Writers in the Storm

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November 8, 2021

Book Cover 101: A Book By Another Cover to Boost Sales

by Melinda VanLone

Book marketing is a squiggly squirrelly snake. Just when you think you have a handle on it, things change. People change. Audiences change. What works for one marketplace doesn't work for another. It makes sense, then to re-think or add-to your book cover strategy from time to time. Traditional publishers know this trick, and indie authors should too.

Book Markets Based on Country

It's a long-established marketing tactic to have a different cover for each market you're trying to target or country your book is published in. What works for the US doesn't exactly work as well in the UK, and vice versa. That's because societies in different countries expect different things, or are drawn to different things.

You don't have to look further than J. D. Robb/Nora Roberts for an example:

Book Markets Based on Audience Age

Another reason to put a different cover on a book is to target a new audience. For example, the first Harry Potter books aimed at a children's market with one set of covers, and adults with another.

Book Markets based on a Movie or TV Series Deal

Getting onto a bestseller list or (fingers crossed) having a TV series or movie based on your book always means a new cover, usually one featuring the actors in the book and/or that shiny "New York Times Bestseller" announcement. 

Book Markets based on Format

It can also be a good marketing move to put a different cover on each format of the book: ebook vs paper vs hardback. Readers are often collectors. If they loved the book a portion of them will go on to buy all the versions of the book. For example, check out these Nora Roberts covers. Clearly the original wouldn't work for today's audience, even though the content is exactly the same. The third version is obviously targeting a different audience than the first two, allowing that same content to reach shiny new readers.

If your sales stagnate, a new cover targeting a slightly different audience is an excellent way to generate new excitement, especially if you have a cross-genre story. You might start out targeting the mystery/suspense market first, then switch to romantic suspense. The subtle change can make all the difference in finding fresh readers.

The bottom line is, your cover is not set in stone, whether you're indie or trad published. If you're indie, you have the flexibility of changing it whenever you want to target a new audience, to generate excitement, or simply to bring fresh interest to established content, so don't be afraid to experiment.

Have you ever thought about having different covers for your already published books? Let me know what you're thinking down in the comments!

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About Melinda

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.

18 comments on “Book Cover 101: A Book By Another Cover to Boost Sales”

  1. I never considered changing the covers for the Charlie Chameleon books and likely won't.

    Next year though I'll be publishing The Hobo Code and am wondering if I should use different art for the US and UK where most of my work will be read.

    How do you know what will work better in different countries?

    Would you use different ISBNs as well with a change of cover?

    1. Good questions! How will you know what works better? Research. There's no quick fix for it, sadly, but one way to get a feel for it (if you can't actually go to that country and do in-store research that is) is to log in to the country store for vendor sites, like Amazon.uk for example, and spend some time browsing their best sellers in the genre you're targeting. Also take a look at the book sellers native to that country, like Waterstones.

      I haven't personally done this yet...I've made the conscious choice to let one cover rule them all for the moment, though I may change that as sales increase. I've tried to create covers for my romance that I thought straddled the line between US/UK/AU/CA, where my biggest sales are. US and CA are basically the same anyway, so while I might be leaving some sales on the table right now, the US is such a big market I don't feel like I've plundered it yet.

      As for the ISBNs...the short answer is yes, but hear me out on the long one 🙂 Yes to get a different cover, you must upload it as a whole new book, targeting the specific markets you intend to sell in. For KDP, there's no need to get an actual ISBN because they don't use it anyway for the eBook version, they assign their own ASIN, so I wouldn't waste your ISBNs on it. For Apple...they insist you have one so if you're wide and you're not using an aggregator, then yes you'll need to assign one for each cover version simply to be able to upload the book. At least, that's how it was the last time I tried to do it.

      I wish they had a way for us to assign different artwork for different markets, but while you can do that if you're selling, say, a toaster, you can't if you're selling a book. Yet. Maybe it'll change?

      So yes, when you're looking at Nora Roberts books in the UK, someone has uploaded the same book with a different cover under a totally different ASIN/ISBN in order to tap that market. I say someone because her publisher takes care of that for her (for themselves, really, since they take most of the profits). If you're Indie, then you are the lucky one wearing that hat unless you have an assistant 😀

      Oh and yes, this means you'd need to target marketing specifically to that other store, so that you gather reviews in that marketplace. Even though Amazon is now kinda sorta combining all the reviews, foreign language or not, in one place, it doesn't always work, and before they never cross pollinated. Nora's The Awakening in the UK has over 13k reviews. In the US, it has over 16k. Some are from the UK on the US store, but on the UK store I don't see any from the US. Go figure.

      It's enough to make your head spin isn't it?

  2. Loved the visuals Melinda! Very informative. I recently redesigned one of my series' covers because they felt outdated to me. And it did help sales. I did it in tandem with a new release.

    Is it weird that I like Nora's UK covers better? LOL. I often wonder how exactly do designers identify these foreign country preferences?

    Lovely post.

    1. Thank you! I love Nora's UK covers too! I think sometimes the design/marketing team is missing the boat. They have notions of what will work here or what has worked in the past and they stick with that, rather than realize that things may have changed. Just because they're traditional publishers doesn't mean they always have the right answer. 🙂

  3. I loved the first cover for Sisterhood... Until I found out that Amazon didn't like the cover. (There was a gun on it.) I redid the cover and now Amazon likes me better. It completely changed the mood of the book.

    1. I didn't realize Amazon placed any algorithm weight on cover art? Wow! That is fascinating. Makes sense and yet it both surprises and alarms me. LOL

      1. There are certain things they "will not" promote. Guns are one of the things they do not want to promote. So put a gun on the cover and they get unhappy.

        1. You can use a gun on the cover, they just don't want the gun pointing at the customer. As in, don't have it pointing straight out. Try it in silhouette, pointing to the side of the page or down. That usually doesn't get flagged. Then again, some days there's no rhyme or reason to what Amazon database takes exception to.

          1. The gun was not pointing at the customer, but at the sky. The background had a wispy / cloudy image relating to the paranormal aspect of the novel, and they felt that made it look as if the gun had recently been fired (smoking). That was what they said. What they told me was that the gun image had the book flagged so that it would not be shown in any promotional or related items...that it was not in the consideration by the algorithms for promo. It existed on the platform and people could link directly to it, or to my author page, but it wasn't discoverable otherwise. So I don't think the cover affects the algorithm, other than that in this case it locked the book OUT of the algorithm.

      2. I don't think they put algorithms behind that...it's more organic than that. As in, it might catch more eyeballs or different eyeballs in whatever cover parade it ends up in. I think their database crunching works it's evil on the categories and keywords, but once that's done you still have to capture the person browsing. THAT is where your cover art comes in, and it's something Amazon can't really target with AI.

  4. Hi Melinda,
    Your posts are such a visual treat. It shows how much the role of the cover can connect with readers. (or not!)

    Thanks for sharing these covers over time - it's cool to see them side by side.


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