Using Author-Supplied Cover Designs

Occasionally, we are asked if we will accept a cover designed by someone else.

The short answer is, “yes!” But it requires a bit of explanation…

While our preference is to design the covers we use, as long as the covers provided meet our criteria, we’re happy to use them.

Per our publishing agreement, as the publisher, we hold all final approvals of the designs and images used. But your input and approval are significant to us.

Since the cover is a critical element of the book’s marketing efforts, we don’t begin its design until we’re sure of that direction. Therefore, we would ask that your designer coordinates with us regarding the appropriate time to start the design.

If you have a specific designer, illustrator or photographer you’d like to use, please send us relevant samples of their work or a link to their website. We will arrange a conversation to discuss concepts, direction and deadlines so we can collaborate with them on suitable ideas. Ideally, the process will include our approving submitted sketches or initial designs before moving to a final cover design.

The final size of the book (the “trim size”) is often not established until later in the publishing process. However, the design must adhere to the necessary specs for its use. Once the trim size is established, a template will be provided.

The final design must be submitted to us according to the following specifications:

  • The design will consist of the front cover only. Back cover content often changes until just before the release of the book and we require the flexibility to update the cover as needed.
  • The design must be based on the template we provide.
  • The design must be flexible enough to include a high-profile endorsement. Again, those endorsements may not be available until later in the process. We reserve the right to adjust the design to accommodate the endorsement, if necessary.
  • Acceptable applications used to create the design or image are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Neither Quark nor Corel Draw files are accepted. Contact us if your designer wants to use a different application so we can determine if it’s compatible with our workflow.
  • Submit all original source files, including fonts. Do not outline the fonts since all copy must be editable.
  • Provide licenses for any stock images used on the cover.
  • The ownership of the copyright is between you and the artist/designer, but the license must grant rights for us to use the design/image for the cover and in any marketing efforts. If you are using an original image or photograph, we can provide a standard license to be signed by its creator.
  • All images provided must be CMYK and have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at the size used.
  • If the image bleeds, it must be sized to accommodate trim (indicated in the template).

Any cover presented to us must be suitable for the genre of the book and the category in which the book will be listed.

If the provided cover design is approved for use, your overall publishing fees will be adjusted as specified on the Your Estimate page later in this proposal.

What’s It Like to Become a Published Author?

Many writers dream of having their work published someday. And those dreams follow different courses to fulfillment.

Some attempts are met with piles of rejection letters from literary agents and publishers, while the rare gem finds its way through the slush pile and onto a bookstore shelf with the backing of a “traditional publisher.”

Other authors forego that route in favor of publishing their books on their own. Sometimes, this is because they have more time than money to invest in the process. And other times, it’s so that they can retain creative control of their work.

And then there are those authors who opt for a middle ground, where they hire the services they need performed so they can focus more on their writing than on the publishing process itself.

Become a published authorAs an author, our founding partner, Tara R. Alemany, has six titles to her credit, and each was indie published in a variety of ways. Some, she self-published. Two, she went with a so-called “vanity publisher,” and the others were anthologies she contributed to that were independently published by other people. And it was her frustrating experiences with each that led her to start Emerald Lake Books, simply to provide a better alternative to other authors than those she’d experienced herself.

With so many different avenues to go from a manuscript to a finished book, things that were once clear no longer are.

When we talk about publishing today, you’ll hear terms like “traditional publisher,” “self-publishing,” “indie publisher,” “vanity press,” “small press,” “service publisher,” and many other variations.

There’s a reason for all that murkiness…

Publishing itself has changed

The clearly defined roles and responsibilities of publishers and authors have changed.

We’ve been advocating for a few years now that it’s really all just publishing.

You’re taking a manuscript, designing it, publishing it, and distributing it so that it reaches the hands of appropriate readers.

All of the other terms used to refer to that process are describing the business model used in your publishing arrangement. Are you paying for services rendered up-front, like with a service publisher? Or are you paying for services rendered out of sales of your book, like with a traditional publisher? Alternatively, you may choose a blend of the two by working with a hybrid publisher, where you pay some fees up front and the rest from a royalty share.

