Can You Make the Title Bigga? by Jessica Bell

Bell is a self-taught book cover designer who considers herself an expert—not an expert in what to do right, but an expert in what everyone else is doing wrong. CAN YOU MAKE THE TITLE BIGGA? is my least-favorite kind of how-to book. It’s a ranty book filled with complaints, but no real instruction.

Great cover design is an ever-shifting goal. Trends change in a blink and “same but different” can be a fine line to walk. The other problem is that the writer must use words to communicate her vision to an artist who thinks in pictures. And they’re trying to agree on a design that they both love that will also sell books. Money and emotions are involved. It would be great if there was a book out there that could help self-published authors navigate those treacherous waters, but CAN YOU MAKE THE TITLE BIGGA? isn’t it.

Bell hasn’t spoken to other designers so she can’t say what’s typical in the industry. She can only explain how she does things, which she’s eager to do, over and over and over. When Bell isn’t complaining, she’s promoting her own design services. She’s certain that authors would get better covers if they did things her way. But the reader is never sure what that way is, since Bell contradicts herself constantly. She complains that authors don’t give her enough direction, and then claims to want complete creative control. She says that the worst thing an author can do is to give the designer a photo they took for the cover, but a few chapters later, she’s gushing over one of her authors who always takes the most perfect photos for her covers. She warns against “cluttered” covers, and then proudly shows off a cover that uses every available bit of white space.

Bell quotes directly from emails with clients, and she delights in showing the reader the rookie mistakes her clients have made, from not knowing how to get an ISBN to not having their jacket copy prepared ahead of time. She also includes her responses—snarky one-liners that put the authors in their place instead of soliciting the correct information from them. I have hired cover designers myself, over twenty times, and my experiences were nothing like Bell describes. Either she’s cherry-picking the worst of her client interactions, or she’s not capable of attracting professional-level clients.

Even worse, she badmouths her own employees. First, she explains that her employees are only good for grunt work, but she gives them design work anyway, which she then does over. Bell blames herself for this, because she didn’t hire the best. She even calls out these employees by name (first and last) making sure to trash them in public. It’s a major red flag and I’m not sure why anyone would want to work for her—or hire her.

Bell is a decent cover designer. She includes a handful of color images of her work to prove it. But she’s a terrible communicator. She puffs herself up while putting others down, she doesn’t know how to work with clients, and somehow, she’s written an entire book about cover design that doesn’t teach a single thing about what makes a good book cover.


CAN YOU MAKE THE TITLE BIGGA? can be found here


Rating: 1 star


I recommend Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran instead of this book

The Writer’s Roadmap by Leigh Shulman

It seems so simple: make a goal, break it down into steps, and follow the steps. That’s been said in hundreds of books. Shulman says that too, but THE WRITER’S ROADMAP is specifically geared toward writers—especially writers who are trying to leave their day jobs to write full time. And Shulman adds a few extra steps and refinements that made me see this timeworn advice in a new light.

The problem is that many authors put “write a book” at the bottom of a long to-do list and wonder why it never gets done. We’re all working as hard as we can every day, but Shulman reminds us that working harder won’t get you anywhere if you’re working on the wrong thing. To keep writers on track, Shulman uses the acronym OGSM (which I kept reading as “orgasm” because I am twelve). It stands for Objective, Goals, Strategies, and Measures.

Most how-to books start with goals. It seems like a natural place to start. Goals are what we’re working toward, right? But Shulman goes one level higher. What’s the overall objective? What ties your many goals together? What gives your life purpose? It’s almost like you’re writing a mission statement for yourself and your writing.

Only after the overall objective is super clear should you turn to your goals. Goals give you focus and help you find opportunities. THE WRITER’S ROADMAP is full of questions and worksheets to help writers clarify their goals and put them in order.

Strategies are the specific steps taken. These change the most. Many of us get stuck at this step because we think we need to know exactly how to accomplish our goals. But Shulman reminds us that of all the things in an OGSM, the strategies are the most flexible. We learn as we go, and it’s perfectly okay to refine your strategies.

Measures are important too. You either do the thing or you don’t do the thing. You need to keep track so you know for sure that you’ve done the thing. Numbers don’t lie. Shulman also includes short, snappy sidebars about setting boundaries and dealing with money. I really appreciate those because don’t we all struggle with those two issues? But having them as small sidebars feels insufficient when they really need whole chapters.

I think we’re all re-evaluating our goals in 2022. The last two years have been extremely hard, and we’re all looking at our writing goals in new ways. Some writers have scaled back. Some have taken on projects outside their usual genres. Some are exploring new revenue streams. But I don’t know a single writer whose objectives and goals have stayed the same since 2019. THE WRITER’S ROADMAP is a refreshing look at an old topic, and a perfect way to start the new year.


THE WRITER’S ROADMAP can be found here


Rating: 4 stars


This book is best for: beginning authors


I recommend this book