Wednesday, August 24, 2011

E-book Covers: Anatomy of Changing My Mind

(Note: Be sure to get on board with Be Nicholson's Agent to get some of my book revenues in September!)

My novel The Red Church, the first one I ever published and then self-published, was an easy one--it did well in paperback and has done well in ebook. The title was mine, and the publisher stuck with it, and I liked the title later, too. It was a title I could live with.

Last year, when I got back the rights to The Harvest, it was a title selected by the publisher that I didn't really like, although in retrospect I can appreciate the publisher's goal of trying to develop a brand. The title had been used for other books, was a bit ordinary and non-evocative for my tastes. In other words, the title by itself did not really declare genre, tone, or intended audience. However, I actually liked the original cover the best out of my six Kensington paperbacks, with the cool hillbilly vibe and the green glow.

However, being arrogant, I decided I could do better, so I re-imagined the book, going after a science fiction audience. Neil Jackson of Ghostwriter did the new cover and I went with my title "Forever Never Ends," which is one I'd used early on, along with "Metabolism." I thought it would expand my audience, but I think all it did was get lost in space. The cover is professional enough, but not really reflective of the story, and not a little grungy as many Scott products are.

When I went through a brief phase of creating new covers for some of my books, mostly because I recognized how small "book covers" are in the digital era, I played around with a more mysterious, feminine cover and even dabbled in changing to "Metabolism: Forever Never Ends." (In fact, this is the version currently out there in Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, and Sony).

Despite one or two surges over the past year, the book remains my poorest-selling novel. As a science-fiction, alien-infection B-movie zombie type of pulp thriller, it probably isn't as broadly appealing as my thriller and ghost stories, yet some weirdos like it best of all my work. I need to find more of those weirdos. So I went back to the original title and a new cover, shaping the new presentation with input from my peeps Vicki Tyley, Guido Henkel, Moses Siregar, Joseph Nassise, Shaun Jeffrey, and David H. Burton.

I will probably work on the author font a little more, but I like weighting the entire imagery to the left, creating a sense of unease with the look space. The Harvest may well stay a niche proposition, but I feel a little better about it now and it fits in with the others. The great thing about the digital age is that these changes are made rather easily, and most consumers are prevented from accidentally buying the book a second time. (I simply overwrote the Forever Never End pages at Amazon and BN and I don't even know if I will bother changing the Smashwords version). The downside is that Amazon now limits the number of keywords to seven, so the price of revision was losing a couple dozen keywords there. We'll see if the change offsets the costs.

It's the age of experimentation, now more than ever. Or maybe it was a case of reinventing a wheel that was already round and rolling pretty well. But when you have nothing to lose, why not experiment?

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The Harvest (under any title) is available for $2.99 at Amazon US, Amazon UK, BN.com, Kobo, and iTunes/iPad/iPhone
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12 comments:

Neal Hock said...

I'll admit it: I'm one of those weirdos who loves this book. Honestly, I like the publisher's cover the best because it feels like it best captured what the story is about. But the latest cover is growing on me.

-Neal

robertswilson said...

I've been wanting to read this one real bad. It sounds awesome. I have to say I like the title Forever Never Ends best. And what is up with Amazon limiting keywords now? More keywords only helps more readers find books they want to read and therefore makes more money for Amazon. I don't get it.

Pj Schott said...

God bless those weirdos.

Unknown said...

I'm fascinated by the process you took to come up with the final cover. Sometimes a cover can be breath-takingly beautiful, but appeal to the wrong audience, or make the wrong promise. It always hurts to kill the darlings But you've reminded me of the importance of conveying the right idea of a book from the git-go, if you can.

Unknown said...

I keep showing up as unknown everywhere! Story of my life - J. Carson Black

Swands said...

For what it's worth, I'm partial to the original cover. But for web use I'm sure much of the detail in the artwork itself is lost. So keeping in mind how an ebook cover works the latest 'green' cover stands out on the page, hopefully getting some readers to pause and give it a look-see.

author Scott Nicholson said...

The original cover is the property of Kensington Books, so I can't use it. I do think I will try for a more "thriller looking" font for my name. Unfortunately it is one of those clumsy names that doesn't lend itself to layout...

Bob, Amazon limiting keywords is actually a good thing for readers, even if writers may not like it. Multiple keywords makes it harder to find the books you're looking for, not easier, and the top-selling books tend to clog many lists, again making it harder to find what you want (when the same vampire romance dominates the horror, romance, and fantasy charts, is that really helping readers?) So I understand the logic.

Draven Ames said...

Those are some really good covers. I'm a fan of the green Harvest cover, as it seems to imply a virus of some sort, and it has me asking questions. Not only that, but it really catches the eye. I like that you experiment and try new things. I like the Forever Never Ends title and cover, though Metabolism's cover is nice too. All in all, some great covers.

JL Bryan said...

Well, that'll be my next read from you. I'm usually on board with the weirdos.

Tim McGregor said...

The original publisher's cover is nice but very reminiscent of the Stephen King tale in Creepshow. Not that that is a bad thing...

I like the new cover a lot but it needs some tweaking. The silhouette is too much of a stick figure, give it some detail. The green is nice but I think it's too bright. Tone it down to something less florescent and I think you'll have a killer cover. My two cents, for whatever it's worth.

What's your take on the label? Is it more horror or sci-fi?

author Scott Nicholson said...

thanks Tim, I am going to see if I can distort the figure just a little, make it leaner. Thew green looks fine on my computer so I think that is going to be "the eye of the beholder," plus the reality is most consumers see the cover on their Kindles in tiny black-and-white squares. Mine looked distinct in grayscale, which may be the best one can hope for there.

This is definitely more of a horror tale, but with the sci-fi flavor like a cheesy movie.

robertswilson said...

Scott, I see what you mean. By making authors minimize to the absolute necessity of keywords it will lower the clogging factor. Makes sense.