Preparing for the launch

Before I know it the official launch on August 3rd will be here.  Shortly thereafter will be the Chicago Comic Con event!

Tonight my sister, son, and I dropped off the first 15 books to Boswell’s Bookstore on the East side of Milwaukee.  Those books, from the first printing (what I called my seed copies), still had the $6.99 price listed.  As a result that’s all Boswell can sell them for.  We’re going to call these the “pre-launch” price.  It turns out Boswell Books will actually be selling them before the full launch.  I had some idea in my head that there would be no book sales until August 3rd.  I’m actually really excited that they will be in a bookstore on the shelves!

This weekend I’m going to put in the final edits (mostly type-o fixes) that my sister found in the ultra final review.  Then the manuscript, along with the updated cover (new UPC/EAN5 at the $8.50 price) will be headed to Mira Smart Publishing for the next run of 2000 copies.  Yes, 2000 copies!

I need to pull together a few more plans for the official launch at Bowsell’s Bookstore.  Mostly refreshments and a brief outline of what I want to say about the story.  It’s been such a long journey, it’s not like I need notes to recall it all.

The t-shirts, intended mostly as a give-away at Comic-Con, will be ready by my launch.  I’ll bring 2 or so as giveaways for the launch.

I do need to finish up my press release, which I have a draft of from my PR company.  That will happen over the next few days.  I’ll send it to multiple outlets, in addition to the Morning Blend (channel 4 morning news program) to secure my TV interview slot.

Then I should be in great shape.  I have a few Comic Con items to work out yet, which I’ll talk about in another post.

I’m very excited to get D’mok Revival: Awakening in the hands of readers!  My friend and co-worker Frank expressed an interest in purchasing my book.  He mentioned finding the site, and reading the prolog and being interested. It was a GREAT feeling.  I know there are others at work waiting to get a copy too.  Just amazing!

Well, time to take care of myself and get some rest.


Selling your book on Amazon

In my opinion, Amazon is the place to sell online. Your market, no matter how niche, will most likely be on there.  In addition you get to take advantage of their social ratings features (essential to buyers in their decision making process), their established online order and payment systems, their inventory and fulfillment software, tax documents, and more.

I had NO idea how to do this or all the steps involved.  So, here’s what I discovered and what I did:

The first thing you want to do is set up a business account at your bank.

Next, create an LLC with your state.  To do this, go to the government site for your state and search for LLC (limited liability corporation).  I’m in Wisconsin, so I went here:


Wisconsin charges a one-time setup fee.  You “could” use various online companies (like or to do this for you. Most of the time they provide an online wizard to take you through the questions you would have answered yourself on the form. I didn’t want to pay additional fees to a company to play a middle-man.  But, I also felt comfortable answering the questions and had previously read books like LLC for dummies.


Next, go to the federal government and apply for an EIN (employer identification number).  I went here:

This is what you’ll need for taxes and the like.  It’s a simple process, and can be done online in minutes.


Then go to the Amazon marketplace and register.  I went here:


They have a great process with clear steps to setup your company.  They ask a ton of questions, including your bank account, Federal EIN, and more.  It’s all required and important.


Once you’re in, you’re ready to add your first product (printed book or ebook).  Keep in mind that each product you plan on selling (and each format of that product–for instance one book may have a printed copy and ebook–that’s TWO different products according to Amazon), you will need a unique ISBN number with EAN 5 extension.  The best place to get these codes is here:  I’d go with a 10 pack, as buying them individually is cost prohibitive and if you really love writing or plan for multiple product formats you’ll eat them up anyway.  What’s an EAN 5 extension?  Well, it’s the part of the bar code that contains the cost of the product. Most places are looking for these to be included with your ISBN, especially printed on the back cover of your physical book.  The great things about this particular site is you can both purchase the ISBNs, manage your data about those numbers, AND get a graphic file to put into your book cover art for production (with the EAN5).


You really need to have all the information ready for your product.  It includes the following:


  • Title
  • Publication Date
  • Series title
  • Required Contributors
  • Foreword
  • Contributor
  • Edition number
  • Binding
  • Publisher
  • Number of pages
  • Language
  • Volume #
  • ISBN-13/EAN or ISBN number or UPC


  • Seller SKU
  • Condition
  • Condition Note
  • Your Price
  • Sale Price (and date to start and stop sale)
  • Quantity
  • Start selling date
  • Restock date
  • Import designation (Make in USA, etc.)
  • Country as labeled (if imported)
  • Shipping method (you, or done by Amazon)
  • Shipping Options (standard, expedited, two day, one day, international, expedited international)


  • Product Images (cover, back, spine, etc.)


