What to Pay an Illustrator

Imagining a world where illustrators are paid fairly for their work, this page sets out suggested rates for various tasks and situations. In an increasingly borderless design world competing with much lower wage regions, those kind of rates may be difficult for many illustrators to achieve. The site hosting this page is a time portal back to the earliest days of eye-wateringly bad web design.

Design Solves Problems

A designer muses on aspects of design theory and practice while travelling around Europe visiting top designers. A very pretty website and perhaps a little hipster-smug:

2517 miles, 15 beds, 12 interviews, 10 cities, 38 cups of coffee, 1 adventure. I'm on an adventure — to explore the limits of design's ability to solve social problems, big and small. To do this I attempted to solve 50 problems in 50 days using design. I also spent time with 12 of Europe's top design firms.

Marlborough Blues

Carl Hancock has written a moving tale of a boy sent to a English boarding school and beset by cruel bullies. His intelligence and athleticism are not enough to save him from a scarifying series of experiences. We wanted to capture that feeling of hopelessness but also a strong sense of resilience. The protagonist pauses to catch his breath somewhere on the school grounds, perhaps about to run, perhaps about to stand and fight. The title is set in Requiem and Trajan Sans.

Low Cost Standing Desk

Spooked by recent reports about the dangers of sitting all day, but not enthused about standing for such long periods of time? The Varidesk might offer a good compromise — the device sits on your existing desk and can be used to easily raise your monitor and keyboard to allow standing, then back down when your legs start to rebel. It's relatively cheap and has an agent in Australia, which hopefully would keep shipping costs down.

Converting to Ebook

A note regarding the preparation of your book manuscript for ebook conversion, from our preferred ebook converter, Warren Broom:

What can be done in the ePub format:
Firstly, to convert to the epub format, we require a print ready PDF. This must be single page single column. If not, all of the sentences that form each column end up shuffled like a deck of cards. We will also need an ISBN and a description and subject to place into the meta-data that shows up on the retail site. Descriptions should be kept to 2 to 3 paragraphs.

Images:
We prefer to take the images from the pdf as many have captions that we include in the image so that they do not get separated from the image. We do all images in colour for those reading devices that support colour but, of course, they will render in greyscale in those that don’t.

Tables:
We can only do tables that are two cells wide as any more and the words start to get squashed up at higher zoom levels. Tables with more than 2 columns are done as images. Sometimes when table cross “pages, some of the text can separate but this is not usually a problem.

Hyphens:
If the text is justified, some words break in two, utilising a hyphen. Once again, this is not really a problem but, if the author wants to avoid them, we can align the text to the left.

Table of contents:
eBook reading devices produce a digital TOC but we usually add hyperlinks to the TOC in the ePub for earlier reading devices that don’t. We can also link sub heading to the TOC but they are not really necessary.

Indexes:
Redundant in ePubs as all reading devises have a search function. However, if the author really wants to include an index, it should only include single word references as multiple words will link to all references in each of each word included within the entry.

Footnotes:
We place all of the footnotes at the end of the chapter and can link the reference within the text to its’ corresponding footnote. I can also add a return link back to the text the reference is in. It should be noted that footnotes are very time-consuming and can dramatically increase the price of the ePub.

Fonts:
Fonts can be embedded but, many reading devices have a default font that overrides the embedded fonts. A maximum of 2 fonts can be embedded. It is also possible to add audio and video to an ePub but, this is very complex and dramatically increases the file size and also, the cost. Our recommendation is that that a hyperlink to an external website be employed to view or listen to these forms of content.

Using Social Media to Market a Book

We asked successful ebook author Donna Usher for her thoughts on marketing ebooks online. She gives some extremely practical and achievable advice based on her own hard work and experimentation.

"When I published my first book I threw myself into social media as a means to market. I used twitter and facebook, and also lured people to my blog. In the first 11 months I sold 72 eBooks on Amazon and 1 on kobo. I also did a blog tour - paid $200 for it - and sold 8 books that month. It was pretty disheartening. The thing I realise now is that most of the people I network with on social media are not my readers. A few of them would be but most of them are writers. So now I think that social media is an excellent way to market once you have the readers that are following you. The trick is to get those readers in the first place.

So how do we get them to find us when out book is sitting at #350999 on Amazon? John Locke very cleverly managed to get his blogs to go viral, and then had his books for sale at the end of the blog for only 99c. But he had a lot of books published by that time. Would it have been as successful if he only had one book published? Probably not. So firstly I think the more books we have available, the greater our exposure, and the more powerful any successful marketing we do will be.

After the 11 months of watching the sales trickle in, and trying twitter and facebook and goodreads, I took my book off Kobo and signed up for KDP select. I figured I had nothing to lose by making The Seven Steps to Closure free for 5 days. I was hoping for maybe 1000 dowloads and expecting not to see any change in my sales for a while. In fact I was planning to release Cocoa and Chanel a few months later and was thinking perhaps some people might find it when I did.

