Earlier this year, my co-writer and I released three novels of a mythological mystery/thriller series. Unfortunately, we didn't know quite know where our story fit, since it had elements of urban fantasy but was set on an island. And it was kind of a thriller, but also a mystery.
So we considered our specific story, which featured:
- A somewhat-uptight forensic psychologist
- A tropical island with a pink-sanded beach
- Mythology and magic
Armed with that information, we approached a designer, told her what we wanted, and she delivered three beautiful covers according to our request. Mind you, these were shorter books, we were releasing on a quick schedule, and we chose to streamline the look to save some money.
Behind these covers are fabulous stories that you totally want to read—trust me!—but the books weren't selling well.
We decided to rethink our strategy, and along came a guest blogger here on Writers in the Storm who nailed where we'd gone wrong. From Your Cover Sells Your Book by Melinda VanLone:
A side note about the genre: Pick one. Just one. This story will have to go on a digital shelf. If you can’t focus on one genre, then you don’t know your customer well enough yet. Go back and think about how and where they look for books like yours. Study what keywords they type in, what aisle in the bookstore they linger over. The story can’t be all things to all people. It must be the right thing for the right person.
Melinda VanLoneAuthor & Cover Designer
She expanded this idea further in The Cover Two-Step:
Be honest. Did you really write a romance? Or did you write a mystery with romantic elements? Forget subgenres, mashups, and crossovers. We’re looking for the overall broad category.
Melinda VanLoneAuthor & Cover Designer
Sure enough, our story wasn't easily categorized, but we could focus on the genre we were closest to—urban fantasy. Thankfully, within that area is an upcoming category titled supernatural suspense, which fit us even better.
Now we had something to work with—a target to aim for. And it no longer mattered to us whether the cover represented the story just so. Rather, the cover had to fit the genre, the tone, the imagery a potential reader was looking for.
We changed designers to a company that specialized in producing urban fantasy covers that had sold well. We spent hours upon hours going through covers in our genre to see what features were common, choosing stock photos we could recommend, and wording our request to our designer to give her an overall sense what we wanted, while allowing her to bring her own expertise into the process.
And then we waited.
Any author who has ever waited for a book cover — not knowing exactly what will show up — knows that it's the nail-biting and tenterhooks kind of waiting.
While we did do some back-and-forth with the designer on the first round, we fairly quickly arrived at these new covers:
What a difference, right?!
Now you can immediately see that this is a supernatural suspense series with a strong female heroine. Who cares that she's a forensic psychologist? (You learn that on page one.) Who cares that she's uptight? (Also on page one.) Who cares that the sands are pink? (Chapter two.)
The point is knowing what kind of story you'll be getting. That's the promise we're making.
Do you need to redesign your cover(s)? Ask yourself a few questions.
- When I show my cover to others, can they easily name the primary genre or story tone?
- Is my book/series selling well?
- Are potential readers clicking on ads that feature my book cover?
- If you DYIed your original cover: Do I have more money now to hire a professional designer?
- Have cover expectations for my genre changed since my book's release?
- Is my cover comparable to bestselling books in my genre?
A cover redesign is not a guarantee of increased book sales. But I've heard enough positive testimonies to know that your cover matters. Your books having the right covers could be the difference between getting passed over and getting purchased. What a difference a cover makes!
Have you had a redesign of your book cover(s)? Are you considering a redesign now?
Julie Glover writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, and supernatural suspense (under the pen name Jules Lynn). Her upcoming YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®, and her co-written Muse Island Series is available now, beginning with book one, Mark of the Gods.
You can visit her website here.