  • Product Description (2000 characters)


  • Subject keywords (up to 5, 50 characters each)
  • Search terms (up to 5, 50 characters each)


  • Language
  • Package dimensions (L,H, W, weight)
  • CPSIA Cautionary Statements
  • Subject


Now go back to Amazon Seller Central: . This location is different than the one you used to register.  Pick “New Product” from the “Inventory” tab (first one in the navigation).  Follow the wizard and put your information in.

The product will now show up in your inventory listing.  Keep in mind that using Amazon’s infrastructure does NOT come free.  They were going to take a $3.60 cut of a $6.99 book (my original book price before I realized this).  I didn’t recall Amazon warning about how much they were planning on taking.  In fact, most times I saw a “$1.00 per sale” cost.

That said, it forced me to print books in large enough quantity to bring down the printing cost to make this platform viable.  I still believe it’s worth it 100%.

Make sure you get a business CPA to make sure you do your taxes and planning right.  Here’s a helpful link:

And there you have it!

How to design your branding

Good question!

A number of people have asked me what my process was and how to go about it. I’ve attempted to stub together some thoughts and considerations. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of things to do or consider, but it gets the process going. At the very least it will help an aspiring author to think about their brand and have information to bring to the agent, publisher, or visual designer if going it alone. Good luck!


Before going into the cover process

– Clear understanding of your book and series themes

– Clear definition for what this book is about (not just the theme)

– A listing of key moments, locations, or characters


The cover process includes

– Fonts

– Colors / textures

– Imagery

– Content (titles/sub-titles, review quotes/awards/ratings info, author name, back cover text, UPC & EAN5 codes, illustrator name, site url)

– Series logo design


Explore your genre

– Create a list of all most famous book sold in the genre across the last 15 years

– Provide special attention to detail on the biggest hits in your genre in the last 3 years

– Examine the covers and look for patterns:

– Position and size of series name

– Position and size of book title

– Position and size of author

– What key visual elements are presented (what are the elements, visual style used in depiction, what is the size and position, common themes?)

– How is additional content presented and where (quotes, sales info, awards)

– Examine the spines – How much information is represented on the spine? – How is the book series and title represented – What type of visuals are used

– Examine the back covers – How much space is used for reviews – How much “back cover” text is there about the book’s story – How much space is the UPC/EAN5 taking up – How much visual design is really present for the back cover versus front


– How much cover space is dedicated, on average, to visuals versus text?

– How much is the author spot-lighted (if it’s a new author, if it’s an established author, etc.)

– How much series branding is present in the visual presentation (e.g. size of series logo, etc.)

– Colors used (backgrounds, copy, logos, etc.)


Creating your logo

– Remember, there are people that do this for a living (it’s not easy)

– You’re going to have to do a ton of them

– Review your series’ themes

– What do you want to embody when someone sees the series logo (intense, scary, happy, epic, etc.)

– Do you want something more iconic versus a wordmark? What images may conjure the essence of your theme?

– Based on your theme, genre trends, etc. what type of font would work best (sharp, flowing, scripty, block style, etc.)

– Remember this needs to be striking, memorable, and be able to both stand on its own, and be represented in sizes ranging from 60×60 pixels to billboard size

– The design must look good when in black-and-white (grayscale), and color

– The design must be able to be placed on my types of backgrounds and still be clear and visible (patterns, dark, light, etc.)


Creating your paperback cover

– Review your series theme

– Review what THIS book is about

– Review the listing of key moments, locations, or characters

– Assemble your content (series name, book title, quotes, author information, supporting copy, logo, no images yet)

– Review your research, especially covering the past few years. You want your cover to pattern after what’s contemporary because it’s what your readership expects (and is looking for)

– Make a listing of things that visually represent your theme (colors, images, textures)

– Determine what your most important information is for your cover (maybe author name, maybe series or logo, maybe key image)

– Remember you have seconds to engage the reader, and only seconds to present key content. If they’re interested, they’ll pick up the book and read more on the back cover. Don’t over-stuff your cover designs.

– Think of how a reader will look at your cover, what is the hierarchy of visual elements (What they see first, second, etc.), and how the eye will move across the cover. Top-down, left-to-right is the traditional western reading approach. Eyes will lock on images before words, especially faces (it’s how our brains are wired).

– Following your visual theme, create the primary visual element(s) (this in itself could be multiple rounds)

– Following patterns from your genre research, and leading with your identified most important information, begin laying out cover elements

– Adjust the element sizes to create the intended visual heirarchy

– Apply fonts that align with your theme, reflowing text as needed based on presentation differences with fonts

– Apply final colors to copy

– Additional enhancements with textures or visual treatments (like antiquing an image, etc.)

