How to Get a Custom Book Cover for $5 Using Fiverr by JP Medved

| Posted in Guest Posts, Tips and Tricks |


I’ve got a few thousand things on the plate for February (as usual), so I was glad to accept a guest post from a fellow steampunk author for this week. J.P. Medved is going to talk to you about how he got some nice covers made very inexpensively, by using talent found on Fiverr. I’ve paid for a couple of book-promotion gigs on Fiverr (only one was even worth the $5), but I wouldn’t have thought to look for cover artists there. I can see where it would make a lot of sense for an author without much money to spend and especially for an author publishing serials or short stories that aren’t likely to earn back the cost of more expensive artwork.

Anyway, enough from me. I’ll pass you off to J.P., so he can explain how he found good designers and how the process went.

How To Get an Awesome, Custom Book Cover for $5

covers banner cropped

First off I want to thank Lindsay for hosting me here.  Her blog is one of the main resources that inspired me to get into self publishing.

For this post I wanted to walk through my strategy for getting several, high quality covers made for $5 each.  I’ve done it for all of the books I have for sale on Amazon, and I’ve gotten numerous compliments on the covers from readers and fellow authors alike.  I’ll include images throughout the post so you can judge their quality for yourself.  This method is ideal for authors putting out a high volume of shorts or novellas, who don’t have the artistic ability to design their own covers.

To get the covers I used Fiverr.

Fiverr is a website where you can hire people to do services for $5.  There’s a whole section of the website for designers offering to do eBook and print book covers.  It’s a great way to get quality-looking book covers for cheap (given that most outside designers charge $100 and up for a single custom cover).

However, there’s a lot of dross on Fiverr, and if you’re not careful you could end up paying for an amateurish-looking product, or one that doesn’t fit your book at all.  To avoid that problem I follow three careful steps.

Step 1

Browse the book cover section of Fiverr for artists and click into the job postings (‘gigs’ in Fiverr-speak) of several of them that look appealing to you.  Look at the samples of their work, and their reviews.  Ideally you want artists with at least 20 reviews, and a 4.5-5 star average, with art you like and think fits your book.

fiverr ebook page

You’ll find that most artists will include “extras” with their gigs.  Things like “provide a fully editable PSD file of your cover” for an extra $10 or “purchase a stock photo” for an extra $5 etc.  I highly recommend springing for the stock photo option where possible, since this greatly enlarges the range of professional images you can get for your cover.

Select at least three of the top designers you like (remember, you’re saving a lot of money with this option, so it pays to compare) and order their gigs.

Step 2

You’ll get automatic messages from most artists asking for what you want on the cover.  Here’s an example I got from one:

Please provide the title, subtitle (optional) and author name.

Upload your stock image here if you’re supplying one, if not please give me an idea of what you’d like on the cover. Please remember if you’re not supplying a stock image I will do my best to find a suitable free one.

If you have any examples of covers you like you’re welcome to post links!

All covers are 1000px longest side unless ordered with a gig extra.

You should send the same response to all three (or more) designers so you can really compare apples to apples when you get their work back.

Here’s an example response I sent to three different artists:

This cover is for a steampunk short story. Here’s the details and an uploaded image as a guide:

Colors I would like to be earthy/subdued (dark reds, khakis, muted browns).

Text/headings should read:

Main title: To Rescue General Gordon

Subhead: A Clockwork Imperium Short Story

Author: J.P. Medved

Style: Old timey, Victorian, steampunk

Graphics/images on the cover: Ideally an airship/zepplin with the British flag on it

Examples of covers I like: I’ve attached a picture of essentially how I’d like the cover to be laid out, with the airship image going into the top circle.

Other details: The story is about British soldiers in 1895 stealing an airship to rescue a famous General in the Sudanese desert, so anything evoking the desert, the time period, or airships works well. Also, I’d like to use this style for future stories, so an easy way to change the main background color in the PSD/AI file would be a plus.

Fiverr allows you to upload files in messages to artists, and I’ve taken advantage of that ability multiple times to showcase examples of covers I like, sample layouts, or design elements I’d like to include.

