Tag Archives: Cover

Ebook Art on the Cheap with SketchbookPro

All those emails, “How to make money being an independent author,” I put into the trash. My metier is discussing science and Catholic teaching, and as editors have told me when they reject my submissions, “sorry–no market for that sort of thing.” Accordingly, I’m going to frame my first royalty check ($0.56 from Smashwords) and invest future royalties in do-it-yourself software for my ebooks. It will not be cost-effective to hire an illustrator for my book covers (the forthcoming royalties from the Kindle editions might just cover a stock cover).

So, I’ve explored software for graphics, and based on web reviews, decided to go with Sketchbook Pro, yearly license, $29.00. (There’s a free version with more limited function, Sketchbook, also available.) So far it’s worked well–I’m not an artist, nor a designer, but I’ve been able to use it for covers, illustrations and animations, all of which are useful in an ebook that deals with scientific stuff.

Here’s an analogy–someone skilled in computer graphics could really make Sketchbook do tricks, as you can see if you go to the YouTube demonstrations, like a lion tamer in the circus; my status is more like that of the guy who finally housebreaks his Pomeranian, after a month of cleaning-up.  (In other words, if I can do it, you can do it too and probably better.)


This is not going to be a how-to post; I’m not that expert and there are all the YouTube videos that can be explored. Rather, I’ll try to show how it works for  the cover of my forthcoming ebook, Top Down to Jesus, Book 3: Truth Can Not Contradict Truth, which discusses the non-existent war between science and the Church.   I’ve also used it for animations in the iBook edition of The Quantum Catholic.


Sketchbook works in layers, which is good for the tyro–you can goof up one layer and delete without having to scrap all the rest. The starting point is then a background layer. Here’s the one I chose for the third book of my series, Top Down to Jesus. 

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Background Layer for Cover

It uses several of the tools available in Sketchbook: color palette, radial gradient fill, cropping and image sizing.


Since I’m not an artist, I use free images, ones in the Public Domain, available either from Wikimedia Commons, obtained by doing a search, Wikimedia Commons image ???? (replace the question marks with the image subject).

My third book is on science and the Church,  so I wanted a cover that would show that God comes first–whence the hand of God creating DNA.   I took as one image Michelango’s “The Creation of Adam”…


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Michelangelo’s :The Creation of Adam”


and the other a DNA molecular model image of DNA.


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DNA Model from Wikimedia Commons


Each image is  put into a separate layer, placed, sized, cropped and trimmed with the Sketchbook tools to get a superposed image


The final step is putting title and author onto the cover.  Sketchbook has a number of font styles and sizes available, so there’s an embarrassment of riches… what to choose from!    I’ll show below two different styles;  I’ve not yet decided which I’ll use.



Any comments?

So, here are some very simple examples from a not-too-talented amateur.  I’m sure there are many of you readers who can train this dog (Sketchbook Pro) to do many more tricks.



Robert Kurland blogs at Reflections of a Catholic Scientist. His previous books in this series are Pascal Was Right! and The Quantum Catholic. He is a retired physicist, Extraordinary Minister of Communion, lector, and musician.He has also written for Catholic Stand.





How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (Part 2)

3-Books 3D

In part one, we saw how finding your audience helps to raise the likelihood of indie success. In this post, we’ll focus on how to produce a work that sells.

If you have been able to build a good audience on your blog, you probably already write high-quality work that others want to read. But this can be a problem for many writers. They cannot seem to build their audience, even though others writing on the same subject have many subscribers.

The beauty of a blog is, it allows you to practice. Your elementary school teacher was right when she said, “Practice makes perfect.” Blogging regularly helps you refine your ideas and test them out. It gives you feedback. Listen to your subscribers. What do they like about your blog? Pay attention to the questions they ask. Are you being too vague or talking past them?

Sometimes it looks like successful authors are just “lucky.” In reality, most successful authors have lots of practice and often lots of missteps (even “failures”) in their past. In my twenties and thirties I was unable to find a traditional publisher for three novels I wrote from a Christian worldview. I set them aside and began writing nonfiction. Will I self-publish those novels some day? Maybe. But even if I don’t, the experience of writing and trying to publish them was invaluable.

Don’t expect instant success. And don’t give up.

While writing my novels, I devoured writing magazines and books from Writers’ Digest. I studied, I learned, I grew.

Revisions and edits

While we as indies know that many great books have been self-published, we also know that the stigma against indie books is not wholly unwarranted. I have started reading many books that I put down in frustration because of the poor quality. Most of the mistakes I see can be fixed by a good revision and editing process.

In writing Trusting God with St. Therese, I had the Catholic Writers Guild non-fiction critique group look over chapters, one at a time. When the manuscript was finished, four beta readers gave me their opinions. I made many changes, then turned it over to my editor.

I am blessed to be married to a nonfiction editor. But even though editing may be your greatest cost, I urge you not to pass this step by. Check out the list of Catholic editors and other service providers on our site.

My husband always has macro and micro editing suggestions. The process is painful. I complain. I nearly pull my hair out. But I also do most of the edits he suggests. My books are always much better for it.

After editing, you need to proof the book over and over. The first time, I did this myself and nearly went crazy. The second time, I paid a proofreader and was not very satisfied with the results. I think I will try a different proofreader for my fourth book. Again, it costs a little money. But you must have a well-proofed book if you want it to sell.

The importance of covers

As indies we are primarily selling our books online. If you want people to click on your book on Amazon, you need a professionally made cover. I confess I create my own covers, but I do many things to make sure they are top-quality:

  • I read about design at the book designer.
  • I buy templates from Derek Murphy.
  • I spend a few dollars for professional microstock photos.
  • I study the best covers in my genre and try to exceed them.
  • I study secular book covers.
  • I use professional fonts.
  • I use the same fonts and a consistent design and color scheme on all my covers to create my brand.

