Friday, March 23, 2012

Tweaking Titles and Covers to Improve Sales

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

In December, I did Amazon-sponsored giveaways of The Suicide Effect and The Sex Club, and between the two, I gave away more than 55,000 ebooks, and they both have sold really well since.

So I thought I’d repeat the effort with The Arranger, a book with nearly all 5-star reviews that had never gained any traction. After two days, I only had about 2500 downloads. I couldn’t even give the book away!

Not everyone likes futuristic thrillers, but The Hunger Games is huge bestseller, so there is an audience for the genre. I decided that the problem was the name. The Arranger just didn’t have enough intrigue or power. It was one of two choices at the time, and my husband really liked it, and I let him talk me into using it—against my better judgment.

So I changed the title to The Gauntlet Assassin and did a two-day giveaway...with a terrific download response. The ebook has been selling steadily since at five times the rate of its previous sales. Yeah! But I think it has even more potential, so I’m having a new cover created, and I’m contracting with a new designer, one that specializes in thrillers. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with and how it affects sales.

I’ve also recently changed the cover of Secrets to Die For—for the third time!—and changed the font on all my Jackson books. They all instantly jumped up in the rankings on Amazon’s police procedural list.

This is one of the best things about digital publishing—the ability to quickly and inexpensively make changes. Sometimes I worry that it’s disturbing to readers but I hope they understand. I’m running a small business, and I have to ensure that my products are selling as well as they can.

Readers: What do you think?
Writers: Have you made cover or title changes and did it work for you?


  1. LJ, thanks for a helpful post about an important subject. I think our thriller, HOOKED, is selling so well because of the cover & probably the title, too.

    My women's fiction—tradpubbed by S&S, Random House etc & extremely well reviewed, million copy NYT bestsellers—sells very well when I have a promotion; slows down when I don't. I've tweaked the blurbs and am considering a cover change but the expense is holding me back.

    I'm hoping the thriller will pay for the Women's fic changes. I'm looking forward to your changes.

  2. As a reader, I understand updating covers and titles, especially if they don't work. I just want to know that it was previously published under a different name. I remember thinking I had a new Agatha Christie because of the title and cover, and when I got in to the story I'd already read it. Big disappointment.

    As a writer, I don't have a dog in the hunt yet. I'm a week or two away from releasing my first, and I'm hoping that my title and cover work well. And of course that the story is well received.

    I love the new cover for Secrets, L.J. Very compelling.

  3. I love how you're always proactive and on top of things, LJ! You don't let any grass grow under your feet. And your changes seem to be working, so you're definitely on the right track! BTW, I've decided I do like your choice for a new cover for Secrets to Die For - very powerful!

  4. I'm fascinated by this subject, as I'm planning to change the cover and title of ELDERCIDE when I get it up on Kindle. My two books are still available as paperbacks from Amazon, but the comments about online sales have made me realize the covers don't translate at all well to thumbnails - much too complicated.

    I enjoyed both The Noon God and The Suicide Effect - you're an inspiration!

  5. Just goes to show- people do judge a book by the cover. Honestly, I have never been in love with the Secrets to Die For cover with the guy holding the gun to someone's head. That said, GREAT BOOK! Gauntlet Assassin? As a person who participates in obstacle racing and loves your books, I was DOUBLE thrilled! FABULOUS BOOK!

  6. oops- wrong book, the cover I mentioned is from Dying for Justice :) SORRY!

  7. Thanks for the positive comments on Secrets to Die For. That cover has been a struggle from the beginning.

    Alex, the cover for Dying for Justice is very intense, and I knew it was a risk. But overall, many more readers love it than hate it, and it certainly gets your attention. Who knows? I may change it someday too.

  8. LJ, as you know, I'm with Alex about the cover of Dying for Justice - too hard-hitting for my tastes. But the story was awesome! In my opinion, an author wants to draw the reader emotionally to the book, so the cover needs to attract the reader and pique their curiosity enough to make them want to open the pages. Of course, readers are all different, and you certainly can't please everyone!

  9. Love the way the new cover turned out on Secrets to Die For! Like Peg said, very compelling.

    Cover and title have always been high on my priority list, and I've been happy with the ones for my books. Even though I drove my artist positively insane. But like you said, that's the beautiful thing about e-books. Nothing is permanent and it doesn't cost as much to make changes like it would with paper.

    I don't think it disturbs readers. Traditional publishers have been doing it for years.

  10. We've changed covers a few times and the one that jumped the most was Lost Girls. I think it can be a big risk to change too often. Some readers may think, especially if you change title, its a new book. We've seen this a couple of times. However, I think there are very valid reasons to change things up.

  11. I used the same exact picture for my murder mystery, If It's Monday, It Must be Murder that you used for your secrets book!

  12. Kathleen, I hadn't seen yours. But honestly, this is the first time, I didn't select the image, and simply turned the design over to someone. I'd hadn't had any luck with this cover after several tries, so I decided to try a new approach. I hope the cover works well for both of us.

  13. I've changed covers and sales have improved. The big 6 have often changed covers on various editions of a book. I don't see any problem in doing so. In fact, I believe it can be a good business move.

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