In this case, I’d found an old Canadian Pacific Railway menu from 1910 that was laid out in a fashion I though perfectly illustrated the steampunk/Victorian vibe I wanted to capture, so I uploaded that to give the artists a rough idea of design.

canadian pacific menu

With this message and direction, I got several initial options back from artists.



Again, I only paid $10 for those two covers (I did opt for the PSD file for both, which added another $10, but the covers themselves were only $5 each).

Step 3

Fiverr cover artists typically allow one free revision, and I recommend using it wisely.  Show the cover drafts to friends, family, or others you trust with an eye for design to get their feedback.  Don’t take it personally if they actually provide it and suggest changes!  Almost always they have the necessary distance to recognize issues with the designs that you, as the author whose baby the artist is bringing to life, may not.

In this case since I vastly preferred one artist over the others, so I only asked her for revisions.  Here’s the email I sent with revisions:

Love it! Wondering if you could use this airship picture instead (perhaps cropped to get rid of the buildings):

Also wondering if you could use a slightly heavier, more Victorian font, this one looks a little too pirate-like. A couple examples I like are:

And perhaps add some color to the top title-text to make it stand out in a thumbnail (a light/gradianted red like this?


You can see the final cover here:


Advanced tips

If you know you’re doing a series with branded covers, make sure to get the PSD of the cover image, so you can manipulate the image for future covers, or pass the file on to another designer to do so if your chosen designer disappears from the site or becomes too busy.

I did this with the cover above, and have been able to use the same template to create a series of branded covers myself for cheap:

Clockwork series covers

Switch up cover designers for different genres, as often an artist good at one type of genre will be only so-so with another.  Here are some covers I got across multiple genres, almost all using different cover artists:

Other covers

Hope this was helpful; any other tips you have for getting great covers on the cheap?


J.P. Medved has just released the third novella in his steampunk, Clockwork Imperium series, called Airfleets Over Ostend.  The first novella in the series, and the one bearing the example cover described in this blog, To Rescue General Gordon, is now free at Amazon, so pick it up for a fun, quick read!

Sign up for his newsletter at to learn about new steampunk stories in the works, and to get a free short story as well.

3 Reasons to Bundle the Early Books in Your Series

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |


For some indie authors, bundling is a no-brainer. If you have three or more books in a series and plan to write more, then it’s a given that you’ll box up the first three (at least). You’ll work out the numbers, give the reader a buck or two off, and stick the bundle out there into the world.

Of course, if you haven’t experimented with bundling your own books yet (I’m not talking about being a part of a big multi-author bundle, which is a whole other beast), you may not see the point. Why discount your books when you could (maybe) make more by selling them individually? Why go through the hassle of formatting that big file and having new cover art designed? I’m glad you asked. I present…

3 Reasons to Bundle the Early Books in Your Series

1. The Potential to Increase Visibility on Amazon (and other stores)

There’s a saying that every book you have out there is a potential doorway into your world. You never know when and where someone will stumble across your work, grab the first book, and then go on to become a fan. But, you might argue, won’t your bundle end up being seen in all the same places as your regular series? Maybe, maybe not.

With a lot of authors, they find that there are multiple categories where their books might be a good fit, but they have to pick the top two. Granted, you can get in some other ones by knowing the right keywords, but you can still only be in two overarching categories, such as science fiction and fantasy. What if you’ve written something that could easily fit into the sub-categories under science fiction, fantasy, and romance?

With a bundle, you have an opportunity to put your series leader into different categories than your Book 1, and you have the potential to start showing up in the also-boughts for different books.

2. The Ability to Tinker with Different Blurbs and Cover Art for the Same Books

In the marketing world, there’s something called split testing, where you show different ad copy to different groups of potential customers to see which ad is more effective. That’s tough to do on Amazon and the other stores, where you can only have one cover and blurb in play at a time. You can change things up from month to month (and many successful authors do exactly that), but with the bundle you can do more of a side-by-side comparison of what’s more effective, or you can deliberately take a different angle with the bundle blurb, in order to possibly attract a different group of readers.

This is what I did with my Dragon Blood boxed set.

