Monthly Archives: June 2014

Three free tools for DIY book cover design (‘The Bloody King’ cover reveal)

The Bloody King final3last one

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed I mentioned recently that I was close to completing a short(ish) story called ‘The Bloody King’. Whilst the story isn’t quite ready yet (it should be released before the end of next week), the cover is. It is a real departure from my ‘comfort zone’ genres of science fiction and fantasy. I would guess you could say that it’s a crime thriller (you could also say that it is a terrible story, I will leave you to be the judge of that!).

I am not sure where the story came from really. It just popped into my head one day as I was waiting for a train and a distinguished looking old man walked by…

‘The Bloody King’ is quite a lot darker than my other work and, quite frankly, one of the scenes was very difficult to write and made me feel a little uncomfortable. The main character is a man called ‘David May’ and I guess you could call him an anti-hero. David May certainly is not a good man (I think I will leave it at that really, no need for spoilers).

The cover for the short story is at the top of this blog and I would love to know what people think of it. I have written about book cover design before and I have a good relationship with an excellent group of designers called ‘Deranged Doctor Design’ (who I cannot recommend highly enough). The cover for book two of the ‘Adarna Chronicles’ has just arrived and I should be doing the cover reveal in a week or so (I think it is stunning, but then I am a little biased).

With ‘The Bloody King’ I decided that, as it is only a short story and will be priced at under a pound (or dollar if you’re American), I really couldn’t afford to pay for a cover, so I designed it myself (which is kinda why I want to know what people think of it).

I used three tools to design the cover:-

1) A rather brilliant piece of software calls ‘GIMP’, which is a completely free program that does nearly everything that Adobe photoshop can do but without the hefty price tag. If you haven’t heard of GIMP, I would recommend that you google it and, if you are considering trying a little design work of your own then you might even want to download it.

It has to be said that I have been playing with GIMP for about six months now and I still don’t understand how to use a tenth of its features. There is quite a steep learning curve and it takes a long time to get the hang of it (so not for the faint hearted).

2) A website called ‘Fontsquirrel’. Getting good fonts is essential if you want your work to look professional. The problem is that many fonts are covered by copyright licences and cannot be freely used without a (sometimes rather hefty) price tag. The great thing about Fontsquirrel is that the site lists many fonts that are completely free to use in any medium (you have to check the exact conditions of use though, so be careful).

The other great thing about Fontsquirrel is that it allows you to ‘test drive’ the font before you download it. So you can literally type in your book title and it will appear instantly. This is very handy indeed as you never know how your title is going to look in a particular font.

3) The other tool that I used was ‘Morguefile’, which, to be honest, isn’t a tool at all really. Morguefile is a website that offers completely ‘licence free’ stock photo’s for download.

So, ‘The Bloody King’ is out soon and I created the cover for nothing. Was it worth the time? Does it look even slightly professional? You tell me.

For my part, I don’t think it’s as good as what my usual designers could have come up with, but sometimes you just have to economise!

I am still working hard on book two of the ‘Adarna chronicles’ (Phoenix rising) and it is still on schedule for release before the end of July. So back to work for me 🙂

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Goodreads giveaway for ‘Empire under siege’


Hi All,

Just a note to let you know that there is a Goodreads giveaway on at this very moment for ‘Empire under siege’. Please feel free to enter… What the heck, tell your friends as well. I am giving away a signed copy to the lucky winner.

I’m busy working on ‘Phoenix rising’, book two in the ‘Adarna chronicles’. Still doing the structural edit and think I wrote some OK stuff to add in today (as well as taking out some not so OK stuff). Should have a cover reveal in the next few days. The guys at Deranged doctor design have blown me away (again!) and are just putting the finishing touches to it 🙂

I also appear to have written a short story in a completely different genre (kind of a crime/thriller). Just got it back from the editor (he improved it beyond my wildest dreams), who has made some very pertinent comments, and reminded me through them, that I have a lot to learn… More on that in the next couple of days as I am hoping to release it soon.

Have a good one


My experience with Goodreads giveaways and some handy tips for posting your own…


If you are an author and you want to get your book noticed then there are many ways that you can do it. There are thousands of articles populating the internet telling you how you should ‘build a platform’ and get yourself a ‘tribe’ in order that they can shout out about your book so that you can generate sales.

I can tell you now that all of the above is very hard work. I work (this is not my day job) for about fifty hours a week, I have a baby son and I have a life to lead. What this means is that I have one hour a night in which to write. Since I started trying to publish books this hour has been split between writing, editing, marketing and, perhaps most importantly, learning…

Of course many of you know this story (Oh woe is me, it’s so difficult to find the time, blah blah, etc). To be honest, I love the writing, but I also want people to actually read my books (because everyone needs feedback on their work, you know?).

Anyway, I decided that I should do a thing called a ‘Goodreads giveaway’. If you love books and you haven’t checked out Goodreads then I would highly recommend that you pop over and have a look. It’s a great tool for finding what we all want (that’s more good books to read, not piles of gold or Jennifer Lopez in a bikini by the way…).


The thing about Goodreads is that they will only allow you to do a giveaway with a paperback book, you just can’t do it with an ebook. This presents a problem to many self published authors as they cannot or will not produce paperback versions of their work. This was a stumbling block for me too and it took me the best part of a year to pluck up the courage- and figure out how- to format and publish a book through Createspace (the alternative is to use Lulu or Lightning-source or Ingram-spark, but I chose Createspace because it seemed the easiest and was free to use).

