Thursday, April 5, 2012

Under The Covers

by C.J. West

When I first started publishing books I thought it was really cool that I had complete control over what I wrote and what cover I put on my books. Little did I realize that readers have become accustomed to some very specific things and they expect them when they are looking for a good book. 

I talked a little about Amazon pages and how the formatting really matters. Well, in the last few weeks I’ve been retooling the covers for my Randy Black series and I’m ready to unveil the results. 

The old cover has a cartoonish feel to me that suggests there will be fire and maybe some action and suspense, but it gives me the feeling that it’s done in an amateurish way. When I looked at other suspense novels one of the first things that struck me was that the large majority have clear, realistic photographs on their covers.

The New cover is a little sexier in my view and fits reader expectations for a suspense novel.

For years I felt like a great book was hiding underneath a cover that wasn’t getting attention. The book itself was optioned for film and came very close to the big screen about a year and a half ago, but the deal fell apart due to lack of funding. 

Book Two: A Demon Awaits

The old cover was a marvel of graphics work by my cover artist. She took a real flame and morphed it into a demon. The guy on the cover is me, photographed by my oldest daughter. It was fun to tell people that was me on the cover. I liked this cover, but even though it was created using two photographs it still had a surreal feeling to me that didn't fit a suspense novel.

The new cover is sexier, consistent with the series and still shows the main idea of the book, a man seeking redemption, even as a thumbnail. This picture to me speaks of a man facing his maker in a more concrete way than the fire demon did.

Book Three: Gretchen Greene

The old cover is a scene I really like. The oil refinery sets up the reader for the climax and this is the only cover I was sad to see go. The coloring here is softer than I would like and it doesn't set up as suspenseful for me. It doesn't convey a sense of mystery or danger.

The new cover matches the series well and also shows a scene right out of the book where Randy walks out of a swamp toward a vehicle in dark. This cover says spooky much better than the old one and it is clear that this is a suspense novel.

Only time will tell if these covers help the books sell better and given how little we ever know about marketing, I may never truly know what impact they have. But I feel good about the change and I’m excited for the future of these books.

What do you think about the change and the importance of covers?


  1. Cover design is something I have mixed feelings about. When I started taking control of my back list, I had to come up with new covers. I'm not a person who can 'see' the cover, but I'm lucky enough to be working with a very very very patient cover artist. Whether the new covers are helping book sales is something I can't determine, but I'm not willing to start messing with them.

    The critical thing for e-book covers at sites like Amazon or other e-book stores is they have to be eye-catching in thumbnail size, so putting too much detail, or even those nifty cover quotes publishers love can be a waste. If it doesn't look good in thumbnail, people won't click to the book's page with the larger image.

    Good luck!

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. Good luck with the new covers! They are fun to see come to life, and there's nothing wrong with freshening and updating a look. Ask any woman.

  3. Terry, Very good point. The covers MUST look good at thumbnail size. You should be optimizing for that.

    I think those blurbs on the front play a very important role in marketing. Notice mine all have one.

    Peg, Thanks. Maybe more women will go out and buy my fresher looking books!

  4. I like the new covers. They have a consistent, branded look. Although, as a reader, I prefer the title to have more dominance than the author's name. But I notice the trend is moving in the direction you've gone.

    I recently redid my covers too. In most cases, I just changed the font type and size for better readability at the thumbnail size. But for The Gauntlet Assassin, I'm having it redone. I can't wait to see it.

  5. LJ,

    I like what you've done with your covers. They look fantastic and they are working!

  6. Regarding the size of the authors name vs. the title: When Amazon puts a bunch of thumbnails up I'm frustrated when I want to shop by author and can't see their names.

  7. I know what you mean, Peg. Which is why I finally convinced my graphic artist to bump up the font on my name as well as my titles.

  8. Looks great CJ. I like what you've done. There's a cohesiveness to them which really lends itself to that author branding concept. Nice work.


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