Episode 161- Breaking the Rules, ACX International, and Writing on Planes

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Question of the Week: What do you think is a fair price for a custom book cover? What have you spent on covers in the past?

With one more episode until finishing a full baseball season, Jim and Bryan took on the latest news, tips, and happenings in the indie world. After thanking their patrons The Author’s Guide to Ebook Bundling, More Than Monsters, and What Sells Books, the pair of publishing pundits talked tips on short stories, Amazon Author Central, and writing on planes. News stories included a survey on Chinese readership, 99 Designs moving into book, story rights, breaking the indie rules, and ACX’s crackdown on new international accounts. This week’s Question of the Week: What do you think is a fair price for a custom book cover? What have you spent on covers in the past?

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What You’ll Learn:

  • How one author earns a living with his short stories
  • How authors can boost sales by making the most of Amazon Author Central pages
  • How one author says his OCD helped him to write a bestseller
  • What a recent Amazon survey says about Chinese digital readership
  • What new services 99 Designs is offering and how authors can benefit
  • Why authors should keep careful track of their story rights
  • How one indie author found success despite breaking all the rules
  • Why authors outside the US may be unable to add their audiobooks to Audible
Question of the Week: What do you think is a fair price for a custom book cover? What have you spent on covers in the past?

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  • Regarding the ACX workaround. I had to use Joe Nobody’s service when I first started with ACX, not because I couldn’t set up a US office, but because I needed to be resident of the US for a bank account over there.

    • Bryan

      Agreed on the cover front, Mark. You’ve got to make the investment these days. You’re definitely a great influence there.

      I’ll need to look more into this ACX thing. I know Simon Whistler used to always talk about having to set up a company for that U.S. bank account.

  • I spend $200 and my designer offers a package with versions for eBook, Createspace layout, Audible (square), Facebook banner, and shelf sample (I forget the actual name but what a physical book would like like with the pages.

    • Bryan

      Very nice. Thanks for the info, Darren.

  • A D Davies

    I pay around $65 per book cover which includes the paperback. He’s happy with that price and I’m always happy with the quality of his work. I’ve paid up to $200 for others, which I think is probably fair using and manipulating stock art. If it’s custom art, I’d expect to pay anything up to $500.

    On a similar issue, you mentioned book interiors on the show. In addition to Vellum and Jutoh I wanted to put a shout out for Reedsy’s free book editor. https://reedsy.com/write-a-book

    You write your novel, paste it in to Reedsy, select the theme (they just added a romance one) and then export it as an epub. This can be converted seemlessly to mobi using free program Caliber. Reedsy also does a paperback PDF export although I haven’t tried it yet – also limited in the trim sizes. But the eBook is asy to use and very easy on the eye.

    • Thanks for the shout out! Which trim size would you like us to add? We’re thinking about adding a mobi export as well 🙂

      • A D Davies

        Hi Reedsy,

        I go for the slightly smaller trim. My books are 5.25 x 8. Not sure why that .25 matters but it seems to 🙂

        • Got it! I’ll check with our designer if it makes sense for us to add that trim size. Thanks for the feedback 🙂


    • Bryan

      That’s a good deal, AD. I’ll have to check out Reedsy’s editor. Thanks.

  • Jason Riou

    Shocked to hear my wee book up as a featured patron already. Thanks Brian & Jim, much appreciated.

    The cover for that featured book cost a whopping $40 from the brilliant Adrijus at Rocking Book Covers. It was custom for someone, but they passed on it. I was happy to pay Domi at Inspired Cover Designs $240 to duplicate the essence of that one for the sequel. Quick, professional, and great to work with.

    Fyi. There are 3 pronunciations of Riou, and Brian, you nailed the one that was used in high school. There’s also Ree-ohh, and Ree-eww. Depends how French you are.

    • Bryan

      Thank you so much for becoming a patron, Jason! Domi’s fantastic, I’ve seen her great work all over. Thanks for the info! Haha, I’ll take the high school pronunciation :).

  • On the short story story, I think it’s a lot of work doing a lot of things that aren’t writing just to sell all those stories and still not make a lot of money. I guess if you don’t have novels in you it’s good to know there are options. Still, what if that time was spent writing novels?

    DWS also writes something similar about short stories. In the DWS universe, after five years of short stories you could be making $40k per year on the collective works. Again, IF shorts are your thing, then sure. Still…


    With my health clients or with writers, when someone says “I’m doing fine” I often wonder how much better they’d be doing if they did it differently. I’ll leave health for another time, since it seems mean to point out that they usually aren’t doing fine 😉

    …with writers who are doing fine, what if they wrote more to market, had covers that fit the genre, and wrote story lengths that are more popular?

