On Covers!

So after my last self-publishing post, I wanted to go into a little deeper review of some of the services I’ve used before. Specifically covers and editors since they’re so important, and I’ve used a couple different businesses. Please keep in mind this is just my personal opinion and experience. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

Custom Cover artists I’ve used

When I started looking for a cover for Odriel’s Heirs, I really had no idea what I was doing (as usual.) But I knew I wanted a cover that would also double as character art, so another author recommended Dominique Wesson. Her character art is absolutely stunning, but she is SUPER busy, so her commissions can take 6 months or more. As of 2020, a cover with 2 characters runs $200 and 1 character is $150. Although I really love the Odriel’s series covers, the NetGalley cover ratings have been relatively low: 25/35 for book one and 16/27 for book two.

For The Gatekeeper of Pericael, I really wanted to get away from the character art concept, but I still really liked the idea of custom art. So a critique partner helped me come up with an idea, and I found Illusstation on Fiverr to bring it to life. The full wrap around cover cost $200, and it only took a month! Definitely recommend if you’re looking for a custom art cover. NetGalley cover rating: 26/29

For my third book, I wanted to to do more of a graphic design style. I found Cal5086 on Fiverr and a cover cost me $170. Although I had to come up with the concept myself, turnaround was super quick, and although I haven’t revealed it yet, I really liked how it turned out.

For the Burning Shadows novella, I decided to try out 100covers, and they’ve been my favorite so far. I really like that they take a little survey of your tastes and what you’re looking for, and then use their knowledge of the design market to come up with a concept. (Which is awesome for my artistically challenged self) They assign you a project manager to work with, you can request changes, and they get back to you within the month. An ebook cover runs $100, and if I were to get a paperback it would be $200. I will definitely be using them again in the future.

other options

However! In the past year, I’ve also creeped around the internet for other affordable quality premade options, and compiled a list of other great cover artists/sites to maybe try one day. Just as a personal preference, I don’t consider artists that aren’t upfront about the cost, and while I’d consider something *amazing* for around $350, my usual budget is around $200ish for combined paperback and ebook formats.

Celin Graphics has GORGEOUS custom covers, but they’re booked through 2021, and run a little pricier at $350 for ebook+print. I might take this plunge one day, because they’re seriously beautiful, but it’ll definitely take more of a commitment. I’m also following them on Facebook for pre-mades, but I think opportunities are kind of rare, and I’m not sure how much they are.

Maria Spada @Mspremades: gorgeous premades that run $200 for ebook+print. Follow her on Instagram for a chance to claim them!

RFK Cover Design: $50-$75 for ebook+paperback premade – $25 for ebook only. Follow her on Facebook for a chance to claim them, but be aware they go SUPER fast!

Ebook Launch: $149 for ebook+paperback premade – $99 for ebook only.

The Cover Collection: $167 for ebook+paperback premade – $89 for ebook only.

Book Cover Zone: $89 for ebook+simplistic paperback premade – wide selection.

P&S Book Cover Designs: $120 for ebook+paperback premades – $70 for ebook only.

AMDesign Studios: All-in-one premade packages ranging from $79-$129. $29-$99 for ebook only. I subscribed to their email newsletter for first look.

Bailey Designs Books: $150 for ebook+paperback premade. $99 for ebook only.

Cauldron Press: $150-$250 for ebook+paperback premade. $100-$200 for ebook only. Follow the facebook page for the first look. Also, their custom chapter headers and title page art look pretty cool too.

Those are my favorites to creep on so far, but if you have any recommendations, I’d love to check them out! If I find any other options I like, I’ll be sure to add them. Hopefully this was helpful, and thanks for reading!

On Editors!

So after my last self-publishing post, I wanted to go into a little deeper review of some of the services I’ve used before. Specifically covers and editors since they’re so important, and I’ve used a couple different businesses. Please keep in mind this is just my personal opinion and experience. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

When I started looking for an editor, as usual, I had no idea what I was doing, and I quickly found that editors can often run into the $1000s of dollars. I love writing, but as of this post, it’s definitely more like an expensive hobby for me than anything else, so that was way out of my price range. There are some fabulous indie authors who don’t use editors, but I have neither the confidence nor the experience for that, so I definitely still need some help.

Then I stumbled across Beta Frank Editing on Twitter. Huzzah!

For $500 I got a developmental edit and a line edit on my 75k word manuscript, a query edit, and a synopsis edit. There was a time when she wasn’t offering line edits, but at the time of this writing it looks like she is offering them again. Her prices have risen in the past 3 years, so that same combo would run about $745 now. Turn around time was 1-2 months and the developmental analysis was spot on! I ended up cutting out like 4000 words and revamping the first third of my book (which naturally made the line edits less helpful, but still really useful to learn from.) However I would like to mention that it’s called Beta *Frank* for a reason. She does not hold back on the honesty, so be prepared!

