This is the first in a series of weekly updates chronicling my experience publishing my first book series. Each week I’ll let you know about what I am doing to prepare or promote my books and share both my pitfalls and successes with you in the hopes that it might help you as you publish your own book or series of books.
If you’ve just stumbled upon this article or website, you might be wondering who I am. My name is Alissa Grosso, and this is not my first rodeo. Full disclosure: I have never actually been to a rodeo. (I’m from New Jersey. They’re not super common here.) In all seriousness, I am the author of seven published books. Three of my novels were traditionally published and three of my novels plus my non-fiction book were self-published. I’m by no means an expert, but I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
All seven of my published books are standalones, meaning they are not a part of a series. That’s about to change, though. I have written my first series of books, and now I’m getting ready to publish it. I’ll keep you updated on this new adventure as I prepare to publish and market this book series with these weekly posts.
About the Series
I started out with the intention of writing a trilogy, then realized midway through writing the third book that this would work better as a four-book series. I guess technically that would make it a quadrology, but since that isn’t a widely used word I’m just going to call it a four-book series. These books are in the crime thriller or mystery thriller genre, and since I have in the past published books for young adults, I should specify that these books are aimed at the adult market.
At this point in time I am calling this the Culver Creek Series. That could change. Anything could change, really, but for now that’s the name I’m using. Culver Creek refers to the fictional town that plays a central role in each of the four books. There’s a police detective who is the one character who plays a major role in each of the books and it is his story and the mystery of his sister’s murder that unfolds through the series so for a time I was naming the series after him, but I kind of prefer Culver Creek. So, I’m going to go with that for now, anyway.
The hard part with this series is already done. That is, if you consider the hard part the writing. Newbie authors would be forgiven for assuming that once the writing was done it would only be a quick bippity-boppity-boo until publication, but those who have attended rodeos of the publishing sort will know that there’s a lot that needs to happen to go from manuscript to published book, and I’m somewhere in the middle of that right now.
My Publishing Plans
At this point I am planning on publishing the first book in my series about the middle of January. I probably could have it ready for publication a little bit sooner, but between my own schedule in November and December and the general hectic nature of the holidays, I decided it makes the most sense to wait until January to publish the first book. I’ll then be publishing the subsequent books at monthly intervals with the second in February, the third in March and the fourth in April.
When I say publish, what exactly am I talking about? I plan on simultaneously publishing both an ebook and print editions. I say print editions because I’ll be releasing this book in a regular print paperback, regular print hardcover and a large print hardcover. I do not at this time have plans to release an audiobook, mainly based on the costs involved in doing so.
This Week: Edits and Cover Design
Previously I had some feedback on the book from my advance team or beta readers, but this week I received a much more thorough edit from a copy editor I’m working with by way of Reedsy. For those not familiar with Reedsy, it’s a website designed for connecting authors with professional freelancers to help you get your book ready for publication.
I’ve used Reedsy before to find editors for my books, and have had an overall positive experience. I reached out to some different editors both through their own websites and through Reedsy and went with the editor who seemed like the best fit for me, my books and my publishing timeline, and so far I have been pleased with the results.
When it comes to working with a freelance editor to prepare a self-published book for publication, there are essentially three types of editors: proofreaders, copy editors and developmental editors. Each serve a different purpose and which professionals you choose to hire will depend on you and the state of your manuscript. I had done a couple of rounds of self editing on my book, and felt that it was at the stage where a copy editor would be the best choice.
The copy editor that I’m working with does a full copy edit of the book and then returns this to me as a Word document with track changes enabled. This includes corrections for grammatical or typo type errors, corrections of repetition or clunky phrasing plus suggestions of changes I should make due to clarity or plot discrepancies. She asks that I go through and make any necessary revisions and either accept or refuse her corrections then return the Word document to her so that she can go through a quick final pass of the document.
So this week I went through and made the suggested edits and revisions and returned the copyedited file to her. Overall, I felt her suggestions and edits were on point, and I’m hopeful that this will help to make my book much better.
Don’t Try This at Home
The other thing I’ve been working on this week is cover design. Now, I say this with the caveat that like editing, cover design is something you should probably hire a professional for. The only reason that I’m not taking my own advice is that besides being an author, I also do some graphic design work. Although, I think of myself as an author first, the sad truth is that I actually make significantly more from my graphic design work than I do my writing. Though with any luck publishing this book series will change that!
Now, even though I do some graphic design work. Book cover design is not something I regularly do. So, I’m venturing out of my wheelhouse a little in creating my own book covers. But I’ve designed covers for my own books before, and I feel pretty confident that I’m up to the task.
Designing covers for a series of books is a unique challenge because you want the books to have a common theme or look so that it’s immediately clear they are all part of the same series while at the same time having a distinctive enough look for each individual title in the series. I had some different directions that I was considering, and ultimately have settled on a style and aesthetic that I think fits the books, connotes the genre and will work for the entire series. So, while this week I’ve been focused on designing the cover for the first book in the series, I was also doing some preliminary work on the covers for the other three books in the series. I’m still not quite done with the task, but things are moving along nicely.
My Cover Design Process
I used Affinity Designer for creating my book covers. It’s a vector graphics design software application that is very similar to Adobe Illustrator but with a one time $50 price tag as opposed to Adobe’s monthly subscription model. I use Affinity Designer for most of the design work that I do so I’m very comfortable with it, which is why I use it for creating my book covers. They also have photo editing software that’s similar to Adobe Photoshop called Affnity Photo which I know others have used for book cover design.
There are some free programs that are also available that will allow you to do this same work. Inkscape is a free downloadable vector graphics program that I have used in the past, and Gimp is downloadable photo editing program that I have also used. I’ve also used the online photo editing software available at PhotoPea which works very much like Photoshop. There are some other online graphics and photo editing sites that others swear by like Canva and PicMonkey. I find them a bit limited in what you can so, but for a quick bit of image editing or simple image creation they might work just fine. Anyway, I put all this out there with the caveat that there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to doing design work and using image editing software, and that in most cases if you have no experience with this sort of thing and need a book cover design, you should probably hire a professional.
When we talk about book cover design, we’re really talking about two (or more) different designs. That is, if you plan on publishing your book both in print and digital formats, and for most fiction these days you should probably be planning both digital and print editions. A print cover is a bit more complex than a digital cover. An ebook cover is basically just the front cover of a print book. Print books also have a spine and a back cover.
Because of this I like to start with the print edition of the book, and to do that I have to know the number of pages in the final book and my preferred trim size for the book. This handy calculator from KDP by Amazon will give you a downloadable paperback cover template with the correct spine width when you enter in the number of pages in your book and your trim size.
So, at this point I have a mocked up paperback cover designed. It’s easy enough to create an ebook cover. I also still need to create dust jackets for a hardcover regular print edition and a large print edition. So, that’s on the agenda for next week. Can a cover reveal be far behind?