Illustrations – What to Do?

Illustrations - What to do? Illustrations are often places where the independent or self-published begin to panic and wring their hands, and even decide to trash their project(s). Depending on the type of book you are writing, illustrations are an integral part of your book. Knowing that, let's step back a step or two.

First if all, your end product for any illustration needs to be a digital photo, which means you can scan or take pictures. It also needs to be at least 300 dpi (dpi stands for dots per inch). I don't want to get too technical, but I think we need to visit some technicalities. When you scan a photo or re-size a digital photo, you can choose a dpi. Often our programs will automatically re-size a photo along with its dpi. As we scale down a picture, then we are lowering the dpi. This is not an acceptable choice in a lot of cases, because we need the higher dpi to keep our picture from pix-elating or fuzzy. In most programs, you can simply change the dpi to 300 to boost it up to an appropriate level. Thus, your picture can be viewed easier and it will print well.

Now, let's look at some methods of illustrations. Pictures are very common, but often your book requires something you cannot photograph yourself. In that case, see if your friends can accommodate or go to a stock photo site, such as istockphotos or dreamstime.

The heaviest user of illustrations are children's picture books. I've seen a lot of different techniques used for picture books. Collages work well. I've even seen torn tissue paper illustrations that are absolutely beautiful and full of colors. With new technologies available, I read on one author's blog how she took photos  of the girls (who were her nieces,please don't take pictures of children or adults to use in any book without getting a photo release signed by the person or, in the case of a minor, by a parent) turned them into cartoons, and then added scenery behind them.

I have also made puppet characters to illustrate my children's stories. My newest method is making a small artistic quilt. The quilt is very much the base of the picture with some items becoming three-dimensional. Instead of thinking about quilts as pieces that need to be sewn together, think of a smaller size. I used 14-inches by 20-inches, which is twice the size of my book page of 7-inches by 10-inches. You can buy fusion paper, which is double-sided. Iron onto fabric, cut out your piece, then remove the paper backing and iron it onto your quilt. I lined my small quilt with a bit of batting and backed it with the same material as the front. It is finished with a blanket binding, which comes in a variety of solid colors. I embroidered some items, I even sewed yarn together for a braided rug. Some items are cut from felt, others are different fabrics, including solid and print cotton, as well as more silky polyester fabrics. Using fusion, hand-sewing, and fabric glue, almost anything can be created. I even combined a bit of paper into this quilt, because I placed an open book on the child's bed.

Photos of scenery are easily taken on family vacations. Add some characters on top of the photo and you could easily have an illustration for a book or, at the very least, a book cover. I did that with one recently. The book is not out yet, but I expect it will be soon. It is entitled, "The Aliens Among Us," and I drew aliens in a drawing program, imported a photo and made it the background. Think creatively,

No matter what medium that you choose, it really is the details that make the difference, especially in children's books. You don't want it so busy with stuff that don't match the story, but it's a huge bonus for kids to be able to play "I spy" with the picture as they explore all of the secrets that you've created in your picture.



How Do I Know If Writing a Book Will Help My Business?

If you are in business, writing a book will help put you out in front of your competition. Depending on the industry, many small businesses find it difficult to position their businesses where they would like when faced with the competition of larger corporations, who have more resources.

However, as a small business, you have more flexibility to make decisions that can directly affect both your position in the industry and your bottom line. Let’s face it, folks, we’re all in business to make money! It’s not a bad thing. But to do this, we have to continually be innovative to keep our market share and gain a bit of ground, as well.

By packaging your particular insights, knowledge, and wisdom into a book, you’ve managed to shoot up and over those lumbering corporate competitors. Because corporations tend to be rather large, moving in any direction takes a lot longer. As a smaller, more fit entrepreneur, you have the advantage of being able to do more inventive and pioneering things…and do them tomorrow rather than two years from now.

As an author, you get to share the stage with great people throughout history. It doesn’t matter whether your book is a masterpiece that will rock the book publishing charts. Because you wrote a book, people look up to you as someone who is an authority on a particular topic. You don’t have to write a complete guide to human anatomy when your expertise is in human resources or internet marketing. You write about the topic that you know and are passionate about.