Or you may not pay any fees at all by doing all the work on your own. For authors who have taken the time to learn how to create a professional product, this puts all of the money in their pockets, which is great! We see this work well for a lot of our friends who are fiction authors. Their business is the business of selling their books. So, they take it seriously, learn how to do it properly, and create some great, enjoyable material.

Unfortunately, it’s also an option that is often chosen by people who have no other publishing opportunities, but who also lack the skills to do it right. So it can be a source of lower quality material making its way to the marketplace as well.

So who is responsible for what?

A common lament of traditionally published authors is that they are responsible for the bulk of the marketing efforts. They find it frustrating to only see 10% of the royalties from book sales, while they do 90% of the work to sell it.

However, that’s a somewhat short-sighted complaint when you consider that the publisher invested the necessary money to edit, design, publish, print and distribute the book. They saw value in what was written and took a chance on it, which means you get to have your book published, but they need the author’s efforts to make back their investment.

At the same time, if the publisher has gone that far with it, why don’t they do more marketing themselves to ensure their investment works out?

Similar questions can be asked of the other publishing models. It always comes down to two things: time and money—and the best way to leverage them.

We are often asked why we charge fees up front and take a royalty share, and the answer is simple. Our business model is to be paid for services rendered. But our work doesn’t end there. Once the book is published, there are on-going things we do to support both the author and the book, and we get “paid” for that out of the results of our efforts. If we simply handed the book over to the author and had nothing more to do with either the author or the book, then receiving a royalty share wouldn’t make sense. But that’s not how we work. Instead, we build long-term relationships with our authors that are mutually beneficial. And when we’re both working to sell the book, we both should reap the reward.

That said, every author has to find the business model that “feels right” to them and that fits their current needs and circumstances.

Finding what works

How you publish your book is one thing. What you do with it afterward is another.

Marketing, promotion, social media, reviews—it seems like there’s a never-ending list of things that need to be done. This lead to a common complaint we hear from authors, “There’s no time left to write!”

The problem we see is that people aren’t certain what works and what doesn’t, so they try everything they hear about, hoping something will lead them to the Holy Grail of book sales.

And as the industry grows and changes, what worked last year may not work this year.

That’s what led us to wonder…

  • What was your publishing experience like? And how does it compare to other authors’ experiences?
  • What worked for you? And what didn’t?
  • Are you happy the results? Or would you do things differently if you were to do it again?

Rather than just wondering, though, we felt that information was valuable enough that it should be captured, recorded and shared. With enough insight into “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Authors’ Publishing Experience,” we might be able to help improve the industry for both authors and publishers.

As far as we know, there’s no other survey like this one around.

Sure, there are other industry surveys that cover sales figures, which formats sell best, and in which parts of the world. But we have yet to find a survey that assesses the author’s experience when publishing a book, no matter which publishing model they went with. We want to know: What worked? What didn’t? How can we improve what we, as publishers, do? Where can authors make more of an impact on the success of their book? Does the outcome improve with experience? What is the best use of your marketing budget?

An invitation for you…

All these questions and more are covered in our survey, and we are very interested to explore your opinions and ideas. It doesn’t matter how you published your book, or whether it’s your first or fiftieth book. All that matters is your willingness to share your experience with publishing your book, so we all may learn from it.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, please visit to get started. The survey itself will be open until February 14, 2018, and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete, but everyone who completes it will be given the opportunity to receive a copy of the results when the survey is done.

And if you’re inclined to share the survey link with others, we’d truly appreciate it!

Books & Publishing


Posters & Flyers





Facebook Author Parties/Events and Why We Do Them

Over the summer, I participated in a Facebook event unlike any I had ever been to before. It was an online Women’s Fiction Summer Party. A collection of women’s fiction authors banded together to hold a Facebook event that lasted several hours (5!). By cross-promoting the event, these authors were helping each other to increase their fanbase and mailing lists.

This same group of authors is hosting their next event, a Facebook Author Holiday Party on November 7, 2017. So, if you want to see this phenomenon in action, check it out!

The idea seemed ingenious to me and was one I wanted to learn more about, so I contacted one of the participating authors, Patricia Sands, to see if she’d be willing to fill me in on the process behind the event a bit more. After spending a lovely hour talking with her, I knew I wanted to share this information with you as well, so I asked her to write today’s guest blog post–the first ever on the Emerald Lake Books website!

