Today was a bittersweet day for me as a self-published author. I received print proofs for the remaining two ebooks in my backlist pile. I started the process of converting my three books into paperback editions last summer. Yeah, yeah…it’s April now.
Working on this paperback book project happened during my “abundant” spare time as I run a content marketing consulting business full-time. I know many of you can relate, because like me, you aren’t one of the unicorns writing novels for a living.
In truth, it took me almost seven years to get here. Converting my ebooks into paperback editions was always a goal of mine, but I had no idea how I would pull it off as a DIY author. Well, I finally got over my BS and did something about it. For those of you who are unsure about the paperback process, here are some takeaways and tips from my paperback conversion experience that might help.
- Understand Why You Want a Paperback Edition
Before you begin the paperback conversion process, ask yourself why you want to embark upon this journey. Paperback conversions cost time and money. Whether you’re into it or not, you will get a taste of what it’s like to have your own book publishing business.
Unless you’re a graphic designer, hire a design professional to help you produce a quality book cover. Even if you have design skills, you will tinker with creative concepts, color schemes, spacing and fonts. When you finally have the book cover and interior completed, you then pray the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) gods approve everything.
Take a few minutes before this crazy paperback process begins to go over your motives. You’ll feel more grounded later whenever you feel flighty, unmotivated, or so freaking frustrated that you consider throwing your laptop across the room and swearing off writing forever.
Your reason might be as simple as wanting to hold your book in your own hands, a feeling you won’t experience when your novels only exist in digital format. Maybe you want to reach a bigger audience by offering multiple formats. Write down 1-3 motives for your paperback journey, so you have that reminder throughout this arduous process.
- Make Sure Your Book Cover is Quality Enough for Print
If you already have self-published ebooks, you either paid a professional to design your book cover, you went the DIY route with a cover template and steely determination—or you enlisted help from a semi design-savvy family member like I did when I tricked my husband into designing all three of my ebook covers.
In the other camp, your manuscript is ready and you’re just exploring book cover design possibilities. Your plan is to have ebook and paperback editions right out the gates for release day.
Either way, don’t shortcut your cover design. Your book will be judged by its appearance, so professionalism is key. Don’t pretend to be a designer if you’re a writer…it’s rare when someone has equal superpowers in both of these areas. Hire a designer who specializes in visual content instead.
For those who already have book covers, now is the time to evaluate. Is this book cover good enough for print? The answer for me was “no” for all three of my books. While my husband did an amazing job with my ebooks, they were not print-ready. (Above you can see the “before and after” for my first novel, Beneath the Satin Gloves.)
I knew I needed to step up my game, so I loosened the purse strings and hired a designer.
- Find a Qualified Designer With Creative Vision
The smartest approach for designing a high-quality book cover is to work directly with an experienced designer, preferable someone who has designed book covers.
Book cover design experience is by no means a deal-breaker though. Amazon KDP has a wealth of support articles and cover templates that you can share with your designer to make sure you get the specs right.
What is a deal-breaker? Working with a designer who has zero print experience. Print-ready designs are very different from digital designs. My designer didn’t have specific book cover design experience, but he had designed posters and signage. He was also a passionate bookworm, which meant he had a deep appreciation for books—and their covers.
That brings us to the creative vision, another must-have for a book cover designer. He or she should spend a fair amount of time in the discovery phase. Your designer should be flexible and collaborative until the book cover is finished, and you are completely happy with it.
This is what the cover design process looked like for me and my designer.
- We kicked off the book conversion project with an in-depth discussion over lunch. Together, we went through the story, themes, and characters.
- He read my book to get immersed in the story. Not every designer will be willing to do this, either because they lack time or interest. That’s okay as long as you can explain your story or you have other blogs or book trailers that explain the concept.
- We explored a bookstore for inspiration. We met at Powell’s Books, walked up and down aisles to find covers that resonated for me.
- I created a Pinterest Board with images that were relevant to the story.
- He created an iStock Photo Board and presented potential images for the cover.
- When none of the images were “the one,” I added images to our iStock Photo Board.
- After some back and forth, we landed on a few image concepts for the cover.
- We were happy with the image, so he produced a few color concepts.
- Eventually, I fell in love with one of the combos.
- Phew! We had our book cover.
- Use Software for the Interior Formatting
More power to you if your designer has tons of experience with paperback books and they can bust out the interior formatting on your behalf. Know that this will cost extra if you have your designer handle both the cover and the interior.
To work with my tight budget, I ended up doing a hybrid arrangement for my paperback books. I hired a designer for the cover and I used technology for the interior formatting. I imagine there are other software options out there for self-published authors, but I did not need to look any further than Bookow.
This software makes the typset and interior incredibly easy. Best of all, Bookow has a very short learning curve. Most importantly, it works. Here’s what the Bookow steps looks like:
- Upload your manuscript (chapter headings and text only…no front matter).
- Select your trim size, margins, headers, footers, typefaces and typefaces.
- Fill in fields to populate your front matter (dedication, acknowledgments, about the author, etc).
- Download your PDF.
- Optionally, you can create ebook files too.
Bookow costs $80 per book. My designer would have cost way more than this! The cool thing is that you can test drive Bookow before you pay the fee by downloading and reviewing watermarked PDFs. You can go back into the tool and tweak fonts, headings, front matter as much as you want.
This includes after you publish your book. Years from now if you want to update the About the Author section, you can easily change that within Bookow and download your PDF. Because you pay per project, you will not need to pay the $80 fee again.
A big bonus for me was the ebook formatting. I wish I had this years ago when I painstakingly formatted all three ebook files myself. I redid formatting for all three of my ebooks with Bookow and my ebook files look WAY better now.
I’m not a spokesperson for Bookow, but I was really impressed with their software. There aren’t a lot of technology options for self-published authors. We end up spending a lot of time and money to publish our books—and, we don’t always sell enough books to make up those costs. Interior formatting software is worth considering.
- Upload Documents to Amazon KDP and Cross Your Fingers
The Amazon KDP process probably requires its own blog post, but I’ll keep this brief. Make sure you use KDP’s specs for your book’s trim size before you design the book cover. This should make KDP approval easy.
Also, know that you might end up in a situation like I did where my book cover didn’t pass the test and I had to go back to my designer to tweak a couple of things.
I had zero problems with my interior, which I have heard can be a complete nightmare for people. (Thanks, Bookow!) Even if you receive some red flags from Amazon KDP, they tell you what you need to fix and they have tons of help articles. If you do everything right, you shouldn’t need to revise anything or the revisions will be minimal like mine. Good luck!
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