Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cover Obsession

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett


To continue last week's post on covers . . . (you can find it here).  If you didn't see the addendum, my readers and I (with a big scoop of help from our own Heather and Dru) hashed out a new cover and title for my little short story.  I won't say it's smashing sales records, but I did sell three copies of the story, so obviously cover by committee worked well in this case.  I've come to the conclusion that I can't worry about that one story any more.  Like a parent, I have to let the story go out on its own and live up to its own potential.  (I think it was probably a good thing I never had children. Can you say helicopter parent?)

MOTMfromBN But that's not the end of my cover trauma. Okay, my cover trauma actually began the day I received my first cover for my first published book (Murder on the Mind).  I was stunned -- and not in a good way.  My agent (at the time) was even more appalled.  She said, "It's terrible.  It'll never sell books."  Boy was she right.  In fact, in retrospect, I feel like those words jinxed the book.  It went on to have a 632 print run.  Talk about failure.

So I was thrilled when I saw the cover for Murder is Binding.  Whoa!  Talk about pretty.  In fact, my publisher was so pleased with it, they decided to use it on the Advance Review Copies, which I learned later, doesn't happen very often.  Wee!  The book was a hit, too.

DIRsmall Lightening struck twice. The publisher for the Jeff Resnick books hired a new firm to do their covers, and I got one of the best. (This time I pitched the idea and they ran with it.)  I love this cover and it did well for me--at least with that publisher.  (The publisher who bought the paperback rights for the first book decided one of the characters wasn't suitable for their readers.  I didn't believe it then, and don't believe it now.  But hey, it was their decision.)

When I got my rights back for Murder on the Mind, I came up with a concept and Mr. L did the cover.  But my idea turned off women readers.  (Honest, no deer are killed in the story!)  Try though I might, I couldn't convince my agents/editor that the series should live on, so I decided to publish the third book online myself.  Mr. L and I again did the cover, which I think is okay, but clearly, e readers are not busting their fingers to buy.

It was time to call in the big guns.

Several weeks ago I contacted a cover designer who'd done covers for other authors publishing their backlists.  Several of his clients have made BIG BUCKS selling thousands of copies of their books with his covers.  But Mr. Big Cover Artist was slow to answer my emails.  I didn't get the feeling he really wanted the job.  I felt really unsure of my decision to hire him.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  An author I know decided to hang out her shingle as a cover designer.  She did her own covers (about 12 of them) for her backlist and did another 12-15 for another author I know, and I was impressed.  Of course, these were mostly for romance e books, but I could tell that she "got" covers.  Well, why shouldn't she, she'd worked in the publishing business and has an art degree.

Yesterday we traded emails back and forth all day discussing what the books needed and what they deserved. I loved all her ideas and I felt like she felt she had a stake in the books success.  Boy, did that feel good.

Gift with bow This saga isn't over yet, but I have a feeling it'll have a happy ending.  In fact, I feel like a kid at Christmas.  There's a big present with a big bow just waiting for me to open it.  And when I do, it'll be a gift that keeps on giving (in terms of sales).

Best of all, I finally feel like my little series will have a shot at finding a bigger audience. New readers will discover my beloved characters.

At least . . . I've got my fingers crossed they do.

How important are book covers to you?
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Be sure to check in with the Cozy Chicks on Monday -- when we will have a new feature and a new look!