Author Biz – Cover Design Tips with Elizabeth Mackey

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Cover design whiz and graphics designer Elizabeth Mackey joins us on this episode of The Author Biz podcast.

Listen to Episode 85

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Right? The old saying may be true, but unfortunately for authors, a great many readers won’t have the opportunity to judge your book unless your cover appeals to them.

Today’s guest is cover designer Elizabeth Mackey. She’s a military wife, mom, and freelance graphic designer. She graduated with honors from the Art Institute of California, San Diego, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Graphic Design and she has 14 years of experience in graphic design and over 20 years of experience in fine art.

Elizabeth’s name came up during Author Biz Episode 82 when both guests of the show mentioned using her for their covers. I did some research and loved the work Elizabeth was doing for her many clients, which include past Author Biz guests, CA Newsome, Bobbi Holmes, and Russell Blake.

This week’s show is also one that was recorded in video and I think the video enhances things a bit during the discussion because we’re able to bring some “show and tell” elements to the show. Elizabeth mentions several specific covers as examples, for both series and stand-alone books, and where available I’ve dropped those images into the video. You’ll still get 95% of the value from just listening, the way you normally do, but this might be one episode that you’ll want to consider watching.

Prior to the interview, I mention (in the podcast, not the video) two things that caught my eye over the past week.  The first, (more…)

Should Pre-Orders be in Your Author Toolkit

Pre-Orders Toolkit

Do you use pre-orders as a part of your launch process?

It’s an interesting and much-debated topic in the indie publishing world right now. In April, we covered the subject with Elizabeth Craig, who had a disappointing experience using pre-orders and doesn’t plan on using them again.

That episode generated some interesting conversation inside The Author Biz Facebook Group from a number of authors, including two with much different, much more positive results when using them.

Carol Newsome

Carol Newsome

The two authors, C.A. Newsome and Bobbi Holmes, who are also good friends, agreed to come onto the show together to discuss their different approaches to pre-orders.

Bobbi has found success with pre-orders in part because of an aggressive, four book a year publishing schedule, while CA, or Carol, combined contests and a larger email list to get the most out of the recent pre-order for her mystery series.

Carol Newsome writes the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries, a series of fun, romantic suspense/mystery novels inspired by and centered around her mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park.

Bobbi Holmes AuthorBobbi Holmes began writing stories in grade school and wrote her first book in high school. She writes mature fiction under her nom de plume, Anna J. McIntyre. Under her real name, she writes non-fiction and the Haunting Danielle series which we discuss during the show.

In this 45 minute episode, we take a deep dive into pre-orders and delve into other topics like cover design, mailing lists, pricing, and launch strategies.

Notes from the Pre-Orders Interview

Carol and Bobbi agree on the importance of having an existing audience before
trying pre-orders.

Carol shares her strategy for combining a BookBub promotion with the pre-order as a way of driving pre-order traffic.

MuddyMouth_ebookCarol used her mailing list and a contest to generate reader interest in pre-ordering her latest book, MUDDY MOUTH.

Carol’s recent pre-order allowed her to stay on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for an extended period of time.

Bobbi began using pre-orders with book two of her Haunting Danielle series and she’s seen an increase in the number of pre-orders with each new release.

HautingDanielle_BOOK8-200x300Because of her aggressive, every 90-day release schedule, Bobbi always has one book available for pre-order.

We discuss the ways in which Carol grew her email list by 1,500 names over a six-month period.

We discuss cover design and the fact that both Bobbi and Carol share the same cover designer, Bobbi’s daughter Elizabeth, who brings 14 years of experience in graphic design and over 20 years of experience in fine art to her business as a cover designer.


Carol’s Website

Carol’s Amazon Author Page

Bobbi’s author websites, and

Bobbi’s Amazon Author Page

Elizabeth Mackey Graphics Website

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How to Make Real Money Selling Short Fiction

Short Fiction Rethink


Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.
—- Sam Walton

TS Paul Author PhotoOne of the concerns every business must handle is dealing with incoming information flow. There is a torrent of information coming at us from all directions, seemingly at all times.

One shortcut to dealing with information overload is to simplify it into easily understood bits and then ignore what doesn’t fit our expectations. When enough of us see and discuss a pattern, conventional wisdom is formed, allowing us to “know” things are true without actually testing the data.

One bit of conventional wisdom that I accepted early on in my author business was that it’s tough or maybe even impossible to make money selling short fiction. Oh sure, there are the occasional Kindle Singles that sell well for big time authors introducing a new series character, but in general, you can’t make any real money selling short fiction.

When I first heard the story of today’s guest, T.S. Paul, I scoffed and rejected it as an exaggeration. Then I looked more closely. According to the Amazon rankings, T.S. Paul was selling a lot of short books. His first was 62 pages, his second was just over 30 pages, and they both ranked in Amazon’s overall top 2,500.