I had about 42000 downloads in that 5 days and the sales took off immediately. I hadn't accounted for the exposure the book would have on the amazon site in the people-who-bought-this-book-also-bought-these section. Within an hour of the free days finishing I had more sales than I had the entire 11 months. Over the next two weeks it made itself up to #132 out of all books for sale on amazon. I sold over 1200 copies in the last 2 weeks of that month. It tapered off over the next two months so that I sold 300 copies in the month before I released Cocoa and Chanel. (By the way I put the success of my book's exposure largely down to my cover design. It's pretty and bright and not too fussy, and I've branded the two of them so they are obviously my covers!)

I made Seven Steps free again when I released C and C, this time for 2 days. I had another 12000 downloads and both book's sales took off. That month I sold 1786 copies of C and C, even though I didn't make it free at all. So the free days on Seven Steps was also selling C and C.

Since then I've played around with putting both books up for free and the number of days that I do it. Seven Steps is more effective than C and C as it is in a slightly different genre. It's women's fiction and romantic comedy. C and C is women's fiction and mystery/detective/female sleuth. So the genres that are more female/romance orientated get much better exposure.

This is backed up by two of my friends who each put their books free for 5 days. Kristy (who you know) had about 5000 downloads for her YA horror and another girlfriend of mine only had 400 downloads for a thriller over the 5 days. It didn't affect her sales at all.
I have a few theories on this.

  1. More women own kindles than men.
  2. More adults own kindles than kids.
  3. There are far more romance readers than there are thriller.
  4. The majority of men who read read non-fiction as apposed to fiction.

So I feel that the books with a greater chance of getting noticed are those aimed at the romance section. Hence my thriller writing girlfriend is now writing a romantic thriller.
Regarding the number of days that I place my book free. I find if I only have it free for 1 day it doesn't really increase the sales rate at all. So that's about 4000 downloads for 7 steps. Tomorrow I start 3 free days so I will be looking at how it effects my daily sale figures.
I have also played around with the price of the books. I put them down to .99c for a while, then up to $1.99, $2.99 and I know have 7 steps at $3.99. Funnily enough its ranking improved when I put it up to $3.99. I read an article that said $1.99 is a bad price point. At 99c people see it as a marketing price. Apparently they perceive $1.99 as being the price of a poorer quality book.

The other good thing about the free days is that I get a huge jump in reviews on my site whenever I do it. And good reviews sell books.

So how do I use Social Media?

Firstly I use it to set myself up as an expert. I interview authors and do author reviews on my site, which is a good way to lure potential readers onto your site. Random House has started using me to do book reviews on the books they are launching which is excellent as they allow me to link the review on their website back to my blog and the author interview I have also done. I write articles on writing and am publishing the How To book of Self-Publishing.
Whenever someone contacts me about my books I ask them if they would like to go onto an email list specifically to be used for letting them know when my books are released.
I believe that eBooks are the way of the future so am not terribly fussed about my print book sales at the moment. I will look at it in the future, but am actually hoping a big publishing company will approach me for the rights of the print books.

My aim is to get 2 eBooks published a year because the more I have out there the more effecive my free days will be. Imagine if I had had 10 books available when 7 Steps had the 42000 downloads. If only 10% of those people had liked me and bought all my other books that would have been 37800 books I would have sold off that 5 free days. That's powerful!!
So at the moment I intend to stay with Amazon. It is the most popular e-reader and I find that if people don't have the device they have the kindle app.

I hope that helps a little. What exactly is your blog on? If your planning on quoting me directly can you let me know so I can rephrase the parts as it's pretty chaotic. (definite first draft material)

Inside Shutterstock

An interesting article detailing the thinking behind the very successful microstock photography service Shutterstock. Submitting artists find it surprisingly hard to get into, which is great for users (most stock art sites could do with a higher bar to entry). The most successful photographers and artists on Shutterstock reputedly earn six figure incomes, but keeping up with the image search zeitgeist must be a somewhat stressful way to earn a living.

Copyright Free Images Made Simple

This free service allows users to search large public image libraries (such as Flickr, or Wikimedia Commons) for images tagged for commercial use or adaptation. Very clean interface and simple to use. However, as the home page warns "Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link."

Microsoft Office for Free

'Free' and 'Microsoft' were once words never uttered in the same sentence. Today, no longer ascendant and under pressure from Google's free browser-based text and spreadsheet editors, Microsoft offers its signature word processing and spreadsheet products in browser form, at a price of $0.00 (for personal use). The browser-based offerings are not as fully featured as the non-free desktop versions, but they are at least as good as Google's alternative. And surprisingly for anyone used to the ugliness of pre-cloud Microsoft interfaces, the portal is very clean, minimal and attractive.