, yet sometimes likable set of pirates that prey on the rich and treat their own crew members with respect. On one hand, they are much more fair than the ‘democratic’ society that they rob. The head pirate has the same rights as everyone else and they do nothing unless the majority agree that it’s the right move. Kay makes me actually think it would be cool to join this band of criminals who have managed to escape the loan and debt system while living what seems like a gluttonous lifestyle. On the other hand, my morals kicked in. While the pirates are fair to one another, they certainly have no regard for anyone outside of their circle. They are true killers.

Kay takes us through Tanner’s boot camp as we watch him transform from a true book smart kid to a trained soldier. We see him get assigned to a group of ill prepared soldiers on a patrol ship, and watch proudly as he rises to the occasion to pull them through a serious mess. Kay does a good job of relaying the different realities of military life They just happen to be in space. For all you former military people, and those interested in the military, you’ll love Tanner’s role and experiences.

This story is really a reflection of our current state of affairs. We live in a world that tells us that we have to go to college to get a good job, but neglects to prepare us for the cost. We then go on to accrue more and more debt while the same corporations gain more and more money from our debt. The book highlights the frustrations that are currently building in our society. We can almost see ourselves in the pirates. Maybe not the ruthless and murderous parts, but certainly in the part that wants to live free of the debt forced upon society. In almost every character in the book, I found a part of me. It was like looking in a mirror and having the reflection show these characters. I think you’ll find the same thing if you read it. The ending is fantastic and I know you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did!

The thing that made this book even better was the way his characters interacted. One thing that I struggled with in writing my first book was giving the characters dialogue that seemed natural and engaged the reader. Kay does that well in this book. The characters interacted realistically and I appreciate that.

This book has sold fairly well on Amazon and is selling for $2.99. It is definitely worth the price and, as I like to say now, is less than a cup of coffee. Pick up a copy and help support this fellow self-published author. From what I gathered on his blog, he recently had surgery, so that’s even more of a reason to buy his book – let’s cheer him up!

Here is the link to his book on Amazon

Here is a link to his blog 

*The only disclaimer I give is for language. I personally have no problem with foul language in books. To me, it more closely mirrors reality. Just know that it is present in this book.