Book Awards for Independent Publishers

Many people think that because you are self-published, you cannot win a book award. Perhaps, in the past that was the case. However, the publishing world has changed drastically. There are only a handful of traditional publishers with a host of independent publishers, and even more self-publishing outlets, including on-demand-printing companies. Self-publishing is independent publishing, which takes the self-published book out of the old Vanity Press mindset.

While the Vanity Press stigma has evaporated to some degree, the Book Publishing world is still geared toward the Traditional Publishers. Book stores buy books from book distributors. Ingram Book Distributors do distribute Independent Published Books. For published books, the expanded distribution means distribution on Ingram. This also helps you get books reviewed, because many reviewers will not review self-published and independent books published through on-demand printing means.

Getting awards helps sell your books! These awards are given to books that have already been published.

Here are a few award sites:


Categories for book awards are vast. For example, IP Awards offer awards in the following categories:

2013 National Categories

  1. Fine Art
  2. Performing Arts (Music/Dance/Cinema/Theater)
  3. Photography
  4. Architecture
  5. Popular Fiction
  6. Literary Fiction
  7. Short Story Fiction
  8. Anthologies
  9. Juvenile Fiction
  10. Young Adult Fiction
  11. Fantasy/Science Fiction
  12. Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Fiction
  13. Historical Fiction
  14. Military/Wartime Fiction
  15. Horror
  16. Multicultural Fiction
  17. Multicultural Fiction Juv-Young Adult
  18. Mystery/Cozy/Noir
  19. Suspense/Thriller
  20. Religious Fiction
  21. Romance
  22. True Crime
  23. Visionary Fiction
  24. Children’s Picture Books (7 & Under)
  25. Children’s Picture Books (All ages)
  26. Children’s Interactive (Activity, Audio, CDRom, etc.)
  27. Juvenile-Young Adult Non-Fiction
  28. Multicultural N-F Juv-Young Adult
  29. Multicultural Non-Fiction Adult
  30. Essay/Creative Non-Fiction
  31. Autobiography/Memoir I (Celebrity/Political/Romance)
  32. Autobiography/Memoir II (Coming of Age/Personal Struggle/Family Leg/Travel)
  33. Biography
  34. Aging/Death & Dying
  35. Animals/Pets
  36. Business/Career/Sales
  37. Classical Studies/Philosophy
  38. Coffee Table Books
  39. Cookbooks
  40. Current Events I (Political/Economic/Legal/Media)
  41. Current Events II (Social Issues/Public Affairs/Ecological/Humanitarian)
  42. Current Events III (Foreign Affairs/Military)
  43. Education/Academic/Teaching
  44. Environment/Ecology/Nature
  45. Erotica
  46. Finance/Investment/Economics
  47. Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Non-Fiction
  48. Gift/Specialty/Journal
  49. Holiday
  50. Health/Medicine/Nutrition
  51. Graphic Novel/Drawn Book Humor/Cartoon
  52. Graphic Novel/Drawn Book Drama/Documentary
  53. History (U.S.)
  54. History (World)
  55. Home & Garden
  56. How-To (Crafts/Hobby/Industrial Arts)
  57. Humor
  58. Inspirational/Spiritual
  59. New Age/Mind-Body-Spirit
  60. Parenting
  61. Poetry
  62. Popular Culture
  63. Psychology/Mental Health
  64. Sports/Fitness/Recreation
  65. Reference
  66. Religion (Eastern/Western)
  67. Science
  68. Self Help
  69. Sexuality/Relationships
  70. Transportation (Auto/Aviation/Railroad, etc.)
  71. Travel Essay
  72. Travel - Guidebook
  73. Women’s Issues
  74. Writing/Publishing
  75. Best Book Marketing (requires support material)

E-Book Categories:

