Indie on a Budget: Cover Design

Indie On A Budget Header Photo

Being an indie author — if you want to do it right — is not cheap. For one thing, your work will need editing, formatting, and a cover. And don’t forget to consider a marketing budget, too! For a complete breakdown of potential costs, I highly recommend Lit Chic’s post, “You’ve Got to Spend Money to Make Money.” She goes into the nitty-gritty details using her own indie experience. And she also stresses budgets and realistic expectations for return on investment.

I’m not rich. Usually, when I start to do financially well (just well, never even approaching wealthy), I either lose an organ (down two so far!), my car acts up, or my house requires repairs. It’s like clockwork. While self-publishing Acceptance,  I was suffering gallbladder attacks, which led to the organ’s eventual removal and a pile of medical bills. Now as I’m self-publishing Long Way Down, that medical bill pile is still there, so both releases have had a shoestring budget at best. Since both are short stories, I had to have very small expectations for my ROI.

Covers, on average, can cost in the hundreds. No short story (at least not by an unestablished writer) is ever going to earn that expense back. Thankfully, I have a bit of artistic capability and opted to design and create my own e-book covers.

Progression of Acceptance cover from sketch to finished product.

At the end of the process, the digital painting had 33 visible layers in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

For Acceptance, I opted to digitally paint the cover, which would feature Svein’s pet crow, Vidar. I knew I enjoyed painting in Photoshop (I actually find it relaxing), and that I could decently draw most animals, including birds.  I started with several concept sketches on physical paper and also looked at a variety of hooded crow photos. After the groundwork was laid, I completed the line art in Photoshop and then started painting. The process spanned several months since I failed to set a strict work schedule on the project. Working with numerous layers, I eventually had the entire project done and was able to add in the text after trying a variety of font combinations.

Pros: I was able to cut a huge expense from the project; in fact, the only thing lost was time. For the most part, the cover did come out looking professional, though I figure someone more talented could have done better. I also rather enjoyed the painting process, minus some major frustrations.

An outtake from the cover where I just squiggled it all out in frustration.

There were a lot of frustrations when I got to the grass, and I took it out on the painting.

Cons: It ate up a lot of time that could have been spent writing or editing. There were major frustrations where I was pulling out my hair. You would not expect grass to be challenging to paint, but it was!

Summarized Thoughts: All the other covers in The Augur’s Rose Series will be digitally painted by me. I have many mockups sketched for subsequent entries in the series, but I hope to set up an actual schedule for future covers to streamline the process.

Minimalistic Cover
Pictured is the progression of the Long Way Down cover.

Pictured is the progression of the Long Way Down cover.

I really enjoy minimalistic book covers. There is just something pleasing about them to me. And after struggling to decide what to use for Long Way Down, I finally decided to pursue a minimalistic cover. I also set my mind on completing the cover in Adobe Illustrator. The catch is I have very little experience working with this program. My co-worker Mary, a graphic designer, was willing to give me a tutorial in Illustrator, and I went from there. Much like Acceptance‘s cover, I started with pencil sketches before translating them into the design program. Using shapes and paint brushes, I gradually worked the cover until it resembled the sketches. It still did not look very good, but when it struck me to include a city-scape along the bottom, the cover came together. I also met my one-true-love: the gradient tool. This handy-dandy tool really helped add depth and interest to the cover.

Pros: It was a good crash course in Illustrator, and I learned a lot. Overall, it also took a lot less time to complete, especially when compared to the digital painting process.

Cons: Since I’m unfamiliar with Illustrator, I feel like there are tools and tricks that I missed out on when creating this cover.

Summarized Thoughts: I will probably use Illustrator again to create more minimalistic covers. I actually have one in mind for a potential November release.

Future Indie Covers

I plan to create my own covers for future short stories. I need to get some ROI on them, and that will not happen if I outsource their covers. If I self-publish my sci-fi novel, however, I plan to hire a designer for its cover. With a novel, there is a greater chance of making that money back. Another major deciding factor is the fact –that beyond a project in one of my professional writing courses — I have never designed a wraparound book cover, which includes the front cover, the spine, and back cover.

Still, it is possible to cut down on costs as an indie author,  especially if you are just starting out. However, if you do proceed with your own covers, always seek out feedback and look at other covers in the market. Also, research common cover mistakes.

Long Way Down: A Sci-fi Short Story coverLong Way Down: A Sci-fi Short Story is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, It will automatically deliver to your Kindle or free Kindle app on Saturday, July 7.

A war orphan and survivor of genocide, twelve-year-old Yuu has learned what it takes to survive over the course of twenty raids. When her latest sanctuary comes under assault, she ignores her better instincts and rescues two siblings. However, as the city topples around them, Yuu wars with herself: abandon the younger children and increase her own chance of survival or go together to whatever end. She knows all too well what hunts them . . . and she refuses to face the monsters with red eyes again.


Life Is A Whirlwind

Writing Life Header

A lot of exciting things have been happening in my writing life in 2018. For one thing, I actually got a bite from an agent! I have been querying Heritage Lost for about 2 1/2 years, off and on. After taking a break, I’d picked up querying at the beginning of this year, and unlike past querying cycles, I wasn’t getting form letters … I was receiving silence. I’d rather have the form letters than the silent rejections.

Then, while I was on a business trip to California in April, I woke up — one of those situations where the brain is just awake. Unable to slip back to sleep, I did what any person does in the 21st century: I went to browse my cellphone, and I saw the email. My innards instantly cringed upon seeing a response to one of my queries from February as I just expected a form letter rejection. I opened it, and I could not believe my eyes. It was a FULL manuscript request. I won’t lie after reading those words, I was jumping up and down in that hotel room, quiet screaming. I did not go back to sleep afterward, even though it was pretty early in California.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the agent on that manuscript, but it is my understanding that they have a fairly large backlog, so I can patiently wait. But in the meantime, I continue to focus on other projects.

