By Melinda VanLone
Writing a series is a smart way to build both your brand and your career as an author. If you’ve done that (or are attempting to do that now), the next thing to do is capitalize on that effort. After all, there’s a ton of readers out there who read series almost exclusively.
Your readers have two main questions when they see a book cover they think is part of a series:
Do I like this series? Have I read this particular book?
Your cover needs to walk a tightrope with duplicating elements on one side and diversity on the other if it has any hope of attracting someone looking for a fun new series to read.
So how do you do that?
Spend quality time on the design for the first book in the series and you’ll make designing the rest of the series a whole lot easier. The important thing is that the look across the entire series be familiar, so that readers see a bond holding all the books together. This is a case where repetition is the word of the day. Choose elements that will repeat from cover to cover and you’ll have instant brand recognition. Some of these elements include:
One way to build a series brand is to focus on two typographical elements that will be on every book: the author’s name, and the title.
Once you’ve found a place and font for the author’s name, keep it exactly the same on every book in the same series. This will give the reader something to hang their hat on. “Oh, this book is by that author I like!” Brand yourself first and always, rather than one book or even one series. If they remember your name, they can always find your books! If all they remember is a title, they could find some other author’s similar book instead. We don’t want that.
The same idea can be used with the title of the book as well.
For example, Edwina’s covers feature her name at the bottom of the page, in the same font, arranged the same way. The title is always in the center of the book, with the same font treatments. See how that lends consistency and tells you right away that these books belong together? Even if other elements around the title change, the reader knows they all take place in the same story world.
While this post deals specifically with design, keep in mind that you can build brand consistency with the words you use for the title as well as the placement itself, as Edwina did by repeating the word “prince.”
If you’re not a fan of keeping the title in one spot across several books, you might also use the same type treatment for the title, but shift the location depending on the background image.
Another way to build cohesiveness in a series is to be consistent with the tone/mood of the artwork and graphic elements. You can even go so far as to use the exact same artwork on every cover, but vary the color of it to show it’s a different book.
Sometimes a graphic element can lend brand cohesiveness. Use the same cover model, for example, or the same treatment for the subtitle, or some other graphic element that makes sense for the genre. Catie’s covers feature smoke, and the same model, on every cover, though the background and pose changes.
All of these elements combine to form a parade of covers that clearly belong together, yet are different stories. Readers love knowing that the book they’re buying belongs to a set, and they love knowing that they have the whole set. Do them a favor by making it easy to tell that your series is, in fact, a series and they’ll reward you by clicking the “buy” button on every book.
What pushes you to buy a book? Do you prefer reading series vs. stand-alone books? Most important: do you have questions for Melinda? Please share them with us down in the comments!
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Melinda VanLone writes urban fantasy, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and furbabies.
When she's not playing with her imaginary friends, you can find Melinda playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.
Her elementary fantasy series, House of Xannon, begins with Stronger Than Magic. For more information on covers, visit BookCoverCorner.com.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Excellent advice. And so much 'easier' if you have control over the covers. My first publisher treated the three Blackthorne, Inc. books independently. No cohesion. I got the rights back and eventually got new covers across the series. Also, since I write several series, I have the same font for my name on all of them. I think my cover designer did a good job. You can check them out here: https://terryodell.com/books/by-series/
Thanks for that link, Terry!
Your covers look great 🙂
What do you think about using short stories to attract readers? Maybe use something like Canva to put together a similar look to your series?
I want the answer to this question too, Ellen! And do we get book covers for those short stories and keep those cohesive to brand?
I think using a short story or novella is an excellent way to entice readers into a series. I've done that for all of my series and it pays off in all kinds of ways. A free first in series is an excellent marketing tool, but it only works if it does exactly that...entice them into the series. In other words, even though you won't earn money off it since it's free, it's a loss leader that will pay off in other ways and as such needs the best cover of the entire series. I would spend as much time and attention to that free loss leader as I would any other book in the series. It should look cohesive, and act the part, if it's going to do the job it's meant to do. My first in free novella for my Bellamy Sisters series looks just like the other books in the series: https://www.amazon.com/Seasoned-Love-Bellamy-Sisters-Romance-ebook/dp/B09474BD4B
I had to laugh when I got the email for this post - it tells me I should be 'using specific elements of cover design - Topography, Tone, and Graphics.'
I was really hoping you had something I hadn't even talked about - but it turned out to be a Typo.
On the more serious side, I'm in the process of deciding exactly what to do with the cover of the second volume in a mainstream trilogy, and am considering exactly how to do what you're talking about - branding the whole - and I have a single one of the new elements, a woman with short blonde hair in a turquoise and silver sari sitting on a rock by the edge of the Ganges, 3/4, looking away from us out over the river.
I did my own first cover, and am pleased with it; now I have to keep it up.
I'm also wondering about changing one of the original elements - my name - so it is larger. But then I have to consider those folks who bought the first one in paper, because it would be a significant change. Any thoughts?
LOLOL. Let me go fix that typo right now...
And it was in the email, not the post.
Yup, but that email copy comes from the post excerpt (which also shows up on social shares), so it had to be fixed. I appreciate the heads up. I missed it when I ran through the edits. You are a gem!
Thanks, but you should really call me 'The Nitpicker.'
Now when to we get the post about Topography (which is a real thing)? I think I'll steal the idea - my brain is already creating something.
The great joy of being an indie author is the ability to change something when we need to 🙂 In other words, tinker with your name until you're happy with it, then go back and update the other cover to match. Don't worry about those who already have the paperback. They are used to things changing over time. Rabid fans will often try to collect ALL the covers, like Pokemon cards *grin.
Thanks for weighing in - and you have a good point. The TITLE is visible and clear at thumbnail size - I made sure it was.
But my NAME is not big enough - and it is by my name that I will be known, if I am.
I could even offer a copy of the new paperback to anyone who sends me their old one - and buys the next volume with the new cover. Or something like that.
'First Editions' are a thing of the past with POD. 'Special Editions' - such as one might base a kickstarter on for real fans - are also more valuable.
More important: finish the second book. It is coming along daily - the only writer's blocks are my body working and my mind being capable of writing. First took 15 years, this one is in year 7 - I'm about twice as fast? Yay, me. Fortunately, I like how it's going.
Thank you for these suggestions! I'm working with a cover designer for the first book of a series, so the timing of your post could not be better.
Excellent news, Rick!!
That's exciting! Be sure to let them know this will be a series so they know to include elements that can be repeated. 🙂
I like the thoughts about keeping a similar tone/color scheme/hue to the books in a series. It makes sense, but I hadn't been thinking in those terms before.
It's a great way to keep costs down on the remaining books too, depending of course on the genre expectations.
Great stuff! I love how you break it all down. ♥