When I wrote the first book in that series, Balanced on the Blade’s Edge, I designed it as a stand-alone steampunk romance novel, and the blurb I created for it reflects that. The romance blurb formula is usually three paragraphs, one about the heroine and her problems, one about the hero and his problems, and one about how they’ll have to work together and overcome great difficulties to make their love work.

That blurb was appropriate for that book, but there was action, adventure, humor, etc., too, so I didn’t think that only romance readers could enjoy it. Also, as I continued with the series, I realized there was a lot more going on than smoochy bits. There was a war to fight and a nation to protection, and then we had this whole mystery of whether or not there were dragons left alive somewhere in the world.

So, when it came time to put the first three books together in a bundle (because I was about to release the fourth book and was, as always, hoping to draw in some new readers), I tried a very different blurb for it. I also tried some new cover art for the “box” too. I emphasized the romance elements less and played up the elements that were important in the series as a whole. I also gave the cover art and the blurb more of an epic fantasy feel than a steampunk feel (I’m one of those authors whose work rarely fits neatly into categories, and aside from the fact that there are dirigibles and WWI-style planes in this, the books are similar in style to much of what would be considered high/epic fantasy).

Now, I fully acknowledge that I may get reviews from readers who were unenthused that they got airplanes and a romance in their fantasy, but I did still mention the tech and the romance elements in the blurb, so I’ll hope I end up with more people who like the stories than who don’t. Even if I get less than enthusiastic reviews from some, I already know that readers who had never tried my work before picked up the bundle, enjoyed it, and went on to grab the fourth book in the series (some were kind of enough to email me and tell me so).

Of course, for most of us, a bundle does not sell itself. So, let me talk about one of the other benefits of boxing up your early books.

3. It’s Easier to Get into Bookbub and Some of the Other Pickier Sponsorship Sites

Now, I can’t promise you that boxing up your first three books is the magic thing that’s going to get you accepted by Bookbub if you never have been before. What I can tell you is that, now that they’ve gotten bigger and pickier, they reject my stuff as often as they accept it (I couldn’t get a holiday ad for anything). However, they have yet to reject one of my bundles. I’ve advertised the Emperor’s Edge 1-3 omnibus twice with them (and I’m going to revamp it for a third run later this year, using the very advice I’m offering in this post), and they grabbed this one right away too.

I know that’s not a huge sample size, but if you go hunt around on the Bookbub blog and on their site, I’m fairly certain they’ve mentioned a couple of times that they’re more attracted by being able to offer bigger discounts to their readers. If you’re like most indie authors, you probably sell your full-length novels for $3-$5. Offering a $4 book for 99 cents is a nice discount, but it’s not as good of a discount as a three-book set discounted from $8-$10 to 99 cents.

Not only did Bookbub pick up my Dragon Blood set earlier in January, but I applied to Ereader News Today’s “Book of the Day” sponsorship and was accepted for that too. I’m pretty sure they’ve never accepted me for that before (I’ve been on some of their lists of bargain books, along with numerous other authors, but mine hasn’t been featured in a dedicated post before).

The end result was that I sold over 10,000 copies of the DB boxed set between the 18th and now (the 29th), about 8,000 at Amazon and more than 2,500 at Barnes and Noble (unfortunately for me, I didn’t have it up at iTunes and it never really caught on at Kobo). Not all of these sales came directly from the sponsorships (I attribute about 4000 sales, between Amazon and B&N, to Bookbub and another 1000 to the more recent ENT plug). The others came as a result of people seeing the bundle at the top of the epic fantasy and steampunk lists and, presumably, deciding it looked interesting and was a great deal.

In the past, I’ve bumped the price back up to normal soon after a Bookbub ad, but in this case, the ENT and BB sponsorships were about 10 days apart, and I decided to leave the box at 99 cents and let it ride in between. This is largely because it continued to sell fairly well during that time. (I didn’t check every day, since I kept expecting things to fall off, as is the norm for my stuff, but I believe it stayed under a 500 sales ranking during that time.)

