For the next few weeks I’m going to post a little bit on my experiences as an indie author. While this may appeal more to writers trying to find their footing as an indie author, it might be of interest to readers as well. My blog will typically be a mix of things that currently interest me – for instance on my old blog my most popular post by far was the one on the Poodle moth – updates on my writing, the occasional sample of a new book and finally, informational postings about my progress as an indie author.
I’ve never been good at mystique. I was never the mysterious one that everyone had to work to get to know. I’m more like the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. I’ll be pretty up front in these things about my failures and temporary setbacks. So here’s your look behind the curtain. I know this isn’t much of a reveal because this curtain is like one of those clear shower curtains. But here we go anyway.
Before I found out I had a nasty lump of cancer floating around between my lungs and my heart, it had been a little over a year since I had published a book. I was nearing completion on my fourth book. My plan at that time was to have a small library of titles on Amazon before I really went gung-ho into marketing. I had this idea that having only one book made it harder to be found by readers, or that perhaps readers didn’t take you as seriously as an author. So I never did much with regards to marketing.
When I got healthy again and ready to write, things had changed quite a bit on the independent publishing landscape. Not only could anyone who had a fan page buy ads on Facebook, but Amazon was selling ads to indie authors as well. And, to top that off, all my old ways, and there weren’t that many, of promoting things like free days on my books were gone. So I decided to start from scratch and research independent publishing.
The first thing I decided was that my books needed a makeover. I decided to give Fiverr a try to see if five bucks would buy me something better than I could come up with myself. For those unfamiliar with Fiverr, it’s a freelance service where you can have small or sometimes big, creative jobs done for you, supposedly for five bucks. Thus the name. One of the first things you’ll find out, however, is most of the things are more than five bucks, and anything that looks really cool, is much more than five bucks. That’s not to say you won’t find a bargain there, but just don’t expect it to always be as cheap as five bucks.
There is a whole section of Fiverr freelancers who will design covers for you. I chose three. I chose one who had more than a thousand positive feedback and who had a bevy of decent looking sample covers to peruse. She was $15 for a cover. The second one I chose, I picked someone who had only a hundred feedback and a few covers that didn’t look bad. He was $10 a cover. Finally, I chose someone really new who only had two sample covers and only charged $5.
The thinking behind these choices was this – maybe the newer people would be diamonds in the rough. – maybe they’d work harder to please the client to get good reviews – maybe they’d be more attentive. First I’ll start by describing the Fiverr process. It’s a little different than a lot of the reviews I read. They are a few years outdated and things, at least from my perspective, work differently now.
Apparently you used to put out your request and freelancers would bid on your job. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, or if it is, it wasn’t apparent to me. Now, you shop around for a freelancer you like the work of and contract with them directly through Fiverr. Most of these freelancers have a price range. I chose the cheapest with all three of the cover designers. Usually, the difference in prices had to do with how many revisions you could ask for and whether or not you got the original files. This is important as you’ll see when I get to the results of my requests. Sometimes the price reflects how many elements the designer will use in your cover – one stock photo, two stock photos, and so on.
I gave every one of the designers the same request. I wanted a cover for Whom the Gods Love, using classic heraldry elements. Something symbolic rather than a literal interpretation of the book. At the time, I thought this might give me covers I could judge more easily, and I was also thinking that was the direction I wanted to go with the covers.
All three have a page where you give the description of what you want for the job. But, I noticed right away the freelancer who had thousands of reviews had much more detailed questions than the others. She asked for two examples of book covers I liked. She asked me to pick out an image from depositphotos that I’d like her to incorporate. She asked what type of book it was. Neither of the other two freelancers asked for any of this. They wanted title and author and that was it. I ended up giving them the same info I gave the first one in the hopes I could start them all off on the same foot. But it didn’t matter. They didn’t seem to know what to do with the information. The more expensive freelancer, the $10 one, she was ready to work with the information she asked for because she obviously had a streamlined workflow.
