State of Writing


I casually remarked to a fellow Rotary member today at lunch, “I thought things were supposed to calm down for me after the summer.” I must be a terrible judge of these things.

Regardless, I’m keeping on task with my edits. Fear in a Land Without Shadows should be sent to my editor by the weekend. I had a blast signing books and meeting people over the weekend at one of my few out-of-state events over the weekend at Iowa’s longest running comic book store (thanks Oak Leaf Comics) who had their 40th anniversary celebration.

Hopefully, after this week I can start outlining The Hidden Rings of Myrddin the Cambion… I also have need for a few people to beta read the second Wolves of the Tesseract novel and the third Kakos Realm books. Contact me if you want to read them and provide feedback!


Where to get Art for your DIY Cover


For many DIY authors who have either a familiarity with software and aspects of design, access to great templates for covers, or just want to try their own hand making covers, knowing where to get license free artwork is a boon.

One quick caveat on cover art, many people have made many, many really bad book covers. Good enough to satisfy doesn’t cut it. This is one more area where the failure of indies (or their apathy towards the subject) has made the term “self-published” synonymous with “crap.” Please don’t take a dump on the pile and add to it. If you are committed to releasing a DIY cover into the wild, please make sure that it doesn’t reflect poorly upon indies as a whole. There are many services who will gladly contract with you to design the cover you have in mind (but check their portfolio, first, to make sure he or she isn’t some fly-by night with a demo copy of Photoshop striking out with no more skill than you.) If you see multiple images that you’d love merged into your ideal graphic but don’t have the skill to seamlessly integrate them, please don’t go alone.

There are many places to acquire stock images for use in your covers. and are both highly recommended. I have memberships at both and use Shutterstock often. I have also been a member of for many years. Its forum has been a mostly fruitful place for me to hire professional illustrators for a variety of writing-related commissions.

For the ultimate in DIY on the cheap you can search for free images at sources that aggregate CC0 license stock images. Please use these places and not Google Image Search. A Google search will show copyrighted images and you can quickly find yourself in legal trouble for infringement—and an author who willfully infringes on the copyright of someone else (pretty close to plagiarism) will find little support from the community at large. CC0 stands for Creative Commons Zero. Under the terms of the license, all images may be used, displayed, or modified freely for personal or commercial use. The only stipulation is that identifiable faces should not be used in potentially offensive ways (like erotica book covers). No attribution is needed. (More here:

My favorite site tops this list, others follow.


Picking your cover art and design motifs are one thing, but remember the practical things, too. Your spine’s thickness will depend upon exactly how many pages are in your book, and whether your pages are white or crème (they have different thicknesses that add up.) Rather than do all of the math, I’d recommend searching online for a “book cover calculator” that will adjust your spine width for you and give you a template to design over with proper bleed and trim edges. Both Createspace and Ingramspark have these features built into their creation wizards and allow users to upload their own files for quality proofing by their own experts (mostly Skynet computers who gained sentience.)

Because of the large file sizes and opportunities to constantly tweak, change, or mess up, I recommend saving often, and save in multiple formats. I always save any final WIP that I intend to upload as a Photoshop PDF with all layers merged together and at 300DPI (always work in 300DPI—you can always lose quality, but never gain it). Some publishers have maximum file sizes to keep their servers from imploding; merging the layers helps bring that size down.

When all is said and done and you are done tweaking and adjusting your graphics, make sure to get a physical proof ordered by your printer. Oftentimes colors will represent as darker or lighter when ink hits the paper. I try to intentionally upgrade the vibrancy of my covers so that they pop more. Printed covers tend to either look darker or more faded out than they do on the screen.

Happy designing, and don’t feel bad if you get unhappy results. I’ve scrapped many pieces that I didn’t love… and my biggest regrets come from using artwork that wasn’t quite ready for the world to see. Don’t publish unfinished art or unedited stories. The world won’t thank you for not doing that… but it will ridicule you if you do.

Review: Ride the Star Wind

rideI’ve always been a little skeptical of anthologies. I did a convention this week and my table mate sold out of his anthology while I nearly sold out of mine. With the quality of production and content on the rise, it’s easy to see how anthologies like Ride the Star Wind are changing opinions.

Ride the Star Wind is definitely the best anthology I’ve reviewed (and I’m very picky with anthologies over here at Inside the Inkwell.) I don’t say that lightly. I haven’t yet read every story, but that’s because I’m savoring it. These guys at Broken Eye Books nailed everything about the Lovecraftian mythos and it feels amazing.

