Thursday, 13 September 2012

What a difference a cover makes

Last week I posted two mock covers I have designed - one for an adult post-apocalyptic novel called Hometown and another for the young adult, dystopian novel I am currently writing, Next Life. Both books were inspired by the same idea, though are nothing alike. In my post I asked if you saw these two books in a store or online, which one would you buy and why?

The feedback I received prior to my post was anyone who had seen the Hometown cover said they would buy it because of the cover alone. They were not so sure about Next Life, and this threw me into a temporary period of self-doubt.


I love the mock cover for Hometown.
I think it fits the tone of the novel perfectly. It is visually striking and the taglines give just enough away to draw the reader in. Yet Hometown is nothing more than an idea. There is a rudimentary plot; nothing more. Furthermore, which genre would it fit into - science fiction? Horror? Thriller? On what bookshelf would it sit in a book store?






Next Life is the first in a trilogy. It is fully plotted. I know where it will end, where the seconds novel begins, and how the trilogy will end. I know its genre - young adult dystopian. I know where I would find it in a book store. Yet I have struggled to find any image that could serve as a cover. The best I could find is the one I ended up with, and I'm not at all happy with it.






I was seriously considering scrapping Next Life and starting on Hometown because of the cover alone, and had to give myself a reality check. I asked myself which one I was more passionate about? Which one I knew the plot of inside and out? Which book I can not stop thinking about? The answer was Next Life. But this brief moment of uncertainty did start me thinking about just how important a cover is for drawing the readers attention.

The feedback I received from my question - if you saw these two books in a store or online, which one would you buy and why? - was more or less what I expected. More people were drawn to Hometown because of its striking cover. The taglines hooked the reader. Next Life was not so attention grabbing. It didn't shout science fiction. However, more people liked the cover than I thought would. They seemed intrigued by the premise and tagline. Of course it is worth pointing out that a lot of these opinions would have been based on the individual's reading preferences - given a choice between a period drama or horror novel, I'd choose horror no matter how good the period drama's cover.

Nevertheless, I gained a lot of insight from the comments. What I have learned is this:

  • The cover image must fit within the chosen genre to hook your reader or be so good it will even appeal to a reader outside of your chosen genre.
  • A tagline can be as important as the cover image.
  • Even a mock cover can turn readers away.

Given everything I've said and experienced over the last week, do you think aspiring writers should create mock covers? Can they do more damage than they are worth? Is it better to wait until they are revealing the cover? Is there anything I've said you don't agree with? As always, I would love to read your thoughts.

Happy writing.

58 comments:

  1. No, because once you hit the RIGHT cover, it's awesome.
    The first one says science fiction/dystopian to me.

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    1. I think you are right, Alex. To me the cover for Hometown IS right. I would happily use it.

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  2. I love how you create mock covers. I'm not sure if it's harmful or helpful. I think you should just do what you enjoy doing, Ellie.
    BTW...I like both covers. A lot! I'd sample them both on Kindle, for sure!

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    1. I do enjoy making them, Susan. I'm quite a visual person and I find they help to motivate me. If I could draw, I would definitely do storyboards!

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  3. Your question is a good one to ponder. And I have no answer for you.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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    1. Yes. It has been keeping me occupied. Thanks for the hugs and chocolate. Much needed!

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  4. I don't think there's a whole lot of damage involved in creating a mock cover. It can be fun to find out what the author's vision of a cover for their book would be; I'm not going to judge a story based on its cover alone and much less an unfinished one.

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    1. That is a good way to look at it. Thank you!

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  5. Really like both covers, Ellie. :-)

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  6. Firstly, welcome back to the blogging world! I should have commented sooner but I've paid little more than fleeting visits around the place so far this month.

    Secondly, I agree with the consensus on the covers. Hometown cover and tagline intrigued me. Next Life, I would probably assume had been placed on the wrong shelf and would be unlikely to give a second glance.

    Having said that, this would be a seriously suckish reason to give up on the writing :) Go with your passion! Write the thing. The cover will suggest itself in time.