Eventually, I will put the bundle back up to $8 (which is still a deal, compared to buying the three books individually), because selling novels (especially three novels combined) at 99 cents is something I’ll only do in a special situation like this, where I can potentially get lots of new people trying the series. You have to weigh the value of that against the fact that you may end up making less than you usually would by selling the novels individually at higher prices, but for all of the reasons I’ve outlined above, I think it’s a good idea to bundle up the early books in your series (and then put them on sale periodically).

Bonus Reason! 

I almost forgot about this one, but it’s the reason I made a bundle of my Flash Gold novellas.

You can reach the 70% royalty split on a bundle of less expensive short stories or novellas

If you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable charging $2.99 for a short story or even a novella, then you’re probably grumbling because you’re only making the %35 royalty rate on those 99-cent or 1.99 sales. If you do a series of short stories or novellas (or if they can logically be grouped together because they fit a theme), then bundle them up and offer them at $2.99 or higher. The readers can still get a deal, while you can end up earning more on those shorter works over all.

All right, this time I’m really done. Have you had any experience with bundling your books? How has it gone?

6 Ways to Make Money as an Author (in Addition to Selling Books)

| Posted in New Author Series, Tips and Tricks |


The “KU Apocalypse,” as some writers have called it, has cut into the bottom line for many independent authors, especially those who have refused to participate in Amazon’s KDP Select program, because they’re not willing to go exclusive with the mega retailer. I’ll be the first to admit that the sales rankings on most of my books have taken a dive since the program launched this summer.

I thought I would write this post to offer some ideas for authors who are feeling the pinch and are staring at their sales reports, wondering what they can do to boost the income a little. I do a couple of these things already, mostly out of habit (as some of you know, I was a professional blogger/content creator for my day job before I could make a living from my fiction, and I watched what a lot of the internet marketing gurus were doing, even if I never fully immersed myself in that world), and because it just makes sense not to leave money on the table.

Before jumping in, I’m assuming that as an author, you already have a mailing list and a blog (and possibly other avenues of putting out content beyond your books). If you don’t, maybe this will give you another reason to rethink the decision not to have those things.

1. Affiliate Income from Mentioning Your Books in Your Newsletter

Every time I send out word of a new release to the readers who subscribe to my newsletter, I put the links to my books in the email, and for the Amazon pages, I use an affiliate link. (Not a member of the program yet? Sign up here.) This means I get 70% of the ebook price from selling a book on Amazon and also that I get another 7% or so (the percentage depends on how many products you sell in any given month) from the affiliate commission.

Now, if you’ve got four people on your mailing list and you’re selling seven books a month, you’re not going to make a big wad of dough doing this. But if you’re determined to become a career author, and you’re succeeding in slowly building up a mailing list and accumulating readers, then this extra money can add up eventually. As some of the ladies pointed out on the recent Mailing List episode of the Self Publishing Podcast, this can end up covering all of the expenses associated with running a newsletter service and then some. (Many newsletters are free to start but then start to cost $XX/month as you acquire more subscribers.)

*Note: I’ve been too lazy to apply for the other stores, but Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo all have affiliate programs too.

2. Affiliate Income from Mentioning OTHER People’s Books in Your Newsletter

Even if you’re prolific, there’s a limit to how often you’re going to release a new book, but common newsletter-publishing wisdom suggests that you stay in touch with your subscribers so they don’t forget about you (and then unsubscribe in a huff when they get a random email six months after they’ve signed up).

So what do you send them? If you’re reading widely in your genre and have some books you would be comfortable recommending, you can send them the latest title that rocked your reading world (with the affiliate code of course). You want to be careful here and not just send random books that you haven’t vetted, but readers are always on the lookout for more good books, and chances are, if they like what you write, they’re going to like a lot of the same types of books as you do.

Since I’ve read so little fantasy of late, I haven’t done this much (I’m going to try it with my pen name’s mailing list, because I’ve actually read more in that genre in these last couple of years), but I have done this with some of my beta readers’ books. We all write fantasy and have similarly quirky senses of humor, so I feel comfortable recommending their books.

If there are other independent authors you read and enjoy who write in your genre, you may even look into forming partnerships with them where they promote your new releases and you promote theirs.