Of the three, the cheapest claimed she’d turn over the job in 24 hours. She did. In fact, I got the cover back from her in 8 hours. The problem was, it was kind of a mess. She never wrote to me and she never asked me any questions about the cover. And the cover I got back from her showed that. The heraldic elements weren’t included at all, and there is no way to tell at all what kind of book that is. Don’t even get me started on the random God Love at the top as an element – though, the font for Love up there is interesting and I could see it working on a different type of book.
This designer was extremely cheap, however. Five bucks even for this much work, I suppose isn’t bad. Keep in mind, the freelancer doesn’t even get $5. They get $3.50. Fiverr takes their cut off the top. It’s just not very much to pay someone. Though based on how little she talked to me about the cover, I’d be very hesitant to hire her for the higher priced job. Her $5 cover came with no original files and no revisions.
Sometimes when you think something is too good to be true, it is. Originally, this Fiverr freelancer also only charged $5. Unlike the first example, however, he was quick to reply to my request for a cover and was good about asking me what I wanted. I didn’t want to give him too much direction. I’m not a graphic designer. I don’t really have any idea what will sell a book. I just wanted to give him the general direction I wanted. I said something with a classic look using heraldic design.
He wrote back to me and asked me what kind of heraldry. I sent him a link to one of the depositphoto stock art images of heraldic elements and said, anything in there. Now we get into a little tangle. Unlike the $10 cover artist with the thousands of reviews, he doesn’t have a subscription to a stock art service. So he needs to buy it. If he wants me to use it, I need to pay for it. So he sends me an additional bill. At this point, I’m willing to pay for the art. Afterall, the more expensive freelancer just included it into her price. And I kind of want to see what this guy will do with it.
You can see to the right what he did with it. I’m not going to go into the problems with that cover here. The point I’d rather make is sometimes on Fiverr when you think you see the price, you don’t see the whole price. On Fiverr, the artist has the ability to add things on a la carte. You choose whether or not to pay for them, but it’s there. When you pick your artist, you might not know the full price until after you’ve dealt with them a bit. They need a font, or they need stock art. Oh, you want two pieces of stock art? Well that’s another $15. That cheap quote you see on the ad is just like any other service you see quoted in ads. It doesn’t always include everything you expect it to.
Finally, here’s what I learned from the – initially – most expensive freelancer I picked on Fiverr. While she asked a lot of questions up front – good – she took the longest to contact me about the job. It specifically says in her description she’ll take up to five days to complete the job. The fella who designed the cover above was quick to respond and kept emailing me throughout. He was eager to make me happy and keep me in the loop. I’m sure I could have asked for some re-working of the cover. But what I really wanted to see was what each of these people came up with on their first try.
It turns out, eagerness to please is still not as good as plain ol’ experience. When the $10 Fiverr freelancer did return the cover, it looked the most like a cover should. She didn’t do a whole lot, in fact she probably just plunked the pieces into a template she uses, but what I got for $10 was a cover I could feasibly use and she used a piece of licensed stock art. It isn’t what I ended up using, but I liked her job enough I tipped her another $5. I thought she had outdone the other two by a mile. Not only did the end result actually look like a cover, she sent the original Photoshop files along with it, so if I wanted to adjust anything, I could. She also allowed for requested alterations in her work for this price. This freelancer would probably be much more communicative if you purchased her higher tier work. She also includes more elements in the cover for the higher tier. Overall, I’d recommend her for a budget cover if you just can’t come up with something on your own. You can find her here.
In the end I decided to try and dust off my Photoshop skills and patch something together myself. Mainly because I knew I didn’t have the money for what I really wanted, one of the beautiful covers a place like 99 Designs does. While I’m not 100% happy with my own design, for now it works and it’s definitely better than the last one. One of these days I’ll make enough money to pay for new covers. Until then, I can live with this.
I hope this has been useful or interesting for you. Next week I’ll talk about my choices for my email list and book giveaways. I’ll discuss the differences between instafreebie/mailchimp, bookfunnel/mailchimp and newcomer authorreach. I’m trying all three combos this week to see which works the best for me. I’m finding out which has the most potential for streamlining my new marketing process. I hope you find that helpful as well.
Copyright 2018 M.M. Perry