Book Covers

There are many ways to find great images for book covers and I have used several methods for our 12 novels:

Victoria Chronicles - Bk One

watercolour cover image


1. An actual human artist (Victoria Chronicles – 3 covers); and Lizzie Series – last 3 covers of series);  painted by Barbara Porter to my specs via email.

2. An online photo supplier ie., or other such photographic supplier  where you purchase for a small price a license to use a photo for a certain number of copies (covers, articles etc.). You have to read the rules & reg.  I paid less than $100 to use this great image of a Spanish ship for 10,000 copies. I would be very happy to pay this amount again when we sell 10,000 paper/ebook copies of Race For a Treasure!


photograph by author


3. When all else fails and you can get the photo you need, take it yourself, as I did for Whispers Across Time (Fiction). It’s not always that easy, as this photo proves … I took during the daytime during the early writing stage then realized the cemetery scenes all took place at night. Photoshop to the rescue!


public domain image


4. Our first cover, Lizzie, was a Renoir painting in public domain. Our graphic designer (for lettering etc on cover) found this on a website and the original image had been somewhat changed (colour etc).




I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration for your next cover.

Books, eBooks and Links

Here are some interesting book links I found recently. I haven’t checked them out thoroughly so make up your own mind on their value!

New York Times – Jacketcopy Blog

It has an interesting survey of ebook readers and Kobo was ahead of Kindle. Way to go Canada!


BookGlutton – share your opinions with other book readers

Writer’s Digest – always a popular favourite

Auxilary Memory – a blog entry about online bookclubs and cataloguing your own library.

… and, of course …

Goodreads – an Amazon affiliate where you can vote on our books!

I needed more editing time … just get on with it!

Republished from our old blog but still time appropriate:

Yes, the manuscript achieved its first deadline and went to the printer (Friesens in Canada). I mean, we don’t play around, these books are printed for real not POD (print on demand … translated aka one-at-a-time). We tried that with our first book and it wasn’t worth the money etc. We also tried a small POD print run a couple years ago (for our galley copies) and weren’t happy with the quality … a year later when we ran into them and complained, they told us they were having trouble with their printing press. In fairness, they did reprint the copies we had left but their effort was too little too late. POD has come a long way, but we’re not ready for it just yet.

We have always given our readers the best bang for their buck and that’s one reason they are repeat customers. This requires a bit of extra effort and expense. It also means that if you don’t get it right the first time it can add hundreds, perhaps thousands of extra $ onto your next printing costs. That doesn’t count the lost sales due to poor quality and perhaps most important … bad critique from readers. Believe me, that kind of news travels fast these days.

But I digress, the subject is my editing. Actually, the issue was my lack of (time to do the) editing. This is something like the TV show I love to watch … Flip This House … a husband and wife team take a product and under a tight time schedule turn an old house (read unfinished book) into a dream house (read money-making novel)! Hey I like that analogy and, yes, I often get ideas from watching TV!!

Race For A Treasure – our latest (2008) stand-alone co-written novel was planned to arrive for an early November deadline to begin our Christmas Craft Show season – well our plans began going awry as soon as we sent it to the printer. One of those unforeseeable problems arose and after some extra work with the printer, it is finally on track but will be 1-2 weeks late! I have to hand it to Friesen’s thought, they have done their darndest to keep me on track!

So, the lesson for this issue … you must get it right the first time!! Time wasn’t on my side this year and it’s hard to admit to my husband and our eagerly waiting fans that I am not Super Woman after all!!

During the editing process there is so much to deal with that time can easily get away from you. Your brain can only work so quickly (especially when you’re in that ‘senior’ category). You simply do your best, BUT make sure it produces a book you are proud to put your name on and it hasn’t cost you your last $.

The editing process is so complicated and I have so much to share while it’s still fresh in my mind … let’s make it a separate issue … so until next time.

Happy editing and publishing.

I love WordPress!

What a great invention!  Anyone in business knows that an impressive website is a must these days and I have been working on webpages for over 20 years (from the beginning of the internet). Finally our 2 websites are once again getting organized and I couldn’t be happier. They have certainly evolved since my first Netscape page so many years ago!

Today I’m also using the WordPress widgets from iThemes (and I’m learning Builder as well) which makes it a lot faster as they do so much of the setup for you. iThemes is a great help considering I am getting so slow at this. I hope you enjoy your visit … stop by often or subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up with my additional tips for authors and self-publishers.

Take a look at our main website … if you’ve visited before, it is now so much easier to find things and use the shopping cart. I have so much more I want to add, including photos and a video, I wonder how long it will take me to figure it all out (including finding the time)!!

Thanks for visiting.

