This post is by Nancy Jardine.
Some people say that book cover design is the make or break aspect of a novel that ensures success. It’s that will the prospective buyer choose this book over another because it calls to them more than the one further along the shelf? – Literally on a bookstore bookshelf, or in a line of books available from an on-line bookstore.
I do think the cover design is very important but there are many other marketing factors which clearly lead to the success of a book. However, in this post I’ll stick to covers.
As the author, I’ve been asked to give my two different publishers the general gist of the book and the genre tone but I’ve actually found that very tricky. Because I’ve been published by small independent publishers I’ve had some say in what goes on my cover via a choice of options given to me – though those initial images have mostly been selected by my publishers.
I, personally, prefer a book cover design to reflect the content of what’s inside the story and I’ve been known to be disappointed in the past when a reading of the novel doesn’t live up to its cover. I find it annoying to see a design with a woman wearing what’s clearly a medieval garment but then find on reading the blurb that it’s a Regency novel. Or another example was looking at the iconic image of the Taj Mahal and then finding that the story was completely set in darkest Africa. Mmm. Nope. I didn’t buy it.
My first New York State (romance only) publisher came up with a Scottish castle for my fun mystery Take Me Now. The main male character does live in a restored castle on a Scottish island so that aspect was very good for the cover. The seaplane and the image of the couple were also very good and it generally fit their house style of the time. I’m not allowed to show the whole image since this version is now out of publication but you can get the gist here.
The main drawback was that they used an image of Eilean Donan Castle which is probably the most iconic castle in Scotland. When I told the publisher it wasn’t a suitable castle they disagreed and went ahead and used it – telling me that no one would know. They don’t live in Scotland! Many times a potential customer, even some tourists from overseas, came to me at my signing/ selling table at Craft Fairs saying they’d love to read a story set in Eilean Donan. The RESULT– no sale when I was honest enough to say it wasn’t set in Eilean Donan. I guess I could have kept my mouth shut and deceived the potential customer, but I couldn’t.
Now I love my current cover for Take Me Now. It’s my original version of my story that’s more of a fun mystery and a less ‘heated’ romance driven version of the story that’s currently published by my Edinburgh publisher Crooked Cat. (possible since the initial contract with the US one was only for 2 years) Crooked Cat haven’t used a photograph of a castle at all but have got the gist of the story in a different way.
Crooked Cat didn’t initially have a large budget for design so the earliest of their covers tended to be fairly minimalist- leaning towards ‘a little means more’. That has changed slightly now and some of their titles are being recovered, including one of mine – Topaz Eyes.
Having had the negative experience of Eilean Donan Castle, I was very wary of what should go on to my initial cover for my more complex mystery Topaz Eyes when Crooked Cat launched it in late 2012. They suggested a montage of the European cities my protagonists travel to but since they travel to quite a few- the potential cover design looked like a travel guide.
Instead, I asked for a very simple cover and got this one with these 2 jewels on it. I loved the simplicity of it but that has proved to be a mistake on my part since the minimalism is probably just too much and not eye-catching enough to compete in Cover Wars! If I’m honest, sales of the novel could be a lot better and I think the cover design probably had a lot to do with it.
So a few weeks ago Crooked Cat told me they were going for a new cover. Did I have an idea for Topaz Eyes? No, I didn’t – was probably too scared to make another mistake but Crooked Cat have come up with one that I love.
The lady in the image is clearly wearing pearls and not emeralds or topaz but on a reading of the story you’ll see why those jewels are still fine!
The essence of the story is in the image. Jewellery is at the centre of the novel. The female projects a sense of mystery. The darkened background, sepia like finish, gives it a hint of a time gone past and although it’s a contemporary mystery what happened in the past is also central to the whole story. There’s a hint of malice, a gist of the unknown as the female looks back over her shoulder and that’s very appropriate for the thriller aspects of the story.
I love my new cover!
Success, and lots more sales, are still to be experienced but the new cover is now live on Amazon, Smashwords and maybe other sites by now. (Since the universal link clicks me through to Amazon UK maybe someone in the US can tell me if it works for them with my new image, please?)
So far I’ve learned the hard way that a cover needs:
- An image that portrays the essence of the story, the subject matter – in this case a woman with jewels
- Something in the image which might give a feeling of the era/s of the story – there’s a timeless quality about the woman below (at least I think so)
- Some aspect that will give a potential reader an idea of the genre and ambience of the story– there’s a mystery thriller in there as she subtly looks over he shoulder rather than being overtly scared.
- The fonts to be simple and clear on the page – The word mystery is highlighted (It fits the covers of other Crooked Cat mysteries so although not a branding for me personally, it’s a sort of in-house style)
- A few colours rather than an abundance of colour – little is more.
Useful techniques: change the image size to a very low resolution to see how it fares on a book selling site which shows very small images; try changing the image to black and white to see how it stands out should it end up on a black and white newsprint page.
I might consider entering my new cover designs on the sites that do ‘Best cover of the week’ competitions- what do you think?
What traumas and travails have you had with cover design, and with personal choices for your own book covers? What could you add to my list for future consideration on cover choice?
Nancy Jardine writes:
Historical Romantic Adventures
Teen Time Travel Historical Adventure
Nancy finds all historical eras totally fascinating: research a delightful procrastination! Her week is taken up with grandchild-minding, gardening, reading, writing and blogging. Catching up with historical programmes or TV series and watching the news is a luxury – as are social events with friends and family but she does a creative job to squeeze them in.
http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk http://nancyjardineauthor.com/ Twitter @nansjar Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; W. H. Smith.com; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other ebook stores