I do think you have to be careful with these situations and make sure you’re still primarily giving your readers what they subscribed for — news about you and your works. What you can do when you’re plugging someone else’s book is also include an update about what’s going on with your own works in progress.

3. Affiliate Links on Your Blog/Author Website

I know, I know, you’re sensing a theme here… I’ll change it up after this, but let’s add this section too.

If you’ve been thinking of starting a blog, but you’ve been told it’s not very effective at selling books, what  if you were also making money from other things? At the least, you could have affiliate links for all of your books, but if you’re the kind of person who reads a lot, you can also review other people’s books, the same as with the newsletter.

The difference between your website and a newsletter is that there’s less risk that you’re going to be “bugging” someone by putting something in their inbox that they didn’t ask for. Also, if you’re blogging about things people are interested in, you can get random traffic from the search engines with first-time visitors landing on your site, visitors who might never have heard about you otherwise. They might just check out your books while they’re there. (I don’t sell a lot of books through this blog, , but I do sell some — because of the affiliate links, I can tell where the sales originated.)

So, what do you write about on your site? Product reviews work great with ads and affiliate links. Ebooks aren’t the way to riches, since the affiliate commissions are going to be pretty low unless you’re selling $10 ebooks, but if you’re a tech lover, you might also review some of the latest products related to reading that you’ve purchased or had the chance to play with. I reviewed one of the kindles before the holidays one year and ended up making some nice commissions, since these were $200 products. Before Christmas, you’ll get a lot of people buying extra items on Amazon, too, and you make a commission on anything they buy within the 24 hours that they click on your link.

4. Running Advertising on Your Blog/Site

This is how I made a living when I was a professional blogger (thank you, Google Adsense). I don’t do it on my author page, because I don’t feel the need to and I also don’t want to send people away from my site (and my books), which is what happens when people click on an ad, but the tradeoff is that I don’t make much money from this site, despite putting time into it every week.

If you’re producing content regularly and writing about more than your own writing struggles and book launches (as I mentioned, some people review books or other products), then it can make sense to add advertising to your site. If you’re a non-fiction author, this can be especially effective. Nobody’s out there bidding a lot for placement on ads about “fantasy novels,” but if you cover diet and fitness, home repair, travel, or even self-publishing, there are merchants with related products who want to advertise on your site.

Wet your feet with Google Adsense, and if you don’t mind giving up the real estate on your site and you have the traffic to support it, you can also sell banner or text links directly to interested parties (this takes more work since you have to find interested parties).

5. Setting up a Subscription Model

This is something I toy with every now and then but have never done myself. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take on the pressure of putting something out every month for reader-subscribers. But there is no steadier income than having subscribers who are automatically paying $X every month or quarter. The money is typically withdrawn from their account (Paypal has a subscription option) until they unsubscribe. And if you’re giving them what they want, they might stick around for a while.

So how would this work for an author? The guys over at the Self Publishing Podcast are so prolific that they started a subscription service for their “Story Studio” that allows their dedicated readers to get their newest content every month, often before they release it to the stores. I believe this is a fairly new endeavor for them, but it’s a way to bypass the retailers, sell direct to the customer, and earn more overall on your books.

Don’t think you can put out a new novel a month? Yeah, that’s kind of crazy. But here’s someone else that I interviewed a couple of years ago who uses a subscription model for short fiction.

The ultra prolific Dean Wesley Smith puts out an entire magazine of his own work every month.

A perk to starting a subscription service? The added pressure to produce! Okay, okay, that’s the same thing that has me leery of doing this, but if you need a reason to get your butt in the chair every day, the fact that people are waiting for the next story might just do the job.

6. Get Support Directly from Readers with Patreon

I first heard about this service from Joanna Penn, AKA The Creative Penn, who is using it to help cover the time she puts into publishing her free podcast. The site is called Patreon and its exactly what it sounds like, an opportunity for someone to act as a patron to support your work. There’s a long history of well-off individuals supporting artists and writers, but this brings it into the 21st Century, allowing anyone to support, by donating as little as $1 a month.

