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How to Design a Book Cover on Elance (Part 4 of “How to Write a Kindle Book”)

I wrote a Kindle eBook.

This is part 4 of a multi-part series that explains the entire process I went through to write and publish it. Click the following links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

After writing and editing your eBook, the next step is to design a professional cover for it.

 

Designing the Cover – Approach

When I first decided to write a book, I wanted to get validation from prospective readers that they really wanted to read it. So I created a quick cover by hiring a designer for $5 on Fiverr. Here was the result.

Virtual Teams Book Cover from Fiverr

Fiverr Cover

I wrote more about the details of how I designed the cover on Fiverr in part 2 of this series.

This was just a quick and dirty cover to get things going, but I wanted to design a much more professional cover for my final version of the book.

 

Why create a professional cover when a cheap one will do?

A lot of kindle authors think spending money on a professional cover is a waste of money. Their philosophy is that what matters most is the content of the book and that everything else is secondary.

Some of those kindle authors are quite successful, so they do have a point. You really can save a bit of money and just use a $5 cover designed by a freelance designer at Fiverr.

However, I see it differently.

To me, a professional cover is your chance at a solid first impression.

People make split decisions when they’re browsing online and they might skip out on your book just based on a lackluster cover.

I know because I’m one of those folks.

I don’t care if a book has 50+ positive reviews; if the cover looks like it was put together in Microsoft Word, I’m going to assume that the content might be subpar at best. I might be unfairly judging that book, but it’s just how I make quick decisions, and I’m sure other folks think the same way.

Plus, designing a nice looking cover will also help you market the book to other sites down the line. For example, blogs that might feature your book will have a higher chance of accepting it when they see a professional looking cover as opposed to a cheap one. That’s because they also worry about their brand, and if they feature something that might come off as spammy, it might hurt their own image.

Moreover, I really believe that the money you spend on a great cover now will pay off down the line – especially in the long run when Amazon markets your book for you.

 

How much will it cost for a professional cover?

Based on what I’ve researched about current rates, I think a professional-looking cover should cost you between $250 and $350.

This price range is for the front cover only (i.e. no back cover or spine design which might cost more). A front cover is what you only need anyway for a Kindle eBook.

You might find designers that can design great covers for less than that (around $150 to $200), but you might be taking a slight risk because that’s on the lower end. Of course, you can surely find designers who would charge you much more than that range, but I really don’t think that’s necessary.

 

Options for Designing a Professional Cover

There are two main options to design a professional looking cover:

Option 1: Crowdsource it

Crowdsourcing is a method where you submit your design request to a large group of designers, who in turn submit designs for you.

In this option, you upload your request for a book cover (called a design brief) to the site and set the price you want to pay. You then start getting design samples from different designers and you pick a winner.

Some companies that offer crowdsourcing services include:

 

Option 2: Hire a single freelance designer

Hiring a freelancer is where you give the task to a single designer, and have that person work on the design for you. Those freelancers typically have their portfolios of previous work published online, so you get to see their previous designs and decide if you like their style.

In this option, you upload your request to a marketplace and designers bid on a price. You then select a designer that you like and award them the job. Only after you award the job to the designer will you start getting design samples.

Some sites that offer freelance services include

 

The option I selected

I went with Option 2 and hired a freelance designer directly. I felt more comfortable interacting directly with a single person than dealing with multiple designers or options. This was just a matter of personal preference.

I also went with Elance because I used them for editing my book and was already comfortable with their process.

 

How to Write a Good Description for your Book Cover job on Elance (with a sample description)

Having a good description for your book cover job is really important so that you avoid any misunderstandings.

You need to upload a crystal-clear project description for the design you want to get done. You need to explain exactly what you want and what you don’t want right upfront because it’ll help you filter out any designers early on. This will also save you a lot of headaches down the line.

I would also recommend that you include links to book covers that you like so that you can show the prospective designer what you’re looking for in terms of style.

Here’s the book description job that I posted on Elance (feel free to steal it!)

Job Title

eBook Cover Design for Amazon Kindle

Type of work needed

Design & Multimedia > Page & Book Design

Job Description

I need an eBook cover for an Amazon Kindle book that I’m writing.

This will be a one-page front cover job (i.e., no spine or back cover) that adheres to Kindle’s format guidelines.

For example, the cover should be 2820 pixels on the shortest side and 4500 pixels on the longest side (you can read all the guidelines here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2J0TRG6OPX0VM)

Here’s the text that I’d like to appear on the cover

Title: Influencing Virtual Teams
Subtitle: 17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees
Author Name: Hassan Osman

I’d really like the cover text and illustration to be a combination of red and black (with a white background) because those are the colors of my blog.

