- 15th April 201815th April 2018
I’ve produced a series of booklets for Michael Rosen and wanted to highlight some of the features of the system we used because I think it might be of interest to many authors looking to self-publish.
For this series, I suggested we use Ingram Spark. They provide arguably the best print-on-demand service in the world right now and, once set-up correctly, it provides some fantastic benefits to the author. First, the writer has access to tens of thousands of online book-sellers, including the big names such as Amazon. Once the title has been approved by Ingram Spark, and the title goes into production, the book automatically gets sent out to these online retailers. So, you can start selling your book immediately and use the Amazon links to promote your title. Ingram also allow you to sell both ebooks and hard copies (paperback, or hardback, whichever you choose).
On top of this, once the title is live, the author is able to order copies for themselves, at a significant author discount. The price is usually well below the Amazon trade price, meaning that an author can order copies in bulk, have them sent to their home address, and they can sell the books themselves at the same RRP that Amazon uses, and still maintain healthy margins. This opens up some interesting possibilities: first, books can be sold by the author at events and book signings, generating a nice profit, but, secondly, the author can order in bulk and then sell to local bookshops, again for a profit. In theory, the author could set up their own distribution network, either locally, or at a wider level, and sell books to multiple outlets; and, all without significant initial outlay. Because Ingram Spark are print-on-demand there are no minimum orders, an author can order a single copy if they choose. No-one has to find the money for a print-run of 1,000 books and so on, instead, the author orders as many books as they want each time.
What I have been doing over the last few years is advising clients to use Ingram Spark, then I show them how to set-up their own account. After that I simply manage the account on their behalf, however, the account remains in the name of the author. This has huge benefits for the client because I handle the uploading of book files, but they remain in control of sales and royalties. All monies from book sales go directly to the client and they are remitted to the bank account that is submitted to Ingram.
This has worked extremely well for my clients and it also solves one of the biggest hurdles when dealing with Ingram Spark: submitting a set of high-quality PDFs for the book interior and cover. This is where most people who deal with Ingram on their own encounter problems. Designing a book interior is a specialised task and formatting a PDF so that it passes all of Ingram Spark’s submission criteria isn’t the easiest job in the world. A lot of people turn to a designer once their PDF fails the submission process, or when the final book produced isn’t up to scratch. I’ve gathered a lot of experience working with Ingram Spark for many projects so I know how to get a book smoothly through the submission process. I also have years of experience designing books, so am confident that the finished title will look as good as a mass-market paperback or hardback and so on.
For the foreseeable future, Ingram Spark seems to be the first choice for many authors, and I only see this side of my business increasing, as more and more clients ask me to help design and format their books. But that is the extent of my involvement, and, once the book has been launched, the author can handle all the ordering and promotion, and collect 100% of the royalties and profits.
A final word, I am finding that this isn’t just for new, up and coming authors. Working with Ingram Spark is also a way for a well-known author to release titles that perhaps their traditional publishers aren’t interested in printing. Also, using Ingram Spark is a way to publish independently, and retain all royalties. Yes, there will be more work involved this way, but it is entirely possible now to print your own books and sell directly to your audience while retaining all of the profits.
- 24th January 201724th January 2017
Mark Oxbrow has a new book out, and I once again created the cover. The book is a guide to the mysterious and fascinating creatures found within the pages of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. As well as the cover, I also handled all of the Kindle formatting and layout. If you haven’t encountered Nifflers or Pygmy Puffs before, this is the guide for you!
- 14th November 201614th November 2016
I’ve recently launched a new site for Earth Ancients, a radio show and podcast presented by Cliff Dunning that highlights ancient mysteries and lost civilisations. I created a stripped down, minimal site that allows the content to shine, but, while the design may be simple, the engine that runs it isn’t. I’m running a podcast player on the site and it automatically pulls new shows into WordPress as soon as they have been released. It also brings in all the show descriptions and assets.
Cliff is looking at expanding the site as Earth Ancients evolves, and I am excited to not only help, but shape where the site might go next.
- 27th May 201627th May 2016
I have just completed an entire rebuild of William’s site, moving over to WordPress. William wanted a very clean, minimal site, one where the only flashes of colour would come from our animations, featured content boxes, and images within individual stories/pages. The idea was to allow the content to speak for itself, without a surrounding design getting in the way. I’m very happy with how it all turned out, and we have a whole spectrum of new tools to play with on the site as we continue to update it, including an interactive calendar, a very advanced shopping cart, wishlist, and much more.