I was a little concerned at first when I saw a preview of the cover art. A lot of great popmetal and metalcore bands were doing art like this (it’s almost a nu-ratfink) ten years ago and it exploded. The problem was that so many artists were merely doing copycat pieces to make a few bucks without really embracing the weirdness of it. By this I mean that it fits a certain mold and when you look at it up close it loses something. But not this one. This art is amazing! Everything on the cover is spot-on (I recommend getting the paperback for sure, everything from the finish and feel of the book to the fonts and color.) Seriously, I’d hang this as a poster in my mancave next to my Imax floor to ceiling Logan movie poster. The interior illustrations are also right on the money, even in black and white and the little touches like the Elder Sign paragraph breaks and the story title blocks preserves the feel of the book.

As far as stories and content, the feel is awesome. There are good stories in here! (I’m not going into specifics because it is an anthology and it will vary from piece to piece.) H.P. Lovecraft didn’t write novels; a huge swath of his work was limited in word count and wouldn’t even be considered a novelette. That said, those who really know Lovecraft will feel like this book is a big heaping pile of authentic cosmic horror, and in all the best ways possible.

I know the paperback looks a little expensive if you’ve bought anthologies before—but don’t let that fool you… this isn’t like others. It’s roughly two and a half times the size of the last antho I picked up, so you’re getting at least an equal value on it (and this comes from a guy who hates spending more than twenty bucks on a book.)

I did receive my copy for free in exchange for an honest review. You’ll have to pay for yours, but if you’re into the genre, I have a feeling that you won’t regret it. You can check it out by clicking here!

State of Writing

I probably sound like a broken record… but I stay pretty busy. In a period of 11 days (starting a couple days ago) I have two library readings, a television interview, a comicon, and a gust appearance at an out of state comic book store. Luckily, I have a few days’ vacation in the mix to help my sanity.

If you are in Marshall on Thursday evening come hang out at the public library. If you’re in north Iowa, on Saturday I’ll be a guest at Oak Leaf Comics’ 40th Anniversary in Mason City and it sounds like it’s going to be a big deal! Don’t let them fool you–there is more than corn in IA.

Last week’s editing stayed mostly on course. I’d hope to be done with Part 2, but didn’t quite make it. I’ll be there this week, though, so I’m going to keep pressing forward. Lots to do!


How to Line up Author Events at B&N/Chain Bookstores


Luckily for authors who want to get in on chain store signings, Barnes and Nobles released an article specifically listing the ways that authors can secure spots for signings and events at their store locations.
While their website mentions that they often host people with a small following, that is not always the case. The above, official website basically says “just call your local store.”

There are a few things to make sure you’ve done before you make contact.

  1. Get independent feedback on your book and make sure it feels professional (content is appealing, internal and external elements meet professional standards.)
  2. Make sure that your book is returnable and has at least a 55% wholesale discount. (Indies can set this up with your Ingramspark account for your book—chains do not, as a general rule, work with Createspace. Avoid talking about Createspace since it is their main competitor. Because of this, most of my titles aren’t even available on the expanded distribution channels within the Createspace author tools. As far as bookstores are concerned, I hate Amazon.)
  3. Rehearse or roleplay speaking with a manager if you are nervous. Remember that writing is a form of communication; you want to represent yourself well as a professional communicator.
  4. Know your ISBN.
  5. If you have specific and relevant good reviews, use them.
  6. Have a press kit prepared so that you can send it at the drop of the hat.
  7. Do your homework. Know where you are calling and who to talk to.

When I started securing signings, I called a random B&N and asked to speak to the CRM about a signing. The location was a store that I used to spend a lot of time in, but because of its location and area decline they rarely held author events there any longer. He did refer me to the largest store in his area and gave me its CRM’s name. Tip: always ask for more information than you think you might need. The next store was able to set up a future event (partly because I name-dropped the first CRM, and partly because they immediately looked up my book on Amazon to check my reviews.) In order to have the best sales possible (which is in the store’s best interest—it’s not considered greedy to make this happen,) I asked two things: 1) what do you normally do/expect with authors and 2) what times/days seem to generate the best results for sales and/or foot traffic. Eagerness to help the store succeed is the right kind of enthusiasm to demonstrate.

The CRM might say yes, they might not. This is the right person to talk to. He or she has the power to book whichever authors they want at a local level provided the wholesale discount and returnability are set properly. While some chains do not accept POD or independent books (Books-a-Million) Barnes and Nobles’ CRMs are not tied to any rule against them. Past bad experiences, however, with unprepared writers or poorly produced books can make them reluctant. Sell yourself and ask how you can overcome any potential objections—some CRMs who might be opposed to an indie author signing might be less resistant to using you at a larger “local authors” event or a “new authors” day if they have that sort of multi-author event which are typically no more than once per year, but draw larger crowds.