Tips for Self-Publishing

I loved the original title of my blog … Books, Marketing & Self-Promotion (which was moved to this location in Nov. 2011). I wanted to continue to use it here but it was simply too long. So, henceforth, this will be know as “Tips for Self-Publishing.” I’ve moved many of my original blog pages here as the content remains virtually the same in the book publishing industry, however, I have updated them where necessary. There will be more to come and I will try to keep my posts short, but hey, I’m a fiction writer and detail is my specialty that’s why my husband and I work so well together!!

If you’ve arrived here and this is the first page you have read … this website is a series of blogs by moi, author, Joyce Sandilands, a Canadian-born author from the lovely Pacific Northwest and Victoria, British Columbia. This website/blog is all about my own SELF-PUBLISHING experience with my husband, Robert (Bob) Whittle.

Robert (he will be 80 in 2013) and I began our book writing journey in Aug. 1998 when I decided I simply had to publish the 3rd novel he had written during a 3 1/2 year health crisis. The book was titled, Lizzie : Lethal Innocence. Suddenly thrust into the unknown world of (self) publishing, I grasped all the experience I could muster from a collection of  jobs over the years and, life experience of my past 50+ years, then set out to introduce what I thought was an amazing work of literature to a local audience. With me editing, as well as organizing the publishing and marketing of  Lizzie on a shoestring, I set Robert loose on his early morning Timmy’s coffee mates armed with a supply of our newly published book and eagerly waited to see what would happen. We also got accepted into local bookstores, something many self-published authors soon found difficult to achieve.

Incidentally, writer Robert was now known as author* J. Robert Whittle  (J stands for John).

Within 2 weeks, with the help of the books he had sold and comments from our first readers, he gained a lot more confidence in his new talent and began to talk to anyone he came near. It did not take long for word to spread. I should point out that ‘confidence’ had been Robert’s middle name since a youngster but writing had never been in his vocabulary prior to this! Four weeks later at Christmas, we were pretty sure we had a winner (whatever that meant) and by March, having sold 500 copies, we printed another 2000 copies. That summer we began selling this book from our market table at James Bay Farmer’s Market, never having heard of any writer/author of a novel having done this anywhere before and many international visitors told us so!

*  we were aware of the controversy that self-published authors were not ‘real’ authors in the eyes of ‘professional’ publishers and discerning readers, so at first we never referred to Robert as an author even though his name was on the cover. Today that situation re using the term ‘author’ has changed, even though the controversy is still present in some circles.

Surprisingly, sales continued miraculously and slowly, one customer at a time … in person! Once we realized how much readers love to meet authors (and especially my husband, judging by the women purchasing his book), we simply gave them what they wanted! He had quickly become a new author  and was soon known by readers in many corners of the world thanks to our city’s tourist appeal! Within two years, we had begun selling at other craft venues as well and Lizzie was Robert’s first of 3 Canadian Bestsellers. I should add that his name became larger on the book cover when it was reprinted!


So, this blog is firstly about me and how I persuaded my husband to write a book, and how my husband, even while fighting for his life, began this new hobby of writing.  And how we turned our labour of love for Lizzie into a successful mini-publishing business over 13 years (so far). We now have 12 novels, 3 bestsellers, 2 IPPY Gold winners, and several self-narrated audio products. We began as raw amateurs with no knowledge, but lots of enthusiasm … and we believed in that little book (at least I did)!

I hope, through this blog, to be able to make your journey of manoeuvering through the complicated world of self-publishing or indie-publishing, as it is now trying to be called (in an effort to give it some class!), a bit easier for YOU.  If I can do this with my limited experience, lack of confidence and advancing age, you can too!!


Selling your Books to Schools and Libraries – Part 2

Using Skype to sell more Books

Still another great MARKETING TIP … this one from Barbara Terchel, author of Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances (see my last post Part 1).

It appears that I have been so busy on whatever I am busy with that I have missed some of the great ways technology is helping authors sell their books today.

Barbara was interviewed regarding how she uses Skype to talk to schools assisted by her special dog, Frankie. It has cut her costs and increased her availability to such an extent that she has used Skype over 300 times for this type of visit. She gives you a detailed step-by-step description of everything you need to do and know, including setting up your studio in your home/office.

Listen to this fabulous presentation for yourself  here  on Blog Talk Radio.

Some interesting and useful websites they discussed.

Part 3: Can a self-published author (of fiction) succeed?

Yes, we made mistakes …

I have only just begun this new blog format on my own website which has been around for many years. I seem to feel a need to share with you my 13+ years worth of experiences, yes, including our mistakes! If this introduces more people to our books in the process then I am doing a good job. The bonus for readers (and us) it that with our books in ebook format, they are now more readily and cheaply available.

