Thursday, 15 September 2011

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Please let me introduce to you my very first guest blogger who is a fabulous author and also a dear friend, Kenneth Rosenberg.

Thanks so much to Janice for letting me guest post on her blog this week!  I thought I’d talk about something that she and I have in common as “indie” authors, and that is cover design.  Or more specifically, title, cover, blurb, marketing and everything else that independent authors have to take care of all on their own!

Followers on this blog know about Janice’s recent cover re-design and branding effort.  She’s done a terrific job tying together her cover for Bagpipes and Bullshot with her forthcoming Reaching for the Stars, as well as this blog. 

For a traditionally published author, this is the type of thing that a publishing company would normally take care of, but not so for us indies!  We have to figure this stuff out all on our own.

When I came out with my first novel No Cure for the Broken Hearted at the beginning of this year, I came up with the title, wrote the blurb and designed the cover.  I was happy with the outcome, though I still didn’t know what to expect when it finally went live. 

I tried to temper my expectations.  Would I sell a few hundred copies?  A few thousand?  I had no idea.  Maybe I’d earn enough money to buy myself a cup of coffee every day?  It ends up, the book took off almost from the start and managed around 25,000 copies sold in the first six months.

When my next book came out last month, I tried to temper my expectations again, though this time it wasn’t so easy.  Even if I only sold half as many copies as the first, it would be a great success.  I came up with the title Sweet Ophelia and the Tinseltown Blues.  I thought it reflected the off-beat style of the book; a story of love and redemption set in Hollywood.  I designed a cover with a face representing the character Ophelia.  The book went live and… crickets.

In the entire first week that my book was on sale, I only had one sale on Amazon UK, and that was to Janice! (Thanks, BTW).  In the next three weeks, I managed about one sale per week.  Sales on Amazon U.S. were only slightly better.

So what went wrong?  Was it the title?  The cover?  The blurb?  The sample?  It was hard to say for sure.  Perhaps the book just isn’t connecting with readers, but I feel pretty good about it myself.  There’s nothing I can or would change about the book at this point. 

And so I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to come up with a new title and cover.  This is one of the great things about independent publishing.  Maybe I don’t have a big publishing company behind me, test marketing covers and titles and doing promotions, but on the flip side, I can make changes to this sort of thing at will.

A publishing company would have a print run, and ads running, and hard copies out to reviewers.  Once a title was set, that would be it.  Writers like Janice and myself can make changes to these things almost instantly.  We can see what works and what doesn’t, and move ahead accordingly.

So far I’ve been throwing around ideas and bouncing them off of friends and family, but now I thought I’d throw it out to readers here to see what people think.  Should I give it some more time with the current cover and title?  Or change it ASAP?  Any ideas for new titles? 

I look forward to your comments, and remember, honesty is the best policy!

Kenneth Rosenberg's Blog
Kenneth's books on Amazon UK
Kenneth's books on


Sheryl Browne said...

First cover: Little heart tears. Who could resist or not identify with? Second: Get it, but this is a woman you NEED to identify with. Not sure many immediately would. Too photogenically perfect.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, first of all, many huge congratulations on the success of your first book. An incredible achievement.

I don't really feel qualified enough to criticise anything about an author as successful as yourself, but as an indie author myself I understand how vital it is to receive feedback and constructive criticism. I think the cover probably doesn't do the book justice, even though I haven't read the book. The woman's face looks a little, err, tarty. I think it should be toned down a little, with perhaps another image in the background to reflect the title a little but more. If your first book did so well, I doubt this one isn't selling as well because of content or plot.

It's so hard to Market an indie book and it's such hard work to do, almost a full time job in itself. But again, well done on your successes and I wish you the very best of luck for future sales.

Kathryn :)

Denise said...

Firstly - great post and it really made me think because I am guilty of judging books by their covers - sorry.

As far as the covers of the books go I love the first cover. The background picture matches the title and the font really appeals to me. The second one doesn't appeal to me at all - probably because I like more abstract type covers but it strikes me as being very clinical and I'm not sure the picture suggests anything to do with the title.

Congratulations on your great success with the first book and I wish you all the best for 'Sweet Ophelia'. Now need to read both of them.


Melanie said...

I read both blurbs and have to say I love them. The premise of both books is excellent. I must put them on my TBR list.

But after reading the blurb for Sweet Ophelia (my grandmother's middle name, BTW) the cover didn't do it for me. There's more going on in the book than the beautiful, sweet Ophelia.

Hope this helps.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Kenneth, I do like the Tinseltown cover.

The girl looks the way someone does when trying to concentrate, but other than that it doesn't tell the reader much at a glance.

