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Book Production: Should You Change Your Cover?

Book Production: Should You Change Your Cover?

Furry book cover with monster-like face

Beware of the book cover! Consider changes carefully before you take the plunge.

Changing your book’s cover is a hot topic at the moment, with many authors reporting that revamping the look of their book can dramatically change their book’s sales. It takes courage, however, particularly when you’ve grown attached to the original design – the well-known authors’ maxim “murder your darlings”, suggesting the wrench involved in ditching a piece of writing of which you’re particularly fond, might also be applied to cover design ideas (and book titles – but we’ll save that topic for another post!)

Changing a cover isn’t a guaranteed means of boosting sales – after all, if you swap your original cover for something less effective, your sales might even fall! – so think carefully before you proceed, and test-drive your planned new look before a select audience before you take the plunge. ALLi members often share cover designs on our members-only private Facebook group, which always yields helpful feedback – just one of the many benefits of joining ALLi. To join ALLi, visit our membership website: www.allianceindependentauthors.org.

While boosting sales may be the commercial imperative, there are other valid reasons to change a book’s cover, including, as Scottish author L G Thomson’s case study below suggests, a feeling of moving on as an author and growing from beginner to professional.

Old cover image

The original cover of “Boyle’s Law” by L G Thomson…

New cover

… and the new look: a real thriller!

L G Thomson writes:

This week I reached a new landmark with the unveiling of my first professionally designed book cover.  When I started off down the indie author route, I took the independent part literally, doing pretty much everything by myself.  Partly because I wanted to know how it all worked, but mostly because I didn’t have much in the way of spare cash to throw around.

Some people really liked the original cover of Boyle’s Law. They loved the up-close faces and the fact that it was a little bit different from the norm.  I liked those things too, but when your book is one of many, the cover has to act as a kind of shorthand for the potential reader, and whilst I liked the simplicity of the original cover, it was too passive and did not effectively reflect the content of the book.  It certainly didn’t scream THRILLER.

I decide to invest the money I’d made from sales of Boyle’s Law in a new cover.  My go-to person was fellow ALLi member, Jessica Bell’s cover design website page.  She’d designed some striking covers for herself and other authors, and I liked what I saw.  I’ve never met Jessica in person, but we had a few exchanges online and struck up a virtual friendship.  I felt that she was someone I could work with.

How the Book Cover Design Process Works

The process itself was very straightforward.  I filled in a simple form which included a brief description of Boyle’s Law, and, to give Jessica an idea of the vibe I was after, I included a few examples of design work I like – classic movie posters as well as book covers.  I also gave her a few key words.

Jessica then came back with some ideas for me to consider.  What I liked about this was that she didn’t just present me with variations on a theme – these were completely separate design concepts.  I spent some time considering them, but it didn’t take long to settle on the cover I wanted to take forward.  There were a few changes and developments along the way, including the introduction of the hypodermic needle.  It’s a key element of the story, and a great graphic image for the cover, appearing on the front, back and spine.

I’m delighted with the end result.  The new cover delivers on the three words I wrote on the original brief– bold, graphic, punchy – and has a delicious noir/pulp fiction feel about it.

Boyle’s Law now looks like a thriller.  I enjoyed my collaboration with Jessica, and discovered something along the way – going indie doesn’t have to mean going it alone.

In the interests of impartiality, we should point out that ALLi’s membership includes many other excellent cover designers, as well as Jessica Bell. ALLi authors may connect with them via the members’ area of our membership website, which also lists the various discounts and deals available exclusively to ALLi members.

How changing a book's cover reflected @LGThomson1's growth as an #author Click To Tweet

 

 

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Love your new cover. I was lucky enough to win a professional cover design by Jessica Bell through my author group, Books Go Social. It is absolutely fantastic but has made me realise how unprofessional my other covers are. Currently saving to get them all done!

  2. I always love seeing how covers change over time (and whether it is an improvement!) In this case, yes, the new version really does work a lot better. I sometimes document the process with my books. If anyone is interested in seeing different versions of my horror novel cove, you can follow the process here:

    1. Self-made cover
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2011/10/help-me-to-make-things.html

    2. Switching to professionally-designed
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2012/10/work-on-new-cover.html
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2012/10/still-working-on-new-cover.html
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-new-version-of-turner-for-halloween.html

    3. And doing it all again…
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2013/12/new-cover-for-turner.html
    Once I have written more horror books I may go back to designing my own as a series, which I recently did for the covers of my complementary paired Manchester novels:
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/p/cold-fusion-2000.html
    http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/p/2000-tunes.html

  3. This is truly great to give food for thought before making a decision. There is another dimension to consider especially when considering a number of outlets to take our books.

    With indigenous publishers after the euphoria of being accepted and receiving a payment, there is then the anticlimax of relating that we have signed our rights away. Then if this were not enough the publishers will promote and sell to their well established networks but to do this will submit the book for consideration and seek feedback. It is not uncommon that an outlet, e.g. a product, rather than book store, e.g. supermarket, will not be simply interested in the author, but more concerned with whether it will sell on their shelves. They will therefore ask the publisher to change the cover and provide their own brief based on what they think will be attractive to draw customers to the shelf to buy – (after all they are about salable products be that food, drink, clothes, or books. The Publisher will then turn to their in-house book cover designers to revamps, often it is entirely, so after an author being creative, produce a good brief, and spent no small sum on a book cover designer who will have equally devoted time and care to the final design – all of this can find itself discarded in preference to the customer stores wishes. Hence a book cover could find itself changed with or without the author’s desires.

    Self-publishing to such outlets could face the same changes and we could find ourselves having to produce alternatives to met the requirements of some product stores so that they take and sell for us?

  4. I’ve changed covers – even one I won an award for and professionally made covers – because they didn’t appeal to the right readers. Changing those covers made an enormous difference in sales.

  5. Coincidentally, I just changed my cover of three years not an hour ago before I read this blog. It is one of my favorite books, and it has good reviews, but it is the poorest selling of all my novels, and two reviews mentioned the old cover (and not in a complimentary way.)

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Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website www.authordebbieyoung.com.

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