New Short Story On The Way

"Long Way Down" is coming to Amazon Kindle on Friday, July 6. Be on the look out for more information!

“Long Way Down” is coming to Amazon Kindle on Friday, July 6. Be on the lookout for more information!

Back in 2014, I had participated in a micro-fiction contest that Tipsy Lit (which appears to be no more) had held. The contests (weekly or monthly, I can’t recall) limited submissions to 500 words, and each one of these contests had a specific theme, which made it a lot of fun. The theme for this particular week/month was “Choices, Choices,” and my piece — Long Way Down put three unattended children, trapped in a war zone, into a rather precarious situation. The piece stuck with me, and over the years, I have been expanding it to its current state.

Having no word limit, I enjoyed being able to dive more into Yuu’s character: a preteen who has lost her family and has been surviving on her own for so long that she struggles on whether to help a pair of siblings trapped in similar circumstances or not. Continue reading

Farewell February Freebie!

"Acceptance" will be free until 11:59 p.m. PST Feb. 28.

“Acceptance” will be free until 11:59 p.m. PST Feb. 28.

From now until 11:59 p.m. PST Feb. 28, I’m offering Acceptance as a free e-book to celebrate the end of February and the approach of spring! If you are a fan of sword and sorcery or darker fantasy stories, definitely check out this piece. The Augur’s Rose Series #2 will be out some point this summer.

Don’t mess with the dead. Pure common sense. Necromancy gets messy — yet when pitted against Berit Gyllen . . . something or other . . . Svein is the only one wallowing in the filth when his artifact retrieval mission for the Mothers goes sideways. Perhaps he should have listened when that blasted bird told him to run.

Fun Facts About The Augur’s Rose Series

If you missed out on the Acceptance release party on Facebook, here are a few fun fact in regards to The Augur’s Rose Series.

FACT #1: I originally started Acceptance for a contest but didn’t finish it in time. It was also a more experimental piece that has morphed and expanded into what it is now. I loved the character of Svein so much that I decided I wanted to revisit him, and that is how it became an ongoing serial. It’s serial nature also led me to pursue self-publishing.

FACT #2: The Augur’s Rose Series combines Roman and Scandinavian lore and history. Svein’s name is Norwegian and comes from the old Norse for “boy.” Ironically, Vidar’s (Svein’s hooded crow companion) name means “warrior.”

FACT #3: Vidar is a hooded crow, which resides all over Europe and parts of the Middle East. They are different than carrion crows in that they are gray and black rather than straight black. Vidar shares his name with one of Odin’s sons in Norse mythology. Odin, of course, was known for his connection to ravens. Funny enough in Faroese folklore, a maiden would go out on Candlemas morn and throw a stone, then a bone, then a clump of turf at a hooded crow – if it flew over the sea, her husband would be a foreigner; if it landed on a farm or house, she would marry a man from there, but if it stayed put, she would remain unmarried.

FACT #4: I love reading a variety of magazines and online articles. When doing so, sometimes inspiration strikes — such was the case when I stumbled across this article from the Smithsonian magazine about Catholicism’s martyred saints, which are kept on eternal display. Paul Koudounaris, who is a member of The Order of the Good Death alongside Caitlin Doughty (Ask a Mortician), authored a book on these saints. This inspiration can be seen early on in Acceptance.…/meet-the-fantastically-be…/

Fact #5: If you don’t know what an augur is, please visit my original post on the subject at It involves forecasting the future and sacred chickens! And yes, there will be sacred chickens in The Augur’s Rose Series future.

What Is An Augur?

What is an augur? Map of ancient rome background.

Augurs feature predominately in my upcoming fantasy series of short stories. Unless you’re knowledgeable about certain strands of history, you might be wondering what is an augur? Well, it all ties into ancient Rome.  Continue reading

Acceptance Available For Pre-Order

Acceptance available for pre-order at Amazon,

“Acceptance” is now available for pre-order at It will officially release Nov. 24. Watch for information about my digital release party, which will happen on my author Facebook page on the release day. I will be giving away two copies of “Acceptance” during the party.

Acceptance Cover And Blurb Revealed

Acceptance by S.M. Wright Cover

Acceptance arrives Friday, Nov. 24, on the Kindle. Link to Amazon coming soon.


After much blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears), I’m pleased to reveal the cover of Acceptance, the first story in The Augur’s Rose Series. I drew and painted it in Photoshop CS4 using my Wacom Bamboo tablet. The process included many layers,  various reference photos for the lovely hooded crow (Vidar), and a copious number of Bob Ross photos for encouragement — particularly when it came to capturing the “happy” grass. Continue reading

Be on the lookout!

November is a hopping month for me, to say the least. Since work on my sci-fi novel is shelved as it sits in the slush pile, I’m stoking the flames of industry to see a few projects to certain levels of completion, including pushing one baby birdy out of the nest. The latter of which will hopefully be to the enjoyment of readers.

Serial Launching This November

I am excited to announce that I’m launching my sword and sorcery serial this month, with the first short story set to land on the Kindle, Nov. 24 — yes, Black Friday. On a whole, the serial will feature a running series of short stories revolving around Svein and his (mis)adventures as he treads a fine line between his oath — taken upon his birth — to serve the Sisters and protecting his freedom. The fact necromancy is experiencing a renaissance of sorts is another matter entirely.

Acceptance will launch the series, and I will be posting more details in the days to come. Continue reading