The trick to securing a book signing is to pick up a phone and call. That’s easily the biggest part. Fear and lethargy often win the day and many authors simply talk themselves out of the ask. Fear can be very real: learn to fake it if you have to, but you’ve got to make the call (pump some Eye of the Tiger beforehand if you need to, but pick up the phone.) Maybe you’ve been rejected before—so call the next store. If it happens a few times, feel free to ask the event manager for feedback and even permission to call back in the future. Use smaller rejections to prepare for greater future success. Everything can be a learning experience.

A couple things to remember about setting up signings at chain bookstores:

  1. Approach book stores several months in advance of your targeted date.
  2. Be prepared to “pitch” an event manager or coordinator.
  3. Help spread the word through all media outlets (free and paid) available to you.
  4. Double check everything (if it’s an indie store, make sure they have books for your signing!)
  5. Travel with a toolkit that includes pens, promo materials, etc. Mine includes pushpins, rubber bands, and duct tape—all of which have saved the day at different times.
  6. Pre-decide on any passages for readings.
  7. Be sure to send a thank-you and follow up with everyone involved.

These things often apply to smaller, independent stores as well.

Newest Cover Reveal

I got a new WIP beta copy of the upcoming Kakos Realm #3. I wanted to share with those of you who have been waiting so patiently for the newest installment. After the doubled up review posting from last week I feel I earned myself a brag post on a Tuesday (when I usually promote other author’s books.)



I’ve got a few things that need polishing up on the inside, but I’m excited to begin getting these into my readers’ hands!

State of Writing

gaaa! I meant to write this in the morning… life has been crazy lately! I’m still editing and doin all the stuff i need to, though. I have been trying to do about half a dozen chapters per week on a quick rewrite to tighten up phrasing, etc, on Fear in a Land Without Shadows so I can send it to a line editor to check it over one final time before I send it to the agent who has requested it.

In the meantime, I’m also plowing through some of Mark Dawson’s programs on platform building and it’s really good stuff! I’m getting excited to start using his methods/models to increase my author brand awareness.

However, it would be a lot easier if the world would just shower me with money. And that’s why I never carry an umbrella. It’s also why I tend to get wet in the rain.

the Indie Author’s Bible

So I accidentally published my Tuesday review on a Monday by mistake. I guess I’m all over the map this week–so why not throw in an extra post?

My how-to/DIY guide for Indie authors is finally out–pick up a copy today!

“I’m writing a novel… what are the steps?”
“My masterpiece is finished—where do I go now?”
“My fantasy series doesn’t fit in with any mainstream publisher—how do I self-publish and do it right?”
These are the sorts of questions we answer, and more!


You wrote a book and need help breaking in? Need to know more about Indie and Traditional publishing models? Want a guided process to get your seeing your book in print?
This is the book for you!


This book will show you how to get your manuscript independently published at zero cost, provided you can do the hard work required–you can be as successful as you want to be. This book cover topics such us:Step by step roadmap to getting in print

  • •How to get your book into Audible
    •How to spot predatory publishers/services
    •How to format your interior copy
    •Where to get free art for covers
    •How to get carried on bookstore shelves
    •Wasteful practices to avoid
    •Guide to meeting professional standards
    •How to create ebook & paperback coupons
    •The importance of reviews
    •Best practices for self-editing
    •And so much more…

The Indie world is a jungle and there are few well-beaten paths—and unlike you’d expect, even some of those well-beaten paths end in spike pits, too. If you want to navigate it safely, you might find a guide… like this book. This is a practical book with step-by-step advice to guide any writer through becoming an Indie author. It also covers some of the “why” aspects and peeks beneath the scenes showing failures, successes, inside information, and encouragement for the ultimate do-it-yourselfer.


How to Format Your Book’s Interior


I have seen a large number of different format designs for pages. There is very little by way of right and wrong when it comes to font, letter size, margins, etc. It is not a one-size fits all motif. There are some industry standards, however, and some things that just make sense.

I write about size of books elsewhere, but book dimensions are a tricky thing. Many people prefer a 6×9 for all books—I hate 6×9 unless I’m reading nonfiction… then I think it’s the perfect size. I prefer a 5.5×8.5 in fact or even a 5×8. Font choice also ranges greatly but I recommend standard fonts like Times New Roman or Courier and an approximate size somewhere between 11 and 14, depending on the genre and audience. Line spacing is very important as well. Double spacing is much too large, 1.5 is better, and 1.15 is my preference (for fiction, anyway,) and 1.0 is much too crowded and strains the eyes.