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    1. Thanks for the welcome back. I've certainly missed everyone!

      Thank you for taking the time to give feedback on the two covers - much appreciated. You are right about not giving up just because of a cover.

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  7. Just throwing my twopence in, I think 'Next life' is too bland a cover, too general, could just as easy be an ad. for make-up.
    Something shadowy/ugly/alien in the background would make all the difference, even, for example a b/w or aged or horrific/open-eye version of her face.

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    1. I like your suggestions, Sandra. I'm not sure how I would do it but either a shadow or open-eye could work. A lot to think about!

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  8. I think a mock cover is fine if it represents the book, but you don't have to have one so I wouldn't do one if you aren't happy with it.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  9. Interesting responses you had to your previous post and so many too. I have to agree with some of today's comments. To me, as nice as it is, the cover for Next life suggests romantic fiction rather than SF or whatever, but the writing should drive the cover, not the other way around. I agree with Sandra, a slightly disturbing addition to the Next Life cover would make a lot of difference. You said that not every character is human in the tag for the other book, perhaps something nonhuman in the face or the background, assuming they look different enough. But keep up the writing, that is the important bit.

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    1. Thank you for the advice, Snafu. It's much appreciated. I agree - the current cover for Next Life doesn't suggest sci fi in any way. I'm going to look for something similar to what Sandra is suggesting and think on it for a while. But as you say, the writing needs to come first.

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  10. I'm totally limited in my imagination when it comes to book covers for my *ahem* potential novels - so all I can say is WOW to anyone able to imagine how their works of art should be portrayed! And if it helps the writer, why not!!?!? Yay for you! Take care
    x

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    1. Thanks, Old Kitty. Charlie tells me your imagination is not limited, especially when it come to writing!

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  11. Those covers are great! I'd definately pick up the Hometown one.

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  12. I would not share a mock cover before I had the book finished. I might have one for inspiration for myself, but not the public.

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    1. I'm beginning to think this is good advice for any writer but I'm glad I did share - I've certainly learned a lot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  13. Hometown - science fiction for sure.

    You want some tough love? The cover for Next Life (outside of the great tag line) looks like it could be a YA love story. Against the plethora of YA books that feature a hot girl on the cover, it doesn't stand out.

    I think one idea would be to somehow put "ghost" faces coming out of her head or something like that to represent future lives she could choose or something like that. Maybe a series of echo silhouettes coming from behind her.

    Sharing mock covers is a fantastic way to get some feedback on your work. Keep doing it.

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    1. Thanks for the tough love, Jay. You are right in what you say about the cover for Next Life - it doesn't stand out or convey its genre. I have to say your idea of having a series of silhouettes is the best suggestion I've heard. Thank you!

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    2. Ugh. I can picture some cool covers in my head...just so tough to share on here. But I think you got the idea!

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  14. I see no harm in mock covers. They're both beautiful.

    I love the tag line and premise for Next Life. Finish writing it. The cover looks more for romance or inspiration. I think it's the blue color. It's a beautiful cover, just doesn't fit what you want it to say.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Mary. A lot to think about!

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  15. You're right that that Hometown cover is fantastic! And i love the premise/tagline for the other book, but am not quite feeling it... maybe if the FACE were somewhat seethrough and some of the life options could be see through her? Or some setting? I see solid color big face as a lighter coming of age--I suspect you need to give it some darkness (not dark color--lost theme)

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    1. I'm thrilled you like the cover for Hometown. It's one of my favourites.

      I do like your ideas for Next Life. I shall definitely be re-visiting the image sites for anything that matches. Thank you!

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  16. erm... wrong word there--not lost theme--DARK theme.

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  17. I think mock ups can confuse! I love the cover for Hometown! Amazing... it draws one in!

    For the Next Life I think there needs to be a division of the person. One half human and the other giving insight into the next life~ A hint... :D

    Exciting Ellie, these both sound great!