So, without further ado, here’s Patricia’s feedback on how to hold a successful Author Party on Facebook for your fans.

The key ingredient to success is organization.

After being a novelist for eight years, I have learned many lessons about interactions on Facebook with readers. The bottom line is that writers and readers all benefit from opportunities to connect with each other. Make them fun!

Facebook author events are always chaotic with many conversation threads going at the same time. It is essential to refresh your page regularly to keep up with the chat. Some people actually follow along on a second device, such as an iPad, phone, or another computer. I have not mastered that technique yet!

The Setup

There are Author Assistants (AA) who offer services to manage such an event. In my opinion, this assistance and experience are crucial to the success of the party. What our AA offers us is priceless. She helps put together graphics and makes suggestions with regard to the theme.

To participate in the event, each author commits to be present at a specific time and to provide at least one giveaway as a raffle prize for the readers.

Once all the authors are on board, the AA sets up a Google document or Excel spreadsheet. Each author enters their information into the spreadsheet, including desired time slot, name, giveaways, questions they want asked, website, Rafflecopter links, etc.

Facebook Author Event promo exampleWe typically have a theme for each Facebook author event (usually seasonal, for example, Summer Party) so our AA can prepare promotional graphics for us.

Each author shares about the event through all their social media platforms. We may even send a “save the date” message out first.

Our event is also cross-promoted as a Goodreads event. However, we hold off on serious promotions until a week before the event. At that time, each author invites all their “friends” on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Event

During the event, each author has a half-hour time slot (or whatever works based on the length of the party and number of authors) to be featured to the attendees. (Scheduling consideration is given for different time zones.)

The AA introduces each author at the appropriate time, including posting an author photo and book covers as well as other basic information about:

  • the author
  • the book being promoted at the party
  • their giveaway.

Ebooks and paperbacks are the standard prizes for giveaways. However, everyone makes an effort to add more creative prizes, from something as simple as Amazon gift cards or book bags to coffee mugs and candles.

At our last party, since my book was set in France, the biggest prize I gave away was a box of macarons (cookies) from France. It was a big hit.

For each giveaway, a question is posted by the author, always accompanied by a photo of something relating to the topic. The more fun you can make it, the better.

The AA monitors everything, keeping track of participants and winners. She comes in at the appointed times to introduce the next author and keeps everything to the established timeline.

The AA also sets up a Rafflecopter raffle, which fans must enter to be eligible for the BIG prize (established by the authors) and tasks must be completed to enter (such as subscribe to newsletter, “like” certain social media pages, “follow” on pages, etc.) Often the authors will all kick in an agreed amount for the “big” prize…say ten authors will each contribute $10 to offer a $100 gift card. Or $20 each and have a few smaller gift cards as well.

The After-Party

At the end of the event, the AA sends an email to the authors with contact information for the winners and a separate document with all of the new names.

Authors also go back into the event once it’s over and “like” any new person who attended.

Our experience with these events has been positive. We try to maintain meaningful topics for our questions that allow readers to tell us something about themselves, rather than us doing the talking. Each author attempts to respond to every comment posted on their threads…although this is not always possible when there is a high attendance.

The key thing is to make it fun, sincere and interesting…with good giveaways.

Patricia Sands, authorBestselling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence trilogy, was published May 17, 2016. Her next novel, Drawing Lessons, was released by Lake Union Publishing on October 1, 2017.

Find out more at Patricia’s Facebook Author PageAmazon Author Page or her website. There are links to her books, social media, and a monthly newsletter that has special giveaways, photography from France, and sneak peeks at her next book. She loves hearing from readers.

Patricia is represented by Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency.

What to Look for in an Endorsement

Before the design work on your book can be completed, we want to incorporate any endorsements you have secured for your book. The earlier we have these, the better, since there are design decisions that have to be made regarding the use of your endorsements.

For example, do we include one (or a fragment of one) on the front cover? On the back cover, do we use more endorsements or an author bio? How many pages of endorsements do we include inside the book?

Endorsements can be a compelling part of what convinces a reader who doesn’t know you to try your book.