E1. Best Adult Fiction E-Book
E2. Best Romance/Erotica E-Book
E3. Best Mystery/Thriller E-Book
E4. Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book
E5. Best Adult Non-Fiction Personal E-Book
E6. Best Adult Non-Fiction Informational E-Book
E7. Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction E-Book
E8. Best Children’s Illustrated E-Book
E9. Best Regional E-Book - East of the Mississippi
(includes Europe & Asia)
E10. Best Regional E-Book – West of the Mississippi
(includes Aus/NZ)

Regional Categories

(Awards for “Best Fiction” and “Best Non-Fiction” in each region)

Northeast – ME, VT, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY
Mid- Atlantic – PA, WV, VA, DE, MD, DC, NJ
Southeast – KY, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL
South – MS, LA, AR, TX, TN
Great Lakes – OH, MI, IN, IL, WI
Midwest – MN, IA, MO, OK, KS, NE, SD, ND,
West-Mountain – MT, WY, UT, CO, NM, AZ, ID, NV
West-Pacific – CA, OR, WA, HI, AK
Canada–East – ON, QB, NF, NB, NS, PE, Nunavit
Canada-West – BC, AB, SK, MB, NW Territories, Yukon
Australia/New Zealand

 Visit the sites of these award organizations, pay attention to their guidelines and deadlines. Make sure to promote your book as an award winner, even if it is an honorable mention. Look for other places to submit your book. For example, if your book is a children’s book, try parenting organizations who give out book awards. Other organizations that match the topic of your book may give awards, seek them out.

Self-Publishing vs Indie Publishing

There is still a lot of question in some people's minds about what the difference is between indie publishing and self-publishing. Indie publishing and self-publishing can sometimes be considered the same. However, as a self-published author, you are normally paying a "vanity" press, which charges you for every process. Vanity publishing often means that you pay and pay and pay for the privilege of someone else making money on your work. They operate a lot like a traditional publisher with the exception that they charge exorbitant fees. They also keep the lion's share of the profits giving you a smaller "Royalty." Vanity presses earned their reputation as using sub-standard processes, which made bookstores refuse to handle them.

Indie publishing means that you are in control of your manuscript. Unlike the "vanity" press, you are not bound to pay for services that you don't need. On the other hand, all the services that you need, you have to find on your own. Although you must do all the work from beginning to end, there are people who will help you with each phase of your publishing process. Being your own publisher may seem daunting, but understanding that you own and control you material makes up for it. When you get published through any other means, you do not own your intellectual property: the publisher does. If you are not in control of the entity that purchases the ISBN, you are relinquishing your work to someone else. Each title requires its own ISBN, because this is the "International Standard Book Number." Without the ISBN and its bar code, you cannot put your book into book stores or just about any store that codes the bar code into inventory and point of sale cash registers. So the ISBN is a huge part of publishing your book.

Here's what I want you to understand: that ISBN is connected to the ownership of the material. The publisher owns the ISBN, which translates to the publisher owning your intellectual property. If you want to use that material for another product, you cannot do it! That is, you cannot if you aren't the publisher.

Creating multiple products from one collection of material makes the most sense. If you are an entrepreneur, in particular, you want to create and recreate as much as possible!

Becoming your own publisher is not as difficult as it might seem. You can be published through and choose your own ISBN and own publishing "imprint," which only costs $10. On the other hand, you can pay $125 for one or $250 for 10 ISBNs. You can get your book printed by an on-demand printer, which also is your fulfillment agent. may give you other advantages, such as higher quality paper or different book sizes, including hard cover book options. As a publisher, you get to make all the choices. No one is making you, the round peg, fit into the square hole. You are in total control!

Becoming Your Own Book Designer

Self-publish and become a Book Designer, as well. Don’t let that scare you! It’s really not as hard as you think. What size book do you want to create? Some standard sizes are 6-inches by 9-inches or 7-inches by 10-inches.

