The Marketing Makeover Begins with a Book Cover Survey!

Part of the Book Marketing Makeover I mentioned last week has involved taking a long hard look at the books in my Osteria Chronicles series and accepting that, although the books themselves are well written, the covers and descriptions don’t quite cut the proverbial mustard. So, over the past several weeks, I’ve been studying other books in my genre (Greek/Roman historical fantasy) in preparation to relaunch the series.

Relaunch? But Didn’t You Just Launch Book Three?

Yes, The Maze (Book Three) only came out a month ago, but even before the launch something was eating at me about the current books. Mainly, if you look at my books there is really no cohesion to them to alert you to the fact that they are a series (other than similar font), you can’t tell what genre they belong to (I’ve had more than one person ask if they were history books), and the descriptions lack a punch.

After listening to several marketing podcasts and reading Chris Fox’s Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist, I realized this cover conundrum (and the lackluster descriptions) may be playing a big part in the reason my books aren’t selling. And believe me, it was a hard truth to accept. But once I embraced this notion, I’ve been all over trying to resolve it!

So, although it’s taken me a long time to admit, my books are in desperate need of a makeover including new titles for some, a new look, and new descriptions.

Ye Olde Booke Covers

We’ll get to the description makeover in a few weeks, but this week is all about book covers (in case the big bold title above didn’t clue you into that). And, as always when it comes to covers, I would LOVE your input on the designs I’ve come up with.

Comparing Myself to Others

Sometimes it’s bad to compare yourself to others in your field, but at other times it’s necessary. This is especially true in self-publishing when you need to see what’s out there, what’s popular, and what readers are expecting.

Step One of the relaunch/makeover was to go to Amazon, go to my genre, and pick a few covers from the top sellers that really grabbed my eye. From these I could get an understanding of the fonts used, the imagery, and what magic i could work based on their style.

A few of my favorites were these…

The covers that most caught my eye and made me want to know more about the books all have some central figure – usually a guy dressed in legionary-esque battle gear – and bold, clear font. None had a ship, none have columns (except as a background), none have a stone maze, and you could tell every book in a series belonged to that series.

Now that I knew what I needed, it was time to start designing. By the way, during this process I had to look at photo after photo after photo of hunky guys dressed (barely) as fighting Romans/Greeks. I know, tough job, but someone has to do it.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

At the end of the post is a little survey asking your opinion on which of these designs (or collection of designs) you like best and that you think best matches the genre conventions I’ve shown above. So, as you look over the next section I need you to keep in mind a few things…

  • These are mock ups which means fonts may not be perfectly lined up (most should be centered) and the images may need a little nudge up or down, or some tone adjustments.
  • These have not been purchased which means there are watermarks on them. It can be hard but try to look past the “Canva” and grid marks on some and the word “Copyright” on others.
  • I want all six books in the series to have a VERY cohesive look. This means the images will be similar and the font will be in the same place for all six.
  • I will be re-namiing Books Two and Three to have the same number of words as Book One and Four (so all books will be The Something of SomethingThe Trials of Hercules, The Bonds of Osteria, the Battle of Ares, etc)
  • Because I haven’t yet chosen new titles for Books 2 & 3, I’ve just used The Trials of Hercules as a placeholder title for ALL the designs. Designs you see grouped together are the covers in ONE design group, I’ll later replace the titles.
  • Remember that these will most likely be seen as thumbnail-sized images so they need to have a punch at that size.

Enough pre-amble, let’s get on with….

The Designs!!!

My absolute favorite of the covers I came across was The Realms of God one above. I loved the clean look (and the number of words closely matched my titles). Working in a warrior type guy into the design, I came up with Design A.

Design A

There are several similar images of “Warrior Guy with Red Cape,” so there’s no problem maintaining the look of these covers for all six books (I’ve only shown three).

But maybe people want a better look at my warrior/gladiator. Using the style of the other three comparison books, I played around with Design B…

Design B – sorry, I cropped my name a bit when taking the screen shot of the right hand one

Then there’s Design C in which I ditched the centering and tossed the words over to the side…

Design C

Once I got tired of going the comparison-book route, I started flipping through the templates on Canva. On 123rf.com I’d found a gob of cool silhouettes of Spartan helmets and fighters and thought these could work into a cover design of some sort, which resulted in Design D…

Design D

I do really like this, but am afraid it might be a bit too comic-booky for the rather somber tone of the Osteria Chronicles.

Sticking with the abstract look, I tried this one on for size (each book in the series would have a different colored background). Meet Design E…

Design E

I worry that this one, while I love how bold and eye-catching it is, says nothing about the genre, but I’ll let you leave your thoughts on it.

Your Opinions Please

If you’re short on time (and who isn’t this time of year), I’d love it if you could just take half a second and tick a circle in the survey below letting me know which design you found most eye-catching and genre appropriate (again, that’s Greek/Roman historical fantasy).

Note: if you’re in WordPress Reader or reading this in your email, you may need to go to this post on my website to respond…just click the post title to get there)

If you have more time, please do leave a comment telling me your thoughts on the designs (what works for you, what doesn’t). I appreciate ALL your input!!!