Elements of a Book Endorsement

Therefore, a well-written book endorsement consists of a few different elements.

  • It typically consists of 1-3 sentences of clear and concise information that recommends your book to prospective readers. You’re not looking for a novel here. Just a few sentences that can easily be repurposed in marketing materials as well. If the endorser has more to say, ask them to use the lengthier version of their endorsement as a review on Amazon. But for the book itself, you just want 1-3 sentences.
  • It includes a specific call-to-action. For example, in this review left on Amazon for John Suscovich’s Stress-Free Chicken Tractor Plans, the endorser instructs the reader to “read it twice and build it.” The call-to-action is clear, specific and actionable.

I can’t say enough good things about this chicken tractor design, John really did his homework. It’s well worth the price, read it twice and build it.

  • The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books by Tara R. Alemany - endorsement exampleIt uses creative language that catches the attention of the reader. Sometimes that language echoes a key point of the book or its title. Other times, it’s just eye-catching because it’s unexpected. For example, for The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books, we prominently featured an endorsement from global business celebrity, Jeffery Hayzlett, on the front cover because it was exactly what we wanted a prospective reader to hear.

I have two best sellers under my belt and I wish I had read this book before I had written them. This would have saved me a lot of TIME and MONEY. A big help to a new author!

Want to see some examples for inspiration? Here’s a good assortment of endorsements that contain the elements outlined above. They’ve for a book called Take Their Breath Away.

Who to Ask for Endorsements

Usually, you want to ask for endorsements from individuals who are an authority of some kind, whether it’s because of name recognition or a title that’s visible. Oftentimes, they are in the same industry the book is related to, but not always.

There are rare occasions when you may use an endorsement from someone who isn’t well known, simply because the endorsement itself is powerful. For instance, when a client has gotten amazing results based on what you teach in your book, sharing that as an endorsement can be an effective marketing tool. Prospective readers will be able to relate to the desire for better results and want to repeat the success of your client.

So, as you consider who to ask to endorse your book, think about a good cross-section of people. They may be influencers in your industry, peers or colleagues who have a similar target market, or even clients. Ideally, you want to ask those people who are your raving fans, because their energy and enthusiasm will shine through in what they write for you.

As for how to ask for an endorsement, we go into detail in Sample Support Requests.

How Many Endorsements Are Enough?

There isn’t a magic number of endorsements to have. It’s more about the quality than the quantity. One well-worded, powerful and impactful endorsement can do more for your marketing than a dozen weak, lukewarm testimonials.

So as you decide who to ask and which endorsements to use, think about it from the viewpoint of a prospective reader.

  • Is the endorsement understandable and relatable?
  • Is the endorser someone I recognize or might want to emulate?
  • Is the language engaging and motivating?
  • Is the call-to-action clear?

If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions for the endorsement you’re evaluating, then it’s a good candidate to be used with the book.

We usually wait until we have all the endorsements back in order to rank them according to how impactful they are. The phrase or name that stands out the most to us typically goes on the cover somewhere, assuming the design allows for it.

The rest of the endorsements can fill a few pages in the front matter of the book.

If there are more endorsements than we want to use in the book itself or we receive some “really good ones” after we’ve already moved into production with the book, then we reserve the others to be used on marketing materials or on the author’s website. They can also be used in the book listing descriptions themselves.

As a rule of thumb, we typically try to have 2-4 pages of endorsements inside the book with 2-4 endorsements per page depending on their length, and 1 or 2 endorsements on the cover itself, which may be fragments pulled from the best endorsements used inside the book.

However, we don’t force it. We’d rather have fewer endorsements than to use poor ones.

And if we get a large number of raving reviews, we don’t limit ourselves either. John Suscovich’s launch team had so much to say that we included 6 pages of the best testimonials he received simply because people loved what he’d created and they were achieving great success as a result of following his plans. Raving fans are an author’s greatest joy.

Where to Use Endorsements

There are so many ways to use endorsements, and we’ve mentioned a few of them within the context of this article. But here is a consolidated list with a few other ideas thrown in.

  • Front cover
  • Back cover
  • Inside the book
  • Book listing descriptions
  • Website
  • Bookmarks
  • Social media
  • Launch team materials
  • Speaker banner
  • Press releases

And be sure to ask your endorsers to add their testimonial as a review on your book listing as well.

