Should You Make Your Own Book Cover?

When I first started self-publishing books, I think I made an unstated goal to myself: try to do it for as cheap as possible. It was a side-project for me after all. And in many ways, I succeeded in sticking to that unsaid goal. I designed two book covers for free using design sites like Canva. I formatted and designed both my ebook and paperback editions by myself in Google Docs. I edited my manuscripts and had a couple of generous friends look them over as well.

While the sentiment behind my frugal target made intuitive sense, (after all, the less money you spend, the less you have to take out of your profits) I’ve found that it doesn’t always work out as well as you hope. Putting formatting and self-editing troubles aside, I found that I didn’t get quite what I wanted out of my own book cover design.

In order to prepare for my first in-person author event at a local author fair, I decided to revisit my book covers to see if I could spruce them up a bit. This time, instead of a DIY book cover, I sought help from a graphic designer. The rest of this post will be dedicated to good and bad the bad about both making your own book cover and hiring someone else to do it for you.

DIY Book Cover Design

Pro – You are in control

One of the big draws with self-publishing, in general, is the idea of your having complete control over everything. No one is going to change your book cover to fit a certain market.

Pro – Cost

This was the most important reason for me to initially try and do-it-myself. I had experience making some custom graphics using software like Canva. There are so many free tools out there that give you some good design options.

Con – Lack of Skill or Options

I know some people are Photoshop pros, but that is not me. If you are the design novice camp, you are going to end up settling for less. You are stuck using free templates, graphics, photos, etc. If you have something really specific in mind, it might not happen.

Professional Book Cover Design

Pro – A Truly Custom Look

This is huge. Self-published titles continue to explode. With increased competition, there is an increased need to stand out from the crowd. A custom and unique book cover will do that for you.

Pro – Professional Touch

I’m so grateful to Chelsea, my book cover designer. She took my feedback and was able to turn it into great-looking covers. There were quite a few times when I wanted just a single color changed or a different font or a tiny design element moved. Instead of being limited by the template I was using, she could take care of every detail.

Con – Cost

I already touched on this a bit above, but, if you want a custom look and if you don’t have the design skill necessary, you’ll have to cough up some dough. Just know what your budget is and stick to it.

Before & After

Now for the best part: the reveals!

Book Cover Redesign for Coaching Youth Basketball

Book Cover Redesign for Crunch Time Cam

I’m so happy with how they both turned out. The biggest difference to me is how they reflect more of the content that you will find inside the books. They felt like vague and generic basketball books before.

What do you think? Do you like the updated books covers?

How These Two Authors Got Published for the First Time

This post is part 2 of a series centered around attending a local author fair at the West Osceola Library in Central Florida. This intimate event had several self-published and traditionally published authors in attendance. The highlights for me were the two guest speaking sessions by three different types of authors. Each one shared stories of their writing and publishing experiences that were helpful to me and hopefully to you, too. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here!

The second session I attended was hosted by two traditionally published authors with diverse backgrounds. Their session centered around their publishing journeys, and how they got to where they are now, and how to get a book published for the first time.

The Trunk Novel

Jan Eldrege Author
Courtesy of

The first author to speak was Jan Eldredge. Jan’s book Evangeline of the Bayou, a middle-grade adventure novel, was published back in 2008 (and it has an awesome cover). Jan shared some great tips and tricks that helped her along the path to publishing, but the most interesting thing she shared was the idea that everyone should have a “trunk novel.” Maybe you’ve heard this term before, but it was a first for me. Jan described a trunk novel as an author’s first finished work. Where does the trunk come into play, you might ask. Well, the trunk happens to be the novel’s dark and dingy home for the remainder of its days.

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge
Courtesy of

Jan shared that, in her experience and in talking to other authors, most times when you finally sit down and finish that first book, it’s total crap. While I might not advocate that you effectively throw your hard work into the garbage, more often than not, she’s probably right. Writing, like anything else, takes practice. You most likely aren’t going to be J.K. Rowling the first time you take a crack at it. I think the general sentiment around her words is that when you read back that first draft, don’t get discouraged. It’s probably not very good. But don’t give up! If you keep at it, you are most certainly going to get better.


