Monday, April 14, 2014

3D Book Covers for Indie Authors?

  As I surf around the web, I notice plenty of new and daring ideas out there that authors are employing to sell their Ebooks. Some ideas are astoundingly simple. Others can be a little out there - like creating social media profiles for fictional characters so they can interact with fans. But I'm a little curious about how the authors can track some of these ideas directly to sales in any quantitative sense. It seems to me that no matter what fabulous contrivance authors come up with, Ebook success usually just comes down to the basics. The well written book with a spectacular cover, an economical price and numerous favorable reviews (hundreds or more) often translate into Ebook success. Of course regular marketing is necessary but the rest - all that weird and creative exposure -  is kind of just icing.

Still, it's all those Ebook success stories that make me wonder about how indie authors could tackle the paperback and hardcover market as well. Pricing isn't quite as flexible as it is with Ebooks. Also, just getting hard copies into stores is an enormous challenge and requires legwork. So what can the indie do? Maybe a fantastic  and unique cover will be one of the strongest tools the indie has working in their favor. It makes me curious. What new and possibly risky things can the indie author really do to a cover in order to push their paperbacks and hardcovers into the limelight? Have you seen how incredible the book covers are in bookstores these days?

I was thinking about the book cover angle when I came across this site It's an article about a comic book that utilized 3D printing to produce a cover. I immediately thought... Aha! 3D printing. As indie authors, we're already DIYers. Makers. Crafters Creators. Just like with the print on demand revolution for books, general manufacturing as an industry is about to be turned inside out with the new availability of 3D printing. Sites like Shapeways, Thinglab and i.materialize print and ship your 3D design to you. In a variety of materials no less. Even many libraries have 3D printers available to the public. Now it's extremely unlikely that an indie could easily 3D print out a cover like the one on the comic book linked above (although it is a rather spectacular cover). But here's an example of a cover that fits over the paper book  Worth trying? Definitely. Or how about just designing a 3D plastic 'box' for your indie series boxed set? Have a look around the internet and see what can be accomplished. Maybe you only ever make one or two of the covers for special giveaway contests?

If you are an indie author and you give one of these crazy ideas a try, please let me know. I'd love to post an image of your 3D book cover here. And if you have any other crazy ideas that have helped you as an indie author and would like to share them here, please comment below. Gimmicky or innovative, it's your choice. I'd love to hear from you.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Use the wrong program. It's the right idea.

Almost every kind of software we need, no matter how pricey, seems to have some form of free alternative out there in internet land. And even if it doesn't, there always seems to be some other program that can be adapted to getting the job done. At least it seems that way to me.

Recently, I read a blog post about how to use PowerPoint to make an eBook cover. That may not sound terribly exciting in itself. Okay, I'll admit it's not. It's really just the idea of presentation software that's been commandeered for a different purpose that grabbed me. I can't help myself, I guess. I love finding 'free' stuff that can be used for just about any purpose your imagination can come up with. And even if your version of PowerPoint wasn't free, there are at least tens of presentation software products out there that are either completely free, free to try or free to use with certain limitations.

So by now you've probably guessed that in this post I'm going to focus on using (or misusing) free presentation ware and other unsuitable programs to create whatever it is you need to push your book into the limelight. Whether it's for making eBook covers or some other book promo material, there are all kinds of free software options out there to help you along. Here are some software options I've found on the web that are easy to use, free (in some capacity) and can be adapted to make the kind of book promos you want like an animated sample chapter, a mini book trailer, animated character images or whatever you think up:

It's free for non commercial use - so no book covers, but check out
the free trials for Animation-ish and Toon Boom Studio on the page.
Best use is for any 'video' type promos.

Same thing - free download, and you can freely distribute it but it has
 a watermark. You can pay to use it commercially ( watermark free).
Best use is for any 'video' type promos. 

Also free with a watermark. Paid accounts have more content and
no watermark. Just for fun I tried my hand at this one for a book
Best use is for any 'video' type promos or maybe an animated
author profile? 

Sparkol VideoScribe (
Unique video creation presentation ware that 'draws' out your ideas.
Seriously, it's an interesting one worth checking out. Probably best 
for descriptive novels, fantasies, graphic novels... you be the judge.

Presentation ware that works like a slide show. Interesting and it
will engage the reader by forcing them to move it along. Adaptable
if you have the imagination to work around templates.

How about a little 3D modelling to make your awesome 2D images when
 your inner artist is fast asleep? Easy, free and these two work in your Firefox
or Chrome browser (so there are no downloads). You might have to do 
a hack with your browser to get the WebGL to work though. (see this
It worked for me but I'm not suggesting you try it without reading all the
details. You can easily make cute 2D images for book covers from these 
for free. However, your newly created images become Creative Commons.

Smartdraw , Edraw
Charts, floorplans and maps. Free to try software. Could be useful depending
on the type of book you're going to promote. Non fiction? Adventure? Mystery?

In my last post here I tried out something similar to that book cover creation I mentioned above (way above). I used a new(ish) presentation maker, PowToon, to create a book review. It was fun, quick to do and the end result was something I hadn't seen before. Of course, that doesn't make it an original thing. It just makes it something that I couldn't find - i.e. a similar animated style book review - with a reasonable amount of searching on the web. But I will say that it felt like I'd created something unique. Plus, the video got a whole sixteen views, probably way more views than my book review blog gets! (But just watch, next week there will probably be all kinds of animated book reviews all over Youtube to prove me wrong about thinking my animated book review was ever original).

The point I want to make here is that if it's free, give it a try. And don't be afraid to be the first one on the block to do something new with all the wrong tools.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fun New Tool for Authors and Bloggers

For authors, bloggers and book reviewers: a new awesome tool. It's free, but you can also upgrade to pay plans. What is it?

It's Powtoon, a professional, animated presentation software. It's in the cloud, so you don't have to download or buy any messy animation programs that may or may not work on your computer or device. Watch the example below. It's an experimental book review geared towards young adult readers. They're a huge and book hungry audience, so this was a good first experiment. And in a world where graphic novels have taken off, this could be an advantageous way to get your reader's attention.

Yes this is only a book review, but think of the applications. A book trailer? A sample chapter? An ad for you blog or website? Check out Powtoon, or the video above and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I'll be playing with more free software and trying to find the next best gimicky tool for indie authors.

(Here's another one I'm working on... only this time I'm trying out emaze. I can't find the sound for it. )