You may have noticed that I’ve been subtly rolling out cover changes for my earlier mystery titles. It’s important for author branding that series covers have the same overall look in terms of fonts, text placement, color palette, series logo and image style. My cover artist, the talented Patty G. Henderson, has been working diligently on these updates. So far we’ve completed the ebook covers. The paperbacks are more complicated because these also involve the book’s spine.
Some of the cover changes are subtle and some are drastic. Here’s the most dramatic one. Permed to Death really needed a makeover from the cartoony cover to a more modern image. Old covers are on the left, new covers are on the right. Don’t you just love this new one?
For Hair Raiser, we changed out the old logo for the new one and straightened the title. Murder by Manicure, however, has a partial new look with a spa pool on the image.
We removed the nurse on Body Wave. She served her purpose at the time but now she looked too cartoony to me, so we took her out along with swapping logos and straightening the title. We added my RONE Award badge to this one.
Highlights to Heaven didn’t get much done except ditto to above. The only other change was on Hair Brained, where my author name had been in all caps. It’s not that way on the other books so we changed this one to make things more cohesive.
The paperbacks are taking longer because the series and publisher logos need to be made consistent on the back covers and the spines. And I need them to be compatible with Ingram as well as KDP. That’s so booksellers and librarians will have access to order them. Alongside with the cover updates, I’m revising the back matter in the interior files. This is a book-by-book project to see what needs to be done. It’s also forcing me to clean out my files, getting rid of old versions and material that’s no longer useful.
I’ll be adding my four Five Star books to this repertoire when all the updates are finished. Since I’ve just received rights reversions, I need to get them back for sale online so readers can access the complete series. They will all be needing new covers and reformatting.
This is what I’ve been working on, with the help of my cover designer and formatter. What’s next? I still have six romance titles to do but those will be ebook only. And then there’s the audiobooks… But some day, I will finish all these updates and the entire series will have a fresh look. Yay! Then we can celebrate before moving on to box sets…
You’re thrilled that your publisher has returned the rights to your books. Assuming you plan to publish them independently, you’ll want to do a quick turnaround once these titles disappear from online bookstores.
I’ve already discussed the process for revising a backlist title that needs a serious facelift. You can read my earlier Reviving Your Backlist Titles blog series for that advice. But what if these books are fairly recent and you don’t feel the need for another line edit? Here are my suggestions on how to proceed:
Obtain the most up-to-date digital file available. Clean it up by removing headers and footers and deleting proprietary publisher language. If you need to change a pdf file into an editable doc file, use a site like Zamzar and carefully check through your new file for formatting issues.
Check to see if all the corrections you’d requested from the publisher for the advance reading copy had been done. Don’t assume that any errors you’d reported in the past got fixed. Also, note if any readers had written to you with further corrections. Now’s your chance to make amends. Do a thorough proofread. Doubtless you’ll always find new things to correct.
Add a copyright page. Did your publisher acquire the original copyright in your name? You can do a search at the online copyright office to find your title and registration number. It’s good to have this for your files. The copyright date for your reissued book will be the same as the original unless you’ve made substantial changes to the story. Include the book’s publishing history so readers will know this is a reissue.
Decide if you’ll be publishing these works under an LLC or fictitious name, in which case your company name will be listed as publisher.
Buy a set of ISBN numbers at Bowker. You need a different ISBN for each format. My previous article discusses how to assign an ISBN number to your book title. This process may have been simplified with updates at MyIdentifiers.com. However, if you simply plan to publish on Kindle and remain in KU, you may not need your own ISBNs. Distribution options are discussed in my more recent Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
Add your front and back material. Consider if you need to update your Author’s Note and Bio, remove the Dedication page, add Social Media Links, a contact Email, and a Call to Action for a Review or Newsletter Sign-Up. Will you include an excerpt for the next book? In the back matter, you can also offer bonus materials such as family trees, research notes, reader discussion questions, or articles from your original blog tour for this book.
Decide how you will format the digital book. Will you hire a professional formatter, do it yourself, or use a third-party aggregator such as Draft2Digital? Will you upload it yourself direct to distributors, in which case you’ll need to establish accounts at each one, or will you use an aggregator for this step as well?
Hire a cover artist. The design should reflect your current brand and other books in the series. You may need to get a new logo. Consider color schemes, image style, text fonts, placement of author name and book title, and specific genre expectations. Also add award seals if the book has won a significant contest.
For paperback editions, rewrite your back cover copy. You should change it from the publisher’s version, even if only slightly. Add review quotes that you might not have had when the original book was published.
Decide if you’ll link this edition to prior editions at bookstore sites to keep the reviews and to keep your series intact. Will you distinguish these books from the originals by calling them Author’s Editions? After publication, remember to claim your new editions at Amazon Author Central, BookBub and Goodreads.
Continuing our series on reviving your backlist titles, you’ll want to add front and back materials to your manuscript. What should this include?