It took me a while but using Scrivener (a truly wonderful piece of software) I was able to put together the files for a paperback and upload them to Createspace.

Anyway, I digress, I am going to post a blog about my Createspace experience soon, so you can read all about that process then 🙂

When I had my paperback version of ‘Empire under siege’, the first book in my epic fantasy series ‘The Adarna chronicles’, I posted a giveaway on Goodreads.

The process itself is quite straightforward, you fill in some fields detailing when you want the giveaway to start and finish, how many books you want to giveaway etc, and then you link it to your book (you must have uploaded it to Goodreads already to do this).

I posted my first giveaway for two days and gave away one book. During the two days 779 (forgive the use of numbers, it’s just so much blooming easier that writing out longhand, although actually by the time I’ve explained it all it’s probably about the same… ho hum…) people ‘requested’ it (they entered the competition). This means that at least this number actually saw the cover and blurb and liked it enough to enter the competition. In addition 314 people added ‘Empire under siege’ to their ‘to-read’ bookshelf (basically saying that they wanted to read it at some stage).

I was totally over the moon! Wow, I thought, there will be over 300 sales from this one little giveaway!

Well, actually, no… The fact is that in the last week or so since the giveaway ended I have sold about the same number of books as I sold before. I do think that about seven people from Goodreads have bought the book (as the number with the book on their ‘to-read’ shelf is now 307) which means that I have just about broken even on the giveaway. I could be wrong of course and seven people might have removed it from their shelves…

There may be more people over the coming weeks and months that buy ‘Empire under siege’ because of the giveaway, but I don’t think that it will be that many. You see, when you examine the statistics for the people who have put the book on their to-read shelf it turns out that most of them have several thousand books marked to read. Clearly the chance of most people getting around to reading ‘Empire under siege’ when it is one of thousands to choose from is virtually zero.

Am I worried? Well, no, actually. You see the thing is that the book got some exposure, and in my mind that has to be a good thing as it increases the discoverability of my work. I actually did another giveaway for my other work ‘Paradise’ with even more people adding it to their shelves (although bizarrely, even though it is only 99c, no one has actually bought it following the giveaway).

Meanwhile ‘Empire under siege’ has another giveaway scheduled for the 24th to the 29th June with the hope that more people will add it to their shelves.

So, in order to try to be helpful, I have added my top tips (using my absolutely vast experience 😉 – that’s a joke by the way, just in case you didn’t get it) for Goodreads giveaways below:-

1) Make sure you have a good cover. If you haven’t, then less people are going to stop and read your blurb…

2) Make sure that your blurb is good. Don’t just cut and paste your book cover blurb, you need to be more creative. I put extracts of reviews for my work and also offered the books as autographed copies.

3) Make sure that you spend some time working on the ‘tags’ as there are hundreds to search through and many of them may be relevant to your work.

4) Don’t expect to sell loads of books, it’s more about exposure. Unless you just wrote the next fifty shades of grey (which apparently took off because of a Goodreads giveaway) you ain’t going to make a profit.

5) Consider only offering one book. I don’t think offering more does anything other than cost you more. Although it should be noted that some people use giveaways to get reviews and if so, more books equal more reviews (potentially).

6) Try out different lengths of time for your giveaways to find out what time span works best (my first was two days and the next was three, the one about to start is five).

7) Perhaps most importantly, it takes a couple of days at least for the Goodreads team to approve your giveaway, make sure you start yours in the future so that it doesn’t finish before it has started (if you know what I mean).

Hope this was useful (wow, long post!). If you like it why not ‘like’ it below, or follow my blog (top right for the button) or tweet me or facebook me or do some other social networky thing. Cheers.

Goodreads giveaway


Just a note to let you know that I have listed my first ‘Goodreads giveaway’. For those of you who haven’t heard about them, they are supposed to be a good way of getting exposure for your book. I am giving away a signed paperback copy of my novella ‘Empire under siege’, the first book in the ‘Adarna chronicles’ series.

Essentially what you do with a Goodreads giveaway is provide a copy of your paperback book for free as a prize (In my case it is one copy, you can list more if you wish). People enter your contest for the chance to win the book. The hope is that some of them might add your book to their ‘to-read’ shelf on Goodreads (which means that they may eventually purchase the book to read).

The results so far are quite interesting. The giveaway has been running for almost three hours and fifty two people have entered the competition. Meanwhile, twenty two new people have added ‘Empire under siege’ to their ‘to-read’ shelf.

Is this progress? Time will tell. ‘Empire under siege’ is doing OK on Amazon at the moment and is in the top 100 in a few categories (which, sadly, does not mean that it is selling like hot cakes!), but it cannot hurt to get more exposure.

A lot of work went in to the giveaway itself, not least of which was the production of the paperback edition through createspace (something I will be blogging about at a later date) and the design of a full paperback cover.

Why not enter the competition here for a chance to win? The copy on offer will be posted when the paperback is released on the 1st of July 🙂

If you are an author and you haven’t plugged in to the power of Goodreads yet (I have to admit that I still haven’t started to fully understand many of its parts, but I am sure there are lots of other benefits), then I would recommend that you high tail it to their website and register now!

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