As an example, here’s Joanna’s Patreon page, where people pay a dollar or two per podcast that she produces.

Personally, I like this more than the Kickstarter “crowd-funding” model, which is great if you genuinely need the money to make something happen, but can feel a little skeezy (yes, that’s a word) if you’re doing well financially and still trying to get people to back something.

I browsed through the writing category, and it looks like a lot of people are finding support for their web comics, but I bet someone publishing a novel to the web could find some supporters too. If the KU Apocalypse continues, maybe I’ll even give it a try!

That’s all I have for today. If you’re doing any of these things, or doing something else, we would love to hear about it. Please comment!

How to Get Your Book into More Categories on Amazon with Keywords

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |


If you’ve published any ebooks through Amazon’s KDP dashboard, you know they allow you to select two categories (i.e. Fantasy/Epic or Science Fiction/Steampunk) for your work, and then they have a box where you can type in seven keywords, though they don’t really say if those keywords can be used to help you show up in the search results or what the deal is. They’re just… there.

If you browse around Amazon, you may also have noticed that there are subcategories for ebooks that aren’t options in the dashboard (i.e. Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Coming of Age or Romance/Paranormal/Witches & Wizards). Because some of these categories are so niched down (and because they’re not selectable on the dashboard), the competition can be low. It might only take a 50,000 sales ranking to appear in the Top 100.

So how the heck do you get into them?

I figured out a while ago that fiddling around with the keywords might do it, but at the time I was doing best guess stuff. Like maybe throwing “swords & sorcery” in there would make me appear in Fantasy/Swords & Sorcery. (That one did work, though as I later learned, all I had to plug in was “sword.”)

Then, a couple of months ago, I heard from someone that Amazon KDP had a help page floating around that told you the keywords that you could use to get into those more obscure categories. However, it wasn’t until I heard the Self Publishing Roundtable’s Keyword & Category show that I got the link for it. (Thanks, guys, and I’m glad you’ve got the audios on iTunes as podcasts now.)

Here’s the link for “Selecting Browse Categories” via the KDP dashboard.

I went through and added appropriate keywords to my own books this weekend. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference in sales for me at this point, but it might the next time I run a Bookbub advertisement or release a new title that could potentially do well in a number of categories. The more places you can show up in the Top 100 (or, even better, the Top 20), the better the odds are that your book will be seen and purchased.

Here’s the before and after for an older novel of mine, Encrypted (you can check what categories your book is currently in by scrolling to the bottom of the sales page):




As you can see, the book shows up in twice as many spots now. With my stuff, it doesn’t usually fit into many categories to start with, so there’s a limit to how many I’m going to get, even with tinkering, but the fellow being interviewed on that podcast said he had seen as many as sixteen categories for one of his books. I’m sure that could make a big difference in sales with a new release or recently advertised book that’s ranking high and appearing in scads of categories.

If you experiment and it makes a difference, let us know!


Tips for Getting a Movie Deal as an Independent Author (with Lisa Grace)

| Posted in Interviews / Success Stories, Tips and Tricks |


It seems that most authors love the idea of seeing their books on the big screen — and the extra income from selling book rights to a movie producer doesn’t hurt either. But is a possibility as an independent author? Sure, you say, sell enough books and they’ll come knocking on your door, but do you have to sell zillions and become as famous as Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey before someone approaches you?

Well, it happened to indie author Lisa Grace. She not only sold the rights to her books, but the first one is in production now. She’s here today to give some tips for those authors who’re hoping to see their characters being played by their favorite actors.

Getting a Movie Deal as an Independent Author with Lisa Grace

Can you tell us about what made you decide to self-publish and the events that led up to the movie deal?

DIGITAL CAMERAThanks Lindsay for having me as a guest on your blog. I decided I would self publish on May 23rd, 2011 as an ebook after getting some interest from an agent who said he would shop around my book. Seven months later he tells me he was too busy with other clients and never got around to approaching anyone, but he thought it was good and he didn’t want me taking it to someone else. Luckily, I’d been writing book 2 in the meantime. So I self published them as ebooks only seven weeks apart. I made it to #1 on the Amazon sub genre lists for teen horror in the Kindle store, which is where two movie producers saw. it. It was bumped to #2 by the 1983 book , A Woman in Black which was being made into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, AKA Harry Potter.