I’m particularly excited about the animations we have running on the site (all clean, HTML5 driven, so they all run natively in modern browsers). I’m looking forward to building more of those in the future and using them to highlight spot features and products.
I am usually called in to create high-colour, lush designs, so it was quite refreshing – and challenging – to create a very clean, white website. While we do have lots of colour in the form of illustrations and animations, the interface of the site itself is very minimal and it slips into the background and allows the viewer to focus solely on William’s content. I’m looking forward to doing more work in a similar vein in the future.
- 16th April 201616th April 2016
Had a lot of fun with the new Heretic Magazine Issue 9. It features some great writers, including a chapter from a new book by David Ritchie that is very dear to my heart. I’ve followed David’s research and work since 2001 and it is always an intriguing and exhilarating read. Best of luck with the book, David. Here are some highlights from my design work for the magazine this time around:
You can grab a copy of the magazine from the Heretic Magazine website.
- 28th March 201628th March 2016
I’ve been providing clients with cutting-edge, WordPress websites that are easy to update for years now, yet I never had one for my own site. That has now been resolved.
The problem with being so busy is that you just don’t have time for your own portfolio site. So, I spent an inordinate amount of weekends and evenings (I started this design last October) putting that right and my new site is now live. It will allow me to blog more often, add new sections to my portfolio and keep all my clients – and prospective clients – aware of what I am up to. While my old site was cutting edge in its day, it was also tricky to update, and two years had passed since I had last added anything new.
I seem to be in a phase of building websites out of wooden materials. I’m no stranger to this art form in real life. Some of the elements from the redesign were recreated from real, physical artworks that I created long ago. Most I gave away to friends. I have none in my personal possession any more, but I have some photos of some of my favourites and these I used to form some of the elements in the Footer. It was an intriguing prospect to recreate some of these in a virtual form, while adding a lot more elements that related either directly to my work, or my personal whims and fancies.
I was persuaded to keep my Arthur Rackham Fairy in the header, and it feels right to still be there, because Rackham drew and painted in the area of London where I live. The postcard in the box at the top right is also of Kensington Gardens, a place I draw inspiration from almost daily, so that is a reminder of where home is, even when I am lost in a design or working through a page of code.
I’m looking forward most to being able to share more of my latest work as and when I create it, and the new portfolio not only allows me to show-off larger images, it also allows me to do so very quickly.
I’ve got some new features that I would like to add in time, but for now this will keep me happy. I have another couple of personal projects that I would like to launch this year, so finally I can devote my spare time to those.
I’d like to finish this post with a massive thank you to Greg Taylor of the Daily Grail who kindly hosted the last incarnation of my website for more years than I care to remember. Thanks, Greg, for giving Artifice Design a home for all that time – and a big thank you also to David Pickworth, you saved my skin more than once!
- 24th March 201624th March 2016
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time designing and laying out a book of poems for Michael Bibow-Finucane. We both wanted a simple, yet Gothic layout and so In the Spirit of the Wolf Table was born. I designed the paperback inside and out.
I chose a set of icons to illustrate each poem and then also used them on the cover too. The process involved designing several new, custom icons, to better serve the material. The end result was a clean, spare design that evokes some of the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe and his ilk, and hopefully provides a space where the reader can lose themselves in the delightful poems. I’m looking forward to the next volume already.
- 18th March 201618th March 2016
Mick Turner from the Afterlife Explorers Conference has added a new event to the 2017 lineup. Held also in Australia, the Close Encounters Conference seeks to unravel the mysteries of the world of UFOs and real X-Files. I helped with branding materials for the Conference, kicking off with a new logo, website header, and Facebook imagery.
- 13th March 201613th March 2016
Sometimes you wonder how people find you, or notice your output. Mostly it is word of mouth, sometimes it is chance; however it happens, sometimes you are just grateful that it works. Collaborating with Genie Poretzky-Lee has been enthralling, challenging, enlightening and, above all, a delight.
Genie came to me looking for help with designing a trilogy of large format publications. These three books contain not only the most profound stories, but glimpses of another world via the author’s unique and enigmatic photos and artwork. Each volume had to be separate from the others, yet all had to contain the same common thread, leaving the reader with the sense that they had journeyed in very different lands, yet encountered elements of the same story in each location.
We achieved this by using a unique colour scheme for each volume, yet each harmonised with the others – single notes that come together to form a series of haunting chords.
I’ve been entranced by Genie’s tales since she first brought these to my attention and it has been an honour to be the vehicle by which they are introduced to the reader.