Margins are very important. One inch is pretty common, but leaves more whitespace at the edges than many readers care for, unless the book is a 6×9. Half-inch is better for fiction if the trim size is less than 6×9. Gutter margins are another thing you will need to keep in mind.

What the heck are gutter margins you say? When your book is bound, the left hand side of the recto page (and right hand of the verso) needs extra space to account for the spine of the book and where the thick sheaf of paper is glued together at the binding. If you don’t create a gutter margin your text will run off into oblivion (especially if your margins are tight). It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds. Simply put, a gutter margin is an additional amount of space your word processing software will add to the binding side to keep the margins correct. The size of your gutter margins depend upon the overall page count of your book. Createspace recommends the following gutter sizes:

24-50 pages        .375”
151-400 pages   .75”
400-600 pages   .875”
+600 pages         1.0”

Formatting might sound like a lot of headaches and monkeying around when you just want to write (and there are plenty of people who will do all your formatting for a fee,) but it really is critical to get this right. It’s important because there are industry standards, poor formatting hastens eye fatigue and makes readers quit, it helps salability, and it helps profitability.

At the end of the day, reducing whitespace (within reason) means fewer pages and that means extra money earned per book sold. If the layout looks bad with text too small, too large, too squished, or bad margins the interior looks unprofessional and thus unappealing and that turns people off from buying it. Those same things cause the eyes and minds of the people who do read it to get tired more quickly making them more likely to put the book down. A little time spent tweaking formats can have a broad impact down the road on the reader side.

The Independent Book Publishers Association lists a number of generally recognized industry standards on their website: (you can check out their list of standards for covers as well). The standards include:

  1. Professional appearance
  2. Appropriate, easily readable font for body of text
  3. Consistent headers and footers
  4. Proper punctuation usage (em dash, hyphens, etc.)
  5. Appropriate margins
  6. Strategic trim size

The interior file should also include the following elements in addition to the text of the story:

  1. Half-Title page (has just the title of the book on the first page… this page is optional)
  2. Title Page to include title/subtitle of book, author(s)/editors, illustrators, publisher and location. The Title and Half-Title pages should always be on the right hand side (recto) pages
  3. Copyright page (should be on left-hand [verso] page following Title Page,) that includes copyright date and holder, copyright notice, edition information, Library of Congress info, publisher info, ISBN, title, author, design credits, waivers, and disclaimers
  4. Optional Dedication
  5. Optional Table of Contents
  6. Optional Acknowledgements page, including possible back matter for footnotes, endnotes, and formally credited citations
  7. About the Author (this may appear in front matter, back matter, or on the jacket/rear cover)

Ebook formatting is slightly different. When creating an ebook from a paperback (if you are using Createspace) you can automatically push the file from Createspace to Kindle/KDP and the conversion will take place automatically for you. This means that as long as you did it correctly for the paperback the ebook should be fine. Smashwords, however (which you should definitely use) has their own formatting procedures which are perhaps a little more difficult to nail down correctly (things like hyperlinks within the text and specific formatting methods for the Table of Contents, front matter, back matter, etc.) the end result is actually a more powerful book and one that is available on more platforms. While some people don’t bother with Smashwords because of the added difficulty and the fact that the sales via Smashwords pale in comparison to Amazon, it is worth it for a variety of other reasons. Smashwords pushes the book to Kobo, iBooks, B&N, and bunch of other places where users shop; the primary reason I like it, though, is the ease of setting up coupons to give discounts or free copies to people like reviewers, press, con attendees, etc. Smashwords and other specific ebook hosting/publishing outlets will have their own specific guidelines on how to format, prepare, and submit files.

Review: Kinglet


I didn’t know anything about Donna Migliaccio (or her publisher, Fiery Seas Publishing) or The Gemeta Stone books that she writes. I stumbled on them quite accidentally while chatting about nonrelated items on a forum over at Absolute Write and Migliaccio was kind enough to send me a review copy for my Inside the Inkwell blog.

Comparatively speaking it felt like a splendid mix of RA Salvatore and Christopher Paolini. Whereas Salvatore can read stylistically like a fantasy version of Stephen King (for all the pros and cons there) Paolini can sometimes keep on point and keep it short—perhaps to a fault. Migliaccio’s writing is a good mix and keeps the story moving nicely but the worldbuilding feels more smooth and established, like Salvatore.

It had some elements that give it a YA feel, but also some that seemed more like it targeted a mainstream market; by that I mean there is a kind of coming of age in the characters as they discover their inner strengths and overcome Daazna (who is a real jerk—so that’s a good bit of characterization by the author.) That said, general lovers of fantasy would be a good fit for Kinglet and the upcoming sequel in the Gemeta Stone series.

Click here to get a copy of Kinglet for yourself!