Home > Writing > Covers: Yeah, They’re Important

Covers: Yeah, They’re Important

After I changed the cover for Family Ties, I noticed a distinct uptick in sales. Not a tsunami of sales, mind you, but it went from 1 a day to 3 a day after my initial “marketing” campaign had done it’s job. I could attribute this to luck, but I think the corollary is absolutely the fact that, after I’d uploaded the new cover on Kindle, sales surged a bit. Too bad I was only selling in the single digits to begin with, because if I’d been selling in the teens or higher and suddenly realized a 300% increase in sales, I’d be clicking my heels together several times an hour.

This is futher evidenced by my second story, a horror short called simply Ghosts. I’d created a cover for that one too, and great jumpin’ Jesus, it took me the better part of a day to get it done. Hold your nose, because here it is:

Ghosts v1

For about five or six hours, I thought this was a great cover. I loaded it up on Kindle, on Pubit, on Smashwords… shoot, I’m surprised I didn’t send a copy to my mother. I was really proud of myself and my mad Photoshop skillz. Not only was I a writer, I was an incubating artiste.

Thankfully I snapped the hell out of it by the next day. And even though Ghosts is (in my unbiased opinion) a better story than Family Ties, it didn’t have half the sales. Ghosts went up for sale on February 26, and until I secured new artwork for it, it moved only a measly four units. On Kindle. Over two days.

Daddy ain’t havin’ none of that.

So I did what I knew I had to do–spring for another cover. I chose the same artist who did Family Ties, because he was quick as hell and has, to me, a very sharp eye coupled with a flair for the dramatic. We went through three iterations of the cover in about three hours, and we wound up with this:

Cover for the short story Ghosts

Sumanabitch, that’s a smokin’ red hot cover. Covers the major element of the story, the ghosts we thought we’d left behind after pulling out of the Vietnam War. And hey, any cover that has a couple of UH-1D Hueys banging in at treetop level has my vote. Certainly better than a couple of splashes of blood and a pair of dog tags that don’t even have a name on them. The day this puppy went up, I generated a spike of five sales. They’ve flattened down to two per day once again, but I suspect I know the cause. To my abject horror, Kindle only displays the old cover now, which happened sometime during the night on March 3. I’ve tried uploading this one again, sent emails to their technical folks, made a nuisance of myself on their public forums and… the v1 cover is still there. Mocking me. I can’t stand being mocked by something that isn’t even “artwork”. This is driving me absolutely bat shit, but ever the optimist, I know it’ll be fixed soon.

One more experiment to discuss, and then we’ll put covers away for a while. I also uploaded my current magnum opus, City of the Damned, to all three sites. This is a full-on novel, and a damned good one, if I do say so myself. It debuted in cyberspace on March 1, to almost no fanfare, not even the trilling of crickets. This is Stephen King meets Tom Clancy kind of stuff, something that you, me, your kids, your significant other(s), your parents, your elementary school teachers, your damn pets have been waiting for.

Didn’t move a muscle in 24 hours. Frankly, I’ve seen more animation from Mount Rushmore.

Certainly, it couldn’t have been because of my cover… right?

City of the Damned v1

Oh boy, I can’t believe I still have this thing stinking up my hard drive! At least this time, I realized my folly quickly and took immediate steps to eradicate it. With zero sales, I had to do something… and I sure couldn’t promote this book with that stinkin’ turd of a cover. So once more, I cracked open my wallet (actually, my checkbook) and, like MacArthur wading ashore at Leyte, went in for the big win. Here’s what I decided to replace it with:

City of the Damned--now THAT'S a cover!

Since this baby went up on March 3, I’ve sold 4 books. At $4.99 apiece. That’s $3.25 per copy headed my way. Now if I could move that into the higher digits… well, let’s say it’s Miller time.

The moral of the story? If you can’t do your own covers (I can’t), then you’ve got to find someone who can. You don’t have to run out and cough up hundreds of dollars for one (though you can if you want), but you should pay a reasonable fee for the services rendered. I found my artist, Jared Rackler, through a link on another writer’s website. (You can find Jared here, and also in my links to the right of this post.) Search around, you’ll find someone who can help you out. And if you really can’t afford to pay someone to do your covers–and hey brothers and sisters, these are trying times, this stuff happens–then make sure they get full credit for the job. You can probably strike some gold over at DeviantArt, where a lot of majorly cool cats hang out. Give it a spin, but be careful–some of the artworks there can get a little racy for the faint of heart.

Which isn’t you, of course. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here thinking about jumping into e-pubbing, now would you?

I can’t stress this enough–if your covers suck ass, fix them. And quickly. My own experience tells me that a good cover will bring people over to take a look, and if you’ve got ’em in the store, that’s half the battle.

Categories: Writing
  1. March 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I’m so glad you posted this! I was thinking about my future cover art a lot today and realized that I’d be in way over my head if I tried to Photoshop it myself. I’ve recently finished my book and plan to take some steps on my own to market it, eventually self-publishing it as an ebook.

    And toady, I was mulling over cover art.

    Do you have an recommendations I could contact?

    • March 5, 2011 at 12:09 am

      Covers mean a great deal. It’s not everything, but it’s what gets the buyer to stop and take a look, and that’s what we need, right? Give us a chance, give us a chance! A great cover is a definite force multiplier in even Legacy Publishing, so you know it’s going to carry its weight into e-pubbing.

      Like I said, Jared is my guy, and he’s at http://bookworld.editme.com/JaredRackler. There are definitely others out there. I will very likely work with the fantastic Carl Graves at Extended Imagery for my current book–well, I guess the “probably” is no longer true, we’ve already discussed a release time later this month, so we’re on. But the price variation can be huge. Keep that in mind, pay close attention to portfolios, and discuss everything with the artist up front! Don’t leave anything to chance, either your vision or his/her paycheck. As much as they can help you, you can be doing the same for them; having their work affiliated with a runaway seller on Kindle or Nook or even the newstand is still something these folks desire. Just like we do, oddly enough.

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