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    1. Thanks, Ella. I love your idea of one person divided in half.

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  18. Hi Ellie .. I like what Ella says - can you chop her out a bit and bring in something relative to the story - giving us a better handle of its science fiction roots?

    Cheers - just whizzed past you and back (E/b to Penzance and back to Eastbourne! Have a great weekend .. Hilary

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  19. Hometown is awesome! Love it. As for Next Life, it looks YA Contemporary. While I like her image you might try putting a Dystopian looking city in the background. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks, RaShelle. Glad you liked the cover for Hometown. I love your idea for the Next Life cover. Lots to think about!

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  20. The problem with mock covers is if you sell your work to a publisher he's bound to give you something different. There'll always be a sense of a letdown because it's not 'your' cover.

    Another minor drawback is that if your followers have been seeing your mock cover all along, it might be disconcerting when they see the real cover.

    Still, you have a knack for it. If it helps you visualize your story better, go for it.

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    1. I've been thinking a lot about your comments; they make so much sense. Why confuse the reader? I'm tempted to remove all my mock covers and wait until I have the real thing - assuming I find a publisher! I can still keep the mock covers for inspiration/motivation in the mean time.

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  21. First of all, I LOVE the cover and tag lines for Hometown!
    I've never thought of doing mock up covers before. Um ... perhaps it could be a negative if readers come to associate a particular image with your story and then that image changes when the real cover is revealed ... I don't know!

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    1. I think you are right about readers associating an image with a book, and if that image changes, it can only cause a negative reaction. You're not the only one has who has said this.

      Glad you love the cover for Hometown, though!

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  22. The Hometown cover is great. A lot of good lessons though Ellie.

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  23. My initial response to Hometown was dystopian. The pic is too godd to be true. You know something bad is going to happen.

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    1. Thanks, Stephen. I had the same reaction when I found it on an image purchase site!

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  24. Don't give up on mock covers. I only wish I had your penchant for creating them. If you want to fix the Next Life cover, it might be as simple as going negative. I'll send you an example.

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    1. Thanks, Martin. I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my cover. Hope I can return the favour one day.

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  25. I'm glad you are not giving up on Next Life all because of the cover. Why not pose a cover design competition and see what your readers can come up with for it?
    I think the mock covers give lots of insight into reader preferences and also out the story out there to make the audience want to follow through and read it, too. Good luck Ellie.

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    1. That's a superb idea, Madeleine. Something for me to think about. Thanks!

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  26. No doubt about it, cover design is fantastically hard. Mocking them up and asking for feedback is a great approach.

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    1. Thanks, Simon. Whilst Next Life and Hometown are just mock covers, I need to come up with one for a collection of short stories I'd like to release. Do I do it myself or get a professional?

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  27. while i love it, regardless, my prob with 'hometown'... the road is so centered as to be disturbing, artistically - which works for the theme, of course ;)

    'next life' is too mainstream to draw me in, like others note avove... [is there not a game, online, with a similar name?]

    graphics don't 'sell' the tale... AND most publishers prefer to have their own artists design covers - depending on quality, they MAY allow the writer's design

    i often use a graphic as a prompt for a tale, knowing how the pub think...

    if you e-pub or self-pub, rules change, of course; now YOU are the pub, and choose all content

    dunno about your side of the pond, but a number of e-writers have sold millions, many in a 'romance' style

    technically, even 'romance' could be construed as 'spec fic' :O lol

    like others say, the TALE comes first, then the cover art

    it gets hairier with inside art, as in juvenile books... and graphic novels...

    neil gaiman started with graphic novels, of course

    a mock cover folks are used to seeing/associating with your tale, but not used with the published text, will throw everyone off... the 'harry potter' series a prime example, with not only different covers, but also titles, on opposite sides of the atlantic

    just thoughts...

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    1. Thanks for your thought. They are much appreciated!

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  28. just put you in my google+ circle [tony hunt]

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    1. Okay. Will check to make sure I've accepted you.

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