Author Debbie Viguié
Courtesy of

The next author to share her publishing journey was Debbie Viguié. Debbie is a New York Times Bestselling Author and has published upwards of 50 novels across a variety of genres. Her publishing story was fascinating. She got her start by helping out a well-known author with a story when the author was spread too thin with different projects. Debbie hopped at the chance to be a ghostwriter for this project and knocked it out of the park. When Debbie’s friend tried to get her a contract with the same publisher, they initially said no due to the fact that she hadn’t been published before. But then the friend shared that everything they liked in the last book was Debbie’s handiwork and they changed their tune.

Hearing Jan and Debbie talk about their publishing journeys was fascinating. They had wildly diverse paths to getting published, but they had a couple of things in common, they worked incredibly hard and they didn’t give up. Any aspiring author will do well to develop those two character traits.

Peter Raymundo on the 5 Elements of Story Structure at Disney

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to attend a local author fair at the West Osceola Library in Central Florida. It was a small event with several self-published and traditionally published authors in attendance. The highlights for me were the two guest speaking sessions by three different types of authors. Each one shared stories of their writing and publishing experiences that were helpful to me and hopefully to you, too. Part 1 will cover just the first session which included Disney’s storytelling formula and an author/illustrator’s writing process.

The first session was hosted by author and illustrator Peter Raymundo. A former animator for Disney films such as Mulan and Lilo & Stitch, Peter has used his animation skills to jump into the publishing world with the Third Grade Mermaid book series and The Monkey Goes Bananas.

Peter Raymundo at book fair
Courtesy of

An Illustrator’s Writing Process

Peter spoke at length about his writing process. For example, he shared how important it is for him, as an illustrator, to always have a sketchbook with him. When something in real life sparks his imagination, he gets to work right there. A lot of his books are marine life themed, so he visits aquariums regularly with his sketchbook. If he sees an interesting animal or something he’s never seen before, he pulls out the book, sits down, and sketches it right there.

Peter also talked about how much research goes into his stories before they are ever written. Animals he had never heard about before, such as the sea cucumber, come to life with interesting character traits based on the real-life research he does.

The Disney Storytelling Formula

My favorite thing that Peter discussed was about actually laying out how your story will flow. Most of us learned about the beginning, middle, and end of a story in school, but the former Tarzan animator said he learned something different to crafting stories at Disney. At Disney, they focused on the 5 parts of story structure. I’ll briefly list and explain the 5 parts below:

  1. Character: Who is the main character and what does he/she want?
  2. Setting: Location, time period, etc. It should become part of the story.
  3. Problem: What’s the one main problem with the main character getting what he/she wants?
  4. Struggle: The main character tries to get what they want, but fails over and over. Typically, the more they try the more complicated things get.
  5. Resolution: Does the main character succeed? Often they do, but not how they expected to.

Using Pixar’s Story Outline

Learning about story structure is always interesting to me. People have their own ways of deciding how to layout their narratives. For Crunch Time Cam, I used a story outline that I learned from a Khan Academy/Pixar course. It goes something like this:

  • There once was a ________ (Main character)
  • Everyday, ________ (His/her current life)
  • Until one day, ________ (Inciting incident that launches the adventure)
  • Because of that, ________ (Event after event that moves the plot forward)
  • Until finally, ________ (Resolution)

I highly recommend that Khan Academy course by the way. It was free, interactive, and incredibly helpful for beginner storytellers and veterans will pick up a thing or two. I’d love to hear if you have a formula for structuring your stories?

Part 2 of the Local Author Fair roundup can be found here!

Best Design Tools for Self-Publishing

When you are a self-published or indie author, you most likely are a do-it-yourself type of human being. You are also probably a life-long learner. These habits don’t just stop at discovering how to upload your words onto Amazon or Smashwords, however.

There’s a website to design, book covers to create, and possibly even a logo to invent. In this post, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite design tools that I’ve used to create book covers, graphics, and more.