Minimize the front end of things so when the reader clicks on Look Inside at Amazon, he gets to see the text of your work right away. You don’t want him scrolling through pages of other material and losing interest. Here are some items you might place in front:
Copyright Page—Insert the ISBN number for your ebook or print edition. Add the logo for your imprint, if you have one.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters
Maps or Family Trees
List of Books in Series
This is your chance to add bonus materials for the reader, such as:
About the Author
Books by Author with Series Listing
Call to Action (i.e. ask for reviews; ask reader to sign up for your newsletter)
Vendor-Specific Buy Links
Reader Discussion Guide
Excerpt from your Next Work or another title in your repertoire
Coming Next: Cover Design, Formatting, and Uploads
Continuing our series about reviving your backlist titles, consider how and where you want to publish these titles. Do you intend to put them into the Kindle Select program exclusive to Amazon? Do you wish to put them up yourself at the various vendors? Or will you use a company like Smashwords or Draft2Digital?
It looks more professional if your book is published by an imprint rather than Josie the Author or Amazon. So consider one of these options below.
Create an Imprint or Legal Entity
Create a publisher name and register with your State for a “Doing Business As” title. Or create an LLC if your accountant advises this route. Either way, this step will give your publications a more professional presentation.
Reserve the domain name for this imprint.
For a DBA: Put a Legal Notice in your local newspaper if required by the State.
Apply for a county business license/tax receipt. Note: if you’re 65, you may be exempt from fees but you still have to apply. Renewal is annual. Check your state and county regulations.
Open a business bank account under the DBA or LLC. As a sole proprietor for the DBA, you don’t need an EIN number. Use your own Social Security number. You will link this business account to the various bookstore vendors for direct deposit of royalties.
Purchase ISBN Numbers
It is advisable to buy your own ISBN numbers. This way, you or your company will be listed as the publisher and not Amazon or Createspace. Your ebook, print, and audio editions each require a separate ISBN number.
Buy ISBNs from http://Bowker.com. Note that you do not need to purchase Bar Codes. These are assigned automatically by Createspace for your print edition. Buy in bulk if you plan to publish more than one title. Get on their mailing list so you receive discount offers.
Once you have your ISBNs and have a particular book to assign, go to http://myidentifiers.com. Sign in and access My Account, then My Profile. Here is where you can register your company name. Then click on My Account and Manage my ISBNs. Assign an ISBN number to your book. Complete all fields marked by a red asterisk.
On the Title page, you can add a book description up to 350 words. Here is where you can list the original copyright date for your work if it’s a backlist title. You add the book cover here. And if you wish, you can upload a pdf file for Bowker to generate keywords for search engines.
Under the Contributor tab, click Add Contributor. Then fill in the boxes with your name as author and your biography. For Contributor Function, put Author.
Under Format & Size, Click on Medium. Input the type of edition (ebook, print, audio). Choose the Format, i.e. paperback or hardcover for print; electronic book text for digital. Click on Primary Subject. Add the genre, i.e. Fiction-Mystery and Detective. Secondary Subject is optional. Next add the size of the book if it’s for a print edition. I use 5.5 x 8.5. Put any other details you wish to provide.
Finally, under Sales & Pricing, answer Where is the Title Sold? This would be the United States. For Title Status, put Active Record. Here is where you can add your DBA or Company Name as the Publisher. For Target Audience, put Trade for a general adult audience. You must also put in your publication date. If you’re not sure, select a date in the future and go back later to change it.
Under Currency, put US Dollars. Add the price in the box indicated, without the dollar sign. Price Type is the retail price. When finished on this page, click Submit. You can change any of this material, except the ISBN number assignments, at a later date.
If you have another type of format for the same title, you can click Clone next to the first one, assign the next ISBN number, and change the data accordingly.
Now you should be all set and ready to go. You’ve had your earlier books scanned if necessary, cleaned up the manuscript, and decided if you want to revise the work before reissuing it. Catch up on these posts if you’ve missed them:
In addition to reformatting and updating the earlier titles to which you’ve received reversion of rights, will you do a full revision of the work? How long ago did you write it? If you decide to tighten the writing, here is a reminder of what to fix.
Remove those amateurish exclamation marks from your early writing days.
Motivate your characters with clear goals. Why is this goal important to him? What is he doing to make it happen? What’s stopping him? If he fails, what’s at stake? If your hero behaves a certain way, tell us what happened to influence this action. Don’t just have him lash out without rationalizing his attitude.
Keep description within the viewpoint of your character. Similes and metaphors should be within the protagonist’s frame of reference. Hairdresser: as limp as a strand of shampooed hair. Or: as tight as a newly permed curl.
When you’re in deep viewpoint, use pronouns rather than the character’s name. Keep viewpoints distinctive. Use a space break when you switch heads.
Avoid flashbacks and backstory. Leave the past in the past unless it’s important for your current story. Keep the action moving forward. Drop backstory into dialogue or relate it in brief thoughts during action scenes. Less is better.