Here are samples of covers I like:

http://www.amazon.com/Difference-one-page-reimagining-reinventing-marketing-ebook/dp/B00I8W7HYO/

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Sell-Your-Damn-Book-ebook/dp/B00HTQEDZ6/

http://www.amazon.com/Everything-I-Know-Paul-Jarvis-ebook/dp/B00GRBIFH6/

As you can see, I like simple designs with a focus on a nice font and illustration (nothing too busy with a lot of illustrations or text). My ebook will be for IT managers in large organizations who manage virtual teams across the world.

I would also like the title of the ebook to be readable even when the cover is resized down to 90 pixels (because that’s the size of the thumbnails when readers browse around in the marketplace).

When you submit your bid, please let me know a bit about your process (e.g., what you’ll be providing in terms of cover design samples and how many iterations are included in the price).

Thank you!

Desired Skills

Cover Design, Graphic Design, Adobe InDesign, eBooks

As you can tell, my description was explicit and to the point. I explained what platform my book was going to be published on (Amazon Kindle), and I included the link for the guidelines.

I also specified the colors I’d like to see, included a few links for books I liked, and asked the designers to send me a description of how the process works.

That last request – about how the process worked – served two purposes:

  1. I was actually interested in understanding the process they were following and how many iterations were included in the price so I don’t get disappointed down the line
  2. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure that the designers actually read my entire description. I wanted to make sure that they went through the instructions carefully (I rejected any bid that didn’t answer that question because I assumed the designers were sloppy)

 

Side note: One thing I missed in my job description

For the next book I’ll write, one thing I would add is to explicitly ask the designer what final design files will be included as part of the price. This was something I missed in this book’s description. Although it wasn’t a big issue, I found out later on that the original files cannot be included because of some legal issues around original content and elements. I was fine with that, but I would have preferred to know that upfront just in case.

 

The Next Step: Private or Open to the public

On Elance, you have one of two options after writing a job description: Public or Private. You can either choose to publicize the job to ANY designer on Elance (i.e. open it up to the public), or you can keep your job description private and invite select designers that you choose.

  • Keeping it public: The advantage of a public job description is that you’ll get more bids on your project. The disadvantage is that you’ll get lower quality designers that you would have to sift through.
  • Keeping it private: The advantage of a private job description is that you’ll get higher quality bids on your project because you only invite who you like. The disadvantage is that you’ll have to do more research upfront to select those designers. Plus, you’ll not always get a bid from every person you invite, so you have to account for that.

I opted to keep the job description private and get higher quality bids. Again, this is just personal preference, but both of those options would work.

 

Awarding the job

After inviting around 16 designers that I liked, I got proposals from around 5 of them (4 declined due to their workload, and 7 never responded), and the bids ranged between $110 and $400. I selected someone in the middle range of that (around $300).

In less than a week, and after a few back and forth emails to get clarification on my requirements, the designer sent me the following design samples.

All cover samples for Influencing Virtual Teams

There were two that I really liked, so I posted them on my Facebook page and sent an email to my list asking them to vote on which one they liked the most.

1 or 2 Influencing Virtual Teams Cover

The majority voted for design 1, so that’s what I selected.

However, for the folks that chose design 2, most of them did so because they liked the striking red color in the graphic, and I agreed with that.

So I asked the designer to use cover 1 as the main design, and to add some red color to the graphic.

This was the final result.

Notice that the connecting dots in the final version changed to red.

Final version of book cover

 

Creating a 3D cover from the 2D version

Although the freelance designer from Elance did provide me with a 3D version of the cover, I preferred to use BoxShotKing to do one myself because I had more control over the orientation of the book and the look and feel of it.

It took me less than 90 seconds to make the following 3D version of my book from the 2D version.

 

Final Version of book cover - 3D

BoxShotKing is not free, but I highly recommend it because it will pay for itself when you want to make any modifications later on.

For example, after my ebook hit the #1 bestseller list, I used BoxShotKing to update the cover to include the best seller badge on the book. It would have cost me a lot more money to hire a designer to do that for me.

Click here to learn more about how BoxShotKing can help you design 3D covers (aff link)

 

Next Step

The next step after designing a professional cover is to upload your finished kindle book to the Amazon KDP portal, set a date for publication, and start your marketing efforts.

I’ll explain all that in my next post (so make sure you sign up in the top right corner if you haven’t already to get notified once that post is out).