    • Bryan

      “I’m doing fine…” sounds like famous last words ;).

  • Just wanted to note, that no, Amazon does NOT own Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a publicly traded company and is still owned by its original founders (who have, thus far, repeatedly vowed to never sell).

    For the QTW, I pay $275 for my custom covers (photo manip with some effects), which includes the e-book and paperback versions, title page, and one additional graphic (I usually go for a bookmark). Great designer and be wonderful to work with. She even fixed my first cover (which I did myself) to update it to match the branding of the second and give it some polish 🙂

    • Bryan

      Interesting, Anma. We’ll have to double check to make sure we get all the facts right. And thanks for the cover info!

      • At least you got the attribution right 😉

        • Bryan

          Haha, we did :).

  • Spider McGee

    I’ve never spent a dime on a book cover, preferring to think that my Microsoft Paint and free clip-art creations would suffice. My sense of style and taste should be obvious, but the buying public so far has remained reticent. I’m putting some new stuff out soon, so I might invest in a new unified trade dress and new covers for all my titles. And by “invest” I mean, hellooooo Fiverr…

    • Bryan

      Helllooooo Fiverr, indeed :).

  • Hey guys! Just stepping in about TS Paul and the whole MVP thing for a moment… He wrote the first book (novella) off the cuff, on a lark, and tossed it up there. It had a lot of typos and grammatical errors. He’s since corrected it.

    His work since then has steadily improved, though. The whole deal behind a MVP (minimum viable product) wasn’t to intentionally toss up bad books. Rather, it was to test an idea with a “minimally viable product”; without putting a whole ton of effort into an idea you’re not sure will work. To see if it would fly. His book took off DESPITE the errors, so he went and wrote more…and then more, and still more in the series. Quite rapidly. Each one was better than the last, and he’s sold well as a result. It was velocity of publishing that spurred his sales more than the length.

    But it’s not JUST a story about shorts. His original stuff was novella length, but it’s gradually increased. His more recent urban fantasy books are all novel length (and sell even better than the novella science fiction). Even with that though, he launched the series by writing a short story, put up with a pre-made cover, which took off like gangbusters – so he went right into the series full steam.

    That sort of testing – to see if an idea is viable with consumers – is the heart of the MVP concept, and it’s an exceptionally good idea.

    • Bryan

      Great points on that, Kevin. He started with the MVP and then put in the time and money to upgrade those. That’s the way to do it!

      • Scotts’s an awesome guy. 🙂

        Without his advice I might not be going full time as a writer next week. He gives back a TON to the community – and the core of his success is simply good storytelling. Thanks for covering him!

        • Bryan

          Sure thing! That’s awesome to hear that he’s had such a great impact on you and your career.

  • David Mark Brown

    I had to binge listen to the last two episodes after falling behind.
    I’ve been writing 10,000 word episodic fiction for six years (about 40 episodes in the last 18 months). Most of that time I’ve also been in the entrepreneurial trenches coming up with a platform to feature short, episodic content via collaborative StoryVerses that make it possible for a small group of authors to publish weekly episodes from the same storyworld. http://www.fictionvortex.com

    Our MVP mobile app, Fictionite, is in the iOS store approval process currently, and we have 40 authors working on content from 10 StoryVerses. We are hoping to move out of the start-up phase this summer.
    I got tired of being beholden to someone else’s platform after my blossoming career suffered a setback when Amazon shifted their free-sales algorithm, and then again when they dropped tags. I knew then I had to control direct access to my audience. Five years later, almost there!

    Thanks for the great news reports. I love gathering new industry happenings via your show!

    • Bryan

      That’s a really cool idea, David. Thanks so much for sharing. Site looks cool too. Really appreciate you listening to our show! Happy to provide the goods :).

  • Melissa E Beckwith-Author

    Hi Bryan and Jim! I have been on vacation the last two weeks with very little internet, so I’m catching up on the podcasts. I think it was this week’s podcast (I’ve been listing to several today…lol) that you talked about that author (can’t remember his name, sorry) that writes very short books and has great success with them. I think he writes paranormal and sci fi. Do you think any genre would have success this shorter books? I write epic fantasy and I don’t think that genre lends its self to a short book, however I’ve been wanting to try my hand at science fiction. Just wondering if this would be something to pursue, especially since Jim feels shorter works are the trend. Thanks!

    • Bryan

      Hey Melissa! Welcome back from vacation :). I agree, epic fantasy might be a stretch with shorter books. But I think many genres are worth a try. It’s worth glancing at some of the other top selling books in your genre to see what their lengths are. That might give you a clue as to whether it works in your genre. Thanks for listening!