When I was looking for an editor for my second and third books, Beta Frank wasn’t offering line edits so I reached out to Charlie Knight.

Charlie has a super sharp eye and is very encouraging in their feedback. They have a lighter editorial hand than Beta Frank, and they did two passes for me (which took about two months.) The multiple passes are great because in theory, it allows you to fix your developmental problems before digging into line edits and essentially wasting your line edits. A 75K word line and developmental edit will run you $225, which is AWESOME. The only real problem is that Charlie is often booked out 4-6+ months ahead, so advanced planning is required.

Then I found MK Editing while I was out searching for professional Beta Readers. I love their beta reading service so I decided to go for the full edit. They were able to get me in within the month, and I was definitely impressed with the thorough level of detail. I got two passes with both constructive and encouraging feedback, and I really liked that MK Editing takes the time to explain why they recommend the changes they do. A line & developmental edit ran me $450 for a 78K word manuscript, but since then, their rates have risen to $550 for 75K-90K words.

Too long; didn’t read version:

  • Beta Frank: $0.009/word. Great honest developmental analysis. 1-2 month turn around.
  • Charlie Knight: $0.003/word. Encouraging & sharp. 2 month turn around with multiple passes. Need to schedule in advance 4-6 months in advance.
  • MK Editing: $550 for 75-90K words. Thorough & constructive. 2 month turn around with multiple passes.

So hopefully, that’s at least a little helpful. I’m honestly not sure who I’ll choose as my next editor. I’ve learned a LOT from all of my editors so far, which is actually part of the reason why I’m always open to trying someone new! (As long as they’re within my $550 editing budget. 😅) So if you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about your editing experiences as well!

Thanks for reading!

ARC Sites: NetGalley, BookSirens, or Hidden Gems?

Read all the ARCs!

Wait, slow down, girl. what’s an ARC?

Right right right. So an ARC stands for an Advance Reader’s Copy or Advance Review Copy. They’re books (can be ebook, audiobook, or paperback) that the publisher/author sends out prior to release to try to drum up some good, buzzy reviews on Goodreads. That way, when your book launches on Amazon, you have people waiting to upload their reviews and tell the world how awesome your book is STAT! ARC listing sites let you pay to make your book available for reviewers to download, with the general understanding that they will leave an honest review. (Although this does not always happen.)

Before I dive into this, I should say, I do talk about the process of formatting and creating ARCs in my more in-depth self-publishing articles one and two, but this post is going to focus more on comparing my indie author experiences with the eARC listing sites: NetGalley, BookSirens, & Hidden Gems. This site has no affiliate links, because honestly, I’m just too lazy to put them in.

So, let’s just get into it then, shall we?

My Results:

Listed through Books Go Social: $100 for 2 months
Listed through Anne Victory’s Co-Op: $90 for 2 months
Listed through Anne Victory’s Co-Op: $45 for 1 month (Also keep in mind this was a stand-alone sequel, so a little harder to market)

What I like About NetGalley

  • This is where the librarians, teachers, and indie booksellers hang out!
  • One of the few places where you can get honest, anonymous opinions on your cover
  • Most of these reviewers are not writers, and some are actually casual readers!
  • NetGalley is big! They have way more readers than BookSirens or HiddenGems, so you have a way better chance of getting out of your bubble.
  • You pay by month, not by download. So if 1000 people download your book in the first month, all the better for you!
  • You can rub shoulders (virtually) with the big publishers that also use NetGalley
  • You get lots of data on impressions, clicks, and post-reading surveys

What I don’t like about NetGalley

  • I would estimate that around 25% of reviewers cross-post to Goodreads, and even less cross-post to Amazon. That’s because, if the book isn’t out yet, NetGalley does not remind readers to post to Amazon when the book launches, and it doesn’t require the reader to post to Goodreads. (This is painfully obvious to me as a new NetGalley reader.)
  • Not all of these reviews are created equal. Some are helpful! Some are… not. I’ve seen people’s books get bombed on NetGalley because the reader didn’t read the blurb, and mistook a clearly labeled sci-fi for a fantasy.

Helpful Notes:

  • I would estimate approximately 95% of the downloads in a two month period occur in the first month, so if you’re going to do NetGalley, one month is plenty
  • Cover is KING. If you have an amazeballs cover, people will download your book. (I, alas, do not have an amazeballs cover… but NetGalley is a good place to go look around and see what kind of covers draw people’s eyes.
  • Reviews have a way of trickling in. Even if your monthly listing expires on 31 July, if someone downloads it on 31 July, they still have two months to read it and post a review.