Being your own Book Designer can actually be quite fun! Who better to design your book than you! After all, you’re the one that birthed this creation into being. Why give it up for adoption to someone who hasn’t been intimately involved like you have been. Editing, on the other hand, is best done by someone who is not close to the writing project. Definitely hire this part to be done. While your friend may edit your book for free, you often get what you pay for. I suggest hiring a professional editor. It is almost impossible to find your own mistakes. Most people will read over their errors, seeing them the way they should be rather than the way they actually are.

Are you planning to have pictures in your book? How many? Where do you want them to go? Are the photos needing to face associated text? Here’s a tip. All left-hand pages are even numbered and all right-hand pages are odd numbered. So if you want a photo to face associated text, you’d make sure the photo was on an even page and your text on the consecutive odd page. To do this, you may find you have a blank page. Try to keep blank pages on the even numbered pages. You might also think of some creative uses for any blank pages, such as adding a famous quote or adding an additional photo or drawing.

Some people ask if special software is required. Actually, whatever word processing software that you are using can be adapted to do everything you need to do. The page sizes and your default page size on your software package is usually 8-1/2 inch by 11 inch. You can, however, set your page size to the size book that you are creating. It is often called a “trim” size, because the pages used to be printed on huge sheets of paper, cut into pages and then after assembly, the book was “trimmed” to the appropriate size., an on-demand printer, even has templates for you to download for Word. But by changing the page size by going into Layout Mode and choosing a “custom” size, you can change the book “trim” size to fit one of the choices at your on-demand print shop. You can also choose your margins, which ultimately affect the size of the printed part of the page. In general, page margins are set to .5 inch or 1 inch. Smaller trim sizes should have smaller margins to squeeze in the most text on the pages. However, you do need to consider space for binding. is another on-demand printer, which works similarly. It offers a few different opportunities, such as hardback books. They, too, offer templates to use for the choice of sizes and binding. also offers some flexibility in paper quality, which is important for some indie- or self-publishers.

Novices sometimes want to change the font size to squeeze in a lot of text. It’s not exactly wrong to do that, but one has to think about who your target market is. Text size is generally larger for young children and people in their senior years. Text needs to be easily read, so I usually never go below 10 points. To be truthful, I probably only use 10 point type on the copyright page, because no one really needs to read this on a regular bases. There are always exceptions to everything. But when you are formatting your book, you need to make it readable. Yes, less pages make your book cheaper to print. However, if the print is too small to read, you won’t sell many books, because no one can read it.

I hope this helps all you self-publishers out there!

Self-Publishing Growing Breed

There's a new world awaiting for those who are writing and publishing today. Only a few years ago, your best bet was to get an agent and get published with a Publishing House. If you self-published, there was a huge stigma attached to self-publishers akin to that of the Scarlet Letter. Not so, today!

Self-publishers are among a growing breed of indie publishers. You can publish under your own small press. You might just publish under the demand printer, or you can still duke it out with agents and publishers. However, more authors are choosing the indie way. Some sources say that consumers are buying more indie-published books, which includes self-publishing.


Why? Perhaps the main reason this is happening is that big time publishers still take so long getting a book out that its relevance may have past by the time it is released. Another reason is that e-readers have made it easy to publish your book in one of the e-reader formats. Thousands of readers now carry stacks of books around without the weight of even one thick book.

Don't worry, printed books are not becoming extinct! You can still publish a printed book and many, many people still prefer their page turning to the slide of an e-reader. Plenty of big box book stores, as well as, indie book stores are filled with the smell of ink and paper.


If you are a well-known personality, such as television or movie star, then publishing your book, whether it is good or not is going to be easier. The big publishing companies know the book will sell based on name recognition. If you aren't well-known, then they may accept your book on its merits, but you probably will receive little to no marketing. Book tours are reserved for the best-selling authors.

As an indie (self) publisher, there are many benefits that include:

Reap the larger profits instead of the smaller royalties, which allow you to support your own marketing budget.

Total control of the price structure.

Creating unique opportunities for reading excerpts from your book and/or book signing events.

Depending on content and genre of book, you might even team up with a non-profit, which will help you sell books and help fundraise for them. I love it when you can do two things simultaneously!

Create a book to support your business or speaking events.