Ron vs the Cover Monsters!


Ron and I had his four books ready to go, except for … everything.

A book isn’t just a manuscript. You need an ISBN registration, you need a cover, you need a back cover blurb and material, an author’s bio, an author’s photo, copyright information. We needed this stuff called Metadata – a long description, a short description, a one line description, something called BISAC, something else called SOE (search engine optimization).

Basically, after the big monolith of the manuscript itself, we also needed to build all the little tiny pieces of text that would go into the book and its online prooofiles.

Ron’s Toltec books were a trilogy, so we thought it would be a good idea to include adverts in each book of the trilogy for the other trilogy books. That turned into adverts for all of his books. And the idea of adverts suggested that we should include blurbs and art for the adverts. And the Adverts section needed to be slightly different for each of the four books. So a lot of work to keep track of.

If all this strikes you as bearing a passing resemblance to this thing called work? Yeah.

ISBN’s were simple. That’s ‘International Standard Book Numbers.’ That’s basically an internationally recognized cataloguing system for books. Every country has a government department that participates and awards the numbers. Some countries charge you for them, like the US.

In Canada they’re issued by the National Archives – you sign up, get registered, and then you requisition them for free. Done! I grabbed eight for Ron. Four for his print books, four for his eBook versions. If we’d have done an audiobook, we would have requisitioned four more.

Just for the record, an ISBN is not Copyright. Copyright is conferred automatically free of charge on the creation of a work, you only have to write it, not even publish it. Registration is not required, although the US and Canada both maintain Copyright Registration services. But don’t worry about. The point is to know the distinction.

The back cover stuff, the blurbs, the bio, the advert copy, the advert artwork, I just off loaded all that stuff onto Ron. I had the easy part, I just put it all together.

What you have to understand about me, is that I’m lazy and I take every opportunity to avoid anything that resembles work.

Anyway, this left us only with covers.

There was a problem.

We had no money, no imagination and no artistic talent. It was a challenge.

In a situation like that, the important thing is to be organized. Quickly, we divided up responsibilities. I was responsible for the covers. His contribution was to tell me what he wanted. My contribution was to ignore what he wanted. I would do things. He would tell me what he thought. I’d do something else.

It worked out surprisingly well.

With nothing to work with, I decided I wanted covers that were bold and striking, that would work both as a cover and as a tiny thumbnail, that were thematically unified, that were cheap, and that would, for the Toltec books, scream ‘Meso-American Civililzlation.’

Oh, and it had to be cheap, as in free, as in public domain.

The idea that I worked with was to take Meso-American bas reliefs, the inlaid depictions on the walls of Mexican and Central American ruins as the basis for the book covers. These reliefs were, somewhere between 700 and 1800 years old, and had been photographed extensively since the 19th century. posted online through governments and museums, and were by any stretch public domain and legally available.

I searched until I found three images that complemented and built on each other, and reflected the books relatively well. Then I sectioned them to book cover dimensions, played with brightness, texture, contrast and colour – went with bright gold red and blue, found appropriate fonts, added titles, subtitle and by-line, and there you go.

Not great art. Perhaps not art by any means. But serviceable and striking. Did the job..

The last book, the stand-alone, We’re Not in Kansas was the biggest pain. Going on Ron’s description, it involved a statue of a cat Goddess, ancient Egyptian iconography, adventure, ruins, aliens and spaceships.

Okay, just take me out and shoot me in the back of the head.

What was out there in public domain? A lot of ancient Egyptian artifacts and images. I found an old Egyptian cat statue – starting point. There were a lot of statues and monuments. First version, the cat foregrounded, tampered until it was bright gold, in front of layers of Egyptian ruins, against a sky made of hieroglyphics.

Needed to be more sci fi. I went out found astronomy pictures of Nebulas, replaced the hieroglyphic sky with the nebula starfield. Better. But apart from the Cat goddess, it was more adventure than archeology.

I went back, dropped all the ruins, and just did the cat goddess statue against a nebula starfield, did various versions of the cat – different tints, colours, textures, brightnesses and sizes. Ron picked the one he liked, I added title, subtitle and by-line.

And Done! You’re looking at it.

After that, it was just a matter of uploading to Amazon.

Technically, you have to register with Amazon first, before you can upload a book. And then you need to fill out tax information, and provide them with banking numbers so they can direct deposit. But I’d done all that already. Honestly, it’s not that hard.

There are actually a number of platforms that you can use – Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Google, Barnes & Noble, Vivlio, Biblioteca, Lulu, Ingram Spark and others. You don’t have to be stuck with Amazon, you can use all of them, or some, or any one of them. It’s just a matter of looking at each, deciding what you want, and going through relatively simple online registration processes, in each case with tax info and banking requirements.

With Ron’s books, we just opted to go strictly with Amazon… because I’m lazy.

First, we uploaded as ebooks – all you need is the manuscript in word, a jpg of proper size and dimensions for the cover, and the metadata (all the information you need to fill out the book registration, including the price).

Once that was done, we went on to do POD books. POD is Print on Demand. Basically, someone orders a book through Amazon, Amazon prints the book and ships it directly to the customer. No need for a big print run, no need for warehouse or stockpiles or boxes of books cluttering up the place. No need to get involved.

Draft2Digital, Lulu, IngramSpark and Barnes&Noble also do print books. If you don’t like Amazon, you have some choices.

The print book basically uses the same information as an ebook.

There are two differences. With the print book, you upload a pdf file. Your word processor should convert from word to pdf, so no problem. And you need a wrap around cover. You can have your own wrap around pdf, or you can use your front cover jpg picture, and use Amazon’s print cover tool to build one.

Once done, Amazon takes a day or so to process, and then you’re in business.

And that’s it. Finito.

All you have to do after that is sit back and collect the money as it doesn’t come rolling in. And send out review copies, and marketing and promotion, and rent tables at ComicCons and sell books.

There you go. It’s easy to publish a book, all you need is patience, organization, steady stubbornness and a lot of hard work. But nothing in life comes without work. If anyone’s interested, I hope this helps you on the path. There’s a lot of details I skipped, but there’s nothing insurmountable. You’ll figure it out.

I hope you got something out of the search for Ron’s rights, and the quest to wrest those rights back from a Zombie publisher. The truth is that there’s a lot of Zombie publishers out there. There’s a lot of good publishers, but there’s a lot of unscrupulous or incompetent publishers, there’s a lot of times and places where you as a writer need to fight.

Well, my advice is respect yourself. Read the contracts, make sure you’ve got a reversion right build in there, and that it’s a right with teeth, make sure your publisher lives up to their obligations.

Sometimes it’s scary. Hell, it’s always scary. The unknown yawns like a great abyss. The business world is terrifying. Contracts are intimidating. But be patient, systematic, stand up for yourself. You’ll do fine.

Good luck.

As for my pal Ron, we’re not quite done. We have a book launch for his Toltec Trilogy, sponsored by the Manitoba Writers Guild, taking place at the Artspace Building in Winnipeg.

Ron’s published eighteen books through Champagne Press and eTreasures LLC. This will be his first book launch.

You’re invited. Join us to celebrate a writer and his books.