Sample Support Requests

Sometimes asking someone for help can feel awkward, making it difficult to figure out what to say. If you’re stuck getting started, here are some ideas and sample requests you can model your own emails after.

Of course, if the person you’re reaching out to is someone you know well, then these examples will only serve to remind you which details you need to share with them. They don’t need to be as formal and linear as they need to be when you’re talking with someone you have a more professional relationship with.


Influencers are people you want for endorsements and to be part of your launch team. Their name recognition and authority can go a long way in driving a successful launch for you. Before you ask for your support, though, make sure that you are 100% prepared and respectful both of their time and reputation. The easier you make it for them to support you, the more likely they will if they can.

That means giving them as much time as possible to read your material, highlighting one or two chapters you think would be especially of interest to them. In your request, you might also offer to write two or three sample endorsements for them to consider and make their own or a theme you’d like them to touch on.

For example, when I asked Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, to endorse The Best is Yet to Come, I asked him to specifically touch on the message of hope offered within the book. With all the other endorsements I’d received thus far, no one had mentioned it and it’s an important theme to the book.

The resulting endorsement read:

This book is about finding hope against all odds, even in the darkest of situations. We all face pain, disappointments, heartaches and struggles in life that can sometimes lead down a seemingly hopeless path of deep devastation; yet Tara shows us there is always hope. Through brave and inspiring honesty about her own difficult personal experiences, she shows us that hope is always within our grasp if we make the choice to embrace it and that, no matter our situation, the best really can be yet to come.

Ivan Misner, Ph.D., NY Times Bestselling Author and Founder of BNI®

So as you write your own request for an influencer’s support with your book launch, here’s an example of what you might want to say:

Dear <Name>,

Thank you for the work that you’ve done in <their chosen field>. As I’ve followed you online, I’ve learned <share some key things they’ve taught you> from you. And I’m truly grateful.

I’m writing today because I’m hoping that you might be willing to support me a little further.

My new book, <Title>, is being released on <Date>.

I was hoping you might be willing to take a look at it and possibly offer an endorsement for it, if you like what you see.

I’ve attached a pre-release copy. Chapter <x> on <subject> may resonate with you because <reason why>.

I know that your time is limited. But if you’d be willing to take a look and let me know if you’re able to help, I’d appreciate it. If I don’t hear from you by <date>, I’ll reach out to you again, just to make sure you received this message.

If it makes things any easier, I can provide a couple of sample endorsements I’d love to receive and that you can modify to make your own.

Either way, thanks for all that you do!


<Your name>

If they agree to endorse your book, then when they send their endorsement, you may choose at that time to ask if they’d be willing to also post it on Amazon as well. If you do that, be sure to provide a direct link so that it’s as easy as possible for them to say “yes” to.

If your book listing isn’t up yet, then save this step for a later date. At that time, write to them letting them know that the release date is approaching and that you appreciate their endorsement of the book. Provide them with their endorsement text again (don’t expect them to remember where they put it) and a link to the listing, asking them if they’d be willing to post it on Amazon for you.

As your launch date approaches, you may choose to reach out to them with information about the resources you’re providing your launch team and asking if they’d be willing to participate as well.

If you ask for all three things up front in the same email, it will feel overwhelming and they’ll be less likely to say, “Yes,” if they don’t know you. By “stepping” the request, they can bow out at any time, but whatever help they do give you will be beneficial to your launch.


It is very important to have a strategy in place that drives book reviews. This goes beyond what you print in or on the book. It starts first with reviews on your book listings on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari and others. But it also includes bloggers, podcasts and more.

The focus of this particular outreach letter is to ask for reviews on book listings. The reason we’re starting there is because these reviews have the greatest potential to sway buying decisions.

Think about it like this…

When you go to the grocery store, the items nearest the checkout are frequently low-ticket items purchased as an impulse buy.

The closer you are to the point of purchase, the more likely a positive impression will tip the scales in your favor.

In addition, you can influence Amazon’s search algorithm and increase the likelihood of them promoting your title in their newsletters if you have a substantial number of reviews and a solid sales rank. Ideally, you want at least 50 reviews. 100 is preferable. The more you have, the more momentum you build and marketing your book simply becomes that much easier.