Show, don’t tell. Show your character’s emotions. Don’t tell the reader about them. NO: She felt afraid. YES: Ice gripped her heart. NO: He was angry. YES: He slammed his fist on the table. Physical reactions and nonverbal clues indicate emotions. Without these, you’ve written a cardboard character.
Dialogue should have a purpose. All conversations should have direction. What’s the point you’re trying to make? Who needs to be in this scene? How will it propel the action forward?
Eliminate most substitutes for said along with adverbs that describes speech. NO: “I love it,” he chortled merrily. YES: “I love it,” he said with a chuckle.
Replace he/she said with character tags, but don’t overuse them. Make sure it’s clear who is speaking if there are several lines of dialogue without tags. Eliminate unnecessary tags altogether, like in this example:
His mouth curved in a suggestive smile that made heat rise to her face. “This potato-crusted grouper sounds good,” he said with a wink. “It comes with a salad and herb bread. Why don’t you order for me?”
In my revision, I removed “he said with a wink.” We already know who is speaking and he’d given a suggestive smile. No more is needed.
Avoid long paragraphs of exposition or description. Do these passages really need to be there? Or will readers skip over them? Make the reader feel what your hero feels. Don’t just tell us what’s going on. Also, if paragraphs get too long, split them up. White space is a good thing.
Replace passive verbs with active tense. NO: The slaves were slain by lions. YES: Lions mauled the slaves. NO: His forehead was heated by the sun baking overhead. YES: The baking sun heated his brow.
Replace walked and went with a more visual word. She shuffled toward the door. He raced down the street. He sprinted across the yard.
Watch those “ing” phrases. Make sure your subjects match: NO: Glancing into the rearview mirror, her breath released upon noticing the coast was clear. YES: Glancing into the rearview mirror, she released a breath upon noticing the coast was clear.
Beware of ing phrases that are illogical. NO: Flinging the door wide, she stepped inside the darkened interior. YES: She flung the door wide and stepped inside the darkened interior (i.e. you can’t do both actions at once in the first sentence).
Avoid weak phrases like seemed to, tried to, began to. NO: He seemed to want her input. YES: His smile encouraged her to speak. NO: She tried to tie the knot, but it slipped through her fingers. YES: As she fumbled with the knot, the rope slipped from her fingers. Avoid unnecessary phrases such as she realized, she figured, he decided, he watched.
Avoid weak verbs: is, was, are, were, there was. NO: There was water on the window. YES: Water droplets beaded the window. NO: His pulse was racing. YES: His pulse raced.
Delete redundancies. NO: sat down YES: sat. NO: He thought to himself. YES: He thought. NO: Climbed up YES: Climbed
Check for repetitions: Most of us subconsciously overuse a favorite word. Be alert for these when you read through your manuscript. Avoid the same phrases or words in consecutive pages. Watch out for repeats of the same information in conversations or in a person’s thoughts. As an example, note the word “hoping” used three times in this same paragraph. Oops. This excerpt is from my current Work in Progress.
Hoping to learn more, she focused on what she already knew. “Mr. Ripari was hoping to sell the property. Did you know it had been a pioneer theme park back in its earlier days? He was hoping to turn the house into a living museum. I understand there’s some controversy involved.” Needless to say, I’ve revised this paragraph.
Remove qualifiers such as: very, rather, quite, really, just, awfully. NO: I remembered that she was really nice. YES: I remembered how her smile lit the room. NO: It was very hot. YES: The heat made my skin itch. One of my favorites is “only.” Vary this one by using “merely” or “simply” or eliminate it altogether.
Beware of flying body parts.NO: Her eyes flew across the room. YES: Her gaze flew across the room. NO: She threw her hands in the air. YES: She raised her arms. NO: Her eyes floated above the crowd. YES: She surveyed the crowd.
Be specific: NO: She passed a clump of flowers. YES: She passed a clump of red tulips sprouting from the ground like supplicating hands. NO: It had been a hard day. YES: Her body sagged as though she’d run a marathon (cliché alert?).
Learn correct spelling: their or they’re; it’s or its; lay or lie; you’re or your. They’re means they are. It’s means it is. You’re means you are.
Be consistent: If you’ve written a series, make sure you are consistent with particular words. Moustache or mustache? Chardonnay or chardonnay? Duffle or duffel? Nightstand or night stand? Think about creating a style sheet so you can have a handy reference for these types of words.
Avoid clichéslike the plague. If you spot one during revisions, go back and replace it with something more original. NO: He wore a scowl like a cloak. YES: He wore a scowl like a seasoned samurai.
Go for strong endings at ends of sentences. Don’t end sentences on a preposition. NO: I didn’t know what he was waiting for. YES: I didn’t understand why he waited. NO: He stared in horrified dismay at her. YES: He stared at her in horrified dismay.
Be aware of series continuity. Now that you know where your series is going, you can correct any inconsistencies along the way, plant a hint for something to come, or add/verify the ages and dates when things occur in your characters’ lives.
In conclusion, reword sentences so they’re stronger. Eliminate needless drivel. And make your book the best it can be out of respect for your readers. You want your work to shine so you can be proud of it all over again.