- 16th February 201616th February 2016
I’ve just completed a very satisfying WordPress website for Sue Minns. We spent a lot of time refining the look and the feel on this one, and in the end we chose a design that is as good on the eye as it is easy to use. Backed up with the power of WordPress, this site will grow and grow, and will enable Sue to showcase her amazing writing, as well as providing a home for her Tours and other services. I’m also a fan of Sue, her writing, and her ideas, so I look forward to seeing where the site heads next.
- 27th July 201427th July 2014
The WordPress train rolls on. I have just converted Andrew Gough’s site to WordPress to allow him to update the home page with fresh stories and content.
While we were there we conjured up a fresh design for the site and came up with a custom WordPress Theme that really expresses what Andrew Gough’s work is about. All the little details on this one were a lot of fun to create and it was a dream project for me.
Besides the new design and the blog, we also added some neat little tricks – like a page where Andrew’s latest Instagram photos are automatically displayed, including links to the full Instagram account. WordPress just gets better and better.
- 8th April 20148th April 2014
Very pleased with a new website I have just launched for writer and journalist Mick Wall. Mick has written a plethora of definitive books about the world’s greatest bands and musicians and he has a truly unique writing style that we wanted to capture on the website. This site allows Mick to update his Blog himself, and it will showcase his great writing, as well as becoming an outlet for a series of ebooks that he is about to release. This one was a lot of fun to develop.
- 25th February 201425th February 2014
I get asked more and more to build custom WordPress sites for clients. I find the process incredibly enjoyable and merging my high-gloss designs with WordPress’ amazing functionality is something that seems to work really well. One example is CCCPE, a site I just launched.
WordPress allows the client to update their blog and other sections of text themselves. This means that the site owner can feed fresh content to their site without having to ask a web designer or developer to get involved each time. It is a fantastic system for both designer and site owner and means that the client has a level of independence that never existed a few years ago.
I can see my WordPress work eventually taking over my traditional, custom website designs. I am able to transpose my colourful designs onto the WordPress framework and customise how everything pulls together, so it is the perfect marriage of form and function. I’ve seen a lot of content management systems develop over the years, but WordPress feels the most polished and it offers an ease of use that anyone who can post on Facebook can use. I am looking forward to developing many more and I have a handful in the pipeline right now. It will be interesting to look back in a couple of years and see where this all ended up.
- 5th June 20135th June 2013
I have another new book out. Co-authored once again with Mark Oxbrow it’s a guide to Dan Brown’s novel Inferno.
We worked around the clock on this one, aiming to release one of the world’s first comprehensive guides to the blockbuster, and we managed to write, research, and format the book in three weeks exactly. Having ghostwritten many of these in the past, we had a good idea of what we were capable of and what would be required to be one of the first guides out in the world. So, we knuckled down, didn’t breathe a word to anyone, and quietly got on with the job.
And, here it is, three weeks of hell later!
In all seriousness, this one was a lot of fun to compile and write. Just releasing this book feels like an achievement, and releasing it in three weeks flat feels insane.
I also designed the cover.
- 17th December 201217th December 2012
I have a new book out, co-authored with my long-term collaborator and close friend, Mark Oxbrow. The book is called Tolkien: The Secret History of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I am thrilled to have released this book and it is the culmination of a life-long obsession; J. R. R. Tolkien and the universe he created, Middle-Earth – an obsession that Mark Oxbrow shares with me.
I was first introduced to Tolkien aged just 12 and between the ages of 12 and 18 I read and re-read just about every word he had written, as well as absorbing every word written about him.
It was a love-affair that would remain with me. In what was a total coincidence at the time, in my twenties I found myself living in the town in the West Midlands where Tolkien’s ancestors had settled and lived for centuries and Tolkien would later write of this homeland, Evesham, in Worcestershire, declaring:
“Any corner of that county (however fair or squalid) is in an indefinable way ‘home’ to me, as no other part of the world is.”
I spent many years chasing down stories of Tolkien and investigating the hidden corners of Worcestershire. I uncovered all the locations that had made their mark on Tolkien and entered into his fiction, because quite simply, the Vale of Evesham had become The Shire, the famous home of the Hobbits in both The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.