Canva is, by far, my go-to resource for all things design. The interface is simple and the number of tools, templates, and graphics they provide give you a creative boost when you are trying to work out an abstract idea into a real book cover. There is also a feature called “Design Stream” that allows you to browse thousands of created designs by other Canva users. I use it for when I need inspiration from what other people can do with this powerful design tool. There are plenty of free or low-cost graphics and design templates to keep your design expenses low.

canva design templates

The process is as simple as starting with a blank canvas (see what they did there?) or choosing one of the free or paid templates they provide and then customizing to your desire. They utilize a simple drag-and-drop system and provide a guideline system that easily assists you with lining up your design elements just how you want them. And if you prefer to use some of your own images or photos to include in your design, you can upload them to the system as well. Two thumbs up for Canva.


Snagit is a screen capture tool that has far more power than just snapping things on your screen. Snagit has a robust editor included in the tool that allows you to alter image colors, remove unwanted backgrounds, insert graphics and text onto images, or even blur out content that you don’t want others to see. It might not be as helpful for creating book covers, but it is a huge aid when you are making step-by-step or instructional blog posts. It even has screen recording capabilities if you want to explore that route.

snagit editor

Snagit isn’t free like my other two suggestions, but they do have a free trial available on their site. If you are looking just for a software tool to just do screenshots, there are many available for free. Most computers have this function built-in or you can use something like collabshot.’s tagline is “Beautiful free stock photos.” That’s right, you can get high quality, legit, and free from copyright restrictions photos from a generous community of photographers for your website and book covers. In fact, I used images I found on this site for the covers of my books Crunch Time Cam and Coaching Youth Basketball: Offensive Strategies. search

The website features a search feature where you can find the types of images you are looking for by entering a simple keyword like “basketball” or “business.” Then, will deliver the corresponding results for you to browse and choose. Hundreds of high-resolution images are added weekly, so don’t forget to check back often if they don’t have exactly what you are looking for yet.

Your Turn

I hope you now have some useful new tools to work with for your next design needs. I used a combination of these tools for all of the graphics on this blog post just to give you an idea of how valuable they can be. Do you use other design tools for self-publishing or writing? I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comment section.


My Favorite Books of 2017


For the last couple of years, I’ve actually written down my resolutions for some fuzzy reasoning. It could be to alleviate the possibility of forgetting what my yearly aspirations would be which I most certainly did each year before jotting them down. It could be to motivate myself to achieve these goals that I pondered for roughly 10 minutes each December late in the month. Either way, on each yearly catalog, you’ll find listed first my reading goal. After achieving my goal of reading 24 books in 2016, I upped it to 48 books this past year. If you’re connected with me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I did reach that goal which means I have too much time on my hands. To prove that further, I thought I might do a little write up to recap my favorite titles of the past year.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

There are endless blogs and books out there that talk about minimalism, but Josh Becker is my favorite voice. He does a great job of shifting the conversation from materialism and consumption to intentionality and generosity. It’s a practical and thoughtful message that I really appreciate.

Apes and Angels by Ben Bova

My first fiction entry in this post is Ben Bova’s sci-fi novel. This book is actually a part of a trilogy, but I read it on its own without any trouble. I find that some science fiction pieces have a had time creating engaging characters because they are so focused on the fancy tech or the alien life that inhabits their world, but Bova doesn’t have this problem at all. The lengthy tome flew by for me because I was engrossed in the stories and actions of the crew aboard the Odysseus. There’s action, there’s sacrifice, and there’s a good old-fashioned romance.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This one has been on my to-read list for years and I’m so glad I finally got to it. The book is actually a transcript of Lewis’s legendary broadcast talks during World War II that explored Christian concepts he’d previously talked/wrote about. C.S. Lews has a real knack for taking lofty ideals, values, and beliefs and making them digestible.