If you think it isn't working, I'd agree that could think about other images that would better convey the storyline.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Great blog. How fantastic to hear of your success in the indie market, Kenneth. Love the first book cover but the second, oh dear. To me it looks like the cover from an erotica. Ophelia looks too much like a blow-up doll, unreal. Reading the blurb this isn't what the book's about therefore doesn't do you or book justice.Seeing that cover, I would just pass it by. Title's catchy but too long sounds like pop group or pop song. How about simply "Ophelia"? Whatever you decide, good luck, and I've now 2 more on the TBR list.

Linn B Halton said...

Hi Kenneth - wow! What a result with No Cure for the Broken Hearted! If you ask 20 people their thoughts on a cover you will get a mixed bag of results. Yes the hearts are cute, but there are also readers who won't be drawn to cute! Personally I'm one of those who WOULD be drawn to cute hearts and not necessarily to a 'perfect' face. The beauty of it is, that you can change your cover at will and see if that does it! But there are so many different factors - for me it is cover, but closely followed by the blurb on the jacket. So good luck and hopefully it won't be too long before your readers catch on and buy your second novel!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Janice and Kenneth .. interesting to read of your journey .. so glad the first one was successful .. and I too am not a lover of the look of Sophie .. it's too 'in your face' for me .. if she's sweet - she doesn't look it! However from what JL says there's more there than tempts us in from the the cover.

Another aspect .. is as Janice as done .. match her blog brand, to her book, then the next book .. is that something you're considering?

Cheers have good weekends .. Hilary

Sue watson said...

Hi Kenneth.
Congratulations on the first book which looks great - if it were me I would build on that fabulous success by emulating that design for book two. That way you will be creating your 'branding.' Looking at those two books it's hard to believe the same person wrote them both - and a line across the new cover 'from the author who wrote No Care for the Broken-Hearted.' In theory this may bring back the readers who clearly loved the first book.
Good luck with the next cover x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Kenneth - and so interesting to see how both books performed. To be honest, I don't like the 'Ophelia' cover at all and would just pass it by - it's hard, tacky and not likely to appeal to females! Even the title doesn't arouse my interest like the first book.

I agree with Sue above, that having a similar tone of cover to the first book would be more appealing, and I think I prefer the title, 'Sweet Ophelia'. All the best with it - let us know what happens next!

K. Rosenberg said...

Thanks for all of the great comments so far! They help clarify the need to change my second cover! (And title?) I'll look forward to seeing any other opinions, too!

Janice said...

Having read Kenneth's first book 'No Cure...' last January - I couldn't wait to read his new book (and I am thrilled to have been the first UK customer lol! But I don't really like the cover of 'Sweet Ophelia...' and only because, in my opinion, it does not represent what's inside the book.
This is a story about a homeless guy in Hollywood and it's about love, loss and redemption. I think (she says boldly) the title should be 'The Tinseltown Blues' and the picture should incorporate something about Hollywood.

I must admit to being quite excited about the outcome of this debate and finding out what Kenneth does!

Either way, this is a brilliantly written and fabulous story - and if I didn't already have it on my Kindle - I'd be buying dashing over to Amazon right now while it's only at 86p!!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Your comment is very illuminating, Janice, since you've read the book (which helps!). From what you say, The Tinseltown Blues certainly seems more appropriate.

K. Rosenberg said...

Thanks Janice and Rosemary! I am thinking about "The Tinseltown Blues." For the time being I just went in and changed the cover to use one with a red heart I've been considering. I've had mixed opinions on it so far, but I want to continue the theme I had with my first cover, and let the readers know that there is a strong romantic element involved. Obviously the face on the original cover just isn't cutting it! I think the new image will load sometime overnight, or you can see it on my blog.

Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful post.

Personally, I'd change to cover to somehow match the theme of your first one, so readers know straight away its yours, as you say. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

K. Rosenberg said...

Thanks Talli! I've been thinking the same thing. I changed it to a heart for the time being, though I suspect I'll keep working on it... BTW, I saw your new cover and it looks great! Good luck with it!

Talli Roland said...

Thanks so much, Kenneth! And, er, please excuse the typo in my post. I meant IT'S! Yes, I'm a writer, LOL.

Best of the luck with the new book.

Facing50.Blog said...

I agree with Talli because it is important to have an identity so readers can recognise it is you.
I also think your beautiful girl is too perfect. When I did my first cover I shied away from using real faces. I wanted the reader to associate with the character so I kept her in silhouette.
Good luck with it all and I shall go and check it out immediately.

Facing50.Blog said...

ps A big hello to Janice and thank you for visiting my party on Friday. I hope you had a good time and didn't catch a chill in the garden!

Janice said...

Hello to you too Carol - thanks for popping over from your house party - which was fabulous by the way. Huge congrats on your launch and your book - which sounds exactly like my kind of read!

K. Rosenberg said...

Ah well, back to the drawing board... After nearly a week with a broken heart cover and not one single sale, I've gone back to the original for now. I think I'll forget about it for a while and work on my next book. Maybe in the meantime something will come to me. Thanks again for all of the great comments here!