I have always wanted to tell some of these stories, so with the release of The Hobbit movie upon us, Mark Oxbrow and myself decided now was probably a good time to write this book. Tolkien: The Secret History of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is really only part one of a series of books that we plan to release. There will be more secrets to come, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, our first offering is available as an ebook from Amazon on all their international stores and we have deliberately kept the price low so that we can share the magic of Tolkien with as any readers as possible. A couple of popular Amazon stores are below:
- 8th August 20128th August 2012
I was talking in my last entry about ebooks and the future of publishing. Well, staying in the same vein, I have just released a brand new digital magazine with my long-time collaborator, Andrew Gough. We have called it The Heretic Magazine and we are covering anything alternative; history, religion, science and everything else in between.
We have been discussing a product such as this for some time, and then Apple released their authoring software iBooks Author. The software streamlines the process of designing multi-touch books for their iPad iBooks App. So, we dived right in and are proud to announce the release of Volume 1 of The Heretic Magazine.
You can see more examples of my design work for the magazine on my portfolio page for the product.
- 27th February 201227th February 2012
I’ve worked with Mark Oxbrow many times in the past and have always enjoyed the process. So, when it came to his latest ebook I was delighted to work with him. This time I created the cover for his book, as well as handling the formatting of the Kindle ebook itself.
I’ve become very involved with ebook formatting and now spend a lot of my time overseeing such projects. With the rise of Kindle and ebooks in general I can only see this side of my business growing. I find it fascinating and the work feels truly revolutionary and groundbreaking. It is quite enlightening getting in at the ground floor and being a part of something this big right from the start. I compare it to the early days of the internet back in the 90s, when no-one really knew how far it was going to go and where it was going to lead. We probably don’t know the full answer, even now, but I think we all have a much clearer idea. Ebooks right now are so new and fresh, it feels the same to me. The software is still in its infancy as far as I can see, and so is the hardware. So, we can expect huge developments and changes over the coming years. With Apple changing the game once again after announcing iBooks Author, the scene is set for a furious push into the future. Ebooks are going to be such a huge deal a few years from now.
Mark Oxbrow’s book shows what can be done. He and his coauthor had a great concept for a book; a guide to Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But with the Hollywood film by David Fincher suddenly upon us speed was of the essence. With Kindle ebooks it meant he could take that idea and publish it under his own imprint and have the book up for sale within days of finishing the manuscript. With the film being released this was critical. Suddenly things are possible that publishers could only dream of a decade ago. And not just publishers, now everyone has access to this technology.
Some things will never change; you still need a good, compelling cover, and you need a great idea for your book to be a success. Of course, it helps if you can write too! But, you no longer need a major publisher to bless you with their patronage. Now you can get your book to market yourself.
Things are about to get very interesting.
- 6th September 20116th September 2011
This post isn’t just a piece of shameless self-promotion…yes, I wrote this book, but I did also design the cover, so it has a fitting place here on this blog!
Publishing this book has been a dream of mine for a long time, and it is good to finally see it out there. The cover is also something I have been toying with for some time and I was pleased with the finished result.
There is also a web site to accompany the book’s release.
- 8th January 20118th January 2011
Maybe I should stop dating my blogs! It has been a year since my last I note. While it has been a very busy year, I am not sure where that year went.
So, what have I been up to? Well, one project I have recently finished is a new site for William Henry. I’m particularly pleased with it and the design took a large part of the year to develop and finalise.
The final theme, featuring a complex and whimsical clockwork device, deals with time and the galaxy and the starting point for the design was a photo of a very famous clock in Venice, in St Mark’s Square. William sent me a photo of the clock that he had just taken while on a research trip in Venice and he asked me to see if I could feature it in some way in the new design.
I loved the image so much that it went on to become the centrepiece in our epic new layout.
You can see the complete design on William’s website.
- 19th October 200919th October 2009
For years we have been awaiting Dan Brown’s next novel and now the wait is finally over. Hot on the heels of The Lost Symbol is Decoding The Lost Symbol, a book that Simon Cox has released as the ultimate guide to the new fictional episode in the life of Robert Langdon, Brown’s protagonist.
I became involved with this project years ago and I mocked up covers for Simon’s book as early as August 2005. Dan Brown’s project was known then as The Solomon Key, and we were working towards releasing a title called Unlocking The Solomon Key. Then we heard that there had been a title change and we had to start again.
Now that this book is finally out, I’m very happy with the final cover that I designed. I also worked on the interior plate section and on top of that I provided research for Simon’s book as well as handling some of the writing itself, as it had to be written in record-breaking time.
It is great to see the book on sale in UK bookshops (US to follow in early November) just a month after the release of Dan Brown’s own title, and after putting in so much work on this project over the years it is satisfying to finally hold the results in my hands.