It’s all the same, under the cover

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

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Let’s discuss. “Let’s face it, books are judged by their covers.” —Whitney Hill

It’s unfortunate but true. It doesn’t matter what the content is like, it might be the most riveting story ever written. Nobody will ever know if they don’t pick it up and look inside (or the electronic equivalent).

And that means attracting attention.

On a packed webpage, or in a bookshop display, the cover stands out as the first point of contact. It has to be bold enough to stop someone from browsing and persuade a prospective purchaser to take a better look. And it only has seconds to achieve that aim.

While you can make general rules about covers for each genre, there is the added complication that no two people can agree on what is the right cover for any book. Of course, there are tropes and conventions but after that, you’re very much on your own.

Most of my books have been through multiple covers, in an effort to find the magic one that sells. My problem is, the way my mind works gives me a different view of what is a good cover; compared to other people. If I like it, my mind says, so will everyone else. And that’s not always the case.

Sometimes it seems that the trope is more important than depicting a scene from the story. And that feels weird to me, almost as if I was misselling the whole concept.

Not only that, I’ve found that asking for advice is also terribly subjective. Every time I’ve tried it, I’ve been told that the covers either do or don’t need changing, in equal numbers. Usually, the very people who once said they were good, now think that they aren’t. And vice versa.

The problem is that covers are not as easy to change as blurbs. There’s a cost involved, either in payment to an artist or in time to do them yourself. If you have a series, they all need doing, plus you have to consider additions, whether half-written or only planned.

I must admit that, in the past, I have considered renewing all my covers in the style of the Penguin paperback cover, i.e. blocks of colour with no pictures, just the title, author and a logo. Like this. I could have a different colour for each genre, adding another title to any series would be incredibly easy. However, the flaw in this plan is that I’m probably not famous enough to be recognised by my name alone.

In Jan 2020, I bit the bullet and had all my covers (20) redone to match and improve my branding. I intended to sell all my old stock of paperbacks at the events that my writing group, the Exeter Authors Association, had planned for the year. I was going to launch the new covers in a blaze of publicity at one of the summer Sci-fi conventions I had arranged to attend.

Of course, the pandemic messed up my relaunch, leaving me with a lot of paperbacks with the old covers. I’ve been trying to sell them at their cost price ever since, at a few outdoor fairs and flea markets.

Strangely, I get a lot of comments from people asking me why I’m changing them.

Until next time.

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8 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    You say that your books have been through multiple covers to try and find the one that sells. To me this sentence sums up what I’ve said in my own post today – that covers do not sell a book. I don’t think it’s worth spending too much money on covers and that it’s probably best to concentrate on the content.

    • Richard Dee

      I have reached the same conclusion, albeit the hard way.

  2. Daryl Devore

    I hear you loud and clear. I write romance so there is supposed to be a bare-chested muscle man and a swooning damsel. My damsels don’t swoon!
    And ask 10 people if the cover is good – 5 say yes and 5 say no. Le sigh.

    • Richard Dee

      I like my cover to have some connection to the content, there’s very little musculature on display.

    • P.J. MacLayne

      That’s one reason I can’t seem to write romance…the word swoon doesn’t exist in my ladies’ vocabulary!

      • Richard Dee

        My pseudo-Victorian Steampunk ladies don’t succumb to a swoon either. They prefer to kick a**!!

  3. Darlene Foster

    It is a human inclination to pick up a book with a cover that appeals. Especially with so many to choose from. We changed the covers of my books once and noticed an increase in sales. Although I loved the original covers, I must admit the new ones did look more professional. I think that’s the key. If the cover looks amateurish, the reader may think the writing is as well.

    • Richard Dee

      Agreed. It’s all part of creating a good first impression.

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