I usually design a cover early in the writing process, mostly for a change and for fun. Then later I decide I don’t like it and come up with something drastically better.

Along with good covers, consider good interior design. If you work in Word or Scrivener, book templates are handy for your paperback layout.  I designed my first paperback interior and will never do it again. Now I use templates from Joel Friedlander.

Sales copy

Some writers have a hard time writing their Amazon book description and back cover sales copy. The book description can make the sale for you, if you do it right. There are many blog posts about how to make your description work for you. This is your reader’s first taste of your writing. Get it right!

I have never had trouble with this step. If you are struggling and would like some help, I’ll write your description and sales copy for $10 per book. You just provide some basic information. Contact me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net for more details.

Sometimes mediocre books sell. But who wants to write a mediocre book? Take your time, practice, do your best work, and have it professionally edited. Then add a great cover and compelling sales copy and you’re on your way to success!

In Part 3, we’ll look at marketing for success.


Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Increase the odds of self-publishing success


Ellen Gable’s Best-selling novel, Stealing Jenny


Editor’s Note: Ellen Gable Hrkach originally wrote this for the blog of the Catholic Writers Guild in 2012. I have reposted it with permission.

When I began writing my first book, Emily’s Hope, ten years ago, I did so thinking, “If just one person can read my book and feel they’ve learned something, then I’ll have reached my goal.”  It never even occurred to me to “make money” with my books.  But, eight years and three books later, I am making a nice supplemental income.

The average self-published book will sell fewer than 150 copies (and most of these will be to the author’s family and friends).  That isn’t even enough to pay for your printing and/or editing expenses.

Remarkably, self-published novelist Amanda Hocking, has sold 1.5 million Kindle books. And while that is unusual, many self-published authors ARE selling books and making money.

So what is the difference between successful self-published books that sell thousands of copies and ones that only sell a few hundred or less?  And what can you do to increase your chances of selling more books?

1)  Quality of Writing
There is usually (although not always) a difference between self-published books that sell thousands of copies compared to those that only sell a few hundred and it’s most often in the quality of writing.  Please, please, please don’t just accept praise from your friends and relatives telling you that your book is the greatest masterpiece ever written.  Give your manuscript to a professional editor, as well as a copy-editor. Humbly consider their advice.  Once you’ve finished editing, ask those friends who think your book’s a masterpiece to proofread it for you.

My spiritual director once told me that editing a manuscript is like polishing a diamond. The more you polish a manuscript, the more the brilliance shines through.

It takes a lot of work to write the first draft of a book. However, in my experience, it takes a lot more work to edit, polish, edit some more, polish some more until the book is ready for publication.

2)  Eye-Catching Professional Cover
If I had a dollar for every self-published book that had a poorly designed or downright bad cover, I’d be able to take my family out to dinner weekly for the next month.

A book’s cover is the first image a perspective buyer/reader sees, whether it’s in print or on Kindle.  The cover MUST be professionally produced, aesthetically pleasing and tell the story of a book with one glance.  Learn more about making a good cover from my post on covers entitled “Discover Your Cover.”

3)  Extensive marketing versus minimal marketing
This is the one thing that can make or break a book, in my humble opinion.  There are many, many outstanding (even brilliant) self-published books out there that are going virtually unnoticed because the authors have done little or no marketing.

Writing the book is only a small part of the success of a book.  In my talk at the Catholic Writers Conference Live last year in Philadelphia, I spoke about the importance of marketing: blogging, social networking (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Linked In), blog tours, Kindle e-books.  Marketing takes 90 percent of my time.  But then again, I’m a social person. I like connecting with people on Twitter or Facebook. I enjoy a lively conversation on my blog. I enjoy commenting on other bloggers’ posts.  If an author is not willing or doesn’t have the time to market, this will show in sales.

4) Target Audience is Too Small
Sometimes an author will write a book directed to a smaller target audience. This has definitely been an issue with my first book, Emily’s Hope, which some people have coined as “NFP Fiction.”   Since NFP-users probably make up a very small percentage of women who read, my target audience for that book is decidedly small.  Most readers don’t even know what NFP is, so it’s not a book they would normally pick up.

My second novel, In Name Only, is very different from my first book.  Although the characters are Catholic, it’s not as genre specific. It’s an historical romance, which makes it more appealing to the female population.  It’s not as religiously thick, so secular readers can enjoy it as much as Christian readers.  It has been my most popular book thus far, selling hundreds of e-books a week on Amazon Kindle, often attaining the #1 position in Religious Drama.

Most self-published books sell an average of 150 books.  You can increase your odds of selling more than that by considering the following factors: quality of writing, eye-catching cover, good marketing and a wide target audience.

Keep these things in mind for a successful self-publishing experience.

copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach, reposted with permission


Image of Ellen GableEllen Gable is a novelist living in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of five books: “Stealing Jenny,” a contemporary thriller about a pregnant woman who is kidnapped; “In Name Only” (Gold Medal, Religious Fiction,2010 IPPY Awards), “Come My Beloved” (non-fiction) and “Emily’s Hope.” The Kindle editions of her novels have been in the top 20 of the Religious Drama category since February, 2012. Ellen is President of the Catholic Writers Guild. She does freelance writing for a variety of websites, and she blogs at “Plot Line and Sinker” http://ellengable.wordpress.com. She and her husband are the creators of the Family Life cartoon which illustrates Catholic family life, a topic she knows much about as the mother of five sons ages 15 to 27. Her new book, “A Subtle Grace,” the sequel to “In Name Only,” has recently been published.