– Print the color cover, put it on the wall 10 feet from you. Does your most important information pop out at you? Is there an easy flow of visual elements and information? What do you notice first, second?

– Again, use your printed copy. Shake it up and down so it’s blurry. What do you “see” when you’re doing this? What information and elements are still visible? Is your most important information still showing? When there’s a lot of distractions, people will see basically what you see when shaking your printout. Keep that in mind.

Creating your spine

– Very little information goes on a spine

– Review the design you presented on the cover

– Following your genre research package your spine material

– Print it out, look at it as you’d see it on a bookshelf. Is it readable? Even at a passing glance?

Creating your back cover

– Recall the purpose of the cover is to provide more information about the story (no spoilers), and clout (recommendations, quotes, etc.)

– The majority of content will be the teaser for the core struggle presented in the book

– The second most important space is for quotes

– Back covers are traditionally very bland – the UPC takes up a huge amount of space on traditional paperback books

Getting feedback

– Beyond your friends, post to your fans, get feedback from your printer company, post to your blog

– Compare your design to the books published this past month (on amazon or other key outlet)

– Take it to your local bookstore and ask the owner or clerks there (they see tons of books)

Make revisions

– Don’t be surprised if you make 3 or 4 rounds of changes

Notes: Don’t be afraid to make a few cover versions and test them against each other with with your community, book review team, etc.


eBook or physical book

Going into January of 2013 I fully intended to only release an ebook. The idea was I would attempt to build an online following, and then go after a literary agent after I had established sales. I was told that since I didn’t have lots of writing credits or awards to my name I had to do this to get the engine turning.

I did my research, figured out how to launch an ebook on Amazon (THE place to be by the way), and then something unexpected happened. I had recently purchased my ISBN numbers, and it somehow put my contact information out into the wild. My guess is the ISBN place sells access to their new customer listings.

I received an email from Mira Smart publishing in St. Louis. Allison and I talked about my project and my intentions. She warned me that reviewers avoid ebooks like the plague. I already knew this from the exploration and research I conducted when trying to queue up reviews for my story. It’s true, ebooks are of little interest to “real reviewers.”

She said I could use the physical copies (and advanced review copies) to more convincingly approach professional reviewers, I could also submit to contents, and gain valuable insights from book stores and consumers.

She quoted me a great price and, before I knew it, my entire focus changed from being an ebook to a printed edition. Suddenly I wanted nothing more. However, an ebook is a glorified PDF (or Microsoft Word document). It was going to fairly easy to convert.

But a PRINTED book, now there’s an entirely different beast. There was typesetting, cover, spine, and back design, book size and format, paper stock selection, and the list goes on and on.

Then they gave me the price. It was totally affordable.  It became an instant “no-brainer.”  It took about two months to adjust and have everything ready for a physical book.  I worked with Mira to pick the book font, but I personally worked on the series branding and visual design.  I wrote the back cover description, directed the development of the cover (which I’ll talk more about in another post as that experience alone needs to be talked about), did the desktop publishing for the complete outer shell of the book.

When it came to formatting the inside of the book I took around ten fantasy and science fiction titles and looked at their structure.  Some of the things I examined were:

1)      The title page

2)      The copywrite page

3)      The table of contents

4)      The author notes/thank you

5)      How the prolog was positioned

6)      How the epilog was positioned

7)      Chapter divider presentation

8)      Blank page usage (e.g. all chapters began on the right-hand page)

9)      Inner-chapter topic breaks (the permutations of “***”)

10)  Page number size, font, and placement

11)  Author name usage and placement

12)  Book title or chapter use at the top of pages

13)  Where and how an author bio was used

14)  Book gutter margins and outer margins

It was interesting looking at additional books from a particular publisher or author, spotting the trends in how “that brand” presented their content. In the end I created what I felt was the best hybrid across the various styles.  I felt the result was very professional.  After all, I referenced the biggest and best authors out there—it should be!

I sent over the Microsoft Word document, along with a PDF output of the cover from Photoshop. I have to say; when the box arrived with my printed proof I was elated and terrified.  My book was REAL!  My hands shook carefully opening the box, worrying I’d cut it as I sliced through the packaging tape.

Holding the book in my hand, my eyes madly looking over the vivid cover, was a surreal experience. I thought it looked great—good enough to be side-by-side with any other book at Barnes and Nobel.

In the end 75 copies were printed, ten of which were Advanced Review Copies. We’ll talk about why ARCs are important in another post (so many topics to discuss).

Not only was this an incredible personal boon, but it allowed me to all the things I had hoped: the ability to send “real” versions to reviewers, to enter contents, to show potential book store owners, and get buzz going.