Occasionally it seems we all are apt to ignore even our own recommendations, somehow too occupied with what we’re doing, I suppose, to stop for a moment and analyze where we are.
Book covers are my case in point today. As many of you may know, I have talked about the importance of strong covers on numerous occasions on mailing lists, message boards and blogs, including Self-Publishing Review. At the same time, when I submitted my books to scrutiny on J.A. Konrath’s blog a little while ago, it became evident that my own covers do not quite meet the criteria I had set out for others. Or maybe they did, but they did rather put my books into too small a niche to become successful.
Here is a look at Demon’s Night, the first Jason Dark supernatural mystery I wrote. When I first published it in December 2009, I deliberately recreated the look and feel of the traditional dime novels I grew up with. I expected the print market to be my main outlet and in print, these covers work beautifully with their rich cover artwork and the unified layout the suggests a series.
With this being what they are, just as I released the book, the eBook market exploded and within months it became obvious that print is on its way out, while the Kindle and Nook now generate the majority of today’s book sales, particularly when you’re not published by a New York publishing house. While this is, of course, a very desirable development as it cuts down on production costs and increases revenues, I soon found that it also changed the way I had to approach the presentation of my books.
Some time last year my wife and I redesigned the covers in response to those changes in the marketplace. We needed to make sure that the covers work on computer displays, particularly as very small thumbnails. To accommodate that requirement the updated covers zoomed in on the key feature of the cover artwork and got rid of all the ancillary details, including the series logo and any unused space.
Here is a look at the updated version of the cover Thu-Lieu created specifically for the eBook market.
I liked these improvements quite a bit but I ignored one fact in particular until a number people pointed it out to me in plain English. The covers still looked “pulpy.” This, of course, has been my desire all along but as my friend Scott Nicholson put it to me, “There is a reason the pulp era ended.”
Wham! Can you say wake-up call? The funny thing is, that this was nothing new to me. I knew that, naturally, and I knew the risks going into it the way I did. However, what Scott’s remark did, along with the comments of some other people, was to remind me that it simply might be necessary for me to “unpulp” the look of my books to find an audience. While people may not mind to read a pulp-style novel, trying to sell it to them with a pulp fiction cover simply may not have helped my game.
Willie Meikle might be a perfect example of this. He is the master of modern pulp in many ways, and he sells very well. However, a quick look at this covers show us that his books look every bit as slick as any other authors. Aha… some cogs began to spin in my head.
Fortunately, in the digital world changes are easily and quickly made, and it is possible to evaluate the performance of a book cover fairly easily. With that in mimd I decided to try and take my books in a completely new direction and see what will happen. Time will tell if all of this is right or if this is just another harebrained attempt, but in all honesty, I do feel good about this.
For the past days I have labored over the redesign of the cover for “Demon’s Night” and you can see the final result here.
So, what do you think of it?
It may look simple, now that it is completed, but it took some time to get to this. My first attempt at a new cover was uniformly panned by my wife and friends as still being too pulpy. I was hitting a wall and just could not get past my i initial concepts. It was only when I decided to completely forgo the original cover artwork that I finally felt some fresh ideas surface.
From there it became a very iterative process of trial and elimination. I tried different fonts, different colors, different layouts and spatial arrangements, different font sizes, different color themes and so forth, until I finally ended up with the cover you see above.
I am sure you will agree with me that no longer does this look like a pulp story but like a horror story. At the same time I tried to retain a bit of a series character by using a dimmed version of my London skyline, which also conveys the setting of the book.
Best of all, however, this cover works wonderfully as a small-size thumbnail, which I think is crucial to generate interest on sites like Amazon.
I am eager to see how this cover will perform. Combined with a new product description and a clear “Supernatural Mystery” moniker in the title I am hopeful that the book will now be able to carve out its proper space in the market. If things work out, I will redesign the other books in a similar fashion.
You can now find the new version of “Demon’s Night” on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, Apple’s iBookstore and other retailers for only 99 cents! Hey, I even updated the Smashwords version, which should go a long way to show you how dedicated I am to these changes because ordinarily I don’t do anything on Smashwords any more.
Clearly, there has never been a better time to check out one of my books, so please feel free to grab a copy!