Cheers,

Hassan

How to Write an Amazon Kindle eBook – Part 3 (Writing and Editing)

I’m writing a Kindle eBook. (Update: the book is now published on Amazon here)

This is part 3 of a multi-part series that explains the entire process I’m going through. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

After choosing a title for the eBook and starting your marketing efforts, the next step is to write and edit your eBook.

 

Writing the eBook – Approach

I’m a slow writer.

When I first started out writing the book, “slow” was an understatement.

I kept procrastinating because I felt overwhelmed.

Staring at a blank screen wasn’t fun.

However, I did two things that helped me write.

First, I decided I’m not writing a book.

Instead, I approached it as if I’m writing a series of emails to a friend who I wanted to help out with managing their team. This removed the psychological barrier of intimidation.

The second thing was that I leveraged content that I had already produced.

I had my blog posts on The Couch Manager blog, the emails I sent out to my newsletter subscribers, and the content of my Managing & Influencing Virtual Teams course.

I took some of the best content from all those 3 sources and used them as a starting point for my book.

 

Writing the eBook – Tools

I used both Scrivener and Microsoft Word to write the book.

I could have used Microsoft Word on its own, but I had heard so many good things about Scrivener that I wanted to give it a try.

Apparently, most best-selling authors, including Tim Ferriss, rely heavily on Scrivener because it has amazing features that makes it much easier to write.

I couldn’t agree more.

Scrivener was so easy to use and had some absolutely phenomenal functions. I don’t think I’ll ever write another book without it. The best feature was that I could easily move different chapters around and consolidate others through the corkboard function. Plus, having a “bird’s eye” view of my book chapters in the margin gave me satisfying feeling of control.

This also helped me boil down the number of tactics from 27 to 17 because I started to notice some overlap among the different tactics from the initial list.

So the sub-title ended up changing to “17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees.

Here’s a screenshot from Scrivener while I was writing my book. The margin on the left helped tremendously in assessing the flow of the chapter titles.

 

Scrivener

 

After I was done writing the book, I used the export feature in Scrivener to create an MS Word file.

I did that for 2 reasons:

  1. I wanted to hire an editor to edit the book, and most editors are already familiar with Microsoft Word
  2. Amazon accepts Microsoft Word (.doc) files to their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, and I wanted to prepare it for the Kindle format anyway.

The total length of the book was a little over 10,000 words.

 

Editing the eBook

The next step was to hire an editor for the book.

I went on Elance and submitted a proposal so that different freelance editors could submit their bids.

A few days later, I started getting different quotes from editors.

The quote fees ranged between $150 and $550.

I then picked an editor who I was impressed with (that cost me somewhere in the middle of that range), and within a week, I had a freshly polished book that was ready for publication.

The editor was awesome – he went back and forth with me on a couple of questions that I had, and actually suggested a few modifications for the tactic titles. He even helped prepare the formatting for uploading to Amazon, which saved me some time.

Most importantly, he also suggested I modify the title of my eBook, which is something I didn’t expect.

 

Modifying the Title of the eBook

The original title I chose for the book was:

Influencing Virtual Teams: 17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees.”

However, my editor’s suggestion was to change the title to:

Motivating Virtual Teams: 17 Tactics That Will Inspire Your Remote Employees to Excel”

Hi justification was that the word “influencing” was a bit vague and that the word “motivating” was stronger. He also thought that “inspire…employees to excel” would be a better phrase choice than “get things done with employees.”

This made me re-think the title, even though I was pretty much set on it. The title is, of course, a very important part of the book – it’s the two second pitch that makes people interested in it and eventually buy it – and I didn’t want to take this potential modification lightly.

So to help out with the decision, I simply asked my friends on Facebook and readers on my blog which title they thought was better. I also ran two ads on Facebook with the different titles to see which had a higher click-through rate.

The results were as follows:

  • The majority of my friends and most of my readers chose the newer  title: “Motivating Virtual Teams” over the original one
  • The Facebook ads were split at nearly 50-50 with the click through-rate, meaning both of them worked.

So technically, the “Motivating” title won because my friends & readers chose it.

However, after sleeping on the decision for a couple of days, I didn’t feel very comfortable changing the title.

That’s because I already had people who signed up to my email list who were interested in the original title (check out Part 1 to see how I did that).

Plus, even though “motivating” and “influencing” could be considered synonymous in some aspects, the reality is that they are different topics.

In other words, it was going to be a different book, and I didn’t want to go back and change the content to reflect the “motivating” aspect of virtual teams.

So I decided to stick to the original title and move forward with it.

 

Next Step

The next step after writing the book and editing it is to design a professional cover.

I actually hired an elance designer to do that – which I’ll tell you all about in my next post.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. – That post is now out. Click here to read it.

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