Reviewers don’t have to be people you know or who are familiar with your work. They simply must be people interested in your subject matter.

I’ll write more in future about how to get reviews using social media, but for this post, I’m going to focus on sending an email to someone you know to ask for a review.

Here’s a sample you can use as a template for your own message:

Hi, <Name>.

I hope you are doing well.

I’m writing because I have something I’m hoping you’d be interested in helping me with. My new book, <Title>, is coming out on <Date>. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really excited about it.

I need to find reviewers for it, though. The more reviews I have on the book listing when it launches, the better off I’ll be.

Would you be interested in reading it and leaving an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or whatever other review site you like to use?

I can send you a pre-release digital copy if you’re interested.

I’m hoping to have as many reviews as possible already on the listing page by the launch date. But even if you can add it within the first month after its release, I’d appreciate it.

Let me know if you’re interested or not.


<Your name>

Some authors include an incentive in the message as well. For example, they might offer to send a printed copy of the book once it’s released or to offer bonus material.

Whether you offer an incentive or not is up to you. But if you have the resources to do it, it’s a nice acknowledgment of their time and effort.

Keep in mind, though, that you cannot offer to pay for a review, good, bad or indifferent. You’re seeking honest reviews, so you don’t want to make the mistake of giving the impression of bribing anyone.

While it takes a bit more proactive management, you may decide not to mention any incentive at all when requesting a review, but then circle back around after they’ve given one to send them a “thank you” gift of some kind. Acknowledging their time and effort is important, even if it’s only to say “thank you.”


Last, but certainly not least, are your peers. If you have colleagues who serve in the same industry or collaborators whose target market is the same as yours, having them introduce you to their following can expose you to a whole new audience already interested in what you have to share.

Depending on your relationship with your peer, this request can take many different forms.

You might want them to partner with you on a joint venture. For instance, perhaps you know someone whose own book is intended for the same reader. Why not bundle them together as a special promotion and offer both titles to each of your audiences for a discounted price?

Or perhaps they have a webinar or podcast that you could be a guest on that allows you to highlight the topic of your book and make a special offer to their audience?

Or maybe they’d be interested in an affiliate deal where they can sell copies of your book and earn a percentage of the proceeds.

There are plenty of ways that this can play out, so I’m not going to provide a sample email here.

Needless to say,  you’re going to want to demonstrate that you know who they are, what audience you share, why your material is beneficial to them and their audience, and what you propose doing together.

It may take some imagination, but it’s where the fun comes in. People helping people. You win. Your peer wins. And your shared audience wins.

Launch Team

Influencers, clients and peers all are welcome additions to any launch team.

Typically, you’ll ask people you know fairly well to support you. Or you may not know them at all, like your followers, but they feel they know you and they love what you do.

Either way, the “ask” here is fairly simple. You want to communicate your excitement about the book and its value to your readers. And you want to assure your launch team members that you’ll be making it as easy as possible for them to support you.

We often put together a page of content they can use with sample status updates, shareable images, links to book listings, contact information in case they have questions and more.

It also includes our launch schedule and various ways that they can support the process.

Here’s an example of what that email might look like.

Dear <Name>,

I can hardly believe it! My new book, <Title>, is almost finished. It’ll be released on <date>.

This book is for <intended audience>.

I’ve put a lot of my heart and soul into this book, and I’m excited to finally have it see the light of day. It’s going to <positive impact>.

I was wondering if you’d like to be part of my launch team? If you’re interested, you can sign up here: <URL>.

You’ll receive a PDF of the book so that you can enjoy it too, along with a link to a page with sample status updates, shareable images, links to the book listings, contact info for my publisher in case you have questions and more.

I know some people are very busy. So we kept things as simple as possible. Our status updates are designed so that you can prefill your social media calendar (like Hootsuite, Buffer or PostPlanner) and let it run on autopilot if you want. Or you can participate regularly in the different activities taking place.

I’m hoping that you’ll help me build a buzz about the book. So if you’re interested, please join my launch team here: <URL>.

I’d really appreciate it!


<Your Name>