Movie producers do look at the best seller genre lists to find books that interest them. I went with the one I felt offered the best chance of getting the movie made. Motion Picture Pro Studios.

A few months later they sent me the contract, I hired an entertainment lawyer, and a few months after that, I had signed an option agreement for the first two books in my series. Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 is currently free at all major ebook retailers if your readers want to check it out. Motion Picture Pro Studios “exercised” the option, and the project is currently in development.


I think people assume you have to be a mega-seller to attract these guys. Do you mind sharing how many books you were selling at the time? Or perhaps how visible your books were (Top XX at Amazon?)?

Being at the top in your genre is important. They have to feel passionate about the project, and feel it will translate well to film. I’m very much a mid lister. I’ve made it to #13 in the free ranks back in the days when you could move 12,000 a day outside the romance genre. I’m not sure that’s as easy to do now. I slid in fairly high to the paid ranks coming off of free, but never stayed on op top of all Kindle books for very long. At that time, the only place my ebooks were available was on Amazon. I only opened distribution this year in December 2012, to more book stores.

Do producers always find your book on their own and come to you, or are you aware of any ways a moderately successful indie author can get in contact with them and suggest their title?

Producers are like book agents. They get pitched to all the time. They want to find projects on their own, and do. After all, it has to be something they feel passionate about. Shoot. I wish I could get them to be interested in all my books! I’d love to have everything I write optioned for a movie, but that isn’t likely to happen.

Every deal I know about, it’s been either a book agent pitching it to a director (who will read it first) or the producer reading the book and loving it.

You seem to have gained quite a bit of insight into how and why books get picked up. What genres or types of stories are more likely to attract producers?

It depends on what the producers like. Some skip around different genres, some stick with one. They’re just people who know what they like and what they can do with a project. Your best bet is to write a good book that makes it to the top of its genre so those who might be interested find it and read it. Also, some authors do have producers coming back to them again and again, because they’re writing books that will translate well to film.

In your guest post, you suggested writing, “A Simple Story in Seventy to One Hundred Scenes.” Can you talk a little about that for my audience here?

There are certain authors who get their books optioned all the time, because they write books that will translate well to film. By the way, you won’t be hearing from them, because they’ve got a wonderful second income coming in from optioning their stuff, and they don’t want you moving in on their market. I’ve heard from many of them privately.

One idea that helps is the “man in the box” type of writing, where scenes are set in one location. It makes a movie cheaper to shoot. Most movies are not huge blockbusters, and costs are a consideration.

Write a novel that can be broken down into seventy to one hundred scenes. Most movies are only going to be between an hour and half to two hours. There is a market for selling movies to TV and cable, after commercial release, and if your story takes longer to tell, your chances of getting a deal decrease. These suggestions come directly from producers (the money people with all the power, they sign the checks) that I’ve had discussions with.

You’ll get authors and scriptwriters who aren’t selling their stuff who disagree (I know because I’ve heard from them too), but I think I’ll listen to the ones signing the checks and so do the authors who are getting one book after the other optioned.

If there’s any parting advice you’d like to share, please feel free to do so.

Write the best book you can. Then write the next one. “See” your books as a movie in your head. Do think about costs when planning out settings. For instance, setting a book on a sinking cruise ship is a lot more expensive than setting it in a forest.

Watch movies in your genre (not block busters, but those with budgets of 2mil to 25mil) and take them apart scene by scene, so you get an idea of what a novel would need to include to translate well. I’d also suggest praying as it can’t hurt. Enjoy the journey because even if your book is optioned, it may never make it into development, and if it makes it into development, it may not make into pre-production. Movie making is a loooong process, so once you sign your option, kiss your baby goodbye, and start working on the next one.


Visit Lisa and check out all of her work on her website, or say hi on Twitter and Facebook. You can also hop over to Amazon or Smashwords to grab copies.

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