BTS056, AI-Generated Images, Designing Your Own Book Cover, Declining Free eBook Downloads, and Struggling to Write Book Three
And yes, it’s been sixteen weeks since I released an episode of the podcast. Initially, I took the summer off because I needed to take a holiday from podcasting and writing. However, I did a bit of blogging during my break, where I discussed whether you should use AI-generated images in book covers. Also, I wrote a blog post on how to work with a book cover designer. This article was originally written to help potential clients and browsers for Le Villain Book Covers, but I shared the full article on authorpreneur podcast dot com because I believed it would be useful to you as well. While we’re on the topic of book cover design, I discussed in another blog post the things you need to know before you design your own book cover.
This episode isn’t just about blog posts, I also discuss my struggles with writing and the epiphany I’ve had, which helped me make progress after chasing my tail for so long.
Without further ado, let’s get on with the episode.
About the Episode
Just to let you know, this episode was recorded on Friday, the 27th of October, so this show is primarily me looking back at a book marketing experiment that I conducted in August, September, and October. And, if you’re new to this podcast, I want to say a huge thank you for stopping by and trying out my show. To those of you who have been faithfully listening, thank you for regularly listening in and supporting me; your support means more to me than you know.
Back to Blogging
So, I decided that I wanted to have the summer off podcasting. Instead, I ended up writing a few reactionary blog posts in response to pieces of misinformation that I’ve seen in the self-publishing world.
Working with a Cover Designer
Over on Le Villain Book Covers, I wrote an article called “How to Work With a Cover Designer” to help my potential clients figure out what they need to do before they approach a designer. Naturally, I do have forms that collate this information together, but over on my Etsy store, it’s like the Wild West, and I get next-to-no information from the clients and have to force it out of them. So, I realised there was a need for information, and wrote the post. Eventually, I realised this information would be great for my podcast and blog audiences, so I crossed-posted it here. This meant I had to create a different blog author profile so readers understood that I’m a cover designer too.
While we’re on the topic of Le Villain Book Covers, I started a blog there as well. But this was for Search Engine Optimisation reasons and to help my future and current clients understand the book cover design process. The first blog post I wrote for my cover design business was about whether you should use AI-generated Images for your book covers. Because my husband is in the tech industry and has an understanding of how these AI models are created and tested, I had a discussion with him about the ethics of AI-generated images before writing this post. I also wanted my future and current clients to understand whether I use AI-generated images in my cover design business, but I also wanted to talk about why I made this decision. For some reason, I don’t understand why I didn’t cross-post this to authorpreneur podcast dot com, but it’s a mistake, I’ll remedy it before you listen to this episode.
Before Designing Your Own Book Cover
One day on YouTube, I watched a video by a popular self-publishing influencer talking about designing their own book cover. And I thought, “Oh, that’s great, I do that too.” Towards the end of the video, I had a moment where I did a massive double-take.
For the sake of time, this creator claimed that the printer at Amazon used the RGB colour palette and not CMYK. They came to this conclusion because the colours on their cover looked better when they supplied the RGB formatted file. Because I’ve worked in graphic design, back in the day before, I had wrinkles and a touch of grey, so I understand this to be impossible.
The Difference Between CMYK and RGB
You see, when you print in colour, all of the colours you choose are made up of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key, which is black, and coincidentally, every colour toner has these four colours. On the other hand, RGB is a device-dependent colour model comprising three additive colours: Red, Green, and Blue. These colours are added to a screen, which is generally a shade of black.
Whereas with CMYK, colour is removed from white, which contains all colours, and RGB is used on a black background due to how software is coded. So, when you send KDP Print a PDF cover file in RGB, you are playing Russian Roulette with the colours and letting the printer decide. Unlike your local printer, who will fix this file for you, KDP Print doesn’t have the time to fix this error before printing. The only checks that are performed are for size and printing-related errors, not colour.
This led me to write a blog post on the things you need to know before designing your own book cover, including how long the process takes from blank screen to finished design. And I also discuss whether this is a good use of your time and is actually saving you money in the long run. It’s worth pointing out that this article is not a “how to design” but things you should consider before going down this long and windy road of cover design.
