The thing about book covers

PARADISE  Jason K. Lewis

So, I have learned a lot in the last year. When I look back and think how little I knew about self publishing when I started down the road in March 2013, it is astonishing how much has changed. I have to admit that I am still a relative newbie though and as such can make mistakes (No! I hear you cry, surely not?).

I published my first novelette ‘Paradise’ just over two weeks ago now, having spent what felt like an age getting everything right (I think). I edited, re-edited and then sent it off to a professional editor and then edited it again myself before deciding it was ready for release. I then did something very, very dumb. I decided that a book cover concept that I had been working on, which was really rather quirky (check it out for yourself here) was suitable for use when the book was released.

I pressed the publish button and congratulated myself on a job well done. I got really lucky on the first day when a reviewer purchased it and gave it a great review (check it out here). I was stupidly happy. Someone else bought the book the same day. Then…. nothing. I decided to take action and forwarded the book to a couple of reviewers. One agreed to review it and posted another great review (check it out here), again I was delighted and then…. nothing.

I know that it’s hard work to sell books as a self published author, so I took a few days off my ‘Paradise’ project and returned to the other, much larger work, I am writing called ‘Hope’ (working title).

I revisited the Amazon web page for ‘Paradise’ at the weekend and realised something for the first time. The cover I designed looks amateur in the extreme (in fact it could be described as more than a little bit naff). Could this be what is putting people off buying the book? I thought. Whilst it is only one factor amongst many (discoverability being another very important one), I decided as a point of pride (deeply embarrassed that I had been unable to make an objective assessment of the cover) that I would have to do something about it.

There followed a mad search of the internet as I looked for a design solution. There are many companies offering off the shelf book covers that you just add your own title to, but I wanted something unique and special.

I had seen the new book by author Lindsay Buroker, ‘Balanced on a blade’s edge‘ and absolutely loved the cover. I searched using the ‘look inside’ feature and couldn’t find details of the cover designer. On a whim, I Googled it and stumbled upon a discussion board that mentioned a company known as Deranged doctor design (DDD). In retrospect this was like striking oil on the first drill. I had no idea if they could be trusted, but I did love the cover for Lindsay Buroker’s book so I thought I would take a risk.

DDD have a system where, if they accept a commission (and they don’t accept them all), they send design concepts without charging you up front. They only charge you when you have approved a design. In my case it took them a couple of days to give me a concept that I was absolutely delighted with (see the cover above, what do you think?). I would highly recommend them for their professionalism and patience (not to mention their artistic skills). I have to state here that I have no financial interest in their company, I’ve never even met them.

I have now uploaded the new cover to Amazon, but sadly (and I hadn’t realised this) it takes them a few days to change the book cover in the Amazon store.

So for the next few days my old, crappy, cover will remain. I cannot wait, however, to see the new cover go up, for (I think) my pride will be restored.

What I hadn’t realised initially is that people really do judge a book by its cover. Whether it makes a difference to sales or not is another matter, but really, honestly, I don’t care. I have something I think I can be proud of (you may have noticed I have festooned my blog with banners and images of the new cover!)

The moral of this story? Get a good cover! (and don’t, ever, ever, think you’re a designer, because the odds are you aren’t!).

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9 thoughts on “The thing about book covers

  1. dkorthbooks

    I was so disappointed in my publisher’s cover choice on my first two books. My first book is free and clear, but the second is not yet. I can’t wait to get pretty new ones! What’s difficult is being able to tell what other people will like. Chances are, what you like isn’t what the vast majority looks for. But I guess you can’t please everyone! 🙂 congrats on the new cover…may it bring you many sales!

      1. dkorthbooks

        I do! Looks amazing, really. Good covers like that are worth the money. Too bad there wasn’t some magic formula on making a successful cover, you know? But I do like yours!! 🙂

  2. davidprosser

    I have to say I did like your first cover, and far from thinking it amateur I thought it quite effective. However, this new cover is also very nice. It does have a more professional look and if it ere a series would actually lend itself to being repeated with different colour schemes.
    Confession though, when I first saw it I thought I was looking at an advert for the Peter Sellers film Being There.
    Best of luck with sales under the new cover.

  3. mobewan

    HI Jason, personally I think this looks much better. The colours are immediately attractive and work well in thumbnail form as well as a larger image. It immediately gives me a sense of sci fi, but with the intriguing twist of the figure being quite…mundane. A ‘suit’ in a future world. Makes me think I’m in for something quite political, considered and well thought out as opposed to gung-ho action adventure.

    And not going to lie, didn’t like the original at all. Compared to this, the message it sent out was completely different.

    Been going through something similar myself recently, and your timely posts have made me see the light on the quality of my own work. I’ve been looking at, but whatever I do I know I need to seek professional help (true of so many things in my life…).

    Good luck with the book!

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