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?
Be sure to check in with the Cozy Chicks on Monday -- when we will have a new feature and a new look!


Deb Baker said...

Can't wait to see the new look! Covers are so important.

Dru said...

I'm glad I was able to help.

I'm a very visual person, so covers are very important to me, it's not the only thing, but it's the first thing I see.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new cover.

Have a good weekend!

jbstanley said...

Yes, covers matter. If the cover is unappealing I might pass the book over.

Can't wait to see yours!

lynneandco said...

Yes, covers are important. And sometimes it is not so much WHAT is on the cover, as it is the FEELING that I get when I look at the cover. A cozy needs to have a cover that draws me the right way. I don't like true crime or real scary stuff, so if the cover scares me I will nix the book. A cover needs to be enticing to the audience the book is aimed at. That's my 2 cents worth!

Miki Willa said...

Covers are important to me, especially for authors with whom I am not familiar. I will look past a cover if I know and like the author, but if the cover is a turn-off on a new author's book, I most likely won't try it. I used to be a school librarian, and I could never get kids interested in reading books with covers that did not appeal to them.

Lizz said...

The cover can either make or break the decision for me to look closer at a book. I believe it lends itself to the suspension of disbelief, and places the reader in the desired frame of mind for the book.

I must say that I think that the latest book covers from the Cozy Chicks are fantastic! My favorite book covers are from the Cats in Trouble Mysteries, Flower Shop Mysteries, and Booktown Mysteries.

Daryl Wood Gerber a.k.a. Avery Aames said...

Covers matter. Too cluttery and I think the work will be too cluttery. Too sparse? Well, same thing. I like a cover that draws me in, makes me want to be part of that universe or figure out the mystery or the thrill inside the book. {I love both mysteries and thrillers.}

Can't wait to see what your new covers look like! What fun to find an artist that you can relate to. Way to go.

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

Aurian said...

If the cover of a book appeals to me, I might pick it up sooner if the author is unknown to me. If I love an author, and the next cover is hideous, it doesn't matter, cause I'll buy it anyway. But for me to pick up the first book, I need to feel attracted to a book. Like someone else sayd, a scary cover will not make me touch it.

Vickie said...

If I haven't read anything about a book, a cover is highly important. It can be what makes me turn the book over and read the back of the book to check out the premise. I can be caught by a catchy title and go to the back of the book, ignoring the cover art.

Looking forward to the rest of the story.