Checking My Knowledge
For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, I did a lot of research and double-checked my own knowledge with other graphic designers who answered questions in forums. I contacted KDP customer service via chat and got an instant reply. On top of this, my husband has a master’s degree in image processing, so I picked his brain before writing the article, and I saved my sources at the bottom of the page for further reading. Honestly, I don’t know why people share misinformation when the facts are within arms reach, especially when they have a huge platform. It’s like they don’t take the responsibility seriously.
Once again, if this article interests you, click here to read the full article.
Le Villain Book Covers
Opened my business up to custom cover design within the mystery, cozy mystery, romantic comedy, action thriller and psychological thriller genres. And I designed two more psychological thriller premade covers, a set of three cozy mystery covers, and I expanded a single cozy mystery cover into a set of three.
As well as formatting a few books for clients.
Changes on Amazon KDP Dashboard
On the 7th of September, 2023, Amazon KDP updated its guidelines to include AI-generated content. I wanted to wait a while before sharing this because I often find people jump the gun and overreact without reading the fingerprint. This amendment requires publishers and independent authors who distribute books via their platform to declare whether the books have content created with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Inside the dashboard for each book, users found a yes or no radio button in which they could declare their usage.
Please note the word usage: “Did you use AI tools in creating texts, images, and/or translations in your book?” So, the AI usage is not limited to writing the book’s content but also images inside and on the cover. But Amazon also distinguishes AI-generated and AI-assisted content. In the dashboard, these definitions can be found by hovering over the information text above and clicking to read the KDP Guidelines.
According to the definitions, if you write the book yourself and then go on to use tools like Pro Writing Aid, Grammarly, or SudoWrite to edit your work, then you do not have to declare it. The point of the definitions was to distinguish between who actually created the copyrighted content. So, if a tool like ChatGPT wrote your book based on the prompts, then this is considered AI-generated even if you go on to make rewrites. In this instance, you have to declare it by selecting the yes button.
So, what if you did use AI-generated content in your book? Does this mean you can’t publish on Amazon? Of course not; you simply need to state which tools you used. If you’ve used AI to write the work, select the yes radio button in response to the AI question. After this, you will be prompted to declare what you used and how much of your content was written with these tools.
The Public Response
While these changes to the KDP Guidelines may have angered some, I still believe this is a step in the right direction. In light of the WAG and SAG strikes, it’s a good thing that Amazon is distinguishing between AI-generated content and those books that are not. Because readers do have a right to know how much AI is used in the creation of a book. As a writer, I don’t mind disclosing these details because a little bit of transparency is always a good thing. Also, let’s address the elephant in the room. Like many others, I, too, have been increasingly concerned about the potential for AI-generated content flooding the market. I realise this is fear-talking, but at least this disclosure is somewhat comforting that Amazon is at least interested in knowing how much AI content is on their site.
Declining Free Downloads
Over on Amazon, during August and September, my free downloads took a massive nose dive from 1,015 in July with no promotions to 35 in August. But I’m still seeing the two percent impulse buy on Duplicity but in smaller quantities. And it’s too small to consider the strategy a success. Obviously, I need to get back into promoting my first-in-series again. But I do think this is to be expected during this time of the year. And this isn’t just Amazon but a decline across the board on all platforms. This could be a drop-off due to the months between now and when I published the Locked Room.
Struggles with Writing James Lalonde, Book Three
Book three is harder to write than I initially imagined, and it’s in stark contrast to my experience writing The Locked Room. That writing experience was joyous. But since my freakout about my book being out of genre, I’ve struggled big time. I guess I’m all in my head about it, and I’m struggling to let go of the scenes that I cut.
As of today, the word count is sitting at 15, 257. Obviously, I didn’t write during the summer—I thought the break would help, but I’m back where I started before my vacation. In reality, the solution is quite simple—just write the next sentence. But it’s easier said than done. So, I feel like my inner writer has been a bit broken for quite a long time.
Finally, Making Progress
Since writing this episode on the 27th of September, I’ve completed thirty-six hours and fifty-two minutes of writing. And I’m making strives forward in terms of progress.
So, how have I done this?
