Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More Thoughts on Covers

Yesterday, Tess St. John and Savannah Rose had some interesting thought on covers in the comments. Like half-naked guys, yea or nay?

So I'm going to ask the rest of my audience the same thing I asked them:

1) Do different styles of cover in a series drive you crazy as a reader?

2) How do you feel when a book you previously bought is issued with a new title and/or cover?

This very discussion has been an ongoing topic between me, DH, my marketing guru and my cover artist. Particularly over the cover of Seasons of Magick: Summer (aka Die for Me).

Seasons of Magick: Spring is my best-selling title, though Zombie Love is catching up for other marketing reasons. When I released Summer on October 11, 2011, the sales were so-so. After much deliberation, we experimented with a new cover and a new title, which was released November 11, 2011. Sales started sliding south. Over the last three weeks, Die for Me was my only fiction title NOT SELLING AT ALL.

I took a hard, hard look. There was nothing to connect Spring with Die for Me. From the way readers are gobbling up the Bloodlines series, I know they love related books. So I decided to go back to the original title and cover. A few sales was better than no sales, right? The reversion to the old title and cover was implemented Sunday while I watched the Texans-Ravens game (gotta love multi-tasking).

I decided to leave the Seasons of Magick series alone. Write Autumn and Winter, and stick with the original cover concepts. I love the grimoire/tarot look. But I do understand that this is a business, and I have to take readers reactions into consideration. In the end though, I wonder how much a cover really means?

Thoughts? Opinions?

[Edit to add: Apparently this subject hasn't just been on my mind. Joel Friedlander has a pretty good write-up over at The Book Designer on the dangers of symbolism when you're the author.]


  1. Hey Suzan, I rarely look at book covers anymore since I have my kindle, I usually just jump to the bottom and read what the book is about. But if I did get a book and used the cover to help track what I purchased and the cover changed as well as the title and I rebought it, I think I might be a tad bit upset. Unless it was a fellow chapter member.

  2. I do consider covers if I'm just browsing along. There are so many books out there, millions more than I'll ever have time to read, that pretty much any way of winnowing down the heap is good. I buy most of my (fiction) books through recommendations these days, from a review blog or Goodreads or a friend. The rest are by authors I've read and liked in the past.

    One thing about covers is that I think they're a lot more important if your book is sitting on a bookstore shelf than if it's an e-book online. The vast majority of my e-book purchases are by authors I've liked before, or through recs. I'll occasionally balk at a book with a truly hideous cover, if it's bad enough that I seriously don't want to encourage that publisher to ever do anything like that again. :P Other than that, though, the covers really don't have a bearing on whether or not I buy an e-book.

    I have a lot of opinions on covers, like everyone else :) but the bottom line is that with e-books they affect my purchases very little. How many people go browsing through the pages of an e-book store and choose books they've never heard of to buy? I've only done it rarely, and usually regretted it.

    Keeping series books looking like a set is important, though. If I'm looking for the next book in Series Whatever, I don't want to have to stop and read the text on every cover, much less have to click through to the summary blurb and read that, just to find Book 3.

    About changing covers and titles, I have to say that it pisses me off royally if I've bought Original Title, then I see that Totally Different Title by the same author is out and I buy that and discover I've been tricked into paying for the same book twice. That's what it feels like -- like I've been taken. The NY publishers have been doing it the last decade or so, combining two shorter novels into a longer book, giving it a new title and a new cover and sticking it on the shelf. So you're browsing through the bookstore and think, "Awesome! New Vorkosigan book!" (or whatever) and buy it, only to find when you get home that it's two books you already had, repackaged. And what's really annoying about this is that I'm most likely to do this with writers I like the most -- my auto-buy people, where I grab whatever I see by them without reading the blurb. Does the publisher want to train me OUT of having auto-buy authors? Really? :/ I hope so 'cause they're doing a good job of it.

    In your particular case, it's probably not a real problem since Die for Me sold few or no copies; you're not going to get many people buying duplicates, which is good. In general, though, that sort of thing is likely to backfire.


  3. Ruth and Angie, I totally understand where you're coming from. The last thing I wanted was any reader to feel I tricked them into buying the same story twice. I put a warning of the title change in capital letters when I did the first switch.

    One thing I love about Amazon is that they notify buyers when you've uploaded a new version. The buyer then has the option of downloading the new version or keeping the old.

    I did go back and added the series number for each book in the Bloodlines series to the title on the URL for Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. THAT has definitely made a difference in sales.

  4. The vast majority of my e-book purchases are by authors I've liked before, or through recs. I'll occasionally balk at a book with a truly hideous cover, if it's bad enough that I seriously don't want to encourage that publisher to ever do anything like that again. :P