I have never joined author’s groups, although I have attended a few. Time has always seemed unavailable and they weren’t really my bag. People wanted to know what we had done to be so successful and although we did talk to groups in the early days, we found it took too much of our time. Besides, my husband was the only author in those early days, even though I had been a ‘writer’ since a teenager. I preferred to work alone and became the home-office workhorse. I end up sitting here day and night filling my time with ‘work’ of one sort or another and love it! A publisher’s life is filled with many things especially when they wear ALL the hats in the company!! So now, through this blog, I am trying to give back more than I have been able to in past years. Now, I trust you will pick up something useful  …

Lizzie Our 1st mistake was the title of our first book. Lizzie: Lethal Innocence … we didn’t think of all the connotations … who would have known so many people would think it was about Lizzie Borden. People make snap judgements without even thinking. It says on the cover the book is set in England and most people know Lizzie Borden lived in the USA. This made us realize we had to ‘talk up’ our books like crazy if we were to get the correct info out there. We even considered changing the title before the next printing but the cover and title were already well known and we still felt it was a good title! Lizzie was ‘lethal’ because she was so smart, as they would find out soon enough, and she was ‘innocence’ because she was so young.
Yes, the word ‘lethal’ compounded this misconception and made people think the book was about violence. How wrong they were and we knew we had to try to explain it quickly to people or we wouldn’t sell many more books beyond the first 500. It worked … but it was very time consuming being at markets, taking Robert away from his writing and me away from editing and office work. So after a few seasons we got into a rhythm and simply made it work for us.

Our 2nd mistake was getting too confident and ordering too many copies!!! Sales were going along so great in those first years that we ordered another print run in 2004. The second and third books, Lizzie’s Secret Angels and Streets of Hope, were doing well and I was editing the fourth and final book.

The problem began when we started writing about local history and readers now had a choice. Now the majority of readers were opting for the Victoria Chronicles’ book, Bound by Loyalty, instead of Lizzie. We still have many boxes of the first three books in our basement. I didn’t order as many for book four, thankfully. Lizzie sales have actually been picking up again in 2011/11 as readers discover how much  they like Robert’s style.

So be very careful how many copies you order if you are doing POD (Print on Demand) or ordering large runs from a traditional printer (Friesens) like we did.

As self or indie publishing becomes even more popular due to ebooks, everyone seems to want to or is told they should ‘write a book’ so the competition has grown fierce. We continue as in the past with no plan to now stop in the near future. We now tell people of our exciting new option of ebooks at, (all formats) etc. If you want to help us out … especially if you are NOT a USA citizen, we actually get double the commission if Kindle books are purchased through Smashwords! Thanks.

We’re hoping Kindle will make some changes to their format (so other e-readers (kobos, ipods, ipads etc.) can ‘read’ kindle  ebooks) and also to their payment standards for international authors, in the near future.

Part 2: Can a self-published author (of fiction) succeed?

Publishing our first book, Lizzie: Lethal Innocence

LizzieOur first book was ‘Lizzie‘ and the print run was 500 copies (Dec 1998). This was the recommended ‘test’ print run in those days (pre POD) and was the only printing we have ever had to borrow money for … and it was our own!!  “Part 1” explained the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing via a large publisher, today referred to as ‘professional publishers.’ I don’t give them capitals because I, myself, am also a ‘professional publisher and feel I have earned the title too!’

The loan lasted only 3 months … the time it took Robert to gain the confidence to sell 500 copies of our first novel at coffee shops, grocery store lineups, the recycling depot etc.. We even had money in the bank at this point and printed our next run of 1,500 copies of the same book! The following year we printed a further 4,000 copies (they were selling like hotcakes as word-of-mouth spread!).

The sequel to ‘Lizzie,’ Lizzie’s Secret Angels was launched on April 1st with a big party at the Victoria Art Gallery.Lizzies Secret Angels

This was the only ‘book launch’ we ever planned – there simply was never enough time. Besides which, one of the things we did for marketing was to collect their contact information and this was before the Internet! We began by phoning and sending snail mail to our customers and then later, used email. Our launches happened regularly after that, each year at a market or Christmas Show. It worked well enough for us.

I was early on to receive the math lesson from my husband that graduating to larger print runs meant less money paid up front and more in our pockets with each book sold. We began selling from our booth at markets (1999), craft fairs (1999), and the ferry terminal (2000). We have never looked back!!! Of course, the icing on the cake was when we reached 5,000 copies in the first 2 years (Canadian standards for a bestseller).

I hear there are not many indie-publishers that can boast about this kind of success and it has continued for us for 13 years. Oh yes, it has been hard work for both of us, especially with the economic upheavals of recent years.

As an aside here, I should admit that we made a few mistakes along the way. If you are a new writer and ‘wannabee’ an author, you can learn from these mistakes. That would prove that I am doing a good job with this blog! Read about our Mistakes in Part 3.

Note: In case you happened on it, I had an earlier blog called:  Of Books, Marketing and Self-Publishing … but it’s now closed and some of the posts will eventually show up here, along with a couple blogs on my hobbies.