Imperial Subversion CoverBut conventional wisdom is tough to overcome. I reached out to T.S. (Scott) Paul, and we discussed his numbers. He gave me access to his sales numbers. I compared what he was doing, and the results he was seeing to conventional wisdom and realized I’d been wrong.

Scott has published six books and two compilations, of three books each in less than 90 days. He priced the books at $2.99 so he could be paid for his work. He refuses to give his books away, and he’s making real money.

In this 35 minute interview, we discuss Scott’s history as a retail bookstore manager, his brief history as an author and the results he’s seeing by writing short fiction for a growing audience of readers and fans.

Short Fiction Interview Notes

Scott shares his background as a manager at multiple Waldenbooks locations in the St. Louis area and what the experience taught him about selling books at the retail level.

Forgotten Engineer CoverWe discuss the process he went through to write and publish THE FORGOTTEN ENGINEER, the first book in The Athena Lee Chronicles series. (According to Amazon, the first book in the series, contains 62 pages.)

Book two in Scott’s series, ENGINEERING MURDER is 34 pages and is a category #1 best seller at Amazon.

We discuss Scott’s reviews and his unusual thoughts on their lack of importance to his success.

Scott shares his simple pricing strategy. He prices all of his books, ranging from 32 pages - 148 pages at $2.99. His collections, which combine three books cost $7.99.

Scott uses his blog to keep readers engaged between the short, two-week release schedule for his books by posting a series he calls Wilson Wednesdays.

We discuss Scott’s initial expectations for his series, and how those expectations have evolved in three short months.


TS Paul Author Page at Amazon

Scott’s website:

Rocking Self Publishing Episode 148

The Author Biz Facebook Group

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Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me again this week.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see on the left of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for The Author Biz Podcast on iTunes!

Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and mean a great deal to me. They matter in the rankings of the show, and I read every one of them. If you’re not sure how to leave an iTunes review, you can follow the step-by-step instructions here.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes or Stitcher to get automatic updates.

Thanks to T.S. Paul for joining us this week!

New Release: Four Seasons of Reno Hart

Four Seasons 3A little over a year ago, an author friend, Logan Keys, asked me how my book was coming. At that point, I’d been working on the same thing for nearly a year and making no progress.  I shared my frustration, and she suggested that I write something completely different.

Logan’s suggestion launched a flurry of creative energy which allowed me to write a pretty good story over the course of a few months. The problem was my protagonist, Reno Hart. She evolved so much during the writing process that I knew I was going to have to rewrite much of the book.

I really liked Reno, and I didn’t want to let her go, so I decided to write a few short stories.  Essentially, just putting her into situations and seeing what she’d do.  By writing, what turned out to be four short stories, I developed a much greater sense of her character, and I’m making good progress on rewriting the novel.

But I interrupted that rewriting process to polish the short stories and put them out as a collection, titled FOUR SEASONS OF RENO HART.  The book is only available on Amazon, so if you’re an Amazon or a Kindle Unlimited reader, please give it a try and let me know what you think.

Pre-Orders: Are They Always a Good Thing?

Elizabeth Spann Craig joins us to talk pre-orders in this episode of The Author Biz.

Will readers respond if you offer your latest book for sale as a pre-order before the release date? If they do is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

As is so often the case the in the author business, the answer is frustratingly unclear.

Elizabeth Spann CraigThe prevailing wisdom seems to be that we should all offer pre-orders for our books, either through every digital outlet selling those books or at the very least, at some of those online stores.

But will pre-orders work for you - in your genre, with your writing habits and publication schedule?

Today’s guest, Elizabeth Spann Craig is a best-selling hybrid author with 20 books under her belt. With Cruising for Murder, the 9th book in her Myrtle Cove cozy mystery series, she decided to run an experiment to test the value of pre-orders in her business. She shared the results of this test on her always educational blog, with a post titled An Update on a Pre-order Experiment last week.

In this 32 minute episode, we discuss the different reasons she tried pre-orders, the specifics of her pre-order plan, her expectations, and the results she’s seen so far.

Watch the Interview


Show Notes for Pre-Orders Discussion

CruisingforMurder_ebook_Final-683x1024Elizabeth explains why she chose to offer pre-orders at Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble, but not at Amazon.

She shares the reasons for her pre-order experiment, and what she hoped to accomplish by making pre-orders available.

We discuss the results of her test, both in terms of sales (disappointing) and time invested to support pre-order program.

We consider Elizabeth’s reader demographics and how they may have contributed to her results.

Elizabeth shares her advice for new authors considering pre-orders.

It’s easy to spend too much time promoting our books, but that’s not a trap into which Elizabeth falls. She explains her minimal new release promotion schedule.

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