My verdict:

  • Despite its flaws, I still use NetGalley. At $45 for one month, I’m averaging about $4/review, and it’s worth it to me to get the chance to nab librarian, teacher, and bookseller readers. Now… if one of these days I bust out the big bucks for a killer cover… then we might really be in business.

Hidden Gems

So I kind of randomly came across this one. Someone on Twitter had described it as the “gold standard” of ARC listings so I decided to give it a shot, but this one’s a little tougher to gage. I *think* I got around 5ish Amazon reviews each for Odriel’s Heirs and Idriel’s Children, but it’s hard to tell… which is part of the problem.

What I like about Hidden Gems

  • So your $20 deposit covers 10 readers, which is reasonable. (It’s $3/reader after that… but I have yet to hit this milestone on Hidden Gems)
  • You don’t have to finalize your information until about a month before your reserved date (*see in the next section why this is important)
  • Reviews seem mostly positive
  • Reviews are only posted on Amazon

What I don’t like about Hidden Gems

  • The number one problem is that they’re so backed up, you have to reserve a spot A YEAR out. The good news is you can reserve a spot, and then put whatever book you have ready in there. But still… it’s not super convenient for planning purposes. Especially since I prefer to put ARCs out either right before or right after launch. Will I have a book ready for Hidden Gems in July 2022? I’m not sure.
  • My second problem is that I have no transparency about what goes on behind the curtain. I don’t have an impressions/clicks/reader data of any kind. The only email I got was, “Hey, we got less than 10 readers, so you don’t have to pay beyond the deposit.” I don’t even know which/how many of these left a review. I can only guess based on reviews that said “I got this ARC in exchange for a free review” that don’t seem to be from BookSirens or NetGalley.
  • The reviews seem to be mostly only a few sentences. “I liked it!” “It was pretty good.” etc. (But this could just be my limited experience.) Of course all reviews are wonderful! But I do like the ones that help me grow as a writer by tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like.

My Verdict

  • Not for me. The timing issue is too hard for me to plan out, and in combination with the “I don’t really know what I’m getting” situation, I would much rather use NetGalley or BookSirens. Maybe if you plan your book launches a year in advance, this might be worth a shot.

My Results:

Odriel’s Heirs: $44 for this listing
The Gatekeeper of Pericael: $74 for this listing
Idriel’s Children: $22 for this listing (reviews still incoming, and once again keep in mind this is a stand-alone sequel)

What I like about BookSirens

  • It’s $10 for a listing that lasts 3 months, and $2 for every ARC downloaded through BookSirens’ link
  • They have easy links to cross-post to Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub (this one is new)
  • If the reader doesn’t review, they give you a credit for the download
  • It’s easy to access data on clicks/impressions/etc
  • They have a huge database of reviewers that you can reach out to, and they give you a link to send to reviewers. If reviewers use your link to download your ARC, then BookSirens won’t charge you for it.
  • They will remind readers how much longer they have to read a book, they will let a reader ask for more time, and when the book launches, they will remind the reader to cross-post.
  • Usually BookSirens reviews are very helpful and detailed (mostly because the site has a lot of other indie authors that also review, like yours truly… however, on the downside of this, I don’t find a lot of “average, casual readers” on Booksirens)
  • If the reader gives lower than a three star review, they’re given the option not to cross-post

What I don’t like about BookSirens

  • Hmmm… I’ll keep thinking about this, but honestly I don’t really have anything bad to say about BookSirens. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best one I’ve found so far.


  • If you have to go with one service, I would recommend BookSirens. Bottom line, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.

And as a bonus round, we have Sandra’s Book Club! This one works a little differently than the others. You can pay $18.75/month to have your book listed at the top of the list, or you can submit a review for another book on the list in order to list your books for a few months. Odriel’s Heirs got a few reviews from this site when it had a smaller book list, but there are a LOT of books listed now, and I haven’t gotten a review for a while. Most of the reviewers are other writers, and if I had to guess, I’d say shorter books usually get more reviews for obvious reasons. That said, I review enough books in the book club to keep my books listed because it’s doesn’t cost me money and it’s still great exposure!

So please keep in my mind this is just my experience and my personal opinion, but hopefully this was helpful to you! If you have any questions or other topics you’d like me to get into, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or if you have any other ARC listing services you swear by, please let me know. I’d love to give them a college try and add the results to my list!

Happy ARCing!