Two things are contributing to my progress; the first is just to write the next sentence. This is, I think, instrumental to the writing into the dark progress, more so than I first imagined.
The second, which is equally integral, is that I’m simply letting the story be what it needs to be instead of panicking about genre and where it will sit on the shelf in a bookstore. However, I’m keenly aware that I’m writing a mystery. Therefore, the story needs a lot of scenes where the protagonist is trying to answer questions about the crime, aka searching for clues.
Obsessing Over Scenes
Where I believe I’m being tripped up is I’m noticing that this story has more action scenes than the previous five stories that I’ve written. The entire first act is full of action and suspense, but James is still trying to figure out the mystery and the whodunnit—he’s just doing that on the run. Ten of the twenty-six scenes of my mystery are cerebral detective-style scenes, but I’m yet to reach the end of the second act.
So far, in the first and second acts, I have the following types of scenes:
- Suspense: 8
- Action: 8
- Need/Question: 10
If you’re wondering how I came up with these scene labels, the short answer is that I didn’t, but Chris Fox did in his book Plot Gardening*. Obviously, I highly recommend you read this book.
And my word count is now at 22,172 words. This month, I spent thirteen hours preparing my manuscript to be read by an Alpha Reader that I found on Fiverr. To do this, I performed a mini-line edit using Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid* and listened to the manuscript being read aloud using Natural Readers.
And the epiphany I’m slowly having is only I, the author, care about the genre. Now, hear me out for a second. The reader doesn’t care about genre as much as I do—not at this stage in the series. The first two stories in the series establish that it’s an amateur sleuth mystery series; as long as I don’t stray too far from that, I don’t think the reader will care because they’re invested in the character. Just for the sake of clarity, I’m not making this up. I’ve done my own research about changes in genre within a series, and most readers who’ve responded to questions like this have stated outright that they follow a character, not the genre.
From Evernote to Notion and Back
On June 29, I migrated from Evernote to Notion because I received a last-minute email about a fifty-six percent price increase. As a loyal user, I was annoyed. This increase is more than just inflation; it’s corporate greed because there are no new features since the previous year. So, I moved to Notion. After three months of frustration, I returned to Evernote and accepted the price increase because Notion was frustrating to use as a word-processing or note-taking tool. Even copying and pasting was difficult. But I’m back in Evernote, and everything is right in the world.
Maybe this is a sign of old age, but I’ve moved podcast hosts from Blubrry to BuzzSprout. Basically, Blubrry keeps changing their stats, and I’m super frustrated with these changes because the change doesn’t add value; it’s just making things different. Then they created a Progressive Web App, which, again, didn’t add value, so I pulled the plug and moved to Buzzsprout, and I’m happy. The exciting thing about Buzzsprout is they send you podcast milestone notifications. When you’re starting or podcasting on your own, these celebratory posts are encouraging. Moments before I recorded this episode, I noticed that I could even import my stats manually, I might add, from my previous host.
During the migration between Blubrry and Buzzsprout, I received this milestone celebratory email from my new host.
Selling Books Direct Course
The one thing I did during the summer is I’ve been working on a “selling books from your website with WooCommerce” course. It’s not quite ready yet. However, I’ve been busy editing videos for the course, and I still have more lessons to film and edit. I do aim to set the course at a relatively low price during beta, then regularly list the course at a price like thirty-nine pounds or the US equivalent, which will be around fifty dollars. In saying that, the only downside is I cannot control the foreign currencies, which is determined by the platform that I’ll be using. Originally, I shelved this course out of frustration due to the huge prices of these course platforms, but then, one day, I discovered that I could publish courses on PayHip. That’s what led me to pick up the course and start editing the videos again.
So, that’s all of the things that I can discuss in terms of writing, editing, book marketing, and publishing. If you have any questions or have tips on book marketing that you would love to share with me, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. In the next episode of the podcast, I will finally share the long-awaited episode on the anatomy of a scene.
Thank you for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody.
* DISCLAIMER: This blog post contains products created and sold by me or affiliate links to products (marked with an *), which means if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. The commission helps support the blog and allows us to continue to make content like this. Thank you for your support. 🙂
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I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.