Sleeping Giants & Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

This was a strange case where I accidentally picked up the second story (Waking Gods) in the Themis Files series first and it was so engaging that I had to go back and read Sleeping Giants. The storytelling is unique in this sci-fi thriller. The chapters are laid out in an interview format. The characters involved bounce around from a mysteriously powerful figure to linguists and military personnel. Suspenseful, clever, and funny. It reminded me so much of those old films on TCM that I watch whenever I get the chance. Who doesn’t love The Day the Earth Stood Still or Forbidden Planet?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Each Halloween, I like to try a book or two of spooky literature. I’m not a gore guy, so instead, I steer toward the classics. Last year was Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which I enjoyed, but I gotta say, Frankenstein was amazing. I’ve read it once before in a college course I took on technological dystopia, but it was in graphic novel form. Everyone knows the story by now, but seriously, go read it. There is a reason it’s a classic. I also found it strangely prescient as AI continues to evolve.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller’s Generous Justice was a really enlightening and challenging book for me. In this book, he unpacks themes justice from a Biblical context and how they should shape how Christians live today. It’s easy to comprehend and invites readers to examine their own actions in regards to justice, mercy, and generosity.

Alright, those are some of my very favorite tomes that I’ve read this year. Can’t wait to see what stories I dive into in 2018.

I’d love to hear what your favorite reads were this year or if you enjoy any of the books on my list!


Sports & Literacy: Crucial Elements of Your Child’s Life

For kids (and all of us, really), life can be an aggregation of anxiety and stress. It’s full of social and academic pressures. Children and teens seek an oasis from this drudgery just like we do. Often they turn to tiny screens filled with social media, video games, or whatever their favorite apps happen to be. Those distractions aren’t necessarily bad things, but suggesting activities such as sports and literacy can have a big impact on how your child develops and create lifelong habits for them.

Strangely enough, it seems like sports and literacy are often pitted against one another. It’s the nerd versus jock stereotype, right? But in actuality, they can go hand in hand and help to build similar habits. The benefits of these two facets of life are numerous, but I’m going to detail some of my favorites:


Social Skills

Sports can develop or round out many different social skills. Teamwork, participation, effort, practice, dedication, communication – I feel like I could go on and on. These skills won’t be limited to the playing field either. They will use them in school and in their careers.


Exercise is an obvious one, but it is crucial to kid’s lives:

  • Higher activity rates in children are correlated with higher test scores.
  • Exercise lowers the risk of many diseases and obesity.
  • Frequent exercise decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety in children.

Life Lessons

Athletics are competitions and in competitions, there are usually winners and losers. Sports can help kids learn how to cope with the fact that life is not perfect and sometimes you might lose or fail. Often times, those moments are the ones where we learn the most and motivate us to improve.


Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes

The world of literature is filled with characters with different stories and worldviews. Connecting with these characters who have different values or perspectives and seeing that these characters are just like the reader produces empathy for others that kids might not get otherwise. Often times these experiences might not come unless you can travel the globe. The good news is that going to your local library is more affordable than traveling the world.


Reading outside of the formal classroom is a large boon to your child’s learning. It will boost their vocabulary and make them more comfortable with school texts. Research indicates that when children are reached with high quality early learning experiences, they are 40% less likely to fall behind in school and 70% more likely to graduate from high school.


Health can be a key benefit of reading, too. But perhaps it is less obvious than in sports. Reading has been shown to improve memorization. Getting engrossed in a story also reduces stress or anxiety. Creating a bedtime ritual of reading will also aid in sleep.

The great thing about sports and literacy is that you can start building passion and habits for them right now. It is as easy as heading to your local library, turning off the TV, reading to your kids, or going outside to play kick a soccer ball as a family.


Now Available for Pre-order – Crunch Time Cam

I’ve been working to polish up the manuscript for Crunch Time Cam and I think it’s finally ready! Cam’s ready to hit the hardwood, if you will.

I’ve decided that the ebook release will be on January 9, 2018. And to get the ball rolling, I want to offer a discount for my early supporters for pre-ordering now. The ebook will be 40% off for those that purchase before the official release date.

Pre-order Price: $2.99 $4.99

Crunch Time Cam follows Cameron Flint, a young basketball lover who is finally old enough to join his first organized basketball team. Having played for years with his skilled older brothers, Cam feels he has a leg up on the competition. That is until he sees his teammates. His team is full of players with little to no experience and a first-time coach.

Cam takes on these challenges among many others including injuries, academics, and rivalries to try to live up the family name.

I’ll also be offering a paperback version in December for a discounted rate, so be on the lookout for that.

Enough chit-chat, time to take advantage of that discount. Pre-order your copy of Crunch Time Cam today.