I’ll have the results next Wednesday and will hopefully have those new titles sorted out to share with you. And, as promised, Finn McSpool and I will be back Saturday with our waxy wonders from the beehive! See you then!!

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21 thoughts on “The Marketing Makeover Begins with a Book Cover Survey!

  1. For me it’s too close to decide between A, B, and C. They all look greaton their own way. Good luck with the new covers!

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  2. Okay. This is intense. For me. (Forget you, the author!) So much to choose from. I have to say, my number one favourite design of all of these is design D. It doesn’t appear comic booky to me at all — it looks classic and like some ‘vintage redesigned’ cover we would not be able resist in the neighbourhood bookshop. Like this cover: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Catcher_in_the_Rye

    Second best for me is design E.. because it DOES say something about your genre.. because your titles will exhibit your genre!!

    But this comes from someone who knows you are a good writer. I think the other covers aren’t confident enough or worthy of you. Like they aren’t relying on your kickass writing. Which I get might not be a ‘selling point’ on Amazon if people don’t know you yet but… I kind of like the bold decision to be like, ‘I’m a badass Penguin Classic worthy of that cover’….

    At any rate, I can’t wait until you’re huge and I’m like, ‘Ooohhh I have these super vintage original copies!’ and then Antiques Road Show asks me to sell them and I’m like, ‘ACTUALLY I WILL TAKE THEM TO MY GRAVE YOU HAG!!!!’

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    1. But, hunky half-naked guys! How can you resist that? I’m almost wondering if I shouldn’t try an experiment of putting the “expected” covers on Amazon, and the “unique” covers on iTunes, etc. just to see the difference. Of course, I could always switch between them on Amazon to see which works best…you can see the scientist in me coming through, can’t you? Thanks for the input, now I have to run off and get a t-shirt printed that says “I’m bad ass Penguin Classic worthy!”

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  3. Hi Tammie. This is my idea. Take B1 figure (helmet hiding face for mystery factor) with same background (which I found interesting) and change the coloring to A2 or C. Lettering on side like C, but more archaic lettering to match the era. I voted, but was unsure. Good-luck!

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    1. I do like that side lettering and it was one of the last ones I threw together when I was feeling a bit punchy from staring at books covers all day so is pretty rough. At first I was worried about finding images for it, but since you can flip things around easily, it shouldn’t be a problem. There is some archaic lettering but I’ve avoided using it because it ends up being hard to read at thumbnail size. Thanks for the input!!

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  4. Oooooh, new covers! I’m actually glad you’re doing this, because then, like Weekes, I will have super-exclusive originals that I can parade around, lend to museums etc. You are now my pension plan – no pressure!
    Now, decisions decisions… I have to say, I’m torn. My favourite one is E, because I love the strong colours and the pared-down, simple look. D is next in line – again, it’s quite simple and striking, and I don’t feel it’s comic-book-y at all. But the tricky thing is, I’m not sure if my opinion is the one you need. You see, I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy… What led me to pick up your books was the fact that I’m a long-term reader of your blog, and I went in knowing that I’d enjoy your writing style. If you want to reach new readers who devour historical fantasy (and, in fairness, that’s a bigger pool of potential fans) you might be better going with one of the covers that places you firmly in that genre. And if that’s the case, I think A is my favourite of those. Then again, there’s something to be said for standing out from the crowd – having very simple, pared-down covers never seems to have done Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series any harm!
    Yikes, that’s very unhelpful, isn’t it? But you know, I think you might be on to something with your idea of playing the two styles off against each other on different platforms. You can’t argue with science! Whichever you choose, the Beasties and I will, of course, lend our unwavering support. Good luck! 😀

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    1. I feel like a teacher who just read an essay test answer and am left wondering if the student really answered the question. I agree that, not being familiar with the genre, it can be hard to make a call on this…I’m not a big fantasy reader either so have no idea what the genre conventions are (or were until I loitered around on Amazon a while). I do think there needs to be an appeal to history lovers which I think is what drew me (pun!) to the style in A. Hell, maybe I’ll just toss a dragon on the cover and call it good!
      As for your collectors items, I’m putting all my marketing and writing efforts into getting you that pension plan (and one for me too!).
      Thanks for the thoughts. This may come down to either a coin toss or the scientific method of book cover analysis…ooh, I see a lofty research paper in my near future!

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      1. You’re absolutely right… I didn’t answer the question, because after all this rambling, I forgot to go to the website and cast my vote! I’ve fixed that now, though, and climbed down off the fence at last… I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else votes for!

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  5. A1, C, and E.. A1 reason being when I read this book I could actually visualize something along this line.
    C in actuality is more fitting of the book.
    E is a strong, bold, and rather intriguing

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    1. Hmmm…everyone seems to be selecting more than one. Glad to see everyone is as indecisive as me. Also, Design A is all one design